I got my dream offer right after starting a new job, coworker is a jerk, and more

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

1. I just started a new job — and then got a PhD offer from my dream school

I started a new job six weeks ago. It’s at my alma mater and it’s an incredible place to work. The culture is awesome and I love my colleagues. Yesterday, I received an offer from my first choice, and the best school in my field, to enter a PhD program in the Fall. I’m ecstatic and plan on accepting the offer. This is life-changing and career-changing.

Here’s what I’m bugging out about: I am still in my six-month introductory period and I don’t want to lose my job if I tell them now. I need the money, especially before I have to move and take a substantial pay cut. In any other circumstances I would just hang in and give notice maybe a month before I need to move in August or September. But this is a community I belong to and it’s important to me to do right by the students, faculty, and staff.

I will need to ask for time off to handle a number of things: (1) Pulling permits, meeting and hiring contractors, and everything else that needs doing to prep my house to rent it out while we’re gone for the next several years. There are a ton of headaches there due to shoddy and non-permitted work by the folks who flipped the house when we bought it. (2) Taking time to visit campus before I accept the offer so that my partner has some idea of what our new city will be like.

However, I already missed six days of work due to the flu (had documentation from MD). I am about to miss another three days for a pre-planned vacation. I don’t feel like I can ask for more time off without some explanation, but I’m hesitant to say anything that might F me over.

Oooooh. Yeah, even if they’re willing to keep you on knowing that you’re leaving later this year, they almost definitely aren’t going to be happy about doing that and giving you a bunch of time off to facilitate that earlier-than-anticipated departure. Is there a way your partner can do the brunt of the house prep? I realize that’s not ideal (especially when they’re already moving for you), but if they have flexibility in their schedule in a way you don’t with a brand new job, that might be the safest path. Alternately, you can probably be straightforward about the work on the house, without explaining that you’re doing it because you plan to rent it out later this year. With the campus trip, can you confine it to a weekend only so you’re not missing work (or even have your partner take the trip alone if that’s feasible)?

“I’ve been here six weeks and I’m leaving this summer” isn’t great, but a lot of employers will work with you on it (especially when you’re working at your alma mater and leaving for a PhD program). But “I’ve been here six weeks, I’m leaving this summer, and I want lots of time off meanwhile” is a harder sell.

The trickier question is how transparent to be. I hear you on wanting to do right by your community there. Is there a middle ground where you don’t announce your move now, but give more than the month’s notice you’re planning — like telling them in May or June? Often with resignations, there’s not a lot they can do in seven months that they can’t do just as well in three months.

Plus, if you wait, you’ll be earning your keep at that point in way you aren’t right now (because six weeks in, you’re still learning the job) and there’s less of a chance that their disappointment will be of the “we should end this right now” variety. Also, by that point you’ll have a better sense of how likely they are to push you out earlier than you want to leave, and can factor that in when May or June rolls around.

2. Coworker keeps making hostile comments about me being temporary

I started a job with a temporary contract for six months, which has been extended once for a further three months. When I joined, I was told there was a good chance I’d keep getting extensions or be made a permanent member of the team. Last time I got renewed, I didn’t find out until the last day on the old contract. Right now, I have three weeks left and it’s been incredibly stressful trying to job hunt just in case and prepare for possible unemployment.

I have one coworker, Bob, who keeps making comments to me about how I’m only a temporary employee. He’s been that way since I started, and I’ve mostly ignored him. Think, sending out emails to the team, including me, but with a note at the bottom that I should disregard because it’s only for real employees. Or asking me about why I’m not using a certain benefit only to say, “That’s right, that’s not for you” and giggling. A few days ago, he said something to me that I can’t get out of my head. We were walking to the parking lot, and I came to my spot and said I hoped he had a nice night. He cocked his head to the side and said, “In just three more weeks, I think I’ll ask for this spot. You won’t need it, you’ll be gone.” I’ve been obsessing over it ever since.

My boss is out of town at a conference so I can’t talk to him about it, but even if I did he’d just say that he won’t tell me anything. Is Bob trying to tell me I’m getting fired? Why would Bob, who is decidedly not my manager, know this before I do? I’m paranoid that everyone on the team knows I’m getting fired and they’re all laughing behind my back. I can’t focus and I keep almost crying at work. I’ve stepped up my job hunt, but I can’t think of anything else to do.

Bob is a truly horrible person. He’s someone who goes out of his way to be deliberately cruel to a colleague, and for some reason takes pleasure in that. Something is very, very wrong with Bob.

But this isn’t new! He’s been horrible to you since you started, and there’s no reason to think his behavior now indicates that he has any new information. He’s trying to rattle you because that’s what he does.

Keep in mind that he hasn’t told you anything you didn’t already know, which is that this company may or may not keep you and likes to keep you in the dark until the absolute last minute.

If you do get another extension, it’s worth saying to your boss, “Can you shed any light on why Bob is so hostile about me being on a temporary contract? He keeps making truly nasty comments about it and I’m at a loss about how to take that.”

3. Bathroom breaks during video calls

I work remotely on a distributed team. Sometimes I have video meetings with other team members, either one-on-one or with several people at once. I’m wondering what to do if I am on a long call with coworkers and/or a supervisor and I need to take a quick bathroom break.

This hasn’t come up yet, but I have a medical condition that requires me to drink a lot of extra fluids, so I expect it will at some point. (I have no desire to disclose this to my employer. But it may help to explain why I feel the need to be prepared.)

If I need to step away for a minute to use the bathroom, and I can’t wait until the end of the call, what should I say? Do different rules apply if I’m on a call with several people? Will my coworkers think I’m rude? This all seems much more awkward in a remote setting.

“Excuse me, I need to step away for a moment.” Or if it’s been a very long call, “I could use a bio break — could we break for two minutes?” (I don’t generally love that term, but it’s helpful here — gets the point across without announcing I HAVE TO PEE NOW.)

If it happens a few times or if you feel self-conscious about it, you can discreetly mention to your manager, “You probably noticed I’ve needed to briefly step away on a few long calls recently. Just so you have the context, I have a medical condition that sometimes requires a quick bathroom break.”

It should be fine!

4. Reapplying after blowing an interview because of illness

Back in October, I applied for a job with an organization where I would really like to work. This job or a similar one was my five-year goal because of the way my field is structured, so I was thrilled when they got back to me immediately and enthusiastically. I made it to the final round of interviews in December, and I prepared for weeks.

Alison, I completely blew it. I had a nasty cold and was nervous about rescheduling because it had been hard to schedule around their holiday vacations, so I didn’t ask to have it moved (almost all their employees are remote and it was a video interview, no germ concerns here). I thought I would be fine, but between being doped to the gills on cold medicine and the general stress of my first video interview, I am confident I didn’t represent myself well.

They didn’t hire me, and after that interview, I wouldn’t have hired me either! The rejection was pretty standard “many impressive applicants” and “will keep you in mind” fare. I still really want to work there, and the same hiring manager is now actively recruiting for a different but similar job. This one is a slightly better fit than the first job.

Part of me thinks I expressed my interest recently enough that if I had a shot at this position they would have reached out directly, but I don’t hire and don’t know how realistic that is. I’d like to email her and ask if it makes sense for me to apply to this new position and maybe apologize for my Dayquil-fuzzy thinking in the last interview, but I have no idea how or if I can say that. Is it worth applying for this other position? And is there a professional way I can/should explain my thinking to the hiring manager?

Apply! They might think your last interview was prohibitive, but they might not — and you have nothing to lose either way. You can also send an email to the hiring manager letting her know that you’re applying and saying something like, “I want to acknowledge that I was not at my best when we last spoke in December. I’d been sick that week and could tell it impacted my performance. If you think this new role could be a match, I’d love to have another chance to talk, this time without the congestion and fuzzy head.”

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