What To Do When Your Mentor Hates You

my mentor is a bitchWhat do you do when your assigned mentor is a bitch?  Reader C wonders…

I have a question about female competition in the workplace. I am a young legal assistant at a larger law firm and have had a string of disheartening interactions with a female coworker. Although she was assigned to be my mentor and we work together daily, this coworker has repeatedly refrained from telling me about social events and happy hours within our department, completed projects for clients to which I have been assigned (again, without telling me), given me incorrect information on project details and then denied it to our attorneys, cuts me off whenever we are presenting in a meeting to partners, etc. This started around the six month mark of my job. I have considered that it is simply her personality or that it is a product of female competition in the workplace. In either event, can you give me any tips or suggestions as to how to combat this? Unfortunately we work in a group and at a firm where any sort of confrontation is highly discouraged and knowing this girl she would deny away, but perhaps there is a less direct strategy I can use to handle this and discourage the behavior? Thank you!

Here’s the thing:  this person is not your “mentor.”  This woman may be the person HR is expecting to do some things, such as be a liaison between you and the higher office, or “help” you get your job off to a great start — but she isn’t an actual mentor.  I had something similar happen when I was at the law firm — my “mentor” kept calling me Kathy.  No matter how many times I corrected him, it persisted:  “Oh, hey, Kathy, let’s get lunch.”  Ugh.  I don’t think he meant me any ill will; I just don’t think he ever cared to learn my name or help me in any way. (Pictured: Originally uploaded to Flickr by TW Collins.) So what do you do?

  • Be polite to your current mentor.  If there is some sort of formal program where HR has matched you with this person, it stands to reason that the mentor may be reporting back to HR.  Don’t give her anything unpleasant to say.
  • When your mentor finishes assignments or cuts you off in meetings, ask yourself if there is something to be learned.  I hate to say it, but usually when people finish their subordinates’ work it’s because the work isn’t getting done properly to begin with.  The difficult thing here is that it may be easier for her to do it herself than to teach you how to do it — but that’s her job.  When this happens, instead of saying “wow, what a bitch,” take a bit of your own time (i.e., don’t bill for it) and take a look at what she did.  If it’s exactly what you were doing, talk to her to make sure you understood the deadline, and see what explanation she gives.  If it’s different from what you were doing, though, try to study it as best you can before you talk to her.  After you’ve learned everything you can, schedule a brief meeting.  Say something like, “I was disappointed to see you finished Job X on my behalf — I thought I was doing a good job.  I’ve looked over the work you did and I think I’ve learned some things that I wanted to go over with you to make sure I got them.”  Finish the conversation with a smile, and something like, “I’ve learned so much — I really hope we can work together next time instead of doing a postmortem like this.”
  • CYA.  If you’re getting work and other things through this woman, protect yourself as best you can by getting things in writing (or confirming things in writing), and dealing with the person assigning the work whenever possible.  Especially if there have already been incidents where your work product was called into question, you need to be proactive about this.  For example, if she stops by your desk and verbally gives you an assignment, you might want to write an email to her and the assigning person a VERY BRIEF email (preferably with bullet points) that regurgitates what she just told you.
  • Find a new, unofficial mentor.  You can start by asking someone else for help who seems nice — “Could I pick your brain for a minute or two about this assignment? I’m stuck and want to shine some fresh light on the problem!”  Try to get to know some of the other people in the office, perhaps by asking them out for lunch.  If their desk is nearby, the “I’m heading downstairs to grab a midday candy bar, do you want anything?” is almost always appreciated.
  • As a last resort, go to HR and request a new mentor.  I would be very cautious here, though: you don’t want to be labeled as difficult, entitled, emotional, etc, etc.  I would try to be as upbeat and positive about it as possible:  “I’ve learned so much from [Current Lousy Mentor] and I just thought I’d see if I could keep mixing things up — is there another mentor you can recommend for me?”  Even if the HR department sees right through this, they’ll admire your upbeat attitude, and the fact that you haven’t made them intervene, write reports, or put something in your mentor’s file.

Readers, how would you deal with a situation where your “mentor” refuses to work with you?  Have you found other ways to deal with this situation?

Comments

  1. Cornellian :

    I second Kat’s recommendation to pick out a new, unofficial mentor… it may also help dispel any rumors that you messed up a client’s work, are avoiding happy hours, etc.

    TJ!

    I have just above waist length (maybe a 14-16 inch long pony tail) dark honey blonde/strawberry/auburn/light brown hair. It’s naturally very straight, relatively fine, but I have a lot of it. I’m going to chop it and donate it at some point, but until then, I’m not sure what to do with it. There is a more senior woman in my office who has even longer hair she wears loose, but I still feel like a long ponytail is not the most professional way to go. I sometimes do French twists (well, if I do say so myself), but I can really only do that once a week because my hair is so heavy! My weekend styles often involve braids, but I don’t think that’s work appropriate, really.

    FWIW, I’m 25 (for a few days!), fair, wear mascara, tinted moisturizer, sometimes gloss. I do plan on cutting it off to donate, but want to keep it longer for a while. It took years to get it this way and I want to enjoy it a little bit longer.

    • I agree. Get a real, unofficial mentor at the office. I also like Kat’s suggestion of writing a VERY BRIEF confirmation email to the assigning person and your mentor. Substantive bullet points and the due date are good. If your “mentor” gave you the wrong date, the assigning person will probably hit reply and give you the right date.

      Corenellian, I have seen associate attorneys your (and my) age wearing their long hair in a single large french braid to the back. I know you specifically said you don’t think braids look professional, but those attorneys looked professional since the braid was neat and the rest of their ensemble was professional.

      • Cornellian :

        Thanks for the vote of confidence in braids. I may try one tomorrow. We don’t have casual Fridays, but it still seems like a summer Friday is the best time to test the casual end of the dress code.

        I’m not sure why, but I feel like if I had a more “done” hair color the style wouldn’t look as unprofessional to me. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s a sort of “juvenile” color (lots more kids have ginger/blonde hair than adults), or because it’s not dyed or highlighted. I don’t think I’m willing to dye my hair to be more professional, though. You have to take a stand on some things!

        • Also, if you dye your hair, they may not take your donation.

          • Cornellian :

            Good point. I give to beautiful lengths (I think they’re a more reliable charity than locks of love), and they will take all hair regardless of dye and length, but only make wigs out of natural or darkened (not highlighted) hair of the appropriate length.

          • I would like to give another recommendation to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. The other (more well-known) org doesn’t really make many wigs. They sell most of the hair.

            BL is the way to go!

    • I said this to another poster too, but check out the hair tutorials at acupofjo dot blogspot dot com.

      I don’t see any reason why you should cut your hair if you enjoy having it long. I like my long hair, too. It is also heavy, but I have found a lot of hairstyles where I can wear it up. My favorite is a flipped ponytail and half bun: http://pinterest.com/pin/249175791853461310/. I also like putting it in a Gibson roll.

      • Oops, I got the blog address wrong. It’s joannagoddard dot blogspot dot com and the name of the blog is A Cup of Jo.

        • Anonymous :

          You wont believe it but I type in acupofjo dot blogspot dot com whenever I want to read that blog and then later realize it’s just the name but not part of the URL :)

          • It makes sense, right? For such a popular blog it’s surprising she doesn’t have her own domain name.

  2. For GOVTGRRL from Totally Qualified :

    So, who won our wager? On April 27, we wagered that “within the first month of your job, more than one of your new colleagues will ask you whether, in all your years of reviewing trial transcripts, you ever saw X and what you thought of it.” I think today marks one month, right? And if I was wrong, I still get the sense from your other posts that it has been a good move.

    Read more: http://corporette.com/2012/04/27/weekend-open-thread-130/#ixzz1xn5tRUNg

  3. the more the merrier :

    Consider cultivating several mentors: one for technical skills, one for office politics, one for venting, one for work/life balance, one for learning about rainmaking and other business skills, etc.

    • not my regular handle :

      In case you read Ms. JD, I’m one of the Writers in Residence and my submitted column this month (not yet posted on the main page) is exactly this – down to the choice of words you used.

      I just want to let you that I didn’t plagiarize you…it freaked me out a little to see this.

      And also, I should say – GREAT ADVICE.

      • the more the merrier :

        Great minds. How do I find your article?

        • not my regular handle :

          It will be under Big Time Small Town Law – you can go to Ms. JD’s site and in the site search put “big time small town” and my stuff will come up – although this particular article probably won’t appear until tomorrow. It won’t be on the front page probably for a week or two.

          P.S. This totally outs me, which is why I’m posting this semi-anonymously.

  4. Anonymous :

    I had a very similar situation happen to me. It is really discouraging and can take up a lot of unnecessary energy. In my situation, my “mentor” was a person only a few years older than me, and we had the same professional credentials. My work quality was not a problem. She would cut me off in meetings, “forget” to tell me about meetings I was supposed to attend, lose key information that I needed until it was too late (and then she would swoop in), and talk badly about me to others. I later found out that she had done this to many other women, who all left the workplace as well, in part because of her.

    The advice I got from others, which was very helpful, is below:
    –Repeat Kat’s advice: be polite, professional, and never lose your cool around her.
    –Document instances where you think she is acting unprofessionally or undermining you.
    –Develop relationships with others around her–her superiors or managers, as well as other co-workers.
    –Develop a reputation for doing great work. This means you have to deliver your best work.

    Good luck!

    • Great advice. I had (have?) a mentor that I do not particularly get along with *specifically with work things*. With personal things we get along excellently, but with work it’s just not smooth most of the time.

      Keeping records is super important, and it makes a difference when you build a network around the person so people know your work.

      I also have one of my actual managers as a mentor, and have had multiple other mentors. That helps a lot!

  5. If this woman is really that bad, I would assume that most people in the office know what she is doing (or at least what she is capable of). I would do the following:

    1. Kill her with kindness, never show your irritation with her. People will notice that you are kinder than her, when these interactions occur.
    2. Make friends with other colleagues who will invite you to the social events, happy hours etc.
    3. Do amazing, strong work. People will see you are doing a great job, despite her efforts.

    Finally, keep in mind that there are just as many men that treat junior, women badly. I hate to fall into or promote stereo types that women pick on women in the workplace. Some people are just mean, and she is one of them.

    • the more the merrier :

      Agree that others know about her MO. But the issue is how the office has responded to her MO. If the office rewards her MO (by not telling her it is inappropriate, by continuing to promote her on the partner track), then you know what kind of a workplace you are dealing with.

      • That’s my situation. Documenting her issues does no good, because she’s convinced the management she’s irreplaceable, and they’ll put up with her screwing other people’s deadlines and misrepresentations about her coworkers so long as she does what the senior managers want. But the concept of “team player” is lost on her. It’s like working in an episode of Mad Men.

        I never thought it would be so difficult to get someone to CC me on email. But she’s so bad that people outside my organization have started refusing to work with her. And no, when I report that to my manager, it makes no difference.

        • the more the merrier :

          In that case, I think the best advice is to get away from her, either by continuing to work at your firm but not with her (is that possible? do you explicitly ask for it? all good questions) or by leaving.

          Others may say I am defeatist. Perhaps I am. But I am also a LOT happier since I made the same decision myself.

        • the more the merrier :

          One more thought: you say that others outside your organization won’t work with her. Are they clients? Or, if not clients, people who “matter” to senior management? In that case, I would discreetly ask them to call senior management and ask that their cases never be worked on by this woman and be prepared to explain why with specific examples.

          • They are not clients, or people who matter: that has been made clear to me. Even within the organization, if she blows off a project for months on end, and someone calls her manager (who is my manager) to complain, nothing happens.

            I don’t work for a law firm, but the government, and in this context, the concerns of outside entities are not important enough to affect how she is managed.

            I have considered leaving, but the job is really interesting and the environment is flexible and comfortable. And she can’t really undermine me, as we do separate things (with some overlap in the middle, which is the source of her territoriality, I assume). But I like to be efficient, and her campaign against me results in ridiculous delays that makes the organization look bad, and I hate that.

            My management appears not to mind it. Me, I must learn to be harder to piss off.

        • I had someone like this in a former office, too.

          After I read NGDGTCO, I realized: She’s playing the game, and she’s playing it better than me.

          She had made herself indispensable, even though she treated everyone around her terribly. She had ingratiated herself to senior staff.

          I looked at her, and told myself, Self, I need to do *that.*

    • lawsuited :

      Agree with the “kill her with kindness” suggestion. I almost always take this route when dealing with difficult women in the workplace. The best case scenario is that your relationship improves because she just thought she deserved more awe and gratitude from you, and worst case scenario is that nothing changes but at least she can’t say you were mean/rude/unhelpful, etc.

    • FOOEY on her!

    • Second all that good advice from anonymous and chicago.
      I’d also emphasize that this “female competition” thing is total bs. More likely in your head than hers. Women can be jerks, bullies and competitive jerks, this one sounds like it, and junior people get mistreated in many places. This has nothing to do with femaleness. Both my best and worst managers have been women, so?

      That said, mentoring is a fine idea in theory, but it works best when it’s voluntary. And when HR starts to enforce it there is usually a deeper current of junior exploitation as the background. So keep an eye open for other behavior of the sort in that firm.. And if you’re not confusing terminology and you have a real manager as well as a mentor, try to keep your focus on your supervisor where it belongs, and simply avoid doing any real work with the “mentor”. You may be taking the mentoring thing more seriously than anyone ever meant it.

  6. Should I feel guilty for taking my full 1 hour lunch break when my immediate supervisor eats at her desk everyday? I complete all my work and am usually ahead of schedule so it’s not like I’m slacking off. But I feel like I would been seen as a slacker. Everyone else takes their full hour if not more but I don’t report to them so it’s a bit different. My boss hasn’t said anything to me but I hope this won’t affect me in a negative way.

    • No. I supervise a big team and I almost always have lunch at my desk, but I don’t track who does what for lunch on my team, at all. I don’t even notice, honestly.

    • animalcrackers :

      Do not feel guilty for this AT ALL. I often eat at my desk, but I’m not always working. I poke around on the internet (like right now) to read some of my favorite sites or do some shopping. Every once in a while, I’ll catch up on email or review a document during lunch, but not that often. I eat at my desk because I don’t have food options within walking distance, and it saves me money to bring my lunch 95% of the time. It would be different if you were the only one leaving, but since you aren’t, and it sounds like you’re doing good work, continue to take your lunch break however you want.

    • Former MidLevel :

      No. You are entitled to your break.

    • Midwesterner :

      My boss does not leave the building during the work day. I just took a 2 hour lunch. It’s a beautiful day – you couldn’t pay me to stay inside!

    • If you’re an hourly employee, I can almost guarantee that your boss wants you to take your full lunch break away from your desk. Or at least, she should.

    • Absolutely not. Especially if you’re ahead of schedule. Your supervisor may prefer down time at lunch. But if you’re struggling to meet deadlines, do NOT take a long lunch. My intern has yet to turn in an assignment (she’s had 5 weeks, and only has 1 more until she leaves). Today, she took an hour and a half lunch. Even *my* supervisor has told her she should have been done with at least one assignment 3 weeks ago. *sigh* Maybe we expect too much for rising 3Ls, but this project would have taken me at most one day.

      • I would suggest taking her aside and letting her know that ability to meet deadlines is really important, and that waiting on work until the last minute could damage her ability to come back as an intern or be offered a position – and maybe say things she’s done well, but let her know that it is much easier to get references if you get work done before deadlines. I think being frank is the best way to get results, and unless people have been super blunt about it, she may not realize it.

  7. Got the posting too fast message. Hopefully this won’t post twice. I have a new job as an attorney in a legal office in which I am one of two female attorneys out of 21 attorneys, with about 15 support staff who are all female. Two male attorneys were hired at the same time as me. I have closely followed the Corporette advise not to get too close/make friends with supports staff over the past couple of years. I also value work friendships for various reasons. This leaves me with a dilemma. Is my only choice for a friend the other female attorney? Is it o.k. for me to ask the male attorneys out to lunch? Is it o.k. to makes friends with them as if they were “one of the girls?” I am getting lonely but don’t want to cross any improper lines. Help please!

    • Why is your assumption that you can only be friends with other women? I say, by all means, eat lunch with your male colleagues. Go out to eat lunch in a group of attorneys are your level. If you’re an associate, walk around one morning and see if the other associates (male or female) can go to lunch in a couple of days. I eat lunch with male associates or groups with male partners and associates and it’s no big deal.

      • Agreed. Some of my best friends from my last office were the dudes.

        (We avoided the term “work spouse” though. Ew.)

        • We just had a discussion about work girlfriends/boyfriends at my office. I had no idea they were a thing!

          • Yes! When did this become a thing? Seriously, it seems like it came out of nowhere but now I hear the term pretty regularly. I am not a fan.

          • I have only used that with one of the Swedish employees I am crazy close with, and we use it kind of ironically (we’re both married) because people have this weird attitude towards any type of close female/male relationship here.

    • Cornellian :

      I have a close male friend in the office (maybe a 60% male office), and it’s fine. I guess if you want to be cautious I’d make sure to phrase it in terms of your work relationship the first few times you meet (How’d that project go? How’s Mrs. Smith to work for?), but I haven’t yet had an issue changing a male work acquaintance into a male friend. Go for it!

  8. naijamodel :

    Is “bitch” necessary in this post?

  9. Merabella :

    Was browsing through Forever 21 and saw this. I almost did a spit take on my monitor…

    http://www.forever21.com/Product/Product.aspx?BR=f21&Category=whatsnew_app_tops&ProductID=2000041420&VariantID=

    • ChocCityB&R :

      Wait…I’m slow, what’s the problem with this? Is it that crochet is bad for swimming (I wouldn’t know)

      • momentsofabsurdity :

        I think the problem is that the top isn’t meant for swimming but for just… um… casual days around town?

        • Merabella :

          This. And that it is styled with a pencil skirt, like “I’m edgy I wear a crocheted bathing suit top with my suit” kind of look.

          • The scale pattern on the pencil skirt made me think to myself, “Oh, she’s a mermaid. That’s okay, then.”

      • Anonymous :

        It’s not for swimming – there is no matching bottom.
        I am guessing it’s supposed to be worn under sheer outer layer, but I think something with more coverage would look better. The string ties just don’t work outside of swimwear.

        It’s not pretty, but neither is it plug-ugly.

    • Now that’s a perfect outfit for the office pool party!

    • eastbaybanker :

      My SO’s college age cousin showed up to Easter brunch this year wearing a loosely crochet sweater that looked more like 15 pieces of yarn draped haphazardly across her, and a nude bra underneath. I think that layering it with an orange crocheted bikini top would have actually been an improvement!

  10. Another Associate :

    I posted this earlier today, and this post seems like a better place for the subject. Thanks Corpor*ttes for the great advice already!

    Ladies, I need some advice on whether (and how) I can approach a summer intern to gently let her know she is alienating the attorneys in the office.

    I am a mid-level associate at a firm with 40-ish attorneys. The summer intern started 3 weeks ago, and she is acting in a way that gives everyone a negative impression of her.

    For example, I stopped by her office to casually ask how things were going. The Intern said, “oh, I have two projects, but they’re easy because you don’t have to think too much.” Keep in mind these two projects were the bread-and-butter type work our firm does. On two difference occasions, two different senior associates reviewed her work and said, “Partner A suggests you revise this part to read x, y, z.” Both times, the Intern said, “No. That won’t work.” When asked by a partner whether the Intern was interested in legal field M (the partner’s specialty), the Intern said something like, “Yeah, I took a class on it, but it was boring. There’s not much to legal field M that I can’t learn on the job.” Even if she is right on substantive matters, is it appropriate to tell her that she could express herself in a way that is a little less abrasive?

    In addition, the Intern does not seem to want to do anything with the firm outside of work hours. The first day on the job, she declined a social outing (baseball game) with a senior partner. The second week on the job, she said, “do I have to go to lunch with attorneys every day?” She has also declined several other social events, including impromptu cocktail hours and scheduled firm-wide events. This is even after another associate reminded her that she is essentially on a 2-month long interview, both for the firm to assess her and for her to assess the firm.

    The Intern is a bright person, and has prior legal experience, so on paper seems like a good candidate. But her attitude is driving people crazy! Ordinarily, I would keep my mouth shut, but we are in a male-dominated field, and both of her attorney mentors are men, and so might not be comfortable saying anything to her. Should I say something to her? Maybe she doesn’t realize the negative impression her statements and actions are making?

    • Midwesterner :

      It sounds like she has a personality issue that you really can’t change. If she’s not a good fit for the firm, she’s not a good fit. You are not her supervisor, so I would stay out of it, personally.

    • You could ask her if she dislikes working there, because she certainly is giving the appearance of someone not looking for an offer at the end of the summer. That might spark a reconsideration of her attitude.

    • Maybe she isn’t really interested in working there after graduation and views this as nothing more than a summer job…That’s the vibe I’m getting, anyway. Perhaps have a casual conversation with her about what type of work she hopes to do in the future, etc. to see if this is the case. If she expresses interest in a permanent position with your firm, then I would offer some advice–perhaps couched in terms of “this is the type of person we really like to hire.” If she changes her tune, great. If not, well…you tried.

    • As a current SA, I say speak with her in private. Give her feedback in the same professional way that you would give feedback to a formal assignment. I would want to know if I was unintentionally ruining my chance at an offer.

      If she does not adjust her behavior or respond well to your constructive criticism, then she not a good fit for your firm (or most other firms) and not getting an offer is appropriate.

    • What irritates me most about interns like this (I have one as well) is that they’re taking up the most valuable legal field real estate. So many law students don’t have internships and would love to be in their seat, “boring” field or not. Ugh. I’ve tried telling previous interns what other interns did (or should have done), but they blow me off. I hate to say it, but some people just have to learn the hard way, on their own.

    • I had an intern exactly like that 2 years ago. She showed minimal interest in our work, declined social invitations and came across cold. I gently told her the social stuff was part of the job for the summer (and really, it was minimal, not a full-on BigLaw summer). She didn’t listen. She asked me at the end of the summer what she should do to get an offer. I told her to show an interest, keep in touch with people and make sure she’s on their radar. She did nothing.

      She made no efforts through the 3L year. Our offers came out in late spring for fall employment (so the interns had to wait about 6 mos for their offers). She was absolutely shocked when she didn’t get an offer.

      In your case: say something gently, once, when it comes up naturally in conversation. “Oh, partner X invited you to activity Y? Wow, that’s coveted and people think it’s a great opportunity. You know, doing stuff like that outside of the office is important, you’re so lucky to have been invited.” If she doesn’t get it, well, there’s only so much you can do.

    • karenpadi :

      We had one of those. Good on paper, bad to work with. She got no-offered. Not because of her work product but because no one liked her enough to want to spend time training her– and, more importantly, the receptionist threatened to quit if we made her a permanent offer.

    • Anon 3L - GRADUATED! :

      I would let her fall into the hole that she’s digging for herself. I mean, isn’t that the other end of this recruiting-style? When law firms hire summer associates based principally on grades, isn’t the trade off that the student gets no-offered if they have zero social skills and can’t figure out the game?

    • I would take her out to lunch, and ask her how things were going. When she expresses attitudes like those described, then say things like, “I think he might have been telling you that that’s how he wanted the assignment done. He sometimes doesn’t use as bossy a tone, but that’s really more an order, not a suggestion.” Or, “You might want to try a little more humility. I think people might perceive what you just said as kind of entitled.” Love GovtMom’s suggestion – talk up some of these opportunities. She might not realize what she’s missing.

      I had a female mentor at an internship that just told me what I needed to do, straight out. Be humble and grateful. Suck up to your superiors. She was probably the most helpful boss I’ve ever had.

      Also, give her a copy of NGDGTCO.

    • SF Bay Associate :

      We had one of those too. I also agree that you shouldn’t say anything. The last thing you want is to talk to her and she shapes up for the next six weeks and gets an offer, and then she goes right back to her terrible personality once she has started working as an associate. She’s already shown you her true colors. Be glad you found out while she is just a summer.

      • karenpadi :

        This. This. This.

      • Another Associate :

        Thank you for this! I would probably say something if she was already hired. But since she’s a summer associate and already acting this way, I’ll just sit back and watch the drama unfold.

      • Normally, I’d recommend gently talking to her as well, if only for the sake of increasing the number of women in the office. But I have to agree with SF Bay Associate, especially as there seem to be so many issues. Mostly, what you say about having another partner already tip her off about the 2-month interview and being ignored is what makes me think you’d just be wasting your time..

    • There’s nothing wrong with telling her she’s coming off abrasive, so long as it’s tactful. If you work with her and speak to her on a regular basis, it’s a good call to tell her – and if she blows you off, I’d speak to her supervisor and suggest they discuss it with her, but definitely go to her first.

      I’d say something like “You don’t seem to be challenged here, is there other work you’d prefer to be doing? I notice it seems like you aren’t as comfortable here with the other employees and since your quality of work is great, I want to see you succeed, but I am afraid the way you are expressing yourself at work might make it hard for you to get hired. Is there something at the firm that you don’t like that is discouraging you from getting comfortable with the other employees?”

      Also say things like “If you are enjoying the work, you may want to work on expressing that to others and your superiors – they will want to know you have an interest in staying here.”

      It will open up the chance to discuss her attitude – and it’s possible her attitude could be in part from introverted personality, or maybe she feels like she’s just bored and not really learning. She may not want to come back to the firm – there could be culture problems or something she’s not comfortable with. This is a good way to get that from her (in fact, my mentor had a discussion with me early on in my job), and find out if there’s any underlying issue, plus you’ll have the chance to offer advice. :)

      I personally get a little frustrated when people say “stay out of it” or “don’t say anything” because if no one says something, people don’t have the chance to fix things or improve. What if everyone gets told to leave it go, or she only hears about problems in an exit interview – or afterwards, when she doesn’t get an offer? Keeping mum is not always the best option – and in fact, sometimes it can screw over people who just don’t know how to act or aren’t aware that they don’t fit.

    • kerrycontrary :

      Some people’s personalities just suck. I don’t know how to put it more eloquently, but they do. And no one wants to work with them, and then they don’t get hired. But being rude and not knowing social norms is no one’s fault but their own. If if their parents didn’t teach them good manners someone who has gone through law school should pick up social cues (unless they have aspergers). I graduated from a masters program last year and some people I know still haven’t gotten a job a year later and I guarantee it’s because of their personality and attitude.

  11. lawsuited :

    I GET CALLED TO THE BAR TOMORROW AND I’M CRAZAY EXCITED! WAAAAH!

    • lawsuited :

      And I do mean crazay.

      • Cornellian :

        I’m not entirely sure what that means. Is that like passing the bar in the US?

        At any rate, congrats!

        • Equity's Darling :

          Congrats lawsuited!

          Cornellian: Does the US not have swearing in ceremonies?

          Canada does- some provinces have a bar exam, others have a bar admission course with assignments. Once you’ve finished the admission course or bar exam, then there is either a mass cattle call swearing in ceremony (e.g. Ontario), or these awesome individual swearing in ceremony, with a judge and your family, and your principal makes a speech about you, etc. (e.g. Alberta).

          • Cornellian :

            Ah, yes, we do! Although I can’t say much about them as mine is scheduled for months from now. I guess I’ve just never heard that term. Is a principal a sort of sponsor/mentor?

          • “called to the bar” is just not the term used for the US

          • Equity's Darling :

            To be called in Canada you have to article for about a year, and your principal is the one who oversees your articles (and you’re on you’re principal’s insurance for that year). You’re basically a junior lawyer, with a few limitations. Some principals are very hands-off, others are more involved, etc, so some are like mentors, others, not so much.

            It’s mostly that they make sure you get broad exposure to different areas (e.g. you have to do at least 5 of 8 areas of law in Alberta), and that if you happen to go off the rails or do something that will get you sued, they’re on the hook.

            My call is the end of this summer, I just booked the judge and courtroom this past week. I’m so excited too (I just need to find some robes, sigh).

          • Every new lawyer gets a personal call ceremony is Alberta? That’s awesome! In Manitoba, you only get one of those if you’re being called off-season (like if you got your call in a different province and then went through the paperwork to practice here).

        • lawsuited :

          Being called to the bar is the last step in the process to becoming a fully-licensed lawyer. At this point I’ve completed my 4-year undergraduate degree, 3 years of law school, 1 year of articles and written and passed the bar exams. Thank Baby J I’m done!

          I’m in Ontario, so I’m in the big Toronto cattle call tomorrow :)

        • We call it getting sworn-in.

          But congratulations!!!!

        • No matter what the terminology, big congratulations are in order :-)! Be crazay, you deserve it :-)!

  12. Moving Tips :

    Hey all, just wondering if there are any tips for moving. I’m moving to an apartment in a few weeks and am curious if there might be anything I’m forgetting. (I’m cleaning the place, replacing the toilet seat (tip found online… never thought of it before, ew), bringing tp/drinks so I’m set for mid-move, but I’m probably missing stuff.) I’ll have roommates, but I am the first one moving in.

    • momentsofabsurdity :

      Are you looking for tips for moving out or moving in?

      My suggestion – unpack one room, immediately. That way, when the stress of unpacking is getting to you, you can go into your clean, finished, unpacked room, close your eyes and relax.

      Suggestion two – bandaids. Buy LOTS of bandaids. Also, along with the TP bring some soap and a shower curtain in an easily accessible box.

      • Second – and I always try to get the bedroom set up first, so that if it was a crazy stressful day you have somewhere to crash & sleep. Then the kitchen, because that gets rid of the most boxes. Then bookshelves, because that’s the next largest amount of boxes. When you have few enough boxes, pile them all in a corner & tackle them one at a time. Get pictures up on the wall as soon as you can so it feels like home. And I always have to bake cookies in a new house ASAP as well.

        • I’m amazed someone is exactly on my same wavelength on this :-)..
          Although I’d respectfully suggest that the kitchen is no2 because when you wake up you’ll for sure be ravenous, and a civilized meal goes far toward a feeling of normality.

    • lawsuited :

      I assume you’ve called to have your utilities and telephone/cable connected?

    • Merabella :

      There is a post on here Kat did about moving that I’m planning on using the next time I have to move. It is from a while back, but it is great!

    • I like to pack an overnight bag with essentials (2-3 days of clothes, a work outfit, toiletries) etc as though I’m going on vacation for a few days. This way while you are unpacking you aren’t stressing about where the toothbrush is! It always takes me longer to unpack then I plan for and its helpful to be able to just get dressed in the morning.

      Also, agree with the shower curtain and bandaid, TP recs. I would throw a towel or two in that box, a refillable water bottle and a few bottles of water (to throw in the fridge right when you get there). Good luck!!

    • Pack an easily identifiable overnight bag with the essentials: set of sheets, a towel, tooth brush, clean underwear, bottle of wine (a glass is optional), corkscrew, and silverware for the takeout you will inevitably order after realizing you don’t have any food in the house or dishes available. I only say the silverware because after moving into our apartment and ordering Chinese once we were in place, it showed up and there weren’t even chopsticks in the bag. We ate our beef with broccoli and wonton soup with our hands.

      • Sydney Bristow :

        I second this and would add toilet paper to the list. Having one box or bag with everything you’ll need for the first night is essential. I also put my bed together first. Regardless of what else happens that day, I like knowing that I’ll have a comfortable place to sleep. Although, I typically working my butt off to get unpacked the day that I move or the next day at the latest. I hate being surrounded by boxes!

        I also agree with LC’s advice to take pictures of everything before you move in and suggest doing the same after you leave your current place. Nothing like being charged to have the carpets replaced when there were the same minor stains that existed when I moved in to teach you a lesson quickly! Also, even if it’s not required, try to get a walk through with your property manager when you turn in your keys and document it so that you can try to fight them when they inevitably try to charge you for things they said they wouldn’t when you moved out. (I swear it was just an awful property management company and I don’t destroy the places where I live!)

    • I agree with the shower curtain and TP.

      Bring insect spray (like Raid). You don’t want to be surprised by a nasty critter at the back of a closet and not have something on hand to immediately kill it.

      Also, I bought shelf liners. Mostly this is because my apartment is old and the paint on the shelves wasn’t in fantastic condition (nor were the insides of my kitchen drawers). Obviously that’s not a concern in newer places.

    • Before you move ANYTHING into the apartment, take pictures of everything. Photo document the condition of the floors, walls, fixtures, etc. When you fill out your damage report to give to the landlord, give him/her copies of the photos. I cannot stress enough how much easier my life has been trying to get back my security deposit when I can point out that the damages was already there.

    • Moving Tips :

      Thank you all! I am working on the utilitites (slow communications with future roommates combined with busy life otherwise), but they should be set (or at least the important ones – worst case, internet and tv take a few extra days). I was planning on the quick kit so I could last a few days, but a) probably would have forgotten my toothbrush and b) hadn’t even thought of bandaids, etc.

      FYI, I was looking at moving in tips. I’m working on condensing everything for moving out soon… It isn’t a huge deal if it isn’t done precisely, though.

      • A great, inexpensive way to move all of your hanging clothes (and this works best if you are moving locally) is to take a garbage bag, snip a little slip at the bottom seam of the bag, and slip the bag over a big chunk of hanging clothes so just the hanger tops show, a la a dry cleaning bag. Then, you can tie up the bottom of the bag, throw it over your arm, and when you arrive at your new house, simply hang the clothes up and rip the bag off, just like you would dry cleaning!

  13. YES on documenting through email. First to CYA. Second if she’s one of those people who say they want X when they’re really thinking X+1, or even Y, then you have it in writing. Writing it down also helps to clarify where there are any holes in the information and ask her to fill them in. E.g., you realize you aren’t sure whether you’re supposed to do a write up of the meeting in a formal memo or a bullet point email. If she’s thinking memo and you give her email, she might not be self-aware enough to realize that it was an honest miscommunication. As for HR, I think you said you’re at a law firm. Law firms are run by lawyers — partners, in fact. The partners in charge can barely bring themselves to care about associates (even newly minted partners are hardly worth the effort). They really, really do not care about legal assistants. I would not bother HR with this if this is a big firm. (If it’s a small one, that’s different, but small firms rarely have formal mentoring programs so I’m guessing this is a big one.) Do your work well and look for a way out — either to a new department (if you see a young associate in another group working late, ask if you can do anything to help), or to a new firm.

  14. This is great advice, Kat!

  15. anonymous the 15th :

    I had one of those during a summer at a very prestigious, large law firm. The associate assigned as my “buddy,” or whatever they called it, did not do one single thing with me. She was always busy.

    I found other people.

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