Open Thread

We recently moved our network onto a new server, so there have been a few glitches. If you click to the see additional posts on the second page, for example, sometimes it’ll skip all of this week’s posts and revert to July 2. Our network’s tech person is currently investigating, and this will all be sorted out soon. But I have rounded up some of our features this week here in case you’ve missed them:

An American Expat Discusses the Cost of Living Abroad

That Weird Moment When Your Boss Googles You

Considering the Lower-Ranked Law Schools, and Graduating Debt-Free

She Pays the Bills, And He Works on His Art

The Anxiety We Feel When a Family Member Becomes Unemployed

What Kids Want

Career Advice from a Tarot Card Reader

Logan on Lifestyle Creep

A Married Couple Argues About Tipping

House Hunting in Oakland, Calif.

Photo: Moyan Brenn

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26 Comments / Post A Comment

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

Guys! Help!

I’m going to a wedding party for my boss who just got married. He’s in his fifties as is she. I have been to their house and it is a) immaculate and b) fantastically and precisely done, so no original art pieces from the farmer’s market for them. They’re both well established, rich, and obviously don’t need a blender or whatever. He’s also super nice and not throwing the party, so there was no info on gifts (or lack thereof) on the invitation.

I was thinking a fantastic bottle of champagne but he doesn’t enjoy booze (or chocolate!). I haven’t met her.

Budget under $50. Any ideas? Also the party is tomorrow so it should be something I can likely buy in a store…

Mike Dang (#2)

@LookUponMyWorks The person who has everything always needs to eat, is what I think. A $50 gift certificate to a nice restaurant, maybe? If he has an assistant, the assistant may know which restaurant to choose.

@LookUponMyWorks How about a gift basket? Like go to Whole Foods or something and pick out some nice looking crackers, spreads, olive oil, etc. and pop it in a basket with a bow/that shredded paper padding. The best part is that it can cost you however much you want, they won’t know.

Or, if you know a charity they like you could donate to that (maybe kind of weird for a wedding gift, but hey).I did Kiva.org for a friend who is very generous, so I knew she would enjoy giving the money again and again to people in need.

I also recently got my mom (a major foodie) a giftcard to GoldBely, which delivers specialty foods from all over the country. Coincidentally the lowest amount you can gift is $50!

That’s about all I got for quick ideas. Hope you find something perfect!

@LookUponMyWorks A gift for a boss, that’s tricky! In my office, they’re not allowed at all for ethics reasons.

I think if you’re going to give a gift, consumable is definitely the way to go. What does he like to eat? Get a fancy version of that.

I’d actually stay away from gift certificates, though– too close to real money. But that might be my office’s annual ethics training talking– if it’s acceptable in your office, then it’s probably the easiest. A gift certificate to your nearest regional theatre/fancy music venue might be nice in that case.

EM (#1,012)

@LookUponMyWorks Do you have a farmer’s market nearby? Go there and you will practically trip over all the local artisinal cheeses/ oils/ vinegars/ soaps/ crafts.

minijen (#656)

@Mike Dang – Yes to the GC, but perhaps something with a little more style? One of my favorite gifts to give (and for others to get) is a combo dinner & a movie GC package. For a young new couple it could be a cookbook for 2 and 6 months of Netflix. For an older couple, like you describe, I’d get them tickets to the local independent movie theater/restaurant. I know not every place is lucky enough to have a fine dining theater, but you could still do something. A romantic picnic basket for 2, with a DVD?

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

@all, great minds think alike! A food gift basket has actually been on my mind, but the boss man is not into food. At all. He is a true ascetic. Pfffffttttt.

I guess his new wife might be into food? And she could eat all the deliciousness?

lizard (#2,615)

@LookUponMyWorks ugh hes not into food or booze? if the fancy gift basket is there in his kitchen, he will eat it. he’ll see it sitting on the counter when he goes to get some water before bed and he’ll crack into that bad boy, trust me.

coastalelite (#2,528)

So I’ve decided that I want to work as a paralegal, specifically in immigration law, and I’m trying to figure out whether I need to get a paralegal certificate or not. My only relevant experience is a summer internship at a law firm four years ago, and it was a pretty small office that didn’t handle any immigration cases, so I’m thinking that it would help to get the certificate, but I’m really wary of taking on any more student loan debt…even if at this point another $5k is just a drop in the bucket. Any thoughts?

EM (#1,012)

@coastalelite When you look at job postings for paralegals is it always listed as a pre-req? Also you could enrol in a program and then start applying for jobs with it listed it on your resume with the expected completion date– that way hopefully you would be getting money/experience while earning it.

wrappedupinbooks (#1,426)

@coastalelite don’t bother. I got my paralegal job applying via my university’s job search service right after graduating from undergrad. Lots of firms like to hire people without much experience, since they can train you from scratch to do things their way, and will take a BA as basically an indicator that you have a brain and can learn. (From your comment about more student loan debt I assume you have some kind of degree.) My friend who works as a paralegal at an immigration law firm in DC got her job around the same time, but went through a recruiter. FWIW we both have BA’s in English. I would try pursuing a job with your current credentials before signing up for a program– if it doesn’t work out you can still do it later.

Edit to add: you don’t need to have any special qualifications to work with a recruiter. You just give them your resume, talk a little about what type of work you want, and they’ll match you with employers looking for people like you.

minijen (#656)

@wrappedupinbooks – I’m a paralegal without a certificate, as well, but I know that in some states, it actually required (CA comes to mind). It depends on what you want to do. My office has a unique setup, and we paralegals mostly handle big data, document management, productions, etc. (also the resident IT person, but that’s another story) The associates do the typical paralegal work with pleadings, research and drafting narratives. The assistants book travel and do billing. It’s weird.

wrappedupinbooks (#1,426)

@minijen that is odd. I do a little bit of that type of work, but usually kind of supervising the office staff (which makes me sort of uncomfortable sometimes, because everyone is older than me and has been at the firm for years and years). My office is medium-small (28 attorneys, 4 paralegals), so sometimes I end up doing borderline law clerk/jr associate work. But that’s really only because I work on a very specific type of litigation for the same huge client basically every day. (Collections for union trust funds–it’s suuuuper dry.) But they pay decent, my hours are manageable, and its GREAT experience. Overall very happy with my job. I might go to law schoole eventually, but it hardly seems worth it sometimes.

Our assistants do that type of stuff too, plus ECF, and some data entry. They also do the formatting on briefs etc.

wrappedupinbooks (#1,426)

@wrappedupinbooks like today I am writing an outline for a deposition for one of the more complicated cases I have right now, and it was interesting at first, but right now I’d rather throw myself out the window than continue into the 10th hour of this.

edited to add: this is not a suicide threat, simply an example of the dramatic complaining one typically encounters in a law office

coastalelite (#2,528)

@wrappedupinbooks this is seriously so helpful! I didn’t realize that working with a recruiter was an option if you didn’t already have a “career” in place but that seems a lot more promising than blindly applying for job postings on the internet. Thanks!

muffintoplowfat (#1,667)

I put in notice at my current job and originally told them that I would stay on till the end of the month. Since then, it’s been impossible for me to get things done. I’ve hated this job for a while and its not really a good fit for me. I would like to leave much sooner than the end of the month, but I feel guilty for staying and going. I feel guilty about taking my organization’s money (a non-profit working with at-risk boys) for what I believe is sub-par work, but on the other hand the stress from the work has caused my health to suffer and I just want to be done with what has been the worst job I’ve ever had. I think just saying that I will complete all of my projects by the end of next week but can take on no extra work, is fair. Would that be unprofessional?

aetataureate (#1,310)

@muffintoplowfat I think amending your notice is unprofessional across the board.

@muffintoplowfat You should stay on until you said you would. No matter how bad the job was/is, you want to leave on a good note and going back on what you already agreed wouldn’t be in that spirit. Try to get through the last few weeks! Maybe try to focus on projects that have elements you DO care about, or maybe work on what you’ll say in your exit interview that can provide valuable info for the org. A report of what they can improve upon and why they should could be very useful.

Guys, I have a career-related question. In my current job, I’ve sort of fallen into doing some basic web design/programming/database stuff/etc., because I apparently have a natural aptitude for it, and I’m friends with our very patient IT guy who teaches me stuff. And I really like it! But I have no formal training at all, and I’m frankly not interested in getting any – I just finished an unrelated masters’ degree, and the thought of going to (and paying for) more classes is not at all appealing right now.

So: do y’all have any suggestions as to how to build skills in this area that don’t involve going to school again but will still look respectable in a resume? Or do I just need to wait until I forget how tired I am of school, and go back again, some more?

@SarcasticFringehead I think you are on the right track — some of the other employees at my work are basically doing this, and I’m happy to help them out (partly because it means less work for me down the road). Depending on your learning style, books might be helpful, but really the best way is just trying to do stuff and googling when it doesn’t work. W3schools and Stack Overflow are your friend. Don’t get frustrated when you learn how to do something and it doesn’t work in a particular situation — there are always exceptions, quirks, and bugs to deal with (e.g. aligning things vertically in CSS). Volunteer for projects that require you to do this stuff and then work on figuring it out.

Also, if your employer will pay for it and allow you the time off, there are lots of one and two-day training courses that can be helpful.

Anyway, unless you are planning on applying for a hard-core developer or engineering job in the future, you don’t really need “formal” certification of these skills, just note them on your resume. I can assure you that they are a huge asset even in seemingly unrelated positions (whenever we are hiring new people I pester the hiring managers about whether their candidates know this stuff, because we don’t have full-time IT support and I often have to help when there is a problem with a project’s website).

@stuffisthings Excellent! I love it when my life choices are validated.

bgprincipessa (#699)

@SarcasticFringehead W3schools (as mentioned above) is great! Also try out Codeacademy. Especially if you have been learning things piecemeal, it may be good to go back to basics and make sure you have a good understanding of structure – it can help you to improvise a lot more.

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

@SarcasticFringehead lynda.com!!!

jmdj (#2,994)

Hey, What ever happened with the “Betting on Love and leaving Atlanta” Series? I’d love to hear how that turned out, and where and what they ended up doing.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@jmdj YEAH me too!

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