my coworker told me I should be applying for other jobs, religion at work, and more

It’s mini answer Monday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Coworker told me I’m overqualified and should be applying for other jobs

I just graduated and am interning at an advertising firm, hoping to turn it into a full-time opportunity. There’s about 6 weeks left in my internship and yesterday, an employee (she’s entry-level and oversees some of my work) asked casually, in the elevator, if I’m applying to other jobs. When I gave a neutral answer, she told me I should be, because she thinks I’m overqualified for our field.

I’m completely confused by her comment! I didn’t study advertising, and I went to a “top college,” but I wouldn’t say I’m overqualified (at least not more so than any other  entry-level worker). In any case, I don’t understand why she would tell me that. Do you have any clue what she might have meant? Is that a tactful way of telling me I’m not going to be hired?

I suppose it could be, but she could have also meant it as a mild slam against advertising or the particular place you both work. Or it was simply a throwaway comment. Since you’re concerned, why not go back to her and say something like, “I’ve been thinking about what you said to me the other day about applying for other jobs and being overqualified. I’d actually really like to work in this field, and ideally here, and I was hoping I could talk to you more about what you meant.” (Keep in mind that as an entry-level employee, she might have no idea what she’s talking about, so you shouldn’t take her response to you as gospel — just use it as general background to consider.)

2. Talking about religion at work

Can my manager tell me not to talk about God at work?

It depends on what you’re saying and how you’re saying it. Your employer can’t prohibit voluntary religious discussions among employees during times when you’re allowed to be discussing other non-work issues. They can, however, stop you from discussing God or religion with any employee who tells you she doesn’t want to talk to you about it (because that would be religious harassment from you toward that other person), and they can stop you from doing it if it’s interfering with work.

3. I haven’t heard back from my internship about my start date

I’ve been reading your blog for a while, and it has been immensely helpful to me in my internship search. Your advice helped me land my dream internship – paralegal intern with the local district attorney’s office… or maybe not?

I received their official acceptance letter for the fall semester in May. Since fall semester for me starts in early August, a little over a week ago, I took the initiative to email the attorney I was in touch with about my start date. I wanted to give them over a month’s heads-up, so if they have loose ends (background check, etc.) they have time to tie them up. I got a reply after the July 4th holiday saying only “Let me check.” This, on its own, is not unusual; my attorney contact likes short confirmations like that. What is much unlike him, though, is he didn’t follow this up in a week.

Should I send another email? How long should I wait before trying to get a feel on it again? I wouldn’t be so anxious on it if it wasn’t for the fact that I have to be employed no later than the semester’s start date, and that I have some other duties with a leadership role in my pre-professional organization at school.

Wait 10 days from his last response to you and check back in. I wouldn’t be too worried though; people are busy, and things can slip through the cracks or get pushed back by higher priorities. So give it a reasonable amount of time (in this case about 10 days) and try again.

4. Manager wants to test our knowledge on things we were never trained on

I work at a KFC / Taco Bell. Our manager decided to give us all except for himself a food safety checklist thing as a test of what we know. I’ve been there over a year and technically have not been formally trained on anything, but I work as a cashier and on the line. On the test there are questions about cooking and prepping the chicken, which I know nothing about, and that’s a lot of the test. And it’s due in a couple of days and if we don’t turn it in, or get under a 75%, we get fired. A lot of us working there think that this is very unfair to us to be graded on stuff that we weren’t formally trained on.

Can your manager give you tests on stuff like that in the first place? And if they are able to do that, is it fair to base our jobs on that test if we were tested on things that we don’t know and weren’t formally trained on?

Yes, your employer can test you on anything they want, and can base your job on the results. But no, it doesn’t make any sense to do that when it’s something you have no way of knowing and don’t use in the course of your job. If he wants you to know that stuff, he should train you on it.

If I were you, I’d go back to him and say, “There’s a lot in here that we don’t use in our jobs, like X, and have never been trained on. If it’s important for us to know these things, could we get training on it first? I’d be glad to learn it, but so far we haven’t been trained on it.”

5. I have a disability and my shared-ride service is making me late to work

I have a physical disability, that means I cannot drive myself or take standard, fixed-route public transportation. Luckily, I live in a good-sized city with a fair paratransit system (for context: they provide door-to-door, shared-ride transit service exclusively for people with disabilities and seniors). Unfortunately, I have been having problems using this paratransit system to get to work lately. I’m just an intern, and I only work a few days a week, but I’ve been late to work every day for the past three weeks! I have done everything I can to rectify the situation with the company in charge of the paratransit service, and while I hope the issue has been resolved, I really can’t be sure.

To be fair, I have never been more than 20 minutes late, but I know I simply can’t expect my supervisor and coworkers to put up with this kind of behavior indefinitely, no matter how understanding they have been so far. How can I apologize to my supervisor, the director of the department, and the coworkers who have had to cover for me for the past few weeks?

I don’t want to say the issue has been resolved, because I’m not sure yet that it has been. Of course, I will continue to work on the issue until it is resolved and I can get to work on time, but I don’t know how to make it clear that I am committed to this position and enjoy working there, while simultaneously discussing my consistent lateness. I definitely don’t want to let the issue go unaddressed, especially to the people who have had to cover for me. What kind of approach would you suggest?

Explain the situation to your manager, and explain what you’re been doing to address it. Tell them you take it seriously, but that you’re concerned that you can’t be positive the situation has been resolved. Ask if it’s possible for you to have 20-30 minutes leeway on your arrival time in case it continues to happen, and ofter to stay later to make it up if needed.

In many jobs, arriving 20 minutes late isn’t going to be a big deal and will be something that can easily be accommodated if there’s a good reason, which there is in your case. (Frankly, they’re probably legally required to give you that accommodation under the ADA anyway, but I’d start by simply explaining what’s going on and asking if it’s okay.)

6. Taking time off around the holidays when you’re new to a job

I’m looking for a job and usually when you just start a job you can’t take any time off before one year. But if you usually go away to relatives for Christmas, how do you and when do bring that up? If I don’t take advantage of my family’s offer to visit then for Christmas, I’m stuck twiddling my thumbs. Should I just forget about Christmas for that year?

Maybe, but it will depend on the vacation policies of the place you end up working. Plenty of places let you take time off within your first year. If yours doesn’t, then it doesn’t — but plenty will. When you get a job offer, ask about benefits, including time off, and say something like, “I generally go away for a week around the holidays in December — will I have earned the leave to be able to do that by then?” (If not, some employers will let you take the time unpaid if you negotiate it as part of the offer discussion.)

7. Should I mention I’m planning on grad school during an interview?

My family and I do not have the same thoughts on when should graduate school plans be discussed in a job interview. My family thinks that I should mention my graduate school plans after the company has decided to hire me. Since I am planning to attend my classes this fall and am still job searching, I think that it should be mentioned during the interview process. I have a recently completed a job application where I hinted that I am going to go to graduate school. One of the questions asked about my availability for overtime and irregular hours, and I answered that as long as it will not conflict with my graduate school classes then it will be okay (I think I might have also wrote that I am going to go part-time and taking evening classes). From reading many AAM posts, I noticed that there are some things that can be left to be discussed later on in the hiring process; thus, I am wondering what your advice is on mentioning graduate school plans to future employers.

It depends. If you’re asked about your availability, then yes, you mention it, because it would be misleading not to. (But when/if you do, you make it clear that it’s part-time and at night, so that the employer isn’t envisioning you needing to miss every Thursday afternoon or anything like that.) But if it doesn’t come up and it doesn’t seem like the job’s schedule will be impacted by your school schedule at all, then you’re under no obligation to mention it — although I would at least mention it once you have an offer, so that if it turns out that it IS an issue, you’re able to figure that out before you’ve started work.

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