should I reach back out about a job I was rejected for, convincing a friend to job-search, and more

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

1. Should I reach back out about a job I was rejected for?

About 6-8 months ago, I went through three rounds of interviews for a job I was really excited about, at a company I would love to work for. I had a really good connection with the HR manager on the phone and over email, and (I thought) with the team members I met during a six-hour in-person interview. The supervisor of the position told me she really liked me as a candidate, but that she usually takes many months to hire the right person. I get that – I have hired for high-level positions and agonized over making the right call. Eventually the HR manager notified me I was being passed over (and at the same time, I saw the position re-posted on several industry sites). It has now been about six months since I was rejected, and the position has been re-posted AGAIN – proving how truly difficult it is for this supervisor to pull the trigger, I guess.

I’m still really interested in the job and the company. Would it seem crazy to reapply and try to make a better case for myself? I’ve done some temp work since then that would possibly make me a slightly more attractive candidate. I have an alumni connection with the HR manager; I’m thinking maybe I could test the waters with her more informally first?

I wouldn’t apply all over again; you’ve already been through their interview process and, for whatever reason, the hiring manager decided you weren’t quite right. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with reaching out informally and saying something like, “I noticed the role was still open, and I’d love to reconnect if you think it might be worth our talking again.” I’d reach out to the hiring manager, though, not the HR person, since the hiring manager is the one who’s going to decide if it would make sense to talk again.

I’ll caution you against being too hopeful that anything will come of it, since there’s probably a reason why the hiring manager declined to keep you in the running last time. But you never know, and you’ve got nothing to lose by shooting her a quick email.

2. Should I go to this interview?

I was contacted via email by an apparel company that found my resume online to come in for an interview for a receptionist/administrative assistant position. I have no idea what the job entails or what the salary is since no description was provided, and it’s located 15 miles away from me. I live in Los Angeles, and traffic here is pure hell. I don’t know if I should go to this interview or not. I don’t want to work someplace where I’m fighting traffic for hours every day. After googling the company, I wasn’t excited. But after months of job hunting, this is the first interview I’ve gotten. But I’m worried about taking off from my current job and going way out to this place just to find out its not what I want or it doesn’t pay enough. Without a job description, it’s really difficult to decide what to do.

When you’re contacted about a job you didn’t apply to, it’s totally reasonable to say, “Could you send me a copy of the job description to look at?” I’d even argue that it’s reasonable to ask about the salary — normally too many employers consider that a terrible sin to do an early stage, but where they’ve proactively approached you, I think it’s fine to ask at the same time that you’re asking for more details about the position.

3. The person I recommended for my old position is struggling in the job

I recommended someone for my former position when I was promoted. However, they are not thrilled with her. They say she is a slow learner and doesn’t complete assignments unless asked multiple times. I never saw any of this from her when we worked together previously. Should I feel as bad as I do? Is there anything I should do?

Assuming you genuinely thought she was great, you don’t have anything to feel bad about. Sometimes a role just isn’t the right fit. I do think that you could say something like, “I’m sorry it’s not going smoothly with Jane. I didn’t see those issues when we worked together previously or I wouldn’t have suggested her for the role.” You might feel like that’s obvious, but putting it out there can make you and the person managing her feel less awkward about the fact that you recommended her.

4. Can my restaurant make me do hostess shifts?

I’m a server in a restaurant and hurt my knee outside of work. I was not able to serve, so I did some hostess shifts. My doctor okayed me to go back to work and I gave my general manager the doctor’s note before he made and posted the new schedule. In between that, one of his managers offered me a position as a hostess; she never got back to me on about how much I’d be making. I emailed her and the manager and respectfully declined the position and shifts for that position. Can they now make me do hostess shifts even though I’ve declined their offer?

Assuming you’re not under some kind of indentured servant arrangement, they can’t make you do anything. But they can tell you that they’re switching you to hostess work, and they can require it as a condition of your job. At that point, you’d need to decide if you want the job under those circumstances.

But as a next step here, if you find yourself being scheduled for hostessing work, I’d just address it head-on, nicely but directly: “I appreciate the chance to try out hostessing, but I’d like to return to server shifts. Will that be okay?”

5. Update from the letter-writer who wanted to convince her friend to job-search

Here’s an update from last year’s letter-writer who was wondering how to convince her friend to get a job. (#3 at the link) The friend hadn’t worked for 2+ years since finishing grad school, was being supported by her parents, and had weird ideas, like that “people get jobs because of their charm but not by merit,” and “employers should approach the candidates instead.”

It has been more than a year since the question was published. Thanks to your wonderful readers’ comments. Here’s what happened to my friend in the past year.

Through her parents’ connections, she got a part-time job proctoring exams at local universities. In addition, she got a gig marking tests at a college. Those jobs were mundane (which I agree), but were better than nothing. Finally, she decided that going for a PhD in her field would be better than working at all those dead-end jobs. She applied to at least a dozen of universities and got accepted in a few of them with funding. She accepted one of the offers and has moved to another town to start her PhD. The acceptance letters were an ego booster: She had never felt so much in demand for years.

She has been quite honest with me that the job prospects of the particular field outside of academia are limited. The job prospects in academia are even more limited. Attending PhD is a temporary solution for not working on anything at all. In the past year, I kept my mouth shut about all those “Help Wanted” signs near her home.

{ 99 comments… read them below }

  1. Stephanie*

    #2 – You can totally turn it down! If you’re not really desperate to get out your current job, then feel free to say “Thanks, but no thanks.” Traffic isn’t bad in my metro area, but sprawl is. I do hear people declining interviews or jobs because of commuting distance.

    #5 – It does sound like your friend has some bigger issues, but to be fair to her, it might not be that easy to get jobs at the “Help Wanted” places. Hell, I had to do three rounds of interviewing and psychometric testing for a call center (and ended up not getting the job even). It’s not impossible, but a lot of times, those places want applicants with direct experience or who intend to stay for the long haul. Only way I gained traction was to omit my degree and be sort of vague about my past experiences and future plans.

    1. Stars and violets*

      I had to do that when I was desperate for a job, any job, but I’m an unconvincing liar and one hiring manager thought my vagueness concerning the period when I was actually at university getting my degree meant that I’d been in jail. Yes, I was that desperate.

      1. Stephanie*

        Yeah, it’s tough. I was trying to be vague about my past experience in a stopgap job interview because I knew if I went into specifics, it would signal “Yeah, she’ll leave as soon as she finds something relevant.” I always cringe when I hear the job seeking advice of “Just go apply to McDonald’s!” It really isn’t quite that straightforward.

        1. Jean*

          >just. go. to. McDonalds!
          Arg. Yes indeed.

          It certainly isn’t quite that straightforward and I also cringe when I hear that advice! The suggestion not only dismisses the current catch-22 reality of the workplace but implies that the advisee lacks motivation and initiative. Hmm…not bad to get all of that multitasking from five little words. They also give us jobseekers a reason to smile, privately, after we have gracefully sidestepped the latest round of well-intentioned suggestions from not-so-well-informed onlookers.

      2. Anx*

        It’s so difficult to be vague about going to school, because I only had summer jobs in those years that weren’t related to school. Every job I had in college was directly related to being a student (student life, outreach programs, etc.)

    2. Traveler*

      #5 – I have actually been point blank told in the past when I was unemployed shortly after the recession by places with those “help wanted” signs that I was of no interest to them because they did not want to employ people with degrees because “They just leave when something better comes along”. So I stopped applying to those places and just waited it out til something in my field came along.

  2. The Maple Teacup*

    “The job prospects in academia are even more limited”
    Oh dear, that doesn’t sound good. Hopefully she can find a job with the limited opportunities.

      1. Clinical Social Worker*

        PhD programs are essentially a Ponzi scheme. They train more professionals than there are spots for them because they are hella cheap labor that produce papers/research that ultimately benefits the head of the lab and univeristy. Even if she does very well on her PhD and would be very good at a job and diligent in her search, she could still be fucked.

    1. meg*

      She can probably get a job outside academia, as long as she doesn’t buy into the myth that it would be a humiliation.

      1. Rachel*

        Sometimes the Ph. D. makes things harder because of the perception that you’re overqualified. I’ve experienced this, and I only have a M.S. I applied to a biotech company at a low-level lab assistant job, because it was a bit outside of my specialty but I figured I could learn the job and field and if I was good at it I would advance. Got a phone call expressing some interest for the next-level-up job and made it through a few rounds of phone interviews but the hiring manager expressed concern that I would “run off to Nepal to collect [study organism]” and I ended up not getting an offer. I call it “wanna be PI” syndrome. People have certain ideas about academic background types, and it can be hard to convince them you aren’t really interested in that track.

    2. Artemesia*

      The last thing I would want to see on a faculty of a university is someone with no particular interest in the subject matter who sought a PhD because she was afraid to face life. Graduate programs are full of the walking wounded; I think for the most part they don’t create the reputations and the work likely to land them those plum academic jobs. If there is any job that requires passionate commitment, it is probably academia (and presumably the ministry.)

    3. INTP*

      And aside from the limited quantity of academic jobs, this person sounds particularly ill-suited for the academic jobs hunt. If she is not even okay with the normal industry procedure of applying for a job and interviewing instead of being pursued by the employer (and needing to have some charm instead of expecting employers to disregard her awkward or abrasive demeanor), how is she going to brace her ego for the absolutely insane amount of hoops-jumping in academia? It can require adjuncting for years at below-minimum-wage while somehow saving the money to go to conferences to “network” (aka charm people) in order to get a job in some part of the country that you would never even want to visit under normal circumstances.

  3. Noah*

    #4 – Anyone see a potential for retaliation following a workplace injury? I know I’m always careful with an employee returning to work to avoid even the appearance that they are being punished in some way. I was burned early in my management career by scheduling an employee to avoid hard tasks after ahe hurt her back. She felt like I was resting her differently so I could call her put about being lazy and fire her. In fact, I knew she was cleared but thought easing back into work would be smart.

  4. Maile Aloha*

    #5) I don’t find fault with much of what you wrote, OP, except this:

    “PhD is a temporary solution for not working on anything at all.”


    Working toward aPhD (which I don’t have) is a far more grueling, intense, all-consuming job than a whole lot of non-academic jobs. It’s bizarre that, here your friend is committing to 6 years of hard work, making little money, surrendering much of her social life, etc., to this mountain of a goal that you appear to dismiss.

    1. Stars and violets*

      The way I read it is that the OP meant doing a PhD was a temporary solution for not working for her friend, not for everyone. She knows her friend after all. Who knows, perhaps the hard work and discipline involved in doing a PhD might re-direct the friend’s energies and a few more years growing up probably won’t do her any harm, either.

      1. INTP*

        I read it the same way. Academia solves none of the problems this friend seems to have with the concept of employment. Her issues with the way job searching works will only be more pronounced. For other people, a PhD. can be a great decision.

      2. AnonyMouse*

        Yep, I read it as OP summing up her friend’s attitude. Definitely did not get the impression that she views getting a PhD for solid reasons dismissively…just that she’s skeptical of her friend’s motivation.

    2. Seal*

      Not to mention that a lot can happen over the course of the 6 or so years it takes to get a PhD. During her course of study your friend may find a career path that truly excites her or gain skills that can be applied to a career outside of academia. As a PhD candidate, while she won’t make much money she will most likely received assistantships to cover the cost of tuition, so she could conceivably incur little to no debt. Plus, as mentioned above she’s committed herself to spending the next 6 or so years working her butt off in pursuit of a very lofty goal. Your friend deserves better than to have you dismiss all of this as being “better than not working.”

      1. A*

        It sounds like jealousy to me. Her friend seems happy living her life and seems to be doing well at it – it’s just not how the op would live.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t read it as jealousy. I mean, I suppose it’s possible, but it reads much more to me like “my friend isn’t launching in life; how can I help show her that she needs to?” I had a friend who reminds me very much of the OP’s friend; she spent our 20s and 30s delaying getting a job, stayed in school forever, and didn’t seem to have any sense of how this would impact her future prospects. I felt the opposite of jealousy — concern and alarm over how she was boxing herself into a corner and closing off options for herself. That’s what I hear from the OP here too.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I read it as the OP’s knowledge of her friend tells her that the friend is making another bad decision in a line of bad decisions — getting a PhD in a field with limited job prospects in order to prolong the day of reckoning about her career. (And I would assume without thinking about how the PhD may ultimately make her job search harder, if she doesn’t get one of the limited jobs in the field.)

        1. Traveler*

          I started out grad school as a delay, and it ended up turning into a really profitable career and networking opportunity. Not all people who go to grad school (even with temporary income/delay until things get better in the economy in mind) end up the exact same way on the other side. This is part truth and part myth. Everyone I went to grad school with (and it wasn’t some elite ivy either) is employed in their field now – when most of us were unemployed or working in retail to start with.

          1. Melissa*

            Sure, and the chances are that if OP’s friend eventually figures herself out she’ll get a job, too. Unemployment is very low for PhDs. That still doesn’t mean that going to grad school to delay the job market is a good idea, though. She could be spending that time saving for retirement and building contacts and experience in a field. There’s also a different between getting, say, MPA or MPP as a delaying tactic and getting a PhD in a humanities field (for which the average time to degree is now 8-9 years).

            1. Cucumber*

              There’s a difference between the low unemployment rate of PhDs, and whether or not they’re employed in their fields, and/or working full time (rather than as road warrior adjuncts). I suggest an article called “The Ph.D Bust: America’s Awful Market for Young Scientists—in 7 Charts”.

              The dropout rate for PhDs is tremendous. A one in two chance she won’t finish at all.

      1. Kai*

        Yep. An old friend of mine has been doing this for years; he insists that the multiple degrees he’s accumulating will make him a better job candidate, but the thing is that he rarely applies for any jobs at all, and has never really held a job other than work study and assistantships through school. On LinkedIn, he markets himself as a consultant based on his advanced degrees. Sigh.

          1. Cucumber*

            I don’t know the specifics of Kai’s friend, and this was a new letter to me, not being a reader of the column when it first ran. Having said that, I understand the viewpoint Kai seems to be sharing with the original letter writer, which is concern over a friend who is not necessarily realistic about their opportunities or the expectations they have for making them happen. Maybe Kai’s friend, for instance, is interested in a job which would hold the additional graduate degrees and lack of outside work experience against him. Or maybe Kai’s friend just wants to be a perpetual graduate student: academic employees all know students like that.

            I have a few friends who seem to be like Kai’s friends – complaining about options, but engaging in self-defeating behavior, or otherwise committing career sabotage. I’d be the first to admit that earlier in life I made more of these types of mistakes, too. It’s tough, though, when you’ve known someone a long time (an old friend) and they seem to be bullshitting themselves.

            I think having the capacity to decide whether something is right, wrong, better, worse, is a positive thing about human beings. I think judgment is only unfair when it becomes merely about expecting other people to do everything the way you do it, not having a sense of boundaries. If your interest is in seeing someone you care about doing better, achieving their goals (even if their goals aren’t yours), and not self-destructing, judging that something is not a great path for them, and then sharing your concerns gently with them, is a kindness.

    4. Artemesia*

      You can spin ‘getting a PhD’ out indefinitely. I know people who managed to avoid work for a dozen years by taking that long to diddle along in their program. Some programs have time limits that are enforced at about 8 years or so, but some don’t even do that. And some people treat the process as more time consuming than others. Some programs will bounce people not making good intellectual progress or not working hard at it, but others don’t. If she is financing her own study (always a red flag for a PhD) then no one in the program may really care if she is dogging it.

        1. AcademicAnon*

          Funding is always limited duration. And most places that didn’t have a time limit, now do or are implanting it, both to prevent situations where the student takes longer than necessary but also so the faculty can’t force students to stay longer or they won’t allow them to graduate.

      1. Melissa*

        Well, in theory you can. In practice, the funding ends after a certain period of time. Nobody wants to fund a 10th-year PhD student who hasn’t made any progress on her degree in the past 3-4 years.

    5. Melissa*

      But a lot of people don’t realize that before they begin a PhD. They think it’s going to be Undergrad 2.0, or a chance to read a lot of books/papers they like and live “the life of the mind.” Given that this young woman seems to have been offering up excuses for years about why she doesn’t want to get a “regular” job – enabled by her parents – I would not be surprised if she was pursuing the PhD exactly to avoid entering the job market or because it seems better than doing “mundane” jobs.

  5. Apollo Warbucks*

    #2 Id be careful this isn’t a scam or sales pitch, but I’m cynical about unsolicited emails without any further context or background. Find out some more about the company if you decide to go for an interview.

    1. Stephanie*

      Yeah, that was my initial thought as well. I had my resume posted on Monster or Career Builder and mostly got calls for insurance sales. There are legit companies/jobs that do unsolicited contact, but the lack of detail in OP #2’s case is a red flag.

      1. some1*

        This is what I came here to say. I was laid off three years ago and my resume was posted on a career site. The only employer contacts I received were for scams, commission only insurance jobs, and temp agencies offering very short-term assignments. There’s nothing wrong with temp work, but for me it wasn’t worth at the time because I was receiving UI and had only been out of work a few weeks — not enough time to forego my first choice of a permanent position with benefits.

  6. GrumpyBoss*

    #1: I’ve been there and it can be a very tough pill to swallow. I watched my target company flounder for a year over filling a position that I interviewed for. I interviewed poorly so I understood why they moved on. But I know where you are coming from. It is so tempting to reach back out and see if things changed.

    But I will say this – do you really want to be their consolation prize? You know, the person that they didn’t really want, but upon further examination, may be as good as they can find?

    1. OP #1*

      Thanks for the input, everyone! I prefer to think of myself as “the one that got away” rather than their consolation prize :) I’m waiting to hear back about a couple of other prospects, but if those fall through I will reach back out as Alison suggested and see what happens. I’ll keep you posted!

      1. Lisa*

        Its completely possible that their first choice bailed in under 6 months. I would send emails to both the hiring manager and that HR person. Just cc – the HR person, cause the hiring manager may not get back to you (busy, not necessarily saying no or ignoring you), but the HR might facilitate getting you another meeting.

  7. Brett*

    #4 I would wonder what the wage differential here is. Hosting at server wages (assuming the hostess is not tipped out) is going to be a lot of lost money, so much so that it would probably drop below minimum wage.

    1. en pointe*

      Yep, I think the money is probably the OP’s main concern, given she noted that they never got back to her about how much she’d be making. When I waitressed, the hostess role paid way less, as they hired kids (13 and 14 year olds), who are much cheaper. (I’m in a country with no tipping; everyone earns a real wage.)

    2. Taz*

      Hosting at minimum wage still almost always came out way below what servers made in tips. But that was before the recession.

  8. Barbara in Swampeast*

    #2 – It might be a scam, but really, a reception/admin job would not be worth the commuting hassle. I wouldn’t want to work for that company even if it wasn’t a scam because the fact that they are reaching out to you when you do not have any experience means the company doesn’t appreciate how importance of the position.

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      Maybe, but smart and motivated people from a variety of backgrounds can make good admins, as long as they are willing to stay in the job long enough. Sometimes being an admin can be the first step to other roles in the company. Although I do agree that she should proceed with caution.

      1. some1*

        I’m an admin myself and I think it’s a red flag that this company isn’t recruiting in a traditional way. Being an admin, especially a receptionist, can be rewarding but also very challenging. You need someone who wants this role, not just a job, and someone who replied to a job posting has already shown an appropriate level of interest.

        1. Stephanie*

          I think there are legitimate reasons for stealth recruiting–the company’s about to fire the incumbent and want to conduct a discrete search for the replacement or the company wants to limit the number of applications it receives by reaching out first to name a couple–but the lack of detail presented would give me pause. The couple of times I did get cold contacted about positions (that were legitimate), the recruiters had lots of specificity about the role.

  9. ali*

    I don’t see it as a wise energy investment to be so bothered that your friend chooses to live a lifestyle that you don’t approve of. She isn’t on welfare and apparently would rather not live a mainstream lifestyle of school -> work. I wouldn’t feel great if I lived off my parents as a perpetual student, but I’m sure many would dread my lifestyle too. My sister is like your friend but I’ve come to accept it. She is old enough to choose her path.

    1. Artemesia*

      Oh exactly. What’s it to you? If this were your daughter, you would be reasonably concerned. But we needn’t be that invested in our friends’ lives.

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        I think that is kind of what she’s saying, though….that she stopped being invested. The friend didn’t want her help finding a job, and found a long term path that doesn’t involve a career for several years. Her update is basically saying that she was right to stop worrying about her friend working, because it wasn’t going to happen..

      2. Traveler*

        Yeah, I would not appreciate having a friend so interested in my career. If her friend ends up broke and miserable, then she has to learn her lesson the hard way – and for some people that’s the only way they learn it. There’s also the option that a funded PhD – which usually involves a better-than-broke stipend in the meantime – will open doors for her. Who knows?

      3. some1*

        I think it’s one of those things you have to learn with age and experience, though. I’ve watched friends make what I believed to be poor personal or career decisions (and I often ended up being correct and it didn’t work out), but I don’t have friends to be able to say “I told you so”.

      4. Biff*

        From the way she was talking, it sounded like her friend was constantly bringing it up. It’s easy to get sucked into “I care about Addie, Addie is really upset about this job search, I should help.” And then you find yourself absolutely mired in the crap of it. I’ve done it to people, people have done it to me. It’s hard to sort out.

    2. MK*

      Honestly, I think it depends on the friend’s long-term finanacial circumstances. The OP mentions that her friend comes from an affluent family who supports her choices so far. If the family circumstances are such that the OP’s friend can live off her parents and her eventual inheritence for the rest of her life, then the OP is being overly invested and meddlesome and should just deal with the fact that her friend doesn’t share her work ethic. But if that’s not the case and the OP is seeing some point in the future when the friend’s lack of work expierience and unrealistic attitude toawrds employment will cause her actual hardship, it’s not odd that the OP is concerned.

    3. INTP*

      I think it’s normal to be a little bothered when someone you care about is engaging in self-destructive behavior. This isn’t just a “not mainstream” lifestyle, it’s a completely dependent and potentially unsustainable one (if her parents don’t choose to keep supporting her forever). The original letter said that she was always broke, so it doesn’t sound like she has a trust fund or something that can support her, it’s purely parental kindness. It doesn’t sound like the OP is losing a ton of sleep over it, just like she was concerned, wanted to help, gave up when her help wasn’t wanted, and is not optimistic about the friend’s future.

      If you don’t want people to care at all about your poor decisions, then don’t make close friends. Meddling is not okay, but caring is.

      1. Colette*

        Agreed. I don’t see an inappropriate level of involvement in the friend’s life, just concern that her friend (who has expectations about job hunting that don’t align with the reality for most people) is now postponing the process by going back to school.

        I also think that it can be difficult to be friends with someone who has been protected from the consequences of their decisions.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Agreed. We tend to pick friends similar to ourselves. But paths change and sometimes it is not easy to watch a friend go down a different path. We want to say “Stay on MY path, you will be safe.”

          One thing that has amazed me is to see a friend land in a good spot when I KNOW, if I tried to do a similar thing I would be so screwed. And I have seen this happen a few times now. Some people have a knack for handling certain types of situations. The moment they succeed is the moment I realize I do not have that knack because I would have soooo failed.

          My second thought is unrelated to the above. It is reeeally hard to watch a friend’s life become a train derailment in slow motion. (Bear with me, this is side-stepping the whole issue of whether there is an actual problem here or not.) It’s not just about the friend. It’s an in the face reminder “Hey, this could happen to ME. Aww, crap.” We are all vulnerable to making choices that could throw our lives into a large, black hole at any time.

          Ever play cards, OP? You should. And you should play against the smartest, brightest person you know. Why. Because you see it close up, we have to play the cards we are dealt in life. I used to play rummy against my father– the guy with a brain like a computer. Yeah, that went like one would expect. On my third turn he would apologize to ME for MY crappy hand. He already knew what my cards were by logical deduction. But he did not know how I would chose to play those cards, and there is the key. Your friend may play her cards well. She may decide “This is what I have to work with and I am going to get the absolute most out of it.”
          You both may land okay and, yet, have used two different paths to get there.

      2. AnonyMouse*

        Yeah, like you I read her original post as concern rather than judgement. She mentioned that her friend was “willing to work” but had unrealistic expectations about how hiring worked, and was constantly broke. She was writing in for advice on how to convince her to find a job “to at least pay her bills.” You obviously can’t make someone get a job, but in the first post, I didn’t see anything too out of the ordinary…concern for a broke, perpetually unemployed friend with some serious misconceptions about the hiring process. In this update it seems like she’s realised she probably can’t do anything about her friend’s situation, which is likely for the best. It’s still okay to be concerned about your friend sometimes, though.

    4. Just me*

      If I get this annoyed with a friend it’s usually because they keep complaining about their life but don’t do anything to change their circumstances.

      It sounds like the OP stopped worrying about it as much. Normally that’s when I tell people I’m done listening to their problems unless they do something to change them.

  10. CAF*

    #5– so she postponed the problem but also made it worse? I have a PhD (started when the market was less bad), so I should know. If she thinks academic jobs will come find her later on, she is dead wrong! And one of the most charming people I know was on the market for two years….

  11. KM*

    #5 — I think this is one of those situations where it’s not our place to judge the way somebody lives her life.

    That said, my philosophy is that you should choose the opportunities that appeal to you NOW rather than counting on them to pay off down the line. So, if you can make just as much money doing a PhD as you can working for minimum wage, and you’d RATHER do the PhD, go for it. You could get hit by a buss a year from now, and, if that happens, you’re better off having done something you actually liked.

    1. Seal*

      This. This woman could sit around bored and miserable for the next 6 years and have nothing to show for it OR she could spend then next 6 years in school studying something that interests her and come out with a PhD. I’ll take productivity over boredom and misery any day.

  12. Clerica*

    #5: Two things. One, idgi. I would kill for part-time jobs like those (proctoring and grading). Where do you apply for that? I also don’t get how she got into a doctorate program (with funding, no less!) with nothing much on her resume. I thought it was hard to get into a doctorate program.

    The other thing is, though…yikes. I just reread that post and there were many great points about why low-wage jobs either don’t want her or wouldn’t make a damn difference on her resume. She felt those jobs proctoring and grading were too mundane, so why throw in that comment about Help Wanted signs (which are almost certainly retail or food)? Are those better than proctoring? If the choices are spend X years in a doctorate program or X years at a place that hangs a Help Wanted sign, it has to be at least marginally better to get the degree.

    You thanked readers for their comments but don’t appear to have understood most of them (except maybe the one who couldn’t stand her sister). It almost seems like you came back to get the last word one year later. “Thanks so much for your comments, but…retail! Food!”

    I’m going to be frank here: I don’t think you’re actually concerned about your friend. Hell, even I wonder how she got so lucky (as far as the free house, tuition assistance, etc because I doubt she’s really happy) and I don’t even know her. But it comes across like the mother-in-law who points out all her DIL’s faults and then claims it’s just because she’s so worried about her. And wanting her to work retail instead of go for a Ph.D., I don’t see any way to interpret that but simply wanting to keep her in her place.

    You don’t have to be friends with someone whom you feel doesn’t share your values. But don’t call yourself her friend and then turn around and use her to feel better about yourself. That’s not being a friend. She may be a dingbat but she still deserves real friends.

    1. Jake*

      There are many many grad schools that don’t have exceedingly high standards of admission. I watched a friend of mine fail to get accepted into any “name brand” grad schools at all including a couple state schools, one of which he got his undergrad from, but he got a full ride to attend a southeast state Institute of institution type school.

      1. Artemesia*

        Some grad programs are super competitive and some are cash cows for colleges and some are just not very good or competitive. It is very unlikely that one will obtain a tenure track position if their degree is not from someplace well regarded unless they get hot working with a researcher who is well known and publish. I know someone who recently did get a tenure track position although her degree was from a so-so (not terrible but not prestigious) place. Her secret was that she did a temporary position at a well regarded school and was a fabulous teacher and so became competitive for those rare tenure track positions.

        The fact that she was accepted for a PhD does not mean she is a promising scholar especially if she is self financing.

      2. Stephanie*

        Depending on the field, the state school is sometimes one of the tops in field. The undergrad at the local flagship in my area has a reputation for being a party school and isn’t super selective, but some of the graduate programs are in the Top 20. So I could see how your friend might be rejected from Mega State U’s graduate program.

        It sounds like OP’s friend might have received funding? Even then, I know that sometimes the funding can solely be through teaching assistantships, which can make it difficult to finish a doctoral degree (and possibly difficult to find work) and turn graduate students into low-paid substitutes for professors. I have a friend who’s matriculated at what’s considered the commuter school in her region in a doctoral program in biology (I have no clue about the reputation of her specific department or advisor, so that definitely may alter the perception). She got funded, but solely through TAing and she realized she was spending more time teaching and grading than actually doing research.

    2. LunaClaire*

      Yea, as someone who is in a similar situation as the friend (stayed with parents, went back to school instead of job), if I had a friend like the LW, I would start to move them out of my life. It would be very hurtful to me if I found someone was asking for help on pushing me to do something. Even with good intent, it edges on being controlling.

      The investment in the friend and the update sounds like the LW doesn’t understand that friendship requires respect, especially when making decisions that you (general) don’t agree with. Hopefully, the friend gets a good job and a PhD, and the LW learns a bit about friendship, and they remain friends.

      1. AnonyMouse*

        I definitely agree that you can’t push people to do anything, but I read the OP’s original post a little differently. It seemed to me like she was concerned about her friend’s misconceptions about how finding a job really works…she said she was constantly broke and “willing to work,” but thought employers should reach out to candidates instead of the other way around, etc. I don’t think you should disrespect your friends or put pressure on them, but if I had a friend who seemed to want to find a job and had serious misinformation about how to get one, I’d want to help them. That said, now that she’s started work on her PhD, I think the OP should try to focus on supporting her with that.

    3. INTP*

      The friend could have a stellar undergraduate record which qualifies her for PhDs with funding. As a grad student myself, I can attest that many people who make great students are not great at things like working a job they aren’t passionate about just to pay the bills (or come from backgrounds where it is just not “done”). And members of the adcom may simply not care that she didn’t work for awhile, since it’s an environment where this is more likely to be seen as “discerning” than “lazy.”

    4. Colette*

      The help wanted comment related to the original letter – there were help wanted signs in the neighbourhood but the friend didn’t was a job that was less than ideal – and it appears she got her proctoring and grading jobs through her parents connections.

      The original letter sounds to me like the friend wouldn’t take any action to get a job (and was able to not have a job because her parents were supporting her) but would complain about being broke to her friends, who may not have been so privileged. Now she has used her parents network to find jobs she was willing to do, and then decided to go back to school – it’s not clear whether she chose school because that’s what she wants, or to avoid having to work. Again, she’s lucky that she can make these choices, and she probably doesn’t realize it.

      This may be one of those situations where the OP and her friend used to be close and are growing apart, or it may be that they really are good friends when the conversation doesn’t include jobs.

      I don’t see what you’re seeing in the letter – I think this probably started out as concern that has since morphed I to exasperation, as these things often do. I do agree that the OP should just let it go, which means not encouraging any talk of jobs, school, or money.

  13. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #1 – Definitely. You may have been their #2 or #3 on their list. Quite often in an interview process, it can be a tough decision as to whether candidate A vs. candidate B, and so forth. Can’t hurt.

    #2 – I recently went into a discussion with a friend who has been (essentially) unemployed for three years. He didn’t want to commute more than 15 miles. He didn’t want a job that would make him work weekends. He didn’t want any travel.

    I told him – I have had to battle long commutes. I have had to board airplanes on Sunday nights to go somewhere. I have had to give up a weekend here and there to work on a project. He was unwilling to do that and is now working at a minimum wage job with no benefits – a cashier at a large chain store.

    He has since had to drain his IRAs, 401K, etc. etc. In contrast, 26 times a year, something nice arrives in my mailbox (checks). Once a month I get my financial statements. (nice).

    The moral of the story is = GO FOR IT. Get back in the workforce. Put up with the LA traffic. It’s worth that check.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      #2 – you can reject it if it economically puts you behind and you’re not comfortable with it. BUT it pays to check it out.

      1. Anon1234*

        OP#2 says she’s currently employed so she’s not in the same situation as your friend. There’s no urgency.

  14. AtrociousPink*

    Hmm, I wonder if OP #3 used to work in my office! We had a wonderful accounting person leave a year ago, and the receptionist, whom she recommended to replace her, is, well … I can’t say “struggling,” because that would imply the woman even realizes she’s not succeeding, which I don’t think she does. It’s sad all around, because she’s a very nice lady, extremely conscientious and detail oriented (which is kind of a saving grace). But she simply hasn’t a clue what she is doing, and she doesn’t even seem to know enough to realize she’s falling short. We’re a small outfit, and I don’t think the partners know how inadequate she is. I worry they’re relying on her more than is really safe, but it’s not my place to even bring it to their attention. What IS my place, apparently, is explaining the basics of how business works and making most of her judgment calls for her. And I don’t even work in accounting, although I would love to and actually have all of the skills this lady lacks. Well, this turned into kind of a whinge! (At least I’m pretty sure I make more money than she does, even if my job has less prestige. Our field is weird that way.)

    1. Ask a Manager*

      Why isn’t it your place? If I were her manager, I would want to know that, especially from someone in a position to see it clearly, which you apparently are.

  15. AtrociousPink*

    It’s complicated. This is a small, collegial, yet in many ways dysfunctional office. This situation has gotten annoying enough that I’ve been thinking of approaching it as a problem of my own, e.g., “I’m spending a lot of time doing X and Y with Polly, and it’s interfering with my regular work. Can you help?”

  16. Auditoholic*

    #5 – This is definitely off the topic of work advice, but goes along with question in general. I think the LW will find that the friendship won’t be the same (or is already finding that) the longer they go down different paths, and that is probably what is driving the concern over her friend’s lack of employment. We have friends who are perpetual students and just don’t really have much in common anymore since they are still living the college lifestyle and we are not. This is making several assumptions that I can’t possibly know, of course, so I could be completely off base here.

  17. soitgoes*

    OP5 isn’t living with her parents. She’s living for free in their second home. She presumably has an inheritance coming her way eventually, and at present she can afford to have a luxurious “hobby-job.” I don’t see how this is a situation that needs to be fixed. Would the OP rather that this privileged woman take a job that someone else sorely needs?

    I hate to project anything onto the OP, but it sounds like she wants us to validate her own life choices as being somehow more valid than the paths taken by those who are lucky enough to be born into money. Not everyone has a stellar work ethic. I’m sure the friend’s parents are thrilled that their daughter is getting her PhD; most of us who’ve been to grad school accepted help from our parents at some point.

    The OP is free to apply to PhD programs herself or to ask her own parents for money. No one in their right mind would turn down a free house and an inheritance. The OP needs to let it go.

    1. Melissa*

      First the OP seems to have let it go already.

      Second…I’m not really sure where others are getting the jealousy vibes. The original post seemed to convey that the friend was willing to work, possibly wanted to work, and was constantly complaining about being broke. I don’t know why we would assume that she has an inheritance coming to her, since it is possible to own a second property without being wealthy enough to leave an inheritance to children (or at least an inheritance that is hefty enough to support them). There’s nothing to convey that these parents are fabulously wealthy; they simply own a second property.

      I’m assuming that it’s the OP’s familiarity with her friend that lets her know that she’s going to get a PhD as a temporary solution to not face the job market. As someone who just finished a PhD, I’d be alarmed if one of my friends did that – because the experience is grueling enough even if you are really passionate about the topic, let alone if you are kind of just floating into it. I would also try to convince them not to do it – once. After that, I’d trust that they were an adult and let them make their own choices. Seems like that’s what the OP is doing here.

  18. Cassie*

    #5: jobs proctoring tests or grading tests probably don’t pay very much and are definitely more “part-time” / graduate student kind of work. Since the friend is basically supported by her parents (not having to pay rent is a big one), she can afford to take these kind of jobs and not have to find a “real” job. There have been plenty of stories about PhDs not being able to find jobs after graduation – some lecturers at universities have to depend on public assistance because their salaries from teaching classes is not sufficient. And it’s not stable. Our curriculum recently underwent a series of changes and some of the lecturers that taught the same courses year after year were now out of a job.

    I know someone in her 30s like the friend – she was a double-major in her undergrad degree (STEM fields) and followed that with a humanities masters degree. She wants to be in international politics so now she’s in a PhD program for that. I don’t know a whole lot about politics, but I assume one way to get into the field would be to intern for a politician or work on a campaign or something along those lines. Yet she hasn’t – in between her masters and her current program, she traveled the world teaching English (which isn’t bad if you like to travel and you want to teach but that’s not her ultimate “career” goal). Actually, I take that back – she did do an internship at a government agency and was upset that she had to do clerical work. She still lives at home.

  19. Just Visiting*

    If I had a setup like the friend in #5, I wouldn’t work at something I didn’t care about either. Seriously, what would be the point? Unless you think work has value in some sort of Puritan sense, there is no value in working a dayjob you don’t care about if you don’t need the money. If anything, she’s freeing up a job for someone who actually needs it. Not everyone is chomping at the bit to be a full-time workerbee, and if you have the privilege not to have to follow a traditional career path and don’t even want to… why not? I also read jealousy into the letter-writer’s tone, or maybe just a know-it-all attitude.

          1. MK*

            The possibility of the parents running out of money depends on what kind of ”’rich” they are. If the money they give the OP’s friend comes from their salaries, yes, it’s a valid fear. But it could also be coming from family trust funds or stock portfolios or other assets, in which case their dying could solve the problem for good.

            1. Colette*

              It sounds to me like this is earned income from businesses they oen, but even if it’s nor, Trust funds run out, stocks crash, and parents sometimes decide to cut their children off.

        1. Taz*

          Except they’re not now, not really — the friend is constantly broke. I’m just finding this whole defense of privilege when this clearly isn’t a trust fund baby bizarre.

    1. AnonyMouse*

      I think at least in the original post, it seemed like the OP was responding more to the fact that her friend was interested in finding work and (despite parental assistance in the form of a house) constantly broke, not just criticising out of some general sense that people should be working. If the friend was truly interested in finding a job but being held back by her strange misconceptions about hiring practices, it would be a decent thing to do to try to help her. But now it seems like she is on a defined path (PhD), and her friend should probably try to be supportive of that, even if it’s not what she would choose for herself. And to her credit, it does seem like she’s trying to do that based on this update.

  20. Maureen P.*

    #5 – just out of curiosity, what field is the friend going into? A PhD in English Literature is far less marketable than a PhD in Bioengineering.

  21. DC*

    #4 I hope the OP realizes that hostessing work is paid at regular minimum wage if it’s in the US. She should have been advised to *make sure* that her non-serving time was compensated at $7.15 (or whatever regular minimum wage is now) instead of $2.13 (tipped minimum wage, which hasn’t changed in like 20 years).

    Many, many restaurants try to get away with paying for side work, hostessing, bussing, cashiering, and even delivering at the $2.13/hr rate and force workers to claim tips they haven’t received or face looking for another job. It’s one of the industries with the highest worker abuses and FLSA violations, and these people already get paid pittance. Tips be damned – there’s enough evidence that today’s culture rejects tipping, and tips are on the decline in general. This is mostly anecdotal, having had to educate friends and family on tipping etiquette, and the uptick in complaints from servers that customers don’t tip like they used to, or facing that awful situation when they are forced to falsely report tips by management who don’t want to make up the difference.

    Because it’s often their first job, many servers aren’t aware of these laws. They can male you do hostess work, but they must pay you regular minimum wage since that is not a tipped position (although most places have a “tip out” policy where servers must relinquish a portion of their tips to hostesses, bussers, kitchen staff, bartenders, etc., so you still may see some tips).

    Then again, if you live in a state with a higher tipped minimum and customers actually tip well, maybe the serving gig is a better deal after all. Still, I read the question as asking if they can make her do both at the same time for the lower rate, which they can’t do.

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