Q: When I interviewed in January for my current job, I knew there might be problems even before I met the supervisor. I’d run into a woman in the bathroom and when I told her why I was in the building and who I was interviewing with, she seemed startled and told me, “his last employee didn’t last long.”
The supervisor was honest with me. He said he was a workaholic and had high expectations for his employees. “No problem,” I answered, “I have high expectations myself.” When my answer made him laugh, my “win this interview game” desire kicked in. I have always been able to get people to like me, and in the last three years have had four jobs, each in a different industry. I cinched landing the job by saying that my dad had been a workaholic and I knew what to expect.
When he asked if I had questions, I asked what had led his last employee to leave. I was surprised when he bad-mouthed her. I almost turned the job down, but I desperately wanted out of the job I was in.
During the first couple of weeks I saw other red flags. My supervisor expected me to be a workaholic too. My desk was buried in half-completed projects left by the former employee and when my supervisor walked me through what he wanted done on each, he talked so fast that I didn’t understand everything he said. But he praised me for catching on quickly, comparing me to his past employee, and I didn’t want to ruin the vibe by asking questions.
It was a relief when COVID-19 hit and we began working from home. I could work at my own pace. I admit I didn’t take work seriously. I got caught up in the news stories about COVID, walked the dog, and became addicted to Netflix originals. When my supervisor asked me where a completed project was, I’d pull it out of the stack, answer, “I’m almost done” and then start on it. I got further and further behind. When my supervisor called, emailed or texted me, I didn’t answer right away. He liked that I said, when I did call him back, that I was ignoring all distractions so I could complete more work.
Unfortunately, we’re now back in the office and the gig is up. My supervisor is shocked by how much work is still undone. I reminded him that I came into this job with a huge backlog. I know I should quit before I get fired. Here’s my question -- If I quit or get fired, can I leave a five-month job off my resume? I know I can blame getting laid off on COVID and that this supervisor will badmouth me if prospective employer calls him for a reference.
A: You ask the wrong question. You need to ask, “Is what you’re doing working for you?” What does “winning the interview game” for a job you won’t like or succeed at give you?
You took a job despite red flags waving in the breeze, with a supervisor who badmouthed a former employee and who admitted to being a workaholic, which doesn’t seem a quality you’d want in a supervisor.
Although your now-supervisor has problems, at least he was honest when he interviewed you. You were not. He clearly indicated he wanted an employee who would meet high expectations. Your response suggested that you would, yet you slack off when you can.
You settled for a temporary vibe when you didn’t ask enough questions to understand the tasks he gave. You shortchanged him and more importantly, yourself. Do you want your career to be one of landing jobs and moving on when “the gig is up”?
You have skill. You can make people like you. Put that and yourself to work. Look for hospitality industry, customer service or other jobs where your aptitude for making quick connections with people works for your employer and yourself. Meanwhile, work on yourself as well. What type of work will hold your interest as much as a movie? What does it cost you in self-respect to play the other games you play?
To answer your resume question, you take a risk if you leave off a resume a job you held longer than six weeks. You may think you can plaster over the resume gap by saying you took a break between jobs; many interviewers dig further when they hear that and can often recognize a cover up. If your deceit is discovered after you’re hired, because you let information about a former hidden job slip out into the open, your new employer may lose trust in you.
So, is what you’re doing working for you, and if not, what do you need to change?
[Because of a high volume of comments requiring moderation, we are temporarily disabling comments on many of our articles so editors can focus on the coronavirus crisis and other coverage. We invite you to write a letter to the editor or reach out directly if you’d like to communicate with us about a particular article. Thanks.]