short answer Sunday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. Interviewing with other companies as a way to get a raise from your current company

My husband was hired on at his current company at the lowest point of the recession. Everyone at the time knew his salary was low, including the manager who made the offer, but it was a recession, that was the going price for new hires in his industry at the time, and my husband was a recent grad and had bills to pay, so he took it. Fast forward a few years later, my husband is a star performer at his company. He has top performance scores and has received the maximum merit pay increase he can receive after each of his annual performance reviews. Plus, he loves the job. We knew the pay was still low considering his tenure and his performance, but didn’t realize how much so until recently when one of the new hires at his company–also a recent college grad–let his salary slip. The new guy makes almost as much as my husband does now after all his raises.

My husband has been considering talking to his manager about a pay increase. He apparently discussed this with one of his older, male coworkers, and the coworker recommended that my husband go interview with other companies in the area and find out what they’d offer him, then bring it back to his manager and say, “This is what I’m worth. Will you match it?” My opinion is that this is a combative move that demonstrates to your manager you don’t trust them or their judgment and that you’re halfway out the door already. Especially since he really doesn’t want to work for another company, it just seems like all that is going to come out of this strategy is burning a lot of bridges, not only with other companies but also with his current boss. My advice was to have a discussion with his boss, explaining his reasons for why he thinks he deserves a raise (including, above all, his consistently stellar performance) and a dollar amount that can be used as a starting point for negotiations. My husband thinks this will make it too easy for his boss to turn him down, though, and that “it’s business” and he should go in with another offer in his hands. What are your thoughts on this? Am I silly to think that bringing in a competing offer is only going to put out his manager?

What?! Yes, that’s a terrible idea for all the reasons you said and all the reasons I’ve listed here for not taking a counter-offer. Plus, he risks his manager saying, “We can’t match that, so take the new job and we’ll miss you.” Bluffing is rarely a good idea, if you’re not willing to follow through on it.

Your husband should go to his manager and make the case for a raise. It sounds like he has plenty of ammunition to build that case; there’s no need for games. (And plus, the subtext of any raise request is “if you don’t give me this, I may look elsewhere.” His manager will get that without him having to say it.)

2. Listing work for my sister on my resume

I’m not currently looking for a job, but I’m working on updating my resume so that it will be ready when I need it. A few months ago, my sister hired me to be an editor for her blog. The blog in question had started out as my sister writing about her academic field, but expanded as she invited other people she knew to be contributors writing in their fields. I got the job because I spent about a year emailing or texting her after every post went up to let her know about grammatical errors, typos, or suggestions on rephrasing sentences. It became a running joke amongst the contributors that no matter how error-free they thought their posts were, within five minutes of publication I would send an email. My sister decided that I had already proven myself and that the site would benefit from having the posts read by me before they went public. I definitely got the job because of my relationship to my sister, as I would never pester anyone who wasn’t family with these unasked-for lists of corrections, but I was still hired based off of how well I did the job. I don’t know if I should address the relationship on my resume or only if I’m asked about it. If it helps, I’m doing this job on top of college and a part-time job in a café, so it doesn’t look like I was out of work until my sister hired me.

No need to announce on your resume that the work is for you sister. List it just the way you would any other job.

3. Explaining why I’m leaving a job after only six months

I recently finished grad school and have been at a my first full-time job for about 6 months now. I hate it. The work is boring, which I could deal with if it weren’t for the other issues. I wanted to pursue this particular line of work because I thought it would enable me to help people, but sometimes it seems all the people at the organization care about is money. There is high turnover: at least one person a month has left since I’ve been there. My department manager is ineffective and my coworkers in my department despise her and don’t listen to her. Everyone keeps doing things their own way, which creates confusion. There are major communication issues throughout the whole organization. One of my coworkers told me that they once had someone come and talk to everyone about the importance of communication, but nothing changed. I also do not feel like I’m living up to my full potential. I know I’m just starting out, but there are a lot of times when I feel like I have nothing to do and I go around asking others if there’s anything they need help with. Many of my coworkers, who hold the same job title of me, spend half their time surfing the internet or on Facebook. I know plenty of people would be happy with the down time, but I want to feel like I’m actually doing something. (This is also a job that is funded by the state government, so I often feel like we’re wasting everyone’s money).

I’ve started searching for a new job, but I’m nervous about it reflecting negatively on me that I’ve only been at my first full-time job for a short time. I’m expecting to be asked why I’m looking for a new job and I’m not sure how to answer this question without bashing the organization. How should I answer this question?

Yeah, it’s tough to explain why you’re looking after only six months. I’d go with something about the low workload and high turnover, without getting into detail.

(The good news, if you can call it that, is that job searches often take so long right now that it might be closer to a year before you’re interviewing, and then it will be easier to explain.)

4. Organization isn’t using my volunteer work

I’ve been volunteering for a nonprofit organization for a little over a year. I recently suggested that I start writing a weekly blog post on news related to the organization’s cause. The people at the organization were interested, and have given me really good feedback about the posts. However, the woman in charge of publishing them doesn’t always do so in a timely manner. I’ve sent in 3 posts, and of those, she took 2 days to publish one, and never published another one. Obviously, after 2+ days, the “news” isn’t really anymore. Is this something worth bringing up, should I keep sending them in and hope they get published, or should I try to find another organization that might be interested in the posts?

Yep, you should address it. You’re doing this for free, after all. I don’t know enough about the context to know whether you should raise it with the people who brought you on to do this or the person in charge of publishing the posts, but you should talk to someone and say something like, “I’ve noticed that my posts aren’t always appearing or are appearing a few days later when they’re not timely anymore. Can you give me some feedback so that I can make sure I’m writing things that you’ll be able to use? And would it be more helpful for me to write on less timely topics, so they don’t need to be posted right away?”

Be open to signs that they’re not actually as enthusiastic about publishing the posts as they originally were. If that’s the case, you might be better off looking for another outlet.

5. How to move up without leaving a company

I find that I am often pigeonholed in positions that I accept. My bosses love my performance and frequently express their satisfaction. However, when another opportunity for a greater role becomes available within the company, they don’t want to let me go. I usually hear, “But I don’t want to lose you. We are a great team.” While I appreciate the praise, I want to continue up the career ladder. My career ambition is not to simply make their lives easier. I too want to professionally grow. I find myself frustrated but, moreover, feel it is not right. When such sentiments are expressed, I generally have to leave the company altogether in order to take on a more responsible position. Why utilize an employee as a painter when its clear they have the ability to build? How can this be avoided?

You need to screen for better managers before accepting a job. Ask questions about typical growth paths within the department, what past people in the position have gone on to do, and what type of growth and development you can expect after a couple of years in the job. You’re looking for managers who seem genuinely supportive of their people moving up.

6. Name changes on job applications

If you were adopted or your name was changed for some other reason as a child (and your birth certificate was amended to reflect the new name), does that count as a name you need to mention if you’re asked for other names you’ve been known by on a job application? Or does that apply only to other names that records the employer may want to check appear under?

They’re asking because they want to know for background checks and reference checks. If they call a past employer and ask for a reference for Sean Combs and the person they’re speaking to says, “I think you mean Puff Daddy,” they want to know that they’re talking about the right person. And if you’ve been known my multiple names, they might do a background check on each.

So for your purposes, no, you don’t need to mention a childhood name change.

7. Listing graduate research on your resume

I recently finished my PhD in microbiology. I did research all through my undergraduate degree, including spending the summers doing research internships, and then went directly from undergrad to graduate school. However, I became dissatisfied with research as a career towards the end of my PhD, and now I am looking for jobs that are not research focused.

Beyond the problem that having a science PhD appears to qualify you for a job doing scientific research and nothing else, I don’t know how to write a resume that will look attractive to anyone outside academia. If I were to stay on a research track, all the research I’ve done — two pages worth on my resume — would be important information for my potential employers. However, now that I am applying for non-academic jobs, I can’t imagine that the hiring managers care about the specifics of my research internships from undergrad. If I remove all of my research except for my PhD research, I’m left with an almost empty resume. I currently have a job editing scientific papers, but that would bring my resume down to two items: my current job and my PhD work. I also don’t want to look like I was a layabout in college; I worked, it’s just that it was research, not a “normal” job. How on earth does one sum up a educational/work experience track that was focused on what academia wants when one is no longer interested in a career in academia?

Yeah, you definitely don’t want two pages of information about your research. One way to condense it is to group the work by time period, — so it essentially becomes, say, three or four separate jobs — and cut out a lot of the detail. Academia wants way more detail than non-academic jobs do, so you can trim the details wayyyyyy down.

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