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I’m drowning in work, mentioning my dad in a job application, and more — Ask a Manager

May 20, 2022

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

1. I’m drowning in work and don’t know if my expectations are unreasonable

I finally got a job in my field after graduating in 2020. It’s my first entry-level role in marketing, and in the beginning (nine months ago) I enjoyed it so much, but in the last few months I feel my employer is pushing me to the brink of my capacity without a thought of how much work is on my plate.

The best way I can describe the company work style — think of restaurants and then put that into a white collar job. No on-boarding and it feels like chaos constantly. No matter how much I try to keep on top of things, I just don’t have enough hours in the day to keep up. I try to be proactive, create structure, and work effectively but my day/work is constantly interrupted by changes or unimportant or medium important tasks that are always “urgent.” If I ignore the task to work on important things, I’m questioned in the next meeting with my manager if it was done. Or if I do the small task, then it’s bound to be a conversation about why the larger tasks aren’t getting done. Every month the parameters, frequency, and demands of my responsibility grow. I am never once asked “do you have capacity for this?” It’s just thrown to me to do.

It’s causing a huge issue in terms of my mental health. I’m emotional and angry and feel resentful. Last Friday I had to lie and say I was sick because I was up all night stressing about work. Today I got visibly irritated with my manager, which they picked up on. I cried alone in the boardroom after a meeting today because I was so angry for more being added to my plate.

It doesn’t help that the first positive feedback I got on my work was when an unofficial payband scale was accidentally shared with me, exposing that I’m the lowest paid staff member. I finally received a compliment that wasn’t directly followed by a “but.”

Since this is my first real job in my field of education I can’t help but wonder if I’m just being entitled. Is this is the way it always is for most companies? Maybe I’m dramatic and exaggerating the situation? My last job, while boring and not in my field, was at a nonprofit and a great place to work. But I don’t know anymore if they are in the wrong, or if I have just bad expectations for an entry-level job.

You don’t sound like you’re being dramatic or entitled. There are a lot of organizations that function with this kind of chaos and high workload, particularly smaller ones, but the key is what happens when you talk to your boss about your workload and ask for help prioritizing. In a reasonable organization, that conversation will lead to changes or at least clearer guidance to help you prioritize; in a dysfunctional one, it probably won’t. I can’t tell if you’ve tried that kind of conversation that yet but if you haven’t, there’s advice on how to do it here and here.

But you also might be at the point where you’d be better off simply getting out. It’s harming your mental health, you’re underpaid, and you’re crying in the boardroom. (Also, the part about not receiving praise that’s not followed by a “but” is not okay.) You’ve been there a year; there’s nothing wrong with moving on if you’d rather just get out.

2. Should my cover letter mention that my dad used to be a VP there?

So back in the late 80s/90’s my dad sold a patent to a global tech company and part of that deal was they made him a vice president. During his time there he grew the company to such a significance they were priming him to be the next CEO, but due to family-related issues he was not able to take that position, and he had to step down from his VP position altogether.

Fast forward to today and this company posted a job in a field I am looking to get into, and I am wondering if my family history with this company is worth mentioning at all, either in the cover letter or interview process? My dad checked with his old contacts from when he was there, but since so much time has passed he doesn’t know anyone on the current leadership team.

If your dad had contacts he could flag your application to, that would be worth doing. But just mentioning the history in your cover letter would be about your dad, not you, in a letter that needs to be about why you would excel at the job. There’s also a very high risk that would come across as thinking you deserve an interview because of who your father is, even if that’s not your intent. Don’t do it!

3. How soon is too soon to ask for a raise in the current job market?

I recently moved jobs in my industry for a really good pay raise (from $52k to $68k.) Due to the nature of the job market at the moment, I’m having a ton of recruiters reach out to me on LinkedIn with even better paying opportunities. I’ve only been in my position for two months at my new place, but I’ve been getting great feedback. The most recent offer was to interview for a position with a range of $70-80k. Is there any way I can utilize these offers to ask for more money at my current position, or am I still too new?

Too new. Generally you really can’t ask for a raise until you’ve been there a year, or very close to it, unless your job changed in some significant way from what you were brought on to do. You could probably get a way with shortening that a bit in the current market, but asking after only two months will seem like you’re operating in bad faith. You haven’t been there long enough to argue that your contributions have increased, so you’d really just be saying “whoops, I should have held out for more money” … not that different from if the market changed in the other direction and your employer announced they wanted to pay you less as a result. (Then again, I wouldn’t put it past some employer out there to do exactly that, and we’ll probably hear about it at some point.)

I’s just not going to go over well at eight weeks to say, essentially, “Wait, I think I should get more” (especially when “more” sounds like it may only be a couple thousand more, and these are just interview offers, not job offers).

4. My boss has been really awkward since I quit

Last week I gave notice at my job that I will be moving on. We are parting on good terms: I gave over a 30-day notice, and I’m trying to be really proactive about tying up loose ends and transitioning projects. I’m still really engaged at work and doing early morning and late night meetings (with our international teams) without complaint. I genuinely like and get along with my colleagues and believe that I am genuinely liked as well.

I feel that I am doing all of the things I can do to not burn bridges. I am simply moving on because my passion is elsewhere (I am a medical professional in industry going back to medicine).

The problem is that my boss is now really awkward around me. Avoiding eye contact, excluding me from meetings that my team is involved with (maybe this is reasonable since I am leaving, but it’s still affecting some of the work I am doing because I am out of the loop), and very, very awkwardly inviting everyone except me on my small team to grab coffee (even the people who don’t drink coffee).

I’m supposed to meet with my boss discuss how best to prioritize my time left at the company and where to focus my energy. I’m afraid this won’t actually happen unless I chase my boss down because he’s avoiding me. I’m also trying really hard to leave on good terms and not burn any bridges.

I just can’t help but wonder, did I already burn the bridge just by quitting? Should I say anything to clear the air to try to help smooth this transition? Or should I just put my head down and do my job acknowledging that I can’t control or help how someone else responds to my departure and put no more thought or energy into it?

Your boss is being an ass. Resigning a job is an utterly routine business event. It’s not personal, it’s not a betrayal, it’s just a business decision. You didn’t burn a bridge. Your boss might be in the process of burning a bridge with you by the way he’s acting, but this is about him, not you.

And not only is his reaction weirdly juvenile, it’s also incredibly short-sighted since this is the kind of behavior that the rest of your team will see and it’s likely to make them think twice before giving anything more than minimal notice when it’s their turn to leave.

You’re under no obligation to try to smooth things over, but if you want to try you could indeed chase him down for that transition meeting and be aggressively normal and see if that nudges him to reset himself. But that’s 100% optional; if he doesn’t get a transition meeting with you because he’s avoiding you, that’s very much his problem, not yours. (Although if you decide it’s in your interests to smooth things over, that’s a legitimate call to make too.)

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