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. My manager asked me not to get rides home from a coworker

I am a female and I’ve asked another female coworker for a ride twice because it was late and the buses stopped running already. She had no problem with it because I live 3 minutes away from the job. Our supervisor witnessed it both times, and today after my shift she called me into her office and asked me not to ask coworkers for rides anymore because it’s a liability issue. Is she allowed to tell me that even if the coworker and I are friends and the coworker clearly has no problem with it?

A liability issue? That sounds like total and complete BS to me. I’d ask her exactly what she means, and point out that people carpool all the freaking time — and tons of government programs encourage it.

2. Letting a recruiter know I have a deadline for receiving an offer

My significant other is deciding on law schools to go to and she needs to put down a deposit by the 30th. I’m currently interviewing for the job of my dreams, but I need to know if I am going to be hired this summer by the 29th or it’s pretty much useless because I want to end up in the same city as she does. How can I let the recruiter who is scheduling my interview know this without offending them? What should I say?

You can say, “We’re on a deadline to select a city by the 29th. Is that likely to work with your timeline?” But be prepared for the possibility that they might not be ready to make a decision by then.

3. Manager says I’m not friendly enough with coworkers

I have recently started a new job at a popular casual fine-dining restaurant chain. I have received criticism from my supervisors that I don’t appear to be friendly enough with my coworkers. They also state that this is never a concern with the tables I serve, and suggest that I treat my coworkers the same as I treat customers. I have taken their suggestion into consideration and have made an honest effort to smile, be friendly and greet fellow coworkers at every opportunity. However, the issue was brought up again.

I am a quiet person by nature, especially when working in a new situation where I haven’t established relationships with the staff. I also believe in focusing on the quality of my work and have never thought that socializing with staff would be used to gauge how competent an employee I am. I do feel fairly replaceable, given the industry I am in, and therefore don’t know how to approach my employers about how I feel for fear of being let go. I feel that as long as I am friendly and helpful I shouldn’t be asked to go out of my way to make close acquaintances at work. Should I express this to my employer? Or am I wrong for feeling this is unfair of them to request?

It’s ridiculous of them, but if this is their culture, you might be fighting an uphill battle. However, you can certainly say, “I really like my coworkers, but I’m a quiet person by nature. I hope that won’t interfere with your assessment of my work.”

4. Asking about the impact of rapid growth during an interview.

During a phone interview today, my interviewer mentioned that their nonprofit is growing very quickly (including this new position for which I’m interviewing). I know that growth can be exciting, but I’ve also had jobs where the organization grew too quickly and lost touch with the mission and culture that made them successful in the first place. I was offered an in-person interview next week and I’d like to probe a little more into how they approach growth. What questions would you suggest me asking? I don’t want to come across as anti-growth, but if growth will bring chaos and confusion this won’t be the right job for me.

“There are a lot of challenges that come with quick growth, like maintaining your culture, X, and Y (fill in with whatever you’re concerned about). How is the organization approaching those issues?”

5. What to ask for and think about when interviewing for a teleworking job

I recently interveiwed for a job, not knowing that the position will work from home. Do you have any advice/tips for things to ask for during the salary negotiation process as to what employers customarily provide (computer, phone, internet access at home, etc.) and maybe something special I should ask for if I get an offer? Also, any tips for evaluating whether working from home will be a good fit for me would be great. At first, the idea to work from home sounds great, but I think I might miss the social aspect of working in an office.

The employer should pay for any expenses that you incur because of the job that you wouldn’t have incurred otherwise — so depending on your situation and the job, that could be a computer, phone line or part of your phone bill, Internet access if you don’t already have it at home (although if you do, many won’t cover it, since it’s an expense you would have regardless), postage, supplies, printer, travel expenses for necessary trips to the office, etc. As for asking for anything special, most employers consider teleworking a benefit so I wouldn’t ask for additional benefits or compensation, other than perhaps working out precisely how often you’ll travel to the company’s office (if at all) and what expenses will be covered when you do.

But think carefully about whether working from home is for you — some people (like me) love it, but others go stir-crazy or find it hard to stay focused.

6. Is it better to have a gap or irrelevant experience on your resume?

I’m in the process of updating my resume and I’ve got a situation I’m not sure how to handle. My career is going on almost 15 years; as a result, I try to keep my resume lean and only focused on my most recent/relevant positions.

The problem is, a few years ago I moved cross country and it required that I take a job not directly related to my career for a year and half. Since I’ve been at my current job for so long, this detour creates a gap in my resume if I want to stay with my relevant experience.

My husband, who has done a lot of hiring, says I need to keep the unrelated stuff out of my resume and just fudge the dates of the related positions so I don’t have any gaps. I am very uncomfortable with that, so should I have an unrelated position or a gap? I absolutely believe that the resume is marketing tool so I really want to focus on my accomplishments in the related positions, but that is a pretty big gap and I don’t want it to scare anyone off from calling me.

Your husband may not verify dates of employment when he’s hiring, but lots of employers do — and lying about the dates you held a position will be an instant deal-breaker for most companies that check. Why not just put all your relevant experience in a Relevant Experience section and put the rest of it in an Other Experience section so that it’s clear what you were doing the rest of the time? You don’t need the less relevant stuff to take up a ton of space — you can just include the employer, title, and dates, and not get into details.

7. How much time does Ask a Manager take?

You’ve said you get a lot of email each day, and that you try to respond to everyone if you can. I also see that you post things late at night and early in the morning (e.g. you posted at 1:20 am and 8:45 a.m. one day earlier this week). So how much time each day do you actually spend reading/answering emails and writing posts? Are you seriously dealing with this stuff for 10+ hours a day (you must be exhausted from it!), or are you doing a couple hours here and a couple hours there? When do you fit in the time to write and edit your various columns? Are there other aspects of your work that you fit in the mix too?

Well, I set a lot of posts to automatically publish at particular times during the day, so sometimes while that’s happening I’m not at the computer at all. So that can be misleading. It’s definitely not a 10-hour a day job! I do a little here, a little there, a little more here, as I happen to have the time and the inclination. So it’s really just sporadic bursts throughout the day (and sometimes none at all, if I’ve pre-programmed everything to auto-publish). I’m a weirdly fast writer, so it takes less time than you might think (probably 15 minutes per post on average, plus random comments throughout the day, plus maybe an hour dealing with email each day). Actually, keeping up with the comments is the most time-consuming part of the whole thing — but also one of the most satisfying, and I’m not looking forward to the day when I have to accept that I can no longer read every comment.

That said, after I switched to 3+ posts a day last August, it upped the amount of pressure on days when I’m swamped with other stuff, but I’m convinced I can sustain that without completely losing my mind if I pre-write more often.

As for what else I do, the rest of it is consulting work for a handful of clients. I’d love to eventually do nothing but Ask a Manager, but y’all are going to have to buy an awful lot of ebooks to make that feasible.

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