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. Accepting a job at a lower salary with the promise of a raise later

A networking contact recently put me in touch with a past coworker of his who is starting up his own firm. I met with the owner recently and, to my surprise, he asked me to join him as his first employee. He was trying to do everything himself and was quickly finding that he was overwhelmed. The position would be instrumental in the successful initial growth of the firm and could easily progress to a senior level position as the firm grows.

During our initial meeting, however, the owner advised that he knows he cannot pay me what I’m worth. I took that as a compliment! He asked if I was willing to take a chance with his company with a smaller initial salary in exchange for increased compensation down the road. I replied that I thought that was reasonable, so as long as we could revisit my salary as the organization and my level of responsibility increased.

I know your normal advice is to wait at least 1 year after starting a new job to ask for a raise, with which I agree. In a case like this, however, what is the best way to approach him in 3, 6, 9, or 12 months about a salary increase? If all goes as planned, the company’s revenue (read: his ability to afford what I’m worth) and my responsibilities will have greatly increased over this time.

Actually, agree on it with him now and you won’t need to worry about when to approach him down the road. Too many people make informal agreements like this that they fully flesh out and make formal, and then are taken aback when the raise doesn’t materialize when they ask for it later. If this guy truly means that he’ll increase your salary once conditions X, Y, and Z are met, then he should be willing to put it writing (whether those factors are a certain number of months passing, your successfully achieving specific goals or milestones, the company reaching a certain revenue point, or something else). If he won’t put this in writing, then only take the job if you’re willing to have the future increase be a “maybe,” not a definite.

2. My boss emailed everyone the reason for my time off

I requested vacation time off from the company I work for. I am doing a internship for school because I will be graduating with my associates in Health Information Technology and it is required that I do a short internship before I can graduate. The thing is, no one at my current job knows I am in school; I haven’t told anyone.

I spoke with my boss about the days I needed off and just told her I am taking family vacation time. She said okay and that she would approve my time. A couple of hours later, I saw a email pop up that was emailed to the entire office — all my coworkers and other managers — with the dates I was going to be gone on vacation and why. My name and vacation days was in bold print on the subject line. I was furious. All of my coworkers take vacation time, I in the two years I have been working with this company, I have never seen a mass email go out about their personal time they are taking off. I feel like my privacy was stripped away and don’t understand why this was done. I feel my boss could have just told the employees in person who needed to know of my absence. I also feel like this gives my coworkers a invitation to ask me about my personal time. Is there anything I could do about this situation?

I have no idea why your boss sent this email out when she doesn’t for other people’s time off, but if you’re in a role where people need to know when you’ll be out, that’s the obvious explanation. I’m sure she didn’t think she was violating your privacy by noting it was a “family vacation”; it’s not like she wrote it was for gynecological surgery or a custody hearing. I would let this go.

3. Can I use my blog to fill a gap on my resume?

I’ve recently been looking for an entry-level career in the not-for-profit sector in communications and marketing. All my experience in this area is through various internships with some fairly well-known international NGOs. My last internship ended in December, and since then I have been unable to find any work.

To fill my time, I’ve created a website and blog where I discuss development issues and topics related to the sector I want to work in. I write a post a week and with researching, writing, posting, etc., it requires about the same time as a part-time job. My question is, can I put this on my resume since it’s not an “official” role? Or if it’s relevant to the jobs I apply for, should I just mention it in passing in my cover letter? Right now, I’m worried about the 5-month gap on my resume and don’t want potential employers to think I have been unproductive in that time.

You can definitely put it on your resume. What I’m torn on, though, is where it should go. Normally you’d put it under an “additional activities” or “community involvement” section or something like that. But of course, that’s not really what you want — you want it to put it at the top of your job history to fill the 5-month gap since your last job. It’s a bit of a stretch (one post a week doesn’t really make it substantial enough to really qualify), but no one is going to have you arrested for putting it there.

4. Interviewing when the company name hasn’t been revealed

I have an interview set up at a recruitment agency next week. The job posting did not specify the exact company I would be working for (just stated, “a successful chocolate teapot manufacturer in ____town”). I’m pretty confident that I know which company is meant, as it is quite obvious if you are active in the field. How would you handle this at the interview? Is it ok to ask which company they are representing? Would you offer up your guess? Do they expect you to just “know”? Or will they only relay this information to finalists?

Also, for future reference: Would you ever include references to an unnamed company in the cover letter? (In case you are certain you identified them and it was relevant to your application, e.g. because you worked with them before.)

It’s fine to ask at the interview. If they say they’re not able to reveal the company at this stage, don’t start offering up guesses; they’ve just said they’re not going to tell you. You are not typically expected to just “know,” however. If not knowing is an issue for you (if, for instance, you know you wouldn’t work at Company X and it sounds like this might be Company X), it’s fine to decline to move forward after a certain point unless they tell you the company.

As for including references to an unnamed company in your cover letter, I’d only do it if you were 110% sure you were right; otherwise, you could harm your candidacy by appearing certain about something that was in fact a mistake.

5. Should I update my resume when applying for an internal position?

My boss is leaving a smallish (20-30 people) organization. I plan on applying for her position, which isn’t a secret. The person doing the hiring is familiar with me and my work, but doesn’t know all that I have accomplished since I have joined the organization (about a year ago).

So when I apply internally, do I update my resume to show the year I have worked for my current company? Or do I just show everywhere else I have worked previously?

Yes, update your resume. Treat it just like you’d treat applying for an external position, just less formal.

6. Why wasn’t I notified about this opening when I was on leave?

I have been off of work for a maternity leave, followed up by a medical leave, but I will be returning in the next week. I am feeling burned by my team, coworkers at the office (aka friends), and management that I was not notified of a posting for a position that I was doing before but without the formal title. I am feeling a lot of resentment about this and do not want to be feeling this anger when I return to my workplace. My manager, who is currently on a medical leave, also shared with me that it took 2-3 workers to manage my caseload when I left. She acknowledged my level of experience as being the contributing factor for why I was able to manage the workload at the time. Why was I not notified about this posting then?

Maybe because you were on leave and people are often told not to contact anyone who’s out on medical leave for anything. Or maybe because your manager is the logical person to have alerted you to the opening but she’s out on leave herself. Or who knows — it could be anything. But getting angry about it isn’t going to be particularly productive. For all you know, they’re hoping you’ll apply when you come back. Or maybe not — but regardless, express your interest in the position and ask what you’d need to do to be considered.

7. Does this mean I got the job?

I interviewed with someone for a position at a clothing retail store. The interview went really well. I was then emailed back for another interview. I attended the interview. 5 days later, the manager who interviewed me the second time sent me an email regarding what my availability is and if I was looking for part-time or full-time. Do you think that means I got the job?

The only thing that means that you got the job is a formal job offer, so no. What this means is that — at least at the time that she sent you the email — she was still considering you as a candidate.

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