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. Employer won’t let me continue to use my maiden name professionally

I have a question about dealing with married vs. maiden names. I was married several years ago and just kept my maiden name for a while. I recently legally changed my name to be: Firstname MaidenName Husband’sname.

Anyway, before I changed my name, I applied for a federal govt job. I just found out last week I got hired–yay! I was talking to the HR rep today about my background investigation and paperwork, and I mentioned to her that, while I have since legally changed my name, professionally, I would like to keep my maiden name. I understand legally my name is Mrs. Husband’sName, but I would like my email address, business cards, etc to say Ms. MaidenName. She told me “No because paperwork, investigations, blah blah.”

I was a little surprised because I didn’t think this was a big deal, and I thought more women did this. Do you have any ideas on what I can do? I really didn’t think it would be a problem, and I would really like to stay “Ms. MaidenName” professionally. What do you think?

It’s certainly true that the government is a massive bureaucracy with all sorts of barriers to doing what’s logical and reasonable, so I suppose it’s possible that there really is some rule against it — but tons of women do this at other employers, particularly when they already have an established professional identity.

Of course they need to do your official paperwork using your legal name, but I can’t see any possible justification for refusing to allow you to use your maiden name on things like business cards, email, etc. And given how many women continue to use their maiden name professionally even after changing it legally, this is a bunch of BS. But because the federal government is a notoriously rules-laden employer, she might be right — but it would still be worth trying to push back and point out that women are increasingly taking this option and it’s something they should find a way to accommodate.

2. How to motivate a lazy coworker whose work I’m getting stuck with

I work at an entry-level position for a government agency and I have a question about coworker motivation. Our job is for a two year term and a coworker, who is leaving in 3 or 4 months, has stopped doing any work. Her lack of motivation affects my job and has been causing issues. The management philosophy here is more “it has to get done” rather than “this is X’s responsibility, X needs to do it,” so my workload has been increasing and I feel like I am getting blamed for this coworker slacking off. It is long before the period when she needs to transfer her tasks before she leaves. One permanent employee is aware of her problems but has been unsuccessful in motivating her as well as he is not her direct supervisor. Unfortunately, she somehow has very good standing with our bosses and they have not listened in the past when I have asked for the workload to be redistributed. Do you have any suggestions for how to motivate this coworker to complete her assigned work?

You can’t motivate her, nor should you have to. But what you can do is deal with it the same way you’d handle any other workload issue, totally ignoring the fact that this one is being caused by your lazy coworker (and her manager who won’t manage, which is actually the bigger problem): Go to your manager and say, “I can do A and B, but not C. Or if C is really important, I’d need to move A off my plate to make room for it. Alternately, I can be a resource to Jane on C, but I can’t do the work of C myself if I’m also doing A and B. How would you like me to prioritize, and what would you like me to put on the back burner?”

Also, read this.

3. Do resume objectives make sense at recruiting events?

I notice you are always against objectives on a resume, but now I am out of school (where, by the way, the objective was “highly recommended’) and have taken part in some recruiting events for my corporation. I would like to suggest that the dreaded objective is highly valuable when the resume will be presented in a forum where the recruiter will be talking to people interested in many different fields or positions. Knowing at a glance if the person standing in front of me is looking for a full time position or an internship is very valuable, as is if they are looking for a commercial or engineering position.

Perhaps this is an exception to your “no objective” rule?

There are other ways to achieve that than with an objective, which pretty much always look dated and awful. Try a more modern profile or summary or something that doesn’t have the stale odor of 1982 to it.

4. Unethical bonus to coworker?

I work in a small office — 2 bosses, 3 employees. One boss gave her close assistant a secret bonus for “working there for 15 years.” This assistant’s husband recently lost his job. I am the one in the office who writes a check to cover the payroll. I asked the other boss why payroll was so high, and he said, “oh, Kelly gave Diane a bonus for working here 15 years.” Kelly and Diane are very close. Before I had asked my boss about the payroll being high, they tried to hide the payroll report from me. This whole situation is affecting my work. What should I do? Do you think this conduct by my bosses is unprofessional or unethical? I have worked there for 10 years.

It’s not unethical to give a bonus to an employee. If anything is unethical here, it’s your using your access to payroll information to form opinions about your coworkers’ pay, which is really none of your business. Drop this; it’s truly far, far outside the range of what’s appropriate for you to involve yourself in.

5. Job-hunting outside of academia with a PhD

I was hoping you could address a few issues that apply to people who have PhDs but decide not to go into academe. My university’s career center has been completely useless in advising me so I am turning to you. I have been applying to “industry” positions for the past six to eight months, and haven’t heard a peep. (I am a non-clinical psychologist.) I am religious about tailoring my resume and my cover letter (per all your advice in past postings), so I figure it must be that I’m applying for positions for which I’m either under- or over-qualified.

I typically apply for positions that require an MA or a PhD (because I want to use my PhD), and to my eye they look attainable. (I do, however, stay away from positions that have “Director” in the title–I know I’m not experienced enough for those positions.) Usually they require 3-5 years experience, fluency in various statistical methods, project management experience, and sometimes expertise in a content area (e.g. education, child development, psychometrics). I count my laboratory experiences and psychological studies in graduate school as “counting” toward those years of experience, because I did the work–just didn’t get paid for it (graduate experience was five years total, and I conducted research in a business setting for two years prior to that). I have been afforded the opportunity to work within several niches, so I do have a pretty broad set of applicable experiences. I am well-versed in most statistical techniques, have a great deal of experience with project management (managing undergraduates and colleagues on various projects), and I apply for positions that are situated within my area of expertise.

Is it as I fear, and PhD-level candidates are not taken seriously outside academe? Any advice on how to not look like a fresh graduate, though I do actually have quite a bit of relevant experience? I am hell-bent on applying my research skills and expertise in a practical way, not within the insular world of academia, so I would really love any perspective you might have on finding–and getting!– jobs for PhDs.

Well, if they’re specifically asking for a PhD, I don’t think the issue if that they’re discounting you because of your PhD. I don’t have a ton of insight into what’s going on, other than what I’d tell anyone in your shoes: If you’re not getting interviews, take another look at your materials, no matter how confident you are that they’re good. Read this, in particular. But you also might try meeting with a few people in the field(s) you want to work in and ask them for insight into what could make you more attractive to employers. Sort of an informational interview, in the way that too few people use them.

6. Which GPA should I include on my resume?

I have a question about GPA and including it on your resume, as sometimes it is requested. I initially went to a smaller community college and subsequently transferred to a large university. On my resume, I only indicated that I went to the university that my bachelor’s degree is from, but included a cumulative GPA from both schools that I calculated. Is this deceiving, and should I indicate only the GPA received from the university? I haven’t really run into any issues yet, but I am curious if I should or should not do this.

What would the university say if contacted to verify your GPA? That’s the number you want to use, since otherwise you can run into issues if an employer verifies. But that’s if you include GPA at at all — I wouldn’t include GPA on your resume unless it’s very high (3.7 or higher).

7. Am I asking too much of this networking contact?

I had a networking meeting with a GM in an industry I’m not interested in joining. He’s a great contact, offered awesome career advice, and told me he would be willing to help in any way he could. I have not narrowed down specific companies I’d like to work for and I’ve just started seriously considering making a change and leaving my current job. I’ve been at my current organization for 5 years and am ready to acquire new skills that I won’t get from my current position/boss.

I’m looking for a new challenge and a salary reset. Once I identify a few companies I’d like to begin to pursue jobs at, would it be too forward to give this contact a list of companies I’d like to get into along with my resume? He has contact with many high level executives in a number of companies locally and nationally. I almost feel as if that’s asking too much.

He’s offered to help you, so let him know what would be helpful. What you’re proposing isn’t too much at all, as long as the list of companies isn’t ridiculously long. But make sure you’re clear with him about what you’re asking him to do — presumably, to see if he has any contacts at the companies on your list who he’d be willing to reach out to on your behalf. (In other words, don’t just hand him a list; be clear about what you’d like him to do with it.)

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