naming your dog after your manager, tying pay to off-duty conduct, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. When an employee names his dog after his manager

One of your employees gets a dog and he names it after his supervisor and makes sure he tells all of his coworkers. I think this is disrespectful. What do you think? (And no, it’s not a common name.)

It’s either disrespectful or … a sign of honor! Especially if the manager has a sense of humor. It’s hard to evaluate it without more context, like what this employee is like more broadly. Are there problems with his performance or attitude? Does he seem to dislike the manager? If that kind of thing is true, then the manager should be focusing there — but I wouldn’t get too worked up about the dog name alone.

2. My retail experience is harming me with employers

I recently graduated with my B.S. in Business Management … only to discover that employers no longer seem to care if you have your degree. I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a 3.84 GPA. All employers see when they look at my resume is that I worked retail while I was in school. They feel I have no real skills in anything — even though I had held two different supervisory positions and maintained that job for 10 years. I do NOT want to work in retail anymore. I have a family and a different life now. This was a job I obtained out of high school and kept to get me through college.

I recently applied for a job at the corporate level with a different company. The recruiter loved me and said my skills matched the requirements perfectly. I got a second phone interview with my potential manager. I thought I answered his questions well on my part, but he seemed less enthused. I thought I would at least get a chance to complete the next step — a role playing assessment. The next day, the recruiter emailed me to tell me the manager felt my qualifications were inadequate.

Is there anyway to salvage this? Can I reach out to him and try to demonstrate that I am fully capable of doing more than merchandising (which by the way was listed as a requirement for the position)? Or would this just annoy him and burn bridges (which I really do not want to do)? If not, how do I get past this with other employers? I am really devastated about not even being given an opportunity to do the assessment. Most other companies just email me rejection letters a few months after applying. Am I doomed to be stuck in retail forever?

Sure, reach out and tell him why you’d be awesome at the work. Don’t couch it as “your decision was wrong,” but rather as “I’d love one more opportunity to tell you why I think I’d excel at this role, and what I can point to in my past to demonstrate it — but I also respect your decision if you’re not convinced” (followed by compelling evidence). If you approach it that way, you’re not going to burn a bridge, and so you have nothing to lose.

As for the broader situation, it’s true that employers often discount retail work and want to see evidence that someone else has already taught you how to function successfully in an office … which is legitimately a different thing than retail. It doesn’t mean that your retail work is hurting you, but the lack of office-type work probaly is.

If you have any non-retail work you can highlight on your resume — internships, even volunteer work — putting a stronger emphasis on it will help. (And this is why it’s so, so important to do internships in school, even if they’re only half a day a week and you’re doing them on top of paid work. It really helps once you’re out of school and looking for a professional job.) If you don’t, can you get some now, by interning, temping, or volunteering? It’ll help, in a job market where you’re up against tons of candidates who do have that experience.

(Also, it’s not that employers don’t care that you have a degree. It’s that it’s become such a prerequisite that it doesn’t qualify for you anything on its own.)

3. In my thank-you note, can I clarify an answer I gave in the interview?

I just interviewed with a great organization, and I’m really excited about the job. Upon thinking through their questions and my answers, it’s occurred to me that I didn’t quite make something clear, and it feels like it could be a deal-breaker. I was answering a particular question, and it led to other questions, which were fine, but I didn’t quite wrap up my train of thought before we continued. Can I include a short explanation/clarification in my thank-you note? Mostly in a “further explanation” sense, not in a “said the wrong thing” sense.

Absolutely. Phrase it as something like, “I also wanted to build on our conversation about X and mention that blah blah blah.” (And you’re right to make it further explanation rather than sounding like you’re second-guessing yourself.)

4. My employer ties pay to off-duty conduct

My current employer has decided that for the benefit of their employees, they will now tie the employees’ compensation to how safe they are off the clock at their homes. While documenting safety items you can and should improve upon, is it legal to hold you accountable on your yearly review for things you do at home on your own time? It just seems to me this is crossing a line and is an infringement of your right to privacy and freedom of choice.

As an example of what I am talking about, if I say I will use safety glasses while doing yard work, but then when cutting my grass I have an eye injury and was not actually wearing safety glasses, they can count that against me for the annual review rating for my raise.

What the … what? How would they even know if you wear wearing safety glasses when cutting your grass? How would they know that the eye injury was caused by that and not by, say, a rowdy gang of squirrels?

In any case, it’s possible that this would violate the law in California, where the state constitution provides broader privacy protections than most other states do. But aside from that or a similar state law, yep, it’s legal. It is, however, a ridiculous overreach and terrible use of company energy.

5. Asking an interviewer for a 12-month vision of the job

Sometimes when I apply for positions, they mention on the ad “position ends April 2015″ or “prefer candidate to commit for two years.” However, I had a job interview recently and the interviewer seemed offended when I asked about his 12-month vision of the job, like I asked what he saw this position looking like in a year or two because I was trying to gauge what kind of a commitment they were looking for and whether or not they mentored employees into other positions. Anyway, the bottom line is that he told me he had no idea what was going to happen in 12 months and couldn’t really comment. Do you think this is a fair question or should I avoid this in the future?

You should avoid that interviewer in the future because he sucks. If he truly has no idea what was going to happen in 12 months, he’s got some serious planning problems.

The question itself is fine. Or at least it’s fine as long as you’re not implying that you’d hope to be promoted or doing significantly different work in a year or two, but it usually takes longer than that to get promoted — and employers want to think that you’re excited about the job as it currently exists, not what it might turn into it.

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