my parents are shocked that interviewers can see my social media, can I help my nice but incompetent boss, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My parents are shocked that interviewers can see my Twitter persona

I’m in my mid-20s and work in an industry that’s dominated by people about my age. At every job I’ve had, I’ve been encouraged by upper management to tweet about my work, and to maintain a robust and authentic presence on Twitter (and to a lesser extent other social media). As a result, my Twitter persona is heavily tied to my professional life — I follow most of the people I’m aware of who work in my industry and many follow me back, even if we’ve never actually met each other. I usually tweet a pretty even mix of “on-message” work-related stuff (think a picture of me at a work event complete with approved language and hashtags), funny or sarcastic tweets that relate to my job but aren’t critical of it (think tweeting about a funny conversation with my coworkers), and tweets about media I like, news, or just anecdotes from day-to-day life that aren’t related to my job. I never tweet about drug or alcohol use or sexual content and I usually get pretty clear guidelines about what is and is not okay to tweet from my bosses, which I follow. At every job I’ve held, my direct supervisors have had alerts turned on for my tweets so they can immediately see if anything I’ve said could possibly be problematic and immediately ask me to delete it. I’ve only had such a request once and complied immediately.

Anyway, I guess over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at social media, because my work-related tweets tend to get a decent amount of engagement from others in my niche industry. I’ve never gone “viral” or anything, but several of my tweets have gotten a few hundred likes or retweets. I’m currently unemployed and looking for jobs, and I’ve now had two interviews where the interviewer has commented on my online presence, and one even said she feels like she already knows me from my tweets. I took this as a compliment, but my parents were absolutely shocked when I told them. They think social media should be extremely private and that potential supervisors seeing my opinions and thoughts on such a public platform could only hurt me.

Obviously, I disagree — and my *general* sense of professional norms in my industry seems to support this. But I’m really curious; if someone applied for a job with you who you followed on Twitter and whose tweets you had enjoyed in the past, would it help or hurt them? If you felt like you got a sense of their personality from their online presence, would that help to humanize them outside of the interview process or would you feel too familiar with them to judge them professionally?

Your parents are way off-base on this. This has become incredibly normal in a lot of fields. There’s nothing wrong with it, and in some cases it can help you (as long as your content isn’t problematic, obviously).

On the hiring side of things, if I had a candidate who I “knew” a bit through Twitter, and who had a warm/smart/engaging presence there, that would be a positive. I mean, that’s not getting anyone the job unless the job is social media, but it’s similar to knowing someone a bit from industry events and have a generally positive impression of them. In fact, that’s how you might frame it for your parents, if it ever comes up with them again — this is just another form of networking and having contacts who you know slightly from industry events, things they’ve written in industry publications, etc. And I bet they think that scenario is a good one, because it is; they’re just having trouble with understanding Twitter isn’t that different. (Or they don’t realize that having a professional persona on Twitter isn’t the same thing as having your social posts on Facebook be public to the world.)

2. My boss is nice but people think he’s incompetent — can I help him?

I’ve been in a new job that I adore for a couple months. I’m an admin who supports two different departments. One of my directors is incredibly supportive, encourages workplace development, and is a highly respected individual in her field.

My other director started around the same time I did (a few months ago) and is nice, goofy, and fun, but feels more like my coworker than my manager. Our 1:1s are spent with no agenda, and mostly consist of me reminding him of things he needs to be doing.

I can’t help but compare him with my other manager. I’ve been chalking it up to it just being his personality and the fact that he’s new, but he’s done some things that just make me cringe. One time when there were very few people in the office, he got pizza for one team and didn’t invite the two members of a different team that were sitting right there to partake. I recently heard that another of his colleagues (who is at the same seniority level) said point-blank to other people that he does not know what he’s doing.

I feel bad for him, and also would love for him to improve as a manager for my own personal benefit. I don’t think he has any idea people feel that he’s kind of incompetent. Do I somehow broach the subject with him? I’m only the admin, but we have a very collaborative office environment and I have a lot of opportunities to have 1:1s with him.

You don’t really have the standing to tell him that people think he’s incompetent and he needs to improve, but you have some room to nudge him toward some specific improvements. For example, with your 1:1s, you could say something like, “For my 1:1s with Jane, we’ve been setting aside each week to debrief recent work, talk about progress toward our goals, and troubleshoot things like X and Y. I’ve found it really makes the time valuable — would you be up for structuring ours that way too? I could start us off by creating agendas for the next few and see how that goes.”

With the pizza situation, if you have pretty good rapport with him, in theory you could say something in private like, “Can I mention something I noticed earlier this week? I think Cecil and Cordelia might have felt a little excluded when you ordered pizza for us but didn’t offer them any, since hardly anyone else was around and they were right there. I wonder if in the future with stuff like that, we could offer them some.”

But you’ll need to pick your battles on this stuff. Making suggestions about things that directly involve your work (like your meeting agendas) is a pretty normal thing to do in the course of your work. But feedback on stuff like the pizza situation is more of a very occasional thing; you can’t do it every week without overstepping. So I’m offering that language as an illustration of the way you can tackle situations of that type — but not necessarily suggesting the pizza battle be the one you pick. In general, start out assuming you have room for maybe five pizza-type suggestions a year … which means you’ve got to be pretty choosy about what will warrant addressing.

Also, don’t get sucked into feeling like it’s your job to fix this situation. It’s not, and you can’t. He may need to figure this stuff out on his own … or he won’t, but it’s still not your job to address that.

3. My friend says you shouldn’t interview with more than one company, ever

I am a young woman and I have a question concerning something that a friend, “Cathy,” has said about job searching and interviews.

Cathy has claimed that you should never interview with more than one company at a time. She added that companies “know” when you do so (as if they have mystical powers of detection), that they think interviewing with other companies “looks bad” for you (because apparently, it’s bad to have options?), and makes them not want to hire you (with an implied “end of story, now don’t question me”). I think that what Cathy says just isn’t true at all. It just doesn’t make any sense to me to restrict your job options and sit around waiting for an offer (which might take a while) that might not ever materialize. Companies don’t feel bad for interviewing more than one candidate, why should a job-seeker feel bad for having more than one interview? Frankly, from reading your blog, I think that Cathy’s been given some sort of gimmicky advice by a career center at school, but I don’t know for sure.

Is this one-interview idea even close to true? (I’ll add here that I find it difficult to believe that any sane human being will sit around twiddling their thumbs waiting for a job offer for the sake of a company’s feelings.)

Nooooo, it’s 100{986d44274747a5c76dc1672921bbe0dd933450491f05a8d42739aa242512160b} not true. If you ever do find an employer who has a problem with you interviewing with other companies, run — because that would be so wildly out of sync with how this works that they’re guaranteed to be an employer with other ridiculous/abusive expectations.

Employers assume you’re applying to multiple places. It would be pretty awful judgment, in fact, not to be doing that if you’re trying to actively job search, since (a) there’s no guarantee you’ll get an interview anywhere you apply, let alone get a job offer, (b) there’s no guarantee you’ll even want the job once you learn more about it, (c) it’s smart to have multiple options to compare and choose from, and (d) applying to only one job at a time would make most job searches take years.

School career centers give some awful advice, but this is so bizarre that I’m skeptical that’s where this came from! I suspect Cathy misunderstood something somewhere along the line.

4. My two jobs have very different cultures

I am currently working two entry-level part-time jobs with wildly different cultures. I’m both a fresh foods associate at a big-box store and a service desk attendant at a library. I’ve worked at the store for almost four years (and similar jobs with similar cultures for eight) and the library for one.

At the store, unfortunately it is commonplace and expected that we work through our breaks and off-the-clock. (I realize that this is illegal and a bad situation, but I also can’t quit the job for various reasons at the moment.) At the library, this is regarded by my coworkers and boss (correctly!) with horror.

I try to put myself in a different head space when I’m at the library and the store. There have been times, though, that I’ve slipped and done something that is silently required at the store and absolutely not good at the library, like forgetting to take a legally mandated break. I’ve apologized to my boss and immediately corrected the error once I caught myself each time, but it’s extremely embarrassing! It doesn’t happen more than once every two months or so, and usually only on days when I have both jobs (one is a day job and the other is in the evenings) but I don’t know what else I can do to keep it from happening. Part of the problem is my autopilot, I think; I’m not naturally a clock watcher and my job history so far would have trained it out of me pretty efficiently if I was.

My main strategy is to dress and do my hair differently for the two jobs, but on the days I work both this isn’t feasible. Do you have any suggestions? I love my library job and I want to be the absolute best employee I can be, and I’m really worried about this.

It’s good that you’re taking this seriously and trying to correct it, but it’s not something that you need to be this worried about or embarrassed by! Even people without your two-jobs situation sometimes mess this up. You’re spotting it and correcting it, and I don’t think you need to flog yourself over it.

But because you’re so bothered by it, why not just be very straightforward with your boss at the library job at the situation, especially since she already knows and is rightly horrified by how your other job handles breaks and hours worked? You could say something like, “I’ve noticed that every couple of months, I catch myself forgetting to take a required break here, I think it’s because that part of my brain is still in the ’no real breaks’ mode of my other job. I always correct the mistake once I realize it, but I wanted to give you context for why it has happened. I wouldn’t want you to think I was unclear on the break rules here or cavalier about following them! It’s just my brain mixing up the two very different approaches.”

That’s a reasonable thing to say, and you’ll look responsible for addressing it proactively.

5. I’m embarrassed about the year I got my degree

I was hired at my current company nine years ago. At the time, I was very close to completing my degree, so I was hired on the understanding that I had finished classes and was just waiting for grades, but would be a new graduate in a couple of weeks.

I failed a class, so I didn’t graduate. I continued working full-time and built myself up in the company. I procrastinated on finishing school, but four years ago, I retook the class in question, passed, and got my degree.

I’ve had a lot of success in my current company, but I’m looking to try something new. I’m having trouble figuring out what to put on my resume. I feel embarrassed about placing my actual year of graduation on my resume and having to explain nine years of work experience — I feel like I’d be rejected on that timeline alone. I also would feel awkward if anyone at my current job ever found out, since I never told anyone at work about this, and no one ever followed up to make sure I graduated after I was hired.

What should I do? Would it be acceptable to place the grad year and explain to new employers I was a part-time student (technically true)? Should I leave it off entirely and hope no one notices?

It’s very, very normal to leave off your graduation year altogether, especially for people who have been out of school for a while. Just leave the date off — it won’t look odd.

Also, if this ever does come up for some reason, it’s unlikely to be a big deal! You’re feeling embarrassed about it, but most employers who care about checking the box on a college degree just care that you have one and aren’t terribly interested in when you obtained it.

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