Listen, I really don't want you guys to feel bad about forgetting my birthday. Just because I'm sitting here writing this column on my birthday, doing my best to preserve the integrity of the American workplace, doesn't mean I expect anything in return.
I mean, it would be ridiculous if any of you sent gifts or large amounts of money to: 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chi … never mind.
Let's just move on to your questions and put all this birthday ugliness behind us:
Q: Would you please describe the legal definition of salaried versus hourly employees? I am retired, but a friend is working for a small non-profit that will not pay overtime or give comp time, yet requires all employees be "docked" for personal time off.
A: I thought I knew the answer to this question off the top of my head, but as it turns out, I'm not really all that smart. (You were right, Ms. Collins from 3rd grade. Stop gloating.)
It turns out that when it comes to being paid overtime or given time off in return for extra hours worked, whether you're a salaried or hourly employee is only part of the equation.
Joel Rice, an employment law expert at Fisher & Phillips in Chicago, explained that everyone — salaried or hourly — is entitled to overtime pay unless they fall under certain exemptions.
"When you say salaried or hourly, it's a little bit of a misnomer," Rice said. "Unless you're exempt, it's assumed you're covered by the federal and state wage and hour laws."
The exemptions include one for executives — people who supervise employees, give them reviews and have the power to hire or fire. There are administrative exemptions that apply to people who have jobs in which they exercise a good deal of discretion and can effect matters of company policy — a human resources manager, for example.
The exemption can also apply to certain professionals, such as lawyers, doctors and accountants, as well as to creative professionals, such as artists and writers. (I'm assuming world-renowned workplace-advice columnists are not exempt and I am owed a great deal of overtime money.)
Rice said the laws get rather technical and are often misunderstood, by employers and employees.
"I would say as often as not that there are employers that simply don't understand the rules and misapply them," he said. "It's easy to get these things wrong."
A good source of information on this is the U.S. Department of Labor's Website, which has a Wage and Hours Division at http://www.dol.gov/whd/.
Q: I've been seeing many business cards and LinkedIn profiles listing "MBA" after a person's name. Is this appropriate? I thought that was reserved for those with specific certifications or J.D.s and Ph.D.s.
A: For quite a while, all my business cards read: "Rex Huppke — Super Genius." Apparently some people found that a little intimidating, so I changed it to: "Rex Huppke — Professor of Awesome."
I don't have many friends.
Anyway, to your point, there are varying opinions on whether post-nominal titles belong on a business card. Some career experts take the "if you've got it, flaunt it" approach and encourage people to highlight anything that might impress.
Others have a more strategic view, one that I believe makes the most sense.
What's important here is context.
"You should put MBA on your card if it's going to impress people that want to see that on your business card," said Corey Harlock, a job-search expert from Calgary, Alberta, who created what he calls the Fearless Job Seeker System. "But if the job you're seeking doesn't require an MBA or if the people you're around won't care about it, don't put it anywhere. Don't even breathe it."
The point is that we tend to overload our business cards and resumes with achievements that aren't relevant to our career goals.
"Somewhere along the line it became common practice to put everything we've ever done on a resume," Harlock said. "The only thing that should go on a resume is a thing that the hiring manager is looking for. Being overqualified is as effective a way to get eliminated as being underqualified."
This applies equally to job seekers and people with jobs. If you're in sales and you happen to have a Ph.D. in an unrelated field, nobody needs to see that on your business card. Maybe the occasional person will be impressed, but more likely people will find it pretentious and, worse, confusing.
Harlock suggests having two sets of business cards — one with the title and one without. If you're networking and you come across someone who would be impressed by the title, give him that one. Otherwise use the others.
Norine Dagliano, a Maryland-based job-search strategist, said she often works with people who have obtained advanced degrees without first carefully considering how the degrees fit into their career paths.
"What I'm finding quite frequently is individuals who were not having any success finding employment, so they decided something like an MBA might just be the ticket," Dagliano said. "So they get one and then I get them on the phone and I ask what kind of work they're looking for and they say, 'Well, I'm kind of open.' How can you be open? So they were having trouble finding a job because they were clueless about how to look for work and now they have this MBA and they're still pretty clueless about how to look for work."
The bottom line, she said, is to figure out the point of your post-nominal title and whether it's relevant to what you do or want to do. "If you have a clear career goal in mind and you've found that the MBA is what's going to open the door, then get the MBA and by all means shout it from the rooftops. Slap it on the top of the resume, put it on the business card."
But if it's not on point, tuck the title in your pocket. You don't need a boastful business card to impress.