Here's a roundup of answers to five questions from readers.
1. I lied on my resume.
I recently applied for a prestigious company looking to fill a role that's rarely open -- and I lied on my resume. Specifically, I lied about where I went to school. The company hires people from top-caliber schools and I thought swapping the name of my college would help me get my foot in the door.
The company had already called me in for a series of in-person interviews with key players in the department. My interaction with the team has reinforced my confidence in wanting the job and guilt about lying where I attended college (at least two people have remarked what a wonderful place it is, so it hasn't gone unnoticed).
My HR contact just reached out to me and asked me to complete an electronic application and -- again -- it prompts me to fill in my education credentials. Now that I'm in the final stages of consideration, I'm terrified of the background check revealing the lie and losing this job over it. What should I do?
You're not going to like this answer, but the best thing you could do is withdraw from consideration from the job. There's a very good chance that it will be noticed, and even worse, it might not be noticed until after you've already been working there for a while -- meaning that you could end up getting fired from this job in a way that would be very damaging to your reputation. It also means that the whole time you work there, you'd need to fear it coming out -- which it easily could, since people are already trying to talk to you about what they believe are your shared experiences at that school.
I'm sure you've already figured out the flaw in your logic here, but just in case: If this company cares so much about where you went to school that it would be a factor in getting you in the door, then lying about it means that you'd be lying about something that they pay particular attention to.
But even if that weren't true, companies that don't care that much about where you went to school generally still care a great deal about lying. If it comes out, you'll have done serious harm to your reputation not only with them, but potentially with others too (because people move around to other companies and they remember stuff like this).
You made a mistake here. The only way to fix it is to take ownership for it, which means accepting that this job can't be an option for you anymore.
2. My former intern ghosted her new job.
Last fall, I had a terrific intern who was in her last year of school. She was very reliable, she learned a lot about our industry, did good work, etc. So, when she asked if I would act as a reference for her after she graduated, I was happy to do so. She also sent me a lovely thank-you note after she secured a job with the help of my recommendation.
That was several months ago. Today, the guy from the firm who had called me while checking her references just emailed again to tell me something kind of weird: Although they had hired my former intern over the summer and she had gotten off to a promising start, she quit last week without notice and simply stopped showing up to work. She also hasn't responded to any of their attempts to communicate with her, although she has remained active on social media. He said they were disappointed in her lack of professionalism; he also said he figured I'd just want to know about the situation, in case she asked for another reference in the future.
Honestly I'm quite shocked. This behavior is completely unlike what I observed while she was working with me. I'm of course a little mortified that someone I recommended has put the employer to whom I recommended her in such a tight spot -- and I likely would think twice about providing a reference for her again -- but I'm also a little worried about her. Would it be inappropriate for me to reach out to her to see if she's OK?
Well, you don't necessarily have the right to know what's going on with her; if you weren't close, this might be something you should just let be unless she contacts you.
It's also possible that she had a decent reason for going AWOL; we can't know either way, obviously, but if the workplace was abusive, for example, she might have felt this was the best course of action. Speaking of which, did you know the guy who contacted you from her firm (other than speaking to him when giving a reference)? If not, it's really weird that he contacted you. If you already knew each other, that's a normal thing to do -- but if you didn't, it's pretty awful for him to be phoning her contacts to smear her name, and the sort of person willing to do that might be the sort of person whom one would feel obligated to quit without notice to get away from.
In any case, I'd figure out what outcome you'd be aiming for by contacting her. If you're genuinely concerned and want to make sure she's OK, I could see doing it -- but I'm not sure there's enough here for that to feel warranted. At most, I might just send her an email that says, "Fergus at your firm let me know that you left. I hope everything's OK, and if there's anything I can do to help, get in touch anytime."
3. How do I tell freelance clients I've increased my rates?
When I first started freelancing a few years ago, I was not really sure how much I should be charging. After doing some research recently, I realized that I was shortchanging myself by quite a bit and have just about doubled my hourly rate.
How do I approach this rate hike with repeat clients? I think it's a fair market rate, and my quality and dependability are very strong, but I do think it could be a bit jarring to quote a much higher rate out of the blue.
The next time a client approaches you with a project, say this: "I'd be glad to take this on. I want to let you know that I've raised my rates to $X. Does that still work for you?" That's really all you need to say. But if you'll feel more comfortable giving more context, you could say, "I realized I was charging below market initially" or "Now that I've been doing this for a while, I increased my rates to bring them up to market level."
Another approach is to do it more gradually -- "I want to let you know that I've raised my rates to $X, but because you've been a customer for a while, I can discount that to $Y for you for the next six months, so it's not quite so sudden" (with Y being somewhere in between your old and your new rates).
4. Are sandals now considered business attire?
I was always under the impression that open-toed shoes are not considered professional business attire. However, the past couple summers I've seen a lot of women wearing nice sandals, flat and heeled, to the office and events. My office is business casual and not very strict in terms of dress code, but I even saw a woman wearing heeled sandals to an interview! She was hired and another woman started a couple weeks ago and wore sandals on her first day at work. I would love to be able to wear nice sandals during the summer to work but don't want to misstep (ha!).
It depends on the office. In many offices, yes, nice sandals -- particularly dressier ones -- are perfectly appropriate. In more conservative offices, they're not and you'd be expected to wear closed-toe shoes. So it's just about knowing your environment.
5. Using up vacation time right before resigning.
I am considering switching jobs, but I have a week's worth of vacation time left with my current employer. Would it be considered unethical to try to get that vacation time used right before giving notice? I see it as taking what is owed to me (I was provided the vacation time as part of my benefits to be used throughout the year) but I can imagine some seeing it as taking advantage of the company. What is your take?
Nope, you're right that it's part of your benefits package. It's fine to try to use it up before you go. The exception to this would be if it were, say, February and your company front-loaded your vacation time (giving it to you all at once at the start of the year rather than having you accrue it if you go); in that case, yeah, it wouldn't look great to use it all right before you resign ... although even then, sometimes that's the way it works out and it's not an intentional grab at everything you can get.
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