Q: For six years, I worked in a small law office with a woman who clearly did not like me at all. “Gladys” was the attorney’s secretary, and I was a paralegal. Three years ago, I left the office on good terms after receiving an offer from a much larger firm.
My new job worked out well until the firm lost its largest client. I was laid off, along with many other employees, and given a glowing reference letter.
When an outplacement counselor called my former employer for a reference, Gladys answered the phone. She said the attorney was unavailable and offered to answer any questions. She described me as a “legal assistant,” not a paralegal, and apparently had a rather negative attitude.
I know the attorney would give me a favorable reference, but she might not allow anyone to talk with him.
A: The good news is that interviewers almost always give the greatest weight to your most recent work experience. However, anyone who does check needs accurate information.
Explain to the attorney that you would appreciate a personal reference because he is so familiar with your work. If he will agree to write a letter, that may satisfy some employers. For phone calls, see if he can provide a direct number that goes to voice mail.
You might mention that Gladys was confused about your position and request that “paralegal” be specifically stated in the reference letter.
Q: While I was out sick, my manager called to see if I would be available for my on-call shift that weekend. Since my doctor’s note specified returning to work on Monday, I told her no. The next day, she called to say that she would handle Saturday herself and that a co-worker had offered to cover Sunday.
She then indicated that I would be expected to take my co-worker’s shift the following Saturday as a “courtesy.”
A: Because you were sick, a colleague volunteered to handle your Sunday shift, and now you’re angry about having to repay him. Returning such a favor is a common practice.
Your irritation with your boss is also puzzling, given that she’s covering one day herself. Not knowing your company’s policy, I can’t say whether this decision was appropriate. But I can say that your attitude seems a little self-centered.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.” Send in questions and get free coaching tips at yourofficecoach.com, or follow her on Twitter @officecoach.