terse answer Thursday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. Can you submit mileage reimbursements for only a few dollars?

I’m filling out last month’s out of pocket expenses and find myself wanting to make several mileage reimbursement requests for a few dollars each. Normally I might have one or two requests a month for about $20 or $30, but last month I had to make several errand runs for work.

As a manager, would you see the low mileage reimbursement requests as petty? I hate to be seen as someone who nickels and dimes the company, but I’m short on money and get nickle and dimed a lot myself. I usually don’t request reimbursement for the 50 cents I stick into the parking meters when I have to park in the city. I also can’t request mileage reimbursement if I have to travel to our site that’s further away (because it’s considered a “normal” part of my job duties to work there several times a year.) That trip alone is 70 miles round trip extra than I normally commute and I didn’t understand that I wouldn’t get reimbursed when I took this job. I guess I feel like at least by requesting a few dollars here and there, I can make up some of the losses I take as part of work. But I don’t want to hurt my relationship with my boss or company to do so.

Don’t give it another thought. You spent the money on a work expense that they’ve told you they reimburse, so it’s fine to submit it. I wouldn’t question it at all if an employee submitted low mileage reimbursements like this.

2. I regret making a counteroffer to an employee

I am a manager of a team of four analysts in a small field office overseas. Recently, one of my staff received an outside offer at another company. I gave him a modest counteroffer, including an upgrade in title from analyst to senior analyst. While his work is decent, it is not outstanding, and I would have not promoted him under normal circumstances, although I would have considered it in the next 8-10 months. He does an equally OK job as to someone I would hire new, so I promoted him to retain him, not because of his performance.

So, I have read your posts on counteroffers, and now have a related question. As predicted, the day after this person’s promotion, another staff came to me completely demotivated. She has worked at our organization in the same role for the same amount of time. While she does have some issues, when you get down to it, she does outperform the newly promoted staff. She came to me asking for clarity about how one actually gets promoted at our organization.

I regret making the counteroffer/promotion, and realize it was my mistake. However, now I am stuck with it. How do I deal? I am trying to manage the newly promoted person to perform better and live up to his new title. But, what messages do I give to the rightfully disgruntled staff? Obviously, I can’t take her aside and say, “Hey, I know your coworker is kind of crappy, but got another job offer and I didn’t want to hire somebody else, so tough luck!” How do I manage my way out of this one?

I wish I had an answer, but I don’t. You can’t really justify promoting someone whose work doesn’t merit it, or even justify trying to retain the person by other means if their work isn’t outstanding. And because there’s no justification, I can’t think of any way to explain this to the coworker or mollify her very understandable frustration. (And to make matters worse, you might end up losing the better employee because of the attempt to keep the worse employee.) This is a clusterfudge.

3. Putting a school career day presentation on my resume

I presented at a school career day as a representative of an organization that I volunteer with. Should I include this as an achievement on my resume? I don’t have any children that attend the school (I don’t have children at all) so this was not something that I had to do. I was honored to be asked to present (although I don’t feel I really have a career at the moment) and I think that I did a great job. What do you think? For background, I would like you to know that I didn’t just talk. I created an experiment and conducted it in front of the students. In one class, I had the students separated into groups and they did the experiments with the help of the teachers and my instructions.

It’s cool that you did it (and I am sort of obsessed with school career days), but it’s not really resume-worthy. It was a one-day (one hour, probably) thing without accompanying evaluation or accountability, so it doesn’t really meet the bar for a resume.

4. Applying for a job when a friend works in the same department

I am applying for a position for a company that I am totally excited about. I meet the qualifications for the position that I am applying for, and I feel like I would excel in the work environment that they project. A college friend whom I haven’t kept in much contact with (I’m only a few years out), has worked for the company for 3+ years in the department that I am applying for. What is the most appropriate way to request her help? Ideally, I would love her to put a word in for me. How do I approach this situation without being presumptuous that she would do so?

Email her and let her know that you applied for the position, and tell her that you’d love any advice that she has. You don’t need to ask her to put in a good word for you; most people will do that on their own if they think you’d be a good candidate, and asking for it directly can be awkward, since the subtext of “I’m applying for a job on your team” is generally going to be “and I’d like the job and would love your help.”

5. Is it ever okay to call to follow up after an interview?

I’m contemplating when and how to follow-up after a final interview I had with an organization on March 19. It was 2.5 hours of back-to-back interviews with 3 people, which I thought went quite well. Of course, I have debated that issue many times in my head since. The hiring manager said that she would get back to me by the that Friday, but didn’t seem 100% sure about that. I sent my thank-you’s, and one of the 3 people said that they had one more candidate to interview that week before making a decision.

Friday passed. The following Thursday I hadn’t heard anything yet, so (based on my findings on your site) I sent an email asking for a timeline update in the afternoon. Still no response. A friend told me that I should call … Is it ever ok to call? If I were to call, I think I should at least give them a week after I asked for the update.

This is a junior-level management position at a large non-profit. Technically it is a new position that they want to fill “immediately.” They are reorganizing the management to create a more effective team.

Well, here’s the thing: If they want to make you a job offer, they are going to contact you and do it. They’re not going to be dragging their feet and only remember when you call them. So calling is likely to result only in (a) another lack of response, (b) a vague response (“we’ll be in touch once we have a decision”), or (c) a rejection. And yes, a rejection would give you closure, but frankly, you’re better off giving yourself closure right now and mentally moving on, and letting it be a pleasant surprise if they do offer you the job. Trust that if they want to hire you, they’ll get in touch.

6. Listing a childcare business on my resume when my field is accounting

Several years ago, I had to quit a job because the child custody and child support legal battle got to be too much for me to handle as a professional accountant and mother. I took a 6-month break then to plan a childcare business, which thrived for about a 16 months. Although this is a break in my accounting experience, I proudly list it on my resume because (a) I need to account for the time and (b) it shows the entrepreneurship in me. A girlfriend says I should list the childcare business in a section captioned “Other Experience.” What is your advice?

I agree with her. I wouldn’t kick off your main experience section with it because it’s not what you want to most showcase, but an “other experience” section is perfect for it.

7. Getting an MA while job-searching

I’m getting conflicting advice about this from my friends, so wanted to get your opinion. I am in the process of job hunting, and I have been looking for about 3 months now and finally got my first phone interview coming up this week. I decided a few weeks ago to apply for my MA in intercultural and international communications, because I need a plan B. If finding a job is going to take me several months (perhaps even a year), I want to make good use of my time, and getting my MA has always been on my “don’t want to call it a bucket list-bucket list.” The university is in another province, but it is about 80% online. I would have to go to the campus for two weeks in September or October for the in-class portion of the program, and the following year I will be out of country for three weeks for the placement portion of the program. But other than that, I can do the coursework at home. Therefore, I can continue to do this even if I got a job, which is why this program works so well for me.

First, does studying for my MA help bridge the gap in my resume? I am currently unemployed and have been since the end of November. I recently moved back to the country which is the reason for my unemployment. I figure the longer it takes to find a job, the bigger the gap will be since my last job. Second, when in the interview process should I bring up the part about needing two weeks to attend university classes as part of my MA? Would this be a deal-breaker for most hiring managers? In my opinion, improving my education and skills will only benefit my employer, as this program compliments most of the positions I am applying for and matches well with my skill set.

Since the program is one that you’re arguing won’t interfere with full-time work, it’s not quite as good of a resume gap-filler as a traditional program would be … but it’s not nothing either, and you can certainly use it.

As for when to bring up the time you’ll need off, I’d wait until you have an offer and negotiate it then as part of your overall negotiations. The two weeks shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for most jobs (although you might need to take it unpaid if you don’t have enough vacation accrued by then). The three weeks next year will be more unusual for most jobs, so make sure that you include that as part of your negotiations too — you don’t want to find out next year that they won’t let you take three weeks at once.

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