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I am applying to jobs and I have been using my "volunteer" experience at a university's software development laboratory under the experience section in my resume. I say "volunteer" because it was initially paid, but was later revoked due to university policies that I had to be a matriculated student for that position. I continued to work there for more than a year, and the professor leading the laboratory was happy to have me, paid or otherwise. My experience was half full-time and half part-time, which I basically used to help transition my career and build my skills in this field. I was also included in progress meetings, progress reports, and given access cards, so I felt like part of the team.

Now, I am applying to jobs and I have the experience listed on my resume under "Experience" for the entire time that I was there. I had the professor review my resume and he said it looked good and also offered me a recommendation. I thought the description seemed fine, although I sometimes wonder if I should be more transparent about the fact that I wasn't paid the whole time and it wasn't full-time for the entire year.

I have been networking, and I recently met someone interning at a company where I am interested in applying. I told him that I just finished working as a research assistant, and that I am applying to jobs. He emailed the company with a glowing referral, and also mentioned that I was mentored by the professor, who is rather well-renowned. Unfortunately, I was not mentored by him, as I spent most of my time working with his graduate students and I would meet with him occasionally for advice. Now that the company is interested in interviewing me, should I be concerned about this exaggeration? How can I be open about my position that was half part-time and half full-time? I want to be open with potential employers, but I also don't want to unnecessarily complicate the situation or my candidacy.

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    " I would meet with him occasionally for advice" - that certainly sounds like mentoring to me. – user2813274 Oct 9 '14 at 1:59
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    Mentoring is not about the quantity of the mentoring sessions, but the quality of the mentoring sessions. My best mentors continue to mentor me despite the fact I haven't talked to them for years. Think WWJD just instead of being spiritual advice, it's how to direct workflow or debug an app. – corsiKa Oct 9 '14 at 17:18
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Now that the company is interested in interviewing me, should I be concerned about this exaggeration?

You are probably being overly-concerned here.

Puffery occurs quite often in these sorts of referrals.

If asked about being mentored by this renowned professor, you can simply laugh it off. Say something like "Well, [my reference] might have been exaggerating a little bit. While I did meet with [renowned professor] for advice, and learned a lot from him, much of my time was spent with some of his grad students."

If true, you could talk about what you learned from the advice you received from renowned professor, the value you received, how it has helped you, etc. That still connects you with the renowned professor in a positive way, even if you don't view that as technically "mentoring".

How can I be open about my position that was half part-time and half full-time? I want to be open with potential employers, but I also don't want to unnecessarily complicate the situation or my candidacy.

It may very well not come up. But if asked about the hours you spent at this position, just explain it.

It doesn't look like you are trying to be intentionally misleading in your resume or references. As long as you are honest with your replies to questions during interviews, I wouldn't worry about it so much.

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    Looking back, I don't think I ever had to specify how many hours I worked at a job before. I have had it asked during an interview which just be honest there. As far as mentoring goes, what you described is pretty much mentoring. Mentoring can be someone who stands behind you every step of the way, better mentoring is just pointing you in the right direction and stepping in only when needed. If asked you can say he mostly acted as a sounding board / advisor. – RualStorge Oct 10 '14 at 20:30
  • Well, [my reference] might have been exaggerating a little bit Is it a good idea to contradict your own reference? We had occasional meetings where I would seek his advice is what the OP describes; wouldn't that be a factual and honest enough description of the mentoring process? – rath Sep 16 '16 at 16:08
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Unfortunately, I was not mentored by him, as I spent most of my time working with his graduate students and I would meet with him occasionally for advice.

If you meet with him occasionally for advice, that is considered mentoring.

Just answer questions to the point, don't add any extra information that isn't needed and you'll do fine.

Seriously, don't worry about these type of things...

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The bottom line:

You are not responsible for someone else's affirmations, as long as you don't try to misguide your prospective employer.

You are going to get an interview, and you will be providing them with a CV. As long as you do not missrepresent your activities there (either in the CV or the interview) you should be safe.

If the interviewer asks you what you did, explain it clearly. If the interviewer tells you that you friend made some claims that your CV does not reflect, downplay it as your friend misunderstanding your job or just that it was a misguided attempt at helping you. That should settle the issue. The interviewer will just ignore the input from your friend and will concentrate in what you explain about you.

That said, I do not think the issue of not being paid the whole time is that relevant. That you kept working shows interest from your part, and if they allowed you to keep working there shows that your "employer" found it useful, too. The only issue with not being paid is that it may makedifficult to evaluate your worth (for example, if you were paid US$100K a year, it would mean that your employer expected your work to be worth at least that). But with a description of your responsabilities and acomplishments, the interviewer could get a good idea of how much your work is to him/her.

  • You are not responsible for someone else's affirmations<- To expand on this, I always start an interview by handing them a copy of my resume (make sure to bring extras with you in case there is more then one or two people present) and say, "I apologize if you have heard or seen anything different about me, but this is an accurate representation of my skill set that I am prepared to answer questions about." ( I work for an IT Contractor who pimps me out, and I never know what they will make up about me or put on my resume to get me hired.) – Mark Oct 9 '14 at 18:52
  • +1 for "Not being paid the whole time is not relevant" - your EXPERIENCE is what matters to your new role, not how much you got paid for it. Did you work any less hard when the pay stopped? If not, it's none of their concern. – Jon Story Feb 4 '15 at 13:49
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If you did the work, you did the work- it doesn't matter that you were initially full time and went part-time six months after. Your professor can vouch for the fact that you were there the whole year, and that's what matters.

No, you were not mentored by the big name professor but you were trained by his grad students, who actually may be better acquainted with the specifics than he is. Who the hell knows, you might be able to tell your grandkids that you were trained by this Nobel Prize winner who was a grad student at the time :) I used to know a number of full professors who had a sadistic streak and who seriously sucked at mentoring, so count your blessings :)

When you interview, the only thing that matters is that you convince the interviewer that you can do the job. All other considerations such as whether you worked full-time or part-time or that you got paid or not are extraneous. You are not hired because you worked full time for the professor. You are hired because you convinced the interviewers that you can do the job. So cut off the hand wringing and start the convincing.

  • "You are hired because you convinced the interviewers that you can do the job" - It is also best if you can actually do the job once you get hired also :) – rooby Oct 9 '14 at 2:36
  • @rooby Sometimes, thinking that you can do the job and being actually be able to do it are two different things It's unfortunate but sometimes, the only way to find out is the hard way. – Vietnhi Phuvan Oct 9 '14 at 2:43
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    Yeah I agree, and also jobs are a place for learning as well as doing things you already know. So long as you have enough knowledge to get you started and the ability to learn you should be ok. – rooby Oct 9 '14 at 2:55
  • He was trained by the grad students and mentored by the professor. Both descriptions are accurate. – Jon Story Feb 4 '15 at 13:49

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