Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.
By Alison Green / Ask a Manager
December 23, 2015

Q: Will self-harm scars keep me from moving into a management role? I have some very noticeable self-harm scars on my left arm. They cover my whole forearm (all the way around – I’m pretty thorough) and it’s very obvious what they are to anyone who isn’t exceedingly naive. My “issues” are in the past and I have no problem talking about the scars/self-harm if anyone asks.

With that being said, I struggle a lot with work. I’m very conscious of the uniform of places I apply to and avoid anything that doesn’t have a long-sleeve option. This is particularly uncomfortable in summer as where I live is often 45C/113F. I frequently get “aren’t you hot??” comments, which I usually laugh off and make some reference to excessive air-conditioning or getting sunburned easily.

I have aspirations of being in management and I feel that if I show my scars, people will doubt my ability to be a manager. Self-harm is generally associated with emotional instability, so I fear they’ll think I’m unable to handle the stress of being a manager and that I’ll spiral into a breakdown. In reality, my reason for self-harming wasn’t stress related. I’ve actually always handled stress very well.

I was wondering how you would perceive an employee with extensive self-harm scars? Would you doubt their ability? Would they have to work harder than someone else to gain a promotion? I’m also concerned how coworkers would react. I’ve had mixed reactions from people in the past (mostly positive or neutral, but a couple negative) and I don’t want to make work uncomfortable for anyone (including myself). Could you imagine this being a significant problem?

A: If they were fresh scars, indicating that it was ongoing, I think that would be on people’s minds, and their concern for you would probably get in the way of being able to see you in a management role. But they’re older scars, so I really wouldn’t worry about it too much. We all have scars from past behavior; yours just happen to be visible.

Given that they’re old, the thing that will have the most impact on people’s impression of you is how you operate now. If you come across as emotionally stable and good at what you do, and as a reasonably cheerful and pleasant person, I think your scars will quickly fade into the background in people’s minds. (And in a way, they come with the advantage of signaling to people, “I’m human and I’m probably not going to give you crap when you’re going through short-term difficulties of your own.”)

Q: Can I ask about salary in informational interviews? I am in the process of setting up a number of informational interviews. These are true informational interviews in that I am not attempting to use them as a back door to getting a job (or at least not a job with that employer). I am graduating law school and moving to a new state to start practicing, and between the new career and the new geographic location, it’s hard to pin down what to expect (and therefore what to negotiate for) in terms of salaries.

Is it appropriate to ask attorneys about salary in informational interviews? If so, is it appropriate to ask about what that particular firm/office/company generally pays entry-level applicants, or is it only appropriate to ask about generalized salary ranges for the area? I would like to leave these interviews armed with the best info for my job search, but I don’t want to offend or alienate these potentially important contacts.

More From Ask a Manager:

Yes, you can ask about salary! I wouldn’t ask “what do you make?” since most people consider that private, but it’s absolutely appropriate to ask about salary ranges for the work you’re interested in, as well as what salaries at that particular company usually look like for entry-level hires.

These questions are adapted from ones that originally appeared on Ask a Manager. Some have been edited for length.

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