“let me know if any jobs might appeal to me”

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This is an excerpt from a letter I received from a reader recently. Don’t do this!

I especially agree with your advice to students, since I (somewhat) recently graduated myself (’08). I get contacted by a ton of students from my alma mater and I am often discouraged by their lack of awareness about the corporate world. I had a kid call me up and after I spent 30 minutes talking to him about my job/the industry (he had no questions for me or insight into what differentiated my company in the market), he asked ME to monitor the job board at my company and “let him know” if there were “any jobs that might appeal to him.”

I’ve been on the receiving end of this too. It’s bizarre.

{ 51 comments… read them below }

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’m not sure I understand the “HR company” part, but no, this would never be appropriate! It’s one thing to say something like, “I’d really appreciate it if you let me know if you happen to hear of anything that would be a strong match for me.” But asking the OP to monitor a job board that he’s just as capable of monitoring himself? People are responsible for their own job searches.

      (And the whole “might appeal to me” from a recent grad is another issue.)

      1. Original Poster

        I just followed up with a networking contact and was struggling to find the right way to tactfully say “While i’ll be sure to monitor your company’s job board if you could keep your eyes peeled for any positions either at your company or in the industry that I might be qualified for I would love you forever “. Then I remembered this post and used the “I’d really appreciate it…” line word for word. Thanks Allison!

  1. Janice

    Oh, I meant that. Thanks for the clarification. Also, I meant HR company as in a company that specializes in providing recruiting services.

  2. Rana

    I see this frequently in this recent generation of young adults (not all – but enough to make me notice it).

    As a college teacher, I’ve noticed over the last 5 years that there is now often a sizeable percentage of the class who not only don’t search out information on their own (even when it was something as basic as “when is the next paper due”) but become angry if I don’t remind them constantly with emails and in-class announcements (oddly, I thought that’s what the syllabus was for).

    I see this on hobby message boards too; whereas most of the older cohort had the experience of having to look up information independently on our own, a lot of the younger cohort insist that other people explain everything about the hobby to them in their very first post. It’s somewhat off-putting, especially since most of that information is usually just a 5-second FAQ check or Google search away.

    I don’t know what’s encouraging this annoying combination of passivity and entitlement, but I hope it stops soon.

    1. Anonymous

      I also teach at the college level and completely agree with Rana. Not all students are like this, but the cheek of so many is amazing. I do, though, see a marked change in responsibility between my 100 and 300 level students. Still…my favorites tend to be “non-traditionally” aged students, who generally have enough life experience to know better than to expect me to care more about their work than they do.

    2. Anonymous

      As a college instructor myself, I have seen where students cannot pick up a syllabus, but they can email you quicker for the answer.

    3. Dawn

      I am in college right now and I have to agree with Rana. I started school in my 30s and it annoys me to no end to witness the behavior of some of the other students. Professors might as well not even hand out a syllabus, because most students aren’t looking at it. If the professor doesn’t explicitly mention something, then it’s not their fault the assignment wasn’t done. They “didn’t know about it.”

      We recently had to do a 15 minute presentation on a 10-12 page business paper we wrote. Our professor shares a syllabus with another business professor. The syllabus stated that props were necessary for the presentation; however, he wouldn’t require them in this class. He stated this at least seven times over the course of the semester. He said all we need is a PowerPoint file. Want to guess how many people asked other studetns about props *on the night they were to present?*

      School was a great experience, but I’ll be very glad not to have to witness the behavior of other students.

    4. Anonymous

      This is true of a frighteningly large portion of the general population and not just recent grads. So many people just take no interest at all in their own well-being. They just breeze through life and when something bites them in the ass they get indignant because it’s “not fair.”

  3. Nathan A.

    I think bizarre is a bit light – I would’ve gone more along the lines of *lazy*.

    This, coupled with an almost narcissistic view that some graduates have of themselves, concerns me greatly.

  4. Benjamin McCall

    It;s bizarre and extremely annoying!
    It is not anyone else’s job to manage your career. It is that persons job.
    Relying on me to do your job just shows how disconnected and unmotivated you are to do the real work that needs to be done in your job search!

  5. Anonymous

    In my university, it’s not uncommon to ask the one professor to keep an eye out for you. Sometimes, alumni call to say their companies are hiring and would prefer someone from that school. Other times, they just hear through the grapevine. I sometimes get job news from a professor, but I don’t solely rely on him.

    However, the alumni association hosts events for networking. I think that would be the only time for discussions like that, if at all.

  6. EngineerGirl

    I’m wondering if the induhvidual (using Scott Adams terminology here) thinks that they really are “networking”?

  7. Esra

    If you could just find a job I like, submit my resume, and call me when it’s time to interview, that’d be great. Thanks! Bye!

    1. Long Time Admin

      And handle the interview and all the paperwork for me, too. Here’s the stuff for the resume. Just let me know when I start the job.

      1. Phideaux

        Because, surely you’re going to hire. You know, I’m going to graduate soon and this makes me an expert in the field.

  8. 2009 Grad

    As someone in the age bracket you are referencing… I completely agree. It AMAZES me how many of my friends are like this. I find it beyond lazy, and they actually act upset about not getting jobs– however, they never apply to them! They expect jobs to fall into their laps through “daddy’s connections”, etc. The wonderful thing is that I work in HR, and I actually had friends asking me to e-mail me jobs that pertained to their interests when they opened at my company. Um hello– you are the one conducting your job search, not me!!!!

    1. anon

      Really?

      Would it kill you to email one of your so-called “friends” if an interesting job came across your desk?

      I do that for my friends, and I’m not even in HR!

      1. Anonymous

        I didn’t see anywhere in the post that mentioned the person who asked was a close personal friend. Did you not read the part that said “a kid” called him up?
        It’s one thing to ask for a heads up on if he sees know of any job openings within his office but to ask someone to do job searches for him/herself for something that “might” appeal to him is another.

    2. Nathan A.

      In this instance, they should know where 2009 grad works and should be looking at the job boards. That way it makes it easier for 2009 grad to do something about it (if they are qualified). But, then again, AAM wrote about hiring friends…

  9. Henning Makholm

    The “any jobs that might appeal to me” certainly reeks of entitlement issues. But (because however likely, that’s a boring hypothesis) how about we imagine the poor boy has been pumped full of “why do you want to work for XYZ Corp. in particular?” and “you must want this job, not any job” and “never let an employer suspect that your motivation for applying is just that you need an income”. He might get the idea that if he cannot muster genuine enthusiasm for a position, he’ll be out of the running for it anyway — especially if he’s too bad a liar to do the fake enthusiasm that all the dime-a-dozen career advisors insist is necessary .

    So, in some sick, confused way, “jobs that might appeal to me” could be meant as code for “jobs I have a fighting chance of getting”.

    1. Joanna Reichert

      Yeeeaaahhhh . . . . . possibly. I’ll give you a possibly here.

      But as a 27-year old woman who’s been working near non-stop for 11 years, I’ve been able to observe behavior in others from a younger age – and I see a lot that I deem completely unacceptable.

      For instance, in my last retail position, we had walkie-talkies to communicate. They were all set loud and of course when working with customers they would hear the pages too. One day another young woman was chatting back and forth with another employee via the radio – just light banter – and suddenly, loud n’ clear, this young woman starts describing a “funny” situation at the store when she and her boyfriend were shopping for condoms. >8( I could not believe that just happened. There was no radio reply from the manager so I surmised he wasn’t within earshot, and of course sought him later and explained. This was not a bong shop or somewhere that it would have been laughingly brushed off – this was a highly respected store where little old grannies look for gifts for their grandchildren, pastors come in to make purchases for their church, kids are running around, etc. etc. It was crazy.

      This kind of lack of basic common sense is very rampant, and though people always pooh-pooh the next bumper crop of teens/young adults, I must say that I’ve seen a lot of incidents such as this that do not bode well for the future – professionally or otherwise.

  10. Chuck

    Is there no sympathy here for college students? How can we expect them to do their own research when they’re so busy occupying Wall Street?

    This is what we get for giving ribbons and trophies to all those who participate.

    1. Esra

      I don’t see how this would translate into an OW diss. I do agree that participation trophies are the worst.

    2. Jerseyknit

      Yeah, I’d say OWS folks tend to be in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. David Graeber, one of the original organizers, is an anthropologist in his 60s. It takes experience to learn how to organize a successful demonstration, especially one that also maintains a kitchen, library, and technology infrastructure, et al.

      OWS is people who have enough experience with the real world to understand that the real world today is very different from the real world they remember from their childhoods in the 70s and 80s, when the middle class was still alive and well and their parents lived a comfortable existence without being wealthy.

      Fortunately, I came up just before the proliferation of participation trophies. In 5th grade, I got the “most talented” superlative — everyone in class got their own superlative, but clearly some were more superlative than others. Can you imagine a school handing out a “most talented” superlative in elementary school in the age of the internet? That teacher would be pilloried.

  11. KayDay - I hate networking =\

    Since no one else has, I’m going to offer a possible defense of this guy: Maybe he was not a born social butterfly, but he was told how important networking is. Maybe he was told that most jobs come through personal connections, so he must network and meet new people so that his new contacts can connect him to jobs. Maybe he is a little shy, nervous, and/or awkward, so he was afraid of sounding stupid by asking questions (people do judge people who don’t ask quality questions). It’s pretty common to say to a *friend*, “hey, let me know if you hear about any openings at your company,” because as we all have been told, not all jobs are posted online. Unfortunately, he did a really bad job asking this pretty common question to an alum he doesn’t know, so it came across as lazy and narcissistic.

    This guy went about it all wrong….because he doesn’t read AAM. In the future, please direct him (and people like him) to this blog.

    1. Jerseyknit

      I agree, I cringe every time I hear the horrible bs word “networking.” Otherwise known as “making acquaintances to maybe use later for personal gain.” It just feels so wrong to have that mindset.

      But yeah, it’s like, he learned the secret that it takes a personal connection to gain entry, but he doesn’t realize that that means if you don’t actually know someone, you can’t just superficially try to get to know someone so they can get you a job. It’s sad.

      FDR proposed a workers bill of rights, including the tenet that anyone who’s capable of working has the right to a job. It would be interesting to imagine an alternate history where workers rights and civil rights protections in the 40s and 60s extended the the lengths their proponents sought.

      1. Dan

        “…It would be interesting to imagine an alternate history where workers rights and civil rights protections in the 40s and 60s extended the the lengths their proponents sought.”

        Sometimes it seems like we’ve come a long way, and sometimes insights like this make me realize that a lot of our progress has been horizontal.

        Dan

  12. fposte

    I would only read this blog post if AAM emailed me personally to tell me that it was of interest to me.

  13. Anonymous

    Devil’s advocate here, but, consider: How are students expected to have awareness of the corporate world? Where are they expected to be getting this awareness from? As I see it, here are their possible sources for this kind of awareness:

    1. Experience.
    Begging the question of, where are they getting experience from? Current college students are not going to have any, unless they were lucky enough to have someone tell them about the importance of internships and then lucky enough to actually get one. And I think it’s just as likely that this advice is not always provided, or that it’s one small voice in a cacophony of contradictory messages, rather then the presumption that students aren’t listening to it.

    2. Career centers.
    I’m sure that there are good apples and bad apples as far as career centers go, and varying degrees of advisors within each. But, if the OP is receiving calls like this from “a ton of students at their alma mater” I think it’s likely that these students may be doing exactly what their advisors are telling them to be doing to network: Call up alumni from a provided list. Have an informational interview to learn about a profession/field/company you don’t know about. Be kept in mind for any future openings, especially openings which might be only publicized internally.

    3. Someone currently in the corporate world.
    Is the OP responding to these students’ questions with, “you can view our open positions yourself at X”? Is the OP giving feedback afterwards: “[X] looks bad in an informational interview, imagine how bad it’ll look in a real one, instead you should do [Y]”? Or is the OP simply rolling their eyes while insincerely telling the student something like, “I’ll let you know about any such positions”, and then passive-aggressively whining to a blog about how unaware kids are?

    So using a metaphor in the comments: This isn’t necessarily about students who don’t read their syllabus. It could be students who do read their syllabus, but weren’t told that their professor is using an outdated copy from Fall 2007. I really don’t think it’s bizarre.

    (Disclaimer of my own experiences: My college’s career center — which was my only source as a student — emphasized that it was all about networking. My professors’ attitude was “focus on your studies now/worry about your career after you graduate/with a bachelor’s degree and a good GPA you’ll get whatever job you want”. I don’t remember ever hearing AAM’s maxims, such as the importance of a good cover letter; if so, it was drowned out by many of the messages I now know she implores jobseekers to ignore.)

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Absolutely agree that there’s not enough being done to educate students about this kind of thing and that career centers often often outdated or ineffective information, but I think that’s different than the behavior this guy showed — an expectation that someone else would do the work for him. Not being prepared for the conversation and wrapping it up the way he did speaks to fundamental issues of work ethic and initiative (in my opinion), not someone not giving him exactly the right instructions. (Because there are plenty of recent grads out there who ARE getting it right.)

      And it’s really not the OP’s responsibility to set him straight. I hope she did, of course, but let’s not shift the responsibility to her when it doesn’t lie with her. It’s not passive-aggressive for her to have written to me about it; she was sharing a story to illustrate a point.

      1. Anonymous

        Fair enough — and that did come out snarkier than I intended.
        Agreed it’s not the OP’s position to correct the students, but, as someone for who it took too long to discover what I needed to unlearn, I do wish that more people had given me more direct feedback sooner, rather then letting me perpetuate what was counterproductive. (Especially if the OP has a relationship with their school’s alumni house or career center, which I assumed might be a possibility given the type of calls they were receiving.)

        But as for work ethic: Sure, it could be bad work ethic. But there could also be an alternative logical explanation for reported behavior that you called “bizarre”.

        My career center taught that 94% of hires (they loved that statistic) are through networking. Sending in a traditional application was less critical (they strongly implied “futile”, though never said so directly). They emphasized the importance of connections, in particular for listings, which they said were going to be more up-to-date if obtained directly from a contact. Informational interviews are supposed to be done when one doesn’t know anything about a field/company/position; if one knows those things, one should instead ask their contact to interview for a job. The most important thing was building a network, for which they had books of alumni contact information which they instructed students to look through, pick out, and cold-contact.

  14. Morgane

    “Current college students are not going to have any, unless they were lucky enough to have someone tell them about the importance of internships and then lucky enough to actually get one.”

    As a recent college graduate, I do not know anyone in college who at some point did not have an internship or job. There are many companies out there that are happy to have unpaid interns or volunteers. I went to a large state school and the importance of internships was drilled into my head from day one.

    Also, I was never “lucky” enough to get a paid internship but those internships gave me the experience necessary to get a job. Colleges do teach resourcefulness, to those students who bother showing up for class and listening.

    1. Jerseyknit

      I hate the ecosystem of free labor that unpaid internships have created, both for businesses that rely on labor they don’t have to pay for and for students who can only get experience if they have the means to afford giving up a paying job. I worked through college and had paid internships, fortunately, but I graduated in 2004 and know it’s a lot less possible to do that. These companies can afford to pay their interns $10 an hour.

      1. Jess

        Um, maybe they can’t.
        I did four, only one of which actually counted for school, over the course of my four years at university. I learned an incredible amount through them, and in the end the clips I got from them, and the references I got from my supervisors, got me my first jobs out of school.
        None of these companies would have been able to pay me. The best places to learn are often smaller workplaces, because the student then gets the chance to really do things and see how it all works. But those places are NOT going to have the resources, not in this economy, to pay an intern. If they could, why would they bother with an intern? Just hire an employee. For the most part, internships are shorter periods, and the student isn’t bringing that much to the table: I look back at some of the work I thought was so brilliant as a student and cringe. People do it because someone did it for them when they were a student.
        I actually think this whole ‘wah wah wah all interns should be paid wah wah wah’ nonsense falls in line with the entitlement this kid showed. It’s called paying dues: no one is going to make it easy for you, and nor should they. The most competitive industries it seems are also ones that require internships– it separates the wheat from the whiny, entitled chaf who can’t cope.
        AND NO, I don’t mean all the poor kids who can’t afford to go without a paying job. I know loads of people including myself who worked at the same time as interning. Those who are going to make it will find a way– they have the passion and drive to do so. Those who can’t find out they’re not suited for the industry before they waste anyone else’ time.

    2. Anonymous

      “Lucky” may have been a bad choice of words, because I didn’t mean to imply that you didn’t deserve your internships! I was referring to the arbitrariness of receiving that *advice*. I got drilled in the importance of researching & writing a thesis from Day 1. Nothing about internships; and this was what was common at my school. Instead my career center only emphasized networking. I know many who were advised to take on additional credits to graduate a semester early in order to reduce financial debt; I don’t know anyone who was advised to take an extra semester with an unpaid internship as necessary to reduce future debt.

      My point was that advice depends on the advisor. It sounds like your school is doing a good job of advising its students. But it sounds like the OP’s alma mater, like mine, did not.
      A student who doesn’t have work experience may not be the convenient stereotype of lazy and inattentive and entitled.
      But it’s also possible that they were actively and attentively and laboriously following unknowingly bad advice.

  15. Kelly O

    So what you’re telling me is I cannot continue to randomly send messages on LinkedIn telling people to look at my profile and call me when they email my offer letter so I can start negotiating up?

    Dangit.

    /sarcasm

  16. Laurie

    You know, one doesn’t come out of the womb knowing how to genuinely network and/or conduct informational interviews. One learns by saying or doing the wrong things, and having it corrected (as hopefully the OP did).

    If the OP is taking informational interviews, it comes with the territory that someone less experienced might put out a request that the OP thinks is inappropriate, while another person might think of as bold / perfectly reasonable. Some alma mater communities / greek fraternal organizations expect the alumni to be forthcoming in this regard.

    I’ve been contacted a few times for informational interviews, and while none of them asked me to do this, I was only too happy to be of help. I’d rather be the one sending them the email, than receiving a “hey.. anything come up yet?” email every 2 months!

  17. Original Poster

    Honestly I felt for the kid, he was thinking about his future in November and making an effort, which is more than a lot of kids graduating in the spring are doing. So I did correct him …but very gently. I explained:
    A. Before an informational interview you should do your research and know at a minimum: what the company does, what differentiates them from their competitors, and what the person’s department/group does within the comapany.
    B. Asking someone to recommend you for a job is a big deal, especially if they haven’t worked with you before (as they are putting their reputation on the line for you) so it’s best to extablish a relationship first.
    C. That HE should monitor the job boards and if there is position at a company where he has a contact he should phrase it as “I am really interested in positon XYZ, can you tell me more about that group/given my resume and skills do you think I would be a potential fit?”
    D. There is a lot more to networking than asking for a job/tips about the hiring process. For example asking detailed questions about their work (How did you get to this position? How has your role changed over time?), the industry (Where do you see things going in this industry over the next year? What factors are driving business currently? Are there any industry publications I should be following?), and things he could be doing to help him get a job (Would it be possible for me to shadow you for a day or two over my winter break?, Would it be helpful if I took a class in ABC next semester to learn about XYZ?) would all be acceptable things to ask of an alumni contact.

    Since this wasn’t the first call I’ve gotten where the student was unprepared I contacted the director of my schools CDC and expressed my concerns (as well as commended him because lets face it, he has a thankless job). He agreed that this behavior was strange and explained that while all students have access to the schools alumni database very few actually come in for recommended “how to network” coaching session before using it.

    1. Anonymous

      [Anon from 11:55a]
      Now I really feel bad for my earlier touch of snark. Whatever commendation you gave to your school’s director, can I give you it doubled? Not only for directly providing the student feedback, but for alerting your school with your observations. I wish I had encountered an alum like you! Thanks — and thanks for sharing this with Alison & us.

  18. Jeanne

    I got a generic email from someone who got my email from the alumni dept. My friend got the same email. At a time when almost every firm in my field was doing lay-offs, this man emailed us to ask us to help him find a job in that industry. Nothing about his qualifications except the university name. I wrote back and told him that if I knew of any jobs I would help my friends not someone doing a mass email project.

  19. Freida

    I guess I’ve aged out of the “recent grad” bracket (’05), but I think that this sort of behavior was around at the time. I was fine with that, because as someone who (a) has had to work since I was 16 to make money for myself, even when in college, and (b) have an incredibly overdeveloped sense of responsibility and work ethic (I couldn’t understand why my friends thought it was weird that I was working 13 hour days after I gave notice at my last job because I wanted to get as much wrapped up before I left), all of those slackers just make it easier for me to get a job.

    That being said, I am pretty active in my college’s alumni association, particularly by listing my contact info and industry in a database our career center offers to students looking for career advice/networking. I get an email from a student/recent grad every month or two. Some of these students have been really top-notch and I’ve helped a few get internships and/or full time jobs. But I’ve also had contact from people such as the student who asked if I’d look at her resume and give her some feedback, and it was a plain Word document, 12 pt Times New Roman, no formatting at all (and I work in print design/publishing). She listed extensive descriptions of completely unrelated college courses and how she is a concert pianist, but her “job experience” section only listed her job titles and the years she worked there–not even the names of the companies.

    But the best/worst was the guy who started his email with “Hey Frieda,” and the first sentence was “Coincidentally, I’m also looking for a job in your industry.” Coincidentally to what? This was the first contact I’d ever had with this kid. He then asked if I could “find him a job,” and that he thought my industry would be good for him because really he was a writer and he needed a job that wouldn’t take too much time or be too taxing. And to let him know when we have job openings.

  20. Duck across the pond

    I don’t want to sound like I’m making excuses here, but as a young person myself (not a graduate) I’ve worked with people who are 40+ displaying this same sense of “entitlement” that my generation are accused of having. These people were paid more than me and the other young staff, but we heard the refrains of “I don’t want to do that shift” or “I don’t want that responsibility” on an alarmingly regular basis. Basically they wanted higher pay and preferences as to what hours and tasks they did while doing very little work overall-meaning the rest of us picked up the slack.

    I do understand that if you are more experienced and good at your job, you may be paid more or have a higher position than staff who are less experienced. I have no issue with that as in my eyes, working hard to get to where you want to be is something to be aspired to. But surely it is not ok to cherry pick what you do and leave others to pick up after you, no matter how old you are? I’ve had three jobs and what I’ve described above has occured in two of them. Perhaps I have just been unlucky, but I don’t think the “entitlement plague” is confined to the younger generation alone.

    That said, while I was doing voluntary work I did work with a young guy who thought he was “it” because he had just graduated. In for a rude awakening, I think…

    On a final note, I really LOVE this blog. It is great to finally see some straight, no-nonsense advice, rather than the mysterious and convoluted advice I keep getting. Thank you Alison :-)

  21. Jess

    I graduated in 2007, and was a bit baffled by all my friends who were frustrated about not finding any jobs. I had a bunch of offers and they just didn’t seem to understand why. How did I get them? I haunted job boards. I asked around people in the profession I had contact with (on my unpaid internships for which I was deeply, deeply grateful btw) where were the best places to search for jobs in that field. And wouldn’t you know it, they KNEW! I probably applied at 100 jobs the spring before I graduated. Throw enough mud at the wall, some of it is going to stick.

    The ‘networking’ buzz word seems to be a convienent way to avoid, actually, you know, LOOKING for a job and facing all that tedium and rejection along the way. Networking sounds so pleasant, doesn’t it? Most of the networking events I’ve been too have been glorified cocktail receptions where business cards soar through the air like special little useless snowflakes. Nothing ever really seems to come out of them, but people can get a sense they’re doing something, and hey, free wine too!
    That said, I was lucky enough to go to a university that, because of it’s smaller size, is able to maintain this excellent email list of alumni. We’ve got alum going back to the 70s on that thing and I get job posting through there all the time. In fact, my last job was one I got from the listserv, and I replaced myself at the position when I left the same way. To post a job you just send it to the admin who sends it around. It’s a neat solution perhaps more schools should try? Sounds a lot more pleasant for everyone involved than random cold calls.

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