Entries Tagged as 'The Hill Life'
Three months ago, I started a new job. Things were great at first, but now that I’m no longer the “new girl,” some of my co-workers are showing their true colors.
One of my managers makes a lot of off color jokes and nearly all of my colleagues join in the “fun.” It makes me really uncomfortable but as a junior person in the office and one of the only women, I don’t know how to respond. I couldn’t love the work I’m doing more, but I don’t want to work here if this is how the office operates. Some of my friends have said I just need to ride it out, but I’m not sure I should.
What would you do?
First off, this isn’t about what I would do. It’s about what you are going to do, and what is right for your situation. No two women would react to your situation in the same way, and all I can offer is my best advice. The ultimate decision is yours and yours alone.
Never Say “It’s Okay.” When people, esp. men, say something that they know is inappropriate around a new person, they tend to half-heartedly apologize. They’ll look at you and apologize, but most won’t mean it. In this moment, you have a unique opportunity to stop these comments from happening in the future.
Co-workers, like toddlers, test your limits to see what they can get away with. Am I allowed to say this around her? Is she okay with that? Etc. If you respond to his “apology” with, “Oh, that’s okay,” or “It’s fine,” you are giving him permission to behave this way. And yet, women will very often, almost as a reflex, dismiss statements they know are not okay just so they don’t rock the boat.
We don’t want to be seen as not being a team player, and so we condone behavior that isn’t acceptable. And we need to stop, especially if there are younger women around looking to us to be an example.
Is this common? There are many workplaces in this country where employees regularly tell off color jokes or making comments that any judge would consider sexual harassment. Most of these workplaces will chock up their unprofessional behavior as “just how we do things” or fostering a “relaxed” environment. Some even take pride in their unprofessionalism because they see it as striking a blow to the evils of political correctness.
So, yes, just judging from the experiences of my immediate friend group, it is fairly common. But this does not make it right. As more offices try to build morale by relaxing the rigid standards of professional decorum, lines get crossed and people start letting their hair down. Eventually they start talking to their co-workers the way they talk to their friends over drinks.
Resources. Ask a Manager has written extensively about harassment in the workplace. So I would definitely spend some time on her site. The website Your Office Coach also has a good list of steps to follow when you’re deciding how to approach the situation.
Not All Harassment is Sexual. A co-worker who vocally and routinely belittles your work, your appearance or mocks you is harassing you. If one of your co-workers routinely makes you the butt of his jokes or goes out of his way to upset you, that is harassment. So if you dread going to work because you don’t want to deal with a co-workers behavior, you may also want to consider how to address that situation.
When you wrote about asking for a raise, you mentioned asking for benefits instead of a salary increase. Can you talk more about that? I don’t even know where to begin or what to ask for instead of money.
Thank you, Miranda
Many employers are willing to negotiate benefits as well as or in place of salary. In a down economy, it is probably easier to negotiate perks instead of cash. Here are some of the things I have negotiated for when a bump in salary wasn’t an option.
Mobile Plan. If your employer issues you a mobile phone, you may be able to convince your boss to let you use that phone as your personal cell. This can save you $1,200 or more per year. However, if you choose to go this route, you will need to treat the phone as your employer’s property and be cognizant of what apps your download and how you use it.
Flexible Scheduling or Telecommuting. A friend, who works on the Hill as an LA, negotiated a certain number of working days in the district every year. It benefits her because she is able to see her family on her trips, and it benefits her boss because she is able to meet with constituents who are not able to travel to D.C. and see the state of things on the ground.
I know other women who have negotiated work-from-home days where they can telecommute. And I’ve heard of women negotiating different hours for themselves, so instead of working 9-to-6, they work 10-to-7 or 8-to-4.
Educational Costs. Many employers offer money to help cover your student loan payment. If you work on the Hill or for the government, student loan reimbursement is available to you, though there are caps on how much you can receive.
If you would like to go back to school, some employers are willing to pay part or all of your tuition in exchange for an extended work contract. A friend who works at a trade association received 50-percent of her legal education costs in exchange for five years of work (including the four years she was going to school part-time). You can also negotiate for classes to help improve your writing, learn how to use a new technology or build other skills.
Vacation Days. For me, having an extra week of paid vacation each year is worth its weight in gold. Many of my friends have negotiated to have as much as 20 days a year of vacation.
One of my neighbors negotiated a week off at Christmas, Thanksgiving and Labor Day in addition to five flexible days. She had worked for her company for 11 years as an executive assistant to one of the senior partners. The lesson? Make yourself indispensable.
Does anyone else have examples of non-salary compensation that can be negotiated? Perhaps your industry has something specific, for example an attorney negotiating a year-end bonus. Leave your thoughts in the comments.
With the popularity of Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, New York City editors have noticed an uptick in female employees asking for raises. Recently, I read an article that most employees ask for raises in January and June, so since we’re coming up on the half-year mark, I thought I would post some thoughts on negotiating a raise.
Trying to decide if now is a good time to ask for a raise? This flowchart from Lifehacker can help you suss out what factors might make now a good time to ask for a raise.
If you’re seriously considering asking for a raise, the first place I would go is to the Levo League. Because as the site says, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you ask for. They have helpful tips and videos to get you thinking about how much you should ask for, how to ask and how to move forward with a negotiation. And should you feel like you need some in person coaching, Levo is having an event this Thursday in D.C. to help school young women on the art of salary negotiation.
Another great website to visit is Glass Door. If you work in the private sector, it can give you a better sense of what others in your field are making. They also have a great blog where they provide valuable tips on asking for a raise. I found this post on not making the first move in a negotiation particularly helpful.
As for my own advice, having been on both sides of the desk for a salary negotiation, I can tell you that the best thing you can do is come into the room confident and prepared.
Asking for a raise is nerve-wracking. I’d rather take part in a live fire exercise than sit across from my Boss and explain why I’m worth more money than he’s paying me. And when I was younger, I would let that internal weakness undermine my negotiations. Twice, I took less than I deserved because that little voice in my head said, “You’re lucky to have a job at all, take the first offer so you don’t offend anyone.”
Later on, I realized that that little voice is a wimp and a liar. As long as you handle your negotiations with strength, class and professionalism, you won’t offend anyone (unless you boss is the most sensitive human alive, he/she will understand that dealing with raise requests is part of the job). And if you know that what you’re asking for is fair, in line with other salaries for your position and justified by your value to the company, then you’re not wrong to ask.
So before you go into the room, spend a solid hour thinking about your request, things to say to your Boss and answers to his questions. Think of counterpoints to common arguments like, “now is a really bad time” or “you know the office is in a tight financial spot.” As Monster points out, negotiating a salary, esp. in a tight fiscal climate, means that you need to be prepared to demonstrate your value to the office with evidence of your worth.
Lastly, this article from Forbes lists out seven no-nos when asking for a raise, which can help focus you on the right things to do.
In closing, I’ll say it again, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you ask for.
I am not sure if you addressed this specifically in one of your career advice posts, but I was wondering to what extent a cover letter can help or hurt your chances at making it to the short list of being interviewed for a job on the Hill. Were there certain aspects in the many cover letters you have read that made you cringe or that jumped out at you and made you look a bit closer at the following resume?
As this Wall Street Journal article explains, how important a cover letter is depends on the employer. I know hiring managers and Chiefs of Staff who decode them like treasure maps, and others who never even open the attachment.
But to be on the safe side, I would always include one.
When I’m looking at a resume, I always read the cover letter. I view it as a writing sample and a good indicator of an applicant’s judgment (what do you think is important enough to mention?). So here are a few things I look for in a cover letter.
Is your cover letter a form letter? Or did you customize it for this job posting?
Writing cover letters can be a hassle, especially if you are applying for multiple positions, but resorting to a lifeless form letter is never a good idea. If I’m reading your cover letter closely, you should give me something interesting and informative to read.
Demonstrate your interest in the position, your knowledge of the job/employer and give me a few brief remarks on your qualifications (I can read the rest in your resume). These are the essentials.
Personalizing your cover letter is important. Don’t just regurgitate facts; tell me something that I can’t read on your resume. Talk about professional traits like being able to connect with customers/voters or having great phone etiquette. Mention how where you’re from or a personal experience (volunteering, a hobby, a class) made you interested in the career path you’ve chosen.
Just give me a little peek into who you are and I’ll usually become invested enough in your story to ask you in for an interview.
If your skills don’t match the qualifications, don’t try to hide it. Instead, explain why you would be the best choice for the position despite this disparity.
For example, if the posting asks for five years of experience and you only have three, talk about what skills and experiences prepared you for the position you’re applying for. You can’t conceal your flaws (remember, I have your resume), so inoculate against your weaknesses by acknowledging them and re-focusing attention on your strengths.
Keep it short. I want to read a cover letter; I don’t want to read a Tolstoy novel. One page is generally long enough, and if you can give me three well written paragraphs, I’m a happy girl.
Don’t plagiarize your cover letter. You would think this would go without saying, but you would be wrong. Copy and past a few lines of an applicant’s cover letter into Google–and if my experiences are any indication–three times out of 10, it will be copied nearly word for word from a free resume site.
If you can’t write three original paragraphs about why you want a job that will pay you tens of thousands of dollars per year, I shudder to think what kind of employee you would be. And since so many of today’s jobs (esp. on Capitol Hill) require strong writing skills, you’ve proven that you don’t have that skill.
Never mention salary in your cover letter. You don’t ask a man deeply personal questions on a first date, so don’t talk to a potential employer about money in a cover letter. I read even a mention of salary in a cover letter, and I relocate it to the bottom of the pile. It shows poor judgment and reveals something negative about an applicant’s character. If an employer wants to talk about salary, they’ll ask for a separate list of salary requirements.
These are just a few of the things that always caught my eye. If you need more advice on resumes and cover letters, there are two places you MUST visit. Go to Ask a Manager for all the instruction you could ever need. And visit Evil HR Lady, your spirit guide through the hiring experience.
If you handle hiring for your Boss or your company, please feel free to add your thoughts to the comments. Everyone has different things that they love and hate, and while you can’t please everyone, I think you can hit the high points and avoid most of the pitfalls.
When you’re just starting out, you tend to think about your career progression incrementally. This is especially true if you work in an office where there is an opportunity for your to climb the ladder internally. But when you reach the middle of your career, once you’ve completed the drudgery of entry-level work and have reached a place where you have respect and responsibility, it’s easy to get complacent about continuing up the ladder.
In my case, once I had completed my tour of duty as an intern and a staff assistant and an LC, I felt quite content in the role of legislative assistant for my home Congressman. I liked my Boss. I liked my co-workers. And, most importantly for me, I liked the work that I was doing.
After awhile though, it became quite clear that there was nowhere else for me to go within my office. The Chief wasn’t leaving. Our LD wasn’t leaving. Initially, this didn’t bother me–I was less concerned with advancement than I was with being glad to come to work every day. But over time, I think the lack of opportunity for advancement did have an affect on me.
Looking back, I realize that because there was no obvious next step to strive for, I became too comfortable. I no longer challenged myself to come up with new ideas, formulate new projects or pursue new goals the way I had before. I still did my job well, and sometimes, enlightenment/motivation would strike me, but my hunger for the job was gone.
Recently, I asked an acquaintance, who has been in the same position on Capitol Hill for almost seven years, if she ever feels like she’s stagnating. She was very candid, telling me that there are days when she wishes there was an opportunity for her to advance in her office. She likes the Member she works for and the work she does, but she knows that there is no more room to grow in this situation (she’s second from the top, and the person in the top spot will be taken out of the office in a hearse). And while she sometimes thinks about leaving, she’s afraid of winding up somewhere that she doesn’t like or missing an opportunity should the top spot open up.
It’s easier to climb from the bottom to the middle of the ladder. But, even without the pressures of family, climbing from the middle to the top is much more difficult.