It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, when I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are three updates from past letter-writers.
I took your advice to heart, and tried both to ask more specific questions and to trust that positive feedback is accurate. And you were right, mostly it was normal new-job jitters. But about a month after you responded, it turned out at least some of that insecurity was justified – my boss left, and his replacement didn’t have the same expectation that I would grow into the more technical aspects of my role. Luckily, my former boss wasn’t the only person I’d impressed, and I got traded to a different department and had to start learning an entirely different role from scratch – still remote from my (new) team.
I was honestly pretty unhappy about it for a while. It wasn’t a decision I had any input in, and I felt a little trapped. And even though I was still getting really positive feedback, I felt more incompetent than I had before since I didn’t even understand the scope of the job I was supposed to be doing. After several months I was able to get my new boss to give me a job description, which was eyeopening – my role was explicitly different than the rest of the team, and tailored specifically for me. Evidently the extent of my job really was just to… be myself? It was both flattering and baffling.
And then my new boss left! In the reshuffle I got a significant raise, and I realized two big things: a) obviously I was still undervaluing my contribution, and b) until I figured out what that contribution was, I wouldn’t be able to express it to anyone outside my organization if I ever wanted to leave. I wasn’t going to be able to put “apparently bosses like me” as a qualification on my resume, right? So I started to look for external certifications to prove to myself that I had some concrete value to add, and it’s been a huge help. I’m not planning on changing jobs any time soon, but just knowing that I’ve passed a test and can objectively say I know something has been a massive boost to my confidence and it helps me feel like I have options. Feedback from my newest boss is that I’m a model of professionalism (which is 100% from reading Ask a Manager), and that he’s thrilled with my increased assertiveness. He gave me a bigger raise and a “senior” title this year, so I guess something’s working!
First, thanks for posting my question and being really caring about the answer. I was able to read and respond to some comments (not too many because I didn’t want anyone at work to see, obviously), and everyone was really respectful, even though I was definitely in entitled territory.
So, I did not end up quitting. I’m an only child, so my parents ended up coming out for a few days. Work was generous and I was able to leave early on the 23rd as well as having Christmas Eve and Christmas off. It was actually a really nice time with my parents and I got to participate in an event I would have missed if I hadn’t been in town. We all still missed seeing the rest of the family though, especially now that we can’t see anyone with the travel restrictions.
I will say that I almost definitely could have missed that whole week without much of an impact on service. We are able to see when everyone is scheduled, and we were really only down by about two people from fully staffed. I also ended up taking a fraction of the calls I would take on a regular day. But in the end not taking off wasn’t the end of the world. I even had to take a week of sick days in January, so it’s good I was able to get the pay I was.
The bad news is that I was going to extend my contract for a month or so (they were really happy with my work and also somewhat understaffed), but when COVID hit I decided to move home and they no longer wanted to keep me on. I understand that the burden of an out-of-state temp worker was too high, though I know my department is definitely in demand right now!
But the good news is that I was accepted into the graduate program for teaching in the city where I went to undergrad, so I’ll be an easy five-hour car ride from most of my family in a city I know and love and have friends in. Crossing my fingers that everything is able to start up again in August!
3. Returning to work after a miscarriage (#3 at the link)
I saw your call for updates and thought I’d send mine in. I’m sorry; it does come with a content warning for child loss.
I originally wrote to you in 2017, after I’d had a miscarriage and was worried about returning to work.
When I got back to work, one of the managers had shared the news with almost everyone in the team, but your advice was very helpful in terms of handling meetings with others. Thank you to everyone who took the time to comment; I don’t think I replied to everyone as I was a bit overwhelmed at the time, but I appreciated your kindness, thank you.
I fell pregnant again, but my daughter was very premature and passed away. My workplace was amazing; I was given my full maternity leave entitlement and told to come back to work when I was ready. My managers/HR let me decide how much or little I wanted to stay in touch, and were incredibly supportive when I went back four months after my daughter was born. I was able to drive the direction of my work, had regular check-in meetings and the team was incredibly protective and kind. They were a bright spot in a very painful time.
My update ends happily – I’m currently on maternity leave after having my son. Although the world is a scary place right now, I feel very fortunate to be able to spend so much time with him.
Thank you for your site and everything you do; it’s been a great help to me over the years!
updates: quitting if I can’t get Christmas off, being too needy with a boss, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.