short answer Saturday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. Asking for a far-off start date

I have an interview coming up soon for a job that is a little over two hours away from where I currently live. The job site is in a popular beach location notorious for horrific traffic in the summer and there is no public transit on weekdays. So, I will have to move to take this job if offered.

I am anticipating they might ask me in the interview how quickly I could be ready to start and the truth is, the ideal time for me would probably be about 4-6 weeks from receiving the offer. This will give me time to find an affordable place to live, pack up my current place, and wrap up some volunteer work I am doing, as well as receive my tax refund to help pay the moving costs. However, if it’s going to make the difference between them hiring me or someone else, I *can* start earlier and just pay through the nose for a hotel until I find a cheap place. I can leave most of my belongings with a friend and live out of a suitcase. This would be a real hardship for me but one I’m willing to suffer if necessary.

What are your thoughts on how I should answer the question if asked, and whether 4-6 weeks is a reasonable time to ask them to wait in these circumstances? Also, is there an appropriate way to say, “hey, if you guys want to give me an advance of $1,000 or so I can start in 3 days!”

Say, “Because I’m moving, ideally I’d love to start 4-6 weeks from receiving an offer, but I do have some flexibility if you need someone more quickly than that. What kind of timeline are you hoping for?” I wouldn’t say that you can start within days if they give you an advance; most places do not do payroll advances for employees who haven’t even started working there yet (since you may not show up or work that full period).

2. Should I take a lower salary when changing fields?

I want to change careers from a science background to HR. I am currently in school for my Associates in Business Administration, but am chomping at the bit to get a job that will develop my business skills.

I have the opportunity to work for a staffing firm performing administrative tasks that really interest me and will add much needed experience to my resume. The problem is, the salary is much lower than my current salary. The wage is what the position is budgeted for; they didn’t drop the pay scale just because I’m a newbie to the industry. My question is: when changing careers, should I expect to take a lower salary because I’m essentially starting fresh? I’ve put many resumes out there with no bites, and I know it’s because I need some serious experience. My current position offers few transferable skills.

Yes, you should expect to take a lower salary when changing careers and starting at the bottom. They’re not going to significantly raise the pay range for a junior position just because you have experience in an unrelated field.

3. Addressing staff problems when you’re friends with your employees

I am a manager of a small satellite office of six employees. I know that as manager I should not be friends with my coworkers, but our office is so small it is unavoidable. Also, I personally like to work in a fun, irreverent office so I foster that kind of culture. Typically it works out really well. Everyone has fun and works well together. But occasionally I have encountered incidents where my coworkers have crossed the line with me. For example, they feel like they can be curt or rude to me when they’re angry, which is something I would never do to my manager, no matter how close we are. How would you recommend handling that kind of situation, when I am walking the line between being a manager and a friend?

Is there any way other than directly addressing the problem with the coworker, which in the past has not worked particularly well? For some reason, when I’ve actually addressed behavior, it seems to cement the resentment.

Well, you’re basically saying, “I don’t want to have an appropriate manager-managee relationship with my staff, except on some occasions when I want the benefits of it without the work.” If you blur the boundaries, it’s no surprise that your staff thinks the boundaries have been blurred. And I can’t really let you get away with saying that this is “unavoidable” because it’s not, and plenty of other managers in small offices do manage to avoid it.

In any case, if you’re addressing issues head-on and “it’s not worked particularly well,” then you need to be firmer in your approach and you need to set and enforce consequences. And if you have people acting resentfully toward you, you need to address that too. You’re their manager — you need to act like it. Every day, not just when there’s something you want to address. And honestly, this isn’t really optional or something you get to decide not to do just because you prefer to run things differently. Unless you’re the owner of this business, you have an obligation to act like a manager, because that’s the job you’re being paid to do.

4. Using a .edu email address when you didn’t graduate

I am no longer a college student, but my school still lets me forward my .edu mail to my own email account. Now, I did not graduate. Is it okay to use this .edu address for job search/business? Also, I have a habit of changing email addresses and forgetting my passwords/security Q&As. But I never forget my .edu login information. So, using this .edu address would be convenient. What do you think?

Sure, it’s fine to use a .edu address in job-searching, and there’s no reason that you can’t use it just because you didn’t graduate. But find a better way to track your other passwords.

5. Telling non-local employers I can only fly out once for interviews

I am in the process of relocating, and I have had several phone interviews and a couple of face-to-face interviews. I come to town once I have at least four interviews set up. My last trip, the guy who was to interview me couldn’t make it, but I did get to interview with the HR rep. Now they are asking me to come back in a month once I get settled (I was looking to move in a month). My problem is that I can’t move without a job and I can’t continue to fly back and forth at $250-$350 each trip. I feel like these companies are acting like I just drove from 15 minutes way. How do I convey to potential employers that I need to interview all at once and that coming back and forth is too costly? I am not working now due to a recent layoff so I’m available but it’s not cheap.

You can certainly say, “Would it be possible to meet with everyone I’d need to meet with on this trip since I’m flying in from out of town?” But it might simply not be possible. Employers have different stages of interviews, and they might not decide until after round 1 who they’d like to meet with in round 2. Plus, keep in mind that many employers don’t interview non-local candidates at all precisely because they don’t want to deal with this kind of inconvenience (hence the “call us once you’ve moved here”), so you’re not really in an optimal position if you want a long-distance job offer. It’s much, much easier to get a job when you’re already living in the location, unfortunately.

6. Mentioning client names in a cover letter or resume

Is it bad practice to mention the name of a client company in a cover letter or resume? For example, I used to work at a consulting group (Teapot Consulting, Inc.) that conducted research for client organizations in a specific sector. I worked on projects for Tiny Teapots, Teapot University, Teapots Unlimited, and Organic Teapots. Now I am applying for an in-house research role at Inflatable Teapots. Should I mention the names of the companies I did work for? Or would a more general statement about experience in the teapot industry — without mentioning company names — be more appropriate (while still highlighting my successes of course)?

How impressive will it be to mention them? If it will be impressive, and if it doesn’t violate any written or unofficial policy of your current employer, then yes, mention them. Otherwise, a more general statement is fine.

7. Explaining why I’m job-searching during a restructure

For the past three years, I’ve worked in a regional office for a nationally known not-for-profit organization. We have a new president who is conducting a reorganization of the company. He has already eliminated one department, and nobody feels their job is safe. Rumors are flying everywhere, and a lot of us are job hunting. There is no direct indication that my department is in jeopardy, but I don’t want to be caught unprepared. When interviewing for jobs, how can I best answer the question of why I’m looking to leave my current position?

“My organization recently brought in a new president who is doing a lot of restructuring, and it’s causing some upheaval.”

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