ask the readers: what’s up with my job-hunting friend?

I’m have a hunch about this one but no evidence to base it on, and I’m curious to see what readers think, so I’m throwing it out for opinions. A reader writes:

I’m writing not about myself, but about a friend of mine. When I met her several years ago, she was working at a job she’d gotten partially out of connections, and making a mint at it. Her salary and benefits package were great, but she had some conflicts with her manager and so eventually quit, in order to do her masters. Fast forward a year, she’s finished the masters, and it’s time to get another job. . . only she doesn’t. She just got back into town, and turns out she’s spent a year “job hunting.”

At first, I was baffled: surely she would have found SOMETHING in that period. So I started asking some questions. First, she replied that she was shocked she had to interview as she’d NEVER had to interview before (imagine that said with the same tone someone would use declaring they never kicked puppies). She goes on to tell me she’s been to numerous networking events where people from X prestigious group or Y flashy company have declared she’s amazing and perfection, but alas, they cannot hire her. . . if only she’d gone to a “better” university. Now, I’m watching her apply and interview for yet more jobs, back in this city she was determined to leave before; she spends days crafting resumes and cover letters. Am I missing something here? She’s in NGO and development work, but still, no matter how prestigious the employer. . . three days on a cover letter?

So here’s my question: I’m getting increasingly frustrated by this friend. She’s now taken to blaming the fact she hasn’t had a job in a year on the fact she didn’t go to an Ivy league school for her masters. She’s gone so far as to try to give me career and educational advice (I’m considering going back for a masters myself), telling me that it will be worthless unless it’s from X or Y school. Myself, I don’t buy that. I’m having flashes of the intro to Tootsie, when Dustin Hoffman talks about how there’s no excuse for not working. So who is right? Is she being cruelly shut out of the job market? Or, as I suspect, is she coming across as arrogant, entitled, and pretentious, and that’s why no one wants to hire her? I think she just expected the perfect job, that’s going to have a high salary, great benefits, wonderful hours, a high title, and be comprised entirely of interesting work fall into her lap the minute she graduated, as she is clearly a very special snowflake. Somewhere in the middle, I’ve heard her talk about her work before, and she has a tendency to drift into jargon territory, with a tone and an attitude that no one else in the conversation knows as much about this topic as she does. I’ve helped her prep for interviews and I’m pretty sure she’s doing this with employers.

If I am right, how can I tell her this? She keeps wanting to talk about her job hunt and asking my opinion and advice, and I mostly just want to scream at her. Or am I entirely off-base, and she’s just having a hard time getting a job?

{ 124 comments… read them below }

  1. Anne*

    Is it your role to find her a job? I think I would just commiserate and change the subject, if she is even a friend worth keeping. But she sounds pretty obnoxious to me.

    1. Steve*


      It sounds like the friend of the OP fundamentally does not understand how employment is secured and has no interest in learning. I have run across people like this before and they either luck into something or eventually they become enlightened.

    2. Liz*

      Yeah. This isn’t a problem.

      For what it’s worth, the friend is probably right that, at least in certain areas, a non-ivy degree will not get you in the door at an NGO. Their standard job application asks for both SAT and ACT scores. From high school. Then the score of every standardized test you’ve taken since.

      So maybe a non-ivy and stellar grades or thee work experience would work. But it doesn’t sound like this fiend has that.

      Before everyone piles on too much, though, I think job search depression could be a factor. I have spaced on things that should be obvious, and so have many of my friends.

      1. Jill of All Trades*

        “Fiend”? :)

        I think you’re right about the job search depression. Especially considering how she got her last job. She’s probably feeling a bit lost. I have been feeling a bit lost and depressed myself. I left my job last year toward the end of getting my MBA because there seemed to be so much opportunity. Almost a year later, I’m still actively looking for a job, and so far nothing has worked. So, on top of looking, I’m trying to keep up my self worth, and figuring out how to answer the questions about the gap in my employment, and I’m bored to death. I don’t regret my choice necessarily, but wow I wish it had turned out differently.

        1. Lindsay H*

          I went through job search depression, too! While I knew in my heart leaving my current job at the time was in my personal best interest, every day I went without a job was a punch to the (circle one): gut, ego, heart, psyche. I don’t regret leaving but I wish getting back on my feet wasn’t so draining.

        2. K.*

          Job search depression is very, very real. Gawker is running a series where they run some of their readers’ unemployment stories and all of them, to a one, mention crippling depression. And boy, can I empathize. (I got a rejection letter on Friday and actually, literally wept over it. It gets very hard sometimes.) And depression not only makes it hard to keep going, but it can also make you a bad interview: it comes out in bitterness or desperation, neither of which are attractive qualities.

          1. Candice*

            This is so true and so important for people to realize when they or their loved ones are job hunting. It begins to feel incredibly hopeless and we really tie our self worth to our work.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            And the reality of job hunting isn’t anywhere near what you were promised when you got that fancy degree. She may be scared that she will never find anything, and reality is just too painful to look at right now.

        3. Amina*

          I’ve got job search depression too. It feels like everyone who wants a new job is managing to get one , except me!

          1. De Minimis*

            I’ve been there too–I don’t know which is worse, when you get the rejection letter [assuming they even notify you] after you thought you did well, or just not having any interest for months.

            1. Liz*

              Aw. Kudos to all of us and anyone else out there who has had to manage job search depression :) Reading this seriously made me tear up!

    3. Another Anonymous Person*

      Completely agree when you say, “is it your role to find her a job?” OP, frankly, and pardon my French, not your life not your f****** problem. Seems extreme, but it is true. In the end, her having or not having a job really does NOT have any bearing on your life. Worry about yourself and to hell with her.

  2. fposte*

    The description makes me wonder if there isn’t substance abuse and/or mental health issues.

    However, it also makes me think that the OP doesn’t seem to like her friend very much. Granted, she doesn’t sound hugely likeable here, but maybe it would help both players if the OP either focused on the non-job portions of the friendship or backed off entirely. While the assessment of her interviewing might be correct, it’s so tied up in what’s looking an awful lot like a desire to tell her how much she’s not the person she puts herself out to be that I don’t think it’s viable to treat telling her as doing her a favor.

    1. Candice*

      I agree. When I read this I felt like this isn’t something you’d say about a true friend. Special snowflake? It sounds like there’s a lot of resentment there, and OP isn’t doing any favors by pretending to be interested in the job search — or her friend — if he/she isn’t.

    2. Another*

      Yeah. I also get that OP doesn’t like friend very much, and I agree with some of the other initial replies. It sounds like OP wants us to validate how much her friend is unlikeable or “wrong” in her job-related portions of the friendship. While OP’s description of friend makes her seem frustrating, at the end of the day, it’s her own life. If it bothers OP so much how much they talk about it, there’s way to communicate this. But it seems like OP isn’t asking for advice about this, but somewhat obsessing about her friend’s personal choices and how “wrong” they are.

  3. MM*

    Suggest that she ask for feedback from the employers she interviewed with regarding where she is lacking and how she could improve. Maybe one of them will be kind/brave enough to do the dirty work for you so you don’t have to be the one to lay it on her.

    1. Ali*

      This! I did this with my first internship phone interview about 5 years ago and got great feedback from the woman who interviewed me. Aside from that, commiserate and find a way to change the subject.

  4. Stells*

    Reminds me of a “friend” (more of a friend’s girlfriend) who asked my advice on job hunting (since I am a recruiter) in our city since she was finishing college in a few months and wanted to move here to work and be closer to the guy.

    I gave her the standard pointers and told her that when it was closer to her move date (about a month out) to shoot me an email with her updated resume so I could pass it around to my network. There are a few orgs in our area that still hire straight out of college kids, but they are competitive positions. I could have easily gotten her at least a few interviews with some great paying jobs, but she decided she didn’t need or want my help, so she never sent me her resume.

    Fast forward a year – she never found a job on her own, and decided to go back to school for her MBA at a lower tier school here locally instead. (which is a horrible idea given that she has very little to no work experience AND the school she’s at doesn’t have the best alumni network).

    Point is, sometimes you have to let people hang themselves. This friend sounds like the last thing she actually wants is real advice – she’s hoping her ego boosting and complaining will get her another job handed to her. In this economy, that’s never going to work.

  5. Rana*

    If it is the case that it’s her personality and approach that’s damaging her job search, I don’t know that you can tell her that without harming your friendship. I get the sense that she’s unwilling to hear about anything being wrong in her approach; there’s a lot of blaming other people for her lack of success. Given that, I don’t know what you can tell her, OP, if she’s not willing to act on your advice.

    As I said in one of this week’s comments, you might need to adopt the attitude of “It’s not my shit; it’s hers.” Be sympathetic, be a shoulder to cry on, but don’t bother offering advice, unless you’re willing to lose a friend when you essentially tell her, “You’re acting like an entitled ass. Stop it, and quit whining.”

    She’s not your problem to fix; she has to fix herself, and right now she doesn’t seem to have the desire or the self-awareness necessary to do that.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      Rana, you said exactly what I wanted to say. This sounds exactly like a former friend of mine. She was like this in every area of her life. She wanted everything handed to her. Nothing was ever her fault and she didn’t want to do anything to help herself. I gave her tons of advice, solicited advice, but she just wouldn’t do anything. It got so mentally draining that I ended the friendship.

    2. Liz*

      It almost sounded like the OP really just wanted an expert to weigh in on whether or not the friend was wrong in some of the things she said about the job search. But I am always suspicious of people who wrote to advice columnists for other people, so I could be wrong.

  6. Alice*

    Sounds like a narcissist. I’d stay out of it if I were you. I wouldn’t deign a conversation with her where you are actually criticizing her awesomeness, it may turn onto you. She might be lucky enough to bullshit someone into giving her a job sooner or later, and that’s her responsibility.

  7. Personnage*

    My first thought was: trust fund baby who doesn’t actually need to work. But that could be completely off-base and the OP would probably already know if that were the case.

  8. Michael*

    Maybe the writer should have a conversation (or a few attempts at one if it doesn’t go well) about whether her friend is in the right field. Procrastinating for a year on job hunting sounds like she is trying to put some distance between herself and her work. Perhaps she feels like she is now locked into one particular field with her MA, and is having doubts about whether it’s really right for her. The remarks about prestigious companies and universities also sound like an attempt to create even more distance. It is common for those who suffer from procrastination to use “victim” language that makes the situation seem out of their control; they fear failure, so they don’t even try.

    I would give this friend the opportunity to voice any doubts or fears she has, and to let her know that she could translate her skills and education into many different opportunities.

  9. Carl*

    She probably is having a hard time getting a job. What I’ve seen is a sad contradiction with this buyer’s market that employers have right now. On one hand, they want someone with experience and knowledge to do the job, but on the other, aren’t willing to pay a fair amount for it. Employers want people to keep up with the productivity of work expected in a better economy, while the demand for said work is less; that is, they want the same amount of profit at less cost (because things cost more these days, except labor, which is easier to drive down in cost vs. physical supplies). (Readers: go ahead and disagree with me, my ideas are always unpopular anyway.)

    I wouldn’t tell your friend things are difficult and whatnot, as that will keep her from getting motivated to stop worrying about how difficult it is, and just keep trying. I know plenty of successful business owners, and they agree that the moment you give up is the moment you lose.

    Be an ear, a shoulder, and be supportive. Don’t offer “advice,” such as, “This is the way it is, so you have to do this.” Telling her things like, “Everything will work out for the best if you just keep trying.” My mother has that saying, as many mothers do, that everything happens for a reason.

    One practice I recommend is to spend some time with her being creative with something. Just create things (knitting, things with paper, just goof off or whatever); that playful time can give her the inspiration and spirit she needs to feel better about herself — and other things — and keep her moving along. It’s how I keep my unemployed self from hanging my head down all the time.

    1. Job Seeker*

      I agree with you. I think this person is just having a hard time finding a job. The only thing I recommend for any of us looking is do not give up. I believe I will find something, I know it is difficult finding what you really want right now. I haven’t been looking as long as some people here, but I want to encourage everyone keep at it.

    2. Rana*

      I pretty much agree with most of this, but I’d caution against using the phrase “Everything will work out if…”

      When I was in the depths of my job-search-failure hell, nothing got my hackles up quicker than people with jobs and careers telling me that things were going to work out. I didn’t hear it as positive encouragement; it felt like a reminder that things hadn’t worked out, and it made me think that they were too clueless about my difficulties to be able to offer useful advice.

      What worked best for me was an acknowledgement that I was struggling, and my right to feel upset about it, and then letting me direct the course of the conversation, whether that entailed complaining, asking for advice, or simply not wanting to talk about it.

      1. K.*

        When I was in the depths of my job-search-failure hell, nothing got my hackles up quicker than people with jobs and careers telling me that things were going to work out. I didn’t hear it as positive encouragement; it felt like a reminder that things hadn’t worked out, and it made me think that they were too clueless about my difficulties to be able to offer useful advice.
        +1. Also, sometimes things DON’T work out – you can’t guarantee that. For all the happy ending stories we read here, there’s a story on about things going very badly for some people.

        1. Long Time Admin*

          I agree, too.

          Things do not “work out”. My best friend is losing her house. She has health problems and probably won’t be able to find another job. And, of course, social security wants to reject her disability claim.

          I just want to slap the cr@p out of people who tell you that “things will be OK”. I’ve come to realize it’s just something for them to say so that they feel like they’ve done something to help you.

          1. Jamie*

            I don’t think most people say that because they think it’s helpful. I think it’s just a way of expressing sympathy and hope – it’s not meant as an in depth analysis of the problem or a promise.

            I can understand how it could rankle when you’re in a bad place. Anyone who has lost someone close to them learns quickly that most of the well meaning things people say just don’t land well. Anything outside of “I’m so sorry for your loss” risks causing inadvertent pain.

            But well meaning people sometimes say the wrong thing…especially in the face of an on-going crisis. Everyone pretty much knows what to do when Gramma breaks her hip. You schedule appointments, food shopping, who is bringing over what meal…where she’ll stay while recuperating.

            But for long term problems like joblessness, chronic illness, etc. sometimes people really don’t know what to do or say – because the problem can’t be solved by offering a ride or dropping off a casserole.

            And the truth is for many, many people unemployment is a temporary rough patch and things will get better. For some people it’s helpful to know others have been in the same spot, or worse, and have gotten back on their feet. But what is helpful to one person can be hurtful to another – but I think it’s important to consider the intention of the sentiment rather than just the words.

            1. Katie*

              Wise words, Jamie. Very wise words.

              I would only add one thing: even though well-meaning actions can cause inadvertent pain, don’t take it personally and don’t give up. So many people drift away when they’re needed most because they are afraid themselves and don’t know what to do. The people in my life whom I truly admire most are those who tenaciously confront and endure ongoing crises.

              I’m sure there are instances where this might not be the best advice and too much help might be worse than no help at all. But when I’ve struggled with loss, of jobs or otherwise, I really needed people around to consistently support me and remind me (every day, sometimes multiple times a day) that I wasn’t the sack of worthless garbage that the world seemed to regard me as. When people drift away, it only validates that feeling.

  10. Joey*

    I bet it has nothing to do with the school and more to do with the “conflict” she had with her old boss that was so bad that she quit. I bet she has a bad reputation in what sounds like a tight professional circle.

  11. some1*

    JMO but the LW is waaay too invested this situation. Honestly, it just sounds like s/he doesn’t like this “friend” much at all and is looking for validation of that. Which brings me to why be friends with this person in the first place, when s/he clearly finds them annoying and entitled.

    1. twentymilehike*

      I’m having flashbacks to the “friend” who wanted to throw the party for her old company paid for by the bosses money and only invite some of the employees. I hope I’m not being cruel in wondering if its the same “friend” …

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Wow, I’m not getting that at all from this letter! I think the party OP was way out of touch with reality, whereas this OP seems perfectly rational, if a bit understandably frustrated.

        1. twentymilehike*

          Well not the OP being the original friend … oh that was such a confusing (yet entertaining) post! I think what threw me that way was the comment, “she replied that she was shocked she had to interview as she’d NEVER had to interview before (imagine that said with the same tone someone would use declaring they never kicked puppies),” the comments where people thought she came across as “entitled,” and the “special snowflake” point.

          My first thought was the friend has been handed a lot of things and doesn’t have a lot of experience in the real world. She probably has been supported by someone else since she quit her job. If you’ve been supporting yourself and have had real-world struggles, it is really hard to have an honest friendship with a person who hasn’t, since you have so many levels that you can’t relate to each other on. That’s kind of what I gathered with regard to their friendship. I’d be interested to hear about what other types of support the friend has in her life and if they are helping or hindering her job search. Sometimes the advice of one is overshadowed by the voices of others saying the opposite.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think lots of us have these situations with people we’re close to. You can find someone frustrating in one particular area of life but like them the rest of the time.

      For instance, I have a friend who has been enrolled in school since we were 18. We’re now 39. I think this is completely messed up, and it drives me crazy. I might write into an advice columnist asking if I was off-base in being driven crazy by it, if I weren’t that advice columnist myself.

      1. Personnage*

        Agreed! I have a friend who I connect with on pretty much every topic except religion. So we just don’t talk about religion. It depends on the level of the relationship as well. A person can have clashes with friends that they wouldn’t be able to have with a potential life partner because they don’t have to live with their friend and they can choose the context and level of the friendship.

      2. pj*

        I’m definitely in agreement on this — my bff is horrible about handling her money. Because she doesn’t handle money well when she has it, she has at times found herself up against the wall. Some of the choices she makes are insane, imo. I want to scream, “IF YOU’D JUST DO WHAT I TELL YOU…”

        Otherwise, she is an amazing human being and I am grateful she is in my life.

    3. AV*

      I had the same sense, that the OP is looking for validation in not liking the friend.

      “So who is right? Is she being cruelly shut out of the job market? Or, as I suspect, is she coming across as arrogant, entitled, and pretentious, and that’s why no one wants to hire her?”

      I work in the NGO/development field and do quite a bit of hiring. From the description in this letter, I can’t give an answer to the questions above. The market is *tough* right now – she could be a fine candidate and just unable to secure something. Or she could be alienating potential employers through her behavior.

      I’d advise the OP not to worry too much about this friend. If you don’t like her, that’s fine – create some distance and move on with your career.

      And on the Ivy question — basically it doesn’t matter. Esp. if there’s a price difference for you – remember that this is a non-profit sector. I wouldn’t do anything that will give you more debt in the name of “prestige.”

  12. KayDay*

    She might have a much more sever case of the same affliction I have: icantstandapplyingforshtitis. I really, really, really hate applying for jobs (and anything else that requires a substantial application). I hate trying to subtly brag about myself and, ick, thinking about it gives me the creepy crawlies. As much as I know that employers aren’t sitting around discussing what a loser I am for even thinking of applying, I can’t help but feel that way. I also spend way too long on cover letters*, because they never seem to be convincing enough, and when they do they are way to long. Clearly, I have issues.

    But I have found a really simple solution. Only job hunt when I have a job. Having a job really helps me feel more confident about my ability to do another job. It gives me clarity about my likes and dislikes, and keeps my life on a schedule. Due to my issues, I really hate “casting a wide net” for jobs, and strongly prefer to really target my job search–being employed allows me to do that.

    I strongly suggest that your friend try to find anything that will keep her a bit busy–ideally, a paid temporary job/internship, but really, whatever she can find.

    *I do think that non-profit organizations are more likely to expect a good cover letter. To a greater degree than private sector jobs, they are interested in your motivations for wanting to the do their type of work. (Not to say that all ngos care about is passion, or that the private sector doesn’t care about passion; it’s just a matter of the degree to which they care).

    And sorry for the excessively long comment.

    1. Jamie*

      “*I do think that non-profit organizations are more likely to expect a good cover letter.”

      I don’t know if they are more likely to expect it, but I can tell you unequivocally when we post a job (manufacturing) and it comes with a real cover letter (not a form letter) it absolutely gets circulated to tptb before the other resumes are even fully read.

      It won’t trump a significantly better resume, but it’s so rare that people pass it along and marvel at the wonder that is a cover letter. I’m not kidding – last year we ran an ad and got over 150 resumes and 4 cover letters. Two were form letters and one even had another company’s name in the to field. The two handwritten ones were impressive just by their scarcity. It wasn’t Hemingway, but they were spelled correctly and explained why they were answering our ad.

      Yes, we hired people without cover letters also, we had to because if we waited for cover letters we’d be continually understaffed…but don’t underestimate how powerful they are. Maybe even especially for positions where they aren’t commonplace.

      1. Jamie*

        I didn’t mean handwritten I mean custom written.

        We don’t require calligraphy with a quill pen…email is fine.

            1. Chocolate Teapot*

              Slightly off topic, but in France hand-written cover letters are often required. They get sent to a “Graphologist” for comment on how you form the loops between letters.

              1. Jill of All Trades*

                OMG…are you kidding? Do you know if they have research (like rigorous academic research) that shows the reliability of graphology? You know, including a picture with your resume is fairly common in Europe; think of how that selection process goes: “Well her face is nice enough, but Mon Dieu! Her handwriting!”.

              2. Jamie*

                That’s fascinating. My handwriting looks radically different after I’ve written for a couple of minutes – and radically different at various occasions.

                I always thought this was just a sloppy habit, now I’m wondering if this foretells some great psychosis lurking just under the surface.

                I was running out of things to be paranoid about, so it’s good I have a new one now.

                1. Jill of All Trades*

                  My signature used to be pretty; then I closed on my house. I signed my name so much that day that by the end it was ruined and I have to make an effort for it to be legible 6 years later. I’ve also noticed that I randomly switch back and forth between cursive and print during any given word. My elementary school teachers would not be pleased to see the current status of their efforts.

                2. Katie*

                  I still write letters to many friends, and my handwriting definitely changes depending on my mood or the subject matter I am writing about. It’s weird.

                3. Liz*

                  My handwriting changes too, but I don’t think it’s mood. It’s more like interest level. (Although maybe that counts as mood?) I can tell I cared about a topic when it is very jagged and almost unreadable, and when I see rounder handwriting in my notes it usually is when I was writing to keep myself interested in the meeting.

      2. Patti*

        Right now, it’s rare for me to get an applicant who appears to have even read the job ad. I’m not so picky about whether or not they have a cover letter. But those that do have good ones, definitely catch your eye. Including the one today, in which the applicant sent ONLY the cover letter. That’s it. No resume, and nothing to tell me what her actual experience is.


  13. Jamie*

    Are you supporting her while she’s looking? Because if not it’s her problem, and the only thing you have to worry about it either not letting it bother you or choosing to find it amusing (and yes, stole that advice from Alison herself).

    She could be that arrogant – or she could be really trying, failing, and covering it up with a lot of useless bravado which is just perpetuating the cycle. Either way, until she’s in a place where she’s ready to listen advice will fall on deaf ears and can damage the friendship.

    You can’t live someone else’s life for them, even if you know you could do a way better job. Believe me, if that worked I’d be living a couple different lives right now.

    Oh and this caught my eye…

    ” I think she just expected the perfect job, that’s going to have a high salary, great benefits, wonderful hours, a high title, and be comprised entirely of interesting work fall into her lap , as she is clearly a very special snowflake.”

    If you ever hear of someone hiring for this Special Snowflake position please let me know…I too would like to apply.

    1. Surlyhrgirl*

      “Special Snowflake” is a fairly common phrase in internet parlance. It wasn’t invented just for this OP’s letter (as someone intimated higher up in the comments).

      I get applicants that want the SS position also – only they want to be able to work from home wearing PJ’s when doing it, also :) And don’t forget the free laptop and Blackberry.

      1. Jamie*

        Make it an iPhone and I’ll apply – I don’t like the blackberry enterprise software.

        And yes, that phrase has been around awhile. I’ve considered myself a Special Snowflake for years.

  14. Hari*

    “She’s now taken to blaming the fact she hasn’t had a job in a year on the fact she didn’t go to an Ivy league school for her masters. She’s gone so far as to try to give me career and educational advice (I’m considering going back for a masters myself), telling me that it will be worthless unless it’s from X or Y school.”

    Depends on the industry, the company, and the hiring manager. It’s not uncommon for certain employers to be more succeptible to hire Ivy League and even before they have graduated too. I have also heard of employers (unreasonable as they may be) that wont consider an applicant, no matter how qualified, unless they have graduated from a certain school. This usually applies to the ultra-elitist jobs but if this is what your friend is goal is then she probably isn’t too off base about it .Especially since she mentioned that this is the feedback shes actually been getting at networking events.

    All in all though it does seem like she is just having a hard time. However, I feel like she thinks just because she got a masters doors will suddenly open for her which isn’t the case (especially if you are non Ivy League or don’t have many connections), which seems to be what she is finding out the hard way.

    Her speaking with a bunch of jargon perhaps comes off as egotistical because you are not in her field, maybe she feels as to “impress” the employer she has to use them. Anyway its not really her use of it as much as the tone, if the tone is cocky then I would point that out to her. However, I am sensing that you are just frustrated that she relies and vents to you about it so much when you just have a different approach to it (also a different industry) than she. Job hunting can be frustrating so I would cut her some slack but you aren’t obligated to help her so if it is annoying you than decline next time with the excuse that you are busy or don’t have any new advice to give.

    1. Blinx*

      I think the jaronese comes from insecurity. It makes her sound very professional and gives her a boost.

      It’s true that “like hires like”, especially with education. I went to a lowly state school, but at my last job ran into SO many people from there. Didn’t matter that it wasn’t Ivy League, it’s what they knew. OP’s friend should find out where her alumni are working and make some contacts either through the alumni association or LinkedIn.

    2. Natalie*

      My cousin is in nonprofit development and supposedly has been told by various people that she went to a “good school” (significant look) for undergrad and if she gets a masters she should make sure it’s from at least as much of a “good school” (significant look) as her undergrad.

      She is extremely susceptible to “you must do [job thing] this specific way, or your entire future will be ruined” type of thinking, so it’s possible she is overstating how much emphasis is placed on the school. But it does at least seem to be a trope of sorts in the non-profit development field.

  15. CatB (Europe)*

    From what I’ve read, it may be a case of “chapter separation”: go on being friends, quit helping. Sometimes people need to bump their heads on the doorframe to see it exists.

    But if you really-really care for her and want to be of any use (caution: quicksands ahead!), then you might want to read and apply some techniques in Robert Dilts’ “Sleight Of Mouth” (look for the book on Amazon). Just take notice that changing beliefs (what looks like it is necessary in your friend’s case) is not something to be taken lightly or a walk in the park. Messing with human mind’s depth is always tricky.

  16. Blinx*

    Sounds like she looks good on paper, enough to get her the interviews. So, she can’t blame where she did or didn’t go to school, since that is evident from her resume.

    So then it’s just the interviews and how she presents herself. It may be helpful for her to go through some mock interviews with a career coach, who could give her some real pointers. I’m wondering if she’s gotten offers, but they weren’t good offers, in her eyes, especially since she had a high salary at the other job.

  17. Curious*

    Could it be bravado? When you are really struggling, it is hard to say to yourself, let alone anyone else
    – I was wrong
    – My self belief and self esteem are taking an almighty battering
    – I am desperate not to reveal how desperate I am to find a job
    – I can’t take another rejection so I will procrastinate and fiddle with every application to try and put off getting another NO THANKS

    1. Rana*


      With a side dish of

      – Given a choice between blaming other people and myself, I’d rather blame them

    2. Liz*

      This is such a good point. And good lord I hope my friends are kinder to me behind my back than this OP.

  18. Liz T*

    I’d like to chime in with the folks reminding us that it’s a bad job market. I think AAM has said that a year is not a crazy amount of time to be looking for a job. There’s probably a combination of things–she was “spoiled” by getting a plum job so easily back in the day, and now her approach is wrong because of it, and also it’s a really tough job market.

    As for the three days for a cover letter thing…I used to be like that. It takes a lot of experience for some of us, because it can be really intimidating. When I have to write one basically from scratch, for something REALLY important, it can take me awhile. (Not 72 hours, but maybe two or three sessions of an hour or an hour and a half.)

    Basically, I agree with everything everyone has said: yes her approach is not the best, but it’s a tough job market, and also don’t be so invested in this as it’s not your problem.

  19. Jamie*

    From Alison: “I’m have a hunch about this one but no evidence to base it on, and I’m curious to see what readers think,”

    We will get to hear your hunch, won’t we?

  20. Aja*

    I’m not 100% sure what the OP is asking – if you’re asking if you should share some real adevice with her about her job search (that you think she may be coming off as a know it all for example), I guess it depends on whether you think you can phrase it in a way she can hear without getting defensive and whether you want to invest the energy into doing that.

    If the question is, is she doing somethign wrong to still be unemployed after a year of looking, based on how you describe her, yes it sounds like she’s not doing some of the right things. But I believe in this job market, someone can do all the right things and become long-term unemployed. I’ve seen it happen to people I know and I’ve watched many programs about – HBO had a very compelling documentary about long-term unemplyed folks (mostly over 40, white collar) that was really heart-breaking. I know that some people believe that a “good” candidate would not be out of work that long and to anyone who says that, talk to me after you watched that HBO show and tell me that those people are bad workers and that’s why they are unemployed. I do understand that some people are out of work because they ARE bad workers but not everyone…not by a long shot.

    It seems like this person might be more an aquiantance than friend (since as mentioned above, you don’t seem to like her very much). Maybe the advice you really need is on how to extract yourself gently if the friendship isn’t working for you anymore…

  21. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Here’s my take on this:

    I don’t know how the friend is coming across in interviews, but I’d bet anything that — contrary to the way she acts with the OP — she’s actually incredibly insecure (possibly due to only having had one job, which she didn’t thrive at, and now not being able to find another).

    The things she says to the OP comes off as arrogant and entitled, but her actions actually sound like the actions of someone really unsure and insecure (like spending three days on a cover letter; you don’t do that if you’re pretty confident).

    The stuff she’s saying to the OP sounds a lot like things designed to cover up her fear. Claiming that she was shocked she had to interview and claiming that people keep telling her that she’s amazing and perfect — these are both silly, and they both sound like desperate attempts to hide from the OP how scared she is.

    And the constant remarks about how she’s paying the price for not going to a better university sound like an attempt to find a reason for why she’s not succeeding. In a lot of ways, it’s more comforting to blame that than to confront the fact that (a) it’s an awful job market and this might go on for a while and (b) she isn’t all that well positioned to do well in it.

    As for what the OP can do …. well, it depends on whether the friend is someone who’s willing to let down her ego a little and take input. OP, you could test the waters by saying things like, “You know, it’s a really bad job market, especially when you don’t have a ton of work experience. I don’t think it’s necessarily about where your degree if from, because so many other people are facing this too.” If she gets her hackles up, well, she’s not open to help. Move on. But if she’s receptive, there might be an opening there.

    Frankly, if this were my friend, I’d probably say something like, “My sense if that it’s a little different than how you’re looking at it, but I don’t want to tell you what to do. But if you ever want a different perspective on it, let me know.”

    1. KS*

      This was my take also. It sounded to me like the OP’s friend is just insecure. I agree it also sounds like the OP’s friend is making excuses for why she’s not landing a great new job.

      I really think a lot of the OP’s friend’s problem is the lack of experience combined with the job market has shaken her confidence badly.

      “You know, it’s a really bad job market, especially when you don’t have a ton of work experience. I don’t think it’s necessarily about where your degree if from, because so many other people are facing this too.”

      This is awesome and it’s true. Maybe the OP’s friend could try a post-graduate internship, if she is open to suggestions to gain experience? My friend did this- he interned 3 days a week at a non-profit and gained contacts that helped him land a full-time job a few months later.

    2. Katie*

      I won’t add much here, because I think Alison offers a really thoughtful analysis. But I also can’t help but notice some strange undertones of competitiveness and resentment here from the OP (consider how it starts…mentioning the friend’s high-paying, connections-based job…and how she dropped it). I totally sympathize with being bitter and resentful of my friends whom I perceive to have more luck or privileges than I have. It feels so unfair and frustrating, but at the end of the day, it’s my problem. I don’t even like typing that, because it makes it seem like I earned my station somehow, but it’s true.

      Arrogant, entitled, or neither of the two, this is a friend of yours. And friends support each other through hard times and accept each others imperfections. If you’re going to try and help her, make sure it comes from the spirit of truly trying to help, and not just venting your frustrations about her behavior. Or, just don’t be her friend. You can pick ’em, after all.

    3. Amanda*

      “And the constant remarks about how she’s paying the price for not going to a better university sound like an attempt to find a reason for why she’s not succeeding. In a lot of ways, it’s more comforting to blame that than to confront the fact that (a) it’s an awful job market and this might go on for a while and (b) she isn’t all that well positioned to do well in it.”

      I can really relate to this. I tend to spend a lot of time obsessing about things I have no control over or beating myself up about choosing to major in History EIGHT years ago. Admitting that it’s hard to find a job because the job market sucks makes me feel more powerless than anything. (And has anyone else had people tell them, when they say they’re job-searching, “I don’t think now’s a very good time to be doing that.” Well yeah, but if I want to eat, I don’t have much of a choice.)

      I can also relate to the spending three days on a cover letter (yes I was the OP from a few posts ago). And the mention of people she met at networking events who were very impressed by her but just weren’t in the position to offer her a job. It might seem like bragging but I can tell you it’s frustrating to hear how impressive your experience is and how you would be wonderful at such and such job when you can’t even make it to the phone screening. I can tell you that I’d trade all those compliments, given by people who are in no position to offer me a job, for some really good constructive criticism that will give me something to work with and help move me forward.

      So yeah, I do have some sympathy for the OP’s friend.

      1. HDL*

        Feedback I received from a recent “interview” with a network contact: “Obviously you would be great in *** position, but [current employee] is already doing that job…Our funding is down 15% and I can’t justify bringing on another staff member.”

      2. Rana*

        I can tell you it’s frustrating to hear how impressive your experience is and how you would be wonderful at such and such job when you can’t even make it to the phone screening.

        Oh gosh yes.

  22. AB*

    I’m thinking that this woman was probably skilled at the job was doing, but now with her postgraduate education she is applying for jobs in which she is competing with people with both a Master’s degree (from Ivy League or not) AND experience.

    So yes, it will be harder now, considering she probably has much less experience than some of the other candidates for the same jobs.

  23. Editor*

    People have made a lot of good points here. Don’t make this your problem and try just to make an appropriate remark and move on to another topic.

    At one point in my life I couldn’t find work and needed therapy, but ended up spending money on a career coach. It turned out to be useful. I didn’t resolve all my personal issues — most didn’t come up for discussion, but I did end up getting a lot of help with interviewing, which I needed. The coach’s observations and the assigned exercises helped me think more constructively about some of the personal problems I kept private. The interview skills helped me get a job.

    I was fortunate to get a good coach. I can’t actually tell anyone how to do that, because it was just luck for me — it happened back in the day and all I did was answer a classified ad.

    If the friend doesn’t have money, is there a support group in the area for people who are job hunting? Those groups didn’t come off so well in Barbara Ehrenreich’s book about job hunting, but checking one out might be worth a try. If the friend keeps asking for more help, give the friend Alison’s job guide. Suggest doing some peon volunteering while keeping quiet (no supervising, no trying to improve things until after 6 or 8 months).

    If the whining continues, then you can say, “I’ve suggested x and I’ve suggested y. You don’t have to take my suggestions, but I have no more suggestions to make. I’m sympathetic, but I can’t fix this. You have to decide what to do.”

    If this friend is your S.O., my sympathies. You still don’t have to fix this, which I know from experience is sooo not what the unhappy, unemployed person wants to hear.

    1. Laura L*

      I was part of two support groups when I was unemployed.

      Sometimes they can be helpful, particularly when you can split into small groups that meet regularly to support each other in your job search. That was the most valuable thing I got out of them. It helped keep my spirits up.

      Sometimes, they descend into a whine-fest about being unemployed. While it’s nice to commiserate with other people who are unemployed in a crappy job market, especially when your friends and family have jobs, it gets old after a while. For me, it’s kind of self-fulfilling. I get to vent, but so does everyone else and by the end, I feel worse than I did before. Sometimes it’s best to just distract yourself.

      Also, one of the groups I was part of involved seminars on job hunting and meetings with a career counselor and the advice was awful. Horrible. They pretty much told me to do that Alison tells us not to do.

      Fortunately, I’d already started reading this blog at that point, so I was able to ignore most of the advice. It drove me nuts all the same, though.

  24. jesicka309*

    I have a friend that did something very similar. She finished a degree in health science majoring in nutrition (a dying industry over here due to lack of work) and spent a year whinging about how she couldn’t get a job. While we felt really bad for her, as there really wasn’t much work out there in her industry, she seemed pretty content to give up and stop applying places. It didn’t help that she refused point blank to get her driver’s licence, which severely limited her job options.
    Of course, it’s not like she wasn’t aware of the job market before she graduated, and her degree (not counting her major) was non-specific enough that she could really get into any health related field if she just sucked up her pride and went for it. Because she couldn’t get her perfect dream job (which frankly didn’t exist for graduates) she gave up. She went to Europe for six weeks, then New York, and basically frittered away her savings, all the whiole complaining to her friends about she had ‘no money’.
    I finally called her out on it last December (one year after graduation) and said to her ‘look, there aren’t any nutrition jobs. There aren’t going to be. Look at other industries. The fitness industry. The health care industry. You even have customer service experience, you could easily work as a medical receptionist somewhere while you study some more.’ She’s since gotten a job for Medibank (private health insurance)…sometimes you have to accept that even if the job you desperately want isn’t out there, you’ve got to branch out and go for something different. Especially if you’ve been hunting for a year and there’s nothing out there to apply for, let alone interview and get a job for.n There’s nothing the OP can do except tell her friend that…and if her whinging is getting the OP down, get out of the friendship.

  25. NewReader*

    Nice range of answers here, I think that OP will be able to pick out something that resonates for her setting with her friend.

    I like what Alison said about the friend wearing a brave face — covering her disappointment/anger/tears.

    OP, I don’t know how much of your time with her you spend discussing the job situation. There is nothing wrong with you pointing out that you are not a professional career coach. Most certianly, you are not up to speed on every single nuance of her job search setting. You can say this with all the empathy in the world.

    It might be worth her while to invest in some professional advice this could be career coaching or even life coaching. Am saying life coaching because there is nothing worse than feeling like you have not carved out a niche for yourself in life.

    I hate to say it OP, but your answer could be that you need to extract yourself from her problems. You have only known her a few years, this does not give you much of a comparative basis – employed friend vs unemployed friend. She might be like this about everything.

    Do you see any of her own friends or her family? How do they react to her? How does she describe their reaction to her?
    Draw your clues from there. (Don’t go by one person’s reaction, look for overall trend.)

  26. Aaron*

    Lots of comments already, so I’m probably just writing for myself, but I also got the sense that OP was a bit scared by the prospect that friend’s story might have some legs: “She’s gone so far as to try to give me career and educational advice (I’m considering going back for a masters myself), telling me that it will be worthless unless it’s from X or Y school. Myself, I don’t buy that.”

    OP, Allison gave great advice on dealing with your friend. Here’s my advice to you: your friend might be wrong 100 other ways, but right on this point. Before you spend a year, and a large sum of money, to figure out if she’s right, talk to 5-10 people you respect about this, and try to figure out. There are absolutely fields where, if you want to take certain tracks out of grad school, you basically need to have gone to one of a few top schools.

    I eagerly await a world where the name on your degree doesn’t matter. But if you’re in a field where that’s not true, realize that it won’t change in the next year, and at least go into your own grad school decision-making with your eyes open.

  27. OP*

    Thanks everyone, this has been really helpful!

    As for my friend. . . it feels like every time we talk it comes back to her job hunt. I’m going to try to extricate myself gracefully from those discussions. I hadn’t considered perhaps she was insecure about it: she comes off as anything but (like I said, she loves loves loves to give me advice about my career. She’s slightly older than me, and when I met her I was brand new in the professional world, so it’s a habit she’s gotten into). I think you’re all very right on that front.

    More importantly, I’m not going to try to help anymore beyond a shoulder to cry on. I think the root of a lot of my frustration is I’m a regular reader here so I tried to help her with all that good advice– including last summer, when she had just graduated, letting her know about some short-term work in a quasi-related field that would be interesting and get her some experience, some contacts, and most importantly some time to think about what she wanted to do next while not huddled in her house with Maury, snuggled in the sugary embrace of Ben and or Jerry. I knew about this posting through my own professional contacts, and just let her know about it– I didn’t pass her resume along, but I mentioned her by name when I was in a meeting with someone I deal with there all the time, just casually. She got the job and whined about it the entire time. Now she’s back and she’s making noises that perhaps I could help her out again, but this time more directly– pass her resume along, maybe. I was hesitant to do this and now moreso: she’s been incredibly reluctant to get a job, any job, that isn’t ideal, just to keep the cash flowing in and to get her out of the house.

    As for the Ivy league stuff. . . I think I’ve been really lucky. I’m in a field that requires a portfolio, and since I did a lot of interning as a student, and have been working since the day after I graduated, I have a decent one. In my field, that’s often what’s more important than where you went to school– or at least, the places I want to work and the cultures I want to be in seem to value it more. That said, I just don’t understand not working for a year. I know it’s tough out there, but for my friend and I (both in our late 20s-early 30s, no kids), there is less pressure: I’d be waiting tables or working at McDonalds before I’d be unemployed for over a year. Or I would do what I did last time I had a gap: I re-adjusted my expectations. I found a job that wasn’t as glamourous as what I’d wanted, but it paid the bills and get me experience and contacts. My friend just doesn’t want to hear that.

    1. fposte*

      The thing is, people can readjust their expectation and *still* be out of work for a year. McDonald’s isn’t crying to hire people who can’t find work in their master’s field, you know? And I think she might not even tell you if she tried to do that. The fact that she is apparently kind of flaky and flaily isn’t helping her, but you’re talking like there’s an “if only she’d do what I think she should do, she’d be hired,” and that’s really not likely to be true.

      So that’s part of what it’d be good to leave behind when you resign from the Job Search Corps; the problem wasn’t that she wouldn’t listen to your advice, but that that’s not a good friendship dynamic. I think there’s a lot to be said for limiting the shoulder-crying, even because when that gets ingrained it perpetuates both the dynamic and the bemoaning. Focus on the other parts of the friendship for a while. And that may even be something you can kindly say outright–that you think that the kvetching can turn to destructive wallowing, and you want better than that for both of you.

      1. K.*

        you’re talking like there’s an “if only she’d do what I think she should do, she’d be hired,” and that’s really not likely to be true.
        Exactly. I mentioned the Gawker unemployment series upthread, but it really is worth a read (although it’s very depressing). So many people say they’ve applied at gas stations, retail stores, fast-food joints, etc. in addition to the white collar jobs they had before (or that they seek, in the cases of new grads), and coming up empty. For months, a year, longer. And honestly, part of what contributes to depression about being un- or underemployed is that “You’re just not trying” attitude that some people have – because it truly is possible to try very, very hard and still come up short. And that stings enough without people wondering why you aren’t doing better.

        1. HB*

          Yes- When I was laid off last year, I applied at Starbucks, Barnes and Nobles, Michael’s, etc thinking I would just take anything, part-time, full-time, whatever, to keep myself busy and generate a paycheck. I have a Masters degree plus a few years professional experience (plus plenty of years experience doing retail/food service in HS and college). I didn’t get so much as a phone call from a single place! Luckily, I found myself in a great job a few months later (making 10k more than before I was laid off!), but those months were a real shock to the system. It’s incredibly hard on your self esteem to feel like you aren’t even good enough to grind coffee beans.

          1. Katie*

            Right, and while it did eventually work out for you (awesome, BTW!), you didn’t know that would happen until the day you got the job. The unknowns of unemployment are so psychologically stressful, and all those rejections seem like evidence for the case file that you aren’t going to find work (that’s not the way to think about it, but it sure feels that way).

        1. Lils*

          Liz T, after reading your reply I can see why it would be frustrating to hear the advice to go work at a minimum-wage job. As a person with loads of minimum-wage experience (and a Master’s) I find it easy to pick up that kind of work and so maybe I don’t really know what it’s like for those with no experience. I have done so many times over the last 15 years to make extra money or get me through a job-search gap.

          However–there *are* jobs to be had in the service industry for people with no experience. Locally-owned restaurants and caterers are almost always willing to hire anyone with a pulse who can show up on time and sober. Bussing, barista, cocktail waiter, fry cook, dishwasher, parking lot attendant, light cleaning, office temping–almost none of these jobs come with a requirement of experience or an expectation of longevity. I would only apply to do retail or chain restaurants as a last resort–stay local, mom-and-pop to find the opportunities. Yes, you would probably find it difficult to get on as a head-wait in a 5-star restaurant, but there are many other jobs to be had. Not sure about Manhattan or something, but I’ve had no problem here in flyover country.

          Reading all the comments above about job-search depression makes me realize how well these little jobs got me through tough times with some rent money and something to get up out of bed for every day. In my experience, some highly educated people have too much pride to apply to clean tables, but I cannot tell you how much I’ve learned about management, humility, and work ethic from doing that type of work. I hope some folks will consider that not only is it a source of income and a relief from boredom during your job search, but it can also be a rich learning experience.

          1. Anonymous*

            I haven’t been able to find a job in my field since I got laid off a few months ago. However, I was offered some freelance work in my field, took it, reported it, and am now in trouble with the unemployment people.

            If the work was “casual part time” and the employer filled out the proper forms with the unemployment office, then I could work. But the unemployment officials seem to assume that if you can freelance part-time, you can freelance full-time, so my unemployment is held up while my case is investigated — even for weeks I do no freelance work.

            So I haven’t tried to pursue any temporary or minimum-wage work because it seems like all that will happen is that I will get in more trouble. I’m willing to report every penny of what I earn (note — that means gross freelance earnings, no expenses allowed to be deducted), but if I take on work with any other client, unemployment is going to be demanding the employer fill out its reporting forms. I’ve seen them, and they’re incomprehensible.

            I think people without jobs would be more employable if they’re doing work — any work — but unemployment in my state seem to be set up only for blue-collar work. I guess that’s why so many white-collar people are advised to volunteer.

            1. Lils*

              Anonymous–interesting point. I’ve never been in the position to use unemployment (my job gaps were after graduating or after quitting). I suppose that would be a major consideration for those who are eligible for it. Volunteering would probably have most of the benefits I mentioned above, plus networking if it’s in your field.

              I wish you all the best in your search. It must be frustrating to know that doing the right thing–declaring your income–has gotten you in trouble.

  28. Anonymous*

    Ha. I could’ve written this letter about my own friend. She is just someone who has always been handed things on a silver platter, so when we graduated I had to listen to her whine and complain about her job search (meanwhile, she had never held a job in her life and had no internships in college)… when she finally got a job over a year later she quit after 2 months, complaining it didn’t pay enough for the amount of work she was doing and was just a miserable place to work…. she then took 6+ months off to ponder on what she really wanted to do in life… and she is now getting her Master’s (all expenses paid for by her poor parents of course, ha). And what do I get to listen to her complain about all of the time now? Woe is me, my all-expenses-paid Master’s program is just so hard and so time consuming, womp womp. Meanwhile, all I can think is “Wow, it must be nice to be 26 and still living an all-expenses paid lifestyle,” and “About half of my friends from college are in Master’s programs right now AND working full-time, and I never hear them complain…..” I’ve started distancing myself from this person as it was starting to drive me nuts having listen to someone tell me their life is hard and stressful, when they truly have NEVER had it hard or encountered REAL-life stress (and no, I do not consider stressing over getting a B on an exam real-life stress).

  29. BW*

    This reminds me of a couple (literally a couple) I had the displeasure of working with in a volunteer capacity. They were young, arrogant, and clueless, and the way they treated people they worked with and people who were senior to them and had many more years of real experience and knowledge accumulation was despicable. It didn’t shock me at all that the woman couldn’t seem to hold down a job, and had to resort to her husband’s connections to get an internship position I was well aware she would have otherwise not qualified for. These types of people dig their own pits unfortunately.

    I agree with a lot of the comments here about it not being your problem. On the other hand, I often prefer to be up front, because if your friend doesn’t snap out of her fantasy universe, she’ll continue to have this issue of either going about her search all wrong because her expectations are totally out of whack and/or coming across as unappealingly arrogant.

    She was surprised she had to interview? Really, she need someone to kindly set her straight on that kind of thinking. It’s doing her no favors to continue on that way, and part of being a good friend is sometimes giving some honest advice. It’s not necessary to be mean about it or blaming. It may be just telling someone in this situation that their surprising experience is actually normal. It’s the way job searching works. She might benefit from reading some of AAM’s other advice on job searching, especially those ones where people write in shocked that they didn’t get the job.

    That unfruitful job search depression is very real. I’ve seen lots of people who were more realistic and less arrogant struggle with it. For that she just may need a shoulder to cry on and some reassurance to keep at it.

  30. Anonymous*

    It’s not your job to find her a job, but she keeps bringing up the issues with you. Have you recommended she read this blog? At least she can learn about how to better prepare to get a job.

    The job market, however, is terrible. I was out of work for over a year, couldn’t find anything. She may not have the right attitude, but jobs aren’t hanging around on trees, either. And unemployment depression can get pretty bad. I finally lowered my standards to the point where I found a low paying job that I hated, but at least it was something. And even though I couldn’t stand the job, it was a job, and it raised my spirits enough to eventually move on to a better opportunity when it came up.

  31. Tom*

    I get the “better” school thing, because it does exist for MBAs and law schools. I went to a tiny law school in MI that I chose for its location, and my family ties to the area. I now live in NYC, and everyone asks where you went to law school. No one has ever heard of my school, and I get weird looks like I must not have been smart enough to get into a better known school. Hopefully, in a few years, where I went won’t matter as much but since I am still in my 30’s, it seems to be the go-to question to determine my value.

    1. Liz*

      This. I went to a well-ranked, large state school in the Mid West, named after the state, and when I am on either coast people still ask me, “So where was that?” when I tell them my school ALL THE TIME. Then they give me the pity look :)

      1. Jill of All Trades*

        Wow. That’s more of a reflection on the awareness of the coastal people than it is on you if they have to ask where a state school is. It’s one thing to not know what state Notre Dame is in; it’s kind of pitiful to need to ask where the University of Nebraska is. Unless they are asking where it is in relation to the state capitol or something like that, but from your comment I take it that is not the case.

  32. Suzanne*

    The worst thing the OP can do in this situation is to:

    a) complain about her own job as that rings a little hollow when talking to someone who has no job

    b) give too much job searching advice unless she’s in the same field or has recently been in the same situation. I have a degree in a field which has completely tanked in the past few years (library science). I’m amazed that I haven’t hit somebody because the advice I’ve gotten is so ridiculous. “Have you tried the local public library system?” (OMG. Duh. Like that never occurred to me. The local library system has lost something like 40 positions in the past 5 years. They aren’t hiring) “You’ll have to go pound the pavement!” (And be told to go home and apply online. It’s happened) “Wow. I wouldn’t know how to apply for a job nowadays. I never even had to fill out a resume to get my job.” (Thanks for making me feel like I played life’s lotto and lost)

    c) Not be sympathetic. If you haven’t ever been out of work, you have no idea what it is like.

    The OP’s friend might be sabotaging herself by being arrogant or whatever, but much of what she’s saying may also be true. There is also discrimination, if you want to call it that, against those currently unemployed

  33. Anonymous*

    I have been looking for a job for a year. I’m fresh out of school, I’m in a very similar field to your friend, and I’ve had something like three interviews. The flat out fact of the matter is that NGOs, nonprofits, and gov agencies are all completely out of money right now. There is nothing to hire anyone new with, and a lot of people are getting laid off as grants or other funding they used to be able to rely on has dried up. Everyone in any industry that operates through nonprofits or the gov is feeling this crunch, and we have no idea when this will change– it doesn’t mend the same way the rest of the economy does. I’m actually currently “volunteering” for something that used to be a paid position but the funding disappeared this year, just to keep working when I don’t have any other options.

    Your friend sounds like she’s being annoying, but no, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with her that she’s been unemployed all this time. The job market is completely borked. I haven’t even been able to get in to retail or something basic like I used to do when I was a teenager for god’s sake, because everyone has fallen back on the same things and now you can’t rely on them to fall back on anymore. She’s digging into lengthy cover letters and meticulous applications because every opening is a big freaking deal at this point and not a single bit of detail can be spared without making you wonder if you’d only done a little more, if maybe you’d get that callback.

  34. Sarah E. Welch*

    I’d look for a good career counselor & get her an appointment. She obviously needs someone that will cut the crap & tell her like it is. She’s more likely to take it from a professional than a friend.

  35. Another*

    Are you always such a busybody? Sure, your friend’s behavior may be frustrating, but honestly it sounds like you’re butting into her business much more, like how you assume the way she thinks or what her expectations are, and quite honestly, you’re tone comes off as judgmental and resentful of her so far.

    I see that your friend is driving you crazy by talking about her job search so much, but she may not be realizing how much she does. I can’t relate to the situation your friend finds herself in, but I can imagine that if I reach that point, I’d feel so exasperated and frustrated. As a friend, you could just point out to her kindly that you two end up talking about this topic a lot, or even ask her if she realizes how much she talks about it. Or, better, you can drag her out to do something enjoyable to get her mind off of it. At the end of the day, it’s her life, her problem, not yours. If it bothers you how much you talk about it, let her know. Outside of that, it’s really not your problem or your business, if she’s too picky or high maintenance or unrealistic about expectations, it’s her problem to solve. I can see that she’s annoying you by excessive discussion, but beyond that, I think you’re being judgmental and nosy about her choices. It’s her life!

  36. New_to_this*

    I have a friend who was out of work for the best part of a year – first of all by choice, then not who behaved in a similar way to your friend. Very princess attitude, I deserve X amount of pay, I’m not going to do anything beneath me etc. However, in fairness – when working, she is very good at her job.

    Problem was, when she needed a job, she couldn’t get one – and this went on for probably six or seven months. It’s a vicious circle. She became obnoxious around me – quite hostile and confrontational – I felt like every time I saw her I’d be gearing up for a fight.

    After one night of this, I called late in the evening and said, “I know looking for a job is sucky and the reasons they give you are BS and you know not to take it personally but I can see you’re still upset.” And she was like, “yes..” So I said, “as your friend, I want to help you, tell me how I can do this because I don’t think I’m doing a great job at it right now. Do you want me to look at your CV, do you want me to not talk about jobs, do you want me to contact my contacts?”

    Just this conversation completely turned things around and some of the attitude and hostility dropped. And I don’t want to blow smoke up my own ass, but I think that feeling of knowing someone was on her side changed her demeanor – not just with me, but with recruiters and interviewers. I contacted people I knew and from that she got a couple of interviews – and further into the hiring process than previously. Within a month she jot a job (not through my contacts in the end) but doing the stuff she’s good at and at a ridiculously high salary – so in some respects the princess attitude remains, but at least I’m not gearing up for a fight every time we meet up now.

    I think that vicious circle makes people difficult to be around, if you could have this sort of conversation, perhaps it would help? And if it doesn’t – then perhaps it’s time to walk away?

  37. iceyone*

    If you have some money, use it to buy her a clue :)

    She needs an attitude readjustment (after a year of no offers I would have thought that someone would catch on that maybe, just maybe, they need to change?)

    Good luck to your friend – having the right education (from the right school) might help open some doors, but it won’t be the reason someone does/doesn’t get hired.

    Of course, you could lay it out for her, but it might crush her.

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