my manager has crippling anxiety, putting modeling on a resume, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My manager has crippling anxiety

I am a paralegal, and the attorney I directly report to has an anxiety disorder. If a stressful situation arises (which, being an attorney, is every day), he freezes and cannot think of anything. For example, an expert’s office moved to a different suite and, thus, his directions were wrong. Instead of thinking to call the doctor’s office for directions, he simply called me, panicking. I couldn’t get a word in edgewise over statements of, “I can’t believe this is happening,” “What am I going to do,” and “Oh God, oh God.” I think it is clear that this is to the point where it is difficult for us to progress in cases when he has one of his spells. Everything comes to a screeching halt while he panics at me.

I tried to find information online about how to work with him, but it’s all for spouses or close friends and is clearly inappropriate. I do know that he is seeking medical help. But, while he goes through the slow process of learning to cope with stress, what can I do to help get our work done?

Well, probably very little. This isn’t your problem to handle, and it’s not one you can solve. You can certainly ask, “Is there anything I can do in these situations to be more helpful?” and you can focus on being calm, helpful, and really on top of things, but beyond that, this one is outside your sphere of control.

2. Should I put modeling work on my resume?

I graduated in 2010 with an honors business degree from a top business school. After that, I worked for a couple years in an HR consulting firm, eventually moved up to assistant marketing manager. A modeling opportunity came along, and I quit my job to pursue it. Two years later, I now want to get back into the marketing world and have been job-hunting for a couple months. My goal is to get into a medium or large company doing marketing again.

From a management/hiring perspective, should I include my modeling experience on my resume? There are aspects in modeling that use my marketing skills, but at the same time, I feel there might be a certain stigma associated with the profession. This has been bothering me for the longest time and no one seems to have an answer.

Normally, I’d say that not to include it because generally it has the potential to harm more than help (by triggering people’s biases about the modeling industry), but in your case I’d probably include it — largely because you’re going to need to explain what you were doing the last two years, but also because marketing is a field where the experience is more likely to be seen as advantageous — or at least not harmful.

3. Can I ask an employer about the ages of their employees?

When interviewing for a job, how do I ask about the age of other employees without, well, asking it? I have an interview coming up for a job that so far seems like a great fit. In my next job, it’s really important that there are a solid amount of employees that are close to my age (I’m mid-20s) and there is socializing outside of work. In my past 2 positions, I have been in offices with less than 30 people and almost everyone is more than a generation ahead of me. I feel silly about this since I know work isn’t supposed to be a party but I feel like this is a major cause of my unhappiness so far in my career. I’m not looking for new BFFs, but it would be nice to actually have a couple friends at work. I’m not really sure how to ask about this since, due to my industry, I’m probably the only one in this position at any given company. Is there any appropriate way to ask this question or get this information?

You can certainly ask about the culture, and try to get a feel for the environment during your time in their offices, but no, I can’t think of a direct way to ask about the age of their employees without giving the impression that your priorities are a bit out of whack and that you’re going to be spending too much time socializing at work. You could, however, ask to talk to people who are peer-level with the job you’re interviewing for (probably waiting until you have an offer to do this), and you could really drill them on culture issues.

But I’ve got to ask: It’s reasonable to want to be able to click with the people you work with, but are you sure that means that they have to be in your same age group or that there has to be lots of outside-of-work socializing? Would you really not be happy somewhere warm and friendly but without a bunch of happy hours? I’m a big proponent of “know what you want and screen jobs accordingly,” so if a job with lots of out-of-work socializing is what you want, you should certainly go after it — but depending on your field, it might end up being a limiting factor that takes away career options you’d otherwise have. Is it important enough to you that you’re willing to make that trade-off? Ultimately, if those things are really important to you, there are fields that will have more of it than others — but I’d urge you to look instead for a culture that feels comfortable to you, aside from ages and social activities.

4. What info is helpful to relay to managers about their staff who run volunteer projects for me?

I oversee a group of full-time employees who volunteer to run projects in our organization that are outside their job descriptions. They report to me in their volunteer capacity. I want to be able to evaluate their performance both for their own growth, but also to share the great things they are doing with their managers during annual performance reviews. What information do you think managers would find valuable?

It’s hard to get specific without knowing more specifics, but in general, it’s probably going to be most valuable if you focus on what makes them especially good at the work, areas that have posed more of a challenge, skills they’re using/developing, and any particular areas of progress that you’ve noted over time.

5. What do I say to a contact’s contact when I’m applying with their organization?

I’m going to apply for a job at a particular place, and a former mentor knows someone who has been working there for some 20 years. The mentor said I should get in touch with this person. How should I do that? Do I just send an email out of the blue that says “Hi, I used to work for so-and-so, and I’m applying for (job) at (location) .” And if that’s a good introduction, then what comes next? The application process is all handled online, so it’s not like I can ask this person to pass along my resume.

Apply online, but then email the contact separately and say something like: “I used to work for Jane Smith, and she suggested that I contact you about the XYZ job that Teapots Inc. is currently hiring for. I applied online, but I’m attaching my materials here as well, and I’d love to talk if you think I might be a good fit for the role.” (And then, obviously, attach the resume and cover letter that you submitted online.)

If this person is involved in hiring for the position, they’ll take it from there. If they’re not, they might forward your stuff to the person who is, give you some other piece of advice, or do nothing. But this is basically how you’d want to lead it off.

{ 196 comments… read them below }

  1. BCW*

    For #3 I completely understand the concern, especially at your age and if you are in a different place from where you grew up. You will be spending so much time at work that its hard to find people to meet, but if you work with people at least close to your age range and similar status, it can be easier. Also, a city vs. rural area can be a big difference. In Chicago, you can find many 30 somethings still unmarried and having a blast on weekends, whereas in central Illinois more people in that age are married with kids. And there is nothing wrong with that, but if you want to also build your social circle, those people won’t be as helpful.

    1. anomnomnomimous*

      Agreed! I think Alison (and several commenters here) kind of missed the mark on this one – it has nothing to do with wanting happy hours or parties, just wanted at least someone that you can relate to and who will treat you as more of an equal. Right now, I’m in an office where most people are, quite literally, more than twice my age, and it impacts EVERYTHING. Whether or not they mean to, they usually treat me like a child. Average age in the office does make a huge difference and ageism is a very real thing. I’m currently looking for a new job that’s a better fit, and just like OP, average age in the office is one of my top priorities/deciding factors.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think that might be more about your particular office though. I’ve had roles where I worked with teams all much older than me, and if it’s a good culture, you won’t get treated like that.

        My point to the OP is that it’s fine to pursue that if it’s truly important to her, but to really think about whether she wants to limit her career options in that way — since it will be a limiting factor in what she’s willing to consider. (I would also argue that a lot of organizations with young staffs and loads of socializing tend to come with a particular set of problems that many people in those environments grow sick of within a few years, but that’s a different issue.)

        1. Lucy*

          It depends on the office you work in and the people within that office. For example – I’m the youngest in a very large company. I started early. One of my best work-friends is well on her way to 40, and she treats me as an equal. I have a coworker about her same age, and she treats me like a child.

          But I don’t like to socialize outside of work, so not exactly applicable to the OP.

        2. Dulcinea*

          I agree that it depends on your office. Everyone in my office is at least 15-20 years older than I am (and I am about to turn 30) but I don’t feel patronized or talked down to.

          1. Jamie*

            Add me to the chorus where it totally depends on the office culture.

            I work with people from their early 20s to their late 60s and it’s not an issue. My closest co-workers are the ones with whom I work the best with due to compatible goals and work styles – and few of us were born in the same decade.

            As a hiring manager I would see it as a huge red flag if there was this much emphasis on wanting to socialize outside of work. It seems like the OP is trying to find a work place to meet her social needs as well and as an employer that would be troubling.

            and from the OP’s letter regarding working with people a generation older than her,

            but I feel like this is a major cause of my unhappiness so far in my career.

            – that’s an even bigger red flag. I read this as a bias against people not of your immediate age group and that thinking will definitively stunt your career.

            A career isn’t like joining a sorority.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I agree, Jamie. Seeing folks at the other end of the story who retire and never, ever hear from their at work friends. The friendship ends with the job.

              I tried once to make some work friends into life friends and a lot of times that just does not pan out. They or I got promoted and the one left behind got upset. They moved away, or they took a job in a department far from mine.

              OP, please do not use friendships as a lens to view jobs. First, it masks the real reason why you are not happy or restless with the job. Second, what do you do when your friends move on and you are still there?

              I suggest taking a long hard look at what you do for a living and figure out the real reason why it’s not working.

            2. CS*

              I agree. I have mostly worked where there are people around 4-8 years younger and people decades older. In one place we got along well and we treated each other all with respect. At the second place, the younger college aged-crowd would go out drinking after work often. Sometimes I would hear that person A bought a bottle of x and they were all going to go drink at person B’s place later. Hearing these kinds of things makes me lose a little respect for my co-workers. This is a place of employment and like Jamie said, not a sorority. If you work somewhere and go socializing with colleagues after, know that it will affect how your older colleagues and supervisor view you, if they know what’s going on.

              On the other hand, both in college and past places of employment, I’ve always had at least one friend who was at least a generation older and I never felt like I was being treated as someone younger. I’ve always had fun around these friends and they definitely did not seem their age at all. So it is possible to become good friends with the older generation. Though they may not feel like going out for drinks as often as you’d like (especially if they are married or have kids), try asking them out once in awhile.

        3. AdminAnon*

          Agreed! I am the youngest person in my office by 20+ years, plus I am the only unmarried person and one of only 2 without kids. However, they all treat me as an equal (and sometimes even as a superior–which freaks me out, to be honest). We have never once had a happy hour (thank goodness–I may be 25, but I “party” like a 40-year-old) and the only team gathering was for a holiday party, but we all get along really well and have a great time at lunch and by the coffee pot.

        4. Kou*

          It really depends, yes. I wouldn’t aim for working with younger people despite the fact that I’ve had a lot of similarly crummy experiences with being the office baby.

          At the same time, I could see how someone who’d had those experiences would think the simplest way to avoid it would be to not be the the odd one out in the future, which is generally reasonable. While I wouldn’t outright avoid places that leave me as the youngest by a large margin, I do take it in to consideration because it’s not at all unusual to be written off for being the oddball socially no matter what that is– could be age, could be the only one with/without kids, could be anything life related, lifestyle or just life period.

      2. Yup*

        I’d be careful using average age as a target. Diversity in ages (and other demographics) might be more helpful. I worked happily in a small office where I was the youngest person by 10 years, and was treated as a valued colleague. I later worked in a department where the average age was very close to my own and they treated me like sh*t. Looking for a culture where people are comfortable working across a range of ages and life situations might get you better results.

        1. Lynette*

          I do get the desire to look forward to seeing your colleagues everyday. I’ve also worked with folks who are an average of 8-10 years older than I am, and had an absolute blast, forging strong friendships that have lasted long after I left that position. As you get older, you are probably going to find connections with coworkers and others that transcend age a bit. Now that I am the one in my 30s, I find that I have made friendships with folks still in their 20s. The age gap may never close, but as the experience gap does, you are left with the most important factors: personality and values. So I don’t disagree with the priority, but I do suggest that you should be open to finding those connections with people at different ages and stages in their lives.

        2. AdAgencyChick*

          Agreed. In fact, in my industry if I see an agency that has plenty of people who are over 50, that would be a sign to me that maybe this place doesn’t chew you up and spit you out. My industry skews young, and there’s a reason for that — as you get older and want to raise a family, that is not especially compatible with long and unpredictable hours. I’d be delighted to work at an agency with lots of 50somethings, even though I’m in my 30s, because I’d read it as a sign that when the time comes that I’ll want to have family obligations, I might actually be able to make it work without having to change careers or go freelance, as so many in my industry do.

      3. Lindsay*

        I have the same thing in my industry. I’m tired of being condescended to! I would kill to have at least a few people my age, though I do understand this is a workplace culture thing that coworkers are condescending.

        I’ve always made most of my friends at work and it’s really hard working someplace where there’s no one that I have anything in common with.

      4. Susan*

        I agree it depends on the office you work in. When I first started in my career, I was the youngest person by about 10 years. However, the office I worked in I never felt like I was an outsider or treated like a child. We would go out every Thursday night for drinks and we all had fun. Age differences weren’t a factor at all.

        This has been this way throughout my career. Now that I’m in my 40s, I’m friends with people in their 20s and in their 60s where I work. I also do things outside of work with the person in their 60s. I don’t even feel like there’s an age difference.

        I get that generations may be different but you shouldn’t view it so black and white. I’ve had many close friends over the years who are of a different generation than me. It’s the person not the generation. If you get along with someone and you have things in common, that’s what makes a friendship.

      5. Penny*

        I think the actual people you work with are more important than age group My team consists of several people 10-30 years older than me plus a couple my age and younger but we all get along great. We joke that we are all old souls which makes it perfect. There’s a team in the building with lots of 20 something’s who are always organizing happy hours which are not my idea of fun (major introvert here). During the interview process, my manager organized a lunch with me and a few coworkers which was a helpful way to see if we clicked. I think you should ask about the culture, what the team is like and even if they tend to socialize out of work. This may discreetly get you the answers you want.

    2. Bwmn*

      To expand on what everyone else is writing here – if socializing with coworkers is really important, then industry is probably a better indicator than coworker peer group. In my last job, 90% of all staff were within five years of my age, but the nature of the organization and industry was ‘not having to take work home with you’ – including socializing – was a key selling point. Plus whether folks are single, newly married, or starting families can wildly impact socializing patterns greatly.

      However, if socializing is part of the sector – then age isn’t the same issue/marker. The example I’m most personally familiar with in the international humanitarian aid sector. Part of the job is often being an expat and living far from family. In some cases coworkers even live together or in the same building area. Obviously this can lead to other problems, but it makes socializing very built into the job.

      Depending on what you do, that may be an extreme option but it’s more guaranteed than learning if everyone is 25.

    3. T*

      As pointed out in some of these comments, age isn’t really the main issue, culture is. I’ve had work situations where people were open to socializing outside work and I developed some good friendships. More recently I’ve had work environments where people seemed less inclined to socializing outside work hours, but I don’t chalk this up to their ages (or mine).

      What if you find a great job full of enthusiastic people in their twenties to early thirties, but they just don’t want to hang out with you after work? Their social needs might be met by family and friends unrelated to their employment.

      Have you looked into joining professional organizations or young professional groups in your area? This might be a good way to bridge your professional and social worlds.

  2. Anonymous*

    #3 maybe get a job at a restaurant or something on the weekend so you can meet younger people who want to party all the time?

    But don’t totally write off older people as possible friends. My only two friends at work are 35 and 50 (I’m your age) and they’re fun to hang out with at work.

    1. Ollie*

      The OP wants to socialize outside of work though.

      I’ve worked with people who were much older than me (two decades or more), and I liked hanging out with them at work and went to lunch with them during work before, but I’m not sure that I would have wanted to socialize outside of work hours. I’m not into partying, so it’s not related to that. People who are that much older than me just don’t feel like peers, which makes it harder to consider them a friend I want to socialize with instead of merely a friendly coworker.

      1. Chinook*

        Age has nothing to do with wanting to socialize outside of office hours – marital status and whether or not they have children is a better indicator. The OP is really looking for a cultural fit but I think she is focusing on the wrong indicators. Definitely, “forced socializing” with happy hours, etc., would be something to look for.

        I would definitely caution against asking about average age because you can come off as shallow and not wanting to work with “old folks.”. Which is too bad because you lose out on unofficial mentoring opportunities and writes off making friends across generations. I have worked in various work cultures and whether or not I made friends that carried past work hours really depended on whether or not we “clicked” and had nothing to do with age, culture or even language. (though we all had the same marital status and none of us had young children).

        1. AnonHR*

          This exactly. The fun happy-hour social group where I work is mostly people 30-40. What they do have in common is that they’re single and don’t have kids (at least during the week).

          1. The IT Manager*

            This is another excellent point. I have not married (yet) and don’t have kids. I worked in one large organization for 15 years. I went from having a lot of single peers like myself to have a number of married with children peers. The lifestyle of nearly everyone in my cohert changed, and mine did not. We all changed and grew up, but as someone mentioned below a lot of married people/women* start to focus much of their socializing around and talking about their kids once they have them.

            * It still seems that a lot of women shift the focus of their life to their kids more than men do. Not all, though, obviously.

        2. OP 3*

          I think this has really hit the nail on the head. I agree, my best friend at my current job has kids my age and she is a great mentor and has given me tons of great advice(including to not stay in this job too long). However, I’m also the only childless one in an office of 15. So while I ‘click’ with other people I work with, it feels as if it’s more of a mentor than a peer.

        3. hilde*

          “Age has nothing to do with wanting to socialize outside of office hours – marital status and whether or not they have children is a better indicator. The OP is really looking for a cultural fit but I think she is focusing on the wrong indicators. ”

          This exactly. Age isn’t always a direct correlation with certain behavior. I am the lamest of the lame and when I was in my 20s I had been married for several years and we were boring and never did happy hour or the like. Now I’m in my 30s with kids and still boring – so it’s more about the person and probably phase of life that you’re really after. On the other hand, I have some coworkers in their 40s and 50s that are out at happy hour several times a week–because they don’t have kids and can afford it! So I totally agree with Chinook when she says that you’re after a certain culture and blend of people, and it’s not necessarily correlated with ages of your coworkers.

        4. CheapRevenge*

          Totally. I like hanging out with a mix of ages – it’s all about the clicking. Don’t assume older people are out of touch – when you find ones that aren’t, you’ll appreciate the opportunity to get their perspective. One of my husband’s best work friends is a good 20 years older than him, and our musician buddies span a 30+ year age range.

      2. thenoiseinspace*

        “People who are that much older than me just don’t feel like peers, which makes it harder to consider them a friend I want to socialize with instead of merely a friendly coworker.”

        +1000! This exactly!

        1. JM*

          Replying to both of these

          I worked for over 4 years at my previous job (I was in my mid 20’s) and three of my friends (two in their 40’s, one in her 30s) quickly went from work to outside friends. We would hang out, go to happy hour, go shopping, etc because we have similar personalities. It has nothing to do with our ages or marital status. One was divorced with a 10 year old, one was married with a high schooler and middle schooler, and the other was single with no kids. Of course, it helped that we didn’t have small children but now 2 of us are at a new job and we all still hang out all the time. I think it’s all about personality.

  3. The IT Manager*

    #3 I think you’re asking too much of work. I sounds like you’re trying to recreate college where your fellow employees form your social circle. I read something about how we never again make friends like we made them in school because the amount of time that we had to form friendships in school – late nights, all-nighters, weekends, breaks between classes, etc. Not that you can’t make new, close friends ever again, but its not the same and much harder but you shouldn’t expect work to do it for you.

    You can and should look for a cultural fit and that might mean more people you’re own age, but looking for and asking about if people your age in the company socialize after work will seem a bit odd I think.

    That said “work hard, play hard” seems to be a code phrase for this but it also seems to mean they work you like crazy then the “gang” blows off steam by drinking and acting all wild and crazy together.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      “That said ‘work hard, play hard’ seems to be a code phrase for this but it also seems to mean they work you like crazy then the “gang” blows off steam by drinking and acting all wild and crazy together.”

      Totally. And in my experience companies that have a lot of social events are doing it on purpose because it’s cheaper to retain employees by getting them to be friends than it is to pay them more. Chacun a son gout, but likelihood of making friends is never a factor when I’m looking for a new job.

    2. hamster*

      Not always. I have been at companies where employees just clicked and there were lots of off-hours events but not sponsored by the company. It was one with great money and benefits, and no one encouraged us to be a goup. At another place, they had a monthly party sponsored ( in part) by the company , but yes, imo it was just a trick to retain employees. You couldn’t probably have friends outside, they worked you so hard. But i find that when i landed the job i’m in, i felt quite uncomfortable until i managed to get more comfortable socializing with colleagues and getting to know people/the social groups etc. It’s definitely a balance between we’re best buddies and i know you strictly at work but it can be done.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I agree. Most of the connections we make at work are professional, not personal. It’s nice to be friends with people who understand the daily grind. However, in my experience, most of those work friendships seem to fall away once you leave the job.

      It IS really hard to make friends outside college. But it can be done, and if you don’t restrict your criteria to your own age group, you open up a whole new set of possibilities.

      1. Emily K*

        I want to add that there’s often professional benefit to socializing with your coworkers outside of work. The closest friends I’ve made through afterhours socializing are also the coworkers who are willing to proofread something I’ve written, forward me information about a professional development opportunity in my field that they thought of me when they saw, think to include me on their team when a new project is launching, give me tips for dealing with difficult coworkers that they have more experience with, make a compromise to cede some of their project’s spare resources to my project, and tons of other helpful things that their job doesn’t require them to do for me. (And I reciprocate with the same things for them!)

        Although I have a strict policy about not engaging in gossip/office politics/drama, there’s no doubt in my mind that if I kept to myself and didn’t go to the happy hours and make those friends, I wouldn’t be as successful and effective as I am in my job–and likewise my work friends wouldn’t be quite as successful and effective without the little things I do for them.

        I agree with you that the majority of these work friends will turn to Facebook acquaintances once one of us leaves this job, but it’s definitely still been an asset to me at least in the short-term to build these more-than-just-professional relationships.

      2. annie*

        I agree about most of these friendships falling away once you (or they) leave the job. When I was first out of college I made some very good friends at my first job, but when they left, I was surprised and disappointed when the friendships did not continue, or at least did not continue in the same way they had in the past. Sometimes it was moving father away, sometimes it was too busy with the new job, and sometimes I suspect that people just wanted to leave the old place behind including their former coworkers. At times, I admit it did hurt my feelings, but it was a good lesson to learn. Of course, I do have some friends that I have retained from various times we’ve worked together, but I think that is the exception rather than the rule. I’d advise the OP to think about non-work social groups or volunteer organizations as a way to meet and make more lasting friends.

    4. Natalie*

      Oh, “work hard, play hard”. I date online and that phrase is one I see over and over. We’ve decided it often means some variation of “I’m a Type A functional alcoholic”.

      1. Hunny*

        Gotta agree with you and Grace here. That exact phrase was used by my college peers who seemed to mean “Party hard… And take classes, I guess.”

    5. Kate*

      I agree with this. I’m 25 and am very happy to have a few other people in my office who are in their 20s, so I definitely understand where you’re coming from. It’s nice to have people my age and at my stage of life to socialize with during lunch and what not. At the same time, though, I don’t hang out with them outside of work very much. Most of my best friends here are people I met through volunteering or though Meetup-type groups.

      I would see having younger people in your office as sort of a nice bonus, but focus on getting the job that challenges you and your career the most, and try to meet friends outside of work. Meetup is a good place to start, as well as college alumni groups, etc.

    6. Kou*

      I can see where she’s coming from, though. I’ve been the youngest by a large margin at two different companies and in both cases it meant I was not really part of the group in some way or another. Usually it’s just social things that aren’t important really but when people don’t think of you as part of the team, it has repercussions. Once my department was restructured and we (the one other much younger person and I) weren’t included in any of the talks and was never notified simply because no one ever thought of us when thinking of the department as a whole. That was the extreme problem, but we’d see other symptoms all the time in that the whole staff would socialize with each other outside work or during lunch (including newer hires that were in the “right” age range) but wouldn’t with us. It all comes back to “this person isn’t a peer.”

      So while I don’t think looking for a company with a younger employee makeup is the way to address that concern, I see where the OP is coming from and I don’t think it just boils down to wanting to party with your coworkers like college students.

  4. Jen in RO*

    I absolutely understand what #3 means. We spend most of our (awake) time at work, so it’s weird to me that so many people separate their professional lives from their personal lives. I don’t go to work to make BFFs, but I would hate (and probably quit) a job where there is no social interaction. Of course there are people 20, 30 or 40 years older that can become amazing friends, but they are the exception rather than the rule. I’m 30 and there are not many things in common I have with my mother’s generation (late 50s). Is it shallow that I want to discuss about internet memes, advancing my career as a young professional and going out, rather than children, being top management and planning for retirement*? Maybe, but that’s the way I want my work-life to be, and I’m in a position to filter for that. (I have it easy, because my field – software development – is fairly new, so most people are around my age.)

    *This are just examples, of course not all young/old people like the things I said. Personally, I never go out, but I do enjoy coworkers’ tales of drunken mishap.

    1. CAA*

      [i]I have it easy, because my field – software development – is fairly new, so most people are around my age.[/i]

      As someone who wrote her first program in 1976 (in 7th grade), this just struck me as funny.

      1. Judy*

        My first software job (in 1995) was with a group that had been in existence in that company since 1981.

      2. gd*

        Remember doing the program with punch cards? My teacher made us do one just so we could appreciate the progress in programming.

      3. Windchime*

        As someone who works on a software team of 10 people where the youngest is in his early 40’s and the oldest is 63, it strikes me funny as well. :)

      4. Jamie*

        Ha – me too. My dad was writing code in 1959 – back when Fortran ruled the world and you programmed by physically moving wires on giant mainframes.

        He met my mom because she fed his keypunch cards with his code into the system.

        I know brilliant programmers in their 50s-60 still working. It’s not just a young person’s game.

      5. ThursdaysGeek*

        I was going to use the example from PreviousJob, where one co-worker was talking about being old as he approached his 25th birthday, and another pointed out he had 50 years on him. I was between, and I never thought that much about age, but rather about ability. (I had never realized that my co-worker was 75 either.)

        As long as my co-workers are competent and I can talk about the job, their age doesn’t matter. And many have become friends outside of work, some younger, some older.

      6. Jen in RO*

        I’m sure that applies to the US, but technological advancement took a while to get here. That pesky communism and stuff. So yes, most experienced software developers are in their 40s and 50s, and you were rarely see someone over 60.

        1. Chinook*

          That’s because they all moved to Canada? The tech company I worked for in Ottawa 7 years ago had half a dozen eastern Europeans over the age of 50 (one of them was techincallly a Russian Rocket Scientist who was now programming scanners to be used by the US postal system). After that experience, I thought computer tech knowledge was common in your neck of the woods. I guess I was wrong.

          1. Jen in RO*

            Canada is a particularly popular destination because most of the regions are English-speaking and the immigration laws are less strict than in the US (I think). I’m not saying there are no software developers over the age of 50 – hell, I have a coworker who is 64. But since software companies only started appearing in the 1990s (because you pretty much couldn’t own a company before that – everything was state-owned), regular people didn’teven know computer programming existed. Since the 90s, IT/CS and all related fields have become hugely popular, so there is a great influx of young(er) programmers.

    2. thenoiseinspace*

      Exactly! I’m not a party-goer wither, so it has nothing to do with that. But with my current office, the 20+ year gap means that we have almost nothing in common, which makes even casual water-cooler type conversation strained and incredibly awkward.

        1. monologue*

          Don’t be so quick to shrug this stuff off. It might be a little TMI sometimes, but I find people in their 50s and 60s have amazing advice on how to manage your body post 30th birthday because they’ve already been dealing with this or that for 20+ years.

          1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

            I don’t mean this as flippant as it will sound (OK, maybe I do a little), but that’s what the Internet is for. TMI is much more tolerable, and just as helpful, when you never have to meet the person sharing! :)

      1. Cat*

        I’d argue that people you don’t have anything in common with are going to be people you don’t have anything in common with regardless of age. People who are interesting to you are going to be interesting to you even if you aren’t at the same life stages.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          People who are interesting to you are going to be interesting to you even if you aren’t at the same life stages.

          Yes! In my twenties, I had older friends who were the same age as my parents. We were friends because we had things in common (music, theater, art, other friends, etc.). Now that I’m in my forties, I find that I still share interests with millennials, and I do have close friends in that age group. In fact, most of my friends (online and off) and I hang out together or talk because of our similarities, not our differences. And I think this stays true throughout your adult life.

          1. Poe*

            I’m super-late to add this, but I am friends with a guy my dad’s age…who I met because he is friends with my dad. He’s so old, his kids are even older than me. But we are actual friends, and people have a hard time understanding that no, he is not a creepy old lecher, we have actual interests in common. It’s also funny when I know big news (his retirement) before my dad.

        2. KellyK*

          Very true. I have close friends who are old enough to be my parents, because we have shared interests (the SCA, D&D, and other similarly geeky stuff).

          I think being at the same life stage gives you *one* thing in common. Even if you have no shared interests, if you’re both new parents, you can bond over the joys of finally getting 5 hours sleep. If you’re both dating, you can talk about that. Kind of like how you could be in high school and have no similar interests whatsoever, but you can both agree that Mrs. Jones’ math class is the most boring thing ever.

          So it’s good for water cooler chat. But real friendship is going to be built on more than that. (And, honestly, I think water cooler chat about things you aren’t experiencing is interesting too—I like talking to coworkers about their kids or their college classes.)

        3. Felicia*

          That! I’ve made friends from writing groups, nerd type events, fandom events and online, that have been from 20-60, and it’s because anyone of any age can have those interests . It’s just less likely I’ll meet people I have those things in common with at work, regardless of age. I do find myself better at making small talk with people my age, but that’s it.

        4. Jen in RO*

          But the odds of having something in common with someone around your age are higher than having something in common with someone 20 years older. No one is saying that it *never* happens, but it’s just a matter of statistics.

          1. Chinook*

            I think it is a combination of age and cultural background. DH are 9 years apart but from the Toronto area and there are times when I have more in common with his mother (who is 10 years older than me) because we both grew up in rural areas (her outport Newfoundland, me Northern Alberta). She and I can bond over roaming outside as children and TV with only 2 channels (pus the french one) whereas he grew up with the internet and video games. Put me in a room of “rural kids”, regardless of age, and we will bond differently than we would with our peers. Cas in point, the coworker I have most in common with is my parents’ age but we both lived in the same place at the same time (he gave a company presentation at my junior high).

            1. Jen in RO*

              I’m just saying that age is an important factor, but all cultural background is equally important. I remember very vividly talking to a friend from Lithuania, while her South African boyfriend were there. They are both 4 years older than me, but you can’t beat the shared culture – even if we grew up in countries thousands of kilometers apart, she and I had more in common due to our countries being under the same regime. Her boyfriend just sat there for 30 minutes while we went “OMG, did you have to stand in line at 3 AM for eggs? Us too!”.

              (I’m sorry for all this communism stuff, I’m even boring myself, and I don’t even remember much because I was very young. I do feel it’s a big influence on today’s culture, mentality etc. and I hate it.)

      2. Observer*

        I find that very odd. You (we) all share a very big world that encompasses a lot of things to talk about. And, sometimes the age gap can actually provide real interest and breadth to conversations. Of course, if you are dealing with people who think that only THEIR generation got it right, or you are one of those people yourself, it’s not going to work out too well. But, if you can accept that difference is just that – not better nor worse, just different, there is plenty that can be of interest and plenty of common ground.

        As others have noted, the extent to which you can have a reasonable social life, limited to the water cooler or not, is more about culture than age.

        I’d also point out that some of the young people complaining about ageism are doing the exact same thing.

    3. BCW*

      Exactly. I think too many people look at wanting to interact socially outside of work meaning they want to go get drunk together. That may not be the case at all. HOWEVER, I’d argue that if you are a single twentysomething its much easier to find someone that shares your interests outside of work if the majority of your office isn’t in their 40s and married with kids. Again, having a social network at work is one thing, but the OP is looking for this outside of work too.

    4. OP 3*

      This exactly. I have no interest in getting wasted with all my work colleagues, regardless of age. In fact, I think I would feel pretty mortified if that happened. I’m much more concerned about having social interactions at work than I am outside of work- like I mentioned I’m not looking for new BFF’s – but it wouldn’t be terrible to have a work happy hour or grab a drink with a co-worker every so often. Which is unheard of at my current job.

      1. Observer*

        The mistake you are making is that it is solely a matter of age. Don’t kid yourself. Young people and old can be equally condescending. Whether you are “to young”, “too old”, “the new kid on the block” or whatever it is.

        Look for culture.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I don’t see anything wrong with saying “So what is the culture of the department/company?” And if the opening comes then saying “oh do people seem to be interested in going for coffee or dinner together?”
        I think if you leave the part about age out of the question, then your question will be just fine. However, be sure to have other questions and drop this one as “oh BTW…”

        1. Hunny*

          I once asked in a phone interview what the “atmosphere” of the workplace was like. My interviewer, totally befuddled, began walking around the three-room office describing the view out each window. Needless to say, I learned nothing useful from that question.

          I think Not So Newreader’s questions are great because of their specificity. OP, you mentioned grabbing lunch and the occasional happy hour as examples of what you are hoping for, so think of ways to ask about those types of social activities.

    5. hamster*

      I’m in the field too, and believe me , at my current job, it’s hard to find another fairly experienced person that is not over 45. I was shoked too. And in Ro nevertheless. But i agree with you. It is weird for me if the group i’m in it’s not social.I prefer a mix. I had a shock the first time i wasn’t the youngest in the company ( I was 24 , and there was a colleague at 22) . Now that i’ve seen different places in the industry, yeah, that was a huge assumption

    6. Observer*

      This is a breathtaking example of ageism in play.

      As others have pointed out, software development is far from a “new” field. But that kind of ignorance leads to a lot of unfair and counter-productive assumptions. Especially when you already paint people with a ridiculously broad brush.

      Yes, I know you mentioned the obligatory exceptions, but your assumptions that they ARE exceptional – so much so that you are unlikely to find them even in your field speaks volumes.

      1. Jen in RO*

        What? First, my examples didn’t have anything to do with software development, that was just an aside. (And in this country, it IS a newer field. Never assume that everyone is living your life. I saw my first computer in the 90s and it was a knockoffs of something that had been sold in the States 10 years previous. Most people around were busy surviving communism when you guys were inventing computers.)

        Second, are you going to tell me that younger people are more likely to discuss retirement than older people? Or that younger people are more likely to be in top management than older people? How is that ageism? It’s a matter of statistics, stage of life and work experience. When in comes to work, I don’t give a shit what age people are; when it comes to my personal relationships, I will gravitate around people my age and I am not ashamed of that. (Before you read it wrong again – that does not mean that if someone is [age + 10] he’s my BFF, but if he were [age + 11] I would ignore him.)

        1. Jen in RO*

          For a concrete example: I just calculated some percentages based on the Romanian 2002 census. Say I wanted to meet other women with children, what are my odds? 4% of girls between 15 and 19 have kids; 29% of women between 20 and 24; 61% of women between 25 and 29; 80% of women between 30 and 34; 87% of women between 35-39 (and I stopped here).

          So, if I was going about this in a scientific way (obviously not applicable as such to real life), my best odds would be making friends with women in their 30s, and I would have very low odds of meeting teenage mothers. *Statistically speaking*, women in their 30s are more likely to be mothers… so how on Earth is it ageism to search for women in their 30s in one’s *personal life*?

        2. Observer*

          So, let’s start with the easy part – the claim that software development is a relatively new field. This is simply and provably false, unless you are talking relative to something like the Industrial Revolution. This was not an “example” but a statement about your field. It’s a statement that is inaccurate (and certainly sounds ageist.)

          As for you example, in most cases, they absolutely don’t map to age at all. In YOUR life they may, but your life doesn’t map to the whole world any more than mine does.

          I know from experience, for instance, that interest in “internet memes” is highly culture specific, and I can point to a large number of young people who would roll their eyes at that.

          As for your example about “advancement” vs “being top management”, it’s hard to know where to even start. So, allow me to point out to you that the two are not exactly mutually exclusive. Also, allow me to point out that it’s not the exception for “older” people to not be top management. On the other hand, advancement as a professional is mostly the same at any age.

          The only item on your list that is really affected by age is retirement planning, and most 40-somethings are not so obsessed by their planning that that becomes the focus of all of their conversations. And, even as late as mid-30s it tends not to even be much of a conversation, except when deciding something like whether to participate in an 401k plan.

          1. Jen in RO*

            So you’re arguing that your experience trumps my experience? OK, we can just leave it at that, and we can both keep on searching for workplaces that fit our criteria, age-related or otherwise.

  5. Runner Bear*

    OP3 – I totally understand where you’re coming from, and I agree with BCW and the IT manager above so I’m not going to repeat their sentiments. What I would say however is it may be best to separate your job search and your friend search. Personally, I find nothing more boring than spending time outside of work with colleagues because we inevitably talk shop. Having friends outside your work circle allows you to focus on other aspects of your life – shared hobbies or interests for example.

    Try meet-up websites if you’re looking for friends, or get involved in local clubs or societies or volunteer projects to make friends – you’ll likely find it easier than expecting it of coworkers, and if you find friends in your coworkers too – added bonus.

    (also, don’t write off older people as friends – I’m 25, one of my best friends turns 40 this year and I recently celebrated another friends 50th – both are much more fun to hang out with than some friends of my own age)

    1. LondonI*

      Yep – I’m 31 and have found friendships with people who are 20-30 years older than me a lot of fun. At the other end of the scale, I have good friends in their early 20s. Because I don’t have children, I find that I sometimes have more things in common with them than with my old school friends who now all seem to have their lives filled with babies. (Which is fine. But I can only talk about the merits of feeding a 12-month-old asparagus for so long before I find my eyes glazing over.)
      It’s a cliche, but after about the age of 17, age really is just a number. An interesting, dynamic 45-year-old and a mature 18-year old will both make better companions than a dull or self-absorbed 24-year-old.
      At the age of 22 I worked in an all-female team of seven. Six of the women were under 30. The manager was 39. It had its good points, but on the whole I was glad to escape to an environment which had a broader range of people.

    2. Bryan*

      I agree completely about the talking shop part. I also think there should be some sort of line between work and friends although I like being friendly to people at work.

      Is their a young social professional group near you? I’ve seen them even in small towns, typically they have a facebook group.

    3. Claire*

      Agree 100%. I’m a social person and at the office, the people I “clicked” with the most are all decades older than me. There are people my age (late 20s) at the office and I get along with them great but I’m better friends with others. I don’t think age had anything to do with it, just how our personalities worked out.

    4. Cat*

      I think your parenthetical is a really good point. One of the things that surprised me about working when I started my first full-time job was how much I liked being around people of all different ages and all different experience levels. It wasn’t something I had really experienced in school or in part-time jobs and internships (where there was always a group of student workers or interns). The different types of perspectives you get can be really great.

      1. Ali*

        I am 28 and my closest friend (not someone I met from work, but at a leisure activity) is 41. It works well because she’s been through a lot of the things I am dealing with and gives good advice, and we’re also in similar predicaments (i.e. both living at home, but her for a different reason than me, both of us are single and so forth). Our personalities also just “click” so it’s made us really good friends, even if we don’t always agree on certain things. Meanwhile I’ve found that some of the people closer to my age group that I used to be friends with are still more interested in partying or drinking, which is fine, but not my bag.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          This. I feel that until I reach 90ish, I should try to have one or more friends that are around 10 years older than me for the VERY reason you are saying. Someone whose got some insights on life BUT does not put me down or talk condescendingly. These friendships are actually comforting and relaxing. I don’t have to compete, I can say “I dunno”, etc.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes! There are also real drawbacks to having a lot of your close friends be people at work, like talking about work all the time, complaining about work all the time (which has a way of making you less satisfied than you’d otherwise be), and taking on their battles as their own (for instance, your friend Bob feels mistreated by his manager/the organization, and now you have a beef with his manager/the organization too, even though you otherwise would have liked her/it).

      1. Emily*

        I totally agree, Alison. I used to work on a team of all women around my age, and while I made lasting friends there, it became increasingly difficult to get work done. As I moved up, I wasn’t their direct manager, but I did have to assign tasks to them, which created a difficult dynamic. At my new organization, there is a “Rising Professionals” group that hosts lunches and happy hours, so while I don’t work with anyone my own age, I’ve been able to meet people- I wonder if OP3 can find something similar.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Not to mention that work friends often disappear if you leave the job. You just don’t see each other often, especially if the new job is farther away (and then there’s the awkward if the person leaving was laid off or fired).

      3. The IT Manager*

        Too true. And I never thought of it this way, but in one office where I had friends, I did not enjoy work because it was dysfunctional enviroment with a passive agressive boss. And my friends and I would bitch to each other about the problems at work all the time. In another office, I had great co-workers and a boss, but I wouldn’t call us friends. Married men with kids versus me a single woman no kids … so different stage of life. It was a great work enviroment, though, despite the work being nothing like my “drem job”. That said, we did go out to lunch every few weeks and left work early occassional had drinks on a Friday. (So we would not be out too much later than a normal work day.)

        I think you want some “work friends” who you can socialize with at work during your down moments at work. Co-workers and bosses who respect you despite your age and don’t condescend to you.

        I think LW3 gets it and now understands that what she was thinking of asking was not quite the right question. What she is asking is the hard to articulate or answer, “will I fit in with the culture?”

        But I think the ideas to look for larger companies in cities is a good place to start.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        I totally agree with Alison, the lines get fuzzy. Where does the friendship stop and the job start?
        And what happens if several people start competing with each other and things get nasty?

    6. Felicia*

      Yup that’s a way more successful way i’ve made friends. For the past 6 months i’ve been on a making new friends quest….I’ve joined a writing group, started going to a fairly nerdy comedy show and joined a volunteer group for a cause i’m interested in, and have made a few new clubs that way, of all ages. With work, it’s only guaranteed we’ll have work in common, though I did meet my best friend at a former job neither of us work at anymore.

  6. llamathatducks*

    About #1, I just want to make the small but important point that your (very legitimate!) problem with your manager is solely about his behavior, not his mental health status, and one does not imply the other. It’s very possible to have mental health issues, including anxiety issues, and be able to deal with them in a way that respects professional boundaries and is effective for the job. Clearly in your manager’s case that’s not happening, and that’s a problem, but it’s important to try not to let justifiable complaints about unacceptable behavior turn into blanket statements about mental illness, or the implication that the two are inextricably linked.

    My sympathies, though – that’s a really unpleasant situation.

    1. IronMaiden*

      I agree. I suffer from crippling anxiety as the result of a workplace assault that was handled very badly. As a result, I’m very jumpy, prone to severe stress and can spiral out of control if I don’t keep myself on a very tight leash. However, my freakouts tend to be mostly internal, with only the occasional “oh crap” or something escaping. I have found some herbal supplements to be useful in helping me remain calm.

      1. Contessa*

        Which supplements? As I’m about to post below, I’m also an attorney with crippling anxiety, so any advice helps.

          1. the_scientist*

            I use Bach’s rescue remedy spray or drops to deal with what I like to call emergent anxiety (that pre-panic attack stage). My dad uses it before golfing and swears it helps his game, too!

            1. Contessa*

              Huh, I’ve never heard of that. Where do you buy it?

              I have taken ignatia for panic attacks, and it does help, but I’m out and I’ve been so ridiculously busy that I haven’t had time to go to the store.

              1. the_scientist*

                I think you can get it from most health food stores (the hippier the better). I actually bought it to give my dog (who has OCD) but now the whole family uses it! And for the record, as my name might suggest, I’m a big believer in facts/evidence/science, but this stuff, is, in my experience, quite effective at getting my heart rate down.

                1. IronMaiden*

                  Contessa, I take Rhodiola, which is an adaptogen that helps deal with stress, and Passion Flower, which has an antianxiety effect.

                  Cognitive behavioural therapy could help you too, where you learn what triggers your attacks and learn how to prevent them becoming full blown.

        1. Emily K*

          I am diagnosed anxiety disorder with agoraphobia, though it’s fairly well-managed most of the time these days.

          Supplements I’d recommend are a proprietary blend called Happy Camper, as well as 5-HTP (to stimulate serotonin production, which tends to be low in people with anxiety disorders) and L-Dopa (to stimulate dopamine production, which you should always do if you’re supplementing long-term with 5-HTP so your serotonin-to-dopamine ratio doesn’t get out of whack). Make sure you read the contraindications for 5-HTP and L-Dopa especially if you’re on prescriptions–they’re generally safe but do have some interactions with other drugs to be aware of.

          But more than supplements, the most effective way I have of dealing with my anxiety was learning to recognize it in the early stages when it’s easier to head off. It was an ah-ha moment for me when my therapist explained that a panic attack is simply a fight-or-flight response you experience when there is no actual threat to your physical safety–an evolutionary adaptation that would have served our ancestors well when frightened by a saber-toothed tiger but is not so useful to us now when we’re frightened by a looming deadline or upset by a relationship problem. Anxiety isn’t just in your head: it’s a physiological response that activates your sympathetic nervous system, and because it’s physiological, it responds not just to mental but also to physical stimulation and you CAN learn to mostly control it with enough practice!

          Once I’m in a full-blown panic attack little else besides Klonopin will calm me down, but if I catch it early enough, sitting up straight, opening my chest by pushing my shoulders back and down (we tend to hunch forward, instinctively protecting our vulnerable internal organs, when we’re experiencing fight-or-flight/panic attacks), sometimes closing my eyes, and breathing deeply can avert the panic attack before it happens. I recommend “Triangle Breathing”: 4 counts in, 4 counting holding your breath, 4 counts out, repeat as many times as necessary. Your body’s physiological response to breathing like this will be to slow your heart rate and subdue the sympathetic nervous system.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Triangle breathing: this works because you are forcing oxygen into your blood stream. Which in turn causes your internals to calm down.
            It is good to practice this in a calm moment. Because when the panic hits Happily, I have found I sleep better if I do this when I crawl into the rack at night. And it gives me the practice time too. Two-fer-one.

  7. socal*

    I understand where OP#3 is coming from, and I can only echo the other helpful comments that others have posted so far.

    The only thing I would add is to also consider the ‘cons’, and not just the ‘pros’, of being in a setting that you seem to be gravitating towards. If you’re in a setting where the norm is for everyone to be constantly out and about and spending time together (regardless of age group), it can get tiring, especially if you have other people in your life you want to spend more quality time with. Even some of my most extroverted and social friends say this. You already work together 40+ hours of the week. Adding 10 more hours of hanging out with each other after work? Multiply this by 10-20 more years with the same company? Plus, if there’s drama that happens in your social circle and you also work together… do you smell t-r-o-u-b-l-e? At least with non-work friends, you could just not hang out with each other for a while and you would not have to worry about how this might affect work projects, but if you work together, you will see them at work 40+ hours a week and not only does this affect your social life now, but it could become a potentially tricky work issue to navigate around. Vice versa. A minor problem at work could translate to more drama in your social circle, etc. Not to mention, some people take it a lot more personally if you don’t want to hang out with them, so once you establish an outside-of-work friendship, it might become hard to politely turn down invitations without causing a rift in the working relationship.

    Also consider these points:
    1. Just because you have a lot of co-workers in the same age group, it does not necessarily mean that you will be around people with similar interests who want to spend their leisure time socializing around these interests.
    2. Also, everyone has their lives outside of work, and not necessarily everyone wants to mix their work and personal lives a whole lot. So even if you *are* around people who spend their leisure time socializing around similar interests as yourself, they may not necessarily want to work and play with the same people all the time. They may enjoy hanging out occasionally at lunch, happy hours, or some event that comes up, but it’s totally acceptable that they might not want to hang out beyond that.

    I also just want to say that I agree with the other people who have commented about not ruling out friendships with older folks. Some of my most rewarding friendships have been with friends whose ages are separated by mine by decades, so I definitely would not say to limit yourself to a certain age group. By the way, I just realized my post might come off as advocating against work-based friendships, but this is not the case at all! I think both school and work are great places to meet people you become great friends with outside of work, but sometimes, these processes take time and can’t be forced.

    1. Anonymous*

      I agree with pretty much all of your letter, lol. An additional con that you haven’t mentioned is that it can become really rough when your priority shifts from hanging out socially with a group to settling down. When I had my son, I went from being one of the gang to being the subject of nasty comments bc I no longer wanted to stick around ridiculously long hours to have dinner and goof off after work. These comments even affected my career trajectory, as I was shut out of opportunities that came along bc I wasn’t in the “in crowd” anymore.

    2. thenoiseinspace*

      I just want to point out that friendship and camaraderie are very different things. Wanting people your own age doesn’t mean you’re looking for new drinking buddies or someone to go shopping with – it can also mean you just want someone you can relate to without a palpable generation gap and who won’t look down on you. I once had a boss – whom I very much liked and with whom I was very close – jokingly tell me she wanted to adopt me. She literally started treating me like her child, right down to constantly checking to make sure I was eating my vegetables. Now, while it’s not offensive and I did enjoy working for her, it IS condescending and starts to undermine your confidence. If your coworkers don’t treat you like an adult, it’s all too easy to start second-guessing yourself.

      1. OP 3*

        This exactly. My best friend at work is more of a mentor and has taken on somewhat of a motherly (cringing as I typed that) role. I appreciate her caring about my well-being but it does make me start second-guessing if I’m giving off a vibe at work that I need to be taken care though. Or- the worst- if I need help dating- because yes I get tons of (unasked for) dating advice from my older co-workers. I know she acts this way because I have a lot in common with her daughters who are my age but it can make you start thinking.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Then tell her. Remind her that she is your best work friend. And then ask her if you come across as being “needy”.

          See, she needs to remember there is a difference between kids and self-sufficient adults. It’s not just about what you are doing. When I was taking care of sick parents, I got into such a care-giver mode that I would catch myself trying to fix things that were not mine to fix. whooops. Something short “I got this one,NSNR” would set me back on track. And I needed to be told that. And, yeah, it was a relief!!!

      2. LibrarianJ*

        Yes, this. It’s not just about making friends outside of the workplace — I have those– it’s about how you fit into your workplace. Some of this is, admittedly, more about stage of life than age, but sometimes that does have something to do with age. I’m mid-20s and don’t look for a workplace full of people my age (probably wouldn’t enjoy that, actually), but it’s nice to not be the ONLY one who doesn’t have a house yet; who hasn’t gotten married yet; who is brand-new in their career and still trying to figure this professional thing out.

        Honestly, from a standpoint of personal paranoia :), even when ageism isn’t actually present, there is something about most of my coworkers having children my age (at least for now) that makes it just a little bit harder to comfortably interact with them as peers, and makes me just a little bit self-conscious about whether anything I say or do is going to highlight my age and undermine me. This is exacerbated by the fact that I look significantly younger than I am, and am part of a generation often described to be lazy, unprofessional, immature, etc. — all of which means I haven’t always been taken seriously in the past and I’m just more comfortable if there’s at least one other person in my position.

  8. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


    I already want to interview you for marketing, if for no other reason, the interesting conversation about your modeling job for two years.

    Modeling is hard work that people in marketing and advertising should understand.

    Undergraduate business degrees aren’t impressive or interesting on their own. Add honors from a good school and + modeling, that’s interesting.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I was kind of thinking that too. And many former models have gone on to become successful entrepreneurs.

      If OP2 puts the modeling job on her resume, find a way to describe and address how it relates to her marketing career and skills, and what she learned during the process or the experience.

      It’s a bit unusual, but I can’t imagine how it would be viewed as a negative if framed in the right way. It sounds like it was an opportunity few people get to try!

      1. Joey*

        I’ve seen two reactions to modeling on a résumé.

        The comments:
        1. (From a woman) She probably aspires to be a model so I’m not interested.
        2. (From a man). Oh she modeled. Let me see that résumé again. Let’s bring her in.

        1. Nichole*

          I wonder if the fact that she did it for two years would make a difference, with the assumption that the person reviewing the resume has no particular bias about modeling in general. I can see how “aspiring model” could be as much an issue when applying for a marketing job as “aspiring doctor” or “aspiring comedian”- if it’s not where you want to be, how long can I count on you? But someone who worked as a model for two years knows if it’s for them or not, so maybe two years of solid modeling work would be perceived differently than unemployment with a few modeling jobs scattered here and there.

      2. Cath@VWXYNot?*

        My niece modeled for a few years right out of high school, and I have a lot more respect for the profession than I did before – it’s seriously hard work! I agree that finding a way to highlight transferable skills and lessons learned in the cover letter will go a long way towards mollifying any concerns a hiring manager might have about the resume.

  9. Dawn*

    OP#1: It seems to me this is more of a problem for your manager’s manager to solve. If the attorney is unable to cope, this could compromise his work, with potentially devastating consequences for his clients and the firm. If his superior does not already know about this problem, you may need to speak with him/her about the attorney’s behaviour (not his medical condition). If he is a partner, do the other partners know about his behaviour and the problems it has caused? There is more at stake than simply the issue of stress levels.

    If others with the authority to do something about this already know about the severity of the problem and have not found a way to support him appropriately to mitigate the problem, or if there is no one else with authority in the firm who can get a handle on this, you need to accept that things will only change as your manager’s condition improves and your focus should be on damage control.

    Consider: How long has this problem been going on? Have there been improvements over this period? Are there specific things that trigger his attacks, and if so is there a way to prevent or pre-empt them? What systems are in place to prevent these problems from affecting the outcome of your work / cases / clients? What if he has a meltdown on a crucial day – is there someone else who can step in? If your workload has increased because you’ve tried to take some things off his plate to reduce his stress, do you need to ask for help or additional support?

    Also consider: Is he in fact still competent to practice? I realise that most people who have mental illness are still able to work, but it is also possible for a medical issue to compromise competence to practice. Do think about your ethical and legal obligations in this light.

    A paralegal’s job is stressful, and working with a boss who has a meltdown on a daily basis will pile on the stress. Ultimately, you may have to ask yourself whether it’s worth YOUR sanity to stay in this job or whether you should start preparing your resume.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, this. When I read your post, OP, I was more concerned about you than you boss. He will have to find a path through that. But you should not be having to fill in his gaps. I don’t know how long this has been going on but do not let yourself go much longer ALONE on this one. Tell someone who is trustworthy that you are concerned and why.
      Yes, Boss maybe upset with you initially, but once he starts to get effective help he will change his tune and thank you for pushing him to do something.

  10. majigail*

    #4- I can’t tell if your colleagues a.) are doing this work outside of their job description as paid work that’s just not what they usually do or b.) you work at a nonprofit and they’re actually volunteering their services during these times.
    If it’s A and you’re being asked for feedback, follow Allison’s advice. If it’s B, I’m of the opinion that the kind of thing we’re talking about here has no business in a performance review unless something is completely awesome or completely awful. I think in this case you can review them as any volunteer manager would do for her volunteers (assuming you also do this with your nonstaff volunteers) but I wouldn’t necessarily share with their managers since the work is not part of their job.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it’s (A), but I agree that if it’s B, there doesn’t need to be formalized feedback to the manager at all (unless something is great or terrible).

  11. Del*

    #1 – What I would do is find a moment when your manager is not in the immediate throes of an anxiety attack, and approach it like this: “Hey, I’ve noticed that you’ve been really stressed out lately. I’d like to help out — can you think of any specific things I can do to minimize how this is impacting you? You don’t need to answer right away, but if something occurs to you, just let me know.”

    Offering the time to figure things out is pretty important — the chances are good he won’t have an immediate ready answer for you, and getting put on the spot for one will probably be counterproductive for him, but it opens the conversation and signals to him that you’re willing to listen and be constructive, as opposed to shaming him for having the difficulty at all. Having that be clear can be really helpful and encouraging.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Great advice. My anxiety is largely under control, but it still manifests on occasion (usually when a family gathering is involved). The absolute worse thing for it is when someone tells me to calm down, relax, or otherwise draws attention to the fact that I’m anxious/panicky. I know I’m not being logical, but I can’t help it at that moment. If I could stop it I would.

      I finally had to have a really clear talk with my fiance about it too. I told him “I really need you to STOP telling me to calm down if I’m in the throes of anxiety. It’s like pouring liquid oxygen on a fire, it makes me self conscious, and adds to it. What I need you to do is either leave me alone, or give me a hug.” He FINALLY understood and it’s been much easier.

      1. Elizabeth West*


        I haaaaaate when people tell me to calm down. That just makes it worse, and it feels patronizing to boot. Like “Settle down, little girl, settle down.” Instead of working, it then escalates to NO I AM ABOUT TO FREAK OUT NOW GET OUT OF THE DAMN WAY

  12. Lindrine*

    #3 Have you considered volunteering or checking out the industry or interest meetup groups in your area? I have made great friends through volunteering and getting to know others in industry groups. Your job may not be the place you form strong friendships. Culture is VERY important though. Hopefuly you will have an in person interview with a little tour so you can observer how people interact. It was very telling to me when interviewing for my current job.

  13. Contessa*

    As an attorney with crippling anxiety (for a second I thought #1 was about me, then I remembered that I don’t have a paralegal, I’m not a man, and my experts aren’t doctors–which is proof that anxiety is not logical, but it can (sometimes) be defeated with logic), I have been trying to brainstorm things that, if I still had a paralegal, s/he could do to help me. The thing that tends to set me off the most is feeling like I forgot something. I didn’t call so and so quickly enough, I didn’t get XYZ document in my file, there might be a statute out there on such and such topic I missed, etc. The thing that would be most helpful, then, is being told that whatever it is has been done (but only if it’s actually been done, obviously). If you have a set list of procedures or documents for your cases, maybe get started on the list earlier if you can, so that if he panics over something, you can calmly say, “Don’t worry, I did that last Tuesday” or “I already researched that, and the result is XYZ.”

    That would help ME, though, and it sounds like maybe your boss has a different set of triggers. Some of my colleagues get a packet for each out-of-office trip. If you are involved at all in the planning, maybe you can call ahead and make sure the address and directions you have are good? Unfortunately, a lot of this is about planning ahead and anticipating needs, which can be tricky and sometimes impossible. Anyway, if you have any specific questions about types of situations that trigger him, I am happy to offer suggestions.

    1. Realistic*

      I agree with the commenters who said to talk to him in a calm moment. Ask what you do that helps, what you do that doesn’t help. Establish a “safe word” if you need to. It’s something he can possibly learn to say to you to give you the cue of what’s needed. Does he need reassurance? does he need to be reminded to take deep breaths? does he just need to vent to relieve some of the tension? With my husband, we use “what does the script say?” (“what do you need from me here?”) I say to him what I need him to say, and he rephrases it. That way I hear it twice. It’s a calming ritual that helps me, and I know he knows how to respond. We’re both less frustrated that way. Of course, I have to know myself to know “the script” options… maybe you can brainstorm at a calm time. “if you say this, what should I do/say? and if you say that, what should I do/say?” It is proactive problem solving, but also points out that you’re willing to help, but you can’t guess what will work.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        And the other thing – it can just be super helpful just to know that people understand and aren’t judging you because of your condition. For me that helps it a lot, because in the midst of an attack the embarrassment compounds it infinitely.

  14. kristinyc*

    #3 – Apply at startups – they usually have younger people, and they usually have a “fun” as a higher part of their corporate culture. (Not sure where you are, but there are hundreds of companies like this in NYC). My company is like this, and out of the ~250 people, only about 25 are married and only about 50 are over 30.

    1. OP 3*

      I’ve been looking a lot at start-ups but am not finding much where I am. What industry do you work in? I’m in Philly so there aren’t as many start-ups here but I have been applying in NYC since I’m in marketing/events industry. I’ve heard some company’s emphasize the ‘fun’ and then work you terrible hours for low pay. I’m not at all opposed to long hours, especially if it’s what I like doing but I’m curious how a lot of these places work.

      1. Colleen*

        This is meant to be humorous but my husband, who works in the tech sector, said it’s actually pretty dead on:

        I will also add that I once worked with a team of about 7 women my age in a lab where the manager arranged a lot of fun/bonding events (happy hours, ice cream lunches, etc.). It was the most miserable job I ever had. The entire rest of the team was obsessed with baseball and Harry Potter. I have zero interest in either one and felt left out of the majority of conversations. Same-age colleagues are not a guarantee of mutual interests. Instead maybe look for a workplace where your potential coworkers seem to have a sense of humor or lots of goodnatured in-jokes, or participate in a team activity like a charity softball league or something, that demonstrates that the team is fun and gets along.

      2. kristinyc*

        I do marketing for an eyewear company (and if you’re from Philly – you’ve likely heard of it…).

        Our company definitely emphasizes the fun aspect a lot, but some roles do have really long hours (but, for most people who are working late, it’s not abnormal to crack open a beer or sip on a glass of wine while you’re working late, so there’s that!). I’ve worked at a few startups, and most of them seem to have the “Work hard, play hard” mentality. Most startups in NYC tend to be really obsessed with their culture, so it wouldn’t be unusual to ask about it in an interview. A lot of companies dedicate large portions of their jobs pages to hyping up how great/fun their culture is.

    1. Anonymous*

      Ugh. Never date people you work with, or at least not that are in the same department or area as you. (Okay almost never, but most of the time these situations end so badly.)

    2. OP 3*

      I used to have a firm rule to never date someone at work. Then I dated someone I worked with and it blew up worse than I ever imagined- he actually got fired over it. So I refuse to date anyone I work with.

  15. Anonymous*

    I think people looking down on models and the fashion industry in general is just another form of sexism that I hope we can overcome someday. OP#2, if the person hiring for a marketing job doesn’t understand how much work modeling can really be, then it’s probably not a place you want to work. :) Good luck!

  16. Ruffingit*

    #3: Alison answers I can’t think of a direct way to ask about the age of their employees without giving the impression that your priorities are a bit of whack…

    I had to laugh at that. I know she meant a bit OUT of whack, but I just pictured her saying “Dude, your priorities are WHACK!” Which also fits actually in my view. :)

  17. MJ*

    OP#3, you might consider applying to large companies. Larger companies have more people in every age group, and socialization between people in different departments is a possibility. Additionally you may find that people who frequent happy hours also bring along friends from other companies, so the social circle grows.

    In a small company, outside socialization by employees can lead to problems inside the work environment if relationships sour, because people work so closely together. So even if you find new friends at your new job, tread carefully.

    1. Gjest*

      This is a really good point. Also, with a smaller company, you may end up with people that are your age, but for some reason or another you just don’t click as friends. With a larger company, at least you’d have a bigger pool of potential friends.

      But I agree with some of the other comments, that as much as culture fit is important, perhaps you should focus your friend search outside of work. I have made some really good friends at various jobs, but it can also get awkward real fast. For example if you start hanging out with someone outside of work, and realize that you don’t really want to spend additional time with them. With someone you don’t work with, it’s easier to just take a bit longer to return calls, turn down invitations, etc. But if you have to work with that person, it creates potential problems.

    2. OP 3*

      Thank you! I’m definitely more interested in large companies than in company’s with young employees. Especially since as far as out of work socializing, I’m really only looking for a happy hour every so often. Not looking to spend all my time outside of work people I work with. That actually sounds terrible to me!

      1. MJ*

        I worked for a large company (400+) in my 20s and I really enjoyed the social aspect of it. It wasn’t a time of life when I expected to land the perfect job (though I enjoyed the job, and it turned into a stepping stone for other eventual jobs). It was a time of life when I sought challenging work (somewhere I could learn) and space to explore who I was and what I wanted to do next. I did not go looking for that social aspect as you are, but it proved immensely helpful in my overall growth and contentment at that time.

        I now manage a small organization of about 30 people, all ages, and I can see that our 20-somethings are missing something that I enjoyed. We work hard to maintain work/life balance, but it mostly feels like work/life separation. We hear about each others’ lives, but we don’t ever share experiences outside of work. That occasional innocuous happy hour that you find in big companies allows for a small blending of work and life; it allows you to bring a little bit of your outside self into your work relationships and to get to know co-workers in a casual, outside-of-work way by sharing a non-work experience and having a laugh together. Through those outside-of-work conversations you learn about other jobs, other companies, career strategies, and also life in general (how other people prioritize their lives, for example) – things people don’t talk about at work, but because they are essentially in the same work position as you, it is really helpful to learn about.

        I hope you find what you are looking for!

  18. Weily*

    #2 – Thank you for the advice! It’s immensely helpful to hear fron the other side :) Any thoughts on how I could frame my roles and responsibilities to better appeal to an ‘office’ position?

    1. Sunflower*

      I would focus on how you’ve worked in ridiculously fast-paced environments and had to pick up on things and processes quickly. I assume you worked with different clients every day and walking into something everyday where you have no idea what is going be thrown at you and having to adjust immediately is really difficult work.

      You’ve probably also worked with lots of different company’s and types of people which employers love to hear about. Also you’re used to work long and strange hours which is always a plus.

      I think the fact that you took a couple years off for this opportunity is really cool and employer’s will see it that way as well.

  19. OP 3*

    OP 3. I should clarify a few things. I’m not looking to make a new group of bffs that hang out outside of work all the time. In my past positions, I’ve met a lot of great older people that I am friends with and have helped me a lot professionally. I think my main issue is I’ve been stuck in dysfunctional offices with less than 15 people, in the suburbs, and there is literally nowhere to escape.

    I think by looking for offices with younger employees, I’m trying to get as far away from my current, terrible office culture. Most employees are married and obviously have different outside of work priorities. The culture here is work hard and then come back and work hard some more- no need to relax. Most employees have been here so long that they are essential and can go about their business without being bothered. Being the (only) low man on the totem pole, there just isn’t anyone in the office that is in a similar spot as me so I feel like I’m miserable all on my own. I feel like maybe I’m stuck in a mindset that every office is miserable and maybe it can be more bearable by having some more people in the same spot as me?

    I’m definitely going to take Allison’s advice and ask about the culture but take time to sit down and figure out what I’m really looking for. This is the first interview I’ve had since I took this job and the first time I’ve been in a position to turn down a job if it isn’t a right fit. Obviously in my mid-twenties, I’m still trying to figure out what career path I want to take. Hopefully I can connect with both people in my industry as well as people who work at company’s with a lot of social interaction and see which one feels more right to me.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Okay, but this sounds more about your bad office culture than the ages or marital statuses of people within it.

      I worry that you’re doing a version of what managers sometimes do in hiring, where they’re overly influenced by their last bad hire — i.e., if they recently hired someone who didn’t work out because they were too X, they get overly focused on hiring someone who’s the anti-X … even if X is unlikely to be replicated in such an intense way again and they really should be focused on more on Y and Z. In your case, I worry that you’re taking away a message that isn’t quite right either — and that it’s really just about finding a good culture, not about focusing so intensely on age and office socializing.

    2. Elle D*

      OP 3- I responded to you down thread, but I just want to say I sympathize – your job sounds EXACTLY like my first job out of college.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Definitely culture. Not all offices are like this, and not all small offices are either. I think it’s good to sit down and figure out what you want professionally first. When you’re all working toward a common goal, it becomes much easier to connect.

    4. Observer*

      I mentioned this elsewhere in the thread, but this the most direct place to make this point.

      Allison is right. This is not about age. It’s about culture. You definitely DO want to ask about culture, and make sure it’s a good fit. But, what you want is people who will treat you with respect, what ever your age, and who you can treat with respect as well.

      Think about this: Do you want to find yourself in an office full of “precious snowflakes”, self entitled whiners, or overgrown adolescent who “need” to bring Mommy and Daddy to work?

      I’m not suggesting that all, or even most, young people fit those stereotypes. I’m just making the point that bad office cultures come in many flavors, and that’s really what you want look out for.

  20. Lizzie*

    You are not your boss’s therapist, but there are a few de-escalation/supportive techniques that might be helpful in the m0ment of his panic. When people are in a highly anxious state, they are usually engaging in catastrophic thinking. Essentially, all they can think about is the worst possible outcome and become paralyzed and illogical.

    There are a few ways to do some mental health first aid around this. First, listen actively and restate the problem to him to be sure you understand. (“You’re saying the directions you have aren’t right and you’re worried you will be late?”) Second, offer empathy and reassurance. (“That’s a stressful situation, but I’m sure we can find the right place. If they moved recently, you won’t be the only one getting lost.”) Third, give him the concrete action steps you want him to take and that you will take. (“I’m going to open Google Maps and give you directions to their new location. I need you to look at the street signs on either side of you and tell me the nearest intersection. I’ll stay on the line until you get there.”). Fourth, as soon as the problem is solved, emphasize that most problems are solvable and how the person can access help. (“I’m glad we solved that so easily. You can feel free to call for directions if you ever get lost again. If I’m not available, you could also call the doctor’s office. I’m sure they’d be happy to help as well.”)

    It may not be your place to suggest that he seek professional help, but you can certainly do as Alison suggested and ask him (in a calm period) whether there are specific ways he would like you to react when he is very anxious. As with anyone who is really struggling, be on the lookout for signs of hopelessness or suicidal ideation and report concerns to the appropriate person immediately.

  21. CB*

    #1 – My boss is the exact same way and I agree with others who are saying there isn’t much you can do. When he calls you in a panic, the best thing for you to do is remain as calm as possible and don’t match his anxiety levels. And try really hard not to let his stress level escalate yours, though I know that can be really hard too. Just remember it has nothing to do with you, they are his own issues and you can’t take them on as yours.

  22. Elle D*

    OP #3- Agree with much of the advice upthread. I firmly believe that this is more about workplace culture than age – you’re an adult now, simple as that. You really can have fun outside of work with someone who is older provided they are in a similar life stage or share a common interest. My best co-worker friend is 10 years older than me, but we’re both single and our personalities clicked.

    That said, if you’re looking for an environment full of 20- and 30-somethings, you may want to try the following:

    1. Look for jobs downtown. People are much more likely to go to happy hour after work if the bar is across the street than if it’s a mile drive away, so there’s a greater chance your co-workers will want to socialize outside of work. Even if the co-workers who go to happy hour are older than you, there’s a chance you might meet other young professionals who work in neighboring buildings while you’re out.

    2. Figure out how the company recruits. If the company has a page on their website for recent graduates or is known to recruit new talent from college career fairs, there’s a greater chance that other 20-somethings might work there.

    3. Look for jobs in growing industries. My first job out of college was in a stagnant industry, and I was the only new person they hired in years. I was also the youngest person in the industry in my city, so I didn’t even meet people my age at industry events. Industries or companies in growth mode are more likely to be looking for young, fresh talent.

    4. Check out LinkedIn. This might feel a little stalkerish, but if this is really a big deal to you, I see no reason not to run a search for the company and take a look at who works there. If you plan to view profiles and not just scan the search results, make sure you have your privacy settings set to anonymous when viewing other’s profiles.

    5. Don’t compare yourself to your friends. I know this isn’t about the job search, but I definitely felt like worse about my co-worker situation at StagnantIndustry Job when I compared myself to my friends who lived in NY or DC and worked at companies with lots of young people.

    Good luck OP!

    1. DeMinimis*

      Junior Chamber of Commerce might be another way to connect with young professionals if you don’t have social opportunities at work.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Ooh, good suggestion. My dad used to be in our hometown Chamber of Commerce for years and while he obviously wasn’t junior, he met so many people and quite a few of them turned out to be friends.

    2. Grace*

      I wouldn’t apply at a job that advertised for “recent college graduates”, which the EEOC, the courts, and states (mine is California) have ruled is a form of unlawful discrimination (re age for people who are 40+). If the employer can’t get a job description written lawfully, what other employment laws are they also violating?

      1. Sunflower*

        I don’t think Elle was referring to specific jobs for recent grads- just companies that have a lot of opportunities for recent grads. A lot of places have a web page for college students and recent grads to for them to see how they can start and grow their career there

  23. ellex42*

    OP #1: The last thing I intend by this is to make fun of anyone with anxiety, or the difficulty in dealing with someone in the workplace who is suffering from anxiety or any other problem…but your current job situation is the plot of an abandoned television pilot.

  24. JC*

    I’m really surprised at the number of people who identify with OP#3. I’m on the younger side (early 30s) and don’t have kids, and I find it really strange to hold having a peer group of young, fun people at work to be a priority. Echoing some of the other commenters here, it makes me think of someone who is immature and looking to find the same kind of environment in the workplace that they had in college. I value working with coworkers that I like, and I enjoy eating lunch with and going to happy hour with my colleagues. But I find making that a top priority to be over the top.

    That said, some workplaces are known for having really young environments, full of extroverts and socializing as part of the job (I’m looking at you, startups). I have always bristled at the thought of working somewhere like that, and it sounds like that is the kind of environment where the OP would thrive. So I guess everyone has workplace preferences.

    1. Whippers*

      Yeah, I’m in my mid-twenties and I would really hate a workplace where you’re actively expected to socialise outside of work.

      Most of my previous jobs have been temporary and in older workplaces and I actually really enjoy working with older people. For the most part, they are less likely to expect stupid workplace “banter” and therefore easier to have a proper conversation with. I find them warmer and more caring generally than most people my own age, who can be somewhat self-absorbed and dismissive of people who don’t have the same interests as them (huge generalisation I know, but…)
      I also feel like there’s less pressure to build friendships or socialise which means you can just let relationships build naturally, not have to hot-house them.

      Obviously this is a huge generalisation and not all older people are great and not all young people aren’t great. But I definitely find that there’s a level of artifice and pressure to fit in, in a younger workplace that isn’t found in an older workplace.

    2. Kou*

      “I’m really surprised at the number of people who identify with OP#3 … I find it really strange to hold having a peer group of young, fun people at work to be a priority.”

      The people I’m seeing (ok, and myself) that are sympathizing with the OP because we’ve been the person left out at work, not because we only want to work with young people. I think we all agree trying to narrow the ages isn’t the way to solve that problem, but we get what she’s feeling.

  25. Joey*

    #3. You know, most friends you meet at work will only be temporary friends, right? You’d be much better off finding a base of friends to hang out with outside of work and only using work friends as a supplement. I know that might sound a impersonal, but the reality is that most work friendships only survive because of the convenience. And here’s at least what I’ve experienced: the higher you are or go the fewer people there will be that are interested in hanging out with co workers on a regular basis. If I were you Id put much more value on finding a diverse group that could benefit from a mid 20’s person and taking advantage of all of the different experiences you’ll be exposed. That give you a better opportunity to contribute and learn than worrying about finding people like you.

    1. Ash*

      I don’t think this is true. My cloesest friends in my current city are all people I worked with at a previous job…

      1. KellyK*

        I think you *can* develop long-lasting friendships with coworkers, but I think Joey’s point is more that not every coworker you think of as a “friend” is someone you will still be in contact with if you change jobs.

  26. Lindrine*

    It sounds to me now that the OP is really looking for larger companies. Look in satellite cities to the bigger city for companies with 50-100ish people if you aren’t able to commute to the closest big city. The companies are out there, but they can be harder to locate. Check out the “Best to work for” lists of your local large city, the local industry organization’s member list, etc.

  27. Ann O'Nemity*

    I can’t fault OP #3 for wanting to find a workplace culture in which she can make friends. The old fashioned advice of “no friends at work” just doesn’t make sense anymore. In today’s society, most people make friends at work, and these friendships have real business advantages. And there are all sorts of statistics demonstrating increased productivity, engagement, and job satisfaction. As the OP said, this doesn’t have to be a BFF, just someone the OP can trust and connect with.

  28. Ash*

    Re: #3 —

    I think it is an important question not just for socializing, but also to understand if there’s inherent ageism in the organization. For instance, my current org has a lot of young talent, but all of the “directors” are in their 40s and 50s. I learned quickly that it really has nothing to do with skill and there’s really no opportunity for someone in their 20s/30s to assume those roles. So despite having good relationships with others “my age” here, I feel my age is a deterrent to reaching my goals… Had I truly understood this reality before working here, my decision would have been a lot different.

    I’ll also add, that its also not so much age as having people interested in the same areas and able to challenge you. I work on a different program than the other “people my age” and its still very very lonely.

  29. smallbutmighty*

    Wow, the anxious attorney boss is a tough one. Having suffered and survived a year of law school, I’m all too aware of the million details an attorney has to be aware of at any given time just to do the job competently. That seems like it would be agony for someone with the level of anxiety described.

    I have a couple of thoughts here.

    First off, read Scott Stossel’s excellent book “My Age of Anxiety,” which describes the author’s lifelong battle with crippling anxiety. It’ll give you some insight into the aspects of day-to-day life that can most challenge an anxious person. I learned a lot from the book and feel I now have a better understanding of some of the anxious people in my life.

    Second, if you have the kind of relationship with your boss that allows for any kind of openness about the subject, talk about whether there are whole categories of worry that can be delegated to you. Someone upthread mentioned assembling packets for any offsite trips, which is a great suggestion. If you could somehow agree that you would be 100% responsible for certain tasks, details, routines, workflows, etc. (especially if they’re areas where you’ve already displayed competence), it might remove some causes for worry.

    This is an imperfect comparison, as it’s not workplace-related, but I’ll offer it anyway. My stepdaughter, who has some food intolerances that can make her feel sick if they’re not accommodated, gets visibly anxious in situations where she has no control over the food on offer. I’ve found that when we travel or socialize, if I bring something we know she can eat, she’s visibly less anxious. She may not even wind up needing it, but just knowing it’s THERE–that there’s one key category of things she does not need to worry about–helps her tremendously.

    1. fposte*

      I think this is great advice for family or close friends, but it could be a lot to ask for a workplace relationship, because this really sounds like managing the boss’s anxiety becomes part of the OP’s job description, and it shouldn’t be. I’m not saying she shouldn’t be helpful, but I think it’s important for her to avoid sliding down the spectrum into taking ownership of the anxiety problem rather than dealing with the work problem.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This is very important. I can see OPs wall of resistance crumbling as time goes on and OP becomes anxious, too. Other people need to be brought into this situation.

  30. smallbutmighty*

    Hmmm, true. I admit it depends a lot on the workplace you’re in, but in my own workplace I’ve more or less explicitly taken ownership of certain areas that my more Type A colleagues don’t handle as well.

    It’s a weird niche to occupy, and I’d never say this could work in very many other workplaces. I’m a member of a very cohesive team, and it’s explicitly understood that I am our completely unflappable clutch player.

    I work the war rooms, the product launches, the difficult international trips. I deal with the interruptions and last-minute asks that throw others into a tailspin. I kind of thrive on the adrenaline. It’s a good use of my talents and it takes the pressure off of the rest of my team to deal with things that make them anxious and less productive.

    In our case, this division of labor occurred more or less organically, but it’s now something that’s openly recognized and discussed.

    (I have my own areas of lesser ability, and my team backs me up on those, so I think things are split up fairly.)

    In a certain kind of workplace and a certain kind of team, it is possible to recognize team members’ various quirks and abilities and explicitly divide ownership of tasks along those lines, but I totally recognize it can’t happen everywhere.

    1. fposte*

      Right, and there are certainly jobs where “making sure the boss has food” would be a part of the relationship that’s evolved. And if the staffer and the boss are both okay with it, I’ve got no issue. Similarly, I think that a lot of people’s experience with anxiety comes from the personal side, so it’s understandable that they talk in personal terms about dealing with their own or loved ones’ anxiety. I just want to avoid setting up that level of personal involvement as an expectation. The urge to help is understandable, but just because something might be helpful to your boss’s anxiety doesn’t mean it’s your responsibility to do it–I really don’t think the OP should hug her boss, for instance :-).

  31. LP*

    #3 I’m right there with you. I used to work in an office where everyone was having grandchildren, and I was in my mid 20s. They were all very nice, of course, but I felt like I was being constantly babied instead of treated like an adult. I understand that most offices aren’t like that, but this was very much the way that office was. Their children were my age, therefore I was treated as one of their children. I could only take 5 months of it.

  32. Mints*

    I wonder if OP did acting as well, it might br better to list that on the resume as the main line? I don’t really know, but I think acting might sound a bit better than modeling (if that wouldn’t be dishonest)

  33. Dan*


    I met a social group of people through my last employer, a company of about 150 or so. We’ve done several happy hours and more recently I’ve started hosting dinner parties. The company had hired several young ‘uns, and I’m actually one of the oldest at 34.

    I understand what the OP is talking about, because when I had my first co-op in college, it was at a company you all would recognize. And everybody there was OLD. As in married and kids in school old. It did feel a bit isolating.

    But what I will say is that there are limits to how much I can put up with people. The people I get along best with in my work social group are those that I don’t work *with* on a daily basis. I’ve found that with few exceptions, that if I have to work on projects with you every day, I will go nuts if I have to socialize with you too.

    One little bit to chew on: We all let back a little bit off the clock. If you’ve done something on a project that I disagree with, I can handle myself professionally at work. But what happens if after a few beers, I want to get blunt and that person is in my presence? It’s awkward, to say the least. If I want to complain about somebody not in my social group, the rest of us have enough sense to keep their mouths shut about it.

    That said, I am no longer with that company, and we still all get together from time to time, as I very much enjoy their friendship.

  34. Anony*

    Re:# 3. Can I ask an employer about the ages of their employees?

    I am in my 20s and the youngest person on my team and possibly the entire office of 200+. I find it better to work with older adults than people my age largely because of the experience. I agree as AAM has pointed out that there is “work drama” when having people my age around than working with people who have been in the workforce longer.

  35. Hunny*

    For #3, I feel like I can relate. I’m in my mid-twenties, at my third post-college position. In my first two jobs, I was by far the youngest (30 year gap between me and my coworkers at first job, 20 years at second job). In my new position, I’m still the youngest but the gap is much smaller, about 3 years between me and my youngest coworker.

    I can’t express how much better my current position is, I love my job! The funny thing is, though, that the people who make it great, the people I talk with every day, are… You guessed it… 20-30 years older than me. We have similar work styles, communicate well, have a lot of respect for each other, and similar senses of humor.

    In my first jobs, I thought age might be the problem, or at least a problem. It wasn’t until I got a good position that I realized what the deeper problems were with my first jobs and age had nothing to do with it.

  36. Tara T.*

    I agree with Contessa & Lizzie – be reassuring and plan ahead, have directions and addresses ready ahead of time. That will help lessen the boss’s anxiety. As for the person who asked about putting 2 years of modeling experience on the resume – I think modeling is a wonderful job to put on the resume, especially in a marketing career. Modeling and marketing are related. In fact, even in other careers, modeling shows you are someone who knows how to present herself well, dress well, and act confidently.

  37. kas*

    #3. Although I do see where you are coming from I definitely do no think you should ask.

    I’m 22 and agree that it would be nice to work with people your own age but that doesn’t always mean you’ll have similar likes/dislikes. I used to intern at a very small agency and everyone was 10+ years older (except for the other intern). I found I got along best with my supervisor, who was one of the oldest, as we had the same type of personality.

    My current workplace has a great mixture and a few of us all started at the same time. Four of us are the same age and we invite each other places outside of work which is nice (I usually don’t care to hang out with coworkers outside of work) but everyone else I speak to = much older. I don’t really speak to any of the other young employees .. I’ve never been one to discuss crazy/wild weekend adventures and I don’t relate to them at all.

  38. Number 5*

    Thanks for answering my question, Alison! It’s something that I’ve wondered at for a while, but had never really needed the answer to before. But now, I’m in this situation, and the advice is valuable.

  39. Doreen*

    Funny I would’ve thought the “modeling” question would’ve proved most controversial.

    But in regards to the age thing. I’m 30. In my current office I’m in the average age group of most of the people there but the range is 23-60+. I’m always treated as an equal, and as one of the younger folk the go-to person for questions about Excel and other computer stuff. My older coworkers are my go-tos to trouble shooting and identifying hot water heaters that say “Made in East Germany” lol.
    One of my supervisors in his 40’s plays ultimate frisbee. Another coworker turning 50 climbed to Mt. Everest base camp last summer. So culture definitely makes a difference. I work in construction industry (green construction) and I think there tends to be a larger age range . We all go out for beers and happy hours about every other month or when someone is leaving. About once a quarter, we’ll go bowling or hiking.

    It was a big switch for me though as my first jobs out of college I was the youngest by about 8 years. I still spent time with my coworkers when I was 21 and they were 30-55. But there was a time when I realized that half of my “friends” (some from work some not) were over 35 when I was 24. It’s weird how it changes your whole perspective. (i.e when I met my boyfriend who’s 12 years older than me…it “felt” more like 5 years) It definitely made a difference when I started working with people closer to my age. Took me awhile to realize I socialize like a spry baby-boomer not a frat boy.

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