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“interviewing with a beard as a woman, fending off an unwanted promotion, and more” plus 2 more Ask a Manager

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“interviewing with a beard as a woman, fending off an unwanted promotion, and more” plus 2 more Ask a Manager


interviewing with a beard as a woman, fending off an unwanted promotion, and more

Posted: 29 Dec 2016 09:03 PM PST

It's four answers to four questions. Here we go…

1. Interviewing with a beard as a woman

I’m a graduate student about to start my first professional job search, and I’ve been trying to prepare myself for the process. Here’s my situation: I’m a women with a beard, and not a blonde one: it’s dark and coarse. I shave every morning, and by halfway through the day, I’m got a shadow. If I go three days without shaving, I’ve moved into scruffy territory that’s extremely visible from across the room. I’ve been doing it since high school due to some (retrospectively) horrible advice from peers.

It’s getting to the point that shaving is painful, and I’ve explored (and dismissed) other options. I really want to stop, but I realize that a woman with heavy facial hair sticks out a bit more than one not wearing makeup.

My question is: does your advice remain the same as with women and makeup, that professionally, it will not have any impact? Would I be shooting myself in the foot interviewing unshaven, or would shaving for the interview and then stopping be dishonest?

It definitely would not be dishonest to shave for the interview and then stop after you have the job. People often make a point of looking much more polished or formal for interviews than they'll look once on the job — but even if that weren't the case, you're not locked into keeping the look from your interview forever. People decide to change their hair, stop wearing makeup, grow or shave a beard, and so forth.

Now, will have it any impact on you professionally? It's hard to say without knowing your field, but I lean toward thinking no, it won't be a big deal. I would love to say that more absolutely, because that's how it should work, but the reality is that some fields are much more appearance-conscious than others. If you are in a field where this stuff matters, being super polished in other ways will probably help. But I'm interested to hear other people's advice on this one.

(For what it's worth, my advice about makeup isn't that it won't have an impact; it's that what matters — in fields where such things matter at all — is that you look professional and polished. Some people find makeup helps them achieve that; others don't.)

2. Fending off an unwanted promotion

My wife has been an administrative assistant at a relatively small company for about six months. She is exceptionally good at the detail oriented work that an administrative assistant does, she really enjoys working for the company, and all indications are that the company thinks a lot of her work. This actually has my wife and I worried, because the standard progression at her company is for the administrative assistant to move up into customer service work, and the customer service department is now short-staffed.

She will be the first to admit that she’s much better as an administrative assistant than at customer service. When her last job transitioned into a customer service position, her stress level went through the roof, her job performance suffered, and she came home virtually every night crying. The customers of her current company are rude and demanding, so there’s no reason to think that would be different here. Moreover, the customer service department at her company has different supervision that seems keen on firing people, and we’re concerned that if she’s not immediately a fit for the job, she’s going to end up being let go from this company that offers her a great commute, good pay and benefits, and at least in her current position, a great working environment.

Is there a polite and positive way for my wife to suggest to her superiors, when the time comes, that everyone would be better off if she remained as an admin instead of being “promoted” to customer service? If there is no saying no to a promotion, is there a way to ask if she could return to her former position if it doesn’t work out?

Does she periodically talk to her manager about career development or have a performance review? Those are both good times to bring it up and she could say it this way: "From what I've seen, it seems like the typical path here is for the person in my role to move into customer service work. I actually really like being an admin and want to stay on an admin path rather than going into customer service. Is it possible to stay on an admin track here instead?"

It's pretty likely that she'll learn that's fine — that other people have moved over to customer service because they wanted to, not because they had to. But even if that's not the case, this will be a useful conversation to have.

And if there's no natural opening for it like a performance review, she can just bring it up on her own. That's very normal to do, and most managers will appreciate knowing what her thinking is.

3. Are you supposed to tell other companies you're withdrawing from consideration once you accept a job offer?

After a few months of searching and getting to the late stages of interviews at a couple of places, I finally received a job offer and will start my new position soon. I’m especially appreciative of your blog–your advice to mentally move on after completing the necessary steps post interview was definitely quite helpful!

My question is prompted by a former supervisor who recently emailed me asking if I had withdrawn an application I had in with another prospective employer. My former supervisor had flagged my application through an email to the hiring manager and a few of her contacts within the organization, and now that I was going to be working elsewhere was interested in recommending another potential applicant for the position. Before recommending someone else, she wanted to make sure they knew I was withdrawing my application. Is it typical to alert every place you have an outstanding application at of your withdrawal from consideration? I hadn’t yet heard back if I was even going to be offered an interview (though the application deadline had just ended, so I’m not sure if they were waiting for that particular date to review submissions) and wasn’t sure if an email removing myself from the process would come off as a little presumptuous. I did meet a lot of the requirements for this particular position, and have a couple of other contacts within the organization, so I do think there was a good chance I would’ve been offered an interview, but from previous experience I’ve learned it’s best not to expect anything.

My former supervisor shared that from her perspective it was best to alert all places you have an application at since that will help reduce their workload (one less application to read) even in the event you’re not asked to interview. I went ahead and sent an email withdrawing myself from the process, but I’m curious to get your perspective on this, as well as thoughts from those who read this blog and have been on the hiring side of the process.

I admit to being very frustrated by prospective employers who stop communicating with applicants even after they’ve been interviewed or reached the final stages of the process (I’m not talking about companies that don’t reach out to each applicant who applies, but it’s is just dumbfounding to me that some places will stop communication cold even after you’ve advanced past the phone screen and first round o in-person interviews!) So, now I’m wondering if me not reaching out to all of the places I may have applications still out at is similar behavior to what I find very rude.

Nope, you definitely don't need to contact all the places you've applied to tell them that you're withdrawing your application. It's pretty common to do that with places that have interviewed you recently (because at that point they've invested time in you and may be thinking of you as part of their finalist pool), but it's not at all common to do that if you've just sent in an application and not been interviewed.

However, in this case, since your former manager had contacted people there on your behalf, it does make sense to let them know that you've accepted another job. That's not an across-the-board rule; it's specific to this particular situation where she has used some capital on your behalf.

And about your worry that it's presumptuous to let an employer know you're withdrawing — it definitely doesn't come across as presumptuous, so don't worry about that at all.

4. Using very personal examples in interviews

I am applying for front-line positions where I would be working with people in various kinds of psych crisis. I don’t have much professional experience with crisis–just a few almost-situations that I could try beefing up and spinning into stories. However, I do have experience with family members in crisis (think assessing family members for suicidal ideation, talking to family members in psychosis about their goals and values, and working with health care professionals to complete petitions for involuntary assessment).

One one hand, I’d like to talk about the personal experiences in interviews because they demonstrate that I can handle similar complicated and high stress situations well. (I stayed calm, asked the right questions, got the right professionals involved when necessary, and practiced self-care throughout). On the other hand, I worry that using personal examples risks waiving the red flag of “iffy professional boundaries” or “mess of countertransference issues.” I try to be self-aware and think that I have better boundaries than many of my professional peers, but I wonder if bringing up my experiences with family members in interviews would project the opposite.

Normally you don't want to use very personal examples in interviews, but when you're applying to do very personal work, that rule changes a bit and there's more room for it.

So I think you can use one or two, but I wouldn't use more than that or it risks crossing over into too much sharing.

interviewing with a beard as a woman, fending off an unwanted promotion, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

updates: one of our coworkers is putting nails in our car tires, employees are afraid they’ll be ostracized after they’re promoted, and more

Posted: 29 Dec 2016 09:30 AM PST

Continuing our annual December "where are they now" series, here are four more updates from people who had their questions answered here this year.

1. I think one of our coworkers is putting nails in our car tires

Long story short, nothing exciting really happened afterwards, which I suppose could be construed as a good thing. We ended up reporting the incidents to our security/facilities team so that they would have it on record to see if there would be a recurring pattern. Shortly afterwards, I was was put on a special project team based out of a different physical office location. I believe the timing was purely coincidental, but temporarily relocating me to another location helped ease my fears about any additional forms of vandalism or retaliation.

I returned to the permanent headquarters location after the summer months, and I now only park in areas with security cameras. I’ve seen a lot more emails from our onsite security/facilities team regarding suspicious vehicles, unlocked cars, doors ajar, etc. so it seems that they are monitoring the premises more closely than they were before. If anything, it’s still a bit unnerving to think that one of our own employees could be the culprit, but I’m hoping that the security cameras and increased presence of our onsite security/facilities team will be enough to deter them from doing anything further.

2. My employees are afraid they’ll be ostracized after they’re promoted

With your guidance and the guidance of your readers, I was as transparent as possible and also nipped gossiping and negative conversations in the bud by addressing them directly. One way I did this was by avoiding a department wide email (something I had done in the past and, surprise surprise, it didn’t go well!) and instead speaking with people in my department directly, in groups and one on one. I’m thrilled that people were supportive of their co-workers for the most part and I had more than one conversation with the people getting the promotions about why they were chosen, to help cheerlead them on but also support them.

Now all that said, I shortly accepted a new position at a new library a few months after this – a promotion for myself and at a larger organization! So I’m unsure of the long term impact but my impression is that things are still going well at my former library. But I know the long term impact for me has to do with communication and transparency. Being as clear as possible and also, sometimes speaking with people in person is way more effective than a group email!

Thank you again, to you and your readers, for the advice. It helped immensely, not just me but also for my staff. And that really is the most important thing!

3. Company agreed I could telecommute — and then changed their mind once I started the job

I have been allowed to work one day a week at home. That in addition to really liking the rest of the crew made me decide not to push the question. However … in the past few weeks, things have changed. When I returned from vacation, I was asked by my boss if I’d like to transfer to another division that really “needed” me. They were supposedly asking for help. This was right after he promoted someone in our group and hired someone else in who had been working in the mail room. I felt like it might be an opportunity to learn something so after asking him some pertinent questions, I agreed. He said I could work at home, ALL the time, unless I was required to come in for a meeting, etc. Sounds good so far.

Until I learned this week that plans were put in place for me to do busy work on a platform that will require nights, weekends, and holidays. That’s my big promotion.

So, I am looking, which is what I should have done in the first place. I may not be able to work at home but I will be sure that I don’t get a bait and switch this time and that my duties and job title are going to be relatively stable.

4. Paying for a team birthday lunch

Update: I didn’t pay.

However, a coworker DID pay. And just like that — I saw how awkward it was. Now I don’t know how the January birthday lunch will go.. Are we taking turns paying? Was it a one-time holiday treat? Great advice to keep the status quo, much more simple for everyone.

updates: one of our coworkers is putting nails in our car tires, employees are afraid they’ll be ostracized after they’re promoted, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

update: I’m worried my manager has lost confidence in me

Posted: 29 Dec 2016 07:59 AM PST

Remember the letter-writer who had gone through a harder-than-normal period at work and was worried that her manager had lost confidence in her? Here’s the update.

What commenters said about anxiety really resonated with me. It helped put things in perspective, and now that I’m more removed from the situation, I can recognize that I was more anxious than I realized, and that I was responding to stress by getting depressed. I didn’t fully realize it at the time. As of right now, I haven’t really sought professional help. I did mention my concerns to my primary care doctor, and I’m open to pursuing it further. But fortunately, this is something that I’ve been handling well. I feel like I’m getting more confident at work and have a better perspective of realistic expectations. I’m getting better at differentiating between my own perfectionism and what is actually expected. I’m also being careful that when I start to see signs that stress is getting to me, I try to take care of myself before it gets out of control.

As luck would have it, not long after I wrote my letter, things took a good turn at work. My manager did bring up the fact that I dropped the ball on something by not speaking up sooner when I felt overwhelmed, but it wasn’t a disaster. My manager seemed very understanding and just wanted me to be conscious of this going forward, which I have been. Some further restructuring happened at work, but this has mostly been good because now I have access to additional resources and don’t feel as alone in figuring things out.

To be honest, I still don’t feel completely confident. The fact that there has been some additional restructuring means that I’m still navigating some parts of my job. But I feel better equipped to deal with it. I’m not overwhelmed, and I’m not obsessing so much.

I’m still considering seeing a therapist. I recognize that having good coping skills is important, and I’m working on that. But things are going much better now, and I appreciate everyone’s feedback and reassurance.

update: I'm worried my manager has lost confidence in me was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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