it’s your Friday good news — Ask a Manager

It’s your Friday good news, with more accounts of success even in this weird time.

1. I’m going to be graduating from college soon, so I started looking for work about a month ago. I was really worried about finding anything during the pandemic, and even if I did, I kind of assumed that it would be a minimum wage gig. However, I read some of your articles that talked about how women tend to underestimate themselves while job searching and only apply for jobs that they’re 100% qualified for (I’m definitely guilty), so I went “what the heck” and applied for a few administrative jobs that I only had about 70-80% of the qualifications for.

A few weeks later, I’m pleased to report that I got not one, but two job offers this week! They’re both for part-time positions, so I was able to accept them both. The hourly rates are pretty decent for both jobs, so between them I think I’ll actually bring in a decent amount of money! Plus, they’re both at organizations that matter to me: one of them will have me providing admin support for my province’s vaccine rollout program, and the other one will have me working for my current university.

Honestly, this takes so much stress off my shoulders. I’m planning on moving out soon, and now I can look at places with the confidence that I can make rent without slowly whittling down my savings (and maybe even add to my savings each month). Thanks for all the advice you’ve given on this blog, Alison! Your encouragement gave me the nudge I needed to apply for these jobs.

2. Almost immediately after COVID hit last spring I was diagnosed with stage III cervical cancer (this is positive I promise…). Weirdly this was probably the best time for me to get sick. My workplace had moved everyone to work from home, so the anxiety I would have inevitably had about being out for appointments so much was non-existent. My employer was very compassionate and offered me flexibility to a point where I barley had to use (in my case unpaid) FMLA. This was especially helpful when schools closed and suddenly, I had a kindergartener home. It has been a year and I am in remission. I was also offered the option to give up my office and become fully remote which I accepted! (And elementary has safely reopened – hallelujah).

I realize I was very privileged/fortunate to have a job (type) that facilitated this. I am happy to have had a silver lining in my case through an otherwise devastating pandemic.

3. This last 18 months, even before COVID, have been rough. I’m in a frequently cyclical industry, which tanked globally right before COVID made things even worse. The CEO with whom I was close retired and then once new management was installed, my boss of 18 years was “asked to retire”. Since I was not well known to new management, I was nearly “retired” along with him, despite my unique skill set. Since we’d been together so long, I was seen as “his” so new management figured I was no longer valuable to the organization with him gone, even though I was the first person to hold this job at my company, built a five-person department from scratch, and am objectively very good at my job.

Fortunately, the SVP for the division to which I provide primary support stepped up and said they’d fire me over his dead body, as I was critical to his organization. Another VP I support in a different function chimed in as well and I was retained, though new management wasn’t convinced and the sword of Damocles remained hanging over my head. I decided right then that I needed to get out. So after nearly 20 years in the same company, I began a job search.

Thanks to helpful hints and tips from your site about resumes and cover letters, I passed through to the third round of interviews with a very large multi-national company. While kind of interesting, the company is top heavy and the job didn’t fill me with excitement. Still, I figured it was better than hanging around until the new management got their way and I was shown the door.

Then the best thing happened! The division I support, complete with the awesome SVP, was spun off and sold, and the new owners made me an incredible offer, which I accepted. I even retained my seniority and 5 weeks vacation. The new owners are a very small company with significant amounts of venture capital cash behind them, and have almost no infrastructure, so there is a ton of room for me to move into a senior leadership role. So essentially I kept the same job working for the same wonderful team in a field I know like the back of my hand, but with a new boss and a new owner, with better compensation and a fantastic working environment. Coworkers I had only known casually in the past emailed me when the announcement was made to tell me how glad they were that I was joining the new organization. What a drastic change from the old toxic work culture. It was absolutely the best case scenario that I could have imagined.

I started the new job last month and my whole life has undergone a radical transformation of positivity and joy! It feels like the weight of the world is off my shoulders. My new boss is absolutely amazing, treating me as a peer rather than a minion. I am not micromanaged but am trusted to do the job they hired me to do. The nightly bottle of wine has turned into a cup of decaf tea, there’s no more stress eating, and I have already lost 10 pounds! I smile, I laugh, and best of all, I have been SINGING IN MY CAR for the first time in nearly three years. The former employer is making everyone return to the office by mid-month, while the new boss told me I am welcome to continue to WFH or come into the office as I choose — he has no complaints with my productivity. At first I elected to just go to the office as needed but found that I have missed the camaraderie, so I have decided to work a hybrid schedule.

I guess I want to say to anyone else dealing with a toxic situation to never put work above your own mental or physical well-being. I know not everyone has the luxury to leave as they choose, but always keep an eye open for an exit strategy and be prepared to jump on it when it comes. For those who feel that they have been somewhere too long to leave, you have to tell yourself that these days, loyalty is a one-way street. Your employer would ditch you in a heartbeat if it benefits them to do so, and your only loyalty should be to yourself. I nearly let my loyalty to my former boss cost me everything — I should have moved on years ago.

Alison, it was your site content that helped me get in the door and to the third round of interviews, giving me options in the event I was not retained. I also used a version of your script to politely withdraw from the other interview process. I’m beyond grateful for how things turned out, and so very appreciative of the resources on your website.

4. After getting laid off from a soulless corporate job in early 2020, I decided to try changing it up at a smaller company where I could have more of an impact. The role seemed like exactly what I wanted: I’d get to scale up a department from 5 to 30 in a year, setting the direction and hiring out the team. There was a lot of funding, promising signs of growth, and some very talented colleagues.

Then the other shoe dropped. Before I was hired, a C-level founder had been running the department, but he was supposed to step back from the day to day after I started. Instead, he went full-court abuse to stay in control. More than one person — independently of each other — told me that he reminded them of the cult leader from The Vow. I was hesitant to get back on the job market again so soon, but obviously this was completely unsustainable.

Once I started looking again, I followed your excellent cover letter advice and forced myself to crank out five a day to practice my technique. Three of my top five jobs(!) eventually responded, I lost out in the final round with my top pick, and my second pick sent me an offer! I negotiated slightly on the compensation to maintain my previous salary, started a few weeks ago, and it’s been a night and day difference working at a company where I actually feel needed and appreciated.

5. I wrote to you a few years ago about some issues I was having at my last organization. Since then, just a few months before the COVID shut down, I accepted a new “reach” position at a new nonprofit. While it hasn’t been easy, they’ve tried to make our transition to WFH as easy as possible and they have tried to be flexible with all members of the team.

We’re still working from home (probably through the summer at least), which I’m thankful for, but even more thankful that my manager surprised me* with a promotion this week! The promotion is really a recognition of the ways I’ve naturally expanded my role and comes with two direct reports and a 20% raise! I really appreciate all the advice you give for navigating office situations (especially when things are tenser than ever with everyone working remotely) and I ALWAYS refer you to my friends and coworkers for resume and interview advice.

*I say “surprised me” but it has been on my radar that this is something he had wanted for me. We’ve been talking about it happening but with COVID cuts, I really thought he was being overly optimistic that it was going to happen soon.

6. I have Friday Good News to share! Your blog has been incredibly helpful to navigate professionalism while working in a student job in university. I just got an internship in a field I want to work in after I get my degree, and they even talked about collaborating for a master’s thesis! I could combine two topics that I’m passionate about, and I’m really happy about it. I often felt like I’m a bit late in life because I spent my early twenties battling PTSD, and now I’m just finishing my degree in my late twenties. But regularly reading your advice helped me understand that I actually have a lot of work experience to offer, and I feel optimistic to starting my career next year. Thank you so much!

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