I keep breaking office chairs, manager asked if I have a problem working for a woman, and more

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

1. I keep breaking my office chairs

I know this is a counterpoint to a past letter, so I thought the responses might be interesting. A year or so ago, upper management bought new chairs for our entire office. Overall they’re not terrible, but for me, they’re just not working. I’m significantly heavier than average, and beyond that I have a disability that means sometimes I wind up more or less falling into my chair, and I have to push myself up from it in a way that puts more stress on the chair. (Primarily balance issues, with some additional joint trouble.) Since getting my new chair, I’ve had both armrests replaced, and probably gone through about seven or eight caster replacements. I’m waiting on two more right now, and I’m getting really tired of it.

How do I broach the conversation with my boss about getting a sturdier chair? Replacing the casters and the hardware holding the armrests on is pretty negligible, but it’s embarrassing and interrupts my day to have the wheels just falling apart or the arms dropping off, and I’m always worried that an arm is going to fall off right when I’m lowering myself into the chair or pushing myself up. Obviously weight is a very delicate thing to discuss, and this verges into accessibility talk which usually winds up being a three-ring HR circus here. Are they going to ask for a doctor’s note to basically go “Yes, LW is very fat and falls over a lot, please get her a fat person chair”?

(If this gets posted, I would like to respectfully request that the commenters not get into the issue of why/how I should lose weight instead of asking for a chair that meets my needs. Weight loss is a fraught issue already, and physical disabilities make it a lot harder. I am doing the best I can, but it is a very slow process that easily develops severe setbacks.)

I think the best approach is to be matter of fact and direct; if you’re matter of fact about it and don’t appear uncomfortable with the topic, your manager is more likely to respond in kind. I’d also go in with the assumption that of course they’ll take care of this, which interestingly sometimes makes it more like to happen.

I’d say something like this: “I’d like to request a sturdier chair. I’m finding my current one doesn’t support me well, I keep having to replace the armrests and casters, and I keep worrying that an arm will fall off right when I’m using it to raise or lower myself in or out of the chair, which I need to do because of some balance and joint issues. Could I talk with Jane about ordering a sturdier one for me to use?”

It’s possible that they’ll ask for a doctor’s note, yes, because some places are bureaucratic like that. But hopefully they won’t put you through that hassle. And if they push back at all, I’d actually suggest that as a next step — “because medical issues are involved, would it be helpful if I got some documentation from my doctor?” Sometimes that language can make someone realize “oh, medical thing that we should accommodate” when they hadn’t already gotten there on their own.

2. Should I request reimbursement for a business trip I ended up not taking?

I was supposed to go to a conference last week but unfortunately became ill en route and wasn’t able to attend. I’d paid for the hotel, airfare, and conference registration fee up front and was to be reimbursed by my employer after attending. I let them know the situation right away and when I got back to work I asked about whether I should even seek reimbursement as I didn’t attend the conference. As per HR, I should go ahead and submit my expenses as if I’d been able to go. My employer is pretty great and basically just said, “these things happen.”

I let HR know that I was able to cancel almost all of the hotel stay and that the airline is issuing a voucher. My employer has no issue reimbursing the conference registration fee. I’m just a little torn on what to do about airfare. Part of me feels that because the airline is offering me a voucher, I can’t request to be reimbursed for travel expenses. My friends, however, argue that this is money I wouldn’t otherwise have spent (a lot of money that I technically can’t afford) and that I should at least include the airfare in my request and see what happens. What’s your take? If it matters, I’m pretty new at this job and am already embarrassed about not attending the conference, I don’t want to make the wrong impression.

You should absolutely, 100%, without question submit the airfare expense for reimbursement. Your friends are right: This is an expense that you only incurred because of work, and it wouldn’t make any sense for pay for it yourself. Plus, your employer already told you to submit your expenses! Listen to them.

You should also tell them about the voucher and ask them what they’d like you to do with it (the easiest thing would be to save it for future work travel, but if you don’t do much travel and it’s not transferable, there might be nothing work-related you can do with it). But the voucher itself isn’t reason not to request reimbursement; you presumably wouldn’t have chosen to spend your own money on buying an airline voucher.

3. My manager asked if I have a problem working for a woman

My current supervisor, a woman, asked me during the interview process if I would have a problem working for a woman. I replied that I had worked with many nurse managers who were woman and never had a problem, and it really made no difference to me.

Recently, I ended up in a meeting with her and HR about tersely worded emails (nothing derogatory or inappropriate language) and the first thing she brings up is that she believes that I can’t work with her because she is a woman. Now, she may have been just trying to get me to display some anger. I did tell her that it was inappropriate and offensive. I also said that it was inappropriate the first time she asked in the interview. She suddenly didn’t want to talk about the subject any longer.

So I am asking if this is an appropriate question for an interview. In my experience as a manager, I would have never dreamed of asking a female candidate if she could work for a man.

No, it’s not an appropriate question for an interview, any more than “could you work for a Latino manager?” or “could you work for a Catholic manager?” The assumption should be that you’re not a bigot, unless you demonstrate otherwise (and at that point, said demonstration would presumably take you out of the running anyway).

4. How do I convince my mom to let me pursue the career I want?

I’m a high school student, and I have a question on how to pursue a career I want even though my parents don’t want me to. For almost my whole life, I have been interested in beauty and fashion, though I told my parents growing up I wanted to become an engineer. Now I want to apply for a cosmetology program in high school, but my mother said that if I want to become an engineer I have to do CADD. I had only told my parent I wanted to become an engineer because I had no clue what I wanted to be. My father looked put together as an engineer so I thought I should become an engineer too. I had no clue what an engineer even was at the time.

I want to apply to FIT and major in fashion design, but my mother thinks I should go for a more stable career. I have tried talking to her about going into fashion design and she said, “There are many great engineering fields in design.” She doesn’t listen to me. She cares most about salary and the life I will be living. Tonight she told me that with that job, I won’t be able to live like we do now, but I don’t want to live like we are now. Can I apply to college without my parents’ consent? How do I convince my mom to let me be what I want instead of something “marketable” or boring? I swear to god I don’t want to be sitting in a cubicle, then get married and settle down with two kids while he goes to work. I want to be self-sufficient and independent.

You can indeed apply to college without your parents’ consent! The bigger issue, though, is likely to be how to pay for it if your parents won’t pay for FIT or another fashion design school (although you can try applying for merit scholarships). Alternately, you could look at other colleges that offer general studies as well as design classes, which might be an easier sell for your parents.

You don’t have to convince your mom to let you be what you want — that’s totally up to you. Your parents might not be willing to pay for certain schools, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pursue fashion design if you want to or that you have to have a career you don’t want, and it definitely doesn’t mean that you’ll put in some years in a cubicle before settling down at home. It just means that you might have to pursue fashion without your parents’ financial help, or that you’d need to do it after getting a traditional degree (which is not a terrible thing; there’s a high enough chance that it’ll be useful to you in various ways that it’s worth doing, and you should see it as a supplement to the career you want, not a replacement for it).

5. My manager is thinking of running for public office

I work for a small law firm (the owner, me, and one other coworker) and recently found out that my boss intends to run for public office. I am not supposed to know this yet, but overheard a colleague of his discussing it in a common area of our shared office building. I also let my coworker know what I heard. Assuming he runs and wins the election, I can only assume that he would have to close his business in order to serve.

This of course puts me and my coworker in a tough position. Should I begin looking for a new job now while I still have one or wait to see if his political ambitions even go anywhere? I do generally enjoy my job, although I don’t think this this is where I want to be long term. This is also my first real job in the legal field (I’ve been here two years) so his reference will be very valuable to me when I job search. Any advice on how to handle this would be appreciated.

No, you should not begin looking for a new job now because your manager might run for office, might win, and might close his business, all based on an overheard conversation. That would be an overreaction.

Wait and see what happens. If your manager runs, there’s probably a good chance he wouldn’t win, and if he wins, he might keep the business open (especially if he runs for local office; local office-holders usually keep their day jobs). Or he might not run at all. If he does run, you’ll have plenty of time to see how it plays out and to ask him what his plans are for the business if he wins.

{ 539 comments… read them below }

  1. LisaLee*

    LW1: I think it will also help if you can give your boss (or whoever orders the chairs) a specific idea of what you need, since they might not understand what exactly would be helpful for you. A chair with four legs instead of a swivel base? No armrests/wider armrests? If you can point out a couple of models of chairs that would work, that takes away some of the work on their end and makes it easier for them to say yes without arguing about it.

    1. L McD*

      Yeah – and it shouldn’t be hard for them. Most chairs are rated, not only for things like weight, but also for how many hours/day you can sit in them over time without expecting them to break. The higher hour rating, the more durable they are overall. I’m sure that information is in whatever catalog they order from. If you give them a starting point they should be able to handle it just fine.

      For the record, I’m also a heavy person who basically throws myself into furniture when I sit, and my Steelcase Leap is the best thing since sliced bread.

      1. OP#1*

        Oooh, I went to check the Steelcase site and those chairs look fantastic! Now to see if I can get my boss to spring for one, or something like it…

        1. Dorothy Lawyer*

          On Craigslist in my area, I found several of them for around $400… Not that used is optimal, but people sell barely-used office furniture all the time. If new isn’t in the company budget, you might want to check out some on Craigslist and see if they can spring for that. Good luck!

      2. Interviewer*

        My company bought Leap chairs for everyone here when we moved into new offices about 4 years ago. 100% agree with this chair being awesome. Haven’t had a single issue with parts breaking, like ever, and they’re used in my office by 100+ co-workers with a wide variety of body types.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        Oh mah gawd, I want one of those. If I had one, I would actually work at my desk at home instead of on the sofa! My office chairs are crap ones I got at the flea market.

        1. L McD*

          I really can’t recommend them enough, they’re significantly cheaper than the Herman Miller Aerons that everyone raves about, but just as good I think. The only downside is that they come fully assembled in a HUUUUGE box and they weigh about 70lbs, but that’s because they are STURDY. My massage therapist always notices when I’ve been working in something other than my Leap, because my back gets super screwed-up.

      4. B*

        I want one of those Leap chairs. They look so comfortable and would be great for a lot of people including for me, the very short person who has to make a million adjustments and add a bunch of stuff just to somewhat sit ok.

    2. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

      I agree. Ideally, whenever you’re making a request for X in the office you should be able to present the company with a rough idea of what you need – and the more specifics the better. The less work they have to do, the more likely you are to get somewhere. And as with everything, the attitude you approach it with will likely define the attitude they respond with, so make sure you behave as you want them to react.

    3. Afiendishthingy*

      Yes, good idea. If LW works in a halfway functional place- which I realize is not a given- this shouldn’t be a big deal, although I understand that LW feels awkward about broaching the topic. But she shouldn’t have to keep fixing her chair, and it’s a safety issue. Hope your boss has at least a bit of common sense, LW!

    4. Chlorine*

      LW#1, depending on your situation, it might be worth presenting this as a general issue? Mention that the company might want to make a few of these available at every site, for staff and vendors and customers. Because it’s increasingly common, and I feel that being prepared to cater for people’s basic needs goes along with caring for staff and being a good host to visitors.

      (And lastly, the company can be liable for costs if their furniture or equipment breaks in such a way that it injures someone – though you might not want to raise that issue when you’re asking for things, as it could feel adversarial, especially if the conversation is awkward or goes badly.)

  2. Me2*

    LW5: If your boss were to run and were to win, he may need to keep his law office open which might mean more responsibility for you.

    1. Loz*

      If I were in the boss’s position I’d at least try to sell the business, not just let it go. The LW could end up with the same job just with a different owner.

      1. fposte*

        Public office around here doesn’t pay well enough for that. For a lot of lawyers, national public office wouldn’t either.

        1. the gold digger*

          My husband ran for state-level (and later, national level) public office. If he had gotten the state job, it would have paid less than $50K a year and it would have been a two-year term.

          I figured out why most of the people in our state house are teachers, lawyers, nurses, or small-business owners (or, in one case, the wife of a very rich man) – they are the only ones who can afford to do it. They can still do their job when the legislature is not in session and they can easily return to their profession full time if they lose the next election.

          My husband is an engineer. He would not have been able to do his day job and be an elected representative, so he would have had to quit and take a pay cut. Then, if he did not win in the next election, he would not be able to return to his (very technical and quickly-changing) profession.

          I have mixed feelings about pay for public officials, because I do not want a professional politician class, but it is hard to get citizen legislators if you have to quit your day job to serve.

          1. BananaPants*

            Our state legislature meets full time for only 3-4 months of the year and very few people working in normal office jobs have the ability to just NOT go to work for that sort of time without quitting their “day job”. The salary for a state representative or senator is under $30K/year, which isn’t enough for most people to quit their jobs and be a full time politician. Lawyers and small business owners, can find it easier to have the schedule and career flexibility needed to make that work while still earning a living outside of politics. Our state representative and senator are both attorneys in solo practices, and the adjacent district’s rep and senator are both realtors.

            At the local level is where I see politicians who are teachers, electricians, nurses, business analysts, whatever because their political commitment is only part time. I could be on the local school board and keep my day job as an engineer, but I could not be a state legislator and still keep my day job.

            1. PM Jesper Berg*

              Lawyers have flexibility to schedule their workflow? I’m a lawyer and am working at 3:15 am, local time, to turn documents, because a client is demanding it. This is common. That client wouldn’t stand for me being gone for 3-4 months of the year.

              I agree all this is a good argument against “citizen legislators” and in favor of a professional legislature, like we have in California.

          2. LENEL*

            Australian Federal Parliament members are paid a BASE salary of $195,130.

            Australian State Parliament Members for my state are paid a BASE salary $148,848 .

            They are all also entitled to additional allowances for travel, running electoral offices, cars, staff, food, etc., plus any additional entitlements for being members of committees or other roles.

            Then if members have sat for two terms, they get a pension that is a significant percentage of their yearly pay for the rest of their lives, plus free domestic travel.

            I believe the Australian Prime Minister is paid more than the American President. The USD is doing better than the AUD, but not that much better…

            In contrast, Local Government here is far more reasonably remunerated, sitting around $55,000/year with the Mayor earning about $110,000/year but Local Government it would be possible to hold down at least part time work at the same time aside from three sitting days per month for formal meetings at bare minimum.

            Politicians in Australia are obscenely overpaid.

          3. Mookie*

            I have mixed feelings about pay for public officials, because I do not want a professional politician class, but it is hard to get citizen legislators if you have to quit your day job to serve.

            If you are against the compensation (as well as the education and training) of civil servants and public administrators, you are advocating for unequal political representation and a return to government operated exclusively by and for a small and privileged elite who do not resemble nor have good reason to develop and push for policies on behalf of their constituents. What withdrawing compensation for holding public office won’t do, however, is eliminate career politicians; you’ll simply be handing government over to old money families and the independently wealthy to share titles and offices at will.

        2. Anna*

          Exactly what I was thinking. I invited the mayor of a small nearby town to my work and she couldn’t come because she couldn’t get off work.

      2. Mike C.*

        Why would you get rid of the business? It’s only bound to improve and attract more prestigious cases if the owner is an elected official.

        1. Ashley the Paralegal*

          I think this could actually be a conflict of interest in the legal field, or at least give the impression of one. For example if a local business man is paying an attorney a large amount in legal fees, that attorney might be more willing to vote for legislation that gives said business man an advantage. Each state’s bar association have strict ethical rules laid out and I suspect this would be crossing them.

          1. neverjaunty*

            It would depend on what kind of law he practiced and what he did as a legislator – in the situation you mentioned, he would probably have to abstain from a vote. But I don’t think there is a blanket ethical ban in any state on having a law practice while serving as a legislator.

            1. fposte*

              I was going to say that lawyers have been the plurality of legislatures for ages, but then I found a fascinating blog post detailing that the lawyer percentages in the Senate and Congress have actually been dropping. Still no shortage of them, though; I’d say the bar (pardon the pun) is the loss of pay, not any issue of conflict.

              1. PM Jesper Berg*

                Senators/Congressmen can’t practice law while serving in office. That’s against congressional ethics rules. We’re talking here about service in state legislatures, and specifically in “citizen legislatures” that meet for, say, 6 weeks to 4 months out of the year. In that kind of legislature, it is permissible (indeed, expected) that the legislators will keep their day jobs. Some states, such as California, have full-time professional legislatures that operate more like the federal Congress.

          2. Mike C.*

            Yeah, you’d have to be careful here, but even just simply being more well known or involved with the community could be very valuable.

        2. Loz*

          Actually my comment was in response to this part:

          “I can only assume that he would have to close his business in order to serve”

          What I meant was, if he can’t allocate time to run the business, you’d sell it, not just close the doors. In reality I’d try to hang on to it if at all possible.

    2. Rebecca*

      This happened in my neighborhood. The small business owner was elected to a county commissioner office, and the business is still open. He still owns it, but the day to day operations are being carried out by one of the workers, who got promoted. I don’t think this is necessarily a lose lose situation for the OP.

      1. EB*

        You’re right, if you get elected or serve at the local level, particularly in a rural area, you don’t get paid much. In my parents’ county many people on local commissions get $50/month for their service. Even in larger counties the people on the board of supervisors can’t quit their day job.

        1. fposte*

          Our mayorship is technically a full-time job and it pays under $40k. City council is $5k, but it’s not considered to be full time.

    3. Ashley the Paralegal*

      OP here. The office he is running for pays $85,338.65 per year according to public record and is a full time job. He has announced that he is running and that he will decide what to do with the business once he finds out if he will be receiving his party’s nomination in March/April. If he gets the nomination, he will likely win the election since this area is very conservative. I also do not believe money is a huge issue for him as both his family and his wife’s family are very wealthy and he has multiple investments outside of his business.

      1. Snarky McSnark*

        He may need a staff to support him in his elected role. Who knows, maybe you could follow him when he becomes an official.

        1. Ashley the Paralegal*

          I have considered this, but given that I do not support his political platform in the slightest, I do not feel it would be a good fit.

      2. JMegan*

        Why not just ask him? If he has announced his candidacy, presumably he has also thought about what he plans to do with the business during the campaign and if he ends up winning. Just say something like “Congratulations on your plans to run for office! When you have a few minutes, can we sit down and talk about what this will mean for Other Coworker and me? It’s not urgent, but I’d like to get an idea of what you’re thinking here.”

        Or, he may not have thought about it at all, in which case your question will ideally prompt him to get on that. But either way, if his candidacy is public knowledge, and if he’s at all a reasonable person, he should be open to talking about the impact it will have on the people around him.

        1. Ashley the Paralegal*

          My co-worker did ask this when he told us and his answer was that he was still considering what to do and that he would discuss that with us after he had a better idea on if he would likely be elected. He should know this about April of 2016 and would not take office until January 2017 so I think for now, the wait and see approach is appropriate. He is indeed a reasonable and decent person so I do not believe he intends to surprise us with whatever his decision is.

          1. Younger*

            Also, it sounds like perhaps you could ask for his assistance/ recommendations for a new position in a different firm if this comes to pass?

  3. The IT Manager*

    I agree with Alison’s answer to letter #2, but if you are reimbursed for airfare can you give the voucher to your company for the to use for any employee or use it for a future trip? That would be fair. But if not you should still go for the full reimbursement.

    1. Doriana Gray*

      That’s what I would do with the voucher (hand it over or ask to use it on the next trip). Good suggestion.

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      If the OP keeps the voucher for personal use they absolulty can not claim the expense, the company should only pay for business related expenses (including those cancelled because of illness)

      Hopefully the voucher is transferable if not rhen the OP should keep it for next time they travle for work.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        “If the OP keeps the voucher for personal use they absolulty can not claim the expense”

        I see where you’re coming from, but I still feel there are potential gray areas. For example, if the voucher has to be used in six months and the OP doesn’t have any work travel planned in that window, then it doesn’t make sense to say that the OP has to pay for it. That winds up essentially dictating to the employee how to spend their money – they might not have chosen to spend it on plane tickets. Nor would it make sense to say that the OP just can’t use the voucher at all if the company pays, as that seems just spiteful. Someone might as well get some use out of it.

        I do agree that the ideal case is the OP uses the voucher for future work travel. If that isn’t possible, however, then I don’t think they should feel guilty about it.

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          What I meant was if the employee takes the voucher and uses it for a personal trip then they should not claim the expense back. If the voucher expires and went unused then I would agree the company should pay for it. If like you say the employee has no work travel planned in the next 6 months and they want to take a personal trip then they can not in my opinion ask the business to pay for it.

          1. Karowen*

            I think that’s exactly what Elizabeth is getting at, though (obviously it should be used first and foremost for business travel, but let’s say that’s not an option). If I’ve bought the plane ticket and it’s a cost I could reasonably afford and I have an idea that I want to use it elsewhere, then fine. But if it’s not a cost I could reasonably take care of, then I would ask the employer to reimburse me.

            So, assume that the company reimburses me, I have no planned business travel and the voucher is non-transferable. What does a reasonable business do in that situation? Their only options are to let it go to waste or to utilize it as an opportunity to garner a little goodwill with the employee by telling them they’re free to use it.

            1. Koko*

              Exactly – the order of operations matters here. The initial purchase was forced by the company. Even if the employee later makes use of the voucher, they were the one who decided to lay out the cash for a plane trip in the first place. They likely would not have purchased a flight if their job hadn’t required it of them.

              And as you say, once the flight has been reimbursed, the voucher either gets used for business, for personal, or goes to waste. If there’s no upcoming business travel it seems spiteful to forbid the employee using it for personal, and although I understand that government entities are required to be spiteful to their employees as a matter of course I don’t think it’s good business practice for everyone else.

        2. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

          I’m really torn on this, but thinking about it, I think I fall on the side of “the company should reimburse it” just because, if the company didn’t want the possibility of having to pay and then the OP being the only person left able to use the voucher, they should have been fronting their own expenses and not asking OP to take the initial cost.

          OP should absolutely try and transfer the voucher or use it for other work travel. But if neither of those are possible, it would be silly to waste the voucher, so OP may as well use it for a brief trip somewhere; but if OP can’t afford to front the cost of that, the company should still be reimbursing it.

          I see the concern that OP essentially gets free flights out of that scenario, but I think it’s unlikely that one of the other suggestions won’t work, and ultimately the company bears the risk on this one. If they’d booked it in their own name, they’d have had the voucher for other travel, and OP shouldn’t be left with the cost of plane tickets that they don’t really want (which is separate to whether or not they should use them)

          1. Colette*

            Agreed. I don’t think the OP Should rush to use it for personal travel, but if she won’t be taking a business trip, she would be fine to use it before it expires, since the odds are no one else can.

            1. Liz in a Library*

              Yeah, I wouldn’t want one of my employees to waste a voucher that already exists in their name (assuming non-transferrable and that no business travel is upcoming) if they have a personal use for it. It wouldn’t affect my reimbursement for the original ticket. The voucher only exists because of business-related travel they planned to take.

          2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

            If they’d booked it in their own name, they’d have had the voucher for other travel, and OP shouldn’t be left with the cost of plane tickets that they don’t really want (which is separate to whether or not they should use them).

            Another really good argument toward why company’s should be fronting the expenses for employee travel!

            1. Anoning it Up*

              My company fronts the cost of travel on a company credit card, but when I get travel vouchers they are issued to my name and are non-transferable. I’ll actually be leaving my company soon, so I’ll have to figure out what to do with those – they were paid for by the company but are issued to me, so I’m not sure if I just get a windfall when I leave, or… what happens there.

              1. lawsuited*

                I think it’s best to raise it as an issue when you leave, “I still have [number] travel that unfortunately are non-transferrable and can only be used by me; I assume it’s okay for me to use them for personal travel?” Hopefully the company will see that there’s no utility in forcing you to let the travel vouchers go to waste, and give you the okay. But if you just go ahead and use them without saying anything and the company finds out, I can see a situation in which the company sees it as backhanded or misuse of company resources, which could affect your reputation/reference.

              2. AnonymousaurusRex*

                I recently had a business trip cancelled at the last minute and a voucher issued for the cost of the ticket. Since it is on an airline I rarely fly for work, I have the same question. I plan to raise the issue before the credit expires.

                1. Koko*

                  Unless you’re funded by taxpayer money I can’t see a private company having any legal claim to prohibit you from using a voucher issued directly to you by an airline. Although it was funded by your company, as far as the airline is concerned you were the customer, the voucher was issued to you and is non-transferrable. It was not issued to your company, so they have no legal claim to it and once you’re no longer in their employ they have no other power to compel you to waste it.

                  Airlines have also repeatedly refused to award air travel points to a company rather than to an individual. Dealing with individual passengers instead of the entities bankrolling those passengers is how they’ve chosen to structure their business and a third party company has no place or ability to change that.

                2. Koko*

                  In fact, I believe your company would have no way of knowing whether or not you use the voucher. They wouldn’t be privvy to a private transaction that you book on your own and know whether you paid with a credit card or an airline credit. Since the vouchers are tied to your personal identity, I think the only feasible way for them to see if you’ve used it would be if they have the confirmation code and attempt to use it to book a flight *in your name* and see that the funds have already been used.

            2. Case of the Mondays*

              Allison – I would love to see legislation where business were required to front employee expenses. Maybe we don’t want to go to a system where employees are prohibited from fronting them (many people love those points) but where any sort of pressure to force an employee to front them would be illegal. Are there any states that you know of that have tried such a thing? I know there are laws governing reimbursement but I’m curious about laws saying an employee shouldn’t have to pay in the first instance, it’s a business’ job to have the cash flow to do so, etc.

              1. Apollo Warbucks*

                California prevents employers passing on the cost of doing business to an employee. I don’t know the way it works but I assume that it would be harder for an employer to refuse to reimburse and expense without breaking the law.

              2. fposte*

                I can’t imagine that such a thing would even get a hearing, to be honest. It’s so specialized, so difficult to get grassroots indignation about, and so easy to oppose. (Would you need every employee to have a company credit card for the hotel, for instance?)

            3. Koko*

              I don’t think it’s possible to book an airline ticket in the name of a company. It has to be in an individual person’s name due to air security regulations, and most airlines do not allow tickets to be refunded or transferred to another person unless you buy one of those tickets that cost 4 times more than a regular one.

              Companies should still be willing to front the expenses, but either way the ticket is issued non-nontransferably to one employee in name.

              (Also, even if a company doesn’t pay the ticket on a company card, the employee should be able to submit for reimbursement as soon as they incur the charge, not after the travel has taken place.)

              1. pieces of flair*

                This is true. I book flights for members of my department using a company credit card. The credit card is in my name/the company’s name, but the ticket is in the employee’s name, the employee’s personal information (home address, DOB, etc.) is required, and any vouchers for unused tickets would go to the employee and would not be transferable.

      2. kac*

        I was in this situation once (couldn’t attend a conference at the last minute, airline issued a voucher) and as I travel frequently for work I planned to use the voucher that way. It’s virtually unusable!! Whenever I call and try to use it, the rates are double what is posted online if I were to buy a new ticket. The ‘voucher’ has gone unused for over a year now.

        1. OP2*

          Thanks for all of your comments. The voucher really threw me off, I just didn’t want the company to think that I was trying to get free airfare. I expect, as many of you have noted, that actually using said voucher will prove frustrating.
          I will add that my employer does give allow employees to request a check to cover anticipated expenses, book travel through a partner agency at the employer’s expense, or pay up front and seek reimbursement after. In this situation I had to book on pretty short notice and had specific travel needs so I just decided to book myself because, what could happen, right? (Lesson learned, believe me.)
          I just submitted the request this morning, airfare included, so I’ll update if there’s any issue in getting reimbursed. I don’t know why I worry so much about this reflecting negatively on me, it seems that most of us agree that this is a risk associated with doing business.

    3. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      As someone who has booked (and gotten vouchers for) about a million flights, I can tell you that in my experience, they are almost never transferable to another person (I only say “almost” because I don’t know everything, but I’ve never encountered a transferable voucher) and there’s usually a steep fee to use the voucher; it’s not typically redeemable at face value. A couple airlines charge $180 for that transfer, I think there’s one or two that charge around $120, and maybe a couple around $70. I wanna say Southwest now does fee-free vouchers.

      OP’s best bet is to seek full reimbursement, let the employer know that they have a voucher they will apply to future business travel, and if there’s no other applicable travel before OP leaves (or before the voucher expires, which in my experience is one year), they should not feel bad about using it for personal travel, assuming they’ve confirmed it’s non-transferable.

      If there’s a situation that OP finds themselves in that they could use the voucher, they could work out with the employer where they reimburse for the non-fee part of the trip (so, say it’s a $300 ticket, and they have a $300 voucher, but there’s a $180 fee, they could reimburse the employer for the remaining $120 that they got in “free” money off their ticket).

      1. Snarky McSnark*

        At one of my jobs (Fortune 300), we used a corporate travel site and if you had to cancel your flight for any reason, they had agreements with the airline that the money went into a general pool of vouchers. So it does happen.

      2. teclatrans*

        On a minor point, yes, Southwest is fee-free; it is the only airline I know that has no penalty for missing a flight. They won’t give back your money, but tgey make the entire amount available to you for future flights, no fees or restrictions. It is one reason I fly almost exclusively with them for flights of 1.5 hours or less.

        1. Snarky McSnark*

          I have had SW restrictions of needing to use my flight credits within a year, which is still reasonable.

    4. The IT Manager*

      I work for the government, and they always seem to purchase the most expensive tickets. But the reason they do is that they’re refundable, transferable, etc. I don’t think if that math actually works out in the end higher ticket costs for everything, but never losing money on the rare unused ticket. But if a company wants to avoid losses on tickets, they could go that route.

      You should try to use the voucher for business, but the company should reimburse you regardless.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        My husband is a fed and he has the option of buying a regular ticket on our credit card and get reimbursed (points) or the gov’t rate (more expensive but refundable) ticket on the gov’t credit card. The problem is, he doesn’t get reimbursed for our card or the gov’t card until after the trip is actually taken and flights are normally booked months in advance. So we have to pay it off in the first instance either way. Corporate/gov’t card doesn’t always stop you from having to front money, it’s just a way to get around the problem of an employee that doesn’t have good credit and can’t get their own card.

        My husband had to cancel a work trip. He got a voucher for the travel that we might be able to use. His employer said to not submit it for reimbursement because if he had chosen gov’t rate (even though that would have been higher out of pocket for us for months) it would have been refundable.

        I’m sure he could have pushed back on this but we decided against fighting it for a few reasons. One, we can afford it and didn’t want to cause a ruckus. Two, he cancelled because my grandmother passed away and she is technically outside of his bereavement policy so his work was being nice enough “letting” him cancel the trip to be with me. Asking them to pay for it to might cause them to say no to someone in the future looking to cancel in that sort of situation.

        The whole system sucks though and there really should be a better way – like the gov’t/company just paying off the credit card each month rather than cutting checks to employees to pay it themselves – months after the expense was incurred.

        1. Joline*

          That last thing is what my old company would do. If you had a corporate card you’d charge things to it, enter your expense report from your receipts as you’re booking/doing things, indicate that it was corporate card, and then they’d forward the money directly to the credit card. They found with that system it still allowed staff to occasionally make personal purchases using that card if they didn’t have their own (with the employee would be responsible for making that payment to the card) but meant the staff member wasn’t out of pocket for actual business expenses.

          I’ll also throw out that this was only really feasible because of online expense reporting combined with always having computers and internet available.

    5. Not Katie the Fed*

      In the federal government, we would absolutely get reimbursed, and part of the travel regs specifically say that the voucher has to be returned to the government.

  4. katamia*

    LW4: Look at people who have careers similar to what you want to be doing in fashion design and see what sort of degrees they have. While some of them probably do have degrees in fashion, others probably don’t. There might not be a whole lot of crossover between engineering and fashion, but some sort of business degree could be very useful. You could also consider a double major in fashion and something that your parents would have an easier time accepting.

    You don’t say how much time you have before college, but I’d also recommend trying to find a part-time job now and saving as much as you can for college. You won’t be able to pay for the whole thing yourself right off the bat without scholarships and possibly loans (at least if you’re in the US, not sure about other countries), but it could help reduce your dependence on your parents when it’s time for college and make you more competitive for internship and job applications.

    One final note: if you’ll be under the age of majority when you apply to/accept an offer at a college, then you may run into more problems. I was 17 when I applied and was accepted to colleges. I can’t remember if my parents had to sign my forms, but I suspect they would have because I wouldn’t have been legally able to sign contracts yet. (The question of where to go was not an issue for me because my parents were extremely permissive and left the decision basically up to me–which caused other problems–but you’ll want to keep this in mind if it applies to you.)

    1. Alma*

      In this era, fashion design often uses an AutoCAD program for designing patterns in different sizes, for different seasons, and different body weight.

      My Dad earned his degree in architecture in the early 1950’s, and is so amazed at what standard measurements, building codes, and available fixtures are in the program. They used to have to draw all that by hand, and research measurements.

      Like any profession, the educational process is just the beginning of learning how to do your job. If you’re lucky, you’ll learn something every day. And you may find an aspect of the fashion or design industry that takes you down a different path with a narrower focus.

      Do some research on programs you are interested in, and educate your parents how you will be engineering a different type of product, and that the skills you learn will be transferrable. Good luck to you!

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yep! CAD is a really big thing in fashion now–learning it could help you with your ambitions even as it temporarily mollifies your mom. :)

        1. neverjaunty*

          But OP’s mom isn’t saying “do some engineering-related work as part of your job”, she’s decided for OP that OP going to be an engineer. An engineering degree is way, way more than using CAD software.

          1. GlorifiedPlumber*

            Interestingly, CAD is only a minor subset of the job for many engineers as well. For many they “choose to do their own CAD” because their shop is small, or they don’t have drafters, or the update is minor. None of those are extreme CAD skills.

            In my line of work, we would never hire an engineer who said they were qualified because they knew CAD. We have drafters who do that work for 1/4th the cost (or less) of an engineer.

            I’ve had to stop many a junior engineer from spending too much time in our CAD programs. 1) they do it wrong and 2) they have better things to do.

            LW Mom’s advice to study CAD to be an engineer is bad advice.

          2. Owl*

            Right but if the OP is like “okay Mom, I will take this CAD course in HS” then that time and effort will not be wasted, because she can apply the things she learns there in her eventual fashion design studies.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Yes, that time and effort will likely be wasted, because 1) it is not a subject the OP has any interest in and 2) we don’t actually know that she will end up doing the kind of fashion design work that would utilize what she learned in a single high school level CAD class.

              It’s interesting to me how many people are siding with the OP’s mom. I wonder if we would get this same reaction if OP’s mom were pushing her to work as a receptionist or an artist.

          3. Anna*

            I worked for an architect for a year and all the new guys were basically CAD hamsters until they could do more stuff on their own and it’s getting to the point now where the CAD stuff is done by people who aren’t engineers, but are certified CAD users. It’s possible the OP can appease mom and dad by taking a CAD class that will actually be useful in the career they actually want.

        2. GlorifiedPlumber*

          Yup! Revit!

          Competitor hired one of our structural engineer’s sister who has a fashion or some sort of fashion design degree because she knows Revit.

          Knowledge of engineering? Not necessary… how to use software? Apparently more important.

      2. Designer*

        Hi- I work as a designer in fashion with a fashion degree. A degree in fashion is highly recommended. It is very rare to have someone in fashion who does not have a degree in it unless you are working in marketing, accounting etc. There are so many schools and programs now that there is a large pool of educated, trained designers to choose from so why take someone who has a background in something different. Your portfolio would have to be out of this world. I don’t think that the mass public realizes that- one of the questions I get most often is ‘How did you get into that?’ and I did it like anyone else- I went to college for it.
        That said- being in fashion does not mean it’s not a desk job. I work for a major retailer and I am at my desk now! And have been all day. It’s not a 9-5 either. More like a 9:30-9:30. But the pay can be good and it does have it’s perks!

    2. CEM*

      Investigating the educational backgrounds of people whose jobs you find interesting, as katamia suggests, is always an excellent idea.
      It’s also true that there is no single path to a career in fashion, and many people working in the industry did not study fashion as undergraduates. I’d keep an open mind and think hard about what sorts of broad skills could be useful to you. Any part-time jobs or internships you can line up on the side that allow you to explore your interest in design would be great.
      One final thought (and I say this as someone who has worked in fashion in Milan). Are you sure that your passion is specifically about fashion design, or are you more generally intrigued by working in the fashion industry? Because the fashion industry, just like the entertainment industry or many other sectors, actually comprises a very wide range of jobs… Aside from those specialized in design, there are people who work in fashion public relations, law, finance, merchandising, marketing, retail development etc etc. It’s pretty vast!
      It might be helpful for you to think about this, too, and see how people get into these careers under the fashion umbrella. There are a range of guides on this topic you could check out. Best of luck!

    3. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      I like your answer better than the one I was going to write.

      Post secondary school is a hefty , grown up, expense and needs to be undertaken past the “what do you want to be when you grow up?” question we ask children.

      I had to look up FIT, which I apparently shouldn’t have had to as it is a top rated school with a great reputation. (I was thinking of those for profit schools and when I saw the school in question my mother heart rate came down.) Selling a parent to support FIT, if taken on maturely, would be an easier sell than many other ventures.

      Also, google “fashion institute of technology notable alumni” and see all of the pretty pictures!

      IDK, however, if that means take a cosmetology route in high school. This is a competitive university and might need another route to ensure admission. I suggest the OP arm her/himself with a lot of facts and outside counsel as to best route.

      Having your parents’ backing, both financially and emotionally, gives you a better launch in life. I’ve seen it two ways: I didn’t have parental backing and my kids have parental backing and there’s a big difference.

      1. KarenT*

        In my pre-caffeine haze I thought you were saying the OP should sell one of her parents to pay for school :)

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          I had to read three times to see even what you were confused about. “Selling a parent” << can you tell I'm in marketing? Which, as we see below, is not what I went to college for. :-)

      2. Hellanon*

        Wakeen’s Teapots is right; if you want to get into FIT, Otis or FIDM, or another good fashion college, pursuing an art & design/college prep track in high school makes a lot more sense. AP classes can take care of some of your Gen Ed requirements, giving you an advanced start on completing the credits you need for graduation, and taking as much CAD as possible will really help. Everything is computer-based – do a google search on Gerber pattern technologies, for example.

        Another thing to think about is that if design per se isn’t your first love, there are a lot of other fashion/beauty industry tracks to pursue: product development, apparel industry management, beauty industry management – fashion/beauty is a trillion dollar industry & needs people who do lots of things beyond drawing dresses. Researching some of these other things might be a good way to help you persuade your folks you know what you’re doing & can be successful doing it.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          On the topic of other fashion/beauty industry tracks… Patternmaking! This would actually be a crossover from engineering and could calm the OP’s parents. When I worked in fashion, the company couldn’t find any available patternmakers. Everyone wants to design fashionable clothes, but there isn’t anyone to make the patterns for them.
          It is really worth considering.

          1. neverjaunty*

            But OP doesn’t want to be an engineer. “Find a different version of your life goal to deflect your parents’ bullying” is not really a good career plan.

        2. Shan*

          This is good advice!

          OP, I love fashion so much but my parents also wanted me to be an engineer like my dad. My parents thought it would be really difficult to become a successful fashion designer, and assumed I’d work in retail my whole life. I ended up going with neither and choosing my backup career (business/marketing). I regret not looking into and explaining all the different career paths in fashion – there’s tons more you can do other than be the next Marc Jacobs.

          Another piece to the puzzle is that I was paying for school with their help, and I simply couldn’t afford FIT or FIDM, and the one college in my state that was very good for a fashion career was a private university – costing 4x as much as the one I went to. My parents and I loved the university I went to, but they had NO fashion program…I couldn’t even take an intro class to see if I liked it.

          I’d argue that even if you don’t start at FIT or FIDM, whether due to cost or your parents not supporting those choices, at least choose a college that will have options for fashion/beauty programs. You can take a few courses to narrow down what you want to do, and if you’re still set on FIT, then you can transfer later when you’re more financially stable and don’t need your parents approval.

          Now I have a day job that I enjoy, but I spend all my free time sewing! I’ve even taken pattern drafting classes that use CAD. I actually think I’d be more successful if it were the other way around. I’d say choose the career that’s right for you, since you’re the one who will be doing it for the rest of your life!

      3. VisualBrooklyn*

        LW 4# Not sure how much this applies, but to second what CEM has stated. I also currently work in fashion, but went to school at another top tier Art School. I actually got a lot of flack in High School from teachers asking how I would make a career in “Art”. I took every art class I could, built a portfolio and then went to school for “illustration”. Quickly realize that I wanted the stability that my parents had and also I career in fashion/art. Changed my major to Art Direction/Graphic Design. Realized my senior year of college, while working for a very well know Handbag Company in NYC as a graphic design that I HATED being graphic design. But my job was to support another department that gave direction to the stores. Got a job at another company doing both “Visual Merchandising” and “Graphic Design”. The whole time my parents are trying to explain/understand what my career path was and how I would have stability. Fast forward almost 10 years I still use my degree every day, and make enough money to have plenty of stability.
        What I learned through the above, is to keep learning and trying new things and doing anything that was asked of me to learn the industry. There is a lot more to the fashion industry then just designing. Look at the things that you are good at, if it is math, look at buying/planning, which is the whole financial end of the industry.
        Also as a side note, I even was actually saying to my mom the other day, that I don’t think I would have thought I would have been where I am now, if I had been asked at 17 what I wanted to be. Which I know to be true of a lot of my co-workers/friends.

        1. Cucumberzucchini*

          I was always extremely interested in art. As a child I vacillated between wanting to be a veterinarian, geneticist (I really loved animals and biology) or animator (back when it was actually hand drawn) – I spent hours drawing and painting. When we got a computer and the internet I wanted to put my art online so I learned HTML.

          I spent HOURS not really doing my homework, but on the computer drawing, making personal websites during High School. I always signed up for the hardest math and science but filled electives with art classes.

          My parents were willing to pay for college, but my Dad would absolutely not pay for a fine art degree. He said it would be a waste of money, that I’d never be able to support myself. Since I liked coding I thought I’d do Computer Science. So that’s what I started college with the mindset to do. It took me exactly one class to realize that while I had the aptitude for programming I would be absolutely miserable doing that for a living.

          So I switched to Graphic Design. It was art adjacent but a traditional enough career path that my Dad approved paying for it. So in the end I did graduate with a BFA. And all the HTML coding I did in highschool paid off because I do mostly webdesign and development now. And I really like it. I make good money, have really good job stability and there’s enough design and art to feel satisfied. Sometimes I do wish I went more the illustration route, and maybe one day I’ll go back and get a Masters in Illustration that I pay for myself so it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. But I probably make more money doing what I did which helps support other passions I have. Plus I have such a wealth of marketing and ecommerce experience if I ever did go the Illustration route I know how to market myself.

          All this to say, is the journey through education to your career isn’t straight. You can probably find a happy middle ground with your parents. Getting your college paid for by your parents, if they’re willing, is very valuable. Not having student loans is such a blessing. But don’t go for something you’d be miserable in just to get paid college. Life too short to be miserable but being broke is also miserable so do pick something with at least a good shot of paying your bills.

          1. Snargulfuss*

            OP how much do you know about the fashion industry? When we’re young and relatively inexperienced it’s often the idea of a career that appeals to us…which is fine, but it’s also one reason why so many people end up in a completely different place than they thought they’d be. The realities of a given field or career can be very different from what it appears. The best possible thing you can do is to talk to and shadow people working in various jobs that appeal to you. Try to get a realistic idea of the pros and cons, challenges and pay-offs of the career you want.

      4. neverjaunty*

        There’s a huge difference. But there’s also a huge difference between having parental support, and being on a parental leash. I went to college with a number of people who were taking study programs they hated because their parents bullied them and made financial help contingent on taking a specific program of study. They were not, shall we say, content in the long term.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I just want to slap parents like that. They should remind their kids of the reality, like yeah, you’re probably not going to be famous and you will have bills to pay, so you might want to look into doing X with this idea. But to force it on them? Perhaps out of some misguided sense of what success means, or even “I wanted that and never got it; by God you’re going to do it for me”? Slap slap slap.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Eh, I think there is a gray area with parents being concerned that they’re paying for four years of beer pong, or that their money is funding a not-very-well-thought-out career plan (“I’ll take underwater basket weaving and then I’ll be a rock star I guess?”). But I don’t think there’s anything complicated about parents who decide that their child is going to be an aerospace engineer or a neurosurgeon and if they disagree, they’re cut off financially, or parents whose anxiety is all about ‘my friends need to be jealous of my kid’s career’.

              It reminds me of that old Doonesbury cartoon where Mark Slackmeyer, then at Walden College, is having one of his perennial arguments with his dad, who snaps at him “Life isn’t meant to be enjoyed! It’s to be gotten on with!”

              1. fposte*

                I guess it depends what you mean by “complicated.” I don’t think it’s a binary, because I think parents who are financially capable of providing some support to a college-bound kid should do so, but I don’t think that means they have to give $40k with no strings attached, either. I’m no fan of “premed or you’re kicked out of the house,” but I also think it’s okay for parents to put limits on what they’re willing to spend, whether it’s a kid’s education or a kid’s wedding.

                I think these pressures are more emotional than financial a lot of the time, though, and in that case I tend to spin the other way and say you get to make your concerns or objections known once, and then you quietly either make your peace with it or you don’t. Carping people into compliance is an ugly thing to do.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  Right, and we’re not, I don’t think, referring parents who say they can only afford $X and aren’t going to offer unlimited support for HighFaluting Dream College, or who express concerns that their child is choosing a study program without any thought as to where that’s going to lead. I was talking about parents who did things like threatening to cut off all financial support if their child didn’t study to be an aerospace engineer, or who relentlessly badgered a child who didn’t want to go to medical school someday.

                2. fposte*

                  Yeah, there’s an axis for me, I think–the more specific the demand that’s tied to the money, the less I support it.

              2. Honeybee*

                But 17-year-olds are not supposed to have very well-thought-out career plans. College is, in part, designed to help in that process of fleshing out interests and figuring out what you like and what you don’t.

            2. Dewey, Cheatem & Howe*

              Even if parents aren’t footing the bill — I’ve read some horror stories from idealistic young students who followed their dreams into deep debt only to realize in horror after graduation that the only person who thinks a $50,000 art degree is actually worth $50,000 is the person who paid for it.

          1. Kiryn*

            My husband and I both had parents like this. We were only studying these subjects because our parents threatened to cut off the money if we did what we actually wanted, so without any motivation to learn other than fear, our grades were consistently terrible. We’d never had jobs before, all we had to go on was what our parents and teachers told us. Their version of the adult world was one in which picking the wrong major or dropping out of school ruins your entire life forever. My husband still has nightmares about failing school.

            We dropped out, got low-paying jobs, worked our way up, and earned the money to put ourselves through school for the things we actually care about. My husband just got his bachelors degree, and I’ve got straight A’s so far and am having so much fun learning again. Sure, we’re 30 now, but life is so much better when you can make your own choices.

          2. Lizzie*

            A fun story: my parents never planned to support me through school at all, but they threatened to withhold their tax and income information from me so I couldn’t even apply for federal grants and student loans if I didn’t study what they wanted. Unless your parents are deceased, incarcerated, or you can prove that you’ve had no contact with them in at least four years, you must provide their information on your FAFSA until you are 24 to determine your estimated family contribution and therefore your need for aid.

            … so I did my AA at a community college to get my gen eds and waste time until I turned 24 so I could do whatever the hell I wanted. They’re still unhappy with me for my choice and I’m slightly more in debt than I would have liked, but I wasn’t under their thumb. I regret nothing.

            1. Honeybee*

              My parents were never very secretive about how much they made, so I was able to finagle it with my financial aid office (that financial aid officer was a saint) that I could file FAFSA with their (quite accurately) estimated information but not have to supply the actual documents themselves to verify. I also memorized my parents’ SSNs in high school and applied for their PINs myself with dummy email accounts so I could sign the FAFSA in their names myself.

              Worked! The one downside is that I couldn’t apply to any schools that required the CSS PROFILE, which a lot of elite private schools require, but it worked for most of the schools I wanted to go to anyway.

                1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

                  35 years ago when the world was just paper, I had enough information on our meager finances to fill out the financial aid forms and forge my mother’s signature to it. Only way I got to college. She refused to do it (as a way of keeping me home).

      5. AVP*

        also, happily, FIT is part of the SUNY system which means that, while expensive, it’s more reasonable than a private design school like Parsons.

        to the OP, I would say – consider taking the CAD class over cosmetology anyway. You’ll learn way more about design and technology, and it will make you a more competitive applicant. Maybe you can make a deal with your parents – you take the CAD class, they let you sign up for a sewing or illustration class on weekends. Try to sell it as “at the very least, if it’s not for me it will allow me to get it out of my system and focus on something else later.”

    4. Foxtrot*

      You definitely need to follow a career path that will make you happy. There’s more to life than money.
      That said, engineering won’t take you out of fashion entirely. My friend studied chemical engineering and now designs makeup. All of those powders, creams, sprays…they all need chemical engineers. I could see a chemical engineer working on different synthetic fibers too.

      1. Dan*

        I took a similar career path – studied outside of my “field” and learned skills that transferred in. For me though, it wasn’t about doing an end run around my parents. Rather, my field is small and cyclical, and I needed a fallback just in case. I haven’t needed the fallback, but am damn glad I went that route. Options are a good thing, particularly as an undergrad where you don’t know what the economy or your field will be like in four years.

    5. chemgirl*

      +1, exactly what I came here to say!

      OP, you should also do research on what it takes to get into the fashion industry! I have no experience, so right now I’m thinking it’ll be like a “Devil Wears Prada” type thing for the first 10 years. If this is true, are you ok with that?

      Also, you should look at the day-to-day. I’m sure it’s not all designing clothes- there are probably a LOT of meetings and other normal business dealings that need to be done. If you’re going into fashion instead of engineering only to escape a cubicle, make sure you actually will!

      Finally, another person suggested chemical engineering, which can be a good choice. My friend graduated with a degree in chemistry and now makes makeup for L’Oreal. And you’ll always be working with your hands in a lab :)

    6. AnotherAlison*

      As the mom of a high school senior who did one year of the high school engineering program AND an engineer myself, I would recommend not doing a specific track in high school (unless of course you are at some high school that requires it.)

      Speaking for our local high schools, you can take a single CAD class or a single sewing/fashion type class without being in the “program”. Take the I and II course for both CAD and fashion if you have time and see what you really enjoy, then focus your college career on your technical training rather than lock yourself in now. At least in our district, the cosmetology program is a vocational program, and you could miss out on some of the sci/math requirements if you end up deciding to go to a traditional university program (engineering, business, biology, whatever). This would probably increase your parents’ comfort level with your decision, if you have tested both paths and now have a strong feeling about one. (Never mind there are hundreds of other paths you can choose.)

      Lastly, just a story to share. . .I went to HS with a girl who wasn’t particularly academic. She was not in all the honors classes, etc., but she ended up getting a BS in electrical engineering in 2003, and then in 2011 she quit and opened a clothing boutique. You certainly don’t have to lock into what you want to do forever when you are 16.

      1. Elysian*

        “You certainly don’t have to lock into what you want to do forever when you are 16.”

        Or at 22. Or 30. Or 50. There’s a lot of wiggle room in those last 90 or years of life.

    7. Menacia*

      I too thought I wanted a career in fashion (but it was to be a buyer, not designer). My aunt was a cosmetics buyer for L&T and I thought it was the coolest, most glamorous job, and she would give all the girls in our family tons of cosmetics every Xmas, which we all looked forward to. The reality is that it’s a very competitive field, and the salaries aren’t that great at all. I actually went to FIT for an interview, and when I saw the other people there, I knew it was not for me. I don’t have a creative bone in my body, and am probably the least trendy person I know. It was not a passion for me, it was just something I saw from the outside which “looked” interesting, but once I got to better understand it, knew it was not for me. I eventually, after some starts and stops in my schooling/career path, latched on to computers. I am naturally curious, love to figure out problems, and enjoy helping others to learn as well, I’ve now been in the computer field for over 20 years. It’s been enjoyable and lucrative, and even though I work in a cubicle, I am married but kid-free, and am completely independent. I remember how naïve I was when I was younger, and how impressionable. It took some life lessons, and hard knocks for me to truly understand how life works.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I know a teenager who wants to be a buyer. Her family is wealthy, so she likely won’t have to worry too much about salary. I think she’ll be really good at it–but this is not feasible for everyone unless you want to slog your way through. She already has a very good sense of style. I keep telling her I wish she’d be a stylist so when I’m rich and famous she can help me not look like a doof. ;)

      2. RLA*

        I can relate to that. My whole life my mom worked in the entertainment industry as a radio producer. In high school she took me to all sorts of cool events, awards shows, backstage access, etc. I thought it was the most glamorous thing ever and decided I wanted to work in the industry. So in college I majored in cinema/television and interned at two places, only to realize I didn’t like it one bit. After college I fell into customer service at a few tech/software companies, and now at age 30 I’m transitioning into software QA and couldn’t be happier!

    8. Anonymous Poster*

      As someone with an engineering degree who really wanted to work in marketing but was convinced by parents that engineering was better: don’t go into engineering. Unless that’s what you wanted to do, it’s not going to help you with a career in fashion.

    9. Jennifer*

      Well, if your parents won’t approve of FIT (and let’s face it, doesn’t matter if you apply there if they refuse to pay for it), could you possibly look into another college that offers both design and/or other majors? I have no idea where you live so this may not work, but my alma mater, UC Davis, has both design and engineering majors. You might get better parental leverage if you go to a non-fashion-only school that offers both the arts and engineering.

      That’s pretty much what I did, actually–my dad said no to FIDM.

    10. Chlorine*

      LW#4, I’d also like to offer a counterpoint to the ‘follow your dreams’ arguments: every degree course and every job will involve gruntwork. They will all involve you having to do boring things, work with difficult people that you don’t like, and – especially as a student, intern, or junior staff – do as you’re told with very little control over your everyday work, a lot of which will be unglamorous scutwork. If what you hate about the idea of cubicle work is the boring stuff, you need to accept that that is likely to be part of any/every job, and be prepared to put up with it for the time you spend doing the fun stuff.

      I wish I’d known this as a teenager/young adult, because I ruined a hobby I used to love by trying to turn it into a ‘dream’ career. So, for some people, it might be better to do some other sensible thing to pay the bills, and keep Thing You Love as a fun, relaxing refuge from harsh reality.

      Also, depending on your current skills and your circumstances, is it possible for you to set up a small business now? A friend in sixth form used to sell clothes she’d made herself; I’m not sure she ever made much money at it, but it showed she was serious about art and fashion as a career, and she used some items in her portfolio to support her application to university courses.

  5. Brett*

    #1 Our office routinely works with a fire captain who is about 6’3″ 380 lbs. (He is also a devastating martial arts black belt he can do amazing punchs and aerial kicks. He just happens to be enormous too.) This man destroys chairs. He is too big and too wide for the average chair.
    Even though he is only at our facility a few times a year, it was cost effective to get a chair to accommodate him. Moreover, it was simply a reasonable good faith effort on our part to accommodate him and save him the mild embarrassment of breaking our chairs.
    LW #1, you accept that you are going to break your chair more and need more repairs and possibly replacement. There is a simple cost effectiveness here. Less money spent on chair damage, less of your time and productivity wasted on a broken chair as well as being a little better for your happiness. Outside medical accommodation and medical issues, this alone can be a good reason to get you an appropriate chair like we did for the fire chief.

    1. JessaB*

      And if you have the issues you state OP and your office is not as reasonable as it could be, you can for those reasons make an ADA request of it (I have a huge rant about a former employer and chair issues that I probably mentioned in the past, seriously ADA is your friend.) Even if I do hope you actually have reasonable bosses because seriously, there are people in the world who need stronger chairs, every office should have at least one or two of them.

    2. Hannah*

      Yes, I was going to say something similar. Sure, you’re overweight and have joint and balance issues that they should *accomodate*, but that could sound a little lawyer-y and scary. I would frame it as being less time wasted for you and whoever is ordering the chair parts (possibly less cost too, although I know office chairs sometimes come with warranties so cost might not be a factor as much as time).

      Honestly they should have offered by now to order a sturdier chair, but maybe they didn’t want to offend you. If you can pleasantly request to order a sturdier chair so that they don’t have to keep frankensteining yours back together, I bet they will be happy to do it!

    3. Jenniy*

      Office Max (as well as the online company whose name escapes me right now that we use at work for ordering office stuffs) carry a line of “big & tall” office chairs. They have some extra support in addition to their additional capacities. They do cost a little more, and some look nicer and have that extra support, so be prepared for others who are “that kind of person” to complain, but they are much better for you overall. (Hubby has a serta one at home -he’s 6’3 and 260- and it’s done wonders on his back)

  6. welp*

    How do I convince my mom to let me be what I want instead of something “marketable” or boring? I swear to god I don’t want to be sitting in a cubicle, then get married and settle down with two kids while he goes to work. I want to be self-sufficient and independent.

    Insulting office workers for not being self-sufficient and independent merely because they work in a cubicle and not some artistic field is not mature, OP. That might not be what you want to do, and that’s perfectly fine, but don’t look down on people who do have those jobs. Everyone needs to pay rent and bills. Some people enjoy those cubicle jobs and don’t find them “boring” and judging people for a life you find boring gives an air of arrogance.

    1. Anonymousaur*

      I think the OP was referring to this part of the statement “then get married and settle down with two kids while he goes to work” when mentioning the self-sufficient part. Not that she should be putting down SAHMs either but it seems a little less out of left field in that context. That she wants her own career rather than just something to tide her over until she gets married and stays home with the kids.

      1. CC*

        There’s also a pretty strong built-in assumption that marriage, kids, and the wife staying at home with the kids is inevitable. All of those things are options, and a woman who wants to be an engineer (or fashion design, or any other kind of career) shouldn’t feel obligated to stay at home with the kids, if she decides to have any.

    2. Little Teapot*

      We also have to remember OP is in high school. I’m sure she didn’t mean any offense. If anything I understand; there’s that perception cubicles are soul-sucking boring places to work and compared to that fashion seems exciting. OP is just concerned about ending up unhappy for the rest of her life and I’m sure doesn’t mean offense.

      1. welp*

        Maybe, but the “at least I’m not working in a boring cubicle and wasting my life” line of thinking isn’t outside the norm for a lot of people in creative fields, especially from people on the younger side of the age bracket. I’m sure OP didn’t mean to offend anyone in particular, but that mindset is still patronizing.

          1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

            Or those of us who do creative work that still manage to end up sitting in a cubicle ;p

          2. boop*

            And others who do creative work, but it doesn’t pay the bills, but cubicle jobs still require a degree so we work in dirty jobs on our feet until our bodies are too broken and tired to do anything creative.

        1. MashaKasha*

          You don’t have kids in their late teens/early 20s, do you? I hear some variation of this every day. It comes with the territory. No one wants an office job when they’re 20; everyone wants to express themselves, save the world, make the difference, achieve greatness and so on and so on. I’m pretty sure I was the same at 20.

          I am completely desensitized to it at this point. I know they’re not being patronizing. Even though I myself do sit in a cubicle, because for me, that’s what pays the bills – which is something my kids have a lot of respect for.

          I’d say it’s probably better to start out with that kind of lofty goals, then even if OP does end up in a cubicle, she’ll still be doing something that she enjoys. If you (generic you) start out at 17 with “I want to end up in a nice cubicle with a decent bonus and a cool 401K match”, then where will you actually end up?

          Also, OP, staying home with the kids “while he goes to work” is completely optional. You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to! and I mean any part of it, from getting married to having kids to staying at home with them while your spouse goes to work.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I am chuckling, as I had much the same attitude. Don’t shackle me to a desk, look out world here I come, etc. When I got into my late 40s early 50s, I finally decided that I wanted to SIT DOWN. Some people are just not desk people. Or they become desk people later on. This is not much different than saying “I don’t like the outdoors, so I don’t want to be a DEC officer/park ranger/forest fire fighter.”

            As to the SAHM point I thought it went back to having a job that paid so little the job was disposable. It would be cheaper to quit working and stay home with the kids than it would be to hire a sitter/use day care. I thought it had very little to do with being a SAHM and much more about having a career with substance to it.

            Good for her to have this much sorted out, she has already started to map out her life. That was my take on it.

          2. Honeybee*

            Yes, I’ve done a lot of college counseling work (paid and volunteer, with students across the income spectrum) and pretty much every single one of them says some variation of this when discussing career goals. Every. Single. One. I do sometimes gently explain to them that office work can be very enjoyable, particularly if they tell me they want to do some kind of job that I know requires being in an office most days, but usually I’ll let it go. I probably said some variation of this myself when I was 17 myself. And I work at a desk 8 hours a day, but I love my job!

      2. Doriana Gray*

        That’s how I read it too, Little Teapot. I said the same thing at that age (before finding a desk job I actually liked!).

        1. The Whitewalker Formerly Known as Jon Snow*

          oh, yes, I remember those days. When I was in high school my mother asked if I would ever consider going into teaching elementary school and I gave her the obnoxious “eye-roll-sigh-sideways look-uh, yeah, no” response.

          Now, I am 45, in a desk job in financial services commuting 3 hours a day and always worrying about childcare coverage for school vacations. And, I have no pension. Soooo, I am trying to break into coveted admin jobs in a local school district. In order to build out my resume in that area I am volunteering left right and center to get to know insiders at our elementary school AND just took an evening job as as the school committee secretary so I can work closely with the superintendent and get to know the district office crowd.

          Maybe my mother was right 30 years ago but who knows?

        2. AndersonDarling*

          Yep, I used to think I would never wear a suit or pumps because that’s what The Man wants you to wear. Ha!
          If you are a fashion designer for one of the big fashion houses you may have glamorous offices, but every fashion designer I knew who was employed by a major retailer worked in outdated offices in cubicles, and their job was to knock off the stuff other people designed. From my perspective, fashion design is actually a boring cubicle job.

          1. Honeybee*

            I used to really want to wear a suit and pumps every day because that’s what Respected Adult Career Professionals wear. I envisioned myself a powerful attorney yelling things at people and pwning life and such things in 4-inch heels.

            I’m at work now in trouser jeans and a casual blazer and I’m *dressed up* today.

        3. Kai*

          Oh, yeah, I very much had this same attitude when I was a teen. The practicality aspect of working just to pay the bills and get by hadn’t really entered my brain yet.

      3. overeducated and underemployed*

        It’s also just a function of ignorance. It’s hard for high school students to understand what it is like to BE a fashion designer or whatever because they are rare enough that you can’t just talk to your fashion designer uncle at Christmas or shadow the guy who lives two blocks away at work. A lot of jobs that sound awesome actually involve a ton of boring office time. For instance, in my “cool” scientific field, it turns out that every month you get to spend outdoors, traveling and collecting data, requires about 10 months spent analyzing the data in the lab (usually a basement with no windows), applying for funding or contracts for next year’s project (which is no fun, never ending, and very high anxiety), and depending on where you’re employed, teaching 100 level classes or taking on rote compliance projects to actually pay your salary. So it’s actually mostly office work.

        All I know about the field at age 16 – and age 21, because even majoring in it didn’t give me a good sense of what my professors’ daily workload was like at all – was that you got to go outdoors to travel and discover cool stuff. I am really wondering if fashion design is similar.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Every job has boring cubicle stuff–every single one. That’s one reason why Alison insists there is no such thing as a dream job. They all have tasks you would rather trade for a root canal. I would love to write novels all day, but it would still require doing crap like marketing (gaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!)

          I really like my day job; it’s the best office job I’ve ever had, but there are still a couple of things I dislike and wish I didn’t have to do.

          1. Noah*

            This is so true. Every single job I have ever had (flight attendant, paramedic, travel coordinator for porn company, bartender, retail, airline agent, desk job) have all had a few parts I hated. Even now, in a job I love there are still some tasks that I despise.

            I can honestly say that I love my desk job, but if you asked me at 17 if I wanted to work in an open plan office the answer would be a resounding no.

            1. Lindsay J*

              OMG I really want to you to do a casual AMA about your job as a travel coordinator for a porn company.

          2. overeducated and underemployed*

            Yes, absolutely! That’s why they have to pay you to do work – it’s not fun all the time. It’s kind of comforting to realize that, because then you can actually think that maybe a friendly office with flexible hours is a worthwhile trade off for being in a cubicle, or that you can turn down your “dream job” on paper when you find out it’s actually high stress and long hours, but you have a lot of outside commitments to balance.

            In this case, I think especially when it comes to exciting looking jobs with some popular exposure, it’s easy to misunderstand the balance of exciting vs. boring, field vs. desk, fun vs. stressful, and so on. Which is not at all to say that OP#4 shouldn’t become a fashion designer, just that it’s worth finding out about what it’s like day-to-day because it might look different than we imagine from the outside.

    3. jesicka309*

      Hang on, let’s be nice. The LW is only in high school. I think we all thought cubicle jobs were a bit boring when you’re young (movies like Office Space certainly don’t make them appealing!).
      However, a lot of the more exciting jobs that you see on TV/movies (and fashion is one of them) don’t show the boring stuff, and guess what? Even jobs in fashion have to do boring things like paperwork, taxes, budgeting, payroll, filing etc. Surprise.

      1. Artemesia*

        Well the commenters point is that she is naive (‘in high school’) and needs to learn not to insult people whose decisions are different from her own.

        1. neverjaunty*

          I didn’t see it as an insult. I saw it as OP reacting against the box her mom wants to stuff her into.

        2. Koko*

          I don’t think expressing the sentiment that “X isn’t what I want” is the same as insulting X. “I don’t want to be sitting in a cubicle until I’m expected to give up my job to become a homemaker,” is just saying she wants to pursue a career that means something to her, not go into something boring as some kind of stopover on the way to marriage. To her, “sitting in a cubicle” is boring/stifling. That isn’t an insult to people who work in cubicles. Some people find coding boring. Some people find copyediting boring. Some people would find being a park ranger boring. It’s not insulting the people in those fields to say it’s not what interests you.

    4. Kathleen*

      Meh, that comment rubbed me the wrong way too, but, teenagers. This struck me as kind of a weird one for Alison to answer, honestly.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Most definitely! Because then the teens are starting out on the right foot instead of finding Alison and her great advice near the end of a career made up of missteps, poor salary negotiations, and lousy resumes. :)

        2. Honeybee*

          I moderate on a popular college admissions forum and recommend your blog all the time. I actually have a couple of your posts bookmarked so I can paste the links to them – they’re why you shouldn’t follow your passion, “do what you love” is not great advice, and I feel meh about working – am I supposed to be more passionate?. It’s because I get major and career-related questions all the time (one of the forums I moderate is about college majors) and I get lots and lots and lots of students who need help picking a major but they’re frustrated/worried/panicked/sad because there’s nothing they feel “passionate” about.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      She’s in high school. The idea of a cubicle job seems boring to her, and she wants to have a career, not rely on a spouse. That’s not insulting, and I’m going to ask people go easy on this letter-writer, who is just figuring this stuff out. Thank you.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I wanted to live like Thoreau when I was in HS, so yeah, I don’t think my high school self relished the idea of a cubicle either. Lol. I was a tool.

        Anyway, I think we do a piss poor job of preparing high school students for careers. We do a little better now than back in my day. We have career prep tracks, but it still seems the career tracks are kind of the obvious ones. Do high school kids really learn about the lucrative world of procurement? Project management? Nope. I mean, if you explained to a teenager that there is a job where you call people you have a contract with and make sure they’re getting you the stuff you ordered on time, and sometimes go sit in their office to do “supplier surveillance” the kid would probably think you were nuts. Kids have no idea, so I forgive whatever assumptions about the real world they make.

        1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          This! There are so many careers that I never knew existed until I was well entrenched in undergraduate work.

          Kids only know what they are exposed to — hence the OPs use of engineering. I wish schools did/could do more to show students there are a variety of careers from an early age.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I wish my school could have done more to prepare me for the financial realities of being an adult, including paying for college, paying bills, budgeting, and the like. Parents can’t always do that for their kids–they may not have learned it themselves. Or they just don’t; for example, we had an allowance, but we weren’t required to save any of it and we could get advances all the time. My parents are VERY responsible with money–and yet we did not get this.

            And if they had somehow related the financial stuff to picking a job/career, that would be even better. Sort of like that episode of The Cosby Show (yes I know, but it was a good episode) where Theo thought he would be a model, and they showed him just how the real world would work.

        2. Ad Astra*

          It seems to me that schools are making an effort to give more career guidance and preparation to students who aren’t likely to attend four-year colleges — which is great, because not everyone needs a college degree to be successful. But it does seem like students who are on a college prep track don’t get any career exposure at all in high school, and that’s a problem. It makes a lot of sense to talk to kids about things like procurement, project management, data analysis, and maybe spend some time talking about what different kinds of engineers actually do. Not everyone can be a doctor, a lawyer, or a video game designer.

          1. Doriana Gray*

            I would have LOVED for someone to have talked to me about Risk Management when I was in high school. I didn’t even know that was a thing – seriously. I’m so fascinated by this field, and if I had known about it and prepared myself for it through college coursework, I would be much further along in my career/compensation by now. Grrrr!!!!

            1. Natalie*

              Absolutely. My entire conception of accounting was a) taxes (dear god no) and b) the green-visored guy with an adding machine they were fond of using in Looney Toons, Animaniacs, etc.

            2. Noah*

              Seriously! I wish someone would’ve told me about safety and risk management in high school. I had a vague concept that the safety guy was someone who butted in to everyone’s business and made work difficult by making up rules. I probably would’ve changed my college major and not had to do a certificate program later on if I knew what it actually entailed and how much I would enjoy it.

              1. Doriana Gray*

                Well you knew more about it than I did, lol. The guidance counselors at my school were pretty much useless.

        3. Bwmn*


          I also think that sometimes jobs we’re aware of seem like they’re X and therefore something we’d love or hate, whereas they’re far more likely to be Y and therefore our response is the opposite. On it’s face, fundraising is about raising money – but the kinds of skills that are actually required (beyond saying “hey, give me money”) are nothing that I was remotely aware of until I got into the field – by accident.

          Taking complex issues/reports/projects and repacking that for different people/groups/etc. and building relationships might have sounded appealing to high school me – and likely would have clicked for me in an internship/volunteer context. Do you want to go to work and ask people to donate money, even now that sounds like a nightmare…..

      2. Afiendishthingy*

        Yes please! I work in a cube and wasn’t offended at all by the letter. I think it’s great to see teens asking for this kind of advice.

        1. Anonythistime*

          Me too. A cubicle job is boring and soul-sucking. It does pay the bills, though. Barely. If you’re going to have a job that’s not going to pay particularly well, it might as well be one you love. (I say looking back at 30 years of boring and soul-sucking support staff positions.)

    6. Merry and Bright*

      I took the OP’s dig to be aimed at boring work rather than people who work in offices.

      The thing that struck me was her plan to be independent and self-sufficient in life. That really deserves a mention imo.

      1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

        “The thing that struck me was her plan to be independent and self-sufficient in life. That really deserves a mention imo”

        Yeah, me too. I didn’t blink at the whole statement, but OP, that last part is a really good attitude to be starting a career from.

        1. Afiendishthingy*

          Yeah. I think OP sounds like a young person with a lot of potential, no matter what field she ends up in.

      2. MashaKasha*

        Yes! And I also took the OP’s dig to be aimed at statements like “you want to go to school to be (blah), because (blah) pays well”, no matter whether OP likes doing (blah) or not. Which is something I 100% agree with – paycheck should never be the only, or the main, criterion in choosing a career!

    7. matcha123*

      I don’t see anything wrong with what she wrote. I’m older than her and I don’t want to be stuck in a dead-end office job and I knew that when I was in elementary school.
      I also don’t want to be someone’s baby making machine.

      If you think there’s something great about office jobs, why not give her some examples? While more women choose not to marry and reproduce, it’s still very much expected that we’ll follow “traditional” roles. Some of us bristle at the idea of being expected to trade one unfulfilling job for another.

      As to the OP’s question, I think she should know that the fashion industry won’t have the most stable jobs. As someone that majored in language and linguistics, and who can feel OP’s feels, I would suggest a double major or minoring in design. I thought that my foreign language ability would be enough to open doors, but it’s other skills like management or sales that companies put more weight on.
      Of course if you know some people in that industry who can give you advice, that’s great. But, it never hurts to have something to fall back on. I might suggest web design, since there will be clients and it can tie into fashion.

      1. Judy*

        Well, her mom is wanting her to major in engineering in college. That usually doesn’t lead to a dead end office job.

        – Engineer who has designed things for airplanes, cars, appliances and now industrial equipment, has two middle school age kids, and makes more money than her engineer husband. If you’re in the US, there’s a fairly good chance you’ve used something with my work in it.

        1. Koko*

          Any job is a dead-end job if you don’t derive any joy from it and thus have no desire to progress and achieve mastery.

          1. Anonymous Poster*

            Agreed. I have an engineering degree and my engineering job was a dead end. There was no work (that’s not an exaggeration – they hired me with the expectation that they would need me in 5-10 years when others retired, but at the moment, they admitted they had no work for me and I was allowed to read books all day).

            It didn’t open any doors outside of engineering either. Don’t do it – unless you want to be an engineer.

          2. MashaKasha*

            Yup. Doesn’t matter if it’s the most exciting job in the world on paper – if you don’t like it at all, you’ll be horrible at it, which will make it a dead-end job for you.

      2. GeekChic*

        I love the idea of sharing job examples!

        My current great office job is doing IT – I do DevOps style automation of whole datacentres of servers. The problem I was hired to solve is this: my work hosts this awesome software and sells accounts to their applications to customers, and they know when their stuff takes off in a region the amount of kit needed to run it will grow very quickly. How to manage that without hiring dozens more sysadmins or stressing the existing team out til they quit? Answer: organise it all so the computers can detect problems and fix them on their own.

        To make that happen I sit in an office a lot of the time. I sometimes also sit at home working on my fancy work-issued Macbook, and sometimes I get shipped across the world to work with international colleagues, and then check in at home over breakfast in a nice hotel.

        I didn’t have any formal education in computer science or IT, though – I spent 6 months working 7am-2pm in a cafe and using the afternoons to teaching myself enough to break into the field.

    8. hbc*

      Hmm, my issue with that statement is the simplification that engineering leads to cubicle and stay at home motherhood and dependence. I don’t believe she should go into engineering if her heart’s not there, but more money usually means more independence, and engineering (which is a pretty general term) tends to pay more than fashion.

      But it sounds like it’s just a rejection of her parents’ plan for her life, which is stable job, marriage, and 2.5 kids behind a picket white fence, and pushing back against that kind of pressure is bound to result in some oversimplifications.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

        Engineering can be an exciting career. There are so many branches, international travel if you wish to pursue it, job site involvement if you’d rather (and pursue it) rather than solely cubicle work, etc. I desperately prodded my son to go into the chemical engineering branch because I find food science so interesting but he “rebelled” and stuck with electrical and is now specializing in something to do with light and blah blah. All over my head, but he’s passionate and I’ve almost stopped sighing about chemical engineering.

        Re the OP, seeing what he goes through in college, I couldn’t recommend engineering to someone who didn’t want to be in it. Buckling down on one class is a one thing but buckling down to do coursework on an entire path that doesn’t excite you? Why?

        Of *course* the OP wants a plan that sounds exciting to her and lights her up to push to the future. I’d worry about her if she didn’t! Take that and weave it with the practical as you go along.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Wow, hard to please mom! FWIW, I would go back and do EE instead of ME if I had a do-over. I was intimidated by it, but I think in hindsight, I would have liked it more.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

            Ha! I’m insanely proud of him and tease him about chemical now as a joke. We were at dinner the other month and it came up in conversation with the server that her boyfriend had just graduated engineering. She answered “chemical” when I asked her what branch and I whipped around to face the son who called out “OH MY GOD I KNOW MOM I KNOW”. :-)

            It’s all in good fun (while his parents pick up his full tuition bill).

        2. Cat*

          Your second paragraph is the crux of it to me when I hear parents insisting on a certain career path. Yeah, being a doctor gives you a lot of career security but doing poorly in the pre-med prereqs. really doesn’t. Conversely, doing really well in a not-that-in-demand subject can open a lot of doors even if you don’t ever end up working in the field itself.

          1. Honeybee*

            I had so many friends in college who tanked their GPA by failing or doing poorly in premed classes when they didn’t even really want to be doctors. I spent some time passively discouraging some of my students from going premed. Lots of them were simply doing it because they couldn’t think of anything else besides engineering and they were terrified that they wouldn’t make enough money to survive if they weren’t a doctor.

      2. Not Today Satan*

        I was confused by the connection between being an engineer and ending her career early as well. If anything, being an engineer would increase the odds that she’d be a breadwinner.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          “Nearly 40 percent of women who earn engineering degrees quit the profession or never enter the field at all.” – NSF study

          IME, that has not been true. I can think of 3 female engineers I know who left the field over the 15 years I’ve worked in it, but my sample size of data isn’t as big as the NSF study.

        2. Me*

          In my family, there was a lot of pressure for the daughters to get into lucrative careers like medicine, engineering, etc but also the expectation that we would quit by 30 and become SAHMs. If OPs family is the same, her comments make sense.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yeah–I think this is probably something specific to her family, and she just didn’t put that background in.

        3. Koko*

          Because she doesn’t want to be an engineer. What’s the argument to keep working in a job she doesn’t even like once the kids come along? She’s recognizing that if she wants to work and be self-sufficient for her whole life, she needs to pick work that she likes.

        4. The Strand*

          I think it’s more that, if she picks the engineering path, she’s picking “What Mom and Dad Want for Me,” which also means, “also getting married, and quitting my career once I have children with my husband”.

        5. BananaPants*

          Yeah, I’m female, an engineer and the primary breadwinner in my family (for a period of time, the sole breadwinner). I know several other female engineers who are either the sole breadwinner or bigger breadwinner in their marriage/family.

      3. Ad Astra*

        Yeah, I think that statement was less about engineering and more about not wanting to live exactly the way her parents live.

      4. Koko*

        I think her thought isn’t so much that engineering sin qua non leads to those things. It’s that for her, because she has no interest in engineering, if she went into that field she would be bored and unfulfilled. She wouldn’t be working to build a career that she thrived in – she’d be working to pay the bills and please her parents and then when the husband and kids come along what will be the argument to keep working if she doesn’t even like her job?

        She just wants work that she chose, not work that someone else chose for her.

    9. NJ Anon*

      A bit harsh. I sit at a desk all day and was not offended. I get what she’s saying. My husband worked for UPS, perfect job as sitting still or at a desk was and is not his thing.

      1. Lindsay J*


        For some people a desk job just isn’t going to work. I’m one of them. I like doing computer work, but I also need to be up on my feet doing stuff for at least part of my day. It’s led me to some interesting career paths.

        I discovered a couple years ago that, if I could redo my life over again from high school, I would have chosen to go work for UPS at 18. I was a driver’s helper for a season and loved it, and I was surprised to find out that some of the guys who have been in the company for a long time make good money.

    10. Oryx*

      I think she just has a very narrow view of what her life would be like if she follows the path her parents envision for her, which is perfectly reasonable given that she’s still in high-school. When you’re a teenager and want to do X all you often know is To Get to X You Have To Do Y. We out in the work force know that, sure, some people do Y but other people in the X field did A, B, R, L, and Q and still got to X.

      When I was 16, my parents asked me what I planned to do with my life and I said I wanted to go to New York to write. I grew up with a romanticized and limited version of what it meant to be a writer and didn’t think there was any other way to achieve that life and I certainly didn’t want to be “stuck” in an office because I had a limited view of what *that* life meant, too. My parents were supportive but encouraged me to get my BFA in creative writing and my life took some different turns over the past 15 years, including getting my MLIS. Being a librarian meant not only working with books but not being in an office. The funny thing is, this year I started a job working in an office and love it far more than I ever did in a traditional library.

      14 year old Oryx would have HATED the idea of working in a cube but 34 year old Oryx loves her cube and knows that this is where she was meant to be and sometimes you have to take a roundabout way that only live and age can give you, teenagers often don’t have that perspective. I also suspect 14 year old Oryx would be okay working in said office if she knew that it’d given her an opportunity to sign a contract for her 2nd book which I did just a few weeks ago.

      1. Afiendishthingy*

        “sometimes you have to take a roundabout way that only live and age can give you, teenagers often don’t have that perspective.”


      2. The Strand*

        That’s awesome news! And a good perspective, I hope #4 sees it and has a chance to meditate on that.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        We almost NEED that romanticized version of our chosen field in order to get launched. If we knew in full detail what it was like, we may not have started out on the journey! In some ways, our lack of experience almost protects us.

        Congrats on your book deal!

    11. Purple Dragon*

      I read that comment more as a rebellion against what her parents expect for her. The old “work in a good job (even if you hate it) for a few years until you find a nice man to marry and then have a couple of kids and be a SAHM” expectation. If that’s what someone wants – excellent. I know people who still have this mindset for their daughters, without reference to the wants or desires of those daughters.

      Maybe I’m reading it wrong ? Or projecting – I have a SIL like this and it’s driving me crazy.

      1. Jenniy*

        I think it’s that, plus she knows she doesn’t want to be a SAHM (which, while it works for some, others know from the start it isn’t for them -like me). She knows she doesn’t want to be dependent on anyone – no matter what career she chooses, no matter where she goes in her life, she doesn’t want to be forced to stay because she doesn’t have enough/make enough money to leave.
        Perhaps her parents are miserable together and her mom is “stuck” because dad is an engineer and her mom is accustomed to their lifestyle (which would make her comment about that make sense). And she has picked up on that, with or without realizing it.
        But she also knows a “cube farm” as she has seen them portrayed is also not somewhere she thinks she would be happy. For many people, those places are “soul sucking” while they are great for others. But if you look at the way they are portrayed (movies like wanted and all the others) it’s a crappy place to be. For someone with an interest in fashion, a more creative, out of the box type path, they would naturally feel a cube farm isn’t their kind of place.

    12. Yep*

      I think you’re getting overly defensive and reading too much into the wording here. As someone who works in a cubicle every day, with hopes of having babies and being able to stay home with them while my husband works, I was not insulted in the least.

    13. Not me*

      OP’s in high school. They don’t know what office jobs are like. Or maybe they do, and they know that’s not for them. Or – another way to read this – they want to be self-sufficient and independent in pursuing a career other than what mom wants.

    14. Former Cube Farmer*

      OP is in high school, so cut her some slack. I doubt she meant to insinuate that everyone in a cube is a loser biding their time until they marry or die. She is upset at the idea being forced to give up a dream for something that sounds unappealing to her, so I’m sure it’s coming out a little more dramatic than it would otherwise.

      Before you ask, I spent half my life in a cube farm and I am not in the least threatened or offended by her statement.

    15. Intrepid Intern*

      Yeah, I took it as a reaction to her parents’ statements that she won’t be able to have the kind of life they do if she goes into fashion. She’s taking “life like ours” to mean 2.5 kids, SAHM, and white picket fence, while they (might) mean it more in a “middle class income in a stable job with benefits which allows one to stop having roommates prior to turning 35.”

      I know that in high school, concepts like income were very abstract to me. I didn’t, for example, appreciate how miserable it can be to live on $30k (or less) in a major city vs. even $40k, or that “job security” doesn’t necessarily mean “one job for 40 years,” it can just mean “you don’t need to spend all your off hours networking and applying to keep rent coming in.”

  7. SCR*

    #3: I can see why this is inappropriate, but a slightly different take… My ex-bf is an attorney and was applying for a job within a female-dominated office at the state’s attorney’s office (I think that’s the correct way to say it). And one of his references was asked if he had any issues reporting to a woman, and asked a few questions about how he interacted with women who were more senior than him. He was going from an old school law firm to this different kind of office so maybe I can understand why they wanted to check. But would that be as inappropriate or a reasonable thing to ask a reference?

    1. fposte*

      It seems appropriate to me. References are the people who are likeliest to provide that information.

      Maybe you’re asking an underlying question about whether it’s weird to ask about working for any particular group. I’d say that depends, but a lot of people accustomed to being in a majority are uncomfortable being a workplace minority, and I think it’s reasonable to find out if an applicant is likely to be one of them.

      1. SCR*

        That’s my take as well. I didn’t think it was unreasonable and neither did he. I don’t know if I’ve ever thought of asking something like that but I can see why someone would.

      2. Snarky McSnark*

        As a male nurse, I bet he has spent more time than not since college in groups dominated by females.

        1. Chinook*

          “As a male nurse, I bet he has spent more time than not since college in groups dominated by females.”

          I worked for the national nursing association in Canada and can verify that male nurses are so rare that they can’t even get together enough of them to create their own national sub-committee with this organization. I also know that that there is extreme sexism in the field itself towards male nurses that is not being addressed well (it was talked about at the national level but nobody was willing to stop both this experienced, cranky nurses from “eating their young” partially because more than half of these nurses either a)didn’t believe it happened, b) thought it was part of the culture and not worth fixing or c) didn’t want to give the profession a black eye by pointing out their failings).

          OP #3, it is a shame AAM didn’t give you a script for how to respond (because I would be tempted to respond by asking your boss if she had a problem working with men, which I know wouldn’t go over well) but you should be reassured by the fact that this question is not normal or right. Maybe talk to your professional association to see if they can help you with this issue or with HR? Your boss is showing signs of sexism in a field where men have always been the minority and have never had influence or power.

          1. Noah*

            IME, male nurses also tend to go into certain parts of the field like ER, ICU, and even air ambulance. This concentrates them even more.

            1. Tess McGill*

              Except for the one male nurse in the maternity ward who tried to teach me how to breast feed 18 years ago. Swear to God. At least I laugh about it now, but I was not pleased at the time. ;)

      3. neverjaunty*

        This. Also, frankly, no attorney with an IQ above too temperature is going to say “I would have trouble working for a woman” in a job interview, even if they thought ladies ought to be paralegals and leave the lawyering to menfolk. You get that information other ways.

      4. Stranger than fiction*

        I’m wondering if the question was code for “can you work for a difficult woman/person?” I say this because a friend of mine was asked whether he would be ok working with someone much younger than him once in an interview. He said yeah, no problem of course. But once on that job, the boss wasn’t just young, he was totally inexperienced and inept at managing. So my brain just automatically went to the thought they were tiptoeing around this particular woman (but just as easily could have been a man) being a bit difficult. Also, see how the Op said this manager immediately jumped to “he can’t work for a woman”, so clearly she’s a tad sensitive about it and maybe even unreasonably so.

    2. Just A Girl*

      To riff on slightly different takes, is the answer different if the question is “Would you be comfortable working in a male-dominated field?”

      (When I was asked that in an interview, I just wrote the interviewer off as a jerk and the place as one where I wouldn’t want to work.)

      1. fposte*

        A question for a reference is different from a question to an application, though. I think there’s less need for that question, because the minority always has more experience among the majority than vice versa. (Though because of the cultural,power discrepancy, you’d have to be careful to phrase it in a way that didn’t sound like your office will be engaging in discrimination or harassment.)

      2. Tatiana*

        I had an interview for an auto-industry job where the question was “Would you be comfortable with working for [Asian-country] managers?” Ugh.

      3. RobM*

        Indeed. The default position in an interview should be that a person in the other chair isn’t a bigot. These questions only raise questions about the sensibility of the person asking them.

    3. Green*

      I would love OP’s insight on this: OP are you from a religious or ethnic group (or national origin?) that is stereotyped as having rigid gender roles?

      My guess is that the boss was actually discriminating against OP and asking him questions based on who the OP appears to be.

    4. Roscoe*

      I don’t know, I don’t see it as appropriate there either. Again, put it in racial terms. If someone asked a former manager “would this person be comfortable working for a black person”, that would be basically assuming they do. Of course people can ask anything they like, doesn’t mean they should.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, it’s tricky; I certainly wouldn’t do it just for a “would you work for x kind of boss” in either situation. But I think there are ways and situations where it’s worth doing. If I saw a candidate whose experience was limited to all-white schools and hometowns, say, and who was applying to work in a school with student body and faculty that were all or almost all racial minority, I’d ask about that. You really want somebody who can go beyond the old “not seeing color” in that situation.

        (The boss in #3 is still a loon, though.)

        1. Roscoe*

          I get that, but again, you have to give people a bit of the benefit of the doubt. If you had a teacher whose experience was an all white school, then they were applying for a job on the west side of Chicago, I think its fair to assume they understand that this will be a completely different demographic. So while I can see a question like “You have worked in all upper class, mostly white schools in the past, what makes you want to work at a school with a completely different demographic and what challenges do you see” as a valid question (probably could word it better). I don’t see it being valid to say “Do you have a problem working for a black boss”.

          1. fposte*

            As I said, I wouldn’t ask about the boss either.

            But I also don’t want to give applicants the benefit of the doubt when it comes to being able to serve the needs of the position. I don’t think it’s ever wise to assume that people with no demonstrated background know what they’re getting into. That’s like assuming that people who apply for jobs in completely different field or several levels ahead of their track record must have brushed up in ways that don’t appear on their resumes. People mostly apply to jobs because they need jobs, not because they have a calling.

            It is tricky, and it should be tricky–there are a lot of elements here that could be discriminatory rather than experience or fit-based. But not seeing difference is going to be a problem in a lot of jobs, and I think it’s reasonable to foreground that rather than duck it.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think there, too, it’s not about asking if the person will be comfortable in that setting — it’s about digging into their ability to navigate dynamics of racial difference. So it’s less about comfort and more about skill.

        2. Green*

          “We’re an international corporation and often work with colleagues in Latin America and Africa. Could you talk about your experience working with colleagues from diverse backgrounds?”, “We pride ourselves on our commitment to workplace diversity; could you talk a bit about your experience working in diverse groups?”, “What experiences would prepare you for working with low-income students who are often or racial/ethnic/religious minorities?”, “What about an HBCU environment appeals to you?” are all fair game questions — and ones which you could ask regardless of who is sitting in the chair across from you. You shouldn’t have a list of questions that you only ask of white people or men.

          1. fposte*

            Yes, I like this approach a lot. It also deals with the fact that you often don’t know people’s background or experiences just from their presentation or resumes. In a lot of jobs it would be fair game to ask questions about power and privilege directly, too.

            1. Green*

              Even then, you should ask those questions in a candidate-neutral way. If you’re interviewing for a social justice position, asking “What privileges have you identified as ones you have directly or indirectly benefited from, and how do you anticipate that impacting your relationships with the people we provide services to?”, “Our organization seeks to empower people with HIV; how do you plan to build relationships in the community?” Again, these are open-ended questions that you could still ask anyone: white transgender individuals, black heterosexual women, etc. and they presume very little about the person sitting across from you.

              1. voyager1*

                I agree with AAM on this one.

                I am surprised by AAM’response and that most people agree with her. My first thought was how this letter resmbled the woman writing in a few weeks ago trying to screen people who wouldn’t agree with her gay marriage. People seemed to be a little too fine with assuming that people are biggoted in that one.

                1. Green*

                  I thought the advice from AAM was just to have a picture up on her desk or something subtle and let candidates who had a problem screen themselves out?

            2. Green*

              Or “One criticism people in our line of work often hear is X. Are you aware of that criticism? If so, how do you plan to respond or address those needs?”

              1. voyager1*

                Hi Green,

                I was thinking the commenters when I made that reference.

                Also in regards to your response to fposte I probably wouldn’t use the word privledge or imply someone has had privledge in an interview . That term is quickly becoming a loaded term these days.

                And fposte, I wouldn’t assume anything from a resume when it comes to background and education. Just because a guy is white and went to Duke doesn’t mean he was on the lacrosse team.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  If you’re working with disadvantaged groups, privilege is going to be very much an issue in play and one that you’d need to be comfortable with and conversant in.

                2. voyager1*

                  Hi AAM
                  The issue that the word privledge is being to describe (social class or social economic status) is one issue and has existed for a long time. That is fine. BUT the word privledge is starting mean other things to other people as it becomes more out there in the political landscape of our nation. This isn’t a political blog so that is all I am going to say so this doesn’t get derailed.

                3. fposte*

                  And I didn’t say he did, and the problem isn’t being on the lacrosse team or not. It’s that if you are applying to work in a culture that you have no indication of being experienced with, that’s a challenge, and it can put your application at a disadvantage. If you grew up in Pierre, went to South Dakota State, and have no experience on your resume that suggests you’ve left the state, and I’m at Spelman or University of Texas El Paso, I’m going to want to know about your ability to bridge this cultural gap. Green’s suggested questions are much, much better than mine, and they’re important for all applicants, but it’s especially important that somebody with little documentation of relevant cultural experience be able to answer them thoughtfully, intelligently, and convincingly.

                  It may not matter for jobs where you’re in data entry and don’t talk to humans, but in jobs that involve serving a population, it matters that you understand the population has specific needs and experiences, even if they’re not yours.

                4. voyager1*

                  There are people who have means and there are people who don’t. The word privledge is just the most recent way of describing it.

                5. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  But that’s not what privilege refers to. Privilege is about having something of value that others don’t have simply because of the demographic groups they belong to rather than anything they’ve done or not done. For example, it’s what makes hiring managers excuse typos from white candidates that they don’t excuse from black candidates (as studies have shown), what makes people see behavior X as assertive from a man and abrasive from a woman, what allows some people to see themselves represented positively in the same TV shows, movies, and history books that their colleagues reference while other people don’t, and so forth.

                  You’re right that this is not the place for a debate about privilege, but I strongly recommend reading “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh to get a better understanding of the term.

                6. voyager1*


                  I would think people wanting to work with people who are coming from backgrounds less fortunate as their own probably have some idea what that means and who they might be working to help.

                7. Green*

                  That’s exactly the reason I’d leave it open-ended for someone to discuss their own concept of privilege, how it’s impacted them and how it could impact their relationships with key stakeholders in a job involving social justice issues. Maybe the privilege is race, being straight, being cisgender, growing up with your basic needs cared for, English being your first language, etc. An open-ended approach without preconceptions of the candidate would give you an indication of (1) whether they’re conversant in and aware of important issues in their role and (2) whether they can talk about how that may impact them in the role. It gives them an opportunity to be proactive in identifying whatever they’re comfortable identifying.

                  (Note: I wouldn’t ask this generally for most businesses, but if you’re working in a social service organization or advocacy organization this could absolutely be relevant.)

                  But if you don’t like the word “privilege” you can still get at the same idea by providing them with information (“Most of our clients are recent arrivals to the United States”) and then asking them a question about how they would achieve a goal (build relationships, gain trust and confidence, identify their needs, etc.). A thoughtful response would likely you give you the information you wanted anyway — which is whether the candidate understands the role, its challenges and is prepared to proactively address them.

                8. Kelly L.*

                  voyager1, the word privilege came up specifically in the context of a social justice position, and the current use of it is a technical term from exactly that field. So in the context of an interview for a position that’s specifically about social justice, I see no reason to avoid saying the word. If you were interviewing for a position in a hospital, would you avoid using medical terms?

                9. fposte*

                  @voyager1–they may, or they may be moving with their boyfriend and papering the state with their resumes. Those things would look identical to a hiring manager.

                  And in general, it’s really, really bad practice to assume about a job candidate without a record or statement to justify it, whether it’s “I’m sure they mastered Excel at a position like that” or “I’m sure they can write if they’re an English major” or “I’m sure they understand the challenges of our institution if they applied here.” Hiring like that is how you get the bad stories people write in to AAM about. If it’s important, you ask about it. I have the feeling that your demurral comes somewhat from skepticism about the significance of the cultural implications we’re talking about–which I would still disagree with, but I think that’s another discussion, and I think the notion that it’s advisable to assume your applicant has skills and knowledge not displayed deserves to be knocked out all on its own.

                10. fposte*

                  @voyager1–P.S. while this can overlap with economics, even when the economic factors are taken out or you’re serving people with more money than you have, the cultural distinctions remain significant.

    5. The Strand*

      One of my earliest job interviews was with a feminist nonprofit. I remember them asking me if I would have a problem working with sexual minorities, including transgendered people. I was in my 20s and took it as a little of an afront. Now, I’m older and I see how these same people can be treated by their coworkers … I’m still not sure that’s a question to ask the interviewee, rather than the reference.

  8. peanut butter kisses*

    LW #4 Go to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and look up fashion designers in the Occupational Outlook Handbook so you can see what you might earn and find out more about the field. Also check in with your school counselors about scholarships and advice about career choices and dealing with your parents expecting you to make and stick to a career field while you are still in high school. Some people know that young, others don’t. See if you can join your school fashion or art club, take classes where you can learn to sew or create, and see what jobs you can get related to fashion. Be active in your pursuit and see if your actions can convince your parents when your words could not. Good luck and make it work.

    1. LENEL*

      This is really great advice. It is also worthwhile looking in to whether you have community theatre groups around you where you can go to start learning some design techniques and sewing tricks, my (Australian) community theatre group is always looking for people with an interest in sewing to contribute to costuming our major musical productions.

      Even if stage isn’t quite where you want to end up, you will get experience costuming a range of different types of people, working with different fabrics, creating new designs etc.

  9. jesicka309*

    Oh LW#4, you remind me of a young jesicka309. “Cubicles are so boring! I want to be a journalist out of the beat, and I’ll be damned if anyone is going to tell me otherwise!” I now work in (you guessed it) a cubicle in marketing & love every minute of it.
    I agree with Alison – go to FIT and study fashion, but please keep an open mind about what career path you’re headed towards. Locking yourself into any particular career path (whether it be engineering, fashion, journalism etc.) can sometimes lock you into a huge debt for a career that you discover isn’t for you. I got two years into a media degree only to realise I didn’t even like being on a film set (something I would have never have learnt if I didn’t do the course.). I felt locked into my decision to do the course after all my chest beating about being a journalist and finished out the degree, when I could have easily transferred into a different course, saved my credits and a truckload of cash.
    TL:DR – do your fashion course, regardless of what your parents say, but don’t feel like you have to stick to it if you discover it’s not for you or isn’t leading to a place you want to go.

    1. Doriana Gray*

      Recovering journalism major here, and I feel the same way. I write fiction on the side as a supplement to my primary income (and being a creative writer was always, one of, my dreams anyway), but my day job is something most people would assume is boring as hell – yet I love it. My work is interesting (to me), the advancement opportunities are fantastic, and most importantly, the job pays me enough that I can do what I really love on my own time. I had to be real with myself – if I was a full-time writer, I’d eventually wind up hating it. I love writing, but once it starts to feel like work? Nope.

      So I too second what was said upthread, OP #4 – stay open to where life may lead you. Definitely advocate for yourself, but also think about the double major thing (fashion & business for example), a minor, or majoring in something “practical,” but doing your fashion thing on the side. The fashion world is often more about who you know anyway rather than where you went to school. Network, network, network!

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        Hi, fellow fiction writer on the side! *wave* I lack the mental stamina for full-time creative work; it’s really draining and hard, and I’m not sure I could do it even if I were earning enough from writing to make a living if I did it full-time (which I’m not *remotely* close to).

        1. Doriana Gray*

          Hi! *waves back* I too don’t have the mental stamina to do it all day every day. I write in bursts (my first novel was written in 19 days) and I’m most productive at night. Then I go days (and sometimes weeks and/or months) without writing at all, but when I come back to it, the writing is fresher and less labored.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Oh my damn, I love research and it is so easy to just do that instead of write. That’s why I often use NaNoWriMo to finish a book–I don’t have time to do research when I’m trying to crank out the first draft on such a tight schedule.

              I failed this time, but I should have nearly all of it done by the New Year. No later than January. Really.

            2. Honeybee*

              Right now on my computer there is an entire story researched and planned out. I have detailed character descriptions, an outline of the plot, period research, the calendar. I just have to write the damned thing. But the research is so much more fun, oddly.

    2. Ashley*

      Also a Journalism major turned Marketing Manager! And I love it! Lots of international and domestic travel and an exciting job that allows me to use my creativity.

      1. Kristinyc*

        Same! And I love my cubicle marketing job at a nonprofit. There’s something to be said for stable hours and pay checks.

        And being married and in a cubicle job doesn’t mean you’ll eventually be home with the kids- you might make more money than your husband and live in a very expensive city, and not be so lucky to have the option to stop working to stay home with kids.

        I majored in technical theatre (costuming), then switched to fashion merch, and landed on PR. I’ve never actually worked in PR, and I’m almost 10 years out of school. I work in email marketing and love it. I take sewing classes in Manhattan and watch a lot of Project Runway, so I still have fashion design in my life, but as a hobby on my own terms. There are MANY ways to have what you want in life. Good luck!

        1. CherryScary*

          Oh gosh, there’s so many of us! Studied journalism, discovered I wasn’t up for the hustle and low salary of most news jobs. I also wanted more creative options, so ended up in marketing post-grad.

          And yep, I’m in a cube. But it’s a nicely decorated one! And I do video work on the side (the one thing I did enjoy with my j-school degree!)

    3. Lizzy*

      Same thing here. At 22, I was going to write compelling human interest pieces for major magazines and turned my nose at the stuffy cubicle jobs. Now at 30, I work in the nonprofit sector and have my own cubicle, but funnily enough I do get to write compelling human interest pieces for organizational literature and marketing materials.

      I do think there is a balance in there between pursuing a fast-paced dream job and being realistic about viable career options.

    4. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      I too recognized myself in the letter…just a few years ago I was an MFA student imagining spending my days writing in my cute little bungalow and how great the drinks were going to taste at the Polo Lounge when my agent told me they were turning my best-selling novel into a movie.

      Somewhere along the way of living in LA, I realized I didn’t have “hustle” and that I liked having a steady paycheck. I found my way to working as a creative director, which I love!

    5. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Hello, former poet here, current desk jockey. I was convinced that I was going to do art, but hey, at the end of the day I love my cubicle job– I have great coworkers, and I make enough money that I can travel and pursue my own hobbies. So definitely remember that your career may take you in unexpected directions!

    6. Allison*

      When I was in high school, I hated the idea of some boring corporate job. First I wanted to go into the performing arts, then I really got into politics and planned to study political science and change the world (maaaaan). Fact is, in both of those fields, very few people are successful enough to make a lot of money. I struggled to find an entry level job in politics, and aspiring actors *really* struggle to get jobs that pay the rent.

      Now I do have a corporate job, but I actually really dig the research and analytics that go into it. And it’s steady and pays the bills! But my life isn’t boring, I live in an apartment and a city and spend many nights a week dancing and hanging out with friends.

      It’s fine to want something other than what your parents want for you, and going into fashion may be one way to do it, but another way is to find a potentially high paying career that’ll let you live the life you want on your own time, without having to worry about the rent. Because if you’re not making a lot of money, you may have to depend on your parents or a partner.

    7. Natalie*

      “Locking yourself into any particular career path (whether it be engineering, fashion, journalism etc.) can sometimes lock you into a huge debt for a career that you discover isn’t for you.”

      Or a career you would like but that has changed substantially. I wanted to be a journalist when it became clear that the news market was changing substantially, a college professor right around the shift from tenure to adjunct roles, and a lawyer right when it became apparent that the country was lousy with newly minted lawyers. Thankfully I realized that last one before enrolling in law school – I have a friend from college who didn’t and based on her Facebook, is becoming increasingly desperate and bitter. (She is also an excellent example of “don’t go back to school just because you don’t know what you want to do”. She has an MBA and a law degree and the debt from that, and no real job.)

      Curiously, as I was writing the above I realized that my now-field (accounting) shares some core features with the careers I dreamed of in my youth (problem solving, analysis, rules, being a bit of a dilettante). Just food for thought, OP – remain flexible to whatever life presents to you by way of opportunity. You may find yourself in a field that doesn’t seem at all related to fashion, but is still enjoyable and engaging.

    8. Ad Astra*

      Sounds like young jesicka309 and young Ad Astra had a lot in common! An open mind is essential. I’ve always had a plan for my life, but it turns out my plans changed quite a bit in college and the five years since. It’s good to know what you want, but don’t paint yourself into a corner. And remember that, in most careers, your skills will ultimately matter more than your education (though you’ll need both).

      Not every cubicle job is boring. Not every conventional choice will lead to a boring or conventional life. Not every passion becomes a career. Oh, and student loan debt is forever, so be careful about how much you borrow.

    9. Shannon*

      I’m about to finish my AA degree in American Sign Language. Love the language, but really not ok with being an interpreter. I’m glad I took the classes, because I always wanted to learn ASL and I’m doubly glad that I found out that I don’t want to interpret while I can still do something about my Bachelor’s degree (I’m going to be a communications major, for now).

      I thought being an interpreter would be the answer to never having to be stuck in a cube. And, in a lot of ways, you’re not. I’m glad that I found out that while I like ASL, I don’t have the interest or drive it takes to become good enough to professionally translate. I still use ASL sometimes, but, using ASL to communicate for yourself is a whole different ball game than using it to translate.

      Which is another thing; the LW may get into fashion and find out that being a professional designer is a whole different ball game than designing for yourself, with only yourself to answer to.

      1. Paquita*

        I love ASL too! I am too old to develop the skill to be an interpreter but I really want to
        (re) learn. I was sort off proficient thirty years ago but like any language it is ‘use it or lose it’. Off topic: ASL IS a language and books should be classified as Language, not Reference.
        /end rant

    10. Walnut*

      I’m going to add my voice to this chorus. I waffled a lot about what I wanted my “career” to be in college, ended up studying English lit and creative writing, decided that I wanted to go into publishing because I wanted to be a writer, realized I hate the publishing industry and – surprise! – you can do all the fiction writing you want on the side if you have self discipline, regardless of what you do for a living. Now I’m trying to go back to school for a professional degree in an allied health field.

      I’m in the opposite position as the OP, though, because now that I’m getting the practical degree, everyone I know except my SO is flipping out, like, “Why aren’t you living your dreams???” People who care about you are going to worry about your health, happiness, and stability no matter what you do. As you get older, you get better (or try to get better) at sweeping up their anxieties and dismissing them in favor of your own convictions.

      Study what you want. Maybe take some business courses (if you’re going to be designing clothes, hopefully someone has to buy them, right)? Take as many internships as you can! Something that seems interesting while you study it or in the three month window of the fancypants editorial internship you manage to score in your second year of college can start to really grate on you after you realize you’re going to be dealing with certain aspects of the industry for years and years. Don’t be afraid to combine different interests, potential “career paths” and skills into whatever life you envision for yourself. You’re gonna be great.

      1. Oryx*

        “you can do all the fiction writing you want on the side if you have self discipline, regardless of what you do for a living.”

        Yes, it took this fellow writer awhile to figure this out, too. In fact, I’d argue that *most* writers have a steady source of income whether it’s in an office or allied health or whatever and write on the side. Even the majority of my BFA instructors with multiple published books still teach because they have to. Very, very, very few writers make a full-time living doing it.

  10. chrl268*

    Stupid question – is any one else déjà vu-ing on OP1? I swear I read this a while ago. I don’t read the open posts, so I feel Alison already answered this a while ago? Just me?

      1. chrl268*

        No, I am thinking of someone who was larger than what chairs were expecting, had a disability which caused them to apply a little more force than usual when sitting and felt frustrated/embarrassed about constantly breaking chairs. I also feel that they mentioned the similarity to that other post.


        1. Myrin*

          I believe someone made a similar comment on that other post the OP also linked to – I remember someone talking about their disability as well. Although, going back to look at the comments there, I can’t find one single post that fits this but rather several commenters talking about the possibilities. Memories are weird!

        2. Ellie H.*

          Me too – I have exactly the same sense (re. applying more force than usual in the act of sitting down). Weird!

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Not so spooky. I remember someone talking about this before. And I remember for a kind of embarrassing reason. My chairs at home are not substantial. Well, I have furniture that was passed down to us, it’s old. This means not only has it grown tired with all the aging, but it was also build on the small side. People were smaller years ago- they were shorter.

          I never thought too much about it, mostly because I very seldom sat in some of these chairs, I was not home that much. One day a dear person came over to visit. It was in that moment, I realized that my chairs may or may not accommodate this person. I was pretty upset with myself for not figuring this out sooner. So when the poster started talking about chairs, I saw my own lack of thinking/planning in her story. I’m still not happy with me about that one, I’m safety conscious and I missed this safety point entirely.

          Which brings me to a talking point, OP, that I think you should be aware of: this is a safety issue. If you are asked to use something that is not safe for you to use, I would simply point that out. Clearly this chair is not safe as it keeps breaking. I think it’s reasonable to say, “My chair keeps breaking and at some point, it could break in a manner that could cause me to get hurt. I would like a sturdy chair that is safe for me to use.” And as others have suggested, line up some suggestions of what you think will work for you. You might be more persuasive if you can show how you tried to look at pricing, too. (That is how I get bosses to pay attention, I show some price comparisons.)

    1. LisaLee*

      Maybe you’re thinking of the letter the LW references, from a boss whose employee kept breaking chairs?

      1. Merry and Bright*

        Yes, I thought this was the letter OP was referring to when she said her own letter was a counterpoint.

    1. Hornswoggler*

      I thought that too. My reaction was that she was setting up a potential problem for use in the future in case things went pear-shaped. I.e., if the manager/employee relationship didn’t work out, she had something to blame it on that wasn’t her.

      Either that or she’s really insecure, possibly because of past experiences which have made her defensive.

    2. INTP*

      My armchair take is that she’s simply conditioned to the warm and deferential way women are conditioned to communicate, and when men aren’t that way, she takes it as a lack of respect and an attack. If she thinks every man who doesn’t use smilies in emails and qualify their own statements with “I think…” or “Do you think…?” is sexist, then she’ll think most men are sexist, and that explains the need to ask them straight up in interviews. Basing this mostly on the complaint of “tersely worded emails”. Microaggressions can occur in a million different ways that the aggressor isn’t aware of but a lack of niceties in an email is a stretch imo.

      1. RobM*

        I wouldn’t necessarily conflate it with gender (you’re potentially making the same mistake as the boss!) but yes, some people don’t “dress up” factual emails with social niceties because they don’t see the need, and others, those who do feel the need, may well see this as the author of the email having a problem with them when nothing of the sort is intended.

        1. Xarcady*

          Ah, yes, this would be me. I’ve had to learn how to “fluff up” interoffice emails to certain people, because otherwise they would come to my desk in tears wondering why I was being so mean to them.

          “Please get the PJ1619 project done by Friday as Big Boss told you yesterday,” doesn’t seem mean to me. But to others, it does, and they require,

          Dear Susie,
          I know you are working on many project this weeks, but I’ve heard that PK1619 is a big priority. So please keep working on that, because we really have to have it finished by Friday. If you run into any problems with it, just let me know as soon as possible so I can help!
          Thank you so much!”

    3. BenAdminGeek*

      The two reasons I’ve seen for this being mentioned:
      1. Manager is not good at working with anyone, so people try to pin a gender-based reason on it- “Oh, she struggles working with women,” as though it’s OK to be a bad co-worker to 60% of my team
      2. Manager had a really sexist employee in the past, and honestly thinks he/she can ferret it out during the interview process. It never works, but it’s born out of optimism.

      You seem to have hit option #1.

  11. KWu*

    LW#4 — as a first generation Asian-American, and the oldest kid to boot, I feel you. My mom really wanted me to be a doctor and still nags me about going to grad school every so often.

    The first thing is, you should accept that it’s unlikely you’ll get your mom to the point of actively supporting and approving of a career in fashion design, “to let you be what you want.” Not saying it’s impossible, just unlikely, and you’ll be better off accepting it straight off rather than having that wishfulness guide your decisions. Spend some time grieving for the movie-perfect family resolution that you’d love to have, and then move on.

    The second thing is, as long as you are financially dependent on your parents and/or living with them, your options can be restricted by that. So start earning money to be able to support yourself and move out, and overall it should become easier to arrange your life as you want it, though visits homes can become rather fraught (Captain Awkward’s archives probably have good advice on handling those visits).

    Third, if you want to try to set the stage for eventually having a better relationship with your parents, it will help to take a look at the situation from their point of view. Many parents are most motivated by avoiding pain and fear for their children, since that will hit them harder than if you succeed and are happy. And they aren’t wrong that with more experience in “the real world,” salary and lifestyle often become more important than trying to get paid for your creative interests. Can you really know that you don’t want to live like your family does now? You may not know until you try it yourself (and I fully support your right to learn that for yourself!), but your mom isn’t wrong for wanting to spare you that, in case it goes poorly. If you can recognize and demonstrate your appreciation for your parents having your best interests at heart, you’ll be able to act more compassionately–even while disagreeing with their worldview and making decisions that they don’t approve of.

    Some of your mom’s motivation may be because she wants to be able to brag about your accomplishments to her friends, and they’ll be more impressed by an engineer than a fashion designer. Giving her the benefit of the doubt though, I’d bet that the fundamental thing is that she’s worried about what will happen to you when she’s gone and you don’t have a safety net anymore. Parents generally want their kids to be self-sufficient and independent too!

    So, the best strategy imo is to demonstrate how you will in fact be self-sufficient and independent and have thought through the practicalities of your choices, like applying for scholarships, doing research on cost of living, saving every penny you ever earn, working really really hard on your portfolio, talking to them about how you’re demonstrating responsibility, etc. It’s not a bad idea to compromise slightly and double major so you can cover something “practical” and something “for passion” at the same time. You want her to listen to you, but that’s what she’s wanting as well, isn’t it?

    Good luck!

    (fwiw, my background is that I ended up double majoring in Biology & Psychology and taking extra classes so I could both fulfill my parents’ requirements to continue getting my room & board paid for at college and still taking the “fun” art classes that I wanted to. Now I work as a software engineer, in a cubicle, and it’s a ton of fun for me, even if my mom still thinks all of our jobs are going to be outsourced some day and that being a doctor is the only real secure job “because people are always going to get sick”–can’t fault her logic there, really. She’s an engineer herself, after all!)

      1. Blue Anne*

        Hi Alison, just wanted to give you a heads up that I’ve been trying to write a longer response to the above comment, and this tab is crashing every time I get about a paragraph in. The rest of my tabs are fine. I’m on up-to-date Chrome.

        1. Ad Astra*

          I’ve been having issues with Chrome crashing too, but this computer is new to me so I’m not sure if it’s a site issue or a me issue.

    1. matcha123*

      I think this is really good advice. I kind of talked myself out of applying for art school because my mom wasn’t supportive and I didn’t have any confidence in my work.
      Parents and teachers love it when you can voice their concerns back to them with a well-thought-out action plan.

      1. Nm*

        That was most likely for the best. It’s terribly difficult to make a nice living in the art world – and you’ve got to have crazy confidence. Nothing is stopping you from making art, but at least you have other skills as well. (I assume) You can always go back!

    2. Blue Anne*

      This is really good advice.

      I’ve been trying to write a longer response, but the tab keeps crashing. Long story short:

      I have the absolute opposite background. Mom is an academic with not a whole lot of intellectual respect for “practical” subjects. She was very happy about it when I was considering going into Stage Management, and supported me through the applications/interview/portfolio presentation process at Yale and Carnegie Mellon. She was OVERJOYED when I instead accepted a place studying Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. All pretty good schools. I graduated with no debt – I worked summers and weekends for my beer money, but Mom very happily paid all my bills.

      In contrast when I said “maybe business”, she told me there was no point going to a good business school, she wouldn’t pay for it, I’d learn the same thing anywhere I went, and if I REALLY wanted to do something so mundane I could go to the local community college and live at home.

      Now I’m an accountant and I love it. You could NEVER have told me, at 17, 19, 22, I would enjoy this so much. I’m glad my mom was so supportive of my Philosophy degree, but I really wish I had more of the practical education my colleagues have. It’s been a struggle keeping up, and even some basic finance classes taken as an elective would have been a huge help. I really loved my studies but I’m never going to use my Philosophy education again.

      Just a view from the other side. (And yay it didn’t crash this time!)

      1. Natalie*

        Oh funny, I was just joking about this in an interview this morning – I disappointed my artist parents by becoming an accountant.

      2. Lillian McGee*

        Same here, except I incurred all the art school debt myself and will be paying for it til kingdom come!

        I dreamed of a career in the arts and my parents supported me because I was “smart” and made good grades in everything so how could I not succeed??? I didn’t succeed. I made terrible art in college and my passion for it slowly evaporated with every silent class critique… I have not put pencil to paper in probably a decade and the mere thought fills me with anxiety. I switched over to art history and loved it though, so that saved me from an all-out disaster college experience.

        I find myself now really enjoying the number-crunching aspects of my job, against EVERYTHING I thought I knew about myself back in high school. I keenly regret not going into engineering. I think I would have been really good at it, but none of the influential forces in my life really encouraged me to consider STEM careers.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I really wish I could have gone into a STEM career–I would have picked something in the sciences. When I was a kid, I wanted to be Quincy, M.E., heh heh. But the math thing prevented it. :(

        2. Honeybee*

          The only influential life force that encouraged me to consider STEM was a high school calculus and physics teacher – I did really well in his class and loved the subjects, and he encouraged me to go into engineering. Otherwise when I brought up STEM subjects my teachers talked me out of it. I mentioned wanting to be an actuary in my senior year of high school and my teacher made a face and told me I should go into something communications related. (In their defense, I was also an excellent writer, and this were literature and social sciences teachers who didn’t know anything about my math performance).

          I liked writing a lot but there was something magical about math. It, like, made the world make sense. If I could go back in time I’d double-major in psychology and statistics, but there wasn’t a statistics major at my college. And I ended up working in a STEM field after all.

    3. Erin*

      I second the double majoring. I did it and it’s not that hard – I had to take one class over the summer to fit everything in, which was really not a huge inconvenience.

      It was more for me than my parents, but I started out as an English major (with no intention of being a teacher, mind you, in other words people thought I might be living out of a box) and then later on added communications (with a concentration in journalism) as my second major.

      I wanted/want to be a best selling novelist, but having the second major and getting journalism/media classes in there I think really helped me to actually get published. Also, I had to write a major thesis for English – 64 pages – and do an internship at a nonprofit for communications, both my senior year, but again, it wasn’t bad because they were in different semesters. Both experiences significantly contributed to where I am today.

      If you decide to double major you can phrase it to your mom that you’re focused on studying what you’re truly interested in and love learning about, but that you’re going to “keep your options open.” (My mom LOVES that phrase.) “Mom, I’m doing what I love, but I’m also going to be realistic and keep my options open.”

      One more thing: I’m struggling to think of a specific example, but just want to throw it out there that maybe your two interests could be combined in some way to form a really specific niche. You never know.

      One of my current jobs is for a firm of financial advisors, and for that job I ended up reading about an advisor who was really, really into fishing and kind of wanted to be a fisherman instead of a financial advisor. He’s now basically the go-to finance guy for the entire fishing industry. Again – you never know.

      1. JMegan*

        Actually, I’m going to counter-point the double major, and suggest the OP go as broad as possible in undergrad. I did a double major in English and French, and by the end of it I was really wishing I had time to go back and take some of the cool general-interest courses that the university offered, that I didn’t have time for in my schedule because of the double major. If I had it to do over again, I would have majored in French, and filled up the rest of my schedule with Basketweaving 101 just because it was fun!

        All this to say, OP, that there’s no one answer that’s suitable for everyone. I love KWu’s advice above that your parents just want you to be happy, and they are picturing “happiness” differently than you are. If you can combine fashion with something more “practical” (according to them) or with a real breadth of other options (according to me), that might be the way to go.

        Best of luck, whatever you end up doing!

        1. Erin*

          Oddly enough, my college had a creative writing major and sometimes I wonder if I should have doubled with that instead of English and communications.

          To jump off that and go a little bit rogue/off topic – I would argue wherever you end up for college, take classes with professors you have a good rapport with, or who have an excellent reputation, almost regardless of what classes they’re teaching. The teacher really does make the class.

          1. KWu*

            This, definitely. Later on in college I picked classes whose descriptions didn’t always sound that interesting but had highly rated professors and that was definitely the better strategy.

        2. Emily*

          This is the main reason I didn’t try to double major! Although I could’ve easily done Physics and Religious Studies (or possibly Medieval studies), I didn’t – because I wanted to have room in my schedule for art and psychology and literature, too.

    4. neverjaunty*

      Thank you for this. I am really boggled by all the responses telling OP to stop being a silly young thing and listen to her mom, because anyway engineers can do fashion too.

      I would be a little more blunt, though, coming from a different background (and of course I don’t know the OP’s situation): You can’t force your parents to get over their own issues. It’s not your job to have a career they can brag about to their friends, or to have a job they have arbitrarily decided is “stable” or “respectable”.

      1. overeducated and underemployed*

        I think a lot of these responses come from our own personal experiences that the paths we anticipated in high school were not necessarily the ones that wound up being right for us as adults. Which is not to say “stop being a silly young thing,” so much as “keep your options open and consider these other factors.”

        1. neverjaunty*

          But the ‘options’ and ‘other factors’ OP is being lectured to consider are the ones her mom has decided for her – even though OP has explicitly said she has no interest in them. In other words, they’re doing the exact same thing as OP’s mom, ignoring what OP is actually saying and going by “when I was your age….”

          It’s interesting to me that when an OP talks about Dad saying she just needs to show ‘gumption’, or Mom giving her resume advice from 1985, we all laugh and shake our heads. But when an OP says that her mother is trying to push her into a career she has zero interest in, the reaction is ‘oh, you’re young, why don’t you give it a try?’

          1. Doriana Gray*

            But the ‘options’ and ‘other factors’ OP is being lectured to consider are the ones her mom has decided for her – even though OP has explicitly said she has no interest in them. In other words, they’re doing the exact same thing as OP’s mom, ignoring what OP is actually saying

            This. OP #4 can go to school for fashion, but take electives that will give her experience in other areas just in case she needs a fallback.

          2. KWu*

            The letter doesn’t have enough detail for us to know just how thoroughly explored and considered the LW’s lack of interest in a particular subject is, and if I had to guess, I would suspect not entirely because of the attitude of assuming cubicle jobs must be boring and soul-sucking.

            “You can’t force your parents to get over their own issues.” — yes, definitely!!! +1000, part of growing up is reconciling yourself to the fact that your parents are flawed humans too, not the gods of your childhood.

            “It’s not your job to have a career they can brag about to their friends, or to have a job they have arbitrarily decided is ‘stable’ or ‘respectable’.” — agree on the whole but disagree in some parts:
            * I am Chinese enough culturally to think that kids do owe their parents something for the parents having raised them. I do NOT think kids owe their parents the entirety of the rest of their lives, but instead, more just like kindness and compassion (like for any other human really, but a bit extra for feeding and housing and worrying about you for as long as they’re alive)
            * I don’t think the parents’ perspective that certain industries are more stable than others is necessarily entirely arbitrary. It’s not a good basis for making a snap judgment on, of course, nor closing yourself to what you learn from more research (labor statistics, talking to people in those careers, etc. as suggested by other commenters) but I usually assume that smart kids generally don’t just completely come from nowhere and as frustrating as parents can be, usually they are not just completely meaninglessly backwards controlling folks, they have lived experiences of their own too.

            Reading the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother book really helped me understand my parents better, if anyone is looking for a book/memoir recommendation.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Yes, we do have all the information we need to know how thoroughly explored the LW’s lack of interest in engineering is. LW explicitly said that she had only said “I want to be an engineer” as a child because that’s what her father did, and she didn’t know what engineers even did. I think we can trust the LW when she says she has zero interest in being an engineer.

              And yes, you’re right that (in most cases) parents are coming from a place of wanting what’s best for their kids, and it can be helpful to understand that Mom isn’t just being a jerk but wants you to be happy and stable in life – but that kindness and compassion has limits, and shaping one’s life to cater to their issues is beyond those limits. (Also, I would assume that Chinese parents, just like non-Chinese parents, are perfectly capable of being selfish, abusive and controlling rather than having their kids’ best interests at heart.)

              Certainly parents have lived experiences of their own, speaking here as a parent – but as we have seen with past letters, what Mom and Dad think is true about the workforce from their own experience may no longer be true today, and may not be grounded in reality. I mean, if I were going by my own experience, “major in whatever you want, then go to law school” would be great advice, and it was when I was in college, but it’s terrible advice today.

          3. overeducated and underemployed*

            I may have misunderstood what comments you were referring to. I thought you meant the long threads of people saying “do research on different jobs in the fashion industry, don’t box yourself in with super specific coursework in case you want to take a different path later,” etc., which are not options and factors that her mom has decided for her. Sounds like you meant just ones that said “try engineering” or “take CAD,” and I agree that going into a major just to please your parents is not a great idea. Sorry for the confusion.

    5. Shannon*

      Yeah, that’s another idea. It might be a good idea for the OP to take some business classes along with her fashion classes. The business classes might get the parents off her back and be a godsend if/ when she ever makes it in the fashion industry. If she doesn’t make it in the fashion industry, at least she still has the business classes to fall back on.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I like this explanation a lot, well done, KWu.

      Two things that jump at me, OP:
      1) Whoever controls the purse strings controls what is going on. This is true through out life. We take out a mortgage the bank tells us when to pay and how much. Not only that, but they limit us as to how much we can borrow. They have a lot of control over us. Likewise with parents, if they are paying for your education then they are going to feel they have the right to have inputs. And it’s going to be tough to argue that they don’t.

      2) Always remember what is at square one. I had a friend quit college. “My mother has not spoken to me for three days,” she said. Knowing that this is a great mom/daughter relationship, I said, “Why do you think that is?” My friend shook her head. I said “Because she is picturing you diving into dumpsters looking for something for dinner.” Mom did not want my friend to have the struggles that she had. Maybe your folks were more fortunate, but that does not mean they weren’t heartbroken over watching someone they love struggle to meet basic needs. This is a worry that cuts to the core with parents and non-parents. No human being wants to see another person struggle on such a basic level. And yet, it still happens. One way to try to lessen that worry is to show good attention to planning and the details of your planning. Another good thing to try is to point blank say, “I know you are worried that I will have to sofa-hop because I can’t afford my own place on my own. I do understand that I need a plan.”
      And lastly, if nothing works, ask them if the three of you can agree to disagree then agree set the subject to one side, for the sake of maintaining a happy/healthy relationship.

  12. tod*

    LW 4: You absolutely do NOT need to do CADD to get into an engineering program. The vast majority of engineers I know (I grew up in the Silicon Valley, where it seems everyone and their sister is an engineer) did not have any type of engineering programs available to them in high school (maybe robotics if they were lucky) and they were still able to get into engineering programs. To get into a school for engineering, what you REALLY need are: (a) a high general GPA; (b) a high science GPA; (c) take math to a sufficient level (atleast precalc, though calc will help).

    The reason I mention this is that you might be able to strike a compromise with your family: You take the cosmetology program and suss out if that’s something you really want to pursue. In exchange, you’ll keep your academic achievement up and pursue the prequisite high school classes that would prepare you for an engineering college program.

    Something like 80% of college students graduate with a different degree than they entered as freshman for, so once you’re IN college… eh, I kind of say let nature take its course.

    1. peanut butter kisses*

      I had a good friend who did the cosmetology courses in high school and once she graduated, tested and got her hair styling license. She then went to work immediately at a local ship and started saving her money like mad and went to community college two days a week in order to knock out her basics. She then transferred to a four year college to get her preferred degree in education while still doing hair on the side to pay bills. She then got a teaching job and continued to do hair on nights and weekends a short while until she had no school debt, no car debt, and a chunk if change in the bank. So she had no life but she has her dream. Her parents weren’t in a position to help her so she helped herself.

    2. Stephanie*

      Yeah, I never did any CAD until sophomore or junior year of college, I think. Unless you come in with a ton of prior credit or coursework, your first two years are going to be spent taking fundamentals. So I agree you could probably compromise and take a higher-level math class.

      1. March*

        And depending on the engineering discipline, AutoCAD may not even be necessary. I’m a process engineer (which is pretty similar to chemical engineering), and although my university taught us SolidWorks in our first year as opposed to AutoCAD, I haven’t touched it once since starting my discipline. I usually use HYSYS, which I’d never, ever expect to learn in high school. A class in AutoCAD might be great if you have your heart set on something like mechanical engineering, but since OP clearly doesn’t, it’s moot.

        1. Observer*

          I think you are making a mistake here. The issue is not AutoCad vs another program. In fact, the OP doesn’t even mention “AutoCAD” but CADD in the generic.

          And, I have found, in general, the people who have a solid understanding of a fairly complex program have a MUCH easier time moving to a different program of the same genre, because the real difficulty is not the mechanics, but the concepts behind this.

          Which is to say that if you want to do design of any sort, having a solid understanding of how design software works, regardless of the particular package, can be very useful.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        Seriously, CAD has never been a big part of my engineering career. My company only lets engineers have read-only CAD programs, and designers/drafters do all the CAD work. Depending on your field, it could be a great tool you use all the time or one you aren’t even allowed to have. It’s certainly not critical to learn in HS.

        That said, an entry level drafting job pays pretty well at my company, and senior level designers make as much as engineers. Nowadays, there are also opportunities just working on the software side because the programs are pretty sophisticated and need a lot of support and set up. You can get into the field with a certificate or associates. Not a bad job at all.

        1. GlorifiedPlumber*

          Glad others have commented on this. CAD work is… drafter work, which should be done at 1/4th the cost, especially on lump sum design work. As a lead, if I caught one of my junior engineers spending time in CAD for any other reason than 1) read only to look at stuff that we didn’t have a PDF or DWF of or 2) couldn’t find a drafter and OMFG need it RIGHT NOW BECAUSE FIRE, I’d have a conversation.

          Sadly though, entry level CAD drafting work is… not paid well at my company. Junior designers do pretty decently though (in my opinion). I was saddened when I saw entry level drafter actuals.

          Though interestingly, I see lots of reqs out there for smaller engineering shops or clients who need one stop engineering package people that REALLY prioritize the CAD work for their engineers over actual engineering skill. Makes me sad… :(

    3. neverjaunty*

      But OP has no interest in engineering. It’s one thing to urge her to take a strong set of core classes that will give her flexibility later; another thing to advise her to cater to unreasonable parents.

      1. Erin*

        I should have acknowledged this more in my comment seconding the double majoring suggestion – only double major with engineering if you have at least some interest in it. If not, maybe something else. :)

        1. neverjaunty*

          Double majoring is (as you know!) very difficult, and much more so if one of those majors is something one has zero interest in. It seems pretty extreme to go to the trouble of a double major simply to stave off a parent’s disappointment, and frankly counterproductive, because then Mom is just going to nag OP to use that engineering degree she spent all the time and effort to acquire (NB: at the cost of effort and time that could have been spent on other things).

          1. Jennifer*

            Well, my thinking is that she can go to a school where she’d have the option to double major with engineering being one of those majors, and then if she wants to, she can drop out of it. Once she’s already admitted into the school and partway through college, there’s a lot less her parents can do about the situation to stop her. As opposed to right now, where they can easily stop her from attending FIT.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Sure they can, if they’re paying her tuition – they can cut her off if she doesn’t shape up and work on her engineering degree. And if they aren’t in a position to cut her off, why is she wasting her time on an engineering major in the first place?

              I think the upthread comment about considering where Mom is coming from, and trying to deal with those underlying issues, is very helpful, but I’m really, truly not getting the advice to just go ahead and maybe kind of be an engineer anyway to get Mom off her back. Taking some engineering classes, double-majoring, etc. just kicks the can down the road, and is going to make it that much harder later, when OP would be dealing with “But we spent all this money to get you an engineering degree, you want to throw it away?!”

  13. Marzipan*

    #4, I agree with Alison that you don’t need to convince your parents to let you do what you choose to do; it’s ultimately up to you. But, since Alison’s reply didn’t really touch on how you might present your argument to then if you wanted to try, I thought it might be useful to have a discussion about that.

    I think you’ve actually given a really clear explanation in your letter of why you initially wanted to be an engineer but now don’t – you didn’t really know what an engineer was when you were younger, and were copying your dad. (It’s very mature and sensible of you to have recognised this – I work with students substantially older than you, some of whom are only just starting to realise that they’ve been doing something like this, once they’re a long way down the path towards whatever is their personal ‘engineering’.) Have you actually told your parents this, in this way? Just really clearly, like you did here? If you haven’t, I definitely think it’s a good idea. Also, maybe consider doing it in a letter? It’s harder for them to not listen to a letter; and it means you can choose your words really carefully to get your message across well.

    With parents, it’s probably not a good idea to emphasise certain jobs being ‘boring’. You might have noticed upthread that some commenters took offence at that – I didn’t, and I don’t want to rehash that here, but one thing you can take from that is how your parents might respond if you say that to them. Partly, it’s because they know that all jobs are boring sometimes – and even the most exciting job can be boring (or stressful) when you’re having a tough time in life, which you will sometimes. So, if you say being an engineer (or whatever) will be boring, they’re inwardly thinking ‘little do you know…’ and not really listening. And partly, it’s because on some level, your parents probably also had (or maybe still have) dreams of things they wanted to do, which they’ve chosen to squash down in order to do things that they considered ‘safer’. A big part of them doing that probably had to do with you, and wanting to provide a stable, good life for you.

    One really good conversation to have with your parents might be about the things they wanted to do growing up, and how/whether those things changed – and what surprises came up along the way. My job was a big surprise to me, because it’s not something I really knew existed until I got it! That’s actually not unusual. And it’s a good way to start to talk about the future, and how none of you really know exactly what that might look like for you. That’s probably a really scary thought for your parents – maybe ask them how they feel about that? It sounds like they’re valuing different things for your future than you are – they want to make sure you’re financially secure and able to take care of your material needs, while you want to be passionate about what you do.

    If it’s feasible to do so (and you haven’t already got one), maybe getting a part-time job would help you to learn more about what you do and don’t like in a workplace, and give you more things to talk about when you talk about jobs. (Also, money!)

    If you want to study fashion design, another good thing to do would be to show how much you’re already doing in that line – to make it sort of a fait accompli that of course there’s no point trying to stand in your way, because you’re so involved in it already. Get involved with the costumes for the school play or the local drama group. Make your own weird and wonderful clothes. Go to the fashion exhibit at the local museum at the weekend. Take a sketchbook with you everywhere, and jot down ideas. You haven’t mentioned in your letter whether you’re doing this kind of stuff now, but if you aren’t, do! They’ll help you no end in pursuing goals in fashion, but they’ll also help show your parents that this is a real thing. (I went to art school, and part of why my parents never tried to talk me out of it was because I was always making something. They knew there was really no stopping me!)

    Good luck, for now and the future!

  14. AcademiaNut*

    Some general advice for #4:

    Do some research regarding your proposed career, to prepare for discussing this with your parents. Some things that are particularly important to find out and seriously consider –

    1) In real life, what sort of training/background/career path do people who are working in the field actually have. This might be very different from the formal training path you’re thinking of.

    2) What are the typical/realistic career paths for someone in this field? Things like how many people who get Fashion Design degrees actually get work in the field, what types of jobs they get, how much of that work is full-time or enough to support themselves, how many years of unpaid internships do you need to do to get a paying job, how intense is the competition?

    3) What can you do with your training if you can’t get work in the field, or if you change your mind?

    For creative/academic jobs, it really is very important to have a backup plan. When you’re at the beginning of the process, or still in school, it’s easy to believe that you will be the one who succeeds, no matter how dismal the prospects are – very few people pursue careers believing that they’re going to fail. It’s only much later that the realization that you are no longer able or willing to pay the price of pursuing your dreams, or that your dreams have changed, can kick in, and having options becomes vital.

    So coming up with a practical, flexible plan may help with convincing your parents, and will definitely help you. The plan will change over time as circumstances change, but the process of thinking about it is important.

    Definitely don’t go into engineering because it’s practical, or because your parents insist, though. Engineering degrees are tough when you like the subject – doing one when you don’t want to be there and don’t like the work would be soul crushing. But there can (and often have to be) compromises between your dream career, and practicalities like eating and rent (and, as you get older, things like good health insurance, daycare costs, retirement plans…).

    1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      I went to school for film and ended up doing something very different, but I still use things I learned in college 30 years later. (Example: the eye for composition I learned in school helps me with marketing and interacting with my design team every day.) I use my writing and visual composition classes daily, and it doesn’t hurt that I took statistics and accounting as electives.

      The university film program I was in was both huge and well respected and I don’t know a single soul who has actually gone into the industry, but I also don’t know anyone starving on the streets. Everyone adapted their degrees to another job just fine.

      1. KarenT*

        I came to write something similar. My current work bestie went to FIT and now works with me in publishing. She dI’d work in fashion for a few years but ultimately decided it wasn’t for her. And she transitioned out of fashion just fine.

    2. Foxtrot*

      Backup plans are a necessity everywhere! One thing I would suggest is to think about the field you’re going into and if it is something you want to do if you don’t make it to the top. I’m studying engineering and I love it. It’s the perfect match and I can’t imagine doing anything else. But I know some students who have dreams to work at NASA and be an astronaut or *the* flight director. I can’t see them being happy as engineers if they only get to the middle of the pack or wind up at a different organization. If you really love fashion, then you need to follow that path. But if you only make local shows and have a small downtown boutique, will you still be happy you chose that field? Are you only looking at the glam of the best of the best?

      1. Honeybee*

        Or if you anonymously design clothes for a fast-fashion, ready-to-wear company (like the kind of brands who sell to Forever 21, or H&M’s in-house designers)? Most fashion designers aren’t Galliano or Lagerfeld. They’re the more or less anonymous folks who design your $30 Old Navy jeans and your $12 bargain F21 sweater.

    3. Green*

      Consider the full range of jobs within the industry you’re interested in. Everyone sketches high-end dresses for tall, skinny women when they start out, but more people make great livings designing for maternity wear, toddlers, babies, kids, men, etc. Pursuing things that may not appear on the cover of Vogue may make your goals more realistic. Similarly, there are lots of jobs in fashion, some of which are more in business and others are more creative — buyers, marketers, visual merchandisers, lighting designers for stores, etc. (See the Retail Design Institute.) Broadening your career interests to include things that incorporate your true love (fashion) but increase the opportunities for landing a job in the field may help your parents get behind it.

    4. Is It Performance Art*

      Definitely get some hands-on experience to figure out if you like the actual work. Designing and constructing clothing is partly a big 3D puzzle. And it’s not easy so the more practice you have, the more you’ll stand out. Another advantageous that you’ll be able to tell if you like the day to day work. If you don’t like the day to day work, chances are you’ll be miserable. The fashion industry is extremely competitive, so chances are you’ll need to enjoy the actual work in order to stick with it until you succeed.
      A lot of parents think that if their kids have a well-paying career in a field people respect, that happiness will follow even if they hate their jobs. Other parents think that if their kids just find something they love, they’ll be happy even if they can’t make enough money to support themselves and have unstable employment. In both cases, it’s a recipe for disaster. Most people need a balance of enjoying at least part of your work and making enough money and only you can figure out what your personal balance is.
      If you do go to FIT, consider taking classes in things like accounting because it will make you more appealing as a job candidate. A lot of artistic type businesses struggle because their finances are not well managed. Another advantage is that if the industry tanks, you will have skills that you can use in another indusrtry.

  15. The Bimmer Guy*

    OP1 — This is uncomfortable territory for a lot of people. Chances are that if they’ve had to replace several parts, your manager probably *wants* to provide you with a sturdier, more-comfortable chair, but doesn’t want to hurt your feelings or violate discrimination laws. A lot of people in your scenario would be outright offended and would overreact if their bosses brought this up (“Why do *I* have to have a sturdier chair?! What are you tryin’ to say?!”) You bringing this up will probably be a relief, and they’ll readily accommodate it. I agree with the person above that said you might even try doing the research yourself and finding a chair that you feel will work for you.

    1. INTP*

      I agree with this. It will be an awkward conversation, but a relief for the boss to not have to be the one to say anything.

  16. Tara R.*

    My dad was furious when he first caught wind of my plans to go away for university. We had such a big fight that I stayed with my mom full time for a month and a half. What I found was that slow exposure worked wonders. I avoided the topic entirely for several months thereafter; once the (figurative) wound had started to heal, I started gently mentioning it. I started by mentioning “after graduation” in innocuous circumstances, then moved up to “When I’m in Vancouver…”, “When I’m at university…”, etc. Eventually, I started to directly reference the impact on him– “I’m gonna show you how to make [little brother]’s lunch, so you know when I move away”. I didn’t deal with a second huge meltdown about it.

    My dad is… difficult… so YMMV. But here is some advice that worked pretty well for me:
    -Sound completely certain of everything. You are now the expert on your own desires and future career decisions, and you are going to be completely matter of fact about that. “I don’t think that’s for me” is a good phrase. If you have the kind of relationship with your parents where you /want/ their advice, save soliciting it for after they’ve come around. While you’re selling this, you have to seem completely confident.
    -Cut them mostly out of the actual process, but include them in small, inconsequential decisions. For example, I didn’t tell either of my parents any details about my university applications; they didn’t even know I was applying. But when I got invited for an optional orientation, I made sure to ask them whether they thought I should go. Give them input– satisfying their parental worried instincts (my mom) or overcontrolling tendencies (my dad)– but not into the important things.
    -Your goal here is to come across as 100% adult, mature, and capable of making your own decisions and choices about your future. Even if your parents start yelling and shouting, it’s important for you to keep your cool. Have some stock phrases ready to go. Don’t swear. Don’t do anything that’s going to remind them of your tantruming days, either– no slammed doors or “I hate you!” or anything that comes across as petulant.
    -Tell them flat out you would be desperately unhappy in engineering. It’s hard to say “But we want you to be miserable! It’s what’s best for you!”
    -Depending on your parents, this can be really powerful: “Mom, Dad, I really appreciate everything you’ve done for me. Choosing what happens over the next few years is the beginning of my adulthood, and I know it’s a bit scary for everyone, but I’m so grateful you’ve raised me so that I feel ready to make the best decisions for me.” Gently dismissive is your new attitude, at least for this topic.

    Remember, this is your future. I won’t presume to know your relationship with your parents, but for me this decision-making was ridden with guilt. I was abandoning my family, I was going to make them deal without me as the third parent/emotional confidante, I was leaving my brother in a less than stellar situation. But I had to embrace, eventually, that this was one decision that was all about me. From someone not far off from your age: do your research. Be realistic with yourself about the career you want and the likelihood of getting there. Have a back-up. But whatever you do, don’t shape a future to please your parents; they’re not the ones who will live it.

    (/mobile post, please forgive any typos or weird syntax)

    1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      Well first of all, hugs, because I remember your previous posts on the subject and I know how hard all of this was for you. I had a similar situation when I was in high school and had to fill out the financial aid forms and forge my mother’s signature or I would have never been able to go to college. Not having parents to rely on, or have to be barreled through, is a hard start.

      Most parents want what’s best for their children and want to support and it’s a matter of everybody getting on the same page and cooperating together. Is what I think. Our situation makes us outliers.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Observation: I realized I’ve been reading this blog so long people have finished high school and gone through college and are now in the workforce.

      2. Honeybee*

        Me too! (re: forging my parents’ signature and doing financial aid forms myself. I did the FAFSA when you could sign electronically, though, so I signed my parents up for dummy email accounts and obtained a PIN for them that way).

    2. neverjaunty*

      “But whatever you do, don’t shape a future to please your parents; they’re not the ones who will live it.”

      This needs to be on a plaque. Also, engraved in reverse on the foreheads of certain clueless parents.

      Very glad to hear that things have worked out for you!

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Tara, I am awed. For all the crap you have been dealt, you are totally on top of things. Your star is going to rise and shine brightly.

      1. Tara R.*

        Aw, thanks. Honestly, the goal is mostly just to keep it together one day at a time, but I’m glad to hear I come across as though I’m on top of things. :)

  17. Nancypie*

    OP4: as I read your question, it sounds like the immediate issue is the cosmetology program. Around here, that would involve going to vo-tech high school and not taking a full course of college track classes. Which does limit your options for college. Maybe not at FIT (have you checked? Talked to your guidance counselor? I know some people,e who went there with a strong concentration in art and design), but you may change your mind. You can always go to cosmetology school, but it’s not easy to make that course back up once you’ve graduated. Taking non-college track coursework limits your options later. And lots of people do change their minds.

    I’m not suggesting you major in college in something you’re not interested in, but now, in HS, leave all doors open. but I’m a mom of a teen….

    1. blackcat*

      On this note, can you talk to someone in admissions at FIT or do research about what types of academic background are typically admitted? My guess is that you need at least more math than you’d get at a vo-tech high school (I have friends who’ve gotten MFAs in the creative arts, and a lot of programs need math through precalculus).

      Going to a vo-tech program in high school can really limit your options. If there is a way to do some cosmetology classes *while still taking regular courses* at your high school, that could be ideal (I have seen a few examples of this). Vo-tech programs can be 100% the right choice for some people, but they really, really do limit your choices after the fact. If you end up wanting to go to a traditional college, you generally need to get an associates at a community college first.

    2. A Teacher*

      Voc Ed teacher here (Health Sciences). No. It doesn’t really limit their options–at least in our district. Kids can still take AP, Dual Credit (what I teach in health sciences) and Enriched classes even if they are in our vocational cosmetology program. Most of our voc tech kids go onto a four year college, some go to the local community college but not all. I have a few that did the cosmetology program so they could make money to pay for school. They don’t want the average debt of $28k when they graduate (current statistic as of October 2015 when I taught that unit and checked with our local community college at which I also adjunct.

      1. Noah*

        Yeah, I did EMT as votech my last year of high school. We couldn’t take the actual certification exam until we were 18, but we could complete the class, do clinical time, and take the practical exam.

        I had already finished most of my required classes, but I still had AP and honors classes in the morning. Then after lunch we went to the tech school for the afternoon. You could either drive or take the bus. I worked as an EMT while in college and even advanced to paramedic by taking a night course one year. It worked out really well because I ended up working a lot of nights and had free time to study in between calls. The pay wasn’t great, but better than retail or food service with lots more downtime.

      2. doreen*

        That’s going to depend a lot on the high school and school system. If the district is one where everyone who lives in a specified area goes to the same high school which has both vocational and academic programs, I’m sure taking the vocational course doesn’t limit options. But it’s a different story in a place like NYC, where ten students living on the same block can attend ten different high schools and the schools that offer cosmetology may not offer AP courses or advanced math and science courses. (Plenty of NYC high schools don’t offer those courses, and I expect that it is mainly the vocational high schools that don’t have them)

  18. brighidg*

    #4 Given how demanding snd competitive the artistic fields are, you should be working towards your goal right now. Are you taking art classes? Can you sew? Do you have your own Etsy page where you can sell what you make? Are you working with your local theater company’s costume department? If not, you need to start hustling now.

    People say there are no paying jobs in creative fields but that’s not true. What is true is you can’t take one art class, toss out a resume to the best damn school in the field and then hope for everything to sort itself. If you do get in, and that’s a big if as it is competitive, you will not only be up against people more talented and experienced but also people who don’t need to be because they have the connections. FIT will be full of trust fund babies with parents who have the pull to get them internships at Donna Karan. You won’t so you need to make up for that with drive, effort, and adaptability. To succeed in the creative workd, it needs to be your life. To quote Britney, you better work.

    And that is why a lot of people go into boring desk jobs. Some might be failures (and you need to decide what you want to do if you don’t get into FIT and it can’t but be try again and hope for the best), some get there and realize it’s not what they expected. They weren’t prepared for what was needed or they found making their hobby their life 24/7 killed the love they had for it. Despite what tv tells you, you don’t have to be defined by your career, you can define yourself other ways. Unless you are going to be the next Vera Wang – and if you want that to happen, you need to start actually working at it right now – then you’ll find that people who define themselves by their jobs tend to be more boring than the cubicle farm folks.

    Also – do you have a portfolio? You need a portfolio. And maybe some clothes you designed and made yourself. If they are clothes you sold or other people wore – like prom dresses for your classmates even better. FIT is going to get tons of applications from people who watched Fashion Runway and thought “that looks easy and fun and like it will make me magically rich and famous!” You need to show you are ahead of the curve because again, your parents don’t sound rich enough to buy a new wing for the school and call it a day.

    And this comes from someone who at 16 wanted to be a fashion designer, had books full of sketches, had girls in my class who had their prom dresses made from my designs but I had no clue where to go beyond that and lacked the financial means to push further without a plan. I know all about how not to succeed in fashion design and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

    1. techfool*

      Agree. I feel that success in creative fields is 50% talent and 50% your ability to make connections. With a loyal clientele, agents, PR people, journalists, bloggers, those already successful in that arena. Perfectly good dancers slog away for years in the corps and never get any further because they don’t get noticed. The brute truth is that there is no shortage of singers, dancers, makeup artists, writers, musicians, beauticians, hairdressers. Being talented doesn’t guarantee that you can make a decent living from that talent.
      Don’t be too quick to diss engineering, there are some terrific jobs in that field. Building an Olympic stadium or a jet engine isn’t too shabby.
      If you remain undeterred – then good luck!

    2. Doriana Gray*

      I love your entire comment, but this:

      People say there are no paying jobs in creative fields but that’s not true. What is true is you can’t take one art class, toss out a resume to the best damn school in the field and then hope for everything to sort itself. If you do get in, and that’s a big if as it is competitive, you will not only be up against people more talented and experienced but also people who don’t need to be because they have the connections.

      Best part, and so true. I said it upthread as well – it’s who you know in these fields, not where you go to school. I also really liked your advice for OP #4 to get a portfolio together now if she doesn’t have one. That portfolio is going to help so much if it’s good.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      I didn’t want to sound mean saying this, so I’m glad you did! If the OP is serious about fashion design and attending FIT, she needs to be sewing and building a portfolio. The competition is tough to get into the top schools and some students have been designing clothes since they were walking.
      On a side note, if the OP hasn’t been involved in costuming or design until now, I can understand why her parents aren’t on board with the career change. They need to see the commitment and the work being put into this new career path. Otherwise they will assume it is a phase like wanting to be a rockstar or professional basketball player.

      1. brighidg*

        To be honest, I wish someone had told me this then. People were either overly pessimistic without explaining why or just gave me platitudes like follow your dreams and it’ll happen… magically, somehow.

        And yeah to your second paragraph – which is why I think the LW should try her hand at actually designing and making her own dresses. She may find the work doesn’t appeal to her or she only likes making hats and nothing else. Or she could discover she really does love it and have a better idea of what her strengths are and what she wants beyond a nebulous “fashion designer”. If her school offers them, she should take some business classes – they’ll probably have a project on how to create a business plan and she can look into what it would be like to run her own online clothing store or something.

    4. Sparrow*

      Yes, this! You need to be developing the skills that you would rely on in this field, both to develop the portfolio you’d need to be competitive and to make sure that you’re actually interested in the reality of this work. Assuming that you go on to college either in fashion or a related field, make a concerted effort to seek out part-time work or internships in your area of interest. It’s the same thing: you’ll want to experience what that job actually looks like and that kind of experience is how you get ultimately get jobs.

      That professional experience can go a surprisingly long way toward assuaging parental concerns, too. I think they default to “there’s no work in that field and you’ll starve to death!” I work with a lot of college students, and, many times, their parents start to mellow when they see that professional opportunities do, in fact, exist for their kids.

  19. Katie the Fed*

    #3 – that is so bizarre. I mean, what does she think you’re going to say? “Now that you mention it, I actually think you should be in the kitchen and leave the real jobs to men.” I mean, this is also in a field that’s pretty filled with women.

    I’m concerned about this environment. I also find it weird that you had a meeting with HR about tersely worded emails – that shouldn’t really rise to the level of HR.

    1. Arielle*

      As a young looking woman who frequently interviews middle aged men for tech positions, it’s pretty easy to tell whether they have a problem with being managed by women without having to explicitly ask the question.

      1. Hannah*

        Yes, I was going to say something similar. It’s not a problem for most, but you can definitely sense it right away when you’re speaking to a man who can’t “hear” women the same way they can hear other men. Directly asking about it was a pretty indelicate way to assess it, since most men know it would be socially unacceptable to say they can’t work for a woman, even if it’s true. A better way would be to ask the candidate to work through a problem during the interview, and then throw out some corrections and feedback on their approach to the solution, to see how they respond to feedback. This manager obviously had a bad feeling about the OP from the start, right or wrong, so she shouldn’t have hired him but continued to let this concern go unchecked. It’s not fun to work for someone insecure or who doesn’t trust you.

        I will close with a story where a candidate for an IT job seemed fine when I spoke with him, but when he met with one of the guys on the team and was asked what his biggest challenge was, the candidate’s answer was literally “working for a woman”. Obviously he was not hired.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        A former supervisor of mine had a guy show up for an interview (he was twenties, early thirties, probably). I don’t think he was expecting a woman to interview him–she said he rolled his eyes when he saw her! And she said he had a little attitude. But we had a laugh over his eye-rolling, and he did not get the job.

    2. Mike C.*

      Agreed. What’s really odd is how well the question follows a trashy realty show I’ve been watching on Bravo.

    3. Ama*

      When I was administrative liaison to a small kitchen staff (run by a woman), we did once have a temp kitchen assistant show up who was sulky half the day before saying directly to the head chef “I just can’t take orders from women.” She sent him home, and I let the temp agency know exactly what happened (they were horrified).

      My initial thought in reading #3 was that the OP’s manager had a similar experience that was making her overly sensitive on this topic, but even if there’s a reason for her behavior she’s still way out of line. (After the above incident, one of my coworkers tried to tell me we should tell the temp agency not to send us men anymore — I ignored her and we later had another man in the kitchen for about a week who was excellent and who I later served as a reference for.)

  20. brighidg*

    #4 Forgot to say is another good thing about actually working towards your goals is it will prove to your parents how successful you are. Taking Art classes? Useful in a variety of fields including medicine and architecture! Working the costume department for your HS theatre? Extracurriculars for your college applications! Learning to make clothes? A useful life skill! Setting up an Etsy shop to sell what you’ve made? Showing initiative and your work ethic while making $.

    You don’t really need to have this fight with your parents because they can’t stop you from applying wherever you want. You can show them that you know what you want and how to succeed at it without saying a word.

  21. Xarcady*

    #4. Have you specifically told your parents that you do not want to be an engineer yet? Because I think that needs to be said, plainly and bluntly.

    In your shoes, I’d do careful research on both careers–engineering and fashion/beauty. You need to include the pluses and minuses of both. Have some ideas about how to handle the negative aspects of fashion/beauty. Then present to your parents why engineering won’t work for you, and why fashion will. One presentation will not change their minds overnight; this will be an on-going process. But doing the research and taking the time to find the benefits and drawbacks of both careers will show them that you are dealing with this maturely. And do tell them you seized on engineering when you were younger because it was the only career you really knew anything about, not because you felt drawn to it.

    Now for how to achieve this.

    As mentioned above, it is entirely possible to double-major or to take a major and one or more minor subjects in college. It is also possible to go to college, get a degree, get a job in that field, and then go to night school and get another degree or certification that you really want. Most colleges require that you take a mix of subjects in your first two years (in the US) and you might even discover another field that interests you.

    For some real life examples of what happens after college, my oldest brother studied Political Science. He’s a corporate lawyer. Another brother went to MIT and became an engineer. Then he went to Harvard for an education degree and became a teacher, then a principal. Now he’s combining the two and creating video games for educational purposes. Another brother was pre-med, and now he’s . . . well, I don’t really know what he’s doing; he works for the federal government, and that is literally all I know. But it is pretty clear that he isn’t using that pre-med degree in his work. Another brother studied Business, and now works as a counselor for mentally ill children, and is a high school soccer coach. Another brother studied Communications, and is in IT at a large company. The last brother studied Education and taught for many years, but is now a database administrator. Me? I studied English and Communications, and I’m an editor. I did kinda sorta know what I liked best early on.

    Your college degree does not have to completely shape your life. Only if you let it.

    1. snarkalupagus*

      Totally true that your education doesn’t define your career path. I was an English major with a concentration in creative writing; fast-forward 25 years and not only am I apparently old (how did that happen??) but I’m also an engineering manager and I love just about every second of it. Try everything that interests you, now and always. When you find something you enjoy, being good at it generally comes easily, and the work involved in getting better at it doesn’t seem as much like work. Take the cosmetology course, and see what you think. From there, keep going, or try something else. Best of luck to you.

  22. Nethwen*

    Q1: I’m a manager on the opposite side. I have an employee who needs a sturdier chair but won’t talk about it. I let staff pick their own chairs and she picked a comfortable one for her, but it is not designed to hold her weight. If she talked to me, we could explore comfortable, sturdy options, but I’m not going to single her out. I consider more frequent replacements a cost of business.

    1. hbc*

      If it’s breaking the same way every time, I think it would be a real kindness to just get a different chair that’s more sturdy in that regard. If she asks why, just say that when there are X breakages in Y timeframe, it makes sense to get a different option. But I’m betting she’d be grateful to skip the talk *and* not have to keep requesting replacements.

    2. F.*

      The cost of a worker’s comp claim if the employee’s chair breaks and they are injured is much more than the cost of a size-appropriate chair and the uncomfortable conversation you might have to have with the employee.

    3. BethRA*

      What hbc and F. said. Talking to her directly might feel awkward, but I can’t imagine having one’s chair break on a regular basis isn’t embarrassing, too.

    4. Chriama*

      If the chair has been replaced frequently, I think you need to say something. Just tell her – you picked out this chair the last 2 times and it’s always broken. Can you try looking at something more sturdy? Let her read into that what she will, it shouldn’t stop you from pointing it out in a common-sense way.

    5. Nethwen*

      To hopefully reassure everyone, it’s not dangerous breaking. No casters or arms or other parts falling off. It’s more along the lines of the chair permanently tilts in one direction or the hydraulics stop working sooner or the back gets loose and is uncomfortable for anyone else (we sometimes have to share workspaces). Also, for reference, “frequent” in our case is having to replace a chair more often than every three years or so.

  23. Organized Chaos*

    Re: #1 We had an employee that needed a chair that had a higher weight threshold and when they advised that the current chairs that we have are uncomfortable (it should not get to the point where pieces of the chair are falling off) I just ask them to find a couple of chair options they like for me to select from. This way they feel involved and not embarrassed. There are several chair sites that have good chairs with thresholds around 550 lbs that are generally under the $400 price point. I understand the OP’s feelings and concerns and they are valid. It is important that people remember that something as simple as a chair can change so much for the employee and ultimately the employer as well. This employee was able to spend more time at their desk, got more work done, was less emotional in regards to feeling embarrassed about the chair situation and less morally draining once we fixed that tiny issue.

    Also, in the OP case, there are inexpensive chairs that you can get that have the ability to raise and lower the seat to help with the issue of needing to sit heavily in the chair or put a lot of weight on the armrests.

  24. TotesMaGoats*

    #4-I’m going to answer this from two perspective. 1. If you know that you want to be in fashion design, then be in fashion design. It’s actually ok that at 16 you know where you want your life to go. I did. And I’m doing exactly what I said I wanted to do. I think culture assumes that you have to work your way through your early 20’s to really figure out who you are and what you want to be. You can absolutely know that at 16. If this is your path, strut it. You don’t have to have your parent’s blessing on your career. But finding a way to sell them on this will make life a lot easier. I would say that since money/stability seems to be the crux of their argument find data to support that fashion can be a lucrative field. I don’t know that you are the next DVF but that doesn’t mean you aren’t or can’t be.

    2. The problem you will run into is if you are trying to get loans prior to being 18. At 17, unless you are emancipated, you can’t get loans in your own name for college from the feds. You might be able to get some scholarships though. However, if due to your birthday, you’ll be 18 then your parents don’t have to cosign.

    I will add, if you are in college and Mom and Dad are more in your academic business than you would prefer, then make sure that you DO NOT sign a FERPA waiver to give them access to grades and such. Normally, I’m an advocate for parents having some access usually because they are paying. But if you are the one shouldering all the debt then don’t give them that access. It’s usually pushed pretty heavily at freshman orientation. I don’t know about FIT but if you can get in there then you’ll probably do pretty well.

    Good luck!

    1. fposte*

      Yes, I was thinking about the space between parent and student too. There aren’t many private loans that you can get without a co-signer or credit, so they’re likely to be federal; federal loans tend to be smaller, so keep that in mind, especially if you don’t get much aid from FIT.

      And in general, I’d recommend starting to figure out the financing possibilities and implications ASAP, for a bunch of reasons. Some of them are for your own direct good–understanding what you’d be taking on and how long it would take you before you were no longer paying, doing research to figure out what kind of income you’d need to make to afford loan repayments and eating at the same time. And some of them are less direct–like because knowing how the money works looks really, really good to parents, to admissions committees, etc. I help people starting out at a variety of ages, and the ones who are nearly irresistible are those who have clearly spent time understanding how things work and the long-term implications. And the younger you are, the more credit you get for busting out a spreadsheet :-).

    2. Honeybee*

      You can get federal student loans at 17! There is a specific waiver of the age 18 requirement for entering into contracts for federal student loans. See question #6 here.

  25. TL17*

    #4 – My undergrad degree is in forestry (because day-long lab classes that involve hikes in the woods, fresh air, and sometimes canoe trips are a very well-kept but awesome secret). Now I’m a criminal defense lawyer. I never have to measure a tree in my everyday work. But – in hindsight, I realize that what I’m good at and what interests me is a good puzzle. I like mysteries, too. One of the things about forests is that you can figure them out, based on the clues around you. Aside from my overall opinion that trees are awesome, I realize that what appealed to me about my classes was the “figuring out” part of the coursework. I get to do the same thing now, to some extent, with my current career.

    All this to say that it might take OP4 some thought about what it is that appeals to her/him at the root, pick up on that thread, and see where it goes.

    1. overeducated and underemployed*

      This is interesting! I also took an educational path that also involved trips and the outdoors, and then a lot of research deep in paperwork, but I really liked the “figuring it out” or “uncovering things” aspects of both too. There is no way I’m going back to school, so I will not be copying you, but I am hoping to find new career opportunities that involve that.

  26. Rebelina11*

    For OP#1: We have a larger-than-most nurse that works for us and she asked for the upgraded chair and it was purchased. No hassle, no hoopla, a simple accommodation for someone who is a wonderful asset to us in our office. So it cost a little more… big whoop. Totally ask for what you need to be comfortable doing your work and expect that it will be purchased for you. Ultimately, it is a savings to your employer because, goodness forbid, you fall or hurt yourself on a flimsy chair. Who would be responsible for taking care of your medical bills then? You get the picture. Ask for what you need. Don’t worry about what people say about your weight – remember: what people say about you is none of YOUR business. Who cares? Ask for what you need to do your job, simply and to the point.

    1. CM*

      Our office also special-ordered a chair for a very tall person. Just mentioning in case it helps to think of it as “people have different bodies” rather than “I have to ask for a special accommodation because of my weight.”

    2. Ad Astra*

      I’m so glad to hear these tales of reasonable companies handling reasonable requests like this! Even a fancy chair costs no more than $1,000 or so, right? That’s really not much money to make an employee feel valued and save them the hassle of constantly fixing or replacing a chair.

  27. Rusty Shackelford*

    #4: I am the parent of a 16-year-old who is trying to decide between a career in art or science (and I have to be honest, I’m praying for science), so I feel your mom’s pain. I suspect she’ll be more likely to see things your way if you are as practical as possible, and show her you’re not just all “oooh, pretty things, sounds like fun!” For example, point out that the cosmetology program will let you get a good job that will help pay your way through college. Make sure you’re taking all the college-track classes. Show her statistics on how many graduates of FIT get jobs in their field. And be honest about engineering. Tell them you expressed an interest in engineering because of your father, but you realize now that you said that without actually having a clue what was involved, and now you realize it would be a horrible waste of your/their money to pursue an engineering degree, since it’s not a field you would excel in.

    1. Duffel of Doom*

      Tell your 16 year old to look into scientific illustration!
      And to start watching The Brain Scoop, with Emily Graslie. She has an art degree, but ended up in a science field.

    2. Cat Chaser*

      For a look at science illustration, look at the website for the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators, gnsi.org. My DH is a member, and they have local chapters across the U.S. and some international chapters too.

    3. Honeybee*

      Another suggestion for your 16-year-old is industrial design – using art and some engineering/scientific principles to design Things. I taught a summer public health program and one summer I had an industrial design student. She had an entire sketchbook of designs of really useful things, like an asthma inhaler you can keep on your keychain. She recently won a grant to design a portable for for low-resource countries; she started her own LLC to design hygiene systems and products and also works as a design specialist for an international health organization. (One of my favorite students ever.)

      She does a lot of social science-y related research, too; the toilet website talks about it, but one of the things she does is community needs assessment – she goes into communities that need health infrastructure improvements and interviews members about what they need.

  28. Sigrid*

    #4, I really recommend the blog of Kathleen Fasanella (fashion-incubator.com), who is a professional pattern maker and someone who is very invested in helping the next generation of sewn product manufacturers (if you’re a fashion designer, that’s you). I’d suggest going through her archives, and maybe joining her forum, if you can afford it. If you buy her book, $40, the forum is free for a year. You will learn a lot about what the day-to-day life of someone in the fashion industry, and if you join the forum, you can talk to professionals. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in fashion as a career.

    One thing she will tell you is that a) pattern makers make a lot (a LOT) more money than designers; b) pattern makers are essentially engineers; and c) most pattern makers use CAD nowadays. It’s something to think about.

  29. Christy*

    Some (more) unsolicited things to think about for OP #4:

    You can definitely make a career in the arts, but there are some challenges with it that you might not encounter in other fields. My friend got a degree in sound design from a well-regarded arts school, but she didn’t do any internships during the summers–she wanted to come home in summer and see her high school friends. She also didn’t want to move away from her hometown after graduating. The result of this is that all of her friends who did internships and moved away and lived on theatre tour buses now have good theatre careers, and she manages a Rite Aid. If you’re going to get a specialized degree, you have to hustle to actually make the education worth it. Without the hustle and the internships and the low-paying jobs, it’s a LOT harder to make a career in your field. And with the specialized education (with a BFA instead of a BA), it’s harder to get other careers because almost all your classes were field-specific.

    One thing that makes it a lot easier to hustle is parental support. Every single person I know who is making a career in the arts had parental support, either by paying for an internship or letting their kid graduate without debt or letting them live at home after graduating. I have several friends who have day jobs and also work in the arts, but they all need day jobs. It’s an unfortunate fact of life–the well-off can better afford to work in the arts. If you have student debt from going to FIT, then you’ll have to be able to make your loan payments, which means you won’t be able to afford a full-time job at a low salary.

    My college theatre technical director used to tell us, if you can stand to do anything other than theatre for a career, do something other than theatre. (The idea was that a career in theatre was always going to involve struggle, but if you *needed* to do theatre, then it was worth it.) That’s always stuck with me. Do you *need* to work in fashion? If it’s the only thing that’s going to make you happy, then work in fashion. But be ready for the struggle. (Incidentally, I tell this to aspiring librarians too–many don’t realize that librarianship is a hard field to break into.)

    1. Christy*

      And as a total aside, not particularly directed at you, OP #4: I went to library school, just like my mom and grandmother did, and now I work for the same government agency as my stepmother, doing the same kind of work as my dad. It’s actually really cool to be able to talk about work with family. Like, my dad totally understands what I do, and I can even help him with technical stuff. (It’s totally mindblowing.) And my stepmom just totally gets it too–she’s been here for like 30 years. I never would have wanted to do what my dad does, but it turns out I actually kind of like it, and it’s great being able to talk about it with him.

    2. overeducated and underemployed*

      I’ve heard that same advice to “only do X if you can’t see yourself being happy doing anything else,” it’s very common in attractive and competitive fields, and I think it is only good advice for the personality types who think they could only be happy doing one thing. I’ve always thought I could be adaptable and find things to like about different paths, but when I heard that advice before going to grad school for my field X, I figured that I might as well TRY for plan A even though I think I could be happy with plans B and C as well. Honestly, now that I’m applying for jobs both within and outside of field X, I still feel that way – not giving up on the competitive field until I’ve actually failed or gotten a better opportunity.

      What I would highlight for someone who comes from it in terms of “might as well try,” though, is that opportunity cost matters. 4 years spent doing or studying one thing are 4 years you can’t get ahead in another direction, and getting to do something you’re passionate about for 4 years is pretty awesome, but there is a major trade-off. Also, a thing I didn’t know at college age was that just because something is a “career” doesn’t mean that all jobs in it pay a living wage, which was something I’d assumed growing up – it’s one thing to not live in the style to which you’ve become accustomed, and it’s another entirely to cobble together low-paying gigs and wonder if you can pay the rent.

      1. Christy*

        And see, for me, I think I’m about as happy in my field as I’d be in any field, so I’m happy I’m in a field with good work/life balance and also a high salary. I’m happy PLUS there’s side benefits. If I were living the dream and doing theatre, I probably wouldn’t be much happier, but I’d definitely be busier and more broke.

        1. overeducated and underemployed*

          That sounds great :) I think it is tough sometimes for a 20 year old to realize how much they will value work-life balance at age 30 (or 25, or 40) sometimes, when settling down seems very far away, especially if they don’t have much of a life yet (in terms of commitments to partners, family, pets, and other things that hold you in one place). I know I would’ve said “but when your job is your PASSION, it’s ok to work long hours! And I’m not in it to get rich!” A decade later, I really want to be able to leave work at work and save for retirement, because I’ve realized that no job will provide enough PASSION to make me happy on its own.

          1. Honeybee*

            yeah, one of the other things I tell my (skeptical) high school and college advisees is that money and stability don’t matter to them now but they probably will in 5-10 years. I am in my late 20s, and I do have a couple of friends who would still much rather have flexibility and excitement than a steady income and a stable place to live (probably more than most, because I lived in NYC for several years). But most do care, and they make employment decisions accordingly.

            My students always say “I don’t care about money! I just want to do something I’m passionate about” or whatever. One of my favorite bookmarked posts from this blog has a lot of commenters mentioning that it’s nice to work on something that you are not passionate about, because you can disconnect mentally and go home at 5 or 6 and not think about work for the rest of the evening. Lots of people who are in jobs they are passionate chimed in from the other side – saying that while they love their jobs they wished sometimes they could disengage more or care less.

        2. LENEL*

          Kindred spirit! I love theatre, studied law at university. Work as a non-lawyer in government and do community theatre to fulfil the theatre hole.

          I always knew I wanted a house etc and I knew that the uncertainty of some arts make it hard for that to become a reality where you can’t depend on a steady paycheck and work is exceedingly difficult to come by.

          For me it was a good choice, I love my desk job (which is something I couldn’t imagine when I was applying to university but figured it would all just work out) and I have time and energy to put into theatre, which I love! Win-win for me, and for me it’s enough!

      2. Walnut*

        >>I’ve heard that same advice to “only do X if you can’t see yourself being happy doing anything else,” it’s very common in attractive and competitive fields, and I think it is only good advice for the personality types who think they could only be happy doing one thing.<<

        Yessssss, and also people who don't have doubt-ridden brains. I always think that I probably would be happy maybe doing things that aren't exactly what I want to be doing, and maybe I should do one of those things if everyone is telling me to do it. I think better advice, in creative fields, is to think about what occupies your brain in your quiet, self-reflective time. If you constantly think about your creative work instead of anything else, that's an indication that you should be trying to make space for it in your day to day life.

      3. Honeybee*

        People say that about academia, but I don’t like the statement – not because I don’t agree with it (I DO), but because I think it’s easy for young adults to get one-track minded about some things and really hard for them to envision doing other things because they have yet to be exposed to them. Some of them – most of them, maybe – take it to mean “If you can’t imagine yourself being as happy as you are in academia doing anything else,” when I literally mean “If imagining yourself doing any other kind of job makes you miserable and sad.”

        And I am BIG on opportunity cost. I love my current job, and it requires the PhD I spent 6 years getting. But I’m unsure of the answer to the question “Was it all worth it?” People often assume that it was because I have an awesome job that requires a PhD, but I’m not sure it was. I’m the kind of person who’s happy doing a lot of different kinds of things. So I could’ve gotten another job I loved equally with less education, and have had 4-6 extra years to put money away in my 401(K) or travel the world or actually live with my husband. So when some students say “Well, I’m going to try for it [being a professor, they mean] anyway, and if it doesn’t work out I can just do something else” I acknowledge that they are right, but strongly encourage them to consider carefully the psychological and emotional toll that can have on your life. Plainly put, delayed gratification sucks really bad, especially if the gratification is different from what you expected.

    3. brighidg*

      Truth. My friends who have succeeded in creative fields came with parents who had the means to provide or had an incredible drive and work ethic and were still lucky enough to have parents who could help them out when times got rough.

      That’s why I keep banging on the Etsy shop. It doesn’t have to be an Etsy shop but a means to make her own money and to support herself will certainly not hurt. Also, a style blog or tumblr where she shows off what she wears and what she’s made – enough clicks and she can make money from that too. She just needs to hustle.

    4. AnotherAlison*

      I had a BFF in high school who went to school for music ed, with no intention of teaching. She created a really good nonprofit career in music, though.

      She did not have supportive parents. Just the opposite, actually. Her parents were in their late 50s and on disability. What she did have was a terrific mentor and advocate with a million connections in the field. So I agree, some type of family support or other support is very advantageous with an arts career.

  30. Employment Lawyer*

    #1: Do the looking yourself to make it simpler. Also it avoids any guessing about what you need: “Here are a couple of examples of an affordable chair which would work” is better than “please find something.”

    You may simply want to give a few links to common sites which offer “big and tall” office chairs, e.g.

    Depending on your size/weight you may need to be specific about what “pound rating” you need. Don’t make them guess.

  31. Lily in NYC*

    #4 – I was accepted into a top music college and didn’t go. It is the biggest regret of my life. My parents didn’t forbid me to go, but they are so anti-risk that it affected my views until I was living on my own. If they had their way I would have been a civil servant with job stability and a pension. So I decided to attend a highly academic university instead. And I didn’t love it. I’ve had interesting jobs and make good money now, but I am so “meh” about it. Because none of them were my passion. The only reason I do well now is because of my work ethic. But when I’m doing something music-related, I can lose myself for hours and not even notice. I would love to have a job where I feel that way.
    You are so young. This is your time to take risks and try to do something you love – you can always change your major or transfer if you feel like you made a mistake. GO FOR IT!

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      Yep, I too had conservative and low risk taking parents (engineer dad and stay at home mom) who didn’t want me to do anything risky. My dream was to be an interior designer and they would absolutely not support it. They talked me out of it saying I wouldn’t be able to support myself for years if at all, while trying to build enough clientele. I ended up not taking college seriously, dropped out, and later went to a trade school for a “safe” career in mainframe computer operations, which ironically is totally useless and obsolete now. So now I watch HGTV all weekend and decorating is just a hobby, and I work as an Admin. Looking back, I totally should and could have stood up to my parents, I was just afraid to.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      It would be nice to have a job that is your passion, but as most creative people know, those jobs don’t always pay the bills. Better still would be a way to leverage your passion into a career where you can actually afford to eat and still do what you love most days.

      I basically can’t write novels all day and get paid for it (yet!), so I have to just work and do it in my off hours. Lucky for me, I found a job where I get to edit and proofread, which I enjoy. I did go back to school recently in a tech writing course, but I HATED IT. Plus I did not want to spend any more time/money in school.

      My advice for the OP would be to look at many various options for a career in fashion/beauty, not just the obvious ones. This will help with school costs by focusing your education better, and it could also help you if you want to move into other areas of the industry.

      1. Erin*

        I’m in somewhat of the same boat as you – want to be a novelist, but am currently settling for freelance writing in addition to my two admin jobs.

        I constantly see technical writing jobs offered in my area. Can I ask why you hated the tech writing course you took?

        1. The Strand*

          One drawback to technical writing, is that some people find it taxes their entire creative muscle, and they can’t really do both kinds of writing in the same day.

          I suggest that you check out the TechWhirl website to read more and get feedback on it.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Yes, this. I find that’s true even with this job, where I don’t write but edit and proofread reports that are full of passive language and industry jargon. I have to fight to keep it from creeping into my fiction!

        2. Elizabeth West*

          At the time, I was unemployed and couldn’t find anything that worked with my math LD, so I went to Vocational Rehab and ultimately found that program. I have no subject matter expertise, and the whole program just seemed to focus on things I could learn online if I could be arsed to do so. I had to take a class in document design (and I SUCK at this–I’m a word person, not a layout person), and we had to learn InDesign, which is 1) expensive, 2) I could have taught myself from YouTube, if I could afford it, and 3) I never use at my job. They talked about a 90% placement rate after graduation–but I could not figure out what to do with it, and I don’t want to go into documentation at my job for reasons.

          Instead, I will be paying for the two degrees and the attempt at grad school I already did until I die, and now I have more on top of that. I felt pressured, I felt unhappy, and I wanted to write books, not more endless school papers. Every time I try to make things better, they get worse, so I ended up quitting. I am not going back to school. Ever.

          I did learn some good stuff, but it could have been done a different way. I do not want the OP to end up where I am, because this is even worse than what she imagines.

        3. Shell*

          No one asked me, but chiming in as someone who also took technical writing courses recently and who also abandoned it midway.

          I took four courses in total, which were all considered intro-ish level courses at the school I was going to. I did learn some good information about layout and design, but I found the style of writing to be extremely dull. I’m used to creative/fiction writing (hobby I do in my spare time) and business writing, and tech writing was neither; the style frustrated me to no end.

          I was also taking the program part-time while I worked at my full-time job, so I was further behind in the program than some of my classmates. Discussion with my classmates revealed that tech writing jobs aren’t in great abundance in my area (a little bit of networking with tech writers in my area/tech writing program graduates confirmed this), and most are part-time/contract/freelance. I didn’t want to go from a job of relative stability to one of instability (and because of the instability, paid less overall). So my career prospects after graduation didn’t seem all that great, at least for my area. All in all, I also say that it wasn’t really worth the effort for me.

          1. Erin*

            Thank you so much Shell and Elizabeth, I really appreciate that insight. (Hope I’m not hijacking the thread from the main topic too much but this is extremely helpful.)

            I’ve been curious, because like you guys I’m more into writing fiction – wrote one novel, haven’t been able to get it published, have no agent – but I’ve been lucky enough to get some (nonfiction) freelance writing, with a couple newspapers and a local magazine.

            I used to write for a classified ads business who sold things like, cars, so I would write about how to go about buying a used car; safety of older, classic cars; the differences between models; how to perform maintenance yourself on a car – in other words, things I’m 100% not interested in. It felt like I was writing stereo instructions, but it helped me realize I’m good at writing about things I don’t necessarily know anything about upon going into it.

            So, technical writing was something I’ve been considering and I appreciate your insight. I will proceed with caution. :)

            1. Shell*

              I don’t think my courses were completely worthless–I feel like after learning the principles my business emails have improved a lot, though that could also just be daily practice. And when I left my last job I wrote an 85-page customized manual for a particular software (with lots of screenshots, so the actual page count of words was probably around 40 pages), and I think the tech writing knowledge helped a lot there. That was the closest thing I’ve done to real technical writing (also for a subject I had no innate interest in).

              But I don’t use that tech writing knowledge in my daily job now, and while I admit that the classes were helpful in some respects, they weren’t worth forking over $1000+ for. Your mileage may vary. :)

            2. Elizabeth West*

              If you’re good at that kind of writing, you probably will rock at tech writing. I’m the exact opposite–if I’m not really interested in it, I can write it, but the article won’t engage anyone and usually turns out unutterably dull. I had a content job for almost a year writing for wiseGEEK.com, and that was fun, because I could pick the topics I wanted to cover. But it didn’t pay much (more than most content mills–it was per article and not per batch).

              Like Shell, I don’t think they were a total waste, but I’m angry that I didn’t figure stuff out WAY earlier. I think my first mistake was going to music school right out of high school, because everybody was enamored with my singing voice. And I wanted to be in entertainment as a performer, so it seemed to fit, but studying opera for four years turned singing into work and wasn’t exactly a fit. A gap year would have been extremely valuable, especially if I could have stayed in London instead of only visiting for two weeks after I graduated.

              I had some parental bullshit also, which I won’t go into, but it was intense enough that I feel like it pretty much doomed me.

      2. Kathleen*

        Yeah, good points. Like Lily, I’m a musician too, and I’ve always wondered if trying to make money at it would be worth it. Right now, I write what I want, when I want, and don’t have to please anybody but myself. Even if I only ever got reviewed in small publications, I’m not sure I would want to have my (very personal) work picked over by other people, and I know I’d worry about trying to make music that was more marketable. Still, I’m not sure it isn’t worth a go, since it is what I love. But it’s not like, I would absolutely, 100% be happier doing that than my nonprofit job where I get to help people, you know?

    3. Liana*

      Ugh, I’m so sorry. A similar thing happened to me – I wanted to pursue a communications degree at a well-regarded private school several hours away and my parents essentially bullied me into going to the local college across town. My dad in particular is very anti-risk and anytime I brought up the the possibility of studying abroad or travelling or doing anything adventurous, he’d nay-say it until I gave up. Listening to his advice in that respect is one of my biggest regrets.

  32. Not Karen*

    #4: Okay, let’s get one thing straight: You do not need to be 18 to take out federal student loans – they are an exception. You don’t even need your parents to cosign the loans if you are under 18. I’ll reply with a link. Case in point: I was 15 when I went to college, and I ended up with all the loans (though at 15, I didn’t understand how that works).

    1. fposte*

      Wow, I didn’t know that. The logic (the defense of infancy doesn’t apply to federal loans) is kind of fascinating, but I’m glad to hear it’s possible because the alternative is even tougher. (I don’t think most 18 year olds know it works either.)

  33. Hannah*

    #4: I’m a huge supporter of going to school for engineering and then not taking a traditional engineering job! I graduated almost 4 years ago and moved quickly from a job title that actually had the word engineer in it to a design role (I design software). I meet people fairly often whose kids are applying to college who want to know if engineering school is a good idea. I always tell them yes! Especially for young women, I think you’ll find that everyone (professors, advisers, hiring managers) is excited to work with female engineers and move on from the idea that it’s a male only field – that was always my experience. You can do anything after obtaining an engineering degree. If you’re smart enough and have the kind of mind that can handle the coursework (decent at math and science, logical) engineering school will train your mind to be good at problem solving. You’re not going to wake up one day after graduation and find yourself a nuclear engineer sitting in a cubicle – specialized subjects like that require more training or more advanced degrees. A BS in engineering is going to give you more general training that you can apply anywhere, including fashion. If you want to do something safe/practical, I would say think about majoring in engineering to start and keep working on fashion design on the side and then for grad school. No one can stop you from doing art if you’re an artist, but if you start with an art degree and can’t find a job in that field, you may struggle financially and be unhappy. It’s understandable that your parents don’t want that for you. If you can’t stand engineering and it’s not right for you, you can alwaye change course!

  34. Observer*

    I haven’t read all of the responses, but I agree with the ones that say that it’s just sensible for your employer to get you a chair that works for you, but if you need to invoke the ADA.

    I found this blog post about a similar issue to be interesting. This guy is an employer’s lawyer, and it was nice to see a management attitude that embraces reasonable accomodation.


    1. Noah*

      The accounting department at my current employer asked the safety department (me) if an ergonomic chair was required by OSHA. We ended up scheduling a meeting and discussing it. Bottom line, OSHA doesn’t specifically say we have to give out special chairs, but it does say we have a general duty to keep the workplace free of known hazards, including ergonomic hazards.

      What it finally came down to was that the accounting department didn’t want to spend $400 on the requested chair when they normally spend $300. I’m fairly certain we wasted $100 or more in productivity time by conversing and meeting about the subject. Just give them the chair!

  35. Roscoe*

    #3 I’d say you should get out of this place. From here, it seems that she more has a problem managing men than you would have a problem working for a woman. I probably wouldn’t have wanted to work for someone who asked that in the first place, but then the fact that a tersely worded email got taken to HR? Doesn’t seem like you 2 will ever have a functional relationship because she has some baggage she is bringing in.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I worked for a woman that disliked supervising women. I was sunk before I started. (I never would have taken the job if I had known. I did not learn this until I was a month or so into the job.)

  36. Observer*

    #4 – I haven’t read most of the responses, so I’m probably overlapping others.

    Firstly, take the CADD course, rather than cosmetology. CAD & CADD have wide application in a whole host of fields, including beauty and fashion. Cosmetology is far narrower, and I think it’s early for you to decide that that’s what you want to do.

    In general, the good schools are interested in students who have taken a significant academic load and have done well. They also don’t like to see courses that are often considered “fluff”. That’s something you should factor in, in general. I would say to take as many design related courses as you can, but choose the ones with the broadest applicability.

    Someone mentioned doing research on the various fields in beauty and fashion, as well as talking to people who have taken these tracks. You’ll be in a better position to make the best choices if you do that. And, you will also be in a better position to convince your parents that you are making the right choices for you.

    It also wouldn’t hurt to look into what engineering really involves. Start by having some conversations with your father. And, do yourself a favor and talk to some female engineers if you can. These women are NOT going into the field to spend a few years in a cubicle and then retire with “two children and a dog.” I’m not tying to convince you to become an engineer. But, you’ll be in a better position to understand your choices if you understand what the field really entails. And, in the event that you decide that this is really not the route for you, you will be in a much better position to possibly convince your parents.

    Lastly, once you hit 18, you don’t need your parent’s permission to take whatever courses you want in college. However, you need to be strategic, as the costs can be very high and even merit scholarships may not cover all of your expenses if you parents push back hard enough in terms of financial support. The more you know, the better you have planned, and the more money you have saved up, the better off you are. On the one hand, you are more likely to convince your parents and on the other hand, you are more likely to be successful, even if they don’t help you.

    And, talking of merit scholarships, you are more likely to qualify is you take more “serious” vs “fluff” courses. So that’s another thing to think about.

    Someone mentioned

    1. Not Karen*

      You don’t need your parent’s permission to take whatever courses you want in college even if you’re under 18.

      1. Observer*

        That’s largely true. But, anything that needs signatures is going to be a problem if her parents balk. Once she’s 18 it’s a non-issue.

    2. Jennifer*

      Her parents won’t have control over what she takes in college, but she’ll be better off with their financial support than without. I’m thinking of some folks I knew who struggled constantly in college because they were trying to support themselves 100% and pay for school at the same time.

  37. F.*

    I went to school with the desire to become a meteorologist at the Severe Storms Forecast Center in Oklahoma. However, the local state university to which I won a full scholarship did not have a meteorology program, so I took all the math I could and got a BS in Math. By the time I graduated, I had a full-time bookkeeping job in the commercial printing industry that paid pretty well, and I couldn’t afford out-of-state tuition to the University of Oklahoma. Got married, moved to current city (husband #1’s hometown) and worked as a bookkeeper for a safety supply company. Had kids and was a SAHM for 13 years until husband #1 left. Got an administrative asst. job at Very Large Dysfunctional Financial Services Company. Eventually ended up in the Division of the Corporate Secretary for the same company, and the company paid for nearly all of a Paralegal Certificate (which I finished) before they laid me off. Then got a job in the engineering/construction industry, first as an admin, then office manager, now HR manager. To make the long story short, I have never worked in meteorology (maybe in my next life!), used my math degree professionally, or been employed as a paralegal, but I took away so much practical knowledge from both lines of education that I regret neither one.

    For that matter, at the civil engineering/construction inspection firm where I currently work, our employees possess a variety of degrees, and some have none at all. Our best inspector has a Divinity degree, and another good inspector has a degree in Computer Animation. Some have no degree at all, but years of construction experience. The college degree is just part of a foundation on which to build a career, but it is not the only thing, nor does it have to limit you. I hope you do end up in a field where you are happy. And that may not end up being what you think it is now, either.

  38. Here Is My Spout*

    I have been the mother in OP 4’s letter. Ultimately, your mother wants the same thing you want. For you to be self-sufficient and independent. My engineer husband and I, an accountant, somehow raised creative kids. This was a little scary for us. All I want is for my kids to be happy. For me that translates into careers they like and can afford to pay the bills. What we did was to get our kids career counseling as they were taking their SAT’s, ACTs and applying for colleges. It reassured us that there were careers out there in their discipline and showed our kids what many options were that played to their strengths. OP4, could you ask your parents if you could meet with a career counselor? This turned out the money well spent for us. Good luck.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Good point about it being scary for the parents. My friend, at age ten had surpassed his parents in his mechanical abilities and his understanding of mechanics. What the heck do you do with a kid that knows more about how your appliances work at age 10 than you do at 40? His parents had to be overwhelmed. “No, I don’t take my appliances to a repair shop. My ten year old fixes them for me.”
      Take extra care not to mistake lack of understanding as resistance or arguing. If they ask questions where the answer seems obvious to you, assume it is a real question for them and answer them fully and sincerely. Don’t assume the question is argumentative in basis.

  39. rozin*

    I feel you LW4. I had the exact same thing except my mother wanted me to be a doctor, and I wanted to do video production. And even though I’ve graduated AND have a full-time job in the field, she still expresses disappointment that I didn’t become a doctor. However, I was able to partially convince her and my father by getting a part-time video job while at school plus earned enough Merit scholarships (apply to any and every one you can) to be able to pay for college almost entirely myself. Oh, and FYI, I am working in video production, but I sit at a cubicle. ;P

  40. Anna*

    Hi OP#4!

    I currently go to Parsons for my MFA (DT) and a lot of my friends are fashion designers. I’ll be honest with you, being a fashion designer is a lot like trying to be an actress. A lot of people are very very talented, but very few make it. The majority of my friends that are doing well come from an affluent background and whose parents supported them for awhile before they found decent paying jobs in the industry.

    To get your BFA in fashion, you’ll spend 4 years in grueling labor, you’ll have to do free internships that will have you be on-call 24/7, you’ll spend the rest of your time in the pattern making studios designing collections for spring/fall shows, and most likely you’ll not have much of a life. These are the things people do to be successful in the industry. For a portfolio you’ll need Coqui drawings, and a basic aptitude for sketching/painting. While FIT is a good school, if you want to go this route, I HIGHLY suggest you apply for Parsons. It’s much more expensive, but the connections you get to the fashion industry here is unparalleled, even by FIT. And to be blunt, you’ll need all the connections you can get.

    If you have a dream, pursue it. But in all honestly, I’ve seen some very very talented designers struggle to make it. Sometimes even talent and hard work isn’t enough, that’s just the fashion industry. I want you to make this choice with open eyes OP, fashion is not a glamorous occupation. But, you might be one that makes it, and for those of my friends it was super worth it.

  41. Renee*

    #4: I helped a lot of my daughter’s friends with academic planning, in part because I went to college late and learned a lot from navigating my own educational career.

    I’m a huge fan of vocational training in high school, but I think you need to think deeper than just what interests you, versus what interests your parents. Have you done some research into the entry requirement for various schools? Have you considered talking to admissions at the school you are interested in? They can tell you what they look for. You may not get your first choice, so toy will want to have backup plans, and you will want to be an attractive candidate for them as well. Your goal right now is to make yourself the best candidate you can for the future you want. I’m not sure the cosmetology program is going to make you a standout candidate, and while it sounds like CAD may actually help, it may also not be necessary. Others have suggested that being skilled in art, business, marketing, and other topics may be useful; you might want to go to a school where you can learn some of those skills as well.

    Finally, so keep in mind that sometimes, career aspirations change as you start exporting a bit more. My daughter wanted to be a veterinarian in early high school, a physical therapist later, then a lawyer or judge. She’s now in college for speech language pathology. Do make sure your courses will get you into traditional colleges as well.

    A few hours of planning will both go a long way in helping you get where you want to be, and also in convincing your parents that you are able to make sound decisions about your educational and career path.

  42. Meg*

    For #3, I have to ask – is there maybe something else going on under the covers here? This reminds me of an interview I did with a candidate a few years ago – I only had him for half an hour (it was a series of half hours with various folks) but he managed to take a great portion of that to mansplain to me how to handle my stock options. I just let him ramble on because he was hanging himself – but made it clear to the hiring manger that I thought he had problems with women and that I did not recommend we hire him. My concerns were laughed off, but a later interviewer (HR) also figured out his problems with women and DQd him.

    I’m not saying the question is necessarily appropriate, but it may have been prompted by other cues in the interview.

    1. voyager1*

      Hold up, how the heck did you get to discussing stock options? Not trying to defend the guy, but he might have thought talking about that was way to buddy up to you. But still stock options in a first interview? What did he say to the HR person.

      Oh and FYI “mansplained” is a pretty gendered term. It would be like telling a woman that she “wifesplained” something to me. Not defending the dude for being an ass, but can he just be an ass ;)
      Just something to think about. Not trying to pile on you or anything.

      1. Observer*

        It’s a gendered term, because it’s gendered behavior. I’ve had all-around jerks talk down to me and I’ve had things mainsplained to me, and there is a difference.

        And, I like the term “wifesplain”. I’ve never seen that kind of interaction between a woman and “just” a guy. But, listening to the way some women talk about their husbands, I’d be willing to bet the “wifesplain” lots of things to their husbands.

        1. voyager1*

          Oh we men have our terms for women who do the same. “Man Hater” or “B” or “she hasn’t gotten any lately” or “that time of the month.” Take your pick, all are wrong to say.

          1. Observer*

            You don’t see the difference between an admittedly gendered term that *accurately* describes a well documented highly gendered behavior, and terms that just throw general negative stereotypes at people? “Mansplaining” is the former. All of the others are the latter. That would be true even if the phenomenon existed, which I highly doubt. The fact that these kinds of highly sexist terms are used to describe the supposed behavior (terms that do not speak to the behavior, but do speak to the assumptions of male superiority) just strengthens my doubts on the matter.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            “Mansplaining” is a term describing a specific sexist behavior. A term calling out sexist behavior is not in any way the same thing as those examples, which are basically just name-calling..

            The word came from an essay called Men Explain Things to Me, by a woman who talked about how a man a party started to explain her book to her — the book she had written. Here’s the history of it:

      2. literateliz*

        Uh… most people who use the word “mansplain” realize that it is gendered (I mean, “man” is right there in the word) and use it specifically for that purpose. It doesn’t just mean “explain”; it describes a specific phenomenon of men condescendingly explaining things to women because they assume the women couldn’t possibly know anything about the topic because they are women. Explaining to your interviewer how to handle stock options sounds like it could definitely fall into that category, and I would trust the person who was there to know whether there were sexist undertones, instead of trying to defend someone who’s so clearly out of line.

        (I think I’m about to be swallowed up in a recursive plane of mansplaining. help)

      3. BenAdminGeek*

        voyager1- I’m not a huge fan of loaded or gendered terms in general, but “mansplain” is such a perfect descriptor of what is happening that it’s not surprising at all it’s caught on, and I don’t see any issue with it here.

        I prefer the term “blowhard” and verb it as “bloviating” because phonetically those sound more appealing to me. The sound of the word being said encapsulates the person being described, I’ve found. I’ll also toss in a “blowharding” sometimes- “Jim was blowharding so loud about his stock options during the conference call.”

        Going out on a limb here, but I’d say there’s no way that a dude talking about stocks at an interview is not a blowhard.

        1. voyager1*

          I see what your saying. I just go with the standard “jerks” for jerks I guess. I try to stay away from personal descriptors for people.

          I do like your term blowhards.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think what you’re overlooking is that “mansplain” isn’t merely about being a jerk. It’s about engaging in a specific form of sexist behavior (often explaining women’s own experiences to them).

  43. oldfashionedlovesong*

    LW 4: The best way to convince your parents to let you pursue the career that you want is to show them how much thought you’re putting into your choices. Unless they’re terribly unreasonable people (which is a very real possibility! Trust me, I know from experience…) it’s not that they are diametrically opposed to you ever being happy in life, it’s that they worry about you and want to know you’ll be financially secure and have a sustainable life as an adult, and being an engineer seems like a guaranteed path to that, for them. So you have to show them– not tell them– how serious you are about having an artistic career.

    My parents expected their kids to be doctors or engineers; my sibling became a doctor, but when I brought up the idea that I wanted to go into public health, you would think I had declared nuclear war on my ancestors. Nothing I told them made any difference. I realized I couldn’t just tell them, I had to show them. From high school onwards, I put my head down and busted my butt to get merit scholarships, took on unique internships, wrote a novel senior thesis, got into a fully-funded graduate program… and slowly but surely, the outrage turned into quiet acceptance. (Would I love full-throated support? Sure, but quiet acceptance is fine too, and meanwhile I’m happy– and stable– in public health, which is what I wanted all along.)

    I have another story to share, which I share because it reveals a truth that I think is important in artistic careers, especially nowadays: you have to balance your passion with your competencies and find yourself a place to shine. My mom’s friend Lou is an incredibly talented artist who went to a well-known art school in the ’70s. Lou graduated with honors but because she was so insistent on being a “pure artist”, as she put it, she could never find her place in the art world and has spent her entire life bouncing between admin jobs and unemployment. She was great at admin work, by the way, but refused to accept that as her strong suit and quit or got herself fired from job after job. Along the way, Lou had a daughter, May, who turned out to have the same artistic strengths. But May grew up seeing her mom struggling, and I think that tempered her love for art with an understanding that she needed to balance passion with competency. I’m a few years younger than May, so I was in middle school when she got into one of the top art schools in the US. I’ve paid attention over the years as she combined her art classes with business management and computer science classes. She’s not quite 30 now, and has found a happy (and quite high-profile!) niche for herself in graphic design for television and movie advertising. She’s a creative and a business executive, and her career has been thrilling to follow. So, find a way to balance what you love and what you’re good at with what will bring you a stable life that your parents don’t have to worry about– I know you can do it!

    1. The Strand*

      Lou sounds so much like one of my childhood friends, a musician. She was inordinately proud of having more than 100 administrative assistant, or similar, jobs that she had been quit or fired from. Before she reached 30.

  44. Swarley*

    #1 I’m going to echo what Alison and other have said: just be matter of fact about the situation. You could even add in that the repairs are distracting you from focusing on your work, and a more reliable chair would give you peace of mind/make it easier to focus on work.

    #2 You’re overthinking this. I understand why you feel a little guilty, but this is such a normal thing to do. Especially since your company already told you to submit an expense report. No need to worry.

  45. Mando Diao*

    OP4 doesn’t mention any credentials or experience with fashion or design. Has she taken design drawing courses? Has she measured and designed her own patterns? Can she draw up a design from scratch based only on measurements and sew the garment herself? I don’t know what FIT’s literal application requirements are, but my friends who went to FIT generally already had all of these skills. If you’re not already working your craft and making clothing, the decision might be made for you. I’ve also heard intense things about FIT’s portfolio process. Basically, if she doesn’t come to the table with an existing portfolio and advanced ability to use a sewing machine, she may not be admitted anyway, rendering the parental conflict moot. Some of my friends had to spruce up their skills in community college or vocational programs first – they couldn’t get into FIT with just whatever drawings they slready had and could arrange in a folder. Are your parents willing to support you through a detour through a bit of backtracking in this manner?

    IMO she’d be better off taking art or seeing classes instead of cosmetology, which (despite dedigner clothing labels having makeup lines) isn’t relevant in terms of admission into a fashion design program. It’s only relevant in the sense that every single one of my FIT grad friends ended up not working in fashion and some of them are cutting hair now. It’s great if you slready know that a $35k a year office job isn’t for you, but IMO getting a specialized degree in a super competitive field is the #1 best way to ensure that you’re going to be scrambling for genetic office work after graduation. It sounds like engineering isn’t for you, but I can’t in good conscience recommend FIT as a wholly good alternative investment. If you want yo be successful in fashion, you need to start seeing classes 5 years ago.

    1. Honeybee*

      Sure, but there are other places to study fashion design besides FIT. A lot of large public universities offer fashion design or textile/apparel majors, and sometimes they require no portfolio for entry.

      It’s not that I disagree with you at all! In fact, I wholeheartedly agree with you, in that fashion design is difficult and is one of the few fields that requires some exposure prior to high school to operate at a high level. (There are other jobs in fashion that’s not necessarily true for, though!) I’m just saying OP still needs to do the background exploration work because even if she doesn’t get into FIT she might go somewhere else great that has what she wants and she’ll still need to make a choice.

  46. Observer*

    Some more thoughts for #4

    You ask how to get your mother to listen to you. Start by listening to her and dropping the attitude. Then, do some real world research and present that to your parents, while doing the things that will give you a realistic shot at success.

    You say you want to be self sufficient. If you pay attention to what you mother is telling you, it sounds like she does, too, or she wouldn’t push you to a career that is marketable – ie one where you make money. How do you expect to be self-sufficient if you can’t make money?

    Your mom is telling you that you can be involved in design as an engineer. That’s actually true. Which means that your mother is not just ignoring what you say you want. Now, it could be that those types of jobs are not what you are looking for, but if you want to be credible to your parents, you need to be able to outline why this is not for you.

    Lastly, you come across as hugely dismissive of you mother’s choices. That tends to shut down discussion under any circumstances. When it’s coming from a high schooler who seems to have very little insight into how life works, it’s not surprising you are not getting the response you want.

    1. neverjaunty*

      Wow. No. And I say this as a parent of teenagers who have attitude to spare.

      To the extent that OP has an “attitude” – and I really don’t know where on earth you are seeing that – it’s entirely unsurprising. A parent who ignores their child and says “I have decided what you are going to be when you grow up” should not at all be surprised if they get pushback. And it’s not on OP to offer a powerpoint presentation to convince her mother that “I do not want to be an engineer” is a valid life choice.

      1. MashaKasha*

        +100, I’m looking at 50 and my mom still sometimes thinks I have an attitude and need to be told what to do. And a parent who ignores their child and says “I have decided what you are going to be when you grow up” will also ignore the powerpoint presentation! You can only reason with your parents for so long, at some point you’ve just got to end the discussion and do what you think you need to do with your life.

        1. Observer*

          My mother does that too. So what? Sometimes a child is right and sometimes not. But, in this case, she’s not listening any more than she claims her mother is. It also doesn’t sound like her mother has just made a decision for her and is ignoring her, although her mother is clearly pushing her in a certain direction.

          The thing is that the OP shows signs that she is making a lot of assumptions that are not really reality based, and that she hasn’t quite thought out how she is going to get from here to there.

          I’m not advocating ignoring what your child wants. I also think that if a parent does do that, a child is perfectly within her moral rights to just make her plans and make her own way.

          On the other hand, there really is a difference between giving a functional and self-sufficient adult over not living the exact way the parent thinks they should, and telling an inexperienced and apparently unrealistic teen that what is trying to do is not going to work out well.

          1. MashaKasha*

            It just might work out well. Fashion designers do exist.

            Personally, in the last twelve months I had a 22yo kid quit a Silicon Valley job to live off his savings and work on his personal project; and a 19yo switch his major from engineering to a humanity. Was I scared for them when they made those decisions? Hell yeah, I still am! Did I talk to people who’ve done something like that in the past, to make sure it’s a valid working route? Yes I did. Did I try to stop my kids from doing those things? No, I did not, because that’s not my call to make. It’s a skill a parent either has, or does not. It’s not something you magically switch on once your child has reached the age of reason and stopped being an unrealistic teen in your opinion. If you don’t let your kids make their own decisions at 17, you won’t be comfortable with them making their own decisions when they’re 57, either.

            OP says she’s tried talking to and reasoning with her mother, and that her mother just won’t hear of that major or that school, period; for no reason other than that it won’t provide OP with the lifestyle OP has grown up with (so what?) Sounds to me like OP has done what she could.

            My mother does that too. So what? Sometimes a child is right and sometimes not.

            Ummm, I’m not a child and my life is not my mother’s to live for me. If do I end up making a bad decision, I’m prepared to deal with the consequences, like I have in the past. Also, people are different and a decision that would be wrong for one person, is perfectly right for another. In most cases, there’s no black and white “right/wrong”.

            1. Observer*

              It just might work out well. Fashion designers do exist.

              Of course. And, she’s gotten a lot of good advice on how to make it happen.

              Did I try to stop my kids from doing those things? No, I did not, because that’s not my call to make

              I hear. But what you are describing is different than what the OP is describing. In the first case, your child actually had saving to live on, which means he must have SOME clue about how things work. Even the 19yo is already in college and has started working through is coursework.

              The OP, on the other hand is in HS, and doesn’t seem to have much idea of how things really work. Furthermore, as I said, it sounds like she’s been talking AT her mother, and that she has not been listening to her mother, either. She also doesn’t seem to really have a firm grasp on the best route to what she wants, aside from the issue of convincing her parents.

              Ummm, I’m not a child and my life is not my mother’s to live for me.

              I didn’t say or imply otherwise. You are an adult, but you will always be your parent’s child. That was how I was using the term – which should have been clear by my pointing out the difference between your situation (a functioning, self sufficient adult) and the OP.

              And, I agree, it’s your life to live, and the OP’s life to live. That doesn’t make ignoring her mother (as opposed to disagreeing with her, and staking her own path) a smart strategy. Especially if she wants her parents’ agreement and help, it pays to at least hear them out and make sure that they can see that she’s thought things out.

              Also, people are different and a decision that would be wrong for one person, is perfectly right for another. In most cases, there’s no black and white “right/wrong”.

              This is completely true.

              To be clear, I’m not saying that the OP needs to listen to her mother as in obeying her and taking the course load in college her parents dictate, and look for the jobs her parents tell her to, or even close. I AM saying that she should actually listen to her mother’s advice and concerns with an open mind and some respect, and then figure out what’s not applicable, what is worth thinking about, and what’s valid.

              1. neverjaunty*

                Please go back and re-read your comments, which were very far away from ‘hey, you two need to communicate better and maybe your mom is right about some things’.

              2. MashaKasha*

                You are an adult, but you will always be your parent’s child.

                You know, I keep hearing this statement, about how one will always be a child to their parents, and while I feel that it’s supposed to be cute and endearing, I am not sure I can find it so, or relate to it. My sons will always be my close family members, that can count on my support whenever they need it (and vice versa), that is correct. But any of them always being a child to me? why? they’re adults. That was my job as a parent, to gradually teach them independence and allow them to develop into their own person, until they’re a fully functional adult with a life of their own. If I still see them as a child when they’re adults, wouldn’t that mean I have failed as a parent? IMO a parent seeing their adult offspring as a child is about as cute and adorable as a 40yo living off their parents’ income in their parents’ basement. (My apologize to anyone living in their parents’ basement through circumstances beyond their control; life does happen.)

                1. Observer*

                  while I feel that it’s supposed to be cute and endearing, I am not sure I can find it so,

                  But any of them always being a child to me? why? they’re adults

                  I wasn’t trying to be cute, or invoke the warm and fuzzies. Nor was I referring to the work of raising your children. I was referring to the fact that just as you remain siblings (if you have them) with people even after you grow up, and even if you become estranged, you will always be the son or daughter, ie child, of your parent. That’s going to remain true all through life, even as your relationship shifts, and even if you wind up in a reversed type of situation (eg where you are taking care of your parent).

                  As for the rest, I agree with you.

                2. MashaKasha*

                  Yeah, I wasn’t talking about what you said specifically, sorry if I came off this way. I’ve just heard it a lot and it’s a pet peeve of mine. People usually say this to justify treating their adult children as teenagers who need to be told how to live. I’m working hard on not seeing my adult children as, “my children”, even though technically that is what they are on paper, but rather as equal members of my immediate family. It is very hard to do when I did not have a positive example of that with my own parents. So I’m kind of flying by the seat of my pants, and also trying to learn from those of my friends who have succeeded at building such a relationship with their children.

          2. Honeybee*

            She’s seventeen. Of course she’s making assumptions that aren’t reality based and hasn’t fully thought out her path of action. That’s okay. It’s her life to make mistakes and figure out and meander around.

            I totally understand her parents wanting to love her and keep her safe – it’s likely at least a bit terrifying to have a child who seems to have just a second ago been safe in your arms who is ready to enter the world and strike out their own. But…they can’t. Not forever.

      2. Observer*

        Sure, it’s a valid life choice, which is why my initial posts were about how to get to that, if that’s what she wants. But, if you want someone to listen to you, it helps to start with a bit of respect for that person, and having something reasonable to say. If you don’t care about convincing someone, then that’s fine. But she asked how to make her mother listen.

        1. neverjaunty*

          And you’re reading a lot of things into the letter that aren’t there (like ‘attitude’) and assuming LW is lying or inaccurate in her description of her mother’s reaction.

          1. Observer*

            No, I don’t think she is lying. Nor did I imply that. That’s why I said she’s not listening in the same way that she says her mother is not listening. I’m sure that her mother didn’t stick her fingers in her ears, nor did the OP. But, it’s quite obvious that there is a communications gap.

            1. Honeybee*

              But you don’t know that she’s not listening. She could be listening perfectly well and her interpretation of the situation is correct. Generally we have to take the LW’s word for it because we aren’t there in the room with them.

  47. The Strand*

    #4, there’s so much good advice in this thread answering you, especially liked CEM’s comments, KWu’s thoughts and jesicka309’s thread and responses to it…

    In the short term, see if your local community college has a cosmetology program and find out how much it costs, and whether it has dual credit opportunities. Then keep getting a solid education so that you will be able to change gears as many times as you need in the first couple of years of college or training. Cosmetologists need to understand art, design, but also business – accounting, management, math, and the like.

    If you want to be self-sufficient and independent, it’s incredibly hard to do that in any of the creative fields for the first several years, maybe longer, without the support of a day job. A lot of people think that getting through a creative degree means getting Mom and Dad on board, and then they can start doing the rest.

    That day job does not have to be crappy, and if it’s in a cubicle, as people have said, that doesn’t mean you won’t be surrounded by fun people and doing things you enjoy.

    The first 4 years after I graduated with my creative bachelors, I got by with part-time jobs, temping, contracts, and writing sales. I doubt I made more than $40,000 total those first four years – as in, I averaged around $10,000-11,000 each year. I was truly a starving artist. After I paid my rent and for my bus pass, I could barely afford to buy a coffee drink more than once a month, let alone go out to eat with my friends. While I don’t regret things I did and learned from that period, it also meant years that I couldn’t save for my retirement, enjoy a vacation, pursue additional education or hobbies.

    The funny thing is that, while I’m still a part-time artist, in the long run I found a “day job” that was not only paying my bills (and eventually giving me opportunities to pursue the art that I couldn’t afford otherwise), but providing plenty of thrills. I think for many people this is a best case scenario – look at Doriana Gray’s comment, for instance, about not wanting to write full-time.

    I had no clue in high school some of the things I’d enjoy doing to make a living, so I would say, not only to press ahead and get lots of art, design, and CAD courses under your belt, but make sure you have time to cover the basics in other fields while you’re in school – science, math, English, social science, a foreign language – so that if you discover at 20 or 21, or 30 that you like something completely different, you won’t have to start from scratch in the field you want to pursue.

    Do save everything you can. Start saving now for retirement in an account that you won’t touch, because if you do become a designer, you will definitely have some lean years ahead. Everyone tells young people (under 25, 30) to save for retirement, and most of us can’t afford it or don’t think about it until our 30s. Compound interest is your friend.

    1. The Strand*

      Whoops, I meant to continue and say – that many people think that once the college degree is done, they can take over and things will start happening. It doesn’t work out so pat for most people. If you do decide to marry and have a child – I’m thinking of a former colleague who moved to the nonprofit world from TV, then over to a technology job – you may want more normal hours, less stress, and better pay in the long run. I think when you think of cubicles you think of people who settle prematurely, rather than the people who decide, on their own, that the cubicle job is actually more in line with what they want.

      1. Mando Diao*

        This is true: cubicle jobs can often be mindless busywork in themselves, but a 9-5 schedule with weekends free and $40k a year to play with sounds pretty good for someone who wants to pursue creative (often expensive) hobbies.

  48. Bob from Accounting*

    #4. Everyone else has already commented on this, but I might as well add my opinion too.

    Letter writer, if you haven’t already taken a fashion design class or something similar, I highly recommend that you do so. I know that for the longest time I wanted to be a cardiologist. Then I took Human Anatomy and Physiology in high school. Long story short, I lost interest in medical school. Then there was the time I was debating between majoring in Finance or Supply Chain. My academic adviser suggested that I take a introductory Supply Chain course to see if I liked Supply Chain. I did not.

    Your only other option doesn’t have to be Engineering at all either. I know there was a time that my parents wanted me to get a degree in Engineering. I knew that Engineering wasn’t for me because of all the high level math courses I would have to take. (High level math is not my strong suit.)

    I suggest you look at careers that involve both something that you like and would be good at.

    1. Observer*

      Letter writer, if you haven’t already taken a fashion design class or something similar, I highly recommend that you do so.

      That’s a very good point. Really good and productive designers in ANY field are actually extremely disciplined people. Also, generally, if you want to go into an arts related field, technical skills wind up being quite important. Some of what you need to do to create good work can be boring and feel overly technical and nit picky. So, it’s worthwhile to get a course or two, if you can, in the nuts and bolts of whatever area of fashion and design you are interested. That will give you a much better sense of whether this is really what you want to be your 40 hour a week job vs an interest you want to pursue as a hobby or side business.

  49. ThursdaysGeek*

    For letter writer #4 – I just did a search for FAFSA, and am not coming up with anything. If you’re in the US, you’re going to need some cooperation from your parents if you want most financial help. Until you are 25, you’re not eligible for school loans without filling out the FAFSA, and just being independent of them is not enough.

    Maybe you can get around the bureaucracy, but my god-daughter had to do most of her schooling without any grants or loans because her parents haven’t been part of her life since she became a teen, and weren’t willing to fill out the information on their incomes. She was 25 for the last year, and finally got some financial help at that point.

    However, decent parents will come around and recognize that making their kid go into a career that they don’t want is counterproductive. And in that case, the advice about the FAFSA will be immaterial.

    1. Observer*

      Until you are 25, you’re not eligible for school loans without filling out the FAFSA, and just being independent of them is not enough.

      That’s not correct. If you live with your parents, yes it’s true. If you move out, then it doesn’t matter what the parents earn.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Back in my day, moving out of your parents’ house wasn’t enough to make you financially independent. Of course, that was when we carved our FAFSA forms on stone tablets.

        1. Honeybee*

          It’s still that way – you’re not independent until you’re 24, other than some specific circumstances (legal emancipation, having dependents of your own, being married, being a veteran, etc.) Moving out isn’t one of them.

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        She hadn’t lived with one parent since she was 12, and the other since she was 3. She had been independent since she was 18. The FAFSA required information on her parents’ income, and she was unable to get past that: the people she talked to would not bend.

        1. fposte*

          My guess is that there needs to be something on the record about the reason for the change in custody–police reports, CPS, guardianship, etc.–to take the parents off the hook, otherwise it’d be a pretty easy dodge.

          1. MashaKasha*

            Yea, you have to be officially emancipated, whatever that means. All I know it is requires a lot of paperwork and being able to show proof of having lived on your own, independently of your parents, for a certain period of time.

            1. fposte*

              You don’t *have* to be officially emancipated (which is a legal status granted by your state), but that’s one of the things that can exempt you from having parents fill out the FAFSA.

          2. ThursdaysGeek*

            I think when she was trying to get through the bureaucracy, she was about 22 (5 or 6 years ago). She’d been removed from her dad’s* custody when she was 12 and placed with a different family member until she was 18. So she was a legal adult and out on her own.

            She tried to get the needed info from her parents. But her dad was in another state, working under the table, and probably didn’t have any current tax records. She wasn’t in contact with her mom.

            I really thought there had to be a way past the road-block. But, she was also an adult, and I wasn’t going to fight her fights for her. I still think there had to be ways past. But they aren’t easy to find.

            *For some reason he had custody although he wasn’t her bio dad nor had he adopted her. But he took custody in the divorce. I suspect family just stepped in and took care of her and her siblings, without things being very official.

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, that’ll happen–informal kinship adoption is a big thing in a lot of places, and I bet she’s not the only one for whom the FAFSA was a crazy obstacle. I get the underlying point, but it sure would be cool if they found a way to deal that wasn’t disenfranchising young people who’d already had some hard knocks.

      3. doreen*

        That was essentially true when I was in college. ( I think the rules changed in 1986) There were three questions 1) did you live with your parents 2) did they support you and 3)did they claim you on their tax return. Answer “no” to all of them for the two years on the application and you were independent. You didn’t have to be a certain age, or be married or meet any of the other current requirements. If memory serves , however, age (and those other circumstances ) didn’t matter either way . If you were 25 ( or married, had a kid, were working on a graduate degree), you still would have been considered a dependent student if you answered “yes” to a single one of those questions.

  50. Costume Designer*

    LW4: I recommend looking into Universities with excellent fashion programs instead of focusing on a design school. Kent State University in Ohio is frequently ranked #4 in the country (and #1 for schools outside of NYC). A university gives you the chance to explore other subjects, and if your parents are still resistant to your choice when the time comes to go away to school, you can always register as “undecided” or “exploratory” and officially declare your major later.

    Universities are a great way to be exposed to lots of programs and classes. I started as a Fashion student myself, and ended up switching and earning my degree in Costume Design in the Theatre. If you attend a Fashion school, your credits are not likely to be transferrable if you decide you wish to pursue something else.

    There are other universities that offer Fashion as well. Google is your friend! There’s a lot out there to check out, and maybe something like this would better meet your needs/issues.

    1. Costume Designer*

      Also I would skip the cosmetology program and take all the fine arts/drawing classes you can instead. Drawings croquis is pretty much all I did my first semester. Build your drawing skills now and you’ll save a lot of dorm room drawing time later.

    2. MashaKasha*

      OMG THANK YOU! I wanted to recommend KSU, but chickened out because people were talking about high-end private schools, and here I am recommending a lesser-known state one! My one son graduated from Kent, and the other one applied but ended up going to a different school, and in my family’s experience, if you have high grades and test scores (which will also get you into their honors college), they will shower you with merit scholarships. They were going to pay almost the entire tuition, room and board for my youngest, leaving me with only a $1000/year bill. (which would answer OP4’s question of how to go to school without your parents’ approval.) My oldest, who did go there, got a bit less money, but they still paid full tuition and something like half of his room and board. Go Flashes! or something like that, lol

  51. OP#1*

    Thank you everyone for the thoughts and suggestions! It’s definitely something I’m nervous about, in particular because my boss is a naturally very slim woman — not to imply that she’s likely to be biased (she’s a sweetheart) but more that at least in my experience, people who are naturally slender tend to have some trouble understanding the complications around being overweight, and in particular the ways that weight and disability can interact.

    I’ve checked out the links some of you have provided– thank you!! — and when she gets back from vacation I think I can present things to her without too much tension. I’ll have a list of possible chairs if it’s a matter of buying them wherever, and presumably there is a catalogue of products if we have to buy from a specific supplier. I’m in a pretty big company, which means that there are layers of bureaucracy in between my behind and a new chair, but it also makes it seem more likely that a high-end chair could be in my future, since a $500+ expense is easier to absorb.

    Thank you all!

  52. Taylor*

    LW #4: My mom CRIED when I told her I was going to fashion school. She was devastated. To people who don’t know this industry, the only jobs available are sweatshop worker or Marc Jacobs. Of course there are millions of jobs in between! And, I hate to break it to you, but most of those jobs are boring cubicle jobs–I’m one of them, and it’s not so bad. I work on the creative/manufacturing side and make good money for someone my age/years in this industry (I live in the most unaffordable city in the US and live very comfortably and am financially independent).

    If FIT is nearby, see if they have orientations or job info fairs for your parents to acclimate to. And my suggestion would be to take general education classes at a community college so you save money when you transfer credits (double/triple check that those credits will transfer to the design school of your choosing!).

  53. Amiga*

    Dear LW#4: First of all, I think it’s fantastic that you have a strong idea of what you want to do as a career. Our views of careers are so limited until we get into the real world. For example, engineering has a lot of different subfields – biomedical, civil, mechanical, etc. In fact, I have a friend who studied textiles and design and helped engineers design spacesuits for astronauts – I would never have thought of that as something you could do for a living. If you want to be in the fashion industry, do you want to be a designer of clothes? Shoes? Accessories? I know plenty of people who are very successful “fashion designers” who work for Nike, have their own businesses, or make beautiful things.

    Going Pre-Med in college was a poor decision for me personally, so I switched to an Environmental Biology major, because I love animals and biology. But I didn’t forget my passions and majored in Dance and took many art courses as well. It might be best for you to go to a school where you can take both fashion design and engineering courses. Liberal arts colleges or large universities are perfect options for this type of education. Really do your research about the schools you plan on applying to. What courses are available? What financial aid or scholarships are offered and how do you get them? Also, in my experience, each application is about $40-50 just to apply, so consider expenses. I think getting a part-time job (maybe in fashion?) is a great idea!

    It sounds like you’re worried that after college you’re stuck in one career, but you’re not. You can do whatever you want! Life is not a dress rehearsal, but you have time to figure it out. I know it’s incredibly hard to “go against” your parents wishes. My family is very traditionalist – you were only allowed to be an engineer, doctor, or lawyer. There were no other options! Their thinking was the same as these were very economically stable jobs at the time. I went to law school right at the point of the Great Recession, playing along with my mom’s dreams of me going to graduate school (she didn’t go, so she might be living vicariously through me) and it was very difficult to find a job after I graduated. I have a huge amount of student loan debt and the job market was very competitive. I learned that a degree is not a golden ticket to security. It takes good grades, an excellent network and savvy to turn your degree into something useful, regardless of where you go to school or what you study. What matters is your passion. If fashion design is a passion of yours, show your parents. Get a sewing machine, take courses, design and create things for them, get an internship in the industry to show commitment to this career path.

    In terms of YOUR future and what YOU will be making and how you are living (my mom uses the same arguments for me!), this is YOUR life. If you are comfortable living below your current means, that’s up to you. Of course when you first get out of school, you’re not going to be living at your current level, assuming you have two parents who have been working for a long time and are supporting you! I think the generations after the Baby Boomers, have a problem with this. I’m 28 and was thinking about buying a house and how I would ever afford one, trying to keep up with the Joneses. Then I realized, wait, my mom couldn’t buy a house until she was 35! I have time! I have time to make my own success. My mom was stressing me about finding a job with benefits – health insurance, 401K, PTO, etc. – when the economy was in the tank! It all depends on how you measure “success”. Your future belongs to you – forget the cubicle – it should be the least of your worries! Do you want to be thinking back on day on “what ifs” and wishes?

  54. jaxon*

    “I’d also go in with the assumption that of course they’ll take care of this, which interestingly sometimes make it more like to happen.”

    This is so true. I do this all the time and it’s amazing how frequently it works. If you seem unsure of yourself or hem and haw about the thing you need, you’re less likely to get it.

  55. Liz*

    #3: Let’s say that a certain hiring manager has had a few employees who had issues with working with women in the past, and that it had caused disruptions in the workplace or delays etc. I think actually it is fine to broach this topic in a job interview with people, but it doesn’t sound like the manager in this case did it with very much tact. If I was a hiring manager, I would probably first ask all the standard job interview questions and then turn the interview into more of a conversation and broach several relevant topics. The gender one could start out, “We have a fairly diverse workplace here at Teapots etc. Sometimes, in the past, there have been employees (both men and women!) who have not taken well in this situation to reporting to women leaders. I was wondering if you had any thoughts on this? Have you ever had issue in these types of situations? Tell me a little bit about your experience reporting to women and how that worked for you.”

    Obviously the person is not going to tell you that they hate reporting to women, but that isn’t really the point of the question. The point is to actually educate them about the requirements of the job. You are telling them that this fact is important to you, and that they will have to be mindful of it. This could turn away people who might have a problem with knowing that this was an important issue in this particular workplace. They might (while saying that they are great with women leadership) decide the job is not right for them, which would be a good thing.

    Anyway, it is a sensitive issue, and I think it should only be broached if there has been a past problem which the manager may be trying to avoid in the future.

  56. maker*

    LW4: Don’t discount CADD altogether! I work in fashion and use CADD everyday; it’s how we draft our patterns, cut fabric and input information into complicated, elaborate sewing machines! Many schools aren’t teaching it yet and if you know it you will find yourself VERY desirable when you start looking for work and internships. That you didn’t know this tells me that you don’t know much about the fashion industry, which may be why your parent’s aren’t convinced.

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