tiny answer Tuesday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. I want to be an employee, not a contractor

I’ve been offered a contracting job with a fantastic company, but I want to be a full employee. They said they’d hire me as an employee if I move to California (where everyone else in the company is), but that isn’t an option for me for at least five years. Is employee-ship something I can negotiate? I know it’s not your area of expertise, but would it cost them a zillion a year to have a New York employee? They make a lot of their money from customers in New York, if that make a difference.

Not a zillion a year, but it’s something of a pain in the ass to set yourself up for employees in a different state if you’re used to having them all in one single state. For instance, New York requires employers who have any employees based there to establish a workers compensation insurance account and a disability insurance account with the state and to make ongoing payments into them, among other statutory requirements. Plus, adding employees in new states means keeping up with (and complying with) employment laws in those states — which can be a not insignificant burden, particularly for a smaller company. None of this means that you can’t try to negotiate it anyway, but you should go into the conversation understanding that you’d be asking them to take on a whole new set of operating fees and bureaucratic headaches.

2. Asking for a raise after getting a bonus

I’ve been in my current position for 2.5 years with only paltry annual cost of living increases that have not kept up with inflation. Unfortunately, my company does not have a practice of conducting regular performance reviews. In the past, I’ve mentioned to my boss and our department head that I would appreciate having a review so that I can get a sense for how I’m doing. About seven months ago, they surprised me with an impromptu review in which the feedback was 100% positive, and they then solicited my feedback on my job and our department and presented me with a nice bonus. Since I wasn’t expecting this review, I was not prepared to discuss my overall compensation.

I have an excellent relationship with my boss and the department head, and know from informal feedback that they continue to be very pleased with me. In fact, just last month our department head said to me (jokingly), “You’re never allowed to leave!” so I feel I’m in good standing to ask for a raise. However, is it too soon to ask them for a raise in light of the bonus? If not, would I approach my direct supervisor or my department head about this? I suspect my boss does not have authority to approve a raise. And should I approach them in person prepared to discuss it on the spot, or would it be better to ask in advance for a meeting to discuss this?

It’s not too soon. A bonus doesn’t impact your salary on an ongoing basis; it’s different than a raise. I’d approach your manager, not your manager’s manager, because even if she doesn’t have the authority to approve it on her own, you shouldn’t go over her head. She deals with plenty of things that she doesn’t have the authority to approve on her own, but that doesn’t mean that you go around her — same thing applies here. As for whether to ask for a special meeting or not, you could — or you could just bring it up at your next regular meeting with her. But this is definitely a conversation to have in the context of a meeting (either existing or scheduled just for this); don’t just pop into her office randomly one day.

3. Where is my job offer?

I interviewed for a position within municipal government on December 20 and was contacted by phone on December 31 by the hiring manager, who verbally offered me the job. Following a brief discussion over salary and potential start date, I verbally accepted and asked when I should expect a written offer. The manager said he would forward my information to human resources and that they should be in touch with me about the formal offer. I was warned by the manager during the interview and during this phone conversation that the HR department typically moves more slowly than he would like, so I was prepared for the hiring process to take some time; however, it has now been nearly three weeks since I received the verbal offer and I have still not been contacted by human resources. I have exchanged a couple of emails with the hiring manager letting him know that I still have yet to hear from HR, and he has responded to say that he is looking into it and later responded that I should be hear something soon, but friends and colleagues that I’ve talked with seem to think this delay is unusual. Should I be concerned and/or consider moving on with my job search at this point?

Some employers really do take this long, and he did warn you about it in advance. But why not ask him to give you a sense of what timeline you should expect, so that you have some information to work with? Meanwhile, though, you’ve got to abide by the “you don’t have a real offer until you have the offer” principle, which means that if you’d be job searching if this offer hadn’t happened, then you should continue that search. (To be clear, that doesn’t mean that I think this sounds like it’s going to fall apart; I don’t. But until you have that formal offer, you risk something changing.)

4. Interview wear when blazers don’t fit you well

Reading through your posts, I’ve noticed you highly recommend people wear suits. My problem is that every time I put on a blazer I completely lose my confidence. I’m a little broad shouldered and on the short side (5’3″) and I feel like a football player when I wear a blazer. I’ve had several of them and never end up wearing them to interviews because I just don’t feel confident wearing them — I just think I’d be self-conscious the whole time and it would affect my interview. I never get ones with shoulder pads to avoid the bulk and I’ve tried on expensive ones, cheap ones, different shapes and styles and I just don’t feel I look like a professional adult in them, but rather a child in dad’s suit jacket. Is it better not to wear a suit and be confident? I normally wear a high-quality LBD and a simple black cardigan over it.

Same rule as always: Know your industry. In some industries, the outfit you described would be absolutely fine. In others, it wouldn’t not be considered sufficiently professional. So you’ve got to know what’s expected in your industry (and more specifically, in your industry in your geographic area).

But on the discomfort issue: Have you tried a tailor? A good tailor can usually fix the problems you’re describing.

5. How to count years of work experience

When people ask how many years of work experience I have, how should I answer? Do they generally mean how many years of full-time experience, or how many years of experience in a particular field?

I didn’t follow the normal routine of graduating at 22, working a few years, then doing my MBA. Instead, I often balanced 2-3 different jobs which essentially added up to a full 40-60 hour work schedule until I got through college (3 degrees which are unrelated to each other but all miraculously relevant in my current position). I started working when I was 14 years old, which would mean 17 years of work experience spread out over 8 employers. This includes waiting tables, running my own online business, and working for the university. Although I gained a lot of valuable skills such as the ability to multi-task, manage others, and prioritize, I am new to my chosen career path (marketing), which means people make references to my limited work experience when considering my job responsibilities. On the one hand, I get amazing performance reviews from people who didn’t expect such quality contributions from an entry level employee like me. On the other hand, I feel like I can be selling myself better to get higher earnings based on the strengths I have built over the years.

There’s no one right answer to this question, but usually when people ask how much experience you have, they’re talking about professional full-time (or close to full-time) experience. I’d leave out anything pre-college, since if you’re 30 and you say that you have 20 years of experience, it’s not going to ring true to people (and usually they’re not including waiting tables, etc. in the question). It’s also fine to say “X years in marketing, but Y years overall.” But really, your ability to sell yourself isn’t going to be based on how you answer this question; it’s going to be about what accomplishments you can point to and how you can tie them to the work you’d be doing for whoever you’re talking to. That’s where I’d keep your focus.

6. Being asked to work on Valentine’s Day

I am a waitress in California. I saw my schedule today and I am scheduled to work on Valentine’s Day. I am a full-time student and have school all day that day. My manager says I need to find someone to cover the shift because school is not an excuse. I know each company probably has their own policy, but it’s not a national holiday and I just want to know if this is wrong or right.

It’s pretty typical for hospitality workers to be expected to work holidays like Valentine’s Day and to be asked to find a sub for the shift if they can’t. There’s nothing wrong with asking not to be scheduled that day because of school, but your manager is also within his rights to tell you that he needs you there.

7. Messaging LinkedIn contacts on my husband’s behalf

My husband and I relocated last fall to a new country for my job. It was a fantastic move for us both because his field is much more in demand in our new area. He had to wait a few months for his employment authorization paperwork to go through, and now that he has it, is excited to be looking for work. However, his LinkedIn profile isn’t very developed since he is not a big fan of social networking (he also does not have a Facebook profile). He’s going to work on improving it, but in the meantime, would it be strange or spammy for me to message my LinkedIn contacts on his behalf? I would keep it very short and upbeat, just saying that we had recently relocated, he’s excited to be looking for work in his field, and I would appreciate it if they could let me know if they hear of something. What is your take on the etiquette around this?

Meh. I think it’s fine when you’re contacting friends and family, but if you’re going to send the message to people you don’t know that well, you risk it looking bad that he’s not networking on his own behalf (especially when LinkedIn makes it so easy to see which of your connections he might want to reach out to). I also wouldn’t do it via LinkedIn if he himself doesn’t have much of a LinkedIn profile — that’s the first place your message recipients are likely to look to learn more, and if his profile is barren, it’s not going to make a great impression. But he should be able to put together a decent LinkedIn profile in an evening — why not have him do that first?

(Also, it’s entirely possible I’m being too rigid about it being weird to do on his behalf. Anyone want to argue it’s fine?)

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