Send questions about the office, money, careers and work-life balance to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name and location, or a request to remain anonymous. Letters may be edited.
Making a Midwest Move
My partner and I are considering a move to Ohio because of the lower cost of living and the opportunity to have a good work-life balance for our midlife while building for our retirement. I dearly love West Coast living, but the high cost makes it difficult. Eventually, we’d like to find local jobs in our professions, but as two butch lesbians, we have concerns about fitting into the office culture in a more conservative area. What is something you would want two midlife lesbians to know about thriving in the beautiful Midwest?
If you so choose, I wish you and your partner the best in your move. I am from Nebraska and live on the West Coast, so I’m fairly well-versed in both places. My best advice is to just be yourselves. It is not your responsibility to contort yourself to fit into a more conservative environment. There are plenty of liberal, open-minded people in the Midwest — just as there are moderate and conservative folks, too. People tend to be nice, albeit somewhat passive aggressive. They pride themselves on this niceness, especially in professional settings. Now, this is a generalization, but on the whole, whether the niceness is genuine or not, people won’t be openly bigoted. They may not socialize with you outside of work, but in the office, they will be cordial. As you try to settle in to your new workplace, do what you can to get to know your co-workers. Maybe bring some homemade baked goods. Everyone loves baked goods. Be curious about the people you work with and try to get to know them. Be open to letting them get to know you. Ask for recommendations for things to do in your new city — people love giving advice. Clearly. It can be hard to acclimate to a new environment, but go into the situation knowing that you are not a problem. You don’t need to explain yourself or to apologize for who you are. But truly, just be yourself. And have a little faith that you will be embraced rather than rejected for all the wonderful things you are.
United for All, Not Just Some
I’m in a teachers’ union at a university in California, and we have been negotiating with the administration for two years to gain job security for lecturers. Currently, there’s an offer on the table I’d really benefit from. And most of us in the union would really benefit from this current contract proposal. However, it doesn’t provide job security for early-career lecturers, so that means the administration can fire people before they benefit from the job security that comes with longer employment. We are preparing to go on strike, and honestly, I’m very nervous. I don’t really want to go on strike in the middle of a budget crisis because I’m worried about my own job security. At the same time, I don’t want to leave the more vulnerable faculty high and dry. Is it worth the risk of my own job to go on strike?
— Anonymous, California
Yes, it is worth going on strike. I understand your concerns about the risk you’re taking, and those feelings are entirely valid. But the whole point of a union is collective bargaining for the benefit of all, not just bargaining for some. If you don’t fight to protect early-career lecturers, what are you even doing? It is imperative for every member of your union to do everything in your power to support the most vulnerable lecturers in your institution. Would you want to be abandoned if you were in their position?
Last Man Standing
I work at a strategy agency that has experienced a significant amount of attrition over the past year. I’ve been here three years and am mostly content. The work continues to be challenging and interesting; I feel fairly compensated and valued; and I feel that an overdue promotion may be happening shortly. Recently, two colleagues at the same level left to go to other agencies, and that has gotten me thinking. Is there something wrong here that I cannot see, or have I just gotten complacent in what I’m doing? Any advice on how to navigate the situation would be greatly appreciated.
— Jon, New York
You haven’t really given me enough information to determine what’s going on at your agency, but I imagine your colleagues are leaving because there’s little room for advancement. In addition to the recent departures of your peers, your promotion is overdue. For many ambitious people, a stagnant professional trajectory is more than enough reason to look for another position. It may well behoove you to see what other opportunities are out there if advancement is important to you. You can also ask your supervisor if there is a timetable for the promotion you’re expecting. The response might help you get clarity on how to proceed.