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Saturday, November 13, 2010

short answer Saturday: 7 short answers to short questions

Short answer Saturday is back!  Seven short answers to short questions, all in the same post:

Can't get promoted after five years

I work in a small department of a very large organization. There are about 20 of us in three different offices. My problem is that the managers rarely promote internally. Sure, you can take on extra projects for no pay or title change if you want, but don't expect anything to come out of it. The last few positions that have opened up have been filled by external people, who have legitimately been great. It's really doing a number on morale, me included. This is my first "real" job out of graduate school, so I guess my question is -- is this normal?? I've been here two years now and know that I won't be moving up until I move out. There are people who have been in this same job for 5+ years! I don't want that to be me. I just had a conversation with my manager about a recent spot they hired someone new for and he said the reason was that "nobody was ready." From my perspective this isn't legitimate. 

There are plenty of departments where the senior positions require a background that the more junior people are unlikely to have, no matter how long they work there. So the things to look at are: What are the qualifications for the higher-level positions that they won't hire you for? What's the profile of the type of person they're hiring for them? Does that profile match up with your and your same-level coworkers? If not, that's why they're not hiring you for them; you're not the profile of the candidate they're looking for. That's not unfair; it's just the reality of what the organization's needs are. In that scenario, when you feel you're ready to take on something new, you'll need to look outside the organization, or at least outside your department.

On the other hand, if an objective outsider would say that you're just as qualified as the people they're hiring and they just have a weird bias against promoting internally, then your options are to (a) have a serious conversation with your manager about how you want to be given a chance to take on a more senior position in the company and ask specifically what you would need to do to be a strong candidate for promotion, and/or (b) look elsewhere.

(By the way, depending on the job, five years isn't insane at all.)

Can the boss post the schedule this late?

My husband's boss uses an online schedule site to post the weekly work schedule. The new week starts on Thursdays. This morning, it's a Thursday when I'm writing this, my husband had to call the store he works at to see if he was supposed to work today because the schedule was still not up on the website. When he went in today he found out that his manager had posted the schedule up in the store last night. She does this from time to time but usually also puts it up on the web as well and never sooooo late. Is there any law against this? Don't they legally have to give him a certain amount of notice? Don't get me wrong, in this economy we're glad he's working but...really?!

I'm not a lawyer so can't say with complete confidence that there's no law against it, but I'd be surprised if there's a law against it. The majority of things that are stupid or bad management aren't illegal, just ... stupid or bad management. But I'm also going to throw some blame at you here, because -- really? Your first instinct is to wonder if it's legal, rather than suggesting that your husband just talk to the manager, point out the problem, and try to work out a system that will meet everyone's needs, hers and the staff's?

Engaged and wanting a transfer after just five months

I recently graduated college and have been working in my entry-level professional position for 5 months and am still learning the ropes in my job. I originally took this job with the intention of "getting my foot in the door" so I could transfer to the corporate headquarters to be closer to my then-boyfriend within 12-24 months, but unexpectedly, I became engaged much sooner than anticipated. 

Should I tell my supervisor I am engaged and am looking at transferring internally to a new location and new department in the near future (with the hope he will be supportive in this endeavor), or should I not say anything for another 7 months (when I reach my 12-month anniversary with this department) until I am more qualified to look for a new job? I am scared this will look bad for planning to leave my work group and department right after they hired me, and also that I may be treated adversely if they know I am looking to leave soon. Is this a legitimate reason that a manager would move someone to a new department, even though I am an inexperienced worker who was recently hired? 

I can't say how things work at your company, but I'd be annoyed if I'd been training a new grad for five months and she immediately wanted a transfer. I'd wait it out a year if you can. Also, if you haven't already, make sure that your assumptions that it'll be easy to get a transfer to the headquarters are rooted in reality; it's possible that transfers are hard to get or only happen under certain circumstances.

How can I help my friend get hired at my company?

I work for a good company and I have a friend who would love to get hired here. We work in completely different fields so I don’t know any of the people that are in the department that she is looking to work in. I am also just an individual contributor so I don’t have a lot of pull, even in my own department. Also, there are very few open positions. Would it be wise to send unsolicited emails to managers with an attached resume? I personally wouldn’t think this is appropriate unless I knew the managers personally (which I don’t). Secondly, for the posted positions, how do I contact the hiring manager for my friend to get an interview? I can look up the recruiter and hiring manager for each posted position, but I don’t know how to go about approaching these people since I don’t know them. Should I just email them a resume and say my friend is interested in this job?

First, there's a more fundamental issue: You need to feel confident that your friend would be a good fit for any role you're recommending her for. Do you know for a fact that she's qualified, smart, and reasonably easy to work with, and that she has a good work ethic? If not, you risk harming your own reputation by recommending her for a position.

If you happen to know that she's absolutely fantastic, you could send her resume to the appropriate manager with a note saying that she's phenomenal and they should take a look at her. (In this case, it's fine that you don't know the manager personally; you're still an insider.) You can do this when there's a posted job, and you can do this even when there's not -- because if she's that great, she's the sort of person managers want to know about. 

But if you don't really know for sure that she's great, then I'd simply let the relevant manager know, "Hey, my friend Julie Smith applied for your open position. I've never worked with her so I can't vouch for her qualifications for this particular job, but I can tell you that she's smart, sane, and funny" (or whatever). 

Asking about salary before interviewing

I applied for a job in July with a major NYC area university. The job advertisement made no mention of salary but it did say "master's degree preferred." I received an email today inviting me to schedule an interview and an attachment with the job description stating that the salary is $42,000. Not only do I think this is low for a job asking for a master's degree, it is about 20% lower than my current salary. What is the best way to broach the subject of salary prior to scheduling an interview? No reason to waste everyone's time if there is no room for negotiation. 

If you know that you'd never accept the job at that salary, you have nothing to lose by asking about it. Email back and say something like this: "Thanks so much for asking me to interview. I'm very interested because ______. However, I noticed in the job description that you forwarded that the salary is listed at $42,000. I'm looking for a range closer to 50s, and I wouldn't want to waste your time if that's prohibitive on your end."

As a side note, be cautious about assuming any particular degree buys you a higher salary. In D.C.-area nonprofits, I've seen highly qualified J.D.'s getting hired at $35,000. Salaries are determined by the market, not by the degree.

Can I leave a job I was fired from off my resume?

I am a nurse. In this past year, I held 3 different jobs for 2-3 months at a time. I'm asked to leave, because I'm not the right fit. One was a hospice job, most recent for 8 weeks. I am still signed up with a visiting nurse company doing per diem visits. Can I leave this last job off my resume? Or, is it being dishonest? I work in Florida as an RN and moved here from MA on 2007. I never had employment problems in MA. But, since being in Florida I only held one job for 1yr 9 months at a local hospital, then it's been a bunch of part-time jobs. I need a full time job with benefits. I have no money saved.

You can leave the last job off your resume. Your resume is a marketing document, designed to present your candidacy in the strongest light. It's not required to be an exhaustive listing of everything you've ever done. However, I'm concerned that you've been let go from three jobs in a row for not being the right fit. Have you figured out what's caused that and how to avoid it in the future? You don't want to keep repeating the same pattern, so it's key to understand what that's happened and what you can take away from it.

How aggressively can I negotiate salary in this market?

I am getting ready to finish up my master’s degree program and begin looking for work starting in June. I don’t expect the nation’s overall job outlook to improve much by then, however, given my experience, marketability, and the prestige of a degree from my school, I do expect to find a job. The question is, at a time when there is more competition for good jobs than ever before, can I afford to be aggressive in my salary negotiations when I am finally offered a job? Isn’t it likely that my potential employer would withdraw her/his job offer and move on to the next candidate if I try to command a higher salary?

How aggressive are you talking about? If you're asking for, say, a 30% higher salary than what's offered, you might come across as naive -- because you're right out of school and therefore to a large extent unproven. (Generally when employers are willing to go significantly beyond their original offer, it's for a candidate they really, really want, someone head and shoulders above anyone else they've talked to. That's unlikely to the case for a recent grad.) And yes, it's possible that if you handle salary negotiations badly, an employer could take that as additional data about you that makes them reconsider wanting to hire you altogether, which is why you need to be realistic in what you ask for -- don't be aggressive just for the sake of being aggressive. (And make sure you're researching the market rate for this kind of work in this industry in this geographic area so that you know what a reasonable offer is.)

But if you're just asking for an increase of a few thousand dollars, no one is going to peg you as unreasonable for asking for it. Even if they say no, they're not going to withdraw a job offer just because you asked.


Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm the writer of the asking about salary before the interview question.

I ended up declining the offer to interview, which some friends have since told me was a mistake. But when I called, after a short round of phone tag, the individual was curt and rude. I had to reiterate who I was, why I was calling, and for which position, which seemed a bit off because I had missed her call about 30 seconds ago. Maybe it was just a bad day for her but I got three consecutive answers that seemed more like getting snapped at than a conversation and showed me that she did not remember or consider what I had said in my email and voicemail to her.
Finally, I asked if there was a salary range for the position and was told, "No. It's just 42, that's it."

At that point I said I could not accept the position at this time.

Friends have told me that I should have interviewed anyway even if just for the practice and because places can often find a bit more money for a candidate they really want. But this interaction spoiled whatever desire I may have had for the position, regardless of the salary offer.

MillenniMedia said...

Anon - your friends won't have to work at this place or pay bills in NYC on $42k (I live's expensive).

I believe an interview goes both ways - your impressions of them are at least as important as their impressions of you. If you didn't get a good feeling from this person and couldn't afford to take the pay cut anyway, don't let anyone convince you that you made a bad decision. You're going with your gut and making the call that's best for YOU - no one else.

Anonymous said...

OP again. Yeah, I know NYC is expensive. It's tough (for me) to live there on $52k and $42 is a steep hit.
There is a chance that the university would have better benefits such as paying a lower amount towards health care and 401k plan, as well as the opportunity for basically free education - after tuition remission.
I would have liked to have that conversation or at least be told that yes, there are options instead of a flat out "No".

Eric said...

Again, love the lightning round questions. Can you label them individually for search-ability?

What is a good way to research salary? I've been using and it seems to be putting me higher than companies want to go. It was explained to me once as "They wan't to offer no more than about 10% over your current salary." However, I would be moving from a region where salaries are somewhat depressed to a place they should be higher. Small city to large city.

Meredith said...

To the OP asking about the salary before the interview. I don't know what type of position that you applied to, but if you are still looking at university jobs, unfortunately 40 - 45K tends to be the going rate for master's preferred positions in the student services area. If you are looking for a more technical job at an university, you can probably do much better than 45K. However, if it is an entry level job that you are seeking (I assume so because of the master's preferred) I doubt they will offer more than 55K. Good luck with your search!

Ask a Manager said...

OP, when you say, "I would have liked to have that conversation or at least be told that yes, there are options instead of a flat out 'No'" -- this confuses me, since aren't you the one who decided not to proceed? It doesn't sound like they refused to talk more with you, just told you that the salary couldn't go above 42K (which is a good thing to know up front). if you'd wanted to hear more about the total package, didn't you still have the option to proceed?

Eric, yeah, I don't know that is that accurate, unfortunately. You can check the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook, but I think a better way is to network with other people in your field and geographic area (ask a bunch of people in the industry what they'd expect that position at that level to pay, and you'll start to get an idea). Recruiters can also often give you a good idea.

TheLabRat said...

About that scheduling thing...

If that job is the type of job I think it is - a minimum wage type of job regardless of the actual wage - don't bother trying to talk to the manager about the schedule thing unless you have ample reason to think of the manager as an otherwise really awesome and reasonable boss. I have been written up in three different companies three different times for that very same thing (under the banner of insubordination, and yes I was very polite). I've seen people fired for it (and of course in their termination paperwork some other reason was noted).

Seriously, if you have a blue collar job of that variety, just accept that you are a "servant not a sever" (in food service terms) and get over it. It sucks but it's usually true. They dn't call us wage slaves for nothing.

Speakeasy said...

Re: the $42,000 masters preferred position - know thy industry. Uni's (even those in expensive NYC) are paying about 52 to 55k for assistant professors with PhDs soooo it would be a tough sell to get an support position approved for much more than that. Also keep in mind, if this is a public university they are probably in a very serious budget crunch due to cuts in state funding - at my uni we can't order paper right now, I can't get 1k to order a software program for 20 people (including students!) to share. They probably don't have any wiggle room on salary.

However, there is no excuse for them to be rude to you.

Anonymous said...

OP again. Well, the way the "discussion" had been going it did not seem she wanted to have a conversation about anything, let alone compensation, so I just dropped it and said goodbye.

Anonymous said...

<3 Short Answer Saturday!

Stephen said...

For the person who's been at the entry level job for 5 months:

Every corporation I've worked for has had a "you must work in your job for 6 months before transferring or moving to a new position". You might look and see if your employee handbook refers to that at all.

If so, you have a timeframe right there that your manager should be aware of and it should make the conversation a bit easier once you have been there the 'required' time.

Anonymous said...

For the wife/husband with the late-posted schedule:

The legality of this issue might not be so much a federal or state law as a union law issue. Is there a union involved? Reason I ask is I have heard in my own work the union can intervene when it comes to schedule issues. For example, if your husband is scheduled to work Thursday - Sunday, and Tuesday and he sees that on the schedule one day, but when he goes back to check it again on Saturday and finds that his Tuesday has been switched for Monday, he can legitimately raise an issue. He has to be made aware of the change because what would happen if he took the original schedule for granted and didn't show up for work on Monday? Well, perhaps the same can apply here. If the manager doesn't do what s/he says he/she will do with the schedule by posting it online, then a few workers might not be on time and subsequently written up.

If what TheLabRat says is a potential - getting written up for just talking to the manager - then I would see if there is a shop steward and ask to speak to that person. If there isn't an union, then I'd suggest making an effort to call the store the night before to ask if there's a schedule or else making a drive over.

Anonymous said...

5 months and engaged:

Yes, I know that it is easy to transfer to the new location I want and No, there is no official wait period at my company until transferring

I have always heard 12 months is the magic number until it is "acceptable" to move on to a new job, but I would like to transfer sooner if possible. Also, I know that pretty soon I will need to talk to my boss about my intention to apply to new jobs...but it makes me feel uncomfortable talking about moving around when being so new in this job

Any other suggestions on how to approach this? I feel like I am letting my boss down by asking for a transfer!