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Hi Captain!

My main question is: how do I keep going? I have 99 problems, I need to fix at least 95 of them but right now I can’t even seem to fix 1 so I am stuck. I’ve been actively job-hunting for over a year now. I know others have it worse, either through bad jobs or no jobs at all, but I just really need to move on. I can never get past the first interview though, if I’m lucky. I’ve even written to Ask a Manager (http://tinyurl.com/9fvsx3r and an update here: http://tinyurl.com/aavl7hb) but things have only gotten more frustrating and stupid at work. I’m in debt and trying to get out.

I moved back in with my parents last year to save money. I would like to get my own place again. Or get a job much closer to my parents’ house because the current commute is REALLY getting me down. I’ve been doing this commute for eight years now and, I can’t deal with it. It’s long, stressful, involves multiple modes of transportation, etc. I work for a university and theoretically, once you’re in their system, it’s fairly easy to job-hop. If I’ve applied for let’s say, 100 jobs in the past year, with my current employer, then I’ve gotten interviews for like, 8 of them. That’s not counting applications outside my current employer. I’m seriously wondering if I’ve been blacklisted but don’t know it (I’ve had three jobs with this employer and only one was an actual bad fit so my supervisor and I were both happy that I moved on). I feel like my life needs to undergo a serious change but I don’t know how. I’m turning 30 this summer and the thought that my life at near-40 will be the same as my life now…I can’t. Things could be so much worse but I’m sure it could all be better too.

I’ve had dreams of being a professional novelist all my life and I was a journalist for a while but let that go too but then I just feel like I squandered those freelance opportunities to stay with my current employer, because it was a full-time, steady paycheck, health benefits, etc. I’m trying to keep my head up but I just feel like something needs to give/change soon– an actual job offer, winning the lottery, a friend saying “Hey, I’m moving to the other side of the country and need a roommate/admin assistant?”, etc. I’m even wishing I would lose my job even though I know that wouldn’t help my current situation. In short, how do I just keep going? 

Letter writer, you are going through a really hard thing. It’s hard enough to answer the big questions of “Why am I here? And what do I have to contribute? And what will people pay for me to contribute so I can make a living?” without having to live at home and have a hellish commute. There are a bunch of baby steps and small incremental changes you could make to make your situation better, covered in this old post about clawing your way out of a depressing living situation and  in this post about how to keep moving forward when your brain hates you that I found today (good post!). I think a lot of people feel like you do right now and can relate to your situation. Some suggestions and questions for you below the jump.

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Hello CA,

I am finishing up a PhD in the social sciences, and will be on the academic job market soon. I really want to teach more than anything, either at the university or high school level. 

I need advice with regards to something in my past which may or may not come up as I look for positions and hopefully begin teaching: for several years, I did various forms of sex work in order to survive financially. This work falls within a grey area in terms of the legality of it in the place I was living at the time. 

Although I worked under an fake name, was never arrested, and did not consent to clients taking photographs or video of me, I know that it is possible that my images are online, and/or that I could be involuntarily “outed” some other way. This causes me a great deal of anxiety, especially in light of recent stories about teachers being fired when their involvement in sex work was discovered. 

I have no shame or guilt about how I used to get by (I don’t consider myself to have had much of a “choice,” in the matter but that’s a different discussion!) However, I’m aware that some may think my participation in the sex industry somehow diminishes my teaching abilities or sense of judgement. 

At this point I am wondering if I should have some sort of response prepared should the issue arise – and I guess I don’t even know if it would be better to deny my past (lie) or defend it. I don’t know what my “rights” to privacy are in a situation like this, or even the first thing I’d do if anything surfaced, now or ten years down the line. 

In the meantime, I feel like I’m carrying a big, dark secret around, which is isolating and stressful. After extensive research, I’ve determined that the area where I live does not have any resources for current or former sex workers, so I’m on my own trying to sort this out. What would you do in my situation? 

-Good Teacher

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Dear Captain Awkward:

Last year, I got divorced. At the time of my divorce, I was offered the legal choice to go back to my maiden name, or to keep my married name. I decided to choose a whole new last name, which was something I had always wanted to do. My new last name is a bit unusual. People comment on it positively, but it’s definitely odd. I like it, so that’s all that matters really. However:

This year, I’m in graduate school. I’m also applying for jobs in my chosen field. I have some previous experience in that field, in addition to my in-progress degree, so I’m hoping to find a position that will give me more current experience. 

My previous experience is from five years ago or earlier, and the jobs I’ve held in the interim have been phantom jobs — there’s almost no point in including them on a resume for the positions I’m seeking now. Consequently, the professional references I need to put on my resume are also five years old, although I’ve been in minimal contact with most of the people from time to time, but they’re not people I felt I had to update on my life developments such as divorce or a new last name.

Now we get to the awkward. Practically speaking, if any potential employer contacts my references, they are going to refer to me by name. What is the best, most adult and professional way to tell these people from my past, who only knew me in a work context, that my new last name is [X]? How much information do I give them? Do I need to include mention of the divorce, or just a legal name change? 

I’m a pretty private person, and not naturally forthcoming with personal information. The thought of writing to these former employers and explaining my recent life changes makes my introvert skin crawl with misery. What do I do? 

Congratulations on your new name!

This is very easy to answer, because if you are using someone as a reference, it is polite to get in touch with them first even if you hadn’t changed your name. Script for an email:

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