my father is frustrated that I don’t have a paying position yet

A reader writes:

I am a twenty-four year old graduate of several different university and college programs. I’ve struggled to figure out what it is want to do as a career, and because of that I’ve spent the last seven years in post-secondary education, completing three different (but all relatively related) programs. I’m finishing up my most recent program, and I’ve decided that this is the one that’s going to stick (finally!).

I’m currently working in my desired field as an unpaid intern a local university, and I love what I’m doing – I’m getting a lot of great experience and my responsibilities are increasing weekly. I am creating a great portfolio of work. Four weeks of internship are required for my program, but I’m just now finishing up my ninth week with this department, as they have told me that they appreciate my work and will let me stay on (unpaid) until I find a job. Because of their budget, they’ve given me an honourarium, but are unable to actually hire me.

My problem is that my dad is driving me nuts about finding a paying position. He claims that potential employers will look down at the unpaid internship that I’m now doing, because it shows that I was not actually “hired” by the company. He has frequently told me that any paid work, regardless of the level of education required for it and the field that it is in, will look better on my résumé than the unpaid but in-my-field internship that I’m doing now. He feels that this organization is “taking advantage” of me by not hiring me on but allowing me to continue interning.

His job is not in human resources or a related field, but because he has been employed with his current organization for almost thirty years and is very well respected, he has been involved in many hiring decisions. I should note that his field is not at all related to what I want to do.

I am almost completely debt-free, and am not paying rent at the moment. I have some savings that can hold me over for probably the next several months. I am searching quite hard for a real job, but am also excited about the opportunity to stay at this internship until I find something else. Like I said, I am building a great portfolio of work.

Will people seeing my résumé look down on the fact that I am interning? I feel that it’s pretty common for new grads to do unpaid work for a bit right now to get experience and references. I don’t want to get into something that requires no education and is not in my field, because I feel like it will close doors for me down the road.

You are almost certainly better off interning in your field than taking an unrelated paying job, particularly if that job is something like retail or food service (which I assume is what your dad is talking about). By interning in your field, you’re building up relevant experience and making relevant contacts.

And I doubt that your organization is taking advantage of you. They’d be taking advantage of you if they would otherwise be hiring for a paid position for the work you’re doing, and if you weren’t getting anything out of the work, but that’s not the case. It sounds like you’re getting plenty out of the work and are glad to be doing it; that’s why you’re staying on after the initial four weeks were over.

However … is it possible that your father is speaking from a place of frustration that you’re 24, have spent the last seven years in school, completed three different programs, and still aren’t making your own money? That’s a luxury that most people don’t have, and if he feels you’re being complacent about it or taking it for granted, well … I’d be impatient with you too.

It might be worth talking to him to see if that’s what’s actually going on.

You can read updates to this post here and here.

{ 267 comments… read them below }

  1. Erica*

    I had a similar conversation with my mother last week, in which she referred to the adult son of a friend who is a freelance writer as “whatever it is he does.”

    I had to explain for the 4500th time that they world is different than the one she remembers, and contractors, consultants and freelance is the new normal *because employers don’t want to pay.* It’s not a Darwinian failure to not have a full-time with benefits job right now and if you do, you’re very, very lucky.

    I’m with your father in expressing frustration that you don’t seem to be making any movement towards independence. perhaps if you offered to pay rent, that might help.

    1. Sarah*

      Why not work the internship part time and get another part-time job so you can move out on your own, pay your own rent, and give your dad a break? It will feel good to stand on your own two feet and also develop valuable experience at the same time. Lots of people work two jobs when they are first starting out, even if one job is a full-time day job.

      1. Liz*

        Lots of people can’t find one part-time job. Lots of people live in cities where two minimum wage jobs won’t cover the average monthly rent.

        I realize you are trying to be helpful, but reading this is in yoday’s economy is incredibly discouraging. Please just assume people are doing their best with the options available to them. The world will e a nicer place, I swear.

        1. Liz*

          Sorry I meant to reply to someone else lower in the thread. The comments today are unusually harsh and lacking in thought. It is surprising.

  2. AD*

    I think the fact that it’s at a university is also relevant. Most universities are now facing unprecedented budget constraints, and if they are able to give her an honorarium at all, she is fairly lucky.

    If it were, by contrast, an F100 or similar organization, I might think “if they liked her, they’d hire her”. While large companies also have budget constraints and red tape, I have seen them do some pretty extreme stuff to make room for someone they really wanted.

  3. Dawn*

    I have an aunt who I love very, very much who bugged me for *YEARS* about “getting a REAL job”. Never-mind that I HAD jobs, ones that I liked! In her mind a REAL job involved a salary and wearing dress suits every day. I really feel that way of thinking is a throwback to the days when you could go to college and practically be handed a job that you started the day after you graduated.

    1. MaryTerry*

      All of us parents did not have jobs handed to us when graduating: there always have been cyclic depressions/recessions. I had to scrounge around to find two minimum wage jobs to pay my bills when I graduated from college and one was… in retail.

      Lived on a bus route, had no car, no medical, walked both ways into the wind, uphill through blizzards, etc. etc.

      But seriously, I don’t know of any time when jobs were practically handed out or graduates had multiple jobs to choose from, thought sometimes in certain industries this was true if you had the right degree.

      1. Natalie*

        Things were certainly not rosy for all previous generations, but they are particularly troubling at this point. Real wages have been declining steadily over the past 40 years, to about 30% less than they were in the 1970s. At the same time, the average student loan debt load has increased quite a bit. And student loans don’t go away until you pay them.

    2. EngineerGirl*

      I am so sick of hearing this. There have been other recessions. When I graduated there was 37% unemployment in our town. I had a job in the hospital cafeteria where I scraped food and vomit off of plates. I had to do it to make my rent. I had to move 3000 miles away from my family to get a full time job.

      The fact is , it has never been easy. Waiting for the perfect will cause you to wait forever. Once you are in your 20s you have an obligation to be an adult. That means paying rent and sometimes taking less than desirable jobs in order to do that.

      1. Liz*

        I have scraped vomit off plates and worse. Your comments are really judgmental and I don’t know what you think will be accomplished by taking that attitude. Recessions have happened before, but real wages are lower and unemployment is higher than at any point in the last sixty ears. If you really think the grads of 1992 faced anything like today’s economy, than that just makes me sad for you. Your judgments are based on bad information. It is just the truth.

      2. JT*

        “There have been other recessions. When I graduated there was 37% unemployment in our town. ”

        I can’t speak to the situation in your town, but nationwide this is the worst recession (in terms of unemployment for young people) in over 60 years. The last two or three years have been harder, overall, than anytime in most of our lifetimes.

      3. Rose*

        Really? I live in a major city and there was a line around the BLOCK to fill out an application to work at Subway the other day. Sandwhich experience required. You can’t get a janitorial job without years of experience.

        It must have been so nice to be able to move across the country and get a full time job. Now, most middle and entry level jobs won’t interview candidates from more than 100 miles away.

        Stop talking about how you had it just as bad. You sound condescending and cranky, and also, HELLO, if we’re going by the numbers, you’re wrong.

    3. KayDay*

      I think what Dawn is saying is that the labor market has significantly changed in the 21st century, and not just due to the recession. There certainly were recessions before, but the big difference now is that the idea of being hired by one company for life is gone. This was true before the recession, and it continues to be true now. This isn’t a terrible thing, it’s much easier to change jobs now and there is much more flexibility for workers. But it does mean that many people’s “real” jobs are as freelancers or as contractors and what was once considered “job-hopping” is now considered “building a career.” A lot of people who are now the parents of 20-somethings expect that their children will graduate from college, get hired by a company that will both pay them and train them at the same time, and continue to promote them for the next 30 years; something that is becoming less and less common each year.

      1. doreen*

        Unless most parents of 20-somethings are significantly older than this one, ( like in their 70s) they know it’s unusual to be hired by a company right out of college and stay there for 30 years. It wasn’t common when I graduated in the ’80s either and the only people I know came close have civil service jobs. But it never would have occurred to me or my friends to depend on someone else financially , attending school and working unpaid internships until 24 while waiting to get a job in our field. We got whatever jobs we could to earn money and continued to look for jobs in our field . Most of us ended up in the field we wanted eventually . Some of us ending up preferring the field we fell into to the one we studied.

        1. Suzanne*

          I got out of school in the early 80’s and my son in 2010. It is a vastly different world now. I sent out resumes and got a job. That simple. He applied for hundreds of jobs before finding one half way across the country. Now, with online everything, it’s a crap shoot whether or not anybody even sees your resume.

          Back in my day, yes, having any job, no matter how menial, on your resume spoke volumes about your work ethic and resiliance. Not so much now. I think many hiring managers would see a retail or housekeeping job and immediately assume there is something wrong with you. If you don’t believe me, look at all the press from the past few years of the resumes of the unemployed being thrown in the trash. It astounds me that with the poor economy, any hiring manager looks down on someone with a gap in their work history, or a few months of a non-professional position, but they do. I think the OP in this case is smart to stay with the unpaid internship in her field and make connections rather than risk some “it just pays the bills” job which some hiring manager will look down his nose at.

  4. Laura*

    Ugh— I was excited to read this post after reading the beginning. I am a recent graduate, and parents these days DO NOT understand the job market. Many of them think its like the old days with jobs handed to you and your choice of offers. They assume their son/daughter is being lazy otherwise. Not all parents, but many of the ones I know.

    So I thought this was going to be great and about that…HOWEVER, to the OP, I sort of agree with your dad. Unless the honorarium comes to at least minimum wage, and even still, you are mooching off his rent/food/budget. You are VERY lucky to have your dad/parents supporting you. This is unheard of for me.

    Now is a job in food/retail better? No, not for your skills. But maybe you can find a paying job that isn’t 100% related but you can still gain skills. For example, if you are a research assistant at a University, you can be a research assistant at a pharmaceutical company or paying non-profit, or even get corporate library experience. It isn’t all the same, but it is paid, and you will learn, and it is related. I don’t know what your field is, but there has to be SOME paid option.

    I know the economy is hard, so it may take a long time to find that paid option. I know if I was lucky to get my parents to agree to your arrangement, they would make me work at McDonalds at night, just to bring in something to contribute.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You know, one excellent option here would be to continue at the internship part-time but take a paying job (any paying job, including retail or food service) for the other part of the time.

      1. KellyK*

        That’s what I was going to suggest too. I’d talk to your dad first to see if the real problem is that you’re living at home rent-free, and if it is, get something part-time to contribute. (And if it’s not, getting something part-time so you can contribute might still be a good idea, just because it’s a good and grown-up thing to do.)

      2. MaryTerry*

        I was going to suggest this. I’d be frustrated with you too. It wasn’t clear if you’re living at home, but if you are and you’re not paying even nominal rent, I hope you’re VERY proactive about supporting the household in other ways.

        1. Anonymous*

          I graduated in a real downturn in the economy, and I stayed at my parents home the first year, rent free. I painted the house, inside and out, did some rewiring, and all the yard and housework. You can “pay” rent in many ways. Just like in the workplace where you find a way to make yourself essential!

      3. Anonymous*

        Yes! Usually unpaid internships are willing to be flexible about allowing interns to work part time, especially if they know that the intern also needs a paid job.

      4. Anth*

        I was going to chip in with that too! Your internship should value you enough to allow you to have clear hours where you can make it to a second job on time. Retail, waiting tables, barista etc…

      5. Ariancita*

        Yep, when I had an unpaid internship in my field, I also took a full-time food service job just to pay rent/bills. I worked HARD (internship from 7-3, job from 4-midnight, never two days off in a row), but it was really worth it. The internship was great and I even liked my food service job (it was low pay but really fun with great co-workers and owners who realized they paid us horribly so made up for it in other ways like unlimited free food).

        1. Anonymous*

          I have unpaid interns I encourage to be with us part-time and work for pay (or in another good internship if they prefer/can afford it) the rest of the time.

      6. AMG*

        That’s what I did. My job at the University was for the experience, and my job waiting tables was to pay my way through college.

        I can assure you that many people today, recent grads and not-so-recent grads understand the realities of the job market more than we care to.

      7. mh_76*

        I agree completely. Even if you decide to work at the internship full-time, you can still look for a part-time customer-facing job. It’s not easy to work f-t then work p-t at night/weekends (I’ve been there), but you’ll get through it. And don’t forget to help around the house…yard work, cooking, get some groceries, walk the dog, do the laundry, clean, etc. To my younger brother (29) who’s been back in the nest for just over a year (currently works for a family friend): go play with the dog, he needs the exercise and so do you. Then cook & serve dinner for the folks …clean…etc.

        There was a day when it was believed that any paying job that offered benefits, literally any job, was better than
        any internship, contract/temp job, retail/foodservice job…but that is not the case anymore. Employers and recuiters have become such literalists about pre-application requirements (the experience section of the listing) that often times, “any job” can professionally hurt more than it helps financially (if it helps at all), even if you’re able to extract some decent bullet points and learn a thing or two.

        As much as retail jobs are trashed, there is a lot to be learned about dealing with people, especially with those customers who are rude and/or demanding. Every job you have, even if it’s a dud or a survival job, presents the opportunity to learn something…whether it be about people, management styles (often bad, esp. in retail), how something works, or even how to count cash accurately (there are a surprising number of people who don’t know how…story below).

        1. mh_76*

          Your dad sounds just like my parents, except that I’m a lot older. Their belief is that unless the job pays and provides benefits (H/D, vaca/sick, IRA, etc) then it is not a job…which is ironic because they’re self employed and pay their own H/D/IRA for themselves and their secretary… According to them, I’ve been unemployed since my most recent job at X Univ. ended a handful of years ago (I did have a “perm” job at one point since but that ended after a few moths…no big loss and I was able to collect unemployment benefits). The truth is that I returned to a retail company that I’d worked for before (diff’t store) to at least have some income / supplement unemp. checks and that I’ve had a number of contract positions since, ranging from 3 days (not on the resume) to 6 months. And I’ve been doing volunteer work (on-resume, mostly nights/weekends ) and playing in one or more (unpaid) music groups (off-res.). And I’ve learned something from each of those jobs, figured out how to describe them well (without lying), helped a number of people in need, been somewhat active in politics, and kept myself sane.

        2. mh_76*

          *A while ago, I was in a [grocery store], the bill came to $120-something, and I handed the cashier a $50 and some $20s. She counted them and said that I owed her $20-something. Baffled look from me. I said that I gave her enough and she re-counted, saying the same thing. I took the cash back from her and counted it myself – FIFTY, 70, 90, 120, 130. Somehow, she managed to correctly count my change.

          1. Anonymous*

            I understood what you meant and am not sure if you can edit posts, but didn’t you mean: FIFTY, 70, 90, _110_, 130?

          2. JLH*

            Sounds like she mistook your fifty for a twenty. People make mistakes–as you proved in your post.

            Why are you bringing it up here?

            1. mh_76*

              I’ve worked at plenty of cash registers and can tell who knows how to count cash (and goofs occasionally) and who doesn’t. That she mis-counted it twice, once -after- I told her that I’d given her enough, tells me that she didn’t have a clue. If she’d counted it correctly the 2nd time and not been a b—- about it, then no problem.
              Why? as a follow-up to a previous comment that got too long.

      8. Karyn*

        And you know what? I worked retail all through college and high school, and it gave me INVALUABLE skills. You will never learn how to deal with frustration and people better than while at a retail job. Even if it’s not “in your field,” it will give you life skills that will apply to MANY jobs.

        1. Vicki*

          I tried retail for one week. The frustration was with the co-workers (who dod not care) not the customers. I have never worked food service. I have NEVER regretted this.

          I have been a programmer/writer for over 25 years. NOTHING in “retail” or “customer-facing” work would have given me skills pertinent to ANY of the jobs I’ve had.

            1. Jamie*

              This. So is learning to show up on schedule, work for a manager you may or may not agree with, and do uninteresting tasks because you’re on the clock. Also, how to get stuff accomplished while working with or in spite of others.

              There are a lot of fundamentals that are universal.

              1. JT*

                The comment about retail experience being valuable is only really relevant if the benefits are somehow things we don’t get in other way.

                For all we know, the OP is getting those same benefits, and more, at his internship.

            2. Nichole*

              Another agree. I graduated college with zero work experience, so I worked in retail until and after I found more “professional” part time jobs. Being able to demonstrate workforce skills plus my degree was what helped me to eventually stairstep into my (awesome) current job full time. The degree gave me the polish and specialized knowledge to get in the door, but the work experience showed that I could function as an employee and actually deal with real people. The combination is crucial. Approach every job like it has something to teach you.

              1. mh_76*

                I had just typed out another “agree” when my computer protested…argh! Short version is that, as has been said in various other parts of this post (including above), every job can be a learning opportunity even if what you learn isn’t good, every job should be described in the best way that you can think of (it is ok to ask colleagues & even a boss how to describe the job, esp. if they know that you’re looking)…and…at this point, everything that I can think of to say has been said somewhere in this post…I think…

          1. mh_76*

            It stinks that you had such a bad experience! I had a bad time in one place that I worked (bad management, widget-focus eclipsed customer focus, mostly lame colleagues) but another place was decent – smart colleagues (one is still a close friend), some good managers (some bad), and more of a customer focus (ok, some widget but I mostly ignored that part…content customers will buy widgets eventually and will tell others if their experience is bad). I guess that it really depends where you work and who you work with/for and what the priorities are. I’ve been in other jobs (non-retail) where the “colleagues” didn’t care and it is indeed frustrating!

            One question: when you program/write, do you do it for yourself only or for other stakeholders? If for yourself, then I admire your dedication but if for other stakeholders then those stakeholders are your / your company’s clients / customers, regardless of whether they’re internal (intra-unit/company/etc), external, indirect …

    2. OP*

      Thanks for your comments.

      I’m actually not living with my parents – my rent-free situation is a bit different, but I’m paying utilities, internet, etc, as well as buying my own groceries, paying for transportation, etc.

      My honourarium is less than minimum wage, but as I mentioned, I have some savings from working in undergrad/summers, etc, and am supporting myself.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Wow — we all read things into your letter that weren’t actually there! But it sparked a really interesting discussion nonetheless — just one perhaps not too helpful for your situation!

      2. KellyK*

        Okay, so if you don’t need to work part-time to support yourself, then there’s no point in adding retail or food service to your life. Though I would look really carefully at how long your savings are going to hold out and have a back-up plan for income if you can’t find a paying job in your field by then. Either a date at which you plan to start looking for part-time retail work or some minor supplemental income like babysitting. (It’s kind of a tough balance because every hour you spend flipping burgers is an hour you’re not devoting to your job hunt.)

        I would just explain to your dad that you’re making ends meet financially and while you have the opportunity to build skills in your field with the unpaid internship, you’re going to do it. If you had some other unrelated retail or food-service job, you would probably want to volunteer to build skills in your area. This is better because it actually pays a little and is a structured internship.

      3. Malissa*

        Thanks for clarifying that! If your Dad isn’t supporting you at all then it really is your life to do with as you wish. Just know that he comes from a place of love and concern. Do your best to reassure him you’ve got it under control. Good luck on the job hunt!

    3. JT*

      Laura, your advice is great, but I have to say one thing that may sound obnoxious: if you’ve never heard of a situation where a 24-year old can live/mooch off his family you should broaden your contacts and/or reading. It’s simply not that rare. I don’t know whether it’s possible for just the top 1% or top 10% or top 20% in terms of wealth/income, but there are certainly many people in that situation. Where I live (New York City) I see it all the time.

  5. K.*

    I do think that there’s a generational disconnect here. Gone are the days when you could graduate from college or high school or trade school, go to work, work for that organization for 30 years, and retire. I have a great-uncle who retired at 54 with no financial worries at all – he and my great-aunt are quite comfortable in their early 80s now. Yet I know literally no one who is working for the same company they started at when we graduated from college. It’s a different world. However …

    is it possible that your father is speaking from a place of frustration that you’re 24, have spent the last seven years in school, completed three different programs, and still aren’t making your own money? That’s a luxury that most people don’t have, and if he feels you’re being complacent about it or taking it for granted, well … I’d be impatient with you too.
    Yeah. It’s great that you’re able to do an unpaid internship, but the fact that you are able to do so without (from what I can see) any financial worries is a HUGE luxury. Not wanting to take a job that “requires no education and isn’t in [your] field” sticks in my craw a bit because my MBA and I are working a “survival job” right now (it’s basically the work-study job I had in undergrad, related to my field but well below my education and experience level) – and I’m grateful for it because it keeps me in groceries. If your dad has footed the bill for all three of your programs and still doesn’t see you making your way independently, that probably irks him. Offering to chip in financially somehow – paying rent, paying the electric bill, whatever – might help. And/or, as Alison suggests, do the unpaid internship part-time and take a part-time paycheck job.

    1. EngineerGirl*

      You have the wrong generation. Your great-uncle was my parents generation, not mine. The Boomers and Jonesers did not have that scenario. The Jonesers also graduated in a recession – with higher unemployment rates than now. That is why I’m struggling with “my parents don’t understand”. I think they do, and just aren’t talking about what they went through when they were your age:

      * I had to work my way through school. I had to drop my class load down because working 32 hours a week did not work well with going to school full time in engineering. It took 5-1/2 years to get a 4 year degree. (Yes, it impacted my GPA too)
      * Almost all of my friends had to leave the state to get jobs when they graduated.
      * Our professional saleries were so low that we had to live 3-4 people to a house.
      * Furniture? What furniture? Sleep in a folded up quilt until you could buy a mattress from Sears. Any furniture was purchased used. Most of my original furnature was stuff that was by the side of the road and said “free”

      Look, we get hard.

  6. KayDay*

    These are all great responses. While you are doing the right things to get your career going, and your dad clearly does not understand the labor market in the 21st century, his frustration is also reasonable considering that he has to support his adult child. Absolutely do not give up on the internship. Instead:

    -Try to explain to him that the job market is different: Companies don’t train people anymore; Internships are the new entry-level job; not all companies promote from within; In some fields, it’s more likely that you will be a temp, a contractor, or a freelancer than a real employee.
    -But also demonstrate to him that you are doing real work–tell him about the work you do. Tell him what job leads you are interested in.
    -Support yourself as much as possible. Definitely do not give up the internship. Your dad is dead wrong that an unrelated paid job is better than an unpaid internship. However, it would be great if you could intern part time and work part time (as mentioned above). Also, make sure you are contributing at home. If your dad isn’t worried so much about the money as the “principle of the thing,” make sure that you are doing MORE THAN your share of household chores–clean, cook for your family, do yard work, etc.

    1. Long Time Admin*

      ” If your dad isn’t worried so much about the money as the “principle of the thing,” make sure that you are doing MORE THAN your share of household chores–clean, cook for your family, do yard work, etc.”

      YES!!! You don’t know how much your parents will appreciate your contributions to the household. It’s a way of “paying your dues” and becoming an adult.

  7. Anonymous*

    My wonder is if because of the education she has that she might be too picky on the jobs she considers applying for. I tell my senior interns that you have to start somewhere, even if somewhere is the bottom of the totem pole. In-field internships are great but I’d bet that Dad is ready for you to get a “real job” so you can move out. And just perhaps the multiple different degrees is showing a flightiness. You are lucky that you go to try so many different avenues to find the right area.

    1. Liz T*

      If s/he’s willing to take an unpaid internship, I suspect s/he’s willing to take a low-rung position in his/her field.

    2. OP*

      Thanks for the great comment.

      I’m applying for jobs at a variety of levels, everything from other internships right on up the scale.

      The three programs I did are all related – undergrad in languages focusing on French, a bachelor of education, then a communication/public relations post-grad program at a community college. Many of the jobs that I’m applying for require bilingualism (French and English), and are related to public outreach, education, etc, linking my BEd and the post-grad program.

      I’m also not living with my parents at the moment, and they are not supporting me financially – as I mentioned, I have some savings from working through undergrad and summers – and they have not supported me for some years.

  8. Anonymous*

    As a recent grad, I understand both sides. I’ve had to balance my own frustration with not being able to find a job with my parents’ concern and anxiousness. It can create tension because the stress you feel about it is increased as you feel your parents’ tension. I know your dad means well but you need to explain to him that finding a job is not how he remembers it. I’ve had to explain to my parents that I can’t automatically start at a dream job with a high salary, I have to start at the bottom and pay my dues.

    I think you made a great step in getting this education, deciding what you want to pursue, and getting important experience. Good luck with your job hunt!

  9. jp*

    One thing to keep in mind is that, since your internship is unpaid, you are really in the driver’s seat for how much time you spend on it and what specifically you are doing with that time.

    So make sure you still have time to be doing an effective job search, and make sure your internship hours are truly building your resume with applicable skills and experience. Just being present in the environment is not enough if all you are doing is answering the phone, filing papers, or other busy work interns typically get.

  10. Ellie H.*

    It doesn’t say in the letter that the OP lives at home though. I feel like she would have said it if she did. My assumption was that she lives rent free for some other reason like house sitting. I could be totally wrong though.

    Honestly, I really hate the culture where people consider it morally deficient to live with your parents after graduating from college. In many other parts of the world, it’s totally normal to live as an adult family. You can be “independent” and self-actualized even if you live at home. (I do live in an apartment, pay my own rent and prefer to do so for various reasons, but I don’t look down on those who prefer to live with family.) I find it really depressing the idea that parents would make their children pay rent, even though I know that tons of people do it. When I’ve stayed with my parents for intervals, I contribute to the household by doing chores, household work, and occasionally paying for groceries or whatever (although my mom doesn’t like this and would prefer to pay for all groceries herself). My parents would never in a million years have me pay rent. It seems so cold and transactional. I know this is not really in the scope of this letter or website, but this rhetoric that adult children should be forced to pay rent or kicked out is so depressing and I think it represents a decay of family values and the prioritization of money over warm relations. I know I’m lucky to have a great relationship with my parents, and I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be grateful to be able to rely on family for support – I totally have been. But doing that is in fact the norm in other cultures (and then your parents rely on you when they’re elderly). I recognize and totally accept that other people feel totally differently – this is just my person feeling on the matter.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Absolutely you can be independent if you live at home — if you’re earning your own money. By definition, you’re not independent if you can’t support yourself. It’s not about there being something wrong with living at home; it’s about it being problematic to be a fully-functional adult who lets others support you without contributing something of substantial value in return (such as child-rearing or running the home).

    2. Student*

      Wow, “decay of family values,” eh? I think it’s sad that you put so little value on teaching people how to be responsible. Adults have responsibilities, and the only way to teach that is to give adult children actual household responsibilities.

      I agree with you on the point that an adult who lives with her parents can be “independent and self-actualized.” However, by definition, you can’t really be independent with no source of income. You are fully dependent on someone else to pay for your most basic needs. An adult child who pays some rent, token or not, is more independent and a bigger contribution to the household. An adult child who doesn’t pay rent and has no income stream or stake in the house is extremely dependent.

      There’s a huge difference between opting into a dependent role, such as a housewife, and falling into that role because you can’t get a job. The housewife and her husband are both entering into their roles fully aware of and consenting to that dependence. It’s a conscience choice by both parties, usually with legal protections. When a recent grad lives with parents because she has no income, that takes away much of the voluntary agreement on the part of the parent and there are no legal protections for the child if the parent is unhappy with the arrangement.

      An adult child who is both independent and living with a parent should either contribute to the household financially or professionally. Contributing financially is easier, which is why it is popular. Contributing professionally is harder, not suited to everyone’s skill set, and emphatically not fulfilled by doing the basic household chores that need to happen no matter where you live. Buying groceries and doing laundry are not making contributions to your parent’s household- that’s just running fast enough to not fall behind. Contributing to the household can take many forms. For housewives, this often takes the form of raising children; that’s a good major contribution. Major household renovations, significant car maintenance, elder care, or assisting with a family business are good options (but not an exhaustive list). If you aren’t moving the household forward, then you are probably holding it back; facing up to that reality is a major part of adulthood.

      1. Ellie H.*

        “The household” is not a business relationship – you live with your family because you love them and enjoy living as a family. A household isn’t a machine, it’s a place people who enjoy living together live together. You are making it sound like the factory in Metropolis or something with this “running fast enough not to fall behind” and “If you aren’t moving the household forward, then you are probably holding it back.” It’s not that complicated. There are also a million ways to define “independence” besides financially. My point was that defining independence only on a financial basis is one specific cultural value which is not necessarily universal either among families or among different cultures.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s not a business relationship, but neither are other relationships with people live together and each person is expected to contribute (roommates, spouses, etc.). In any case, the father is signaling that he’d like her to get paid work, and if he’s supporting her in full or in part, that’s something she should respect.

        2. EngineerGirl*

          While not a business, it is morally wrong to take away from your parents finances by not contributing to the family. You are an adult. If you want that kind of respect then you should be contributing MORE than you are taking.

        3. KayDay*

          I’m with you–my parents wouldn’t expect me to pay rent if I had to move home, although they would certainly expect me to contribute in other ways. Similarly, when they get old and decrepit, I won’t charge them rent if they need to move in with me.

          We I studied abroad, many people thought that the fact that American children moved away from home after school was a sign that American’s didn’t value family. It was nearly impossible to convince them that American parents actually WANTED their children to move out; so it really is a cultural thing.

          However, in order for this to all work well, there needs to be agreement within the family about what everyone’s roles and responsibilities are. As Alison said (above or below, not sure where this will show up) since the dad here isn’t happy, their arrangement clearly isn’t working well.

          1. Sarah*

            This isn’t about whether it’s right or wrong to live at home. That’s a subjective matter. But it sounds like the dad is upset about it. That is indication that something needs to change.

          2. Jen*

            I’m (Eastern) European and it’s very unusual for young adults to move out before they finish university and find a job (22-23) – if their university is in the same city as their family, of course. Most parents I know (including mine) actively discourage kids from moving out. Empty nest syndrome I guess.

            Having to pay rent to live with your parents seems inconceivable to me. The mentality here is that your parents support you while you’re young and you will support them when they’re old. I don’t completely agree with it, but I think *rent* is absurd. I think young adults living with their parents should contribute somehow (chores, groceries, buying household appliances etc when needed) but rent seems such a cold business arrangement. My parents would flip out if I suggested something like that.

      2. Anon*

        This whole thread has made me feel like an terrible child. I’m 24, graduated in 2010 and have degrees in business from a university here in the US and a university in France. I’ve been temping for a year in the nearest big city, which is an hour from where I live (with my parents). I get paid an okay wage (but my student loans suck up most of my income) and I work on weekends to put gas in my car to drive to the temp job. It sucks, I wish I could contribute financially to my parents, but until I start making more, I’m stuck.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think this is different. You’re working two paying jobs. It’s the difference between letting your parents help you because you’re struggling right now (you), versus what some might see as letting your parents help you in order to avoid make tougher choices (maybe the OP, if indeed her parents are helping her).

        2. fposte*

          And, of course, there are lots of ways to contribute other than the financial–cooking, cleaning, household errands and repairs.

          What can make things difficult is that parents often resist such efforts, but I think (as somebody who failed at this herself and regretted it) they’re actually pretty pleased if you can cunningly override the protests by, say, just turning up with the grocery items without having announced you’re doing the shopping.

          1. MaryTerry*

            Or not treat your household as a free hotel with free food, laundry, cleaning service, internet and telephone, never bothering to spend time with the family or even saying “hello”.

        3. Liz T*

          At my 5th college reunion (two years ago), I was really embarrassed to be living with my parents. Then I found that maybe 25% of my reunion peers were in the same boat. Sometimes it’s the financially responsible decision.

      3. Laura L*

        I think it’s up to each set of parents and children to decide what constitutes “contributing to the household.” It means different things depending on circumstances of the parents and the children.

        1. Tamara*

          This is an important point! It’s great to be a contributing member of the household, but it’s just as important to not step on the parents’ toes. Nearly everyone has certain tasks they prefer to be done certain ways, and if they’re constantly being done “incorrectly” by someone else, it could end up being more of a strain than helpful.

          My mother went through a similar situation back in her youth and did pay rent to her parents. They had a very good household relationship set up, with boundaries that they all agreed on. The nice part of the story is that they saved all of her rent and gave it back to her as a “getting started” gift when she was able to move out. Obviously not everyone can do that, and they were lucky to be able to, but I always thought that was a great way to instill the principle of responsibility even when the financial need wasn’t there.

          1. Laura L*

            Yep. When I was living at home while unemployed (well, partly employed) I did a lot of chores around the house and in the yard. However, my mom always did the grocery shopping on Saturday afternoons. I kept telling her that I could just do it during the week, while my parents were at work, but she has certain things she likes to buy and wouldn’t let me!

            It drove me nuts, particularly because I would often take “lunch” breaks and go to the grocery store and eat the free samples. So, I was there anyway!

    3. Anonymous*

      How long do you want parents to support the child? They’ve done their bit! Unless sick or in a dire situation, the child needs to move on!

    4. Jamie*

      I don’t think there is anything wrong with living at home – and I wouldn’t charge my kids rent either…it’s just not how we do it. But if they are at home after college (and I would be in no hurry for them to leave) I expect them to use the opportunity to set aside money they would otherwise spend on rent and living expenses so they have a nest egg when they start out.

      If they weren’t doing that, yes, I would charge rent so they would get used to the idea of contributing to their own support and put it in an account for them – so if they don’t start building their own nest egg I’ll have to act as landlord and do it for them. But I would be disappointed if it came to this, as I would feel I dropped the responsibility ball somewhere along the way.

      1. Heather*

        My parents actually did both of those things…I lived at home until I was 25, but I always had a full-time job. After I graduated college, they sat me down and explained that they were going to charge me $100 a month for “rent,” which they would put in an account for me to be used for my wedding or buying a house or something similar. I don’t remember if they specifically told me to work on a nest egg but it didn’t really matter since I’ve always been a pack rat and had saved everything I could from my job in college. (They did tell me that I should think about picking a few charities and setting aside some money each month to donate. I’m glad they did that, because it got me in the habit and now it’s just something I’ve always done.)

        On the other hand, I have a friend who is in her early 30s and still lives at home. She now lives in the mother-in-law suite, but still rent-free and all she has to pay is the electric bill. She complains when her father turns the AC up because “I’m paying for the electricity!”

    5. Long Time Admin*

      I graduated from high school 45 years ago this month, and started working full-time after my 2 week “vacation”. My dad (who liked working with numbers) calculated what he and Mother agreed should be my share to contribute to the household. It was actually very low, which I found out when I got my first apartment, and I never resented it or thought my parents were mercenary in any way. When I was growing up, we were not poor, exactly, but there certainly was never any extra money. We all knew it took money to pay the mortgage, buy groceries, keep the electricty and gas turned on, pay the doctor’s bills, etc.

      If you’re living at home, earning money and your parents aren’t asking for rent/room & board, you should at least offer to pay. And do some cooking, cleaning, yard work, or something to make life a little easier for your parents.

      Or is all this too old-fashioned?

      1. Jamie*

        Not old fashioned at all – imo.

        I have two kids in college right now – they go to school locally so still live at home.

        I love having them home and an not so secretly glad they didn’t want to go away yet…but we’re paying for school so since they have no education or living expenses I do expect them to do their share household stuff.

        They are pretty good about it, but I do wish one of them would learn to cook. Maybe this thread will be the impetus I need to take that out of the optional column on the work chart!

        1. Malissa*

          Cooking is one of those life skills they have to learn at some point. ;) Why not use you as the guinea pig?

          1. Jamie*

            You are absolutely right – I just shot off a couple of texts that dinner is on them tonight.

            They are now debating over whether it will be soup and grilled cheese or french toast…because at this point that is their culinary high water marks.

            Look at you guys, affecting changes in my homelife now, too :).

            I’m excited, but I’m cautious enough to make sure I eat lunch …just in case.

            1. Malissa*

              After dinner dust off the cook books. Tell them to be adventurous! Heaven know I served my parents some questionable food back in the day. Now I can cook just about any thing, with out recipes even.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              My mom had a system when my sister and I were growing up: Each member of the family was responsible for making dinner one night each week, one night we ordered pizza, one night we had Chinese, and …. I can’t remember what happened on the seventh night, but it was something. Leftovers, maybe? Anyway, she instituted this system when I was in elementary school, and it really did teach me to cook. My family had to suffer through some questionable meals in the beginning though (one night I made “fried apples and onions” from the Little House on the Prairie Cookbook, and nothing else).

              1. Jamie*

                A LHOP cookbook?! It’s on Amazon and I will have mine ordered before I pull out of the parking lot today!

                Not for the kids, apples and onions sounds really gross, but because I love all things Laura Ingalls Wilder. I am still trying to get my family to vacation at Laurapalooza – but it’s a losing battle.

              2. Dan*

                LOL! I wish my family had done the same. I left home not knowing how to make anything more complicated than a quesadilla (the Mexican equivalent of grilled cheese).

              3. K.*

                My parents did something similar, plus they both worked, so if they were both going to be working late, I was responsible for feeding myself and my brother – and there was no “I left this in the fridge, you just have to heat it up.” I’m a great cook now – and love to do it! And all the men in my family cook – my dad and his late father are the best cooks on either side of my family. My brother’s not half-bad either.

              4. Natalie*

                My mom did something really similar with me and my brother. When we were quite young, she obviously did lots of the actual cooking, but we had to plan the meal and contribute at an age appropriate level. I think it’s a great idea.

                I also enjoyed tormenting my meat-loving brother with vegetarian dinners when I stopped eating meat in high school.

            3. Laura L*

              You should teach them to cook pasta! Simple and delicious.

              (I may be overly attached to pasta, though. Even as an adult, the majority of my dinners involve pasta as the main dish.)

        2. Anonymous*

          I have also raised three children and one is still in college. I love my children more than anything in the world. We did not have a problem with one of ours moving back home for a short while after graduating college. This one has recently got a very good job and moved to their own apartment. I think this father is just concerned. Remember the old saying, give your children roots and wings. I will always be Mom and I will always be there. I do however, want to be sure my children can make the best life for themselves. I want to be sure they can make it when I am not here.

          1. Anonymous*

            We also did not tell this child he had to move out. I loved having him here and he comes over most everyday. He wanted his independence and that comes with being in your 20’s. I still help him with a few things. I am very proud of him and how hard he worked in college and to find a good job after.

            1. JT*

              I lived with my parents while working for awhile after college. Then again after grad school when I had a decent (degree-related) job. The second time paying not insignificant rent. In fact, I wanted to move out but had to delay moving because I couldn’t save enough for a deposit on a place….

          2. Jamie*

            “Remember the old saying, give your children roots and wings.”

            Your whole comment was beautifully put – but the part I quoted above is something I’ve thought about.

            I’m not there yet, as my kids are still in school…but I have a sinking feeling that giving them wings will be a whole lot harder than it was to give them roots.

              1. Jamie*

                Just thinking about it physically tightens my chest. Cave people had it easy…they stayed together as a family unit. This, coupled with a short life span meant they never had to see their babies leave the nest.

                OH – speaking of kids and AAM – my youngest just got his first job! I coached him for his interview with all of Alison’s advice (for entry level) and he was the only applicant who sent a thank you note!

                Yes – the magic question works for all jobs! I kept telling him to ask it, he said he didn’t want to as he felt silly. Then when they asked him if he had any questions it was the only one he could think of…and the hiring manager thought it was a great question!!

                So thanks to Alison one more reader (once removed – most 16 year old boys aren’t AAM readers…yet) has joined the workforce.

                1. Anonymous*

                  I think that is wonderful. One of my children had a job at 16 to help contribute toward his car. This is the OP from Fair Chance a few weeks ago. I think working as a teen gives them such an advantage learning the value of money. In my post above about roots and wings, when the time comes you will just think of them first.

      2. Kelly O*

        It’s not at all too old-fashioned.

        When I divorced, I moved back in with my mom for a few weeks. She didn’t ask for rent, but I did all the cleaning and most of the laundry, as well as helping out with yard work (I grew up on 10 acres, so it’s not a small thing.) When my husband lost his job several years ago, we moved back in to the old place and did a lot of work to get it back in shape so it could be sold. Mom didn’t ask for rent but we took care of all the utilities. It helped us a lot during a time when we really weren’t sure what was going to happen, and I will always be grateful to her for that.

    6. LibKae*

      I think it’s one of those things that has to depend entirely on the individuals involved. I’m living at home with my folks right now after living away for many years. The city in which we live is difficult housing-wise, and since they had space it just made sense. But I had to talk them into letting me pay rent, and I also cook all our meals (I think my mother likes having a live-in chef more than the money, actually :) ). I know others who graduated with me whose parents told them that they were not welcome at home — they loved them, but had no interest in supporting them. It’s easy to see this sort of relationship as a business since money is most certainly going in and coming out, but it’s also a lot more complicated due to the interpersonal relationships involved.

      This is veering way off topic, though :) To slide slightly closer to where all this started, I’d say that IF the OP is living at home rent-free (and I agree that’s a big if, since she never said that was the case, and I didn’t read it like that initially), and IF that’s the basis of her father’s concern (another huge if, since he could just be worrying that she’s losing her chance to take what he sees as the right steps to find a job, which, again is how I read it at first) she should take a look at what she knows of him and her family. Maybe a part-time job outside her field would help if he’s worried about money. Maybe helping out around the house more would help if he’s worried that she’s not doing her part.

      1. Anonymous*

        I’m a 27 year old who’s lived at home with her father for the past six years (since college graduation), despite having a full time, ok-pay job the whole time. My father insisted on my living at home, because he did not want to be in the house alone, and has REFUSED to take rent. And since he was offering a place rent-free, he was also against me getting my own apartment and “wasting” the rent money. I used the savings to pay off my student loans and save up 20% for a down payment on a house – which I’m closing on this month. My father is sad that I’m (finally) moving out, but glad he could help me get ahead, since he wasn’t able to help financially with college. Despite me offering probably hundreds of times over the years, he would only take money for bills when there was a crisis, and since he’s retired, he doesn’t like me taking on household projects, since that’s how he fills his time. I’m saying all this to point out that sometimes adult children live at home because that’s the best arrangement for everyone involved, and might even be preferred by the parent. I think in the OP’s case, her father is questioning her, so she needs to look at supporting herself fully before she gets cut off.

    7. Jaime*

      I think it can be like a business arrangement but doesn’t have to. The point I think is that if you are an able-bodied, able-minded adult then you should do your best not to be a burden on your parents. Whether that means paying rent or doing chores or both, that depends on your family’s unique situation. Also, it is our responsibility as children to sometimes insist when it’s in our parent’s best interests. My parents would welcome me back home if I needed to move back and probably would not charge me a dime. They are in good financial health and would probably bank anything I gave them to give back to me when I moved out, or not, who knows. BUT, some parents want to help so badly that they do things that are detrimental to their children. Just because your parent insists, you should not allow them to let you “take advantage” if they truly can’t afford to do so. You are young(er), able-bodied … even if you’re having a rough time in this economy, you should not allow your parents to jeopardize their own retirement to help you out. And you should make yourself aware, if you don’t already know, of just what their situation is before you allow them to help you with nothing in return. Willful ignorance is still mooching.

  11. Student*

    There are also laws to be concerned about when you do unpaid intern work. Those laws are not actively enforced, but they are there for a good reason, and they are stricter with for-profit work compared to non-profit work. Most universities really shouldn’t be taking non-student unpaid interns under the law (I’m sure there are exceptions, and I have no idea if your work would qualify for those exceptions).

    One thing to ask yourself is, does your employer benefit from whatever work you are doing? If yes, then it might be an illegal internship. Do you have a training/learning plan of some sort? If not, then it might be an illegal internship. Would this work fall to a paid employee if you weren’t doing it? If yes, then it might be an illegal internship. There are 3 other legal criteria, but you appear to satisfy those.

    If you have a legal internship, then it’s probably a good idea to stick with it while you apply for jobs. If it’s an illegal internship, then you risk being viewed as a naive sucker by future employers if they’re familiar with unpaid intern practices, which is what your father is worried about. This depends strongly on your field, your non-profit vs for-profit status, and how long you stay at the internship. You also risk spending time on a dead-end internship instead of applying for jobs and doing activities that might improve your chances of employment – like training yourself in skills used at your prospective job. Again, that depends on what you’re learning in your current job vs. what employers are looking for in a paid employee, and I can’t judge that from what you’ve written.

    There is also an option that would make both you and your father happy. Stay with the internship and also get a part-time paying job. I highly recommend this. Even in jobs that AAM derided here, there are important lessons about the working world to be learned. One of those lessons involves paying your own bills and building your independence. Being more independent can be a big self-esteem booster, which will help you ace interviews and cover letters even though you’ll never talk about it explicitly.

    1. Victoria*

      Most universities are nonprofits, and as such are allowed to take on unpaid interns as volunteers.

      1. Anonymous*

        Not always. It can depend on what department the volunteer is working in. Some universities and departments within universities are unionized and union rules may prevent volunteers. That is the case in my unit.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      What Victoria said about nonprofits. And I’m not deriding any jobs, just acknowledging that food service and retail don’t sound like what she wants to be doing. Undesirable as many people find them, they’re a more dignified option (in my opinion) than not paying your own way.

      1. Anonymous*

        This! I was Hooters waitress for a while. It was like pledging a sorority in your underwear, but I did get to tell someone to ‘Kiss My Hooterriffic A$$’. Dignified, no, but paying all my bills myself certainly was.

  12. your mileage may vary*

    Is it possible that you just like university life? Why not look into staff positions (paid) at the college, even if it’s not quite in the field you’ve chosen? That way, you’d have a paying job and it would be in the environment you’ve been used to for the last seven years. You may find that it isn’t the field/degree you like so well, it’s the college life.

  13. Wilton Businessman*

    An unpaid internship is unequivocally better than a McJob to most employers.

    1. AD*

      I disagree. The difference between someone who has worked an unpaid internship and one who has worked a “McJob” is often a matter of privilege, not merit. I care far more about what someone has done or learned in their position.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It IS often a difference of privilege, but the reality is that the skills from an internship are often more directly transferrable (or at least on the surface). That’s not fair, and there are some people who will see it differently, but it’s generally how employers will see it.

        1. AD*

          Personally, I would take someone with an exceptional track record at a McJob over someone who simply did an internship. However, the entry-level hiring I’ve done is for a large company with a structured training program for new hires. In a smaller office, it is obviously much more important to have skills that let you hit the ground running.

          I realize that a lot of employers would prefer the internship, but I think it is a stretch to say that one is “unequivocally” better than the other.

          1. Wilton Businessman*

            Read the whole thing. “unequivocally better than a McJob to most employers.”

            1. AD*

              At one of the large companies I worked for, this was something specifically mentioned by HR when they coached us prior to on-campus recruiting, because valuing internships over McJobs can run counter to efforts to achieve a diverse workforce.

              At the second large company I worked for, we were wary of anyone who had an internship with a major company and didn’t get hired on full-time (because that’s generally what happens in that industry).

              Obviously, my sample size is small, but someone else mentioned McD’s, UPS, etc. below (and I can think of others off-hand, like Walgreen’s).

              So, I maintain that the impressiveness of an internship depends highly on both industry and company. As I said upthread, I think they are probably more valued by smaller places that need people to be productive on day 1.

          2. photodiplo*

            “Simply did an internship” implies that the intern did less of a job than regular employee. I dare say I’ve done more and higher quality work than at least 10-20% of staff at all of the internships I’ve ever held. Not all interns are created equal; many actually treat it as *work* instead of menial un/low-paid labor.

        2. Anonymous*

          I’d be more concerned about the three programs in that timespan. Professional students can be a bit of a red flag – as well as the comment ” I’m finishing up my most recent program, and I’ve decided that this is the one that’s going to stick (finally!). ” I’d make sure that doesn’t come across as much as possible.

          1. Alice*

            This stuck out to me, too, along with what looks like the gigantic free ride that I thought only happens in the movies. The whole thing makes her look too immature and naive. If she didn’t like a position after being hired, she’ll just quit since she has no monetary worries and the indescisiveness to waste a potential employers time.

          2. Ellie H.*

            Yeah, I agree – I definitely think it would be bad to come across as a professional student, and having been in so many different postgraduate programs seems unusual to me as well.

          3. Jamie*

            This would be my biggest red flag as well. I do agree that an internship in your field can give you more meaningful experience than many McJobs – but quite frankly at a certain point I’m just as, if not more, interested in actual work experience.

            The multiple degrees can indicate professional student and an unpaid internship at school going so long…it’s understood that unpaid interns can have more flexibility (once the requirement has been met) so I’d be concerned about lack of experience in keeping a job with set hours, schedules, and deadlines. Working where they appreciate your work and are grateful that it’s free is a VERY different experience than working a job where you’re expected to show up on time and earn your check.

            Internships can teach you a lot – so can working a real job for a real manager.

          4. Mike C.*

            So you’re going to brand them permanently? The OP is only 24 for goodness sakes! Did you forget to note that the programs were completed?

            “Oh dear, this person is way too educated, RED FLAG!”

            1. Rana*

              Agreed, Mike C. This person has completed two programs and is about to finish a third in six years. That’s a program every two years, and is only two years past the time an ordinary student (who has completed one program) typically graduates.

              I’m having a hard time perceiving this as a “professional student,” honestly. Now, the dude in my graduate program who was in his late thirties and on his third graduate degree and planning for a fourth… that’s what a “professional student” looks like to me.

              That said, it does seem like it’s time for this student to start putting that education to use. My worry about the internship is not that it’s unpaid, or inappropriate, but that this student seems to have spent all their time working for one single institution, either as a student or as an intern. It wouldn’t hurt to get some experience with how other places do things, if only to squelch the all-too-common tendency to universalize the particular weirdnesses of one’s workplace.

              (One small advantage of having moved between many jobs at similar sorts of institutions is that I can recognize when claims that “this is how it’s done in X institutions” are accurate, and when they’re bullshit. I have no problems with employers being idiosyncratic on purpose; I get grouchy when they claim that their particular weird dysfunctions are normal and universal, and thus can’t be fixed or addressed.)

              1. Rana*

                Oof. I just double-checked the letter to make sure my comments were accurate, and it looks like this person is about to complete their fourth program? And in another “related” area?

                That, now, does send up red flags for me. Unless at least half of those programs represent a progression in development (BA/BS, MA/MS, PhD, e.g.), what this looks like is someone who’s either indecisive or timid or both.

                That the programs are in similar fields is particularly worrying, because unless you have a specific career track in mind that requires a particular combination of related fields, there’s little value in doing this. (And the people I know who’ve pulled this off were intensely focused and knew exactly what they wanted, which doesn’t seem to describe the OP.)

                While jumping from wildly different fields (physics to literature, for example) doesn’t look good either, I’d worry about someone who seems unable to recognize that they’ve reached a point where they need to move on and actually do something with the degree, instead of looking around for something else familiar-ish and safe.

                OP, I’d say that it’s about time for you to push beyond your comfort zone. Playing it safe is going to lead to stagnation in the long run, and as a young person with little debt and with a place to stay, you can afford to take the risks you need in order to grow.

                1. Mike C.*

                  First off, it’s not unusual for related fields to share requirements. All the hard sciences require mathematics, and if one is pursuing a particularly math intensive program, then why not take a few more classes and pick up the math degree as well?

                  Secondly, it’s not unusual for someone pursuing a four year degree to have to take five years total. If they were 19 when they entered college (summer birthday, started the next year), that’s age 24 right there. But even the optimum age of 18 and 4 years, we’re talking age 22. For a single BA.

                  But no, this person studied their buns off and in the time it takes many to achieve one degree, this person will have four.

                  WHY IS THIS A BAD THING?!

                  Someone, please explain to me why an employer will look at this person and say, “oh, they’re just a professional student and anything they will have learned in college is worthless to me”. I mean shit, so what if they didn’t know exactly what they wanted to do with their life the moment they entered school? So what? When that job offer comes, a paycheck is a rather strong incentive to stick to that particular field and even then most people take a new job every few years anyway! Are they just indecisive as well? Are they just “professional employees”?

                  It’s one thing if the major was changed every few semesters, but these programs were *completed*. As in done from start to finish. Do employers these days not value someone who is versatile or has a track record of completing a number and variety of long term and complex goals?

                  And since when does having a few degrees go against someone? Are people saying that once you know too much, you’re undesirable as an employee?

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  The worry would be that she’s flighty and that she’ll soon decide that the current track isn’t for her either and leave for something else. I’m absolutely not saying that’s true of this OP — we don’t have enough context to know — but that’s what the worry would be with this kind of thing. An employer can only look at your track record, and if this is the track record (and the recent track record) with nothing else after it, yes, it could be a concern.

                3. Mike C.*

                  Reply to AaM:

                  But these programs were *completed*. They were started and finished. Yes, people change their minds, but this person finished their responsibilities before moving on to something else.

                  Given that employees move from job to job every few years, shouldn’t it comfort an employer to know that when it’s time for the employee to move on that things will be left in a completed state? Or are most employers unwilling to entertain the fact that employees leave?

                4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  If I had to explain, I’d say that it’s probably simply because it’s so at odds with what most people do at with their education and at this stage of life. Because of that, it does come across as potentially flighty. That may be totally wrong and unfair, but I think that’s where it comes from.

                5. Kimberlee*

                  Am I the only one wondering why the OP refers to completing several “programs” but never mentions a degree of any kind? We may be inaccurate if we’re thinking of her as someone with either a BA and a couple masters or multiple BA’s…

                6. MentalEngineer*

                  “Are people saying that once you know too much, you’re undesirable as an employee?”

                  Yes, for plenty of entry-level or low-paying jobs at least. If you’re smart enough to be educationally overqualified, you’re probably going to smart enough to be the person who asks the pesky questions about labor laws and where the paychecks are.

                7. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  To be fair, the concerns about overqualified people are usually that they’ll be bored, leave as soon as something better comes along, etc., not that they’ll assert their rights.

                8. MentalEngineer*

                  “…probably going to *be*…”

                  And yes, color me cynical, but I have a hard time believing that McDonalds wants to hire people who might catch on the the fact that the full-time employees never get more than 36 hours a week over somebody who’ll never figure it out. Not to say that savvy of this kind can be determined by screening education, because it obviously can’t – but it makes a convenient heuristic for the application computer to follow.

                9. MentalEngineer*

                  @AaM: Point taken. I was thinking more of the jobs where it seems implicit that *anyone* who gets a better opportunity is going to leave regardless of education level.

                10. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Most people who work at McDonalds are perfectly capable of figuring that out. Let’s not underestimate and disempower a huge segment of the population.

            2. Jamie*

              I don’t think anyone said anything about permanent branding. We all know that once someone has some work experience it’s weighted more heavily on a resume than education.

              Resumes do more than tell the story of skills and education, though that’s a big part. They also show commitment and real world experience.

              If you need someone with a certain degree, the other ones are often superfluous. More education doesn’t always mean better – and a hiring manager might well opt for someone with the education they need and work experience instead of someone with the degree they need and extra education they deem irrelevant.

              24 is young, but it’s old enough to raise concerns about focus and lack of experience at a real job. I don’t think anyone was being dismissive of education – but trying to point out that if the goal is to get hired that these could be things she will want to address and mitigate for hiring managers.

              1. Mike C.*

                But having completed several degrees at such a young age is a sign of commitment!

                And frankly I don’t know what industry you’re in, but here in the science world, everything you know could come up at work. If you think that knowledge of physics or chemistry isn’t useful in a medical research lab, you’d be sadly mistaken! Throw in a little mathematics and

                So many famous figures in history never stuck to one thing. Ben Franklin was a statesman, publisher, scientist, brewer and musician. Are folks telling me that his body of knowledge is somehow a red flag showing that he couldn’t keep focus?

                The biggest innovations of our time weren’t created by those who make something new, but rather those who are able to take new things and bring them together towards a more useful purpose. One cannot do that successfully without a wide body of knowledge.

                1. Jamie*

                  No one is arguing that knowledge isn’t valuable.

                  But to be frank, most employers aren’t looking to hire the next Ben Franklin. Most employers would be pissed if he was paid to work on bi-focals and was off creating the postal system.

                  For every Ben Franklin, whose name we know hundreds of years later, there are millions of people who lived in that time who went to jobs and supported their families…and their names may be lost to the ages, but they are more typical of most of us than the rare genius.

                  If I understood the letter correctly the OP has a goal of getting paid work in her field. People are just trying to offer some opinions about how her current path may be perceived by those in the position to hire her.

                  Philosophical viewpoints on how education should be viewed are one thing – but most hiring mangers will be looking at a resume through a more practical lens.

                  Knowledge is great – but it’s a lot more powerful when coupled with the real life experience of earning a salary.

                2. Kimberlee*

                  Well, if Ben Franklin comes to my company to apply for an entry-level job, I’ll be sure to give him another look. ;)

                  Seriously, the arguement of “This exceptional person dropped out of college/did lots of different careers/couldn’t even read/whatever so obviously you shouldn’t care about any of those things in candidates” is silly on it’s face. Many people who job hop (like Franklin) turn out to be exceptional. Many don’t. There’s no way of knowing which you have in a 24 year old applicant, all you have is the info you are given, and you have to make assumptions based on that.

                  We can’t hire everyone just because one out of every thousand will end up being the next Ben Franklin.

                3. Rana*

                  But having completed several degrees at such a young age is a sign of commitment!

                  Actually, it’s not, not really.

                  (And I say this as a person who skipped from physics and engineering to literature to history as an undergrad, then went straight into graduate school after college, and who has several degrees herself, has perhaps too many hobbies, and who has mentored many undergraduates, some flighty, some focused.)

                  Several bachelors – if that’s what these are – is not a sign of commitment; continuing further on in a field is (maybe). If you’re gotten your BA in, say, Anthropology, and then go on to get another BA in Sociology, and then another in Communications, and then you’re working on one in History… I’d look at that, and wonder why this person didn’t do anything with any of those degrees. The usual path is to either realize that you’re not interested in Anthropology and transfer into the Sociology program (for example), or to finish the Anthropology degree and move on to the next level. This hopping around from program to program reads as directionless and afraid to commit to a field of study. (And if these are not degrees, but merely completions of concentrations, then this goes double.)

                  Yes, completing a program is a fine thing, but you’d think that after completing a program in a field that proved uninteresting to you, you’d be more cautious about signing up for another round of the same. That the OP has done this not once, but three times is worrying.

                  It is also worth pointing out that at this level, completing programs is a matter of doing the work laid out for you by other people on a schedule. That’s better than not being able to follow directions in a timely fashion, but we don’t know whether this person has done work that shows initiative and creativity, or whether they’re merely good at following directions.

                  Moreover, if these fields are indeed related, it’s likely that they share prerequisites, so once you’ve completely the first one, it’s not like you’re doing an entire four years’ worth of work for the next (this is how many double majors work, for example).

                  There’s a difference between someone who thinks and explores widely and who pulls together fields of knowledge in an interesting and innovative way, and a person who keeps going over variations of the same ground to avoid moving on. There’s also a difference between someone who pursues a deliberate agenda of self-development in order to achieve a specific goal, and someone who drifts from program to program in search of something that clicks.

                  Unfortunately, to me, the OP right now reads as someone who is unsure of what they want to do, who prefers to keep doing familiar tasks in a familiar setting, and is reluctant to either “level up” in at least one of their fields or to genuinely challenge themselves with something new.

                  I would worry less about this person being “flighty” and more about them being unable to cope with a new situation where they’re asked to do something they’ve not done before.

            3. Andrew*


              I am so tired of hearing about red flags. If you compared all the advice out there about what to do / what not to do, it would become clear that everything, including eating, sleeping, and breathing, is a red flag to somebody.

              1. Jamie*

                I understand that looking for work and trying to figure out how to present yourself in the best light to get an interview is frustrating. Every hiring manager was on the other side of the interview table at some point – the good ones remember that.

                However, there is a benefit in dialogue about what the red flags are – because they exist and the more information people have about what may go into the sorting process the better off they will be.

                For the record, when I’ve hired (and I think I can safely speak for all hiring managers when I say this) eating, sleeping, and breathing are perfectly acceptable activities…no red flags there.

      2. K.*

        The difference between someone who has worked an unpaid internship and one who has worked a “McJob” is often a matter of privilege, not merit.
        Truth. This is why I largely oppose unpaid internships, because someone who has to earn money in order to live (which is most people, regardless of age or education) shouldn’t have to miss out on whatever opportunities internships offer – and conversely, I’m certain that companies are missing out on great candidates by not offering financial compensation. (I’m less concerned about the companies though.)

      3. mh_76*

        Rumor has it that McD’s prefers internal candidates to external ones for all of its jobs, even those behind desks vs. counters/fryers. I don’t know if that’s true and they’re not a company of interest for me but… Same is supposedly true for Starbuck’s and UPS on both counts.
        (sorry if this comment is duplicated, my old computer is protesting again)

  14. Anonymous*

    I am in a similar situation. I moved back home due to the lovely economy. I am currently working in retail and doing some volunteer work here and there in order to keep busy and keep my skills sharp while I look for more permanent work. A lot of the jobs that I am looking at require html and other web-program knowledge, that I don’t have. I am thinking about taking some continuing ed classes at my local college this summer.

    How do I communicate this to employers when I apply for jobs? Do I list it as a job on my resume, mentioning that I am taking the classes presently? Or do I just list the programs as skills and risk coming across as I’m not doing anything right now other than working retail? Any suggestions?

    1. Natalie*

      FYI, if money is tight and you are a good self-learner, there are books and free websites you could use to teach yourself HTML. I know a few people who did so during periods of unemployment and it has definitely helped them in their new jobs.

  15. fposte*

    I didn’t hear any mention of active current hunting for jobs–is that because you weren’t focusing on that in the letter or because you’re not focusing that much on it in general? It’s possible that your father is also concerned that you’re using this position is a place to coast more than as a springboard, and that he’s not seeing the job-hunting time that would look serious to him. That’s a topic to tackle on its own, but it’s one that will have particular teeth for him if he’s still covering any of your expenses (wasn’t clear in your letter if he is or not).

    1. Kate*

      I think the OP does mention this: “I am searching quite hard for a real job”, although doesn’t go into details about the job search.

  16. Anonymous*

    People who are young underestimate how much their parents understand. Virtually every industry has a totem pole. You have to start at the bottom in good economies and bad.

    You don’t automatically get to have the same standard of living in your 20s that you had growing up. I didn’t have cable or a completely furnished apartment for most of my 20s. I got over it.

    Your dad has probably poured blood, sweat, and tears into his job at that company, which is HOW he got to climb the ladder and stay for so long. For whatever reason, he doesn’t see you demonstrating that same sort of commitment to whatever it is you’re doing. Assuming your dad doesn’t get it because he is sitting pretty now is really unfair – he wasn’t always in such a great position.

    You need to talk to your dad and really listen to what he tells you – not just what he says, but what he doesn’t say. There’s an art to listening that you cannot master if you think you know more than the person talking with you. I’m sorry, but you’re 24 and you don’t know more than he does. Period.

    1. AP*

      She might not know more than he does about life, but if he thinks corporate / university hiring managers would rather see McDonalds on your resume than an unpaid internship, she does know more than him in this regard.

      My dad was the same way – I had one unpaid internship over a college summer and he flipped. It was the principle – no one he knew when he was younger would consider working for free unless they were chumps, period. Agree with everyone above, a combination part time job and part time internship is the solution here.

      When I hire interns and entry-level employees I actually really do like seeing service jobs and retail, because it shows a history of hard work and having to be on time and deal with rogue people. For an intern thats fine. But for an employee I would expect to see some kind of office history (internship or unrelated but paid), and to be honest I very rarely see any resumes without an internship on them, so it seems like not having one at this point makes you the outlier.

    2. Mike C.*

      Most my age aren’t worried about cable television, they’re worried about paying for student loans or being able to afford healthcare.

      Total luxuries I know, but I guess we’re just entitled or something.

    3. Sarah*

      I totally agree with this. There needs to be less entitlement and more respect going on here.

  17. Malissa*

    As a person who has had not one, but two step-children move back into the house. I have a bit of perspective on this. Thankfully the weren’t both back in at the same time or I may have gone bonkers. If you are an adult child living at home there are things you really should consider. The first on being that personal supplies like soaps, shampoo, conditioner and what not cost money. Also when the bottle is empty it is better to tell some one so that it can be replaced, rather than leaving the empty bottle in the shower. It’s the little things like that, when taken for granted that wear your welcome out quickly.
    If you are going to be an adult child living at home all the parent wants is some indication that sooner or later you will be moving toward self sufficiency. Spending 9 months in an unpaid internship and not even looking for a side job that pays would frustrate even the most generous parents.
    To ease this frustration it is important that you be a contributing member to the household. That said, don’t do chores at which you suck. Hiding your parents laptop in a closet because you were cleaning is not useful. If you can cook, take over meal preparations. If you can’t cook get friendly with the lawn mower and learn to pull weeds. Give your parents a reason to want to keep you around.
    Also remember that your parents really do love you and only want the best for you. So if you take the time to explain your plans to them, you’ll often find great allies and some good advice.

      1. Ms Enthusiasm*

        I disagree. I really liked the post. I just think he is probably like a lot of parents today – thinking they have to push their child to be a superstar in order to make it in this day and age.

      2. Ellie H.*

        I totally agree – what a jerk. “With the proviso that she agree to make a documentary film about camping,” is this a joke?

        Honestly, from the way I see it, anyone can have an internship, so few kids do something as original and straightforward as being a camp counselor, especially having attended the same camp for so long. That’s more interesting and unique to me.

    1. Wilton Businessman*

      Ah yes, the world is full of people who want “meaningful work” while living with a roof over their head, gas in daddy’s used Benz, cell phone paid for, health insurance paid for, and a $400/month allowance.

      1. Mike C.*

        I usually like the NY Times, but it’s full of generational crap like this. I think my fave was the single gal complaining about how men aren’t acting like adults because many weren’t going out and buying homes or play the occasional video game.

    2. KayDay*

      I just read this and I like the article. Essentially, when looking for a job, it’s often what future employers THINK you did that matters more that what you actually did. Obviously, your resume and cover letter can help paint a complete picture of what you did, but employers’ pre-conceived ideas still matter quite a bit in the hiring process. So when employers see “camp counselor” listed on the resume, they think water-skiing not planning activities, supervising people, etc.

      1. Jamie*

        Agreed that work and hiring is 99% perception – but I would definitely see the management side to camp counselor experience.

        I’ve raised three kids, and I can’t imagine having to corral tens of them for the summer. Bug bites, wet beds, keeping them from drowning, who thinks who is cute and is crying because of unreciprocated pre-teen love…ARRGH!

        I’ll 12 hours days of IT, QC, and cost accounting any day!

        1. mh_76*

          I was a junior counselor briefly (day camp) and campers are easier to corral etc. than are babysat-for kids (I don’t have any kids of my own). Neither counseling/childcare/related nor parenthood is my cup of tea but it is easier when they’re not yours and when you’re not in their house.

    3. mh_76*

      Yet another example of one of the Great Debates between parents & 20-somethings (and, yes, 30-somethings).

      It sounds like the daughter doesn’t want to work for someone who “would believe that a 20-year-old who fetches coffee [and makes copies & stuffs envelopes] at Google is more impressive than one who spends days and nights nurturing, teaching, organizing, comforting and inspiring” anyway and if that is the case, maybe an internship would hurt her more than it would help.

      I disagree with the dad that “Just one line on the résumé could spell the difference between joining the millions of college grads lounging on their parents’ couches and a fabulous entry-level gig with Martin Scorsese — or, if she changes vocational directions, another rung on the ladder to success” — it’s not the line that matters but how she chooses to describe it on her resume. And what a snarky comment!!

      What resume entry looks better to you:
      –Internship at Google: served coffee, copied a lot of documents using a copy machine, filed prodigiously. Learned: that A comes before Z in the file drawer and that it’s not acceptable to spit in the boss’s coffee or photocopy one’s a$$.
      [I know that that’s -not- an accurate description but it is what a lot of people -seem to think- interns do. I’ve never had an internship because X Univ. didn’t even tell us liberal arts majors that they existed].
      –camp counselor: mentored, nurtured, counseled, taught, organized… Learned: [too much to list here]

      Hopefully the dad will learn “to [actually] tell myself that in a society where great camp counselors — like great teachers — are absurdly undervalued, her insistence on going back to camp demonstrates a great deal of toughness.” instead of just trying.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Obviously it depends on the full picture of the candidate, not just this one element, but if everything else were equal, I’d take the person who did the internship in the office. Because I want someone who already knows how an office works, which is something people either learn in internships or in their first year on the job.

        1. doreen*

          What do you mean by “how an office works”? Except on the most basic level (ringing phones need to be answered, the reception desk must be staffed at all times ,etc) , the ten or so locations I’ve worked in for the same employer have operated completely differently. And the interns at my agency usually don’t learn much about anything other than stuffing envelopes , filing and making photocopies although their potential employers wont necessarily know that.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Everything from really basic stuff like how to how to send something by Fedex/change the toner in the copier/collating copies (you’d be surprised by how much instruction people sometimes need on these in the beginning) to just sort of how to “be” in an office (how hierarchy works, how to make suggestions in appropriate ways — and when not to, how to behave at a meeting, how to handle visitors professionally, what kind of reporting is excessive versus appropriate) … and yes, these things vary by office, but there are some basic commonalities and it’s nice to not have to teach someone completely from scratch. If you remember how lost you were when you started at your first office job (assuming you’re like most of us), it’s that kind of thing.

            1. doreen*

              But I wasn’t lost when I started my first office job- because I learned things like how hierarchy works, when/how to make suggestions, and how to behave at meetings in my non-office jobs. ( I still don’t know how to send something Fed Ex or change the toner). These things , along with showing up on time and working with/for people you don’t like aren’t just common to office jobs- they’re common to most jobs, even camp counselors or fast food/retail

                1. photodiplo*

                  I’m with You AaM on this. One of the first compliments I got from our rather ornery secretaries was how fast I was at getting up to speed with doing things around the office, they didn’t need to tell me how to do things I just did it.
                  And it’s shocking how little even seasoned employees know about office protocol and norms sometimes…

              1. mh_76*

                LIKE – +1 – :)

                I’d be happy to show you how to FedEx (it’s pretty easy online but a walk-through is always nice) or change toner (some copiers/printers tell you but their displayed directions are really bad)…or change that big water bottle and stay dry!

            2. mh_76*

              I see your point but it depends on what she (thinks she) wants to do after college – the jobs that you hire for might be completely different.

              For sake of discussion/devil’s advocate: maybe the things that you mention happen at her camp too – there are computers/equipment, visiting parents, counselor & staff heirarchy, reporting (behavior, problems, etc.), handouts that need copying/mailings to stakeholders to be stuffed (could even have the campers help with that), meetings, etc.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I just think the world of offices is different. Maybe I’m wrong, but I doubt I’m alone among hiring managers in thinking that.

                1. doreen*

                  I’m sure you’re not alone, but it’s really not as different as you think it is , especially when you consider how different one office is from another and how many different non-office jobs there are. Teaching is not really an office job if camp counselor isn’t , but I don’t think you’d automatically prefer someone with a one year internship over someone who taught for a year.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  But I don’t think I’m just speculating. I have my own experience to go on, and the experience of managing/watching lots of recent grads with and without previous office experience. There are patterns there.

                3. mh_76*

                  There are a lot of common threads that exist regardless of industry or primary work setting (office vs. field vs. retail vs. camp vs. …). And there are a lot of differences between the various offices that I’ve worked in – to use FedEx as an example:Admins did that and students/interns mostly answered phones and helped with large-scale copying & mailings (maybe packed up the boxes but the transactions were done by the Admin people…or receiving crew, in the case of the bookstore).

                4. mh_76*

                  One more thing… AAM, you mention recent grads…

                  don’t forget about us old folk! :)

                  We bring a lot to the table – already know most of what you mention about heirarchy/suggestions/meetings/etc., love challenges and learning new things, had to learn (often teaching ourselves) how to use computers before most of the how-to books existed, the list goes on (is long), and we work our a$$es off even in jobs that suck! And a lot of us are looking for work!

                  [I do know r.g.’s who are gems]

              2. Ms Enthusiasm*

                I work at a large corporation and we got a bunch of new interns this summer. The ones I have interacted with so far are doing a lot more than just stuffing envelopes!

                1. photodiplo*

                  This! Internships are not built like they used to be, nor should they be. Companies need substantive help to get buy during staffing shortages these days, and well educated and sometimes even well experienced interns are demanding more responsibility. If you find this surprising then I you might just be out of touch.

            3. Tracy*

              AAM- You are totally right. My company hires a lot of (very exceptional, bright) new graduates. Many have had internships, but some have not. Of those that have not (only worked retail, etc), they are so lost in an office. Teaching them how to use Office Email, etc is such a learning curve. They are smart and pick it up, but those with internships hit the ground running. They understand the role (and how to respect) secretaries, they are out of the college mentality that they can take naps in the middle of the day (work day is 9-5, folks!), and overall, do much better.

              And even if they did file papers at their last internship, they obviously were not dumb enough to put on that on their resume. They spoke eloquently about the programs they understood and supported while filing those papers. I learned a LOT in my first internship by reading the papers I had to file. Internships are important.

            4. Anonymous*

              I’m going to agree with AaM, here. Growing up, my parents worked in a small hospital. Mostly it was quiet; occasionally it was chaos. The few times I visited, though, I didn’t pick up some very basic office skills – like how to answer the phone. (“Hello” is not correct on an office line, generally.) The summer after my freshman year, I was fired after one day’s attempt at being a receptionist. (Well, asked by the agency not to return.) But I lucked out and got other chances, paid attention, and learned some of that.

              Now, I work with interns who have never worked in an office before, and part of my job is coaching them on things like watermarking something as “Draft”, always bringing a pad and pen (but not their cell phone!) when summoned by their manager/boss, or just learning that there are different ways for managers to operate, and it behooves them to learn what does and doesn’t work for them, and be mindful of that.

              Some of this they wouldn’t learn if they were camp counselors, or waiting tables, or working retail.

          2. Steve G*

            This reminds me of my first internship. We were all mortified. Didn’t know what to do if we weren’t given something. Kept asking full time staff “how do you know what to do when you get a job?” If someone told me to edit a letter, I didn’t know whether to make a dramatic project over it, or take a 5 minute look. I would feel uncomfortable talking to visitors and not-confident introducing myself. I didn’t know when it was appropriate to give up on a task and ask for help, was mortified making phone calls, and got nervous asking questions of anyone higher up etc. etc. etc. I think these are the sorts of things that fall under “how an office works.”

      2. JT*

        I don’t understand this Google “internship” example for two reasons. One is that everything I’ve heard about interning at Google makes the experience sound amazing.

        And second, the OP has a meaningful internship. They exist. Even if half the time is mundane stuff as you describe, the rest is important. Interns where I work generally get a lot out of it. Some internships may suck, but some are great and, I think, most are in the middle.

        1. Rants*

          That article annoyed me, as someone who worked at a day camp during my college in between summers. I actually got paid. A lot. More than I would have been paid at an internship, and I needed to have a paying job.
          This is why there is a cycle of rich get richer in our society.


          Also, I have no idea how people can live at home with their parents after college, especially when employed. I had to do it for 2 months a few years ago after moving back to the area while looking for an apartment. I’d come home from work, go for a run, and generally dinner was made by the time I got home. But I wouldn’t really want to do that for any longer. Sheesh.

  18. Blue Dog*

    One of the last jobs a parent has to do is to push the baby bird out of the nest. Honestly, your parents did you a huge disservice by letting you skate as long as they have.

    I would be hard pressed to want to hire someone with three different degrees. I would be wondering about a work ethic, focus, and how long it would be before they quit my company and went back for degree number 4.

    1. A recruiter's perspective*


      If I came across a 24 year old and saw only unpaid experiences and several degrees, I would not consider them unless there were extenuating circumstances. I avoid entitled folks who haven’t worked or struggled (I find that those who have fought or earned tend to put more worth on their position and pitch in a bit more than those who lived at home and coasted through unpaid internships and numerous degree programs). The lack of debt leads me to believe your dad with 30 years at his current company pitched in to get you through those programs. And sorry I’m not sorry, but if he in any way helped you get to this point or is subsidizing your living expenses in any way, shape or form, he gets to have a strong opinion about your life choices. If you don’t like it, get a paid position and move out.

      In fact, when I see a student coming out of undergrad with only unpaid experience, I will flat out ask them if they’ve ever had a job for which they were paid. There’s different value associated with the work you put in for a paycheck. I’d be relieved to hear about your awful gig at a retail store even if you’re looking to be a teapot architect because it points to stamina, patience and commitment.

      1. Mike C.*

        Coasted through degree programs? Just because you went to a slacker school doesn’t mean that everyone has.

          1. Mike C.*

            Personal attack? I don’t think someone is a bad person for entering an easier degree program or a slacker school than someone else. who hasn’t.

            But if you feel that belittling someone’s educational choices is considered a personal attack, then I would think that calling someone “entitled” and implying that they had it easy for possessing multiple degrees would also be a personal attack. Multiple people have done so in this thread, and I thought it was fair game.

        1. A recruiter's perspective*

          You took what I said out of context.

          Not needing to take on debt or work at all is while pursuing numerous degrees because you’re not quite sure what you want to do, while presumably living at home is coasting through life in my book, Mike.

          1. Mike C.*

            I would guess that they weren’t working a paid job because they were taking additional courses during the school vacations. And maybe they didn’t have any debt because they earned scholarships for merit or need before entering in the first place. Does that count for “working for it”, or was it just another free ride in your book? How do you know if a potential hire was taking on debt or not? What if they were taking on debt, but the sudden death of a loved one paid for the entire thing at the last minute? As a recruiter, you have no clue and yet you still judge!

            And there you go again, presuming that someone with multiple degrees simply doesn’t know what they want. You ignore obvious groupings of similar disciplines like mathematics, science, mathematics, linguistics and similar fields. Yeah, I guess not knowing if you want to pursue genomics or microbiology is the sign of a real indecisive, lazy person, isn’t it? Do you not see the value of a biologist with mathematics training, or a civil engineer that understands architecture?

            Most importantly, you have no idea what went into finishing these programs. You have no idea how difficult some institutions and programs are and your continued insistance that “going to school while not holding a job is coasting” is ludicrous.

            There are some colleges that are easy. There are some where we have to watch out for our friends because the intense stress and workload causes their thoughts to turn to suicide. I went to the latter – don’t ever call it “coasting”.

            1. Malissa*

              I hear the frustration in your voice. Truth is that many people manage to go to school year round and work part-time or even full-time jobs.
              As somebody who worked full time and still graduated with honors in my undergrad degree and is on track to do the exact same thing with my grad degree I disagree with you. It is possible to attend school and to have a paid job at the same time.

              1. KellyK*

                Sure, it’s possible. That doesn’t mean that not doing it is coasting or slacking. It also doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, or even possible, for every person in every situation.

                I worked part-time while in school (and full-time (or as many hours as I could get) in the summers) because that was what I could handle and because I had to keep a high GPA to keep my scholarships. Risking thousands of dollars worth of scholarship money to earn six bucks an hour for a few more hours seemed like a really bad call. And when I was student teaching, I worked only a couple hours a week because that was the most I could handle then.

                When I got my master’s, I took one class a semester while working full-time. Lots of other part-time students took two classes a semester and a class or two in the summer, but I decided that was too much if I wanted to stay sane. (I also didn’t have any external deadline for when I needed to finish. If I’d been in a profession that requires continuing ed credits, I’d probably have had to push harder.)

                I agree with Mike C. that having no paid work experience while going to school is not an indication of slacking. It might be, or it might have been a very logical decision. (Admittedly, when you’re looking at 500 resumes, you have to make some snap judgments, but you should be aware that that’s what you’re doing.)

                I also don’t understand assuming that someone “didn’t have to take on debt” based on their resume. How would you know that?

                1. Malissa*

                  I have no idea how someone would know if a person took on debt or not to get their degrees.
                  Also I’d never call anybody going to school a slacker. It’s a lot of work no matter what you have on the side.

              2. Mike C.*

                I don’t think I ever made the claim that it was impossible, only that in some cases it was difficult.

              3. Liz*

                I worked three and four jobs at a time during school. Employers never, and I mean never, considered these experiences a plus. I had to intern too.

                Also, even with those jobs and a near-full-ride scholarship, I still had to take out loans. College costs, even at state schools, are more expensive than I think many people who have only been out 15 years or so can realize.

                1. mh_76*

                  X University’s (private) tuition has gone up by ~40% since I was there in the late ’90’s! My folks were able to cover it then (and I am eternally grateful and thankful…so many had to take out loans even then) but I might have to explore financial aid were I heading to college now. The same has happened for graduate programs too. I wouldn’t have been able to afford grad school if I had opted to go right after undergrad but now…I definitely can’t afford it which is a big part of the reason why I’m delaying even applying to b-school (that and I’d like to at least have a reasonable f-t job, plan to go to school p-t…when my finances align, that is…if…).

            2. Rana*

              Mike, I understand what you’re saying, but on some things you’re arguing from a position of what looks like inexperience to me.

              I, too, went to a really tough school as an undergraduate. It kicked my butt, it kicked my friends’ butts, and it kicked the butts of the handful of double-majors twice over. And I can tell you this: to complete four programs in six years at this institution would have been impossible. There were just not enough hours in the day, even if you did the minimum work possible. So, first off, I am skeptical that the OP completed those programs at such an institution, for just time-management reasons alone.

              Now, this is not to say that the OP didn’t work hard, or earn whatever degree(s) they did, but I find myself wondering:

              Why did this person spend all that time and effort completing multiple programs, instead of moving on? It would be one thing if I thought they saw the value of becoming a research physician and thus studied both chemistry and biology as a means to that end.

              Instead, the impression I get is that the OP completed their chemistry program, decided it wasn’t something they wanted to do, and moved on to biology. That wasn’t quite right either, so, okay, let’s try physics. Nope, that didn’t work out either, so now it’s on to math. So, now we have someone who knows a bit of biology, chemistry, physics, and math, all at the undergraduate level.

              Now what? What are they going to do with that knowledge?

              THAT is what I see lacking here: any assertion of how they’ve pulled these different fields together into one package. Instead, I see a person who can’t easily figure out what they want to do, and so drifts from one area to the next, trying things on, and lingering well past the point that they should have cut bait and done something more productive with their time.

              This also strikes me as an incredibly inefficient way to go about things; does it really take an entire program’s worth of classes to figure out it’s not really your thing? And then to go on to do this three more times? I mean, I was pretty flighty as an undergraduate myself, but it only took me a couple of classes to confirm that political science was a poor fit, that mathematics was possible but not my best area, and that I’d make a damn good historian.

              And, my gosh, this person’s parents are incredibly patient to enable this sort of dithering-at-length. Mine were willing to foot the bill for four years of college, and after that I was on my own — any more explorations (including graduate school) were on my own dime. Believe me, you become a lot more efficient in how you approach your studies when you’re the one paying for them.

              1. Rana*

                Oh! What I was going to say, with regards to the inexperience thing. Multiple program completions look impressive… if you’re viewing this from a position of someone who’s only completed an undergraduate education or who doesn’t have much in the way of extensive post-degree experience (not sure if this describes you, Mike, so forgive me if I generalize).

                There is a significant order of difference between undergraduate work and graduate-level work, and a level beyond that where that education is applied. I’d rather, if I were in the position of hiring someone for a specific job, have someone who has moved up to the more difficult tasks and acquired higher-level skills and practical experience than someone who has applied the same level of skills and performed the same basic tasks to a variety of subjects.

                Grossly oversimplified example: imagine one person who has read a lot of children’s books on a wide range of subjects – has, perhaps, read them so carefully that they’ve memorized them. Imagine a second person who has not read so widely, but has gone on to being able to read adult-level books in a few subjects, and can apply that knowledge in a practical manner. Let’s say that it turns out that among all those subjects both people have read books in a shared area — robotics and artificial intelligence, say — and both of them apply for a job in robotics.

                Who do you think is more likely to be hired? The person who knows about one hundred subjects at the grade school level, one of them being robotics, or the person who knows about three subjects, one of them also being robotics, at the professional level and has practical experience?

                Here’s the unpleasant and frustrating thing about being a person with wide-ranging interests and a desire to learn more things: the vast majority of employers couldn’t give a flip about that. They want someone who can do the task at hand, who is easily categorized, and who has focused on learning a few areas really, really well. I’ve learned this the hard and brutal way, and much as I dislike this, the world we currently live in seems to prefer one-subject experts to polymaths.

                (If you’d like to learn more about this dynamic, and how to cope with it if you’re a person of wide-ranging curiosity, I recommend Googling “The Renaissance Soul.”)

                I’m actually in the OP’s camp about sticking with the internship for this very reason; the OP needs to demonstrate that all that dithering about in school isn’t going to continue once they get an actual paying job. They also need to figure out a way to package those explorations as part of a focused goal, and to recognize that most people — and institutions — can’t afford to indulge such indecision.

                1. Rana*

                  You’re welcome! And thanks.

                  (I figure, since I’ve learned some of this stuff the hard way *sigh* others might as well benefit from it.)

                2. mh_76*

                  Especially “Here’s the unpleasant and frustrating thing about being a person with wide-ranging interests and a desire to learn more things: the vast majority of employers couldn’t give a flip about that. They want someone who can do the task at hand, who is easily categorized, and who has focused on learning a few areas really, really well. I’ve learned this the hard and brutal way, and much as I dislike this, the world we currently live in seems to prefer one-subject experts to polymaths.”

                  I saw the term “Renaissance Person” used on another job-search advice site (in the same light that it’s used to refer to the highly revered Renaissance Men of Medieval/Ancient times). I don’t agree with everything that site says but love that that term is used!

                  Would that employers decided to want R.P.s – I could go on forever about advantages!

                  [I’ve been meaning to ask…are italic & bold formatting added to comments using HTML tags or…]

                3. Rana*

                  Also, there’s another book out there called Scanners that talks about similar sorts of personalities, but I found that the Renaissance Soul book worked better for me. YMMV, obviously.

                4. mh_76*

                  Thx for answering the HTML ? I know enough HTML to do a vintage-looking (late ’90’s style) page in text pad or an IDE (Dreamweaver & co) – it’s pretty easy :)

              2. Mike C.*

                I think your points are fair here, I’m just angry at the idea that the OP is believed to be lazy or entitled or whatever for learning as much as possible. I can accept that it’s not the most efficient path nor will everything learned by useful. I think I may be getting into is/ought territory here, but there is incredibly value in generalized degree. You seem to agree with this point, but I want to flesh it out for others who may disagree.

                The college I went to had six basic majors: math, biology, chemistry, physics, engineering (ABET!) and computer science. There were joint majors and the like as well, but that was basically it. The curriculum for everyone was split into thirds – one third of all disciplines, one third humanities and one third was your major. I was joint math/biology.

                You’re right that employers want a super-specialized cog that they can stick into their machine – even though I had plenty of laboratory experience I missed out on jobs that required a specific microbiology degree for example. But the fact that my knowledge base is so generalized has been a huge asset to my professional career. The math has been useful everywhere, and the chemistry and physics knowledge was always an asset at the lab I used to work at. Now that I’m at a new place, the comp sci and basic engineering is coming into play.

                It’s not that I walk in knowing everything, but rather when I’m presented with something completely new, I can draw on those experiences to ask the right questions toward a solution. This experience is shared by other alums. Oftentimes we flounder a bit for the first few years and then our careers really take off. A few months ago, Business Week agreed when their ROI rankings put my college at number 1. (

                Maybe this approach only works in fields related to hard sciences, and some fields are going to be more difficult to combine than others. If employers want to ignore something completely unrelated fine, but to see additional education as a negative still strikes me as nuts. It may be how things work, but I don’t have to like it.

            3. EngineerGirl*

              I would have loved to get a double degree – but it would have taken an extra year. I couldn’t afford to do that – I had to support myself. So maybe the coasting comment comes from the perception that she actually has the luxury to get additional education.

  19. Ry*

    With all compassion and respect, I’ve got to say, OP, that you are incredibly, unbelievably fortunate. I’ve been earning my living since I was 13 and helping raise my own family since I was 24. I paid my own way through college, working 50 hours a week and caring for my baby, while taking full-time classes. (And lest anyone think I’m somehow “to blame” for starting a family at a young age, because some people do judge those things, she’s technically my step-baby, but I will always love and care for her as my own, and she’s always lived at home with us.)

    I would love, so dearly love, to be able to complete three degree programs. I enjoy learning, and I enjoy college (or university, for you Europeans, et al., out there). I cannot imagine being able to live rent-free while educating myself. What an incredible boon. You are so lucky.

    Humble yourself. Take a job that’s “beneath you,” if that’s what’s available. Make some money. Money definitely is not everything – I’m about as anti-capitalist as they come (sorry, Wilton Businessman!) – but you do need to live in the world, and that includes learning how to support yourself.

    The work world out there right now is very, very difficult. You’ve done a great thing for yourself by getting an education, especially since you haven’t incurred debt. (Did you get scholarships and grants along the way, or has your dad paid for your education?)

    In short, I’m not blaming you for what appears to be short-sightedness or even perhaps being a little bit spoiled. I’m actually terribly envious. However, I’m also aware of how much I’ve grown as a person by having to support myself, and I wish for that self-confidence and self-reliance for you as well.

    Your question was: “Will people seeing my résumé look down on the fact that I am interning?” I can’t speak to that issue. I’m answering the unspoken question lying beneath your father’s questions and your apparent discomfort with each other.

      1. JT*

        Very impressive Ry.

        But “incredibly, unbelievably fortunate.”

        The first two words are over-the-top. Certainly for people in the top 5% of our economy this sort of situation is possible. They are very very fortunate, but there is nothing incredible or unbelievable about it. There are hundreds of thousands of people in that situation in the US.

        “I paid my own way through college, working 50 hours a week and caring for my baby, while taking full-time classes”

        I don’t think I’ve ever met any one who has done that, perhaps due to my own limited life experience. Where I went to college, it would not have been possible – not enough hours in the day with 12-15 hours a week physically in class plus 20-35 hours a week studying and writing. With that job that’s 80+ hours/week most weeks, to say nothing of the baby and sleeping. I’d have flunked out, as would everyone I knew.

        1. AMG*

          I know–I only have one job and I still can’t get my laundry folded and off the couch on any given week. *sigh*

    1. jmkenrick*

      Not to disagree with your comment (and your life certainly is impressive) but in the comments section the OP does comment that she’s supporting herself and not living at home.

  20. Liz T*

    I think people need to lay off the OP. It sounds like s/he has a plan, and is on track to have a paid job as soon as possible.

    Someone called his/her situation “unheard of.” Really, unheard of? I hear about it all the time. (And lived it for a bit, while searching feverishly for work in and out of my field.)

    I’m lucky enough now to have a part-time internship, but many prestigious ones (in my field at least) will NOT allow that. Theater internships are coveted, and most of them make clear that having another job would be very difficult. I was, again, lucky after graduating: I got one of the few directing internships that paid minimum wage, in a city where a single person can live off that. Guess what? That theater no longer offers internships. People in the industry often note sadly that only people from well-off families can afford these internships, but no one actually does anything about it.

    1. Liz T*

      Now I’m starting to get depressed. I need a real job.

      (I have an unpaid internship for what I want to do, work two unrelated part-time paid jobs, and am gearing up to go back to grad school. As I said in my not-hit comedy ‘Cruise Boat’, I’m getting too old for this ship.)

      1. Cookie Can*

        Cookie: if you have worked some unrelated jobs that’s fine. I’d take it as a bonus. I would be more wary of a young person with no job experience whatsoever, and in that case their academic progress and projects would weigh more to try and gauge how they’d perform. But if you come out of grad school and tell me you worked in retail and food services for a bit, and now you’re trying to be Grand Poobah of Library Services, I wouldn’t pooh-pooh your retail and food service work.

        1. Suzanne*

          You wouldn’t pooh-pooh it, Cookie, but many employers would.

          It’s also very difficult to obtain one of those “McJobs” if you have a degree. I hear it all the time; employers saying they won’t hire someone with a degree for a clerk job, or cashier job, because they won’t stay.

          1. Can*

            Don’t tell them you have a degree. When I was looking for service work putting down my degree didn’t get me interviews. So I struck it off and got a job a couple of those so-called McJobs after zero calls with the degree. You need to tailor the resume.

            1. mh_76*

              Agree. I have my degree on my resume as “Bachelor’s Degree” because it isn’t (and never has been) professionally relevant. I had typed out another comment but my computer protested -again-…I guess that’s a sign that it’s time to shut down and go to sleep.

              1. Suzanne*

                But couldn’t you face reprimands for not being truthful on your application? I’ve always put any degrees on for fear the employer would find out and wonder if I had been less than truthful about other things.

                1. mh_76*

                  Probably not. You’re not lying – claiming to have experience or a credential that you don’t have – just omitting something you do have that isn’t relevant to the specific job /situation.

                2. Rana*

                  It’s a little tricky, though, when the application asks for “highest degree attained” and there’s that little red star next to it to let you know that the application won’t be accepted without it. *sigh*

                3. Can*

                  I don’t think most managers care if you omit a degree.

                  For example, if I have a Master’s in literature I wouldn’t list it if applying at a coffee shop. The relevant thing there is if I’ve had similar work. Did I work in the school cafeteria while attending school? That can go in. My master’s is not relevant.

                  The exception might be if your superior degree might be of interest to the company. So if I want to work for a bookstore, my degree in literature would be relevant.

                  Also some companies (generally small) might be interested in someone with a bit of extra education. My friend who has a Master’s in a tech field applied for a position in accounting doing some assistant work. He mentioned his previous engineering work and it turned out to be a good thing because he got hired in a split capacity (providing some tech support and some accounting support).

                  You don’t have to put *everything* on every resume. I took photography courses years ago but it is not relevant to my work situation now because a) I learned to develop film and now we have digital cameras b) It’s not something even remotely required for my position. So I don’t list them. However, in casual conversation it may come up. I mean, the accountant certainly hasn’t hidden to me that she is an amateur photographer on the side. But just like when you are going on a first date, you may not want to spill the complete history of all your relationships starting with the time you kissed Billy Smith in Grade 7.

                  This why there is a difference between a job application and a resume, by the way. People get confused about the two.

          2. JT*

            Retail experience is closely related to library work, particularly public library work. I met the head of one of the most admired small public libraries in the US and she said that strong experience in retail is very useful for most of her hires. Hospitality work is even better.

    2. Athena*

      I’m in the same boat – I was very lucky after graduating to get a stage management internship with housing and a stipend in a not-super-expensive city. Of course, that only lasts a year, and now I’m sending out applications hoping that I won’t be unemployed come August. But, with stage management internships – paid or unpaid – there is absolutely no time to hold another job. Not to mention a regular schedule I could give to an employer.

      1. mh_76*

        Could you contact some local community music & theater groups and see if they’ll need a stage manager after your internship ends? Not all of them pay but some do. I don’t know about theater groups but a lot of community music groups take the summer off and resume rehearsals in September. Sort-of related question: do you perform at all? If so, maybe join a community group as a performer/player/singer/other (after your i’ship finishes), get to know some of the people, and when asked what you do for work, tell them about your recent internship. No guarantee that anything will result but who knows, something might.

  21. Cookie Can*

    You know what’s the thing? I really think the OP needs to scale back her intern commitment and get some part-time work, even if it is in one of those ‘Mc Jobs’ she seems to fear. At the very least, she’ll have a bit more money and security to bank on rather than remaining the eternal intern. And, who knows, she may acquire some valuable experience.

    I’ve worked low-paying service jobs and it taught me the value of many things. Not just the value of money, but how to manage and not manage people.

    Frankly, if I was hiring I’d probably be more impressed by the candidate who is interning and working part-time on the side. It would show they are hard working, can juggle multiple commitments, etc.

    1. Anonymous*

      My low paying service job in the 70s has led directly to my six figure job (with pension and yadda yadda) today. Take any job, work hard, make yourself invaluable. If you do that, you’ll only need to job hunt once. After that, employers will hunt you.

      1. Natasha*

        That is not entirely true as we have seen on this website multiple times. All it takes is one bad manager or co-worker and despite how hard you work or how invaluable you are to the workplace, you are stuck either out of a job or forced to look for a new one. And no employers will not hunt you since there is dozen of people just like you in the same situation.

        1. Anonymous*

          I’ve had bad managers, don’t assume I have not. You have to learn to manage them. One manager I had years ago would stand at the entrance, and if you were more than 6 minutes late he would deduct .1 hr from your timecard. I could go on, but you get the idea. I managed my reactions to his behavior, rewarded his good behavior when/if it happened, and he cried when I left. (yes, I train dogs as a hobby, why do you ask, lol).

          1. Natasha*

            I didn’t say you hadn’t worked for bad managers but claiming all it takes is hard work isn’t always true either and ignores that people do not work in a bubble by themselves.

  22. Liz T*

    Cute story: my Boomer mom moved back in with her parents for a time after flunking out of college. My grandmother charged her some ridiculously small amount of rent. When my mom got a job and moved out, my grandmother presented her with all the rent she’d paid–furniture money.

    [My mom went back to college and then law school and is doing just fine, if you’re curious.]

    1. Cookie Can*

      Yup. I’ve seen that done by parents. Rent money=fund for moving out. But there is also the reality that a lot of parents just can’t support the kids staying in the nest, as it be. I have a co-worker who really wants to downsize their house, but because their 27 year old soon is still in school (changed his mind about degrees twice and then spent a couple of years ‘figuring himself out’) and needs their support, they can’t sell it and a buy a little condo. Plus, they are still paying his tuition and living expenses.

      I also imagine that at a certain age you just want to see the kids ‘go’ and make their own life, and fear greatly that if that is postponed to later and later in life this may impact them negatively. Of course, graduating at 24-25 is not much of an impact, but fears of a terrible economy may have the OP’s parent thinking his daughter will struggle to catch up. Maybe the an unjustified fear or not, but I can see why that would be scary.

  23. Christa*

    Don’t be discouraged about your parents’ frustration. I had a 5-month unpaid internship in my related field after graduation, which I think gave me a great leg up into my current position. My parents stressed the same thing about having something paid (retail, whatever) and I did have one of those in conjunction with my internship. But it’s not something to put on a resume no matter what parents may say.

  24. Anonymous*

    I’m in my mid 20s, worked 60+ hours a week while in school full time that most people would consider “beneath” them. But this is where you start. This is where everyone starts. There are jobs out there, you may have to broaden your search and look harder. So many college grads I know are STILL at home at 25-26 years old, with their 100,000 dollar degrees, whining about how they can’t find anything and living off mom and dad, who are the reason they have no debt. And so many undergrads I know went to grad school to “avoid the economy” and come out to this. As AAM said, any job is far, far more dignified and appropriate than this. Why do parents let their kids get away with this????

    1. JT*

      “worked 60+ hours a week while in school full time”

      60+ hours a week at work and the college I went to would not be compatible. I’d have flunked out. Most everyone I know would have flunked out of my school, to say nothing of not learning as much in class due to being exhausted.

      “whining about how they can’t find anything ”

      We’re in the worst long-term unemployment situation in 60 years. There are approx 5 job seekers for every job opening out there. Complaining about not finding a job is not whining. In the current economy, it’s to be expected.

      1. jmkenrick*

        Yeah, 60+ hours a week and full-time school is insane. Frankly, I have trouble believing that.

        1. Anita*

          There are plenty of universities where professors don’t care if you show up to class as long as you turn in papers and take exams. If you pick professors carefully, it’s even easier. Many colleges are essentially diploma mills: it’s why I didn’t go back until I had clients I could bill from class! The downside to this method is that it can make it difficult to qualify for scholarships but working 60+ hours a week and maintaining a 3.0 is totally doable. A college degree is not the accomplishment people seem to think it is (or maybe I just tell myself that because I haven’t finished mine):

  25. Lucy*

    Did anyone else catch that the letter writer claims to have graduated from ‘several’ university programs, and in the same paragraph changes that ‘several’ to ‘three’?

    So, which is it? Several, or three? How is “three” several?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Several usually means around three — more than two, but not much more.

      Let’s not jump on the letter writer. While she may be a little off track (or may not — we don’t have all the facts, so hopefully she’ll weigh back in with more context), there’s nothing in her letter that warrants that.

        1. Anonymous*

          Seems like it would be difficult to complete three whole degrees by the time one is 24 (even if some credits transfer and some core courses may be required for several degrees, studying Journalism is not the same as English or Drama). Assuming we are talking bachelor’s, does that not take about 4 years? Maybe 3 years if the OP was taking extra courses. And it was also at different universities and colleges (transferring credits can be a hassle and sometimes all of them do not transfer; I know because I had issues with that). I’m just wondering if it’s Doogie Howser writing in.

          I mean, hopefully the OP was studying in the same city and hasn’t been moving across the country to pursue three degrees! Let’s see, today I study in Texas, tomorrow move to Boston. In which case I can see why dad might be irritated. Also, different programs have different fees. So if you are switching over to dentistry it’ll be a big hit to your wallet. Again, a reason why dad might be irritated.

          I don’t know what the situation is and it would be nice if the OP clarified.

          1. OP*

            Thanks for your comments! I posted a bit about my education above in the comments, but I’ll speak more on it here as well.

            I did a four-year undergrad, then went right from there into a teaching program. My undergrad was in languages, focusing on French. After the teaching program, I went into a post-grad in communications/public relations.

            I feel that all of my programs are relevant to each other and compliment each other. Many of the jobs that I’m applying for require bilingualism (French and English) and are related to both education and communications.

            My final program, at a college rather than a university, was much cheaper than the previous two. However, I paid a good chunk of my entire education, working through the school year for room-and-board and the summers to cover tuition. My parents paid the difference when my earnings didn’t cover the full amounts for the first few years, after that, I’ve been on my own.

            All of the educational programs that I’ve done have been within two hours of home.

  26. Sandrine*

    The OP has weighed in that she :

    – does not live with her parents
    – her parents haven’t supported her for a while
    – her rent free situation is “different” and she does support herself with her savings

    With that said, OP sounds like she DOES have a plan in mind. I would be very pissed off if my father continued to nag me in such circumstances. I have no solution to offer, sadly, as I can be a very touchy person sometimes.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, this is really interesting context that kind of changes the whole way we’ve talked about it. She also worked her way through much of school.

      OP, I think in this case the solution is to keep doing what you think is right. Thank your dad for his advice, explain yourself if you haven’t already, and then proceed on your path.

      1. Liz*

        I actually felt pretty defensive reading some of the comments left here – it has been a really rough week for a few reasons – but the OP seemed to do a nice job of staying positive and being responsive without being defensive. S/he deserves a lot of credit for that too.

  27. OP*

    Hi, everyone,

    Thanks for the great feedback. I’ve skimmed over the comments above, and taken the time to read a few in more depth. I’ll try to clear up a few of the common questions/issues that people have.

    As I mentioned in the letter, I’m on the job hunt and have been for quite some time. I’ve decided to set a deadline for myself, and if I don’t have a paying job in my field by a specific point, I plan on scaling back on my internship and finding a job in retail or something similar. I don’t want to deplete my savings completely, but I also don’t want to leave an internship that I feel will help me more than a short-term “McJob”.

    I recognize that many of the posters above, especially parents with children my age, feel that I’m freeloading right now, but that’s not that case. I’m not paying rent, but as I posted above I’m also not living with my parents at home, and I’m contributing to utilities, internet, etc, as well as buying my own groceries and paying for transportation when I visit home. My parents still help me at times -when I’m home for the weekend, my mom won’t let me come back to town without lots of fruits and veggies, and often homemade soup! – but I’m not asking for handouts from them or depending on their generosity. When I’m home, I’ll do lots of work around the house, last week I mowed the lawn, the week before I cleaned the garage, I walk the dog everyday, etc.

    I would also like to clarify that I did not get a free ride through school. I worked summers to pay tuition, and in the school year to cover room-and-board. I admit that I did receive a large amount of help from my parents when my jobs didn’t cover the full amounts, which I am thankful for everyday, and which I am not afraid of telling them! I know that not everyone is as lucky as my sisters and I are with the help that we have received. I know I didn’t say anything about that in the original letter, but I feel that a lot of people jumped to conclusions and assumed that my parents covered me in full for school – that is not at all the situation.

    All three programs that I’ve completed have been related – languages (focusing on French), education, and communications/PR. Many of the jobs that I’m applying for link the three areas that I’ve studied, so nothing that I’ve learned at school has been a waste, and from feedback that I’ve received at the (few) interviews I’ve had, my educational background will be an asset in the field that I hope to enter.

    Overall, I didn’t expect my letter to get the response that it did. Thanks to everyone who submitted their thoughts, I appreciated the feedback and enthusiasm.

    Have a great day,


    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      OP, it would have been really easy to get defensive with everyone here making assumptions about you that weren’t correct! This is a great example of how to just calmly explain where people got the facts wrong — well done!

      1. AMG*

        People are always going to bring their own experiences, biases, judgemets, and individuals truths into their perspective. I have mine–we all do.

        I believe that all of these comments aren’t just about the OP, but the economy (definitely touchy for lots of us right now), how to raise kids, how to have character, etc.

        My point is that this topic really opened a larger dialog, which is always a good thing. I am grateful for all of the posters and for learning/having the chance to view things from a different perspective.

        OP, best of luck to you. You seem like a solid person with a plan.

    2. OP*

      To continue:

      I know that my dad is just worried about me. As many people have pointed out, I have spent *a lot* of time in school. I know that he wants me to be able to afford the “good stuff” in life, like a home, a family, potentially more education in the future, maybe the occasional vacation. I recognize that he wants me to get a job so that I can get started with my real life. However, I just don’t think he understands the full difficulty of the job market today, or the hiring process as it is now.

      Thanks to all of the parents who have given their thoughts here on dealing with their adult children, and to those adult children in the same situation as me!

    3. Rana*

      Thank you for the clarifications! It sounds like you have more of a plan and a focus than was clear from your original letter, and I’m glad for you. Given what you’ve added here, it sounds to me like your father does need to take a deep breath, step back, and let you do your thing.

      I would add that when you do move on to the applications stage, that you take the time to frame your educational path as clearly and as carefully as you do here; I feel bad that I made certain assumptions about you in the absence of this information and wouldn’t want that to happen to you when it’s a hiring situation and not just a random person commenting on the internet. I apologize for misjudging you.

    4. Sandrine*

      The other good thing I see out of this is Allison’s reply below… and it reminds me of a question I got in an interview a few times : “How do you respond to criticism ?”

      Your example here is a very good answer to that question. It shows a part of a character that I’d love to explore through an interview to get to know more about you if I was in a position to hire :) !

  28. JT*

    There’s a lot of bitterness in the comments here about how privileged the OP is in being able to not work for pay.

    Certainly he is very fortunate, but I think y’all shouldn’t hate the player. Hate the game.

  29. The IT Manager*

    I’m glad to see that the OP clarified the background details. All day yesterday, I watched all the posters jump to conclusions and kept thinking she did not say she was living at hom mouching off her parents (although rent free living does indeed lead one down that path.)

    Let me just say this never changes. At nearly 40 years old, I was “laid off” from the military . (I did not retire, leaving the military was not my choice, did get some severence.) My parents seemed more concerned than me about me finding a job. I realized that I needed to earn some technical IT certifications to get the kind of jobs I wanted and I began going to school using the GI Bill which pays for some living expenses. I also had lots of savings and was mouching off no one. Still my parents, especially my Mom, seemed worried and concerned; although, she was never as direct as OP’s dad.

    So he’s coming from a loving and caring place which you do seem to realize. You also seem to have a good game plan so I think you have “permission” to try to tell him its a different world than when he last interviewed for a job and the intership is probably helping your job search and not making you look foolish. I’d also recommend letting him know that you’re still applying and interviewing. It actually sounds like you have a good, solid plan. Best of luck.

  30. Sean*

    I haven’t read all of these comments, but the consistent trend is more or less accusing the OP of floating by and living with their parents and thus not finding a job because it’s a “HUGE luxury”. Well I find this rather harsh if I’m being honest because while I bet it appears nice to many of you commenters not to have to pay rent which the OP clearly doesn’t have to do (nor do I as I am currently living with my parents as well), it’s not really a choice with how the housing market is going, the landlord market is going, and the job market is going.

    What I mean by this…is this: Housing market is getting worse and worse, let alone houses that are in foreclosure in both the States and Canada, rent for homes/apartments for students is reaching an all-time high. I’ve been lucky the past two times in finding homes that cost only $375-475 a month, but as a result there wound up being a lack of a good landlord. For example, my most recent landlord I just found out hasn’t been paying the hydro or water bills so my former roommates are about to be cut off.

    But aside from the housing or landlord markets, the job market is probably the most atrocious. It amazes me for how many people accuse the OP of not finding a job (even in retail or food service) to help their Dad or to move out, when those of you in the older generation seem to be under the impression that there are plenty of jobs out there for the OP to apply to even in food service or retail. Well all I can say is: there isn’t. In the past four months I’ve applied to every retail and food services in my city, I applied to one of the food service places beginning with an M, something I promised myself I wouldn’t do after last time I worked there. And while I respect Alison’s advice to be patient because I’m not going to get a call the next day, it’s still been four months without a single phone call. Yes you can blame it on many things, perhaps my resume sucks, or my cover letter is too bland (ps I took tips from Alison about really putting yourself in the letter for every.single.letter and tailoring it for each job not just a form letter), but the fact is, I can’t even get hired by a local coffee chain after working in fast food previously for a year and a half.

    So seriously, before you all criticize the OP for causing their Dad problems because they’re too lazy, or looking for something perfect, maybe try walking in our footsteps a bit and see what it’s like finding a job in this economy.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Many people here are quite familiar with how bad the job market is. The issue is that the OP’s letter sounded like she was probably financially dependent on her parents and people answered with that in mind. Since then, she’s provided clarification, and people’s answers have changed accordingly.

      1. Sean*

        Ah okay, good. Sorry Alison, I just with so many comments, I didn’t have the chance to find said comment. My apologies to anyone I may have offended.

  31. Sean*

    Please note however, I do feel some of the points are understandable, I just am not happy with how critical some people are being.

  32. OP*

    The debate here has reminded me a bit of the comments sections after a recent column in the Globe and Mail, and the debate that it created about young people looking for jobs today. Its main focus was more on the housing market, but it sparked a lots of conversation about the issues that young people are facing.
    At the bottom of the article, you can find a link to a letter written by a 29-year-old job hunter in response to the article.

    Again, everyone, thanks for the comments and feedback. I’m using this post as a break from my cover letter writing this afternoon as I continue my job hunt.

    Have a great day!

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