recovering from a mistake at work, when your company forces you to lie, and more

It’s short answer Sunday — six short answers to six short questions. Here we go…

1. Interviewer wants to know why I’m thinking of leaving my current job so soon

I recently interviewed for a company that I’ve aspired to work with for many years. The interview went well and after asking for feedback the interviewer agreed that I did well. Later that day, the recruiter who scheduled the interview contacted me to ask further questions, why I’m leaving my current role. After coming into contact with the recruiter the next day, she articulated to me that the interviewer and her were discussing my candidacy and that he needed further information as to why I was leaving my current role so soon (I’ve been employed there for 3 months).

My response was that it has been one of my long term goals to work for their company and that once I’ve accumulated the appropriate experience I would advance towards my goals. I also mentioned that there is no issue with commitment to a company and that I haven’t been interviewing elsewhere as I’m focused on realising my goal.

Is it a good sign that they are interested in further knowing about my candidacy?

Well, they still considered you a viable candidate after the interview, but they’re concerned that you’re thinking of leaving your current job after only three months, which is a very short amount of time. When you see someone leaving a job after only three months (assuming it wasn’t intended to be a short-term contract job all along), you worry that they (a) don’t stick with commitments, (b) are too quick to give up when something isn’t exactly as they’d hoped, or (c) aren’t succeeding at the job. So they’re looking for an explanation that assuages those concerns.

2. I made a mistake at work — how do I recover?

I’ve been at my job for a little over a month. It’s an organization I admire and I enjoy the work a lot. I’ve been enthusiastic and prided myself on my follow-through.

Well, tonight I made a mistake. It’s not a huge mistake but it was a dumb, rookie-type mistake that I should be beyond (given that this isn’t my first job out of college or something). Basically, I was unclear of exact procedure, didn’t think things through, and used bad judgement. Now I know the exact procedure, I understand why it’s in place, and the thought process I should have been using that would have led me to take action earlier. If definitely won’t happen again! I offered to help rectify the situation any way I could and my supervisor said no, she’d take care of it.

What do I do now? We had a text message exchange and I apologized several times. But I also may have been initially defensive because I didn’t realize I had made a mistake. I started over-explaining instead of just saying, “I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.” Lesson learned–when receiving unexpected criticism via text message or email, let it sink in for a few minutes before responding.

I was out of work for a year and I’m terrified that I have just torpedoed my chance to establish myself as a dependable employee and win the respect of the management. At worse, I’m scared I’m going to get fired over this.

Go talk to your manager and say something like: “I wanted to tell you that I’m taking that mistake very seriously. It happened because of X, and I’m going to do Y in the future to make sure it doesn’t happen again.” And then do that, and move on.

People make mistakes, even silly ones. The thing most managers care about is that you’re taking it seriously, get that it’s a big deal, and have a plan for avoiding it in the future. Show her that those things are true, and you’ll go a long way toward easing any worries this raised for her. (Also, read this.)

3. My employer makes me lie to companies we purchase subscriptions from

I work for an energy management company. We use energy industry data, such as for natural gas, power and oil, in analysis we perform on behalf of our clients. I am in charge of subscriptions to resource companies who provide said data. I have been doing this job for 12 years and all of that time, I was “encouraged to be a team player” and pursue the minimum number of subscriptions to this data, even though most of it is shared among 200-300 employees, via our internal database, in Excel spreadsheets, etc.

I struggle each day with our persistent breaches of contractual obligations. I elevate my concerns constantly but most fall on deaf ears. Those who are sympathetic do not have the power to make changes. I am at the point where I fantasize about secretly telling our reps what we are doing with the data. We have only been “dinged” one time by a company and it was for a small fine….but we were recently acquired by a very large, global company, and our illegal use is no longer small potatoes.

It would be easy for someone to say that I should quit if I am not happy, but in this job market, I cannot afford to lose this paycheck nor the flexible schedule.

You really have three choices — stand on principle and refuse to do it (possibly saying, “Now that we’ve been acquired by XYZ, I really think we need to be more careful about this than we have in the past”); accept that doing it this way is a condition of the job, and decide if you want to remain in the job under those conditions; or tip off the companies what your organization is doing and hope they’ll take care of it for you. The first is the most principled stance, but the second and third may be more practical in your particular shoes.

4. Employer wants me to present on my “expectations for the future”

I have recently been short-listed for a tenure track position at a high level research institute, and was asked to present myself in front of the commission. Among the points I should cover are my “expectations for the future,” but I’m not really sure what they mean by that. Is it in reference to the expected salary and working environment? Or is it how I would envision my future career (in terms of achievements, publications, etc.) if given the opportunity to work and grow there? I’m a little bit confused as I don’t know in which direction I should focus my presentation; taking the wrong one would certainly be quite embarrassing.

I’m pasting the relevant part from the original email for your reference: “In the first 20 mins you present yourself in front of the commission. You should introduce yourself, your career profile, your professional achievements (with particular emphasis on the scientific and technological ones) and your expectation for the future.”

It’s very confusing wording, but I would assume that they are not looking for a presentation about your salary expectations and desired working environment. It’s more likely that they want to hear about your professional goals and plans for the future.

5. Listing internships on my resume that I’ve just started

I have recently gained two remote internships/volunteer opportunities in my desired field. The first one I started at the end of May, and the other I am starting this week. I am looking to start sending out my resume for in-person fall internships. I am wondering if it is alright to add these two internships on my resume, even though I only have one month experience for one, and am just starting the other.

Sure. Just make the starting and future ending dates clear, like this:

Chocolate Teapot Intern (June 2013 – September 2013)

6. The name of my degree sounds like something different than it really is

I got my undergrad a few years ago, back when hybrid majors were considered “cool” and universities everywhere were implementing them left and right. I went to a very well known school (Georgia Tech) and got a media degree, focusing on television production/editing and writing. The problem is, the name of my degree is ridiculous: Science, Technology and Culture (frequently shortened to STaC). Nobody knows why, but Georgia Tech gives all of its majors techie names, even when they don’t need them. So now, even though my degree really IS a media degree and I’ve spent a few years now working in the media industry, people see the name of the major and assume (quite logically) that it’s some kind of science degree. When every job wants a degree in media, journalism or something similar, this is a problem.

I’ve tried adding the college within the university that the program was in, but its name is equally long and cumbersome: the Ivan Allen School of Literature, Languages and Culture. Listing both out seems to just confuse people, and it turns what should be a quick bullet point on the resume into a paragraph.

I’ve tried just changing the degree title on my resume to say “Communications and Media,” but since the school is well-known for its history as an engineering school and doesn’t have a degree with that actual title, I think people probably think I’m lying. I’ve tried adding “Communications and Media” in parentheses after the title, but without an explanation, it makes no sense. It just sounds like a random string of words that have nothing in common. How do I list my degree so that people see I really DO meet the minimum qualifications?

That’s annoying, and I don’t have a good answer for you. I’m hoping others who have struggled with this might…?

Meanwhile, though, you should contact your school, and possibly that department, and explain what problems this is causing for you. They should be aware of the real-world problems they’re causing for their graduates by naming the degree like this.

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