short answer Saturday — 6 short answers to 6 short questions

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

1. Following up on a promise for connections

About a month back, right before the holidays, I met with a high-level manager from my previous employer. He’s the direct boss of a former
colleague that I keep in touch with, and she let me know he was in NYC and asked him if he’d agree to meet with me. He was willing to meet
for coffee and during our meeting said he would connect me to three different people at organizations that might be looking for some one
with my background. I was extremely excited and grateful because these are organizations I would love to work for. I followed up immediately after our meeting to send him my resume (as he requested) and thank him. He responded he would be connecting me with the people he mentioned and bcc me on the emails.

It’s been a month and he still hasn’t sent them. I figured he wanted to wait until after the holidays. I know he’s extremely busy and it was incredibly generous of him to meet with me and to offer to connect me, but how/when do I follow-up and politely remind him to send those

Send him an email and say something like, “I hope you had a great holiday. I wanted to check in and see if you might be able to connect me to Jane Smith, Bob Dunbar, and Lucinda Rogers, as we’d discussed. I’d love to speak with them, and I’d be so grateful if you’re able to put us in touch.”

After that, though, if he doesn’t do it, at that point I’d move on, because you can’t really ask an additional time without being pushy.

2. Moving on from a morally questionable job

I have been employed as a paralegal for over a year now. When I graduated in 2011, I hoped to work for a nonprofit or in an admin position, but the only place I got an interview for an entry-level position ended up passing on me for a candidate with 20 years of experience. Needless to say, it was a tough job market and I grew desperate as the months dragged on. To make a long story short, I ended up accepting a paralegal job in a field of law that I find objectionable because I truly could not continue to be unemployed. The field is one that many others would find objectionable as well (imagine being a paralegal for a cigarette company — it’s not what I am, but it’s not dissimilar). I agonized over the decision to accept the job and have doubted it frequently ever since.

The job itself hasn’t been bad (I like my coworkers and the organization’s flexibility and they are very happy with my work), but I’m ready to move on. My question is about how to explain this paralegal job. It’s my first job out of college and I don’t want to act defensive in interviews, but I anticipate problems related to the work. How can I continue to look for nonprofit jobs, which were my original interest, and explain that I basically sold out on my beliefs for a full-time position? I’m afraid that I’ll be judged for my work and that it will reflect badly on me until I have enough experience to leave it off the resume. Do you have any ideas for how I can express that I work in a field I don’t believe in now, but that I was willing to accept ANYTHING in that job market? I’m smart and a great worker with passionate beliefs about many specific current issues, but I don’t know if anyone (especially in the nonprofit world) is going to see that. I also don’t think they’ll see that accepting this job wasn’t easy and that I have debated myself about it for the whole time I’ve been working there.

Well, first, you’re unlikely to be questioned aggressively about this. It’s more likely to be something like, “That’s a pretty controversial issue to work on!” — not a demand for you to account for your sins in working there.

But regardless of what types of inquiries you get about it, I’d say something like, “With the tough job market, I figured I’d try it for the experience, but it’s not the place for me. I’m really looking for something more in line with my beliefs. I’m excited about (the organization you’re applying with) because I’m passionate about (issue).”

And in your cover letter, I’d really emphasize your commitment to whatever issue the nonprofit you’re applying to works on.

3. Listing a sporadic role on a resume

I recruited for a company in September and October of last year. I had interned with this company in college and it is in my chosen field. As I had developed a close relationship with a couple of supervisors, they had asked if I could fill in some holes in their schedule. With another recruiting season upon them, they have asked if I could reprise my role a few times in January and February. How do I format this on a resume? It currently states that I was a recruiter for them in September and October. Do I just extend that to present? However, I don’t want to give the impression that I was consistently working for them as that was not the case.

Recruiter, ABC Company
Sept.-Oct. 2012 and Jan.-Feb. 2013

4. Including unrelated jobs on your resume

I’m a recent college grad and have been doing what is necessary to make money while I pursue a full-time position. Do I put these positions on my resume? I was working in the kitchen and cafeteria of a hospital. I had held this job since senior year of high school and worked during school breaks. However, I just left that position as I moved to Boston, which has been my ultimate destination. This job is currently on my resume, but do I leave it on there? Additionally, I’m starting a part-time job next week at a grocery store to help pay the bills. Do I include this job as well since it’s technically my current employer? My concern is that I don’t want to waste precious resume space on jobs that aren’t relevant to the positions I’m applying for. Additionally, I don’t want to give the impression to employers that I’m starting a position only to leave it, which isn’t the case. Even when I do get that full-time position, I’m planning on staying at the grocery store and working a couple of weekends a month to pay for my “extras” (gym membership, etc).

Yes, include them — especially since you’re a recent grad and therefore probably don’t have a ton of other experience. (My advice might be different if you had 15 years of work experience on your resume.) However, you could consider putting them in an Other Experience section that’s below your main Experience section.

5. What to say in post-interview thank-you notes

I have spent the morning pouring over your “thank-you note” section and I’m still a little confused as to how to write a follow-up note. I agree that just treating it like another step in the process without putting much thought behind it doesn’t make good use of the note. However, I am not sure how to build on what we talked about at the interview without coming across as overly salesy (after all, I should have already shown why I’m a good fit for the job in my application and interview) and taking up too much of the interviewer’s time with a long note that goes over things we already talked about. Do you have any more specific guidelines about how to write this note or even an example of a note that does this effectively?

It shouldn’t be a long note — just a paragraph or two or three. Say you enjoyed meeting with them, you’re more interested in the job than ever (if true), and refer back to something from the conversation — something that particularly excited you, or a joke that was made, or an article they referenced that you sought out afterwards. That’s it. The most important thing is that it be genuine and not sound perfunctory or like you’re trying too hard. You want it to have the tone that you’d use if you were following up after a meeting with a client or a colleague.

6. When Facebook postings make it clear your sick employee really isn’t

I have seen employees post negative things about their job/other employees on Facebook, or call out sick and then post on Facebook that they were going away or put up photos of themselves partying or otherwise clearly not sick. What’s your opinion on using this info for disciplinary action? For the sake of argument, let’s assume that there’s not some kind of misunderstanding here, like the person was really talking about someone else, or the photos were old, that kind of thing. I’d be inclined to use this as grounds for a verbal warning at least. (Also, there’s no explicit company policy on this.)

If it were absolutely clear — like, say, the person called me Friday morning coughing up a lung and claiming they had the flu and couldn’t leave the house, and then posted a photo of themselves at a baseball game three states away with a comment making clear it was taken that afternoon — I’d treat it the same way I’d treat it if I’d run into them at a bar that night. Serious conversation about expectations around honesty, person on thin ice.

If it were less definitive, I’d say something like: “It’s probably not the best judgment to post things on Facebook like you did yesterday when your profile is connected to your manager’s, and I’m not thrilled to be put in the position you put me in. I’m not going to get into the specifics of what you said, but I want to be clear with you that I need to be able to trust you to deal with me and everyone else here with honesty and integrity. Please make sure we don’t have issues like this again.” And then, frankly, I’d watch them like a hawk for a while, because whenever you get signs of problems like this, there are often more if only you look for them.

But I’d encourage managers not to connect to employees on Facebook — too many possibilities for boundary violations.

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