Dear Mary

Dear Mary: Can I run out on an apprenticeship for my dream interview?

Plus: Emails and thank-you letters, and a tactful way to make guests take off muddy boots

11 October 2014

9:00 AM

11 October 2014

9:00 AM

Q. I have been trying to get an apprenticeship in fashion for over a year without success. I just had a day-long interview where I had to sew and cut and was employed on the spot. My problem is that a few hours later, I got the call to come in to be interviewed by a designer who has been my fashion idol since I was 15. He would be much cooler to work for. He may not offer me a job but it seems like a chance of a lifetime. How should I play this, Mary?
—Name and address withheld

A. Honour is all. ‘Employed on the spot’ means that you accepted. Start the apprenticeship but still turn up for the interview with your idol, explaining as you walk in that, although you are sadly no longer available, you wanted to tell him this in person as you are such an admirer. You shouldn’t miss out on the chance to meet him and show you know his work because, as in speed-dating, it only takes about three minutes to know if the chemistry is right between employer and employee. Such a meeting means he will be much more receptive should anything change and you apply to him again a few years down the line.

Q. After going out for lunch or dinner with an old friend, there is always so much to follow up on that an email exchange swiftly ensues. If the friend has paid, it is natural that my email should include thanks for their generosity. This means that the subsequent thank-you letter loses its punch, and yet it would be wrong not to write one. How can I cover both needs without appearing to be overdoing it?
—S.C.S., Hong Kong

A. Enclose something with your handwritten letter — for example, a photograph or newspaper cutting which cannot be satisfactorily emailed. In this way you will seem less hidebound by protocol.

Q. An expensive decorator has transformed our house in the country. My wife and I are proud of how pristine everything is but we have pale new carpets upstairs and pale new limestone tiles downstairs, over which we can envisage some of our more slobbish friends tramping happily still wearing outdoor boots. How can we stop this tactfully without seeming prissy or spoiling the weekend atmosphere?
—Name and address withheld

A. Assign cloakroom ‘pegs’ as at school with the guests’ names writ large on sticky labels. As the guests arrive, stand next to the pegs for a good few moments talking about school and the taking off of muddy boots and leaving them below said pegs until it sinks in. Supervise them taking off their boots for the first time, then immediately praise them and reward them with refreshments. Even a slob by nature will be unable to resist the retro thrill of revisiting schoolboy life. Issue disposable slippers from Muji if necessary.

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Show comments
  • Really, if she gets a better offer from her hero, your correspondent should simply honour the terms of whatever agreement she has signed. She doesn’t have any obligation beyond that – and if her current employer decided to cut back on staff, the wouldn’t be under any obligation beyond what they’d agreed in writing.

    This is particularly relevant if she’s just started her apprenticeship, as it’s likely that both parties are in that trial period which any employment relationship starts with (1 month or 3 months).

  • SimonToo

    “Our house in the country”. What on earth do you want with one of those if that’s the way you want it decorated ? Would not a little place in suburbia suit you better ?