how can I talk sense into a young relative with terrible workplace habits?

A reader writes:

This question veers a bit into personal life territory, but I was wondering if you had any advice you could share anyway. I have a young relative who has limited parental guidance and appears to be developing some horrible workplace habits. She has never appeared to take work very seriously, but since her employment history was mostly summer jobs, it was hard to tell.

Since she graduated from college almost a year ago, though, she’s been sounding like a parody version of a the media’s version of an irresponsible millennialShe got a prestigious paid internship through family connections, only to announce almost immediately that it was horrible because “they didn’t give me an office with a window,” “I can’t handle fluorescent lighting,” “the work doesn’t match my self identity,” and that she found any more mundane tasks they gave her insulting. She ended up breaking her contract four months in. She believes she left on a good note, but the family member who referred her confirms otherwise. She’s taking six months off now to “recover” before she looks for work again.

To be clear, I work with interns at my workplace all the time. I know this isn’t typical age or generational behavior. She seems to really think workplaces exist entirely to fulfill her needs and seems to have no clue that these relationships are not friendships. I’m worried that not only is she not going totally tank her prospects for the future, but also that she’s going to alienate her family members (myself included!) who have had to work hard at far worse jobs to get where we are. To complicate matters further, due to an insurance settlement, she actually has enough of a nest egg to make financial pressures nonexistent for at least five years.

In the workplace, the necessity of these conversations is normally pretty clear. In my personal life, however, I’m totally at a loss how to approach this or even if I should. We have a pretty good relationship otherwise, so I’d like to try to say something. How would you go about explaining basic workplace norms to someone who doesn’t seem to have grasped them?

I think you get one shot at this, and during that one shot, you can be pretty blunt, assuming the relationship is reasonably close.

I’d say this: “Hey, I want to talk to you about something that I’ve noticed. I’m only going to bring this up once and won’t keep hassling you after this, but I care about you too much not to say something. I think you’re smart and talented and could have a career that makes you really happy in the long-term, but I’m worried that you’re making decisions right now that will make that harder and harder to achieve. You’ve said things to me that sound like you have expectations for jobs that aren’t in line with the reality of most jobs, especially early in your career. For example, not having a window is pretty normal! Fluorescent lighting is going to be in almost any office you work in. And lots of jobs when you’re starting out are going to include mundane tasks. The only way you get to a point in your career where you can be pickier about this stuff is by digging in and doing the work that’s available to you now — and building a reputation for being reliable, driven, and easy to work with. When you do that for long enough, you’ll get to a point where you’ll have a strong reputation and can be more selective about what jobs you accept.

“You’ve got an unusual financial situation right now that can feel like it gives you more options than most people your age. But it might be doing you a disservice if it’s leading you to reject or quit jobs that you’d feel more obligated to stay in if you had more typical financial pressures. At whatever point that money runs out, you don’t want to find yourself in a position where you’re not a strong job candidate because you haven’t worked much, or have quit jobs quickly, or just haven’t built up the persevering-through-work muscle that your peers will have built during that time. Employers in five years are going to look at what you’ve been doing since graduating from college, and to get the jobs you want then, you’re going to need to have built up a good history.

“I want to see you set yourself up for a work life that will make you happy long-term, not just in the present, and I’m worried that the way you’re approaching it now is going to make that harder for you down the road.”

Will that message get through? Maybe. Maybe not. If she’s a basically decent but naive person, probably somewhere in between. But that part is out of your control. All you can really do is deliver the message; what she does with it is up to her.

After that, though, I think you’ll need to resign yourself to just watching from the sidelines; talking to her about this stuff once is kind, but pointing it out repeatedly is just going to be annoying, and also probably wasted on her. However, you could certainly make it clear that you’re available if she ever does want a sounding board.

Also, urge that family member who got her that internship and knows that she burned a bridge there to tell her that. Letting her think that she left that job on good terms is doing her no favors, and is actually helping to enable her currently wonky world view.

{ 310 comments… read them below }

  1. Doriana Gray*

    Also, urge that family member who got her that internship and knows that she burned a bridge there to tell her that. Letting her think that she left that job on good terms is doing her no favors, and is actually helping to enable her currently wonky world view.

    This needs to be said, but also impress upon her that not only did she burn a bridge for herself with this particular employer, but she also possibly harmed the credibility of the family member who got her the job in the first place. She may not care about her own workplace reputation, but I would hope she’d care about preserving her family member’s rep (though if she did, she wouldn’t have acted a fool in the first place, so maybe not).

    1. Bwmn*

      I completely agree that this is important. That our immediate actions have immediate consequences and for this young person to keep in mind that this company and possibly now this relative is no longer a source for potential employment.

      That being said….and I say this as someone in my 30’s with no children….I’m not necessarily sure if now is when I’d take the time to talk to this young person. If she is living in an apartment off of her settlement money, eventually that money will run out and new decisions will need to be made. Or if this young woman is living with her parents, that is an issue between her parents and herself on how they see her development. I think it might make a lot more sense to wait until this relative approached the OP for advice to then say “after your last internship, I’m not able to help you until I see you’re going to be more serious about a job”.

      For those of us to read AAM regularly, this may seem like caring and loving advice – but if she’s in a headspace where she’s looking for an office with a window and is happy to take 6 months to recover – my immediate thought is that she’s just not ready to work. May this ultimately cause her to burn through the settlement money and take longer to have a solid career – obviously – but given what the OP put, it’s hard not to see a conversation being a bit of a waste at this time.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Idk I think she should be set straight now before she’s in a really scary situation with no money and no job prospects because she hasn’t worked for a long time and won’t apply to anything for less than 100k and window office ya know? It says she has limited parental guidance so Op and the other family member should at least try to do her this service.

        1. Bwmn*

          I’m curious about what the limited parental guidance means – does it mean that there’s some absentee parenting issues at play? I just balk at the idea of “setting her straight”. Ultimately this is an adult with means, and while it might be nice to think that someone with this mindset is going to respond to caring advice – I just don’t see it clicking unless she has some desire to hear it.

          I don’t see the risk here being the focus on a 100k job and a corner office, but more so issues around being handed a job or career that is of no interest. I was given lots of early volunteer/entry level opportunities in my mother’s field when I was a late teens/early 20’s. I did well and had good references which ultimately let me make it into a job, but I never wanted to work in that industry and that ultimately caught up with me, my interest in my job, and my attitude.

          One relative already tried giving the woman an internship and she just wasn’t interested. Following that up with a lecture I just don’t see sticking. Her behavior has consequences that she should not be freed from (i.e. relatives less likely to help/more skeptical/loss of reference) – but I strongly doubt that there is a “set her straight” conversation out there that exists if she’s not ready for it.

          1. NK*

            Re: “limited parental guidance”: I’m not the OP, but I’ve seen this in a relative of mine who has been unemployed for nearly three years, during which she has not been actively job searching, and is living with her parents. Her parents are basically unwilling to give her any kind of ultimatum or in any way force her to get her act together. They’re good people and very involved in her life otherwise, but when it comes to her unemployment, they refuse to play hardball with her. Other family members have tried to talk to her, but we’ve all given up because it falls on deaf ears; her parents are the only ones with any real sway since she depends on them. The whole thing is kind of hard to watch.

          2. Bwmn*

            @NK, to be frank this was my first assumption. That the parents are in the picture but in some way enabling this situation. In that case, there really is very little external relatives can do.

            However, if that’s not what “limited parental guidance” means – and we’re talking about a case of a parent(s) in jail? Based overseas? Cognitive functioning issues (i.e. traumatic brain injury or serious mental health issues)? All of this makes the situation a lot more fraught in terms of how advice would or wouldn’t be received.

          3. annonymouse*

            From what I’ve read it sounds like OPs relative gave up the internship for unrealistic expectations (I didn’t get a corner office or to do manager duties on my internship) as opposed to what you did – this is not in an industry or role I want long term.

            Different kettle of fish

        2. MrsRobot*

          I think that is the only way an entitled egoist like her might learn – when the chickens come home to roost.

          She sounds like a very unpleasant person and personally I am sick to death of seeing nepotism at work watching people get jobs because of who they know, not what they know.

          A big part of the reason why so many higher up positions are filled with inept tools and those who know their stuff but don’t know the right people are left on the sidelines.

          She reaps what she sows.

      2. Trainer*

        She may not be ready to work, but this is precisely the kind of thing that I can easily see someone in their early 20s missing. And I can imagine later thinking “well why the hell didn’t anyone tell me?”

        1. College Career Counselor*

          I deal with this a fair amount with some recent grads.

          “Why didn’t you tell me XYZ about this profession?” Um, I did. You weren’t willing to hear it.

          “Career Services should have had resume workshops and networking opportunities for us–this stuff is important in the real world.” We did. You had better/more immediate things to pursue.

          “Well, they should be required for ALL students!” Totally agree. Please send a note to that effect to the faculty and the classes below you because neither will listen to me.

          Bottom line, I agree with what others have said–not everyone’s ready to hear the message. But I do think it should be delivered.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Right. She may not be ready to hear it now, but the Op can still check the box off that she did what she could, then her side of the street is clean so to speak. What the young relative does with the wisdom is on her.

      3. Annonymouse*

        I agree it’s a waste if you want immediate action.

        But if they want her to be aware of how this is screwing future her and letting her know what future her needs? Worth a shot.

        At the very least she can’t complain to OP in 3-5 years that she wasn’t told she was screwing herself.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Yes yes omg yes. But this absolutely needs to come from that family member, and it probably should include the caveat that there won’t be any more help if this continues.

      If you don’t need the money from your work, then your reputation becomes the thing of most value. Not that it’s not valuable anyway, but it’s almost like one of those would-you-rather questions.

      1. fposte*

        I would say that there wouldn’t be any more help, period, at this point; I wouldn’t put my cred on the line to get her placed in a job when I know she bails.

          1. A Bug!*

            My gut feeling is that she’s not going to understand what she took for granted until she’s made to earn it on her own merits.

            I have a lot of sympathy for her, because she really doesn’t seem to understand that she’s in for a very rude awakening. But it’d be better for her (and everyone who loves her) if someone can make that happen now, rather than after she’s used up all of her resources and left desperate and unemployable. If someone wants to soften the blow, that’s up to them, but they just keep in mind that it’s for their own benefit and not doing her any favors.

            1. Honeybee*

              Honestly, this was my thought. I know there are a lot of hardworking kids from wealthy families out there. But I think sometimes it’s harder for younger folks to not take for granted their jobs/positions/internships when they come to them more easily. It’s not their fault necessarily; the only jobs they may have ever been exposed to growing up may have been their parents’ and their parents’ friends, all of whom might have actually had offices with windows and challenging assignments (because by the time she was old enough to notice, her parents were mid-career in something upper-middle-class). Particularly if her parents didn’t give her guidance about that when she was younger, she may have never realized that they had to start from the bottom and work their way up to those perks.

            2. MrsRobot*

              “she’s not going to understand what she took for granted until she’s made to earn it on her own merits.”

              exactly this, nut minus the sympathy, there are far mpre deserving people in need of sympathy. An entitled young know it all needs a reality check and a hard talk, not sympathy.

    3. This could be my friend's bro in law & my own*

      My bro in law (BIL) lived with hubby and me last summer while he interned in our city. He’d roll into work at 10 am and leave at 3. He’d frequently say things like ‘I’m just so smart and I finish things faster than everyone else so I leave’ …. dude that’s not how it works. He didn’t get offered a job after his internship (program normally offers excellent interns jobs at the end)
      However, my friend’s BIL is worse. My friend’s father-in-law (FIL) is high up at his company. Last summer he pulled strings and got the Bro-In-Law (BIL) a paid internship at his company, which according to my friend was the first time the company had ever had an intern program. The company was supposedly excited about it and hoped to expand it if it went well. BIL was supposed to only go 3 days a week and get paid like $20 an hour or something. Her FIL went out of the country for work on BIL’s day one of internship. BIL just decided ‘he didn’t want to do it.’ Didn’t show up. Didn’t go. MIL calls friend’s hubby like, what should I do? (she found out bc company called FIL like where is your son, it’s 10 am? and FIL called her since he was out of the country) And hubby’s like drag his a$$ out of bed and FORCE him to go, but MIL was too scared to ‘force’ her 20 year old GROWN ASS MAN to do something. So, internship didn’t happen.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        My 20-year-old grown-ass man would be out of that house so fast his little head would spin. Just get whatever job you can, son, because you’re on your own in 30 days.

        1. This could be my friend's bro in law & my own*

          The BIL was still in college and taking summer classes… hence the 3 days a week internship… ugh. Friend and I commiserate on how our in laws are creating monsters for the next generation.
          FYI 20 year olds are NOT millennials. They’re Gen Z, which apparently is even worse. The demarcation is 21 and under as of 2016 is Gen Z, 22 & up is Gen Y/Millennial – though I’m sure ages 19-24 are pretty ‘gray area’ just like ages 36-40 are currently Gray Area between Gen Y & Gen X (have characteristics of both…. also stop classifying people… with the exception of clarifying that these Grown Ass 20 Year Old Men are NOT in the same generation/stereotype as my friend and myself)

          1. Honeybee*

            Not necessarily. There are different definitions for millennial, but most people put the millennial generation as range from the early 1980s to the early 2000s. The earliest researchers put the years from 1982 to 2004, which would make millennials ages 34 to 12 right now.

            There are a couple of research groups that peg the youngest millennials at the late or even early 1990s (Statistics Canada has the earliest end date, probably, which is 1992), but most generational research has pegged a generation as lasting around 20 years. The Baby Boomers are generally understood to have been born from 1946 to 1964, which is 18 years; Generation X generally includes people born from 1965 to the early 1980s, which is a little less than 20 years. So it follows that the Millennial generation is roughly 20 years as well, from 1982 to the early 2000s (and so the youngest would be at most in high school right now).

          2. MrsRobot*

            Hey I’m gen Y and I show up and do my work diligently, try to go above and beyond and stay longer when needed. I hate social media, I read a variety of news sources, I pay $30 a month to PETA, I travel and expand my horizons and I treat people with respect.

            I am also the only one in my office full on gen x staff and boomers who gets off my chair and extends a handshake and offers my name to new staff shown around the office. The other staff just say hi from their chairs.

            I am also getting a rescue greyhound soon as I loce all animals grrat and small. So please keep your sweeping generalizations about gen y to yourself. I am sure you don’t like hearing the generalisation boomers have fucked over the following generations for their own greed so how bout you extend is the same courtesy.

      2. My College Boyfriend...*

        My college boyfriend is quite like this (we keep in touch but I’m happily married with a kid 7 years post grad now). I should get it out of the way – he’s a TRUSTAFARIAN – having a little bit of money really turns people into idiots doesn’t it?
        He changed majors like 3 times in college and graduated late as a result (typical, but not terrible – we broke up at MY graduation because I didn’t feel like he was ready to be a grown up). In the first year after college he got an apartment with two of his ‘fratbros’ from college and just screwed around for a year. Then he decided he wanted to go to law school and spent a year ‘applying to law school’ only to decide he didn’t want to do that when he didn’t get in where he wanted (good choice given how few of them have jobs). Then he decided to get his MBA and went and did ONE year of his MBA – dropped out after one year saying he’d probably go back and finish (the school since folded). He spent the first year afterwards trying to find a job, and then found one after 9 months. He quit it after 4 months and found another one, that he quit after 6 months. Since then, he’s been working for his dad, or something. Living off his trust fund in a high rise penthouse in downtown Chicago…
        I happen to know from when we were dating just how big his Trust Fund is. It isn’t something he can live this kind of lavish lifestyle off of and still retire. I know his parents are NOT bankrolling him now, with the exception of his trust, but it’s finite and it WILL run out. We talk a lot (we are best friends now) and it pains me to see him go through this and he does worry about it. His trust will probably last him another 5 years at THIS pace, 10 years if he slows down – a LONG time/retirement if he gets a job and stops pulling out of it all the time!

        1. Honeybee*

          Man, if I had a trust fund, I would use it to purchase a decent house outright, not live in a high-rise apartment. Or at least if I lived in a high-rise apartment, I would buy it. Maybe I couldn’t afford the penthouse but a person who could get a high-rise on their trust fund could probably put some money down on a good condo in a nice neighborhood of Chicago.

        2. BananaPants*

          It’s not all generational. One of my husband’s relatives is in his late 30s now. He dropped out of college after a year or two and spent his 20s couch surfing or living with roommates, working short term and part time jobs so he could follow bands on tour (his parents paid off his student loans).
          A lottery win gives him around $40K annually after taxes. So it’s not even that much money making him be an idiot – but it essentially provides a (small) full time salary with zero work involved. His wife works, he does not. He’s taking 1-2 classes a semester toward an associate’s degree. He’s almost 40 with no recent work history, no retirement savings, and no plan to change anything quickly – and his Lotto payout will end when he’s 50. That’s kind of frightening…

        3. MrsRobot*

          I have no sympathy for an entitled person like this. He deserves his comeuppance. So many good, hardworking people can’t catch a break and are working 3 jobs just to get by and this guy is just living it up simply because daddy’s rich. Makes me sick to the stomach. You should cut him loose.

      1. Sunshine*

        Because she just doesn’t get it. I had a friend who once upon a time worked at my company in a different dept. He decided he wanted to come back, and assured me he had left on good terms, he had just found a job that paid better. So he resubmitted his app, and I tracked it down with the manager for that dept hoping to put in a good word. Turns out, when he found that other job, he just stopped showing up for ti5s one. He thought that he “didn’t get fired, he had quit.” Uh… no. That’s not how it works. You got fired after several days of NCNS. It’s not really quitting unless you tell them you’re quitting. Asshat.

      2. A Bug!*

        I would guess that it’s because the company was fairly professional about things and she’s not perceptive enough to realize that she was treated courteously despite their opinion of her, not because of it.

      3. Ruthie*

        The interns that I’ve had who were poor performers were perceptive enough never to ask me to be a reference, but I bet they would say they departed on “good terms.” Internships have a natural end date, and I’ve never had a situation bad enough that warranted termination of an internship, so we’ve always just kind of toughed it out and mentored to the best of our ability, providing honest and constructive feedback. I interned alongside the son of a board member at a NGO, and he was absolutely dreadful, napping in the intern room and watching TV shows and not even with headphones. That’s the only intern I’ve ever seen asked to leave early, and even that was kept quiet so his mom wouldn’t find out.

    4. Marzipan*

      I think this is really important, because there’s a difference between ‘I think you may be causing yourself x problems’ (even when it’s a very likely may) and ‘You caused yourself y problem and in so doing caused me z issue’. She may be able to shrug off the OP’s observations and comments, but hearing specifically from the person who got her the internship that no, she did not leave on good terms; and that it caused them professional difficulties too (assuming it did) has a lot of weight and is harder to ignore.

      1. Dan*

        I’m not a fan of soft phrasing with tone deaf people… because I can be that tone deaf person.

        It’s too easy to hear “you may be causing yourself problems” and think, “May? Let me think about it. Nope, not causing problems, this is just one person’s opinion and who are they anyway?”

        1. annonymouse*

          Why do you think Gordon Ramsey is so hard on people?

          These people have had “you’re awesome! You can do anything you put your mind to!” Drilled into them, not to mention nowadays a lot of parents and schools don’t have failure anymore.

          So when they do screw up it needs to be brought to them loud, clear and all lemon, no sugar.

          Anything positive said to them is a justification that they’re right and they’ll ignore the real truth.

          Only by being incredibly harsh do these people finally think “*maybe* there is something wrong with me and not everyone else”

          This is not age or generation specific – I’ve seen it in people from teens to 50+.

  2. Argh!*

    You could suggest the insurance money could help her buy a house one day, or even today… perhaps home ownership would help her grow up.

    1. Dorth Vader*

      I think that would be a bad idea at best, financially ruinous at worst, for a person without a steady job or idea of what they want to do with their life.

    2. Laurel Gray*

      I wouldn’t suggest home ownership to anyone young or old in 2016 who didn’t have a work ethic or questionable employ-ability. Home ownership is just as risky as taking on high private student loan debt as a means of helping someone grow up. I’d argue it’s an even higher risk since you can’t even use it to get a job or discuss your skill set like you can a degree. “I got an MS in Basket weaving where I interned at Basketsoft on teams that helped produced a more technologically advanced gift basket” vs “I own a home and I went on Angie’s List and had to sort through contractors to find one to re-do my deck”.

      1. Dan*

        Wait, lots of student loan debt helps someone grow up? Uh, no. At 18 years old, that stuff is free money that you get with just a signature.

        The growing up part happens years later when you have to pay it back.

        [Waves hand]

        1. Megs*

          I don’t think Laurel was saying that student loans help you grow up, just that they’re less risky early on than home ownership because they (theoretically) give you a leg up in the job market where home ownership does not. I might agree with that risk/benefit comparison, but I also agree that neither has anything to do with growing up.

          The whole “buy a house and be a grown up thing” needs to be retired and STAT. Renting is not throwing money away, it’s taking on a fixed payment rather than debt plus a fixed (or not) payment plus unexpected expenses in the hope that you’ll end up with some capital at some point in the future. Which is the better option for any particular individual depends on a lot of variables.

          1. I'm not a lawyer, but ...*

            Umm sorry to point this out, but I’ve certainly never had a rent payment that was fixed for more than 12 months. Yes, you should be a mature, responsible adult before you buy a home. But when you do, your mortgage payment should only go up if/when your property taxes go up. And then it drops to “taxes only” when the mortgage is paid. Rent usually goes up every year. Forever. Which is longer than 30 years. The real keys are: don’t overpay for the property, and buy a house priced about half of what realtors say you can afford. Because they are wrong.

            1. Rebeck*

              Mortgage payments in the US don’t change with interest rates? Huh – I did not know that.

              1. Agile Phalanges*

                Only if they’re adjustable-rate mortgages, which after the crash a few years ago, are much more rare than they used to be. Fixed-rate is much more common, where the principal+interest portion of the payment stays the same the entire life of the loan (30 year loans are common for people starting out, shorter terms are also available, like 15 or 10). If your property taxes are paid via escrow and rolled into the payment, those will vary (and usually upward), but the main portion of the payment stays the same.

            2. JessaB*

              Except you also have higher expenses for utilities and you have repairs and upkeep. My rent may go up, but I never have to mow a lawn and if my a/c goes out tomorrow, it gets replaced (I need it for medical reasons,) if I don’t have the 2 grand or more to replace a blown unit in a house, I go without until I can afford it. I don’t pay gas or water or trash or lawn maintenance or snow shoveling. Fridge dies, gets replaced. There are reasons to rent. Many and varied. But owning a home is not the be all and end all.

          2. Jessica*

            They’re much more risky than buying a house, because you can never discharge student loans. You can go bankrupt and foreclose on a house, and after 7 years it falls off your credit report. You can’t do that with student loans, you pay them or they’re on your record forever. You can thank W for that.

    3. fposte*

      I don’t think home ownership makes anybody grow up, but I think you make an interesting point on the “someday.” Would she rather burn through this money waiting for the lovely job that doesn’t exist, or use it for a house in a few years? (The problem, of course, is that she believes the lovely job exists.)

    4. ToxicNudibranch*

      This is somewhat akin to having a baby to save a relationship. (Just buy a home to make you a responsible adult!)

      In other words, a freaking terrible idea.

      1. neverjaunty*

        +10000. Somebody this clueless is not mature and responsible enough to deal with home ownership (or, god forbid, a baby).

      2. Nerdling*

        Amen and +1000000000!

        Adding a mortgage payment on top of a lack of a steady job has the potential to completely screw up her credit and life for years when the settlement money runs out and she can’t make the payments on her non-existent salary. It’s not something I would suggest lightly to anyone I cared anything for and not even most folks I don’t care for.

        1. JessaB*

          And in a lot of places taxes are as high as rent, and you have to pay them on top of the mortgage, also if you live in certain places you have association dues too.

        1. Cactus*

          I did once know someone who was convinced (for a while) that if she and her terrible boyfriend had a baby, he would instantly step up, grow up, and be a perfect father. All his behavior suggested otherwise, but she had that idea in her head. Luckily, she never tested it. And luckily, she broke up with him. Doing something irreversible and massive like buying a house or giving birth just to try to force a possibly impossible change is a bad idea in any form.

    5. Jaydee*

      I think that’s pretty much the problem. A lot of people who grew up fairly financially comfortable see things like “an office with a window” or “owning a house” as symbols that they are a grown up, as static things that signal to the world “Look at Jane, she is an adult now.” They (and I include myself in this too) don’t always understand the level of work it takes to achieve and maintain those symbols. Great, you have a window office. You’ll lose it if you stop showing up to work or don’t do a good job. You own a house? Awesome. Now go mow the lawn. And do it again next week and the next week and the next week. Until winter comes and you get to shovel instead. Save up money because that furnace is going to go in a couple years.

      It’s the mindset of taking responsibility and doing the things that have to be done even though they are messy and unglamorous that makes you an adult. The house, the corner office, etc. are the products of that work. They are symbols and signals that you are willing to do the work of adulting.

      Buying a house could force her into taking responsibility, or she could end up squandering her money, having her home foreclosed upon, and whining about how unfair life is. Perhaps she should start with a pet. Or a houseplant.

      1. JMegan*

        Agreed! I bought my house in 2008, just a few months before the market crashed. I’m a responsible adult with two children, a partner, and a good salary, so I’m no upstart young’un who needs to learn responsibility. I’m great with responsibility, and I have discovered that I really, really suck at home ownership. The little day to day stuff is beyond me, never mind the big grownup stuff like saving money for that new roof we’re going to need eventually. And because the market is so overpriced right now, even if I could get the house in a condition to sell, I wouldn’t be able to afford to buy another one.

        There are lots of reasons for all this. I’m not blaming anyone – the situation is what it is. I just wanted to add some more anecdata to the conversation that “buy a house!” is not universally good advice.

        1. Rebecca in Dallas*

          If it were up to me, I’d be a lifelong renter! My husband really wanted to buy a house and is really, really good about all the home ownership issues. He takes care of the lawn, the pool, the minor repairs needed, etc. I’m a very responsible person in general but can admit when I don’t want that level of responsibility!

          1. Jessica (tc)*

            You just made me very glad that my husband and I are on the same page about home ownership (nope, nope, nope: renters forever). I can’t imagine owning a home when I really, really do not want to deal with all of that. I’m glad your husband takes care of that stuff, though!

            1. Jessica*

              I have a townhome. I take care of the inside, and the HOA takes care of the outside. I have had to replace a water heater and a few things (it was newly built when I bought it) but things like lawn care, snow removal, resurfacing the driveway, replacing siding, roof, etc. are all done by the HOA. It’s the sweet spot between “don’t have to pay for major repairs” and “want to have ownership”.

      2. Cactus*

        Perhaps she should start with a pet. Or a houseplant.
        Yes. Having cats bolstered up my sense of adult-ness and responsibility more than anything else.

    6. snargulfuss*

      As someone who recently bought a house, I’d say that home ownership is not something that makes you grow up, it’s something that often makes you not want to be a grown up (and have to worry about things like furnaces and roofs and leaks).

      Also, someone with views this unrealistic about work would likely buy a house miles and miles above what she could actually afford.

  3. Dana*

    Sadly family and career advice don’t always mix. But I agree with Alison; say this once, say it well, and never say it again. If she’s smart she’ll thank you. If not there’s nothing you can say to change that.

    1. Ama*

      And at the very least, if you phrase it in such a way that she knows you won’t say “I told you so,” she might come back to you when she’s ready to take your advice, even if it isn’t right away. (I know as a young adult it sometimes took me a while to accept certain hard truths.)

    2. AnotherHRPro*

      I agree that family and career advice can be tricky. In my family I am considered rather successful. But my family will complain to me about their careers and how evil companies/organizations are the problem. They are never paid enough, the system is unfair, there are no jobs. They never look internally at themselves. I try to mind my own business and not get involved. Every once in a while I will correct factually inaccurate statement but when I do that I am told I don’t know what I’m talking about. Sure I don’t. I work in HR at a fairly high level for a F100 company but I guess I don’t know anything about jobs, careers, employment or employment law. Sure.

      1. Dan*

        Just because you don’t *like* the answer, doesn’t mean the answer is *wrong.*

        The greatest irony is that if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’re going to always get what you always got.

        You’re the one complaining, not me, remember?

        (You in this case isn’t the OP, it’s the ‘general’ you.)

        1. annonymouse*

          OP this is for you: Be straight and blunt with her.

          “The sort of things you want from a job – an office with a window, more exciting tasks and responsibilities etc are EARNED through working your way up in the job world.

          Everyone successful in your network had to start there at the bottom and so will you. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to or don’t like it – that’s how the working world works.

          (Pause for answer. If she points out famous people who didn’t then point out that yes, Mark Zuckerberg/Steve Jobs etc didn’t do that – but all the people who work for them now do.)

          Now I know you have comfortable income and think you don’t have to work – that’s just going to screw yourself over. In 5 years time when that money is gone you’re going to need to find a job and if you don’t have a work history or a good reputation then NO-ONE will hire you. No-one.

          You need to learn NOW how the working world works BEFORE that happens.

          Take that internship for example. That was a very well paid and standard job which if you stuck with it could have opened doors to the type of things you wanted. Because of the way you left you will not get a good reference from them, you’ve ruined all chances of working there or with any of those coworkers in the future and damaged not only your reputation but friend who got it for you, too.

          (Pause for answer. Unless the answer is company did illegal/unethical/unsafe things it was a good job. Or if she says “sure, doing photocopies will REALLY lead to higher up job” respond that yeah – they do. Because it did for you.)

          Did you know you caused problems for them with how you left? (Pause for answer. Having to make the company go through the whole process again after a respected person in the company said you were a sure thing and they probably used some favours to do it – and now they look like they have poor judgement.)

          Did you know it was not on good terms? (Pause for answer. No, I left on good terms!
          Breaking a contract 8 months early for non medical reasons is not good terms. )

          I’m trying to help you so you aren’t in a terrible position of having no money and no job prospects in 5 years. That said I will not bring this up with you again unless you specifically ask.

          I am happy to be a sounding board or give you job advice in future if you ask. I want what’s best for you long term and I don’t want to see you poor and unemployable down the track.

  4. Hannah*

    I know someone who isn’t quite what the OP describes, but it’s a similar situation when she talks about her job. I try to talk through it with her and provide some perspective as someone who has been in the work world longer, without being too much of a know it all.

    She will complain about having to do things for her boss that her boss could have just done for herself. The thing is, she is her boss’ assistant! In the moment, I will just say “yeah but that’s kind of your job…” or “that’s what they pay you for though, so they don’t have to do it”. She just hates her boss on a personal level (probably justified, her boss sounds like a piece of work) so it colors her opinion of what is a reasonable thing to ask your assistant to do. I try to remind her not to make it personal, just do her work and get the money/experience, she will know how not to act when she’s the one with the assistant, etc. I do think it gets through, because I bring it up as part of the conversation, not some kind of lecture or confrontation.

    1. T3k*

      “… she will know how not to act when she’s the one with the assistant…”

      Yes, this. I’m one of those who rants a bit about my job (I try to rein it in, as I don’t want to constantly annoy my friends) but one thing I am learning from where I am is what I would NOT do as boss/business owner (though I have no aspirations to own a business).

    2. Koko*

      I think we’re friends with the same person. She’s her boss’s assistant in a two-person business, pretty much hates her boss, and is always ranting about this or that thing her boss made her do that she could have done herself, or how her boss didn’t do X because she didn’t remind her but she shouldn’t needed a reminder, etc. It’s so hard to listen to her complain about work because on one hand I think she’s complaining about stuff that isn’t worth complaining about or she’s the one in the wrong, but on the other hand I have no interest in telling her that. So I’m left without much to say!

      1. Snork Maiden*

        I think we are all friends with this same person. What I’m terrified of is becoming this person myself!

  5. TootsNYC*

    When people are unrealistic like this, I love the “question” approach.

    “Why would anybody hire you, if you’re going to quit in four months?”
    “Do you realize that they’ll ask your internship boss, and she’s going to say that you quit in only four months, and didn’t finish it out?”

    “Do you realize that most people don’t have a window office?”
    “Are you aware that almost every office has fluorescent lighting?”
    “Wow, $45,000 is a lot money, even to a corporation? Why would a company just give it to you? What do that want to get with that money?”

    Ask in a way that implies you really are interested in her answer, not in the rhetorical way.

    Sort of like the “What are you going to do about it?” response to people who complain.

    1. BSharp*

      I like it even best with less-leading questions. “Have you seen many office buildings without fluorescent lighting?” “Have you heard of any entry-level jobs that offer window offices?”

    2. Violetta*

      Is it that common to be in a space without windows? I mean, I’d have stuck it out for the duration of the internship, but I wouldn’t like that either. (Of course, it’s easier to say ‘this is a dealbreaker for me, I’m going somewhere else’ if you have a solid work history…)

          1. Jessica*

            The way I read it was that she was actually expecting an *office*. Like a room, with a door. At my job, you have to be a VP before you get one of those, and they don’t have windows either. Heck, I feel lucky to have a CUBE, since the other building with our counterparts has the dreaded open floor plan.

      1. LQ*

        I think it is fairly common. Especially in big office buildings. I know there are window, but only because I am actually taller than the cubes so I can see over the sea of cubes to the windows. (People ask me about the weather all the time, but for once it my life I don’t think it’s some stupid “weather up there joke” it’s just I have a good line of sight.) And not having an Office with a window as an intern? Most of the managers and directors here don’t have offices with windows.

      2. Judy*

        In the last few years in the US, with LEEDS (certified green) buildings and open office plans, it’s more common for workers to at least see windows from their desks. Most traditional offices were built with the managers offices on the outside, and a cubicle farm on the inside, so there are no windows. I did sit in one space where one wall of windows were open to the cube farm, so if you stuck your head to the aisle, you could see if it was day or night. The people in the last cubes by the windows had light above the 5 ft cube wall.

        1. March*

          My last work term was in a building going for LEED certification (and preparing documentation to achieve it was my job, but I digress). My office* was technically a supply closet originally, but I could see the windows from my desk and it was really nice. It’s definitely a nice thing about buildings designed with LEED, but having a window definitely isn’t a guarantee.

          *Frankly, I’m appalled that she was so turned off by not having a window, since it sounds like she was lucky enough to get an office. I was delighted to just have an office in an internship-level position, whether it had windows or not. My last work term before that was a cubicle tucked in a corner of the hallway. In my experience, getting an office for an internship is something to be excited about.

          1. YawningDodo*

            Heck, I was surprised and delighted when I got my own office at my second professional position; never would have even considered it a possibility as an intern. Of course, I still don’t have a window — I work in a basement. My boss doesn’t even have a window.

        2. manybellsdown*

          Ironically, my husband has been complaining that the window he can see from his desk is directly in line with the setting sun. So from about 5-6pm he’s blinded by the sunlight coming in and can’t get anything done!

          1. Rebecca in Dallas*

            Haha, my boss’ office is like that. The setting sun goes from her window directly to my poor coworker’s cube, so every day my coworker asks politely if she can close my boss’ door so she can see her computer. (Of course my boss says yes, and if she thinks of it she goes ahead and closes it!)

            Meanwhile I can’t see any windows from my cube. :( It’s really weird to not know what the weather is like.

        3. ThursdaysGeek*

          I’m in a LEED building and I can get light from the windows in the area above my cube walls, but that’s it. Cube walls obstruct any views. It’s nicer than most places I’ve worked, since there is some natural light. Office with a window?! Office? Window? Hah on both!

      3. ThatGirl*

        I work in a big 5-story building and while there are plenty of windows on the building, many people sit in cubicles in the middle of the floor and don’t get much natural light. There are also some folks tucked into corners without windows. So yes, it’s pretty common, although “no windows” does not necessarily mean “super dark depressing closet”.

        (And my husband has his own office, but it’s an interior, and so no window for him either.)

      4. Doriana Gray*

        Yes, it is common. Both of my internships in college had me sitting in rooms not much bigger than a walk-in closet. I had professors who worked in the basement of an apartment building that was housed on campus, and so no windows for them either. One of my former managers at my current company who has just recently been promoted to AVP was moved to an interior office with no windows (the office is a nice size though) when she used to sit at a large cube right in front of floor to ceiling windows (and had a spectacular view of the city).

        If an AVP with 10 years of service with our company can go without a window, an intern who just finished school can go without one too.

      5. lowercase holly*

        we have skylights (uncommon) but yes, i’m in a cubical situation. the windows are only on the outside wall parts of the building. cubicals and desks on the interior of large spaces are not next to windows.

      6. Koko*

        Yep. In our office essentially the perimeter is ringed by window offices occupied by senior staff. Mid-level managers and specialists get interior offices (across the hallway from the window offices), and assistants and interns get cubicles in large pod areas that are on the interior side of the hallway with a window office across the hall.

        Because we’re LEED certified, office walls and doors are glass, so some natural light sometimes makes it across the hall to my interior office on a sunny day. But if it’s not an especially sunny day or the person whose window office is across the hall from me shuts their blinds, then there’s not much natural light at all.

        Of course that’s still better than being completely encased by windowless walls – the windows everywhere at least make everything feel airy and spacious even on cloudy days. But the only place I’ve ever sat right by a window was when I worked at a 4-person company and all 4 of us sat in the same room. Everywhere else else I’ve worked they’ve been a perk for the highest-ranking staff.

      7. Stranger than fiction*

        Yes. Typically the windows are around the perimeter and then offices are built by some, if not all, of the windows and those are for management. Then cubes are built in the middle for everyone else.
        Of course there’s other types of office arrangements but I’d say this is the most common.

      8. LD*

        Absolutely. I haven’t had an office window for most of my career. Even as a director of a department, my office didn’t have a window.

      9. Honeybee*

        I think being in a space without windows is different from having a window office. Currently I’m in an open-office setup, and my space has windows but I don’t have one of the desks next to a window – we select our locations on the floor in order of start date, and as the last hire, I got the least desirable spot. (No bad spots, though, so I don’t mind my space.) Still I get plenty of natural light during the day. At the end of next month, we’re moving into actual offices – but again, as the last hire, I didn’t get a window office.* I’m in an internal office that’s across the hall from offices with windows, but since our offices all have glass doors and windows I’ll get plenty of natural light. Plus I never expected to even have my own office this early in the game, much less an office with a window, so I’m happy because my work space is exceeding expectations.

        *Caveat: I could have technically chosen an office with a window if I wanted to, as there were enough window offices for all full-time employees. However, the way the offices were set up, that would’ve set me apart from the rest of my team. We’re a communal team that works together frequently and talks to each other all day long, so I would’ve been outside the normal daily operations. The three other new(ish) hires faced with the same decision all made the same choice.

      10. NaoNao*

        I have worked in cool jobs where my “office” was a desk in the study/library, which was in a turret in a castle (really!), I’ve also worked in a bull pen in an entirely internal office in a high rise where the only way to see daylight (or in this case, sunset, since I worked graveyard) was to go on the smoking balcony. Right now I’m in the “end cube” in a cube farm but I’m next to a window and can see out of it since I’m tall. But the regulation are I have to have a cube wall in front of it for “parity”. The wall isn’t holding up anything. My boss is pretty far up the ladder and she gets an office, but no windows at all, so I feel lucky I have natural light and a view of the Rockies. :)

  6. Sally*

    Please say something to her! I’m ten years into my career but when I reflect on my attitude the first couple of years, I cringe. I hope I wasn’t quite as entitled as your relative, but I did think and behave as if I was my gift to my employer. After an entire childhood of hearing “follow your dreams” and “choose a job that makes you happy,” it is easy to see where I got this idea. A relative of mine did eventually have a come-to-jesus with me after I had just moaned about how I wasn’t sure my job was fulfilling me, and I finally got it. I only wish I had heard the message sooner — I would have been a better employee to my employer and a less emotionally conflicted human being.

    1. LQ*

      Do you think you would have actually got the message if someone had said it to you sooner?

      I have a pair of younger sisters who I flailed at with differing amounts of success (and one I haven’t bothered, I know she won’t listen) but until they were really ready to listen to their big sister I was just noise. (Granted once they were ready they knew who to turn to, but that took a while…)

      1. Sally*

        Good question. I was receptive to the message when I got it, but maybe I would not have been ready to hear it earlier. By the way, I am also the oldest of three girls, so I know exactly what you mean about offering advice. Relevantly, after I learned my lesson about being an employee, my middle sister was starting a 3 month internship. I tried to warn her against this, but she threw a huge tantrum when she found out they had not planned to give her a two week long spring break in the middle of her 12 week internship. FWIW, they did eventually agree to let her take the two weeks off but elected not to hire her at the end of her internship.

        1. LQ*

          I keep telling my sisters now that it is no fun to say I told you so because that means they didn’t get the information when they needed it. I just want them to do well, I don’t want to be right.

        2. Callie*

          When I taught public school full time I had student teachers. The university’s spring break and my school district’s spring break did not line up; the student teachers were required to be at their placements during the university’s spring break, but they also had a weekly seminar one night a week during student teaching, and they did not get “off” for that during the school district’s spring break. They ALWAYS complained that they would not get a spring break that year. I wanted to point out that when they get a teaching job they will get a spring break, but if they went into a job outside of teaching they would NOT get a spring break at all, so this one year of no spring break isn’t going to kill them. They didn’t want to hear that.

          1. Vulcan social worker*

            When I was in my MSW program, we were allowed to take off from our placements for the university’s spring break, but it wasn’t mandatory. One of my internships was in a school. I did not take off, because I’m an adult who doesn’t need a spring break, and kids don’t stop having needs because the university is on break. (I recognize that 15 weeks with kids each semester is a lot different than what teachers are doing, plus I only was there three days per week.) One weekly seminar is not arduous. Only going to classes during the school district break felt like a vacation. I had so much time to study and write papers! And not going to classes during university break felt like playing hooky.

      2. Chinook*

        “but until they were really ready to listen to their big sister I was just noise. (Granted once they were ready they knew who to turn to, but that took a while…)”

        I think that AAM’s advice will work because the information will be in their head for future reference when they realize they need to ask for help. I see this type of advice giving in the same light as teaching – you throw out information in hopes that maybe 50% of it sticks. And, even if nothing sticks, if you throw it well enough, there will at least be an impression left behind that there is information out there that can be found if you look. AAM’s method is sort of like those sticky hands you by in vending machines – if it sticks even a little, there is a string leading back to the thrower and, if it doesn’t, it leaves a residue and a memory of the throw.

        1. Bwmn*

          The risk is that the OP doesn’t appear like an ally and will be perceived as patronizing. That when this person does decide “uh, I want to grow up” – that this is someone who will appear judgmental. It’s a risk.

          1. socrescentfresh*

            Very true. And even if other family members try to help deliver the message, the result could be perceived as “everyone is ganging up on me”–a childish defense for someone with a correspondingly childish outlook on work.

      3. Bwmn*

        Honestly – this is what I’m thinking.

        When I was 23, I had a master’s degree, was struggling to get a full-time job, a solid resume that had been built through some nepotism assistance in a field I was ambivalent about, and a terrible relationship with my parents. I also had some inheritance money where I didn’t need to live with my parents though it was not prudent (I also had student loans).

        The super responsible move would have been to find a way to repair my relationship with my parents and live with them, enthusiastically continue in my nepotism part-time job while looking for a full time position in the same industry (where I had a lot of experience even at that age). However, I was not at an age or place to live with my parents and while I did ultimately get that full time job in the industry – it was not the industry I wanted to work in long term.

        I don’t deny that I had the privilege to be uncertain in my 20’s – and while I was working the entire time and not quite in the same financial or attitude position that the OP’s niece is – I’m of the feeling that some people just take a little longer to put all the pieces together. I had the privilege financially that it didn’t put myself, my parents or my credit into dire straits – but I also was not making the smartest moves financially. I didn’t really end up with a job in the field I wanted until I was 28.

        At that age for me, consequences made sense. Such as, based on your behavior at this job, you can not use this boss as a reference. But advice on how to make the most of myself professionally and invest in my future – you’d be lucky if I absorbed 20% of that chat.

    2. Former Retail Manager*

      “Follow your dreams” and “Choose a job that makes you happy.” I HATE parents that tell their kids this crap. I can only assume that you are under 35 if you grew up hearing this. I too am around that age. My daughter just turned 16 and she will never hear either of these phrases from me. “Dreams” and “Happiness” do not pay your bills or set you up to have realistic expectations of what your experiences in the work world will be. Unfortunately, my daughter has friends that are still hearing this type of stuff from their parents when the goals of the child are completely unrealistic.

      I have no doubt that your parents and so many others meant well and wanted the best for you and couldn’t have anticipated how the world would change from the time they graduated college and set out on their own. Great that your relative cared enough to talk with you about your career and behavior which resulted in a positive outcome.

      1. Koko*

        If I had children, my career advice to them would be, “Find a job that doesn’t make you miserable.” That might be a job you love. Or it could be a job that you have absolutely no interest in (or passion for, as in one recent letter), but that pays well enough and allows you to leave your work at the door at 5:00 on a regular basis.

        A job that you feel neutral about is infinitely better than a job that is breaking your spirit every day. You can do the things you’re passionate about in your free time as long as your job isn’t mentally exhausting you and emotionally defeating you.

        1. Internal Audit Senior*

          Point 1: Find a job that is fulfilling.
          Point 2: Being able to put food on the table and a roof over your family’s head is fulfilling.

        2. Annonymouse*

          I don’t mind the “find a job you love” advice if it is delivered correctly.

          I.E find a industry you can be passionate about or tolerate and find a job that aligns with your skills and personality.

          You might love journalism but if you are an introvert who’s bad at following cues being a news anchor isn’t the right job.

          Or you might find the perfect job for you at a weapons manufacturer and you’re a pacifist.

          Does everything have to be 100% perfect?
          Of course not. If it is early in your career you’re going suck it up and learn and/or build skills to get something better.

          But if something is majorly out of whack like above then there will be no success.

      2. Anna*

        My son seems to have heard this somewhere! Definitely not from me. He came home one day and told me that he wanted to study acting in college. I told him that was fine, but that he needed to double major in something else as well that would give him job skills.

        His response was, “But I should be following my dreams!”

        1. David McWilliams*

          As someone who majored in the arts (music), the people who I’ve seen have professional success in artistic fields are the ones who devoted every waking minute to it in undergrad. I’m not sure that they would’ve had time to double major in something and still be successful.

          Conversely, I’m not sure that there’s anything that could’ve stopped the really passionate ones.

          1. Megs*

            I watched a documentary a while ago about working character actors (titled “That Guy… Who Was in that Thing” – and yes, all of the 16 people interviewed were men*). One of the interviewees had a great line about how to make it in show biz where he basically said that the only way to make it is if there is literally nothing else you could imagine yourself doing doing. Artistic careers are a hard way to make a living.

            *There is a sequel about women actors. Notably, while the IMBD summary for the “That Guy” is “Documentary about sixteen actors who detail their ups and downs as they struggle to forge careers in Hollywood” the summary for “That Gal” is “Actresses talk about their personal lives and dealing with a balance between family responsibilities and being a professional actor.” Sigh.

            1. Bowserkitty*

              That Gal was a really eye-opening documentary. It’s sad that THAT’S what the IMDb summary boiled down to because it was about so much more.

          2. Hobbits! The Musical*

            I agree – I finally walked away from a career in something I was good at (IT) for one I could be *really* good at if I worked at it, put in the hard yards (operatic singing); I knew if I really wanted to succeed I needed to do the “starving artist” thing. Half-a**ed efforts wouldn’t cut it.

        2. LENEL*


          I am in my late 20s an know a lot of people who have this attitude, and are still coming through with this attitude, like my friend’s lovely 14 year old daughter. She is sure she is going to be an actress, but as far as I can see is doing nothing to develop in this sphere or build skills other than high school drama curriculum enrolment.

          In fact, one of the things I’ve had to beat (not literally) out of my twice-her-age-husband was this kind of thinking.

          Yes anyone can love being creative, a lot of people love being creative, but you need huge amounts of commitment, drive, talent and a willingness to work hard at a ‘day job’ to make a passion into your day job, if it ever does.

          Pulling from David McWillaims’s comment, people who are truly passionate will be finding and making opportunities already to fulfil their passion to position themselves to be able to make it a career, it never just happens (or if it does it’s a billion to one shot).

          The one person I know who has attended a prestigious performing arts school worked her behind off being an artists model, a clown at an amusement park, a children’s party entertainer and a barista to support her choice to pursue her career goals, taking performing arts work wherever she could find it, and I don’t think I ever once heard her say it was her ‘dream’ to act.

          I used to feel mean insisting Mr LENEL made X to contribute to running our household and some savings before he could contribute Y to his pursuits (which are not at all cheap to try to break in to) but I have to very thankfully say he’s come around and mostly seems to like having a house and disposable income.

          If you’re not spending every minute auditioning for stage and performing, writing new songs and busking or pursuing opportunities to perform in pubs/clubs/free festivals, creatively writing and submitting to online publications or self publishing in a blog, committing time every day to work on creative writing or novels, it’s very hard for me personally get behind a statement that someone is “following their dream” to “make it happen” and frankly I won’t believe people are truly passionate about their dream if they aren’t actively pursuing their goals when they are otherwise perfectly able to do so.

          If a dream is intrinsically important to you as a person, that you feel you must do X and it’s your life goal, it’s something you should be actively pursuing now, not later. Build competitive market skills. “Work” for free, get experience to make you competitive or developed to do what you want to do.

          You don’t have to be paid to do the things you’re passionate about. I do them for nothing, even contribute my professional skills to the policy and background context of my passion to help the organisation run as smoothly as possible. A “dream” that’s not pursued in any way but proffered as a “dream” is just a shield against the reality of doing what a lot of people do – finding work they can enjoy some or most of the time, then go home and do the things they want to do with the rest of their time.

          If you are passionate about something, being paid is a bonus. I will get off my little soap box now about people who say they want to follow their dreams – I hope I haven’t been too harsh but obviously I have even stronger feelings about this than I realised.

          1. Tau*

            I’m pretty thankful, in retrospect, to getting into writing via fanfic and to reading published authors’ accounts of how difficult it is to get published and what you need to do early on… I love writing, but since the writing I was doing and planned to keep doing was unpublishable anyway and a lot of the authors’ accounts were not in any way in line with my skillset or what I’d enjoy, it was easy to say “okay, I’ll focus on the other stuff as a career and leave the writing as a hobby.” The other stuff, FWIW, is a far more stable, far easier to get into career path involving things I am much more consistently good at than creative writing. Although I did struggle when I realised I really shouldn’t become an academic as it would only make me miserable, out of the same sort of “but your job should be ~fulfilling~ and ~special~!” logic.

            I really wish more people gave the nod to finding a job you like well enough that pays enough for you to live decently and gives you enough free time to pursue your actual dreams.

      3. Honeybee*

        Eh, I think it’s possible to simultaneously encourage young people to chase dreams and choose jobs that make them happy and also to instill pragmatic values. My mom did. She always encouraged me to try hard and to follow my interests, while also making sure that I had skills and experiences that would help me make those interests a pragmatic reality. I’m 29. I’m glad that she told me to chase my dreams, because college and a doctoral program and studying abroad felt unrealistic for someone from my background but I made all of those things happened. On the other hand, though, I was never under any illusions that I would have a high-level position and a high salary right out of the gate; in fact, I never anticipated even making as much as I do now. And I was just reflecting on this today, but while happiness with a job doesn’t pay bills it does absolute wonders for your mental health. I love my job and it makes me happy. Still, I think the message was very different here, too – she never meant a job that you’re wildly passionate about; she meant a job at which you like most of the tasks and most of the people. (Working a “passion” job was also not an option presented as realistic to me when I was a child, either; most of the people I knew were skilled laborers at best who took whatever jobs made enough money to support their families.)

        1. Myrin*

          Thanks for saying this so beautifully and clarly, Honeybee, that’s exactly where I stand, too.

      4. Lindsay J*

        I think it’s more of a cultural message (though I can’t think of specific instances in the media that advocate for this idea off the top of my head) because my parents gave me the exact opposite message, and I railed against it.

        I wanted to major in music (music Ed specifically). My parents knew that I didn’t really have the aptitude for it and that the outlook for the field was poor.

        They told me I should major in something practical (basically anything other than the arts, a major like English or Psychology would have been okay). That if I wanted to I could minor in music and keep music as a big part of my life but majoring in music and making it my career would probably make me hate it in the long run and that they were worried about my ability to make a living.

        I refused to hear it.

        I came to realize they were 100% right. I switched my major from music ed to linguistics halfway through my 3rd year of a 5 year program after failing piano 3 once and piano 4 twice and realizing through two jobs teaching marching band that I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life.

        My friends who stuck through the problem had a lot of difficulty getting jobs.

        It’s been close to 10 years and just last week did I purchase my first instrument since college, (a ukulele, when I was a percussionist).

        They definitely weren’t the ones telling me to do what I loved. I just got it into my head and wanted to do it anyway.

        1. Lindsay J*

          Though I do have to say that I don’t regret trying to do what I loved.

          I know how that chapter of my life ends, I learned from it, and I have no regrets about it.

          I think if I had listened to my parents I would have always regretted never trying to pursue it.

          And I did take their advice for my second major and that didn’t really stick either. It looked perfect on paper for me (speech pathology) and has/had a very good career outlook. But I didn’t like it enough and I think jobs where you work with kids and vulnerable populations you really do have to have some passion for.

          I’ve found I do best in jobs where I don’t have to care, but where I enjoy the working environment. Nobody is hurt if I don’t love inputting information about airplanes as long as I do it well, and the job provides perks I enjoy and plenty of time in my day to do things I do love.

  7. Terra*

    The other possible way to go with this is to ask her about her complaints/comments on a case by case basis and see if she either 1) has a decent reason or 2) can be made to realize how ridiculous she sounds. For example, ask why she “can’t handle fluorescent lighting”. If she has to say out loud that it’s something silly like “it washes me out” then possibly she’ll either realize it sounds strange or you can more gently nudge her around to the idea that it shouldn’t be her concern. On the off chance that she has a legitimate reason such as it causing intense migraines then you may be able to offer advice for how to deal with that specific issue (FMLA leave, getting insurance so she can go to a doctor, talking to her boss about using different lights).

    The advantage is that you’re less likely to upset her by taking a more gentle route if you want to preserve your relationship. But it may take longer to see results if you ever see any.

    1. hbc*

      Yeah, I’m in the case-by-case camp too. Depending on the nature of the complaint, I might not sound too open-minded, but I could probably still make the point without being *too* sarcastic.

      “So, no fluorescent lighting. That’s going to be pretty limiting if you want an office job. Or do you mean you’re going to switch careers?”

      “Interesting. Who do you think should be doing those ‘menial’ tasks? Because everywhere I’ve been, X and Y are pretty standard for new graduates.”

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Yeah, I think this is really the best way to go. The conversation is going to be tricky to have in general without coming off condescending, but granting her the benefit of the doubt and going in with an attitude that maybe she’ll actually have a reason you can talk through… that’s going to make it easier.

      Fluorescent light is tough on a lot of people — I’m no fan of it myself, and have occasionally worn my sunglasses at work because our extremely well-lit office building was just too overwhelming. The polarization made reading my computer screen a bit weird, but better than having my eyeballs seared out!

      I think the advice here is the same advice I’d give to most people talking to young folks — her feelings may not seem valid to you, but they are valid to her. If you treat her like her feelings are valid — even if you have to explain to her that she’s going to need to put the feelings aside — she’s much more likely to listen.

      1. Who watches the Watcher's?*

        “her feelings may not seem valid to you, but they are valid to her. If you treat her like her feelings are valid — even if you have to explain to her that she’s going to need to put the feelings aside — she’s much more likely to listen.”

        Thank you Countess Boochie, I LOVE that. When I was first starting out I ended up with an internship via my mother and working in her department. We only butted heads a couple times, but I can still remember feeling like she was just dismissive of me and my feelings and unwilling to see or compromise.

        For example, she was LIVID over one day where I had made plans with a friend and wouldn’t be able to work. From my perspective she hadn’t actually explained the whole ‘internship’ thing to me to begin with. It was just kinda, “get up you’re coming with me to work.” So I understood that to be she was taking me to work when they needed help b/c of big projects or something (a thing I had done since I was knee high to a grasshopper). So when she was so outraged, I was shocked and didn’t understand and dug in my heels to my position.

        Of course, then she explained it to me and I felt stupid and angry. If you had told me that in the first place… you know? Ah, well.

  8. J.B.*

    I did some really really stupid things as a teenager and college kid. Fortunately the stakes were low and although I cringe now I am doing better. I like Alison’s advice, but all you can do is 0bserve, nothing will change until this relative absorbs lessons for herself.

  9. Gentle One*

    And give her a link to this website–I’ve read tons of material here that has done wonders for my work (and I do like my job).

    1. socrescentfresh*

      Except maybe wait a few days until this post isn’t at the top of the page…she may recognize herself.

  10. AW*

    “the work doesn’t match my self identity,”

    This is kind of an aside but I was reading a blog post this weekend where someone said that the myth that your work should fulfill you in some spiritual way was very damaging for her. It felt like she was always doing something wrong because none of her jobs felt like she was pursuing her “purpose in life” and would have been much better off had she been told that it’s OK for your job to just be a job and to find fulfillment in a hobby/charity/whatever instead.

    This might be something to point out to your relative separate from the conversation about workplace norms. She’s may be setting herself up for failure (where failure equals unsatisfied with any job) if she thinks she *has* to feel like her job is her life’s work.

    1. Lanya*

      I agree with your comment, but I would also note that there are people out there who genuinely do need to feel that their job is fulfilling their purpose in life. I am one of those people. I have a very successful career, but I have always felt incredibly empty whenever I have taken a job that is “just a job” in the past, despite whatever other hobbies/charities I may be involved in.

      1. LQ*

        But do you feel empty because you’ve been told your job needs to fufill your purpose in life? Or the other way round? I think this is a chicken and the egg thing. It’s nearly impossible to tell if you feel it because you feel it or because it is what you were told.

        1. Lanya*

          Good question. I don’t know if it’s a nurture thing or a nature thing. My internal compass has always pointed me very strongly towards work that directly benefits other people. Luckily, it’s a very broad area of fulfillment. So I’ve found satisfaction in a lot of nonprofit jobs where the work is humanitarian and serves others.

          1. Vulcan social worker*

            I think we have to recognize that doing what your internal compass (as in one’s internal compass, not Lanya’s internal compass) points you to do is at the very top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It’s very much a privilege to be able to do what fulfills you. I have had this privilege pretty much since graduating from college. I had some crappy jobs before that, not paid internships or even unpaid at interesting places like some people get, but ever since getting that BA I’ve done good non-profit work. Even when I was an admin assistant and doing mostly photocopying, answering the phones, and opening the mail, I believed in the mission of the organization and knew there was a chance for advancement. So I’m not suggesting that it’s a bad thing to have that need or to reach for those positions. Just that we recognize that the majority of people do not get to have that. Even though sometimes it kind of scares me that I’m a woman over 40 and will I face age discrimination for jobs and I wish I’d done things differently financially when I was younger, I’m also so glad that I’m not starting out with a master’s degree and no experience now when entry level jobs are asking for so much experience. I graduated when I could get an entry level non-profit job with a BA and a good attitude. It’s not like that today for graduates even with a master’s degree, and it’s definitely not like that for the majority of Americans without any degree.

      2. BRR*

        Do you think there is a distinction between finding your job fulfilling and fulfilling your purpose in life? I find my job fulfilling but it’s not what I would say is fulfilling my purpose in life. Finding a job that is fulfilling is a much broader category for me.

      3. Tuckerman*

        But you still took jobs that were “just a job.” You worked at these jobs until you found something more fulfilling. That’s the piece a lot of people are missing. It’s great to feel fulfilled by your job, but not at the expense of unpaid bills. Kudos!

    2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      She’s may be setting herself up for failure (where failure equals unsatisfied with any job) if she thinks she *has* to feel like her job is her life’s work.

      I really wish someone would have told me this early on. Honestly, I feel like I only ever knew people (ahem…parents) who get their satisfaction through work. It wasn’t until thoroughly depressed and discouraged, I told my therapist that I felt like a failure because I didn’t thrive at work, that I learned a lot of people do not find fulfillment through their job and that working to collect a paycheck is a-okay.

      It really was a life-changing experience for me, both personally and professionally. I learned that it was totally okay to just come to work and do my job.

      1. Anna*

        Hey, people who just come to work, do their jobs, and don’t cause drama have a special place in my heart. It’s surprising how many people don’t do this!

        1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          It’s actually made me a better employee and a much better coworker. I’m a heck of a lot less mopey :)

    3. Adam*

      That phrase stuck out to me too because…it’s kind of a lot to demand of a job. Americans in particular often measure our self-worth by our careers, but that’s just as much a false sense of self-esteem as it would be to measure it by having a good romantic relationship or any other external factor that’s not completely dependent on you. Because if that thing ever goes away your “identity” can be completely crushed.

      Reaching for a fulfilling career is wonderful, but asking it to be THAT fulfilling seems a dangerous prospect as there are so many jobs out there that need to be done but will never nurture someone’s spirit like that. And even people who have great jobs they’re passionate about have aspects of the work they don’t like and days where they would really rather sleep in.

      Granted, the internship very well may have not been going well for her and she didn’t like the work. Happens all the time and there’s bound to be some other type of work out there she’ll find more engaging. But this early in her career her expectations of how a job should make her feel may need a serious rewire.

    4. Persephone Mulberry*

      One of the best books I’ve ever read on the subject is called “So Good they Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love” by Cal Newport. It gets a little dry at times (the author is an academic, and IIRC a mathematician at that) but the message that long term career happiness comes from developing a desirable skill set rather than chasing your “passion” comes through loud an clear.

      1. Adam*

        Once listened to a podcast interviewing the author and it really struck me as a book I should read but didn’t. Being reminded again now I should really go check it out.

      2. Doodle*

        Yes! I was just coming to recommend this. It’s a great look at why the “passion myth” is actually pretty demoralizing for a lot of people, too.

      3. Three Thousand*

        My guess is a large percentage of people who actually do love their jobs to the point where they’d rather be at work than anywhere else *are* the ones with hard-to-find skills. Part of it is probably that they’re more in demand and have more negotiating power, but I think it’s also that they get the satisfaction of being really good at something that other people find difficult. Many times we’re passionate about things *because* we’re good at them.

    5. Boop*

      Agree completely. The proliferation of stories online about people who “do what they love” and feel like they are doing “what they are meant to do” is very difficult to handle. I like my job plenty, and I would miss doing it, but I don’t know that I LOVE it. It doesn’t fill my soul with ecstatic joy like a gorgeous spring day does. Maybe that means I should be searching for the job that fulfills my spiritual needs, but I suspect it doesn’t exist – my spiritual needs trend more towards naps and chocolate than work. And I like shiny diamonds too much to live in a stable, which is where I thought I wanted to be in high school.

      You should enjoy your job, but it does not have to be your life’s work. I think that message is lost in our society right now, which is very focused on a selfish pursuit of gratification and “fulfillment” in all aspects of life.

    6. themmases*

      I think there is a lot of daylight between having a job be just a job and having it be spiritually fulfilling though. And there is also a big difference between having a job be that important to you, and your career. Lots of things could make a person love their job: loving the specific tasks or the people they work with day to day, feeling like either their personal work or their organization is good for society, feeling appreciated. I think it’s reasonable to look for some or all of those, or something else, in a job or career, that makes it worth it to you.

      As a younger person getting disillusioned with my job, it was very helpful to me to write out a description of my ideal role and work environment and to think about how to get it. My last draft is about 4 years old at this point, and while it’s a tall order and I can see the influence of my bad old situation in the document, it’s still what I want and I have moved towards it.

      I found that I care about doing individual work that benefits society first, then working for people and an organization whose general behavior is consistent with benefit to society too. I have some preferences about my role and tasks, but they aren’t nearly as important so I chose the most technical and marketable area of expertise I thought I could get into that was consistent with my main goals. It worked, it’s extremely fulfilling, and it keeps me happy when I am doing more admin-type stuff because I know I am getting my top 2.

    7. Anonymous Educator*

      I remember as a kid (Gen X’er here) hearing adults saying to pursue your passion or do what you love. There’s also some terrible meme about if you do what you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life, or some garbage trite phrase like that.

      The bottom line is: unless you’re independently wealthy for the rest of your life or planning to marry someone who’s filthy rich and doesn’t mind providing financially for your every material need, you probably need a job, whether you love it or not. It’d be amazing if you could find a job that also happens to fulfill all your desires/needs/purposes in life. That isn’t and shouldn’t be a prerequisite for taking a job, though. Ultimately, the vast majority of us simply have bills to pay, loans to pay back, etc.

      I used to work at an art school, and it amazed me how much of the administrative staff (accounts payable, admission, registrar, student affairs, etc.) was composed of artists (some alums of the school but others just not-associated-with-the-school artists) who needed a steady paycheck and benefits so they could pursue their real passions (painting, jewelry, sculpture, photography, etc.) in the evenings and on the weekends.

      1. Marzipan*

        I did an art degree, and then made a very calculated decision *not* to pursue an art career because those people I knew who had done so seemed to spend all their time making, basically, the same thing over and over again because it’s what sells, in order to buy themselves a little bit of time to make what they wanted to make. And I thought, well, I can just get a job – and avoid all the hassle of self-employment – and still have the little bit of time to make what I want to make.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Yeah, I’ve seen that too. I know a couple of photographers who’d love to be making great (non-wedding) photographic art, but the money is really in shooting weddings.

        2. Honeybee*

          Oddly, I left academia for a similar reason. A catalyst for me was chatting with a friend who was very passionate about the field; she was having a difference of opinion with her advisor, and she said something like “I don’t care if he gives me four or five projects to work on that I don’t like, as long as I can work on just one that I love!” And I was like, if I’m going to be doing that, I might as well be pulling in the concomitant salary and not be competing with literally 200 to 300 people for each position and then funding my own salary through grant writing.

      2. Hobbits! The Musical*

        There is also the danger that if you _do_ get to live the dream and your career and your passion combine, what happens if the universe intervenes and your ability to follow that career path gets taken away through some external event/influence? (spoiler alert: happened to me)

        It can be pretty devastating to have to redirect both earning potential and passion to new channels; it’s well-nigh impossible to find another field where the two are once again combined.

    8. Sunflower*

      There’s a danger too in loving what you do so much. My friend works in fundraising for a hospital and loves her job- like if she won the power ball she wouldn’t quit. She also faces issues like not being paid as well as other people and not having a lot of growth opportunities (her boss will have to die pretty much for her to get a serious raise/promotion). It’s really much easier for someone who isn’t so attached to their job to become more successful.

      I honestly don’t think she would know what to do if she was laid off or her position was eliminated.

  11. Artemesia*

    It is sad because the money she has gives her freedom most people don’t have when young. Squandering it rather than saving it to provide later options or even using it for a 6 mos round the world trip before settling down is just sad.

    1. Bwmn*

      I get that is one way to see it. But to have extra time to grow up, be selfish, be entitled – those are also gifts. Maybe not a gift that has the same value to everyone – but I also know people who’ve done that without any financial safety net. To look back and say “I was young and dumb” and not be hampered by serious credit or other problems, there is value in that.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        It’s not an either/or situation, though. I’m just going to throw a random number out there, since the OP didn’t give details apart from this young person being okay for the next five years. Let’s assume, then, that it’s US$350,000 she has after taxes (if taxes apply). She could easily save $140,000 of that for retirement, $70,000 for a regular savings account, $70,000 just to play around with (lavish vacations, delicious meals out, a new car, etc.), and then $70,000 as a hefty rainy day fund (pet with cancer, moving costs if she moves, etc.). So plenty of room to be foolish and young… and also to save for the future.

        1. Bwmn*

          Yup. That’s correct. That’s also assuming that there’s any internal desire or outside pressure for the woman to do so. I have two friends with trust funds and parents who don’t put down many/any demands on them.

          One has stretched her trust fund to amazing levels where she’s been able to see the world (while also having serious waitressing skills if she ever had a few months off in between trips), play the harmonica in a band for a year while living with 5 roommates, gone to law school and now has the capacity to take her preferred nonprofit legal job since she has no student loans. And she still has money left in the trust. My other friend has basically done the exact opposite blowing through everything by the time she was 30.

          I totally get that there’s this impulse to go to this woman with a Captain Logic approach about how this can all make so much sense if A,B, and C are done in such and so way. But there’s nothing about this situation that speaks to me about logic being the entry point of discussion. Not to mention that I think it’s going to be a very rare 22 year old with access to $350,000 who’s going to have the immediate impulse of 140k for retirement and 70k in general savings.

          1. Anonymous Educator*

            [I]t’s going to be a very rare 22 year old with access to $350,000 who’s going to have the immediate impulse of 140k for retirement and 70k in general savings.

            That we can definitely agree on!

            1. TotesMaGoats*

              Well, that’s not entirely fair. At 22, I absolutely would’ve socked away a huge amount of that kind of money for retirement. Many of my friend would’ve done the same.

                1. Anxa*

                  I really don’t think that’s that case at all.

                  I think most of my friends and I would have immediately settled up debt. The silliest thing we’d probably had done would be to put a down payment on a house and put away some savings for maintenance, since this was 2008. Or pay our student loans instead of trying to invest the money to outpace our debt.

                  But I can’t think of any of my actual close friends who wouldn’t have started to put that money towards some sort of savings. What else WOULD you spend it on?

                  FWIW, I had a small windfall at 22. I put half into savings (which quickly was eaten up during unemployment), paid down my CC, and bought a laptop. Very glad I did splurge a little, as I have a computer now that I wouldn’t otherwise have. I would hardly call that unusual behavior for a 22 year old.

                2. Anonymous Educator*

                  I’m seriously not attacking anyone personally or anyone’s friends. I’m saying that overall for 22-year-olds, it is rare (i.e., not common) to be responsible in saving a lot of money even when you have it. Rare != non-existent.

                3. LQ*

                  I wonder if this is a cultural thing. In the US the overall savings rate is around %5. So I think saying that people would save money is pretty uncommon. Most people aren’t putting half of their windfalls away. You might not be from the US and I know other countries have radically different savings rates. But in the US, saving half or more of your money from anything is nearly unheard of.

                4. Cath in Canada*

                  I also had a small windfall from an insurance payout, which I got access to in my early 20s. I paid off my (small) debt after grad school and spent the rest on immigration fees. I think Canadian citizenship’s been a pretty good investment :)

                5. Honeybee*

                  I don’t think it would’ve been uncommon for a 22-year-old to save some, Anxa, but I think it would’ve been pretty rare for a 22-year-old to place 40% of it in a retirement fund. I was pretty savvy financially when I was 22 and I still wasn’t really thinking about retirement – I didn’t start to confront that reality until I was at least 25 or 26.

              1. Bwmn*

                With all due respect to how fiscally responsible everyone would be at 22 – saying that when not faced with actually having the money isn’t quite the same as saying “my senior class in high school won the lottery and look at the brilliant financial choices we all made”.

              2. OhNo*

                I’m the same way – I’m only 26, and I’ve already managed to save nearly a year’s worth of personal expenses, despite the fact that I only work part time for low pay. I did come into some money at 22, all of which is still happily squirreled away, safe for my retirement.

                But I’ll agree with Anonymous Educator that the saving mindset is uncommon among the young age group. Of everyone I know at or around the same age, most of them would think of saving some, but few would actually consider it a priority. IME, that seems to be a mindset that really kicks in when you finally realize that you really, truly can’t work for the rest of your life.

              3. Triangle Pose*

                Yep, at that age when I came into money, I did squirrel it away for both planned retirement, an emergency fund and then spent a small percentage (maybe 5%) toward a trip I’ll always be happy I took. But I had a LOT of financial guidance from a parent who valued saving for retirement and I think OP can try to be a guide for her relative.

              4. ThursdaysGeek*

                Me too! I would have saved so much of that, spent only what was necessary. As it was, at 22 I was saving while attending college and living on my own, and when I’d saved $1000, I splurged by buying a walkman, and then kept saving.

                Of course now, with savings giving a measly return of 0.01% or so, there’s hardly any point, and it’s probably better to spend it. But when we got 5%? Oh yeah, it was going in the bank.

  12. Megs*

    I’m not sure how effective pushing back on her specific complaints will be, here. I mean, it DOES suck not to have a window, florescent lights are the worst, it’s awesome to have a job that you feel fulfilled in, and mundane tasks can be frustrating and demeaning. I don’t think the issue here is her being upset about any of those things specifically so pushing back on them in particular could be off-putting.

    What the issue really is here is her quitting a job after four months because of those things (we assume – give her the chance to tell it from her perspective!), and possibly also her attitude about those things at work (although it’s not clear to me from the letter whether the OP has any specifics about her relative’s work performance – again, something to ask about). Talk to her about those things, absolutely. But as for the specific complaints, I see nothing wrong (to a point) with complaining about your tiny closet office and buzzing lights to your friends and close family, assuming you’re still able to show up to work with a pleasant attitude ready to fetch coffee and make photocopies.

    I think this is the key advice here: “I want to see you set yourself up for a work life that will make you happy long-term, not just in the present, and I’m worried that the way you’re approaching it now is going to make that harder for you down the road.”

    1. fposte*

      That’s a reasonable point–especially if you’re new to the workplace, it can be a shock that things are like this. If she wasn’t stating that she was better than those things or using them as a reason to quit, it could simply be inexperience.

      But I think it’s fair to kindly provide some perspective, since this is kind of like being personally indignant that taxes are being taken out of your paycheck. It’s not something you can expect a lot of sympathy for.

      1. Megs*

        I completely agree with the idea of kindly providing perspective. I just think the conversation will go better if it focuses on the bigger picture of building a reputation and working your way up, rather than how unreasonable it is to PRIVATELY complain about florescent lighting.

        Also, I really, really hate florescent lighting.

  13. fposte*

    This is kind of the flip side of the “what’s okay at work?” question from last week. It’s hard, when starting out, to know what’s a norm and what’s egregious. The last week poster was erring on the conservative side; the OP’s relative, not so much.

    1. AnotherHRPro*

      This is a very good insight. If the OP’s relative does not have professional friends, parents, etc. they may not know what is “normal”. It is ok to not like not having a window – it is also very, very common. It is ok to not like doing menial work – it is also very, very common. It is ok to hate florescent lights – I have never seen an office without them. She needs to know all of this. Someone up thread wrote about asking questions. I would ask her about her friends’ jobs. Do they have offices with windows? Did they have meaningful work as interns? Do they ever have to do things they don’t like?

  14. Sunflower*

    I know a few people kind of like this and the one thing they all have in common is not having the financial pressure. I know of someone who said she didn’t like her new job because they expected her to show up every day and she was probably going to have to quit because of it. Another friend is 31 and has spent the last 10 years jumping from job to job, acquiring degrees and claims she really wants to figure out a career yet doesn’t want to start at the bottom. She moved to LA, took a job in TV and was pissed when she discovered she was someone’s assistant and not writing story lines. The thing those people both have in common is they have the financial support to not need a job. If they stuck in anything long enough, they’d realize that they are not being treated like crap and these things are totally normal.

    I think the reason these people think they are above the work is because they don’t realize that everyone is doing stuff like this in their jobs. They seem to think they are the only ones who have admin tasks in their jobs. I talked with some friends the other day about how much of our work we could push off on an intern if we had one and it’s a lot. My manager has 20 years experience and she spends a good amount of her time putting together supplies and shipping them out

    I think these are things that can only be learned by going to a job and sticking at it or maybe job shadowing. But if the financial pressure isn’t there, I’m not sure they have the capacity to really care because they don’t need to.

    1. Sally*

      “I think the reason these people think they are above the work is because they don’t realize that everyone is doing stuff like this in their jobs.”

      This is so very true, at least it was true for me in my early career.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      That’s exactly what I was thinking. While it is probably worth it for the OP to try to broach the subject, most people with that type of attitude have to become desperate enough to want to change, much like an alcoholic needs to hit rock bottom. When you’re deluding yourself, you cannot be deterred by being told anything as trivial as facts or figures that contradict your idea of how things should be.

    3. Jennifer*

      And honestly, some people just don’t like work. I’ve known some people who end up hating every single job they have, period. I just kinda throw up my hands there because what can you do?

      1. Honeybee*

        Yeah, this. I can understand complaining about admin work but complaining because you have to show up every day? I suspect that’s someone who just doesn’t like work.

  15. Acad*

    I would also suggest one thing to the conversation, a reminder that while hard work and mundane tasks (and florescent lighting) are totally expected from entry level jobs, harassment and assault are not.

    What a young person projects to her relatives might not be the whole truth. A friend of mine left a very good lab (generous paid fellowship) less than 6 months after graduating because one of the senior researcher sexually harassed and then assaulted her in a way that she would never have been able to prove or been believed (by the people who mattered, not her friends ). She took a few months off, arranged her own therapy, and eventually found a spot in another lab. If she had complained or laid charges, I am very sure she would have no academic career now.

    She left very abruptly, dropping the projects she had been assigned, and I’m very sure she burned bridges. She eventually switched institutions and specializations in order to secure a new spot. The story that she presented to her family (including her parents) was that she wasn’t in love with the field, hated working in the basement, and needed to get her head on straight. Part of the reason she presented it that way was that she was embarrassed that she’d let something like that happen to her, part of the reason was that she didn’t want to hear it if her family blamed her, and part of the reason was because it was years before she was able to admit that what happened to her was rape.

    Now you know the young woman you are asking about better than any of us, as strangers, but just because someone has been flaky in the past doesn’t mean they haven’t also experienced trauma (what better way to cover something up than saying exactly what is expect of you?). If/when you have the conversation to leave the door open to the idea that she is covering for something else, something she may not feel comfortable sharing – even with family.

    1. Tammy*

      This is a good point, and one it’s easy to overlook – and not just for early-career folks. I ran a consulting business with my abusive ex for many years, and it was an emotionally shattering experience to always be told how worthless and useless I was. Although I’m in a good spot career-wise now (manager of a team, decently paid, and with a great reputation among my peers and leadership), I also know that I’m far behind where I’d be if I hadn’t spent 14 years letting someone tear my self-worth to pieces. In fact, despite my successes since my divorce, I still struggle sometimes with the emotional aftereffects of being in that situation as long as I was.

      At the time it was happening, I worked hard not to let that part of my life show to the outside world, and I’d wager that my former clients would be quite surprised to hear about it now. So, what appears on the surface to be going on may not always reflect the full reality of the situation.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      This is a beautiful and compassionate response. Thank you.

      When I graduated (barely!) from college, I did much what she did — though with less dramatic claims and more projected apathy. The truth behind it wasn’t as clear as sexual assault, but it was just as difficult. I had two undiagnosed mental illnesses, no idea how to cope with them when I was no longer being helicopter-parented, and spent most of my college career coping with a relationship, which turned into an engagement, that was abusive and gaslight-y. By the time I made it home, the only thing I had left was a blind determination that pretending that I was okay would force me to be okay. Any time someone asked “What’s wrong, Boochie?” the only answer I would give was “Nothing, I just didn’t feel like [cleaning/applying for a job/eating meals today/etc].” Which translated into “I’m so depressed I’m lucky I got out of bed today, and once I managed it I couldn’t focus on any task other than rereading my childhood comfort books for more than five minutes.”

      1. anon for this*

        I’ve struggled (and continued to struggle) with mental illness that started in college. I’ve had jobs that, outwardly, seemed fine, but because of my mental illnesses, they were affecting my health so badly that I had to quit even though they weren’t objectively bad jobs. I’m tailoring my job search better now to find positions where I can be successful, but it’s still frustrating when people (even those who know about my diagnoses and should know better) assume that I’m just being spoiled by not taking or applying to a certain job.

    3. Searching*

      Yes. We don’t know if there is something more serious underneath that LW’s relative was being flippant to cover up. There are some terrible internships and terrible entry level jobs and terrible workplaces that may justify quitting. Yes, it could be affluenza too but it would be good to ascertain. Because if something like this was the case then even Alison’s measured lecture will go really badly.

    4. Tinker*

      Here’s a question related to that: what was that insurance settlement FOR? The OP mentions it in terms of a thing that makes financial pressures not a problem, apparently for years. That’s not a small amount of money, and usually the way you get money from insurance involves something bad happening or something worse happening — losing property of significant value (and the relative doesn’t sound like they’ve got or had major property), significant physical injury, REALLY significant mental injury, loss of a close relative or partner, etc. None of these things lack the potential for trauma. Yes, even losing property — losing one’s home, for instance, and whatever circumstances caused the home to be lost.

      And yeah, such a thing or some other difficult experience not mentioned could certainly account for this pattern of behavior.

    5. oranges & lemons*

      This is such a good point. Or, it’s also quite possible that she was just feeling stressed out and overwhelmed by the job and doesn’t want to admit it. Particularly since she left just 4 months in, she could have been struggling to get used to working in an office environment, and I can see how it would have been tempting to just leave since she can afford it.

  16. em2mb*

    I’m really lucky, seven years into my career, that none of the stupid things I did in the beginning ever really hurt me.

    But say something! Because while I’m exactly where I want to be in my late 20s, I have so many friends who made mistakes right out of college that they’re still paying for and might always be paying for. One of my friends texts me constantly with what I consider “first job frustrations.” She doesn’t think she should still be paying her dues at 28, but she still is because of choices she made five years ago. She’s always saying, “But you don’t have to put up with this bullshit!” No, not now. But I did!

    1. Lillian McGee*

      Same. I did some pretty dumb/tonedeaf stuff at work before the age of 23 and I consider myself very lucky that I a) recognized the dumbness in hindsight, b) learned from it and c) have never needed a reference from those early workplaces…

  17. Anon for this*

    I have a co-worker who was similar to this. She’s spent the last 5-6 years or so hopping from one job (she changed jobs every 10-12 months) because the job she was in didn’t pay enough, or wasn’t senior enough, or the work didn’t use her talents sufficiently, etc. She bragged about never taking a job that paid less than 50K or never taking a job lower than a specific level.

    Now, after 6-7 jobs, she’s working for less than 50K and is essentially a glorified administrative assistant. But, even more critical than the pay and the work, she lost out on 5-6 years of learning and skill development. She won’t be ready for a promotion for a least another year to 18 months, and that is largely because she doesn’t have the skills necessary to take that next step. And it’s been a bitter pill for her swallow, but at least she seems to get it now. Some people just have to learn for themselves.

  18. CoffeeLover*

    Somehow I’m very doubtful this message will get through. Some lessons need to be learned first hand. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should still try to have at least one conversation with her.

    My best friend is a bit of a career train wreck. Very different from me (I’m a management consultant). I learned a long time ago that he lives life at his own pace. It probably means he won’t be that successful career-wise, but that’s the life he chooses to live. At this point, I never talk to him about his career because it frustrates me and I don’t see the point of pushing my friend away for making (what I believe are poor) decisions about his life. It’s a little different with family, but there’s only so much you can push someone (and that much is not a lot).

    Anyway, who knows. Maybe office life isn’t meant for your relative.

    1. Miss M*

      I agree. A former friend of mine is a great writer and editor but I believe her attitude got in the way of having a successful career in copywriting. I helped her with getting assignments through my paper than she would email me saying that she wouldn’t be able to them (one being on the day the assignment was due). Another involved her walking off a job when she found out her PT position was being advertised (the company had asked her to work FT; she said no). She blasted the company on her Facebook page, saying that they were showing their true colors with the job listing.

    2. Chinook*

      “I learned a long time ago that he lives life at his own pace. It probably means he won’t be that successful career-wise, but that’s the life he chooses to live. ”

      This is my older cousin to a tee. My aunt and uncle have even asked me to talk to him because they have seen me make multiple career transitions and still be successful. In their eyes is a steady income that doesn’t rely on anyone supporting me. Heck, I even lived with my parents while I was separated from DH and still managed to work hard enough to have been able to afford my own place if there were any available (if I wasn’t renting their basement suite, they would have rented it out to someone else, so I was just another tenant but one that didn’t need references). But cousin has his own goals (though I can’t figure out what they are) and is willing to sacrifice the comforts of a good job in order not to settle. And, because of this, he also was able to become a primary care-giver to our dying grandmother until she died, something that no one else could do due to job and family obligations (something which his parents never did recognize). He will probably be primary caregiver to his parents if their health goes south as well. So, I see his life choices as being ones that, while frustrating to everyone else because he is capable of so much more, as being his alone as long as he doesn’t drag anyone else down with him.

      And when I am asked to talk to him, I tell him his parents want me to tell him that, if her ever wants advice, he can talk to me and that now he can say to them that I talked to him. Gets everyone off his, and my, back for at least a year or two.

    3. Former Retail Manager*

      It’s nice that you say you won’t push your friend away for making what you believe are poor decisions about his life. I did just that and cut my best friend of 16 years loose. I simply couldn’t listen to the whining and “oh poor me” anymore about circumstances that were of her own making. I wish her all the best, but I doubt the best will ever come to her. She is her own worst enemy. People like your friend are tough to deal with, for me anyway, and I’m glad to see your friendship has endured. Best to you both!

  19. Socal Tech*

    #4 you may also have a case for unpaid wages. That is something you could mention when you bring it up. They are forcing you to stay at work and it’s not to go through a theft screening.

  20. Adam*

    I agree with Alison in that you should sit down and be frank with her once but only once. And I hope you get through to her. I really do. This person sounds like she had some great opportunities presented to her (paid internship!) and she was incapable of recognizing that. If she doesn’t learn the lesson now and with the safety net of the insurance settlement to back her up she may float about through most of her twenties only to seriously crash and burn later and have it hammered in pretty harshly, and if her maladaptive mindset is as deeply ingrained as you describe it even then there’s no guarantee she’ll “get it”.

  21. apopculturalist*

    I’m a millennial, and I know I’m not alone when I say I can’t stand the swath of “millennials are the worst” trend stories out there. (I’m not a self-absorbed whiner who can’t be pried from her selfies.) So I’m really, really irritated to see these people ACTUALLY exist! Stop giving the good ones a bad name!

    That said, I’d love to see where she turns out when the money runs out.

    1. Kvaren*

      I think what’s really to blame here is the situation of being financially privileged, which begets entitlement. I’m sure this is a problem that has spanned multiple generations.

      1. Lebanese Blonde*

        I think the problem is entitlement, period. I (and many of my friends) come from relatively “privileged” backgrounds, but every one of us is working in low-paid, entry-level grunt-work type positions because we recognize that relying on family money is completely ridiculous (and my parents, aside from medical insurance, would never let me rely on them). I think financial security and realistic expectations really shouldn’t be seen as mutually exclusive, at least for a lot of people I know. For reference, I am 22.

        One friend aspires to be a director and is working in development at a theatre (after working under-paid internship after internship there for 3 years) just to get the slightest glimpse of her goal career. One works as a barista and as an unpaid radio intern. One just got into graduate school but is spending the intervening months working daily at a restaurant and doing data entry. One works 45-50 hours a week at a craft shop and as a tutor. I just got a graveyard shift job that I’m doing on top of my regular position in order to make connections at an organization I really respect. Yes, many of us are lucky to not have thousands in student loans to pay off, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t see the value in making strong starts in our careers.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I’m not a Millennial, but these stories upset me, too. I have seen a very small handful of Millennials who fulfill the stereotype of the bratty, entitled “special snowflake” Millennial, but the vast majority of Millennials I’ve worked with have been extremely level-harded and hard-working.

    3. Searching*

      The secret is they exist in EVERY generation. There are entitled awful people who aren’t young, too. There will always be bad apples. And I bet lots of generations got some version of the “oh young people today just don’t get it/ aren’t good workers” and have conveniently forgotten it now they’ve changed/ the workplace culture has changed to fit their needs.

      1. Tinker*

        This. And one of the catches is that entitled people who aren’t young sometimes have a way of sliding their entitlement in with the socially acceptable running down of the younger generation.

        I’ve been reading a site that studies how abusive parents who have been cut off or nearly so from their children tend to describe their situation, and broad-brush characterizations of “the entitled generation” and the like are one of the popular rationalizations for why it is that the children whose house they showed up at uninvited and had an extended shouting match while refusing to leave (for instance) don’t speak to them anymore.

        1. Gerald*

          This sounds very interesting and is not a perspective I’ve encountered much–do you mind sharing what the site is?

  22. Gene*

    You know who tends to not show these “millennial”, self-absorbed, entitled traits when they enter the workforce? Veterans. Maybe if everyone went into 2 years of public service (military, AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, revived WPA, or the like) we’d have less of this. I know after 7 years in the Navy, I wasn’t whining about not having a window, or someone telling me what to do.

    1. fposte*

      Though I’ve seen comments from some veterans horrified by the ambiguities and perceived lack of discipline in office life (some of them here–didn’t we have somebody a month or two ago like that?), so I think it can bring its own baggage.

      I do think having a national service would affect that as well, since there’d be less them and us. (BTW, Google may have an axe to grind–when I searched “countries with mandatory military service,” the big window result was countries with a non-combatant alternative to military service :-).)

    2. mander*

      See the discussion a few days ago. Not everyone is able to join the military, for various reasons, including an overabundance of applicants.

      In any case, veterans don’t have a monopoly on not being entitled.

    3. Mike C.*

      Jesus christ, do we really have to go through this again and again?

      Also, I find it really convenient that the only people to say we should have mandatory service are older folk talking about the young.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Gene said public service, not specifically military service. I’m not into compelled service of any sort, but it doesn’t warrant this harsh of a response! (Plus, on “again and again,” keep in mind that many people don’t read every discussion here.)

        1. Mike C.*

          It happens every time there is a discussion about my “terrible” generation and it needs to end. The idea that people “like me” need to experience a period of indentured servitude because we’re somehow morally deficient is incredibly insulting.

          1. Mike C.*

            And by “every time” I mean “not just here”. It’s so common as to be worthy of placing on a “complain about millennials” bingo card.

            1. Mike C.*

              So you believe that Gene is arguing that everyone should just have to drop what they’re doing and go spend two years doing service? Come on, whenever this stuff is presented, it’s always about young people never being as good as the latter generations and needing to give back to fix their terrible attitudes. His very first sentence is this:

              You know who tends to not show these “millennial”, self-absorbed, entitled traits when they enter the workforce?

              How am I not supposed to take this as a generational sentiment when the generation is specifically mentioned?

              And even if we’re somehow talking about “everyone participating”, the organizations mentioned primarily employ younger people. The military certainly isn’t looking for new recruits over the age of 40 and you can’t join AmeriCorps when you’re over 25. The others are less strict but still go after younger people.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                No, I read it as him advocating that as a good idea for everyone of that age group, not just Milennials (in other words, that it would have been a good idea for previous generations of 18-22-year-olds, and will be in the future).

                I’ve always argued that there are lots of things that are common to that age group that aren’t specific to the current generation inhabiting it.

                Regardless, I’d rather people not take such adversarial tones to each other here.

              2. Deborah*

                “How am I not supposed to take this as a generational sentiment when the generation is specifically mentioned?”

                +1. It’s disingenuous to pretend otherwise when the OP has made his opinions about” millennials” pretty clear.

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              On the other hand, I had two summers in the Youth Conservation Corps when I was young, and while that was voluntary, it was also an amazing eye-opener. I learned how to physically work hard, how to work on a team, and it was an extremely valuable period of my life.

              So even if it’s not mandatory, it sure would be nice if it were a common option. YCC was hard to get in then, and some of the options Gene mentioned are not much easier. So as an “old people” I’d say it’s something that at least should be easy and common to do. But not mandatory.

      2. Gene*

        I’ve been a proponent of mandatory service since I was in high school, way back in the dark days of Nixon and the draft. The inequities of how Selective Service has been implemented in this country gave always rankled me. That’s why I say everyone. There is some sort of public service everyone who is mentally capable can perform.

        The military isn’t a fit for many, just like office work isn’t for everyone.

        1. the gold digger*

          Preach. My husband and I were in San Antonio this weekend. My husband couldn’t understand why he kept seeing so many military personnel in uniform. I had to explain that there are some huge bases there, including a base that does basic training, and that these new enlistees’ parents visit them and the entire family goes to the Alamo.

          I noticed is that almost all of the parents appeared to be working class. When it is only the children of the working class who are getting shot at, the political class – whose own children do not enlist – are not so concerned. It’s not their kids or their friends’ kids they would be sending to war. This is why I am in favor of universal conscription. I want politicians to think long and hard before they send anyone to war.

          1. friendlyinitials*

            I live in a country where military service is mandatory for males (unless you have a health issue or can prove that you’re gay) I think there are a lot of flaws in that system too. All the politicians’ sons have managed to get out of doing the service. If you go to university you get two years deferral upon graduation but no one will hire you if you have to leave in a couple of years. Every few years there is a chance that you become eligible for a shorter term but only if you can afford to pay for it. Guys either never graduate, spending a decade doing undergrad (if it’s a state school the fee is relatively low), or sign up for grad school that they don’t intend to finish (or even attend) so that they can get 5+ years of deferrals. It’s still the working class whose children have to do the military service. This is at a time when there is practically war going on in half of the country and weekly there is news of dead soldiers (as well as civilians) and actual war going on just the other side of the border.

          2. SarahHC*

            Have you read “AWOL”, by Kathy Roth-Douquet and Frank Schaeffer? It’s a few years old at this point, but it really changed my thinking about the draft. Definitely worth checking out!

      3. fposte*

        But don’t most young people who feel service is important make that point by joining the service? I know that’s not the same thing as supporting its being made mandatory, but it’s the option to express a point. Gene also expanded his notion to a WPA-style effort; I don’t think he’s necessarily advocating conscription.

        I think it could actually be pretty cool to have a couple of entry-level years where people learn work skills, get secure pay, and absorb the notion of working for a common good, but it’ll never fly in the U.S.

        1. Muriel Heslop*

          As a high school teacher, I think that a year off to do some public service work of some kind could be amazing for our communities and our culture. I don’t think it will ever happen, but a girl can dream.

        2. Anxa*

          The only benefit I could see is that it may help bring some more entitled people down to earth.

          At first I was going to say that I feel that mandatory public service may cheapen the experience for those that actually choose to go into service and make it harder for organizations to achieve their goals.

          But I think public service is so undervalued or irrelevant to paid employment, that it may be better to make sure it equally hurts everyone, not just those that choose service.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      I bet that would have helped me. I should have had a gap year, and I should have had it FAR away from helicoptering. Military wouldn’t have been good for me and my poor eyesight probably would have kept me out of it, anyway, but perhaps something else.

      Gah, why don’t you get do-overs!?

    5. Megs*

      This feels anecdotal to me, so I’d be curious to know if there’s any data out there about vets adjusting to professional norms. In my personal anecdotal experience, I know a couple of vets who adapted well, and a couple who ended up with early onset diabetes and are serial job hoppers because they never seem to have developed the skills to self-direct, and didn’t have a plan other than (1) enlist, (2) ??, (3) profit.

      1. asteramella*

        Yes, anecdotally I had a close high school friend who served in the army, got out, then immediately screwed up his college prospects and his job prospects. Ironically, he thought everything should be handed to him because he was a veteran and therefore “deserved” [college admission, good grades, a high-paying job, etc]. We have lost touch after he kept asking me for resume and application help, then turning around and telling me that I don’t have any “real” experience because I had no military experience (or desire to gain such experience, for that matter). People of all stripes can be entitled.

        1. anon for this*

          We had an intern who was a vet. He sexually harassed several female employees including his boss, talked about how his gun skills could solve any problem, wouldn’t follow directions, etc. I think it is better to just take each person as they are instead of placing them inside of a stereotype of veterans this and millennials that.

          1. Winter is Coming*

            Yes, this. We had a veteran who was an absolute nightmare to work with. Morale increased dramatically when we finally parted ways.

    6. Liana*

      While I think there’s certainly a discussion to be had about the advantages vs. disadvantages of required public service, I really don’t think this situation calls for it. There are plenty of people who have never served who have no problem understanding basic professional norms in the US.

    7. LQ*

      Some people are self-absorbed, some aren’t. I know vets and former peace corps people who are and people who went right to corporate America who aren’t. I would be interested in data, but I also think a huge part of this is based on other factors and so I’d want to see confounding factors considered and pulled out.

    8. Noah*

      If everyone had two years of required service I assume we would see other issues. I personally don’t want anyone in the military or Peace Corps or whatever that doesn’t want to be there.

      Also, FWIW, I’ve found that some veterans have their own set of workplace issues as they are adjusting to a civilian workplace. There is a learning curve there, just like when a college student transitions from college to professional life.

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        Yes! Definitely a learning curve! I now work in Government, where many veterans end up, and most do their job well. However, the issues I’ve encountered with all but one I’ve interacted with, is the challenge in their communications with people and how communications in the civilian world differ from the military. All but one tend to be very aggressive, sometimes bordering on blatantly rude and condescending, in their communications both internally and externally. Just my own anecdotal experience. All other skills such as technology, procedures, etc. can be learned over time, but changing a deeply engrained communication style is much more difficult.

      2. Callie*

        I have a student who is former military, studying to be a teacher. He has a hard time understanding that you cannot MAKE students do things the way you can MAKE someone do something in the military. I feel bad because he really means well and I believe he has a sincere desire to help kids and a passion for his subject, but school =/= military.

        1. Liane*

          I thought for a moment that maybe he should be a Junior ROTC instructor–but then I recalled the (retired) officers and NCOs who taught my JrROTC classes in high school. They were just as kind, understanding and good with troubled and/or troublesome teens as the rest of my best (& favorite) teachers.
          They knew that they weren’t in charge of military recruits or subordinates, that they were there to teach us and to help us on the way to the next stage of life.

          1. Honeybee*

            I loved the JROTC teacher at my high school. I wasn’t even in JROTC – my parents wouldn’t allow it – but I still went down and visited him and talked often because I was interested in the military and potentially attending the Naval Academy. He saw it as his role to use JROTC to teach basic life skills to children. If some of them decided to join the military, that was great, but it was obvious that wasn’t his primary goal. (He was also a huge advocate for the students – so much so that despite being a working-class black high school that never makes any “best of” lists, we still had recruiters from the academies come down and interview students and a sizable number of ROTC scholarships come out of that school.)

    9. Honeybee*

      Eh, disagree. I knew several self-absorbed, entitled members of my husband’s squadron when he was in, some of whom were still complaining about being told what to do after a few years in. Lots of people learn and grow up from the military but some people don’t.

    10. Violetta*

      Most people already don’t show these traits when entering the workforce. I don’t think the country would benefit from these programs that we couldn’t afford to have everyone participate in anyway. Plus, many of these organisations, the military first and foremost, do not have a good track record of protecting its own against abuse within the organization.

  23. Menacia*

    I know the 55 year old version of this girl. She has not one, but two degrees (teaching and accounting), she was a teacher (and would actually be retired with a great pension by now), and then an accountant (making excellent money). She gets tired of the jobs and moves on, usually to crappier ones because no one wants to hire hr, and yet she’s still spending money like water. The kicker? Her parents would give her money when she needed it, they even went to far as to buy her a car (this was only a few years ago!). So essentially, if you don’t grow out of entitlement, you’re going to be screwed (she’s on her own now, with deadbeat husband, no more money from the parents).

    1. socrescentfresh*

      Ugh, this is my 35-year-old bro-in-law too…he’s terrible at work in general, and his parents let him live with them rent-free, even giving him an allowance, because they can’t stomach a “tough love” approach. No one wants to see him destitute, but all that enabling from his family means zero incentive to grow up and take care of himself. When my in-laws are gone, it’ll be my husband and me taking care of the brother. That’s the problem with family and career advice…the stakes are higher for your future selves than they are for your present selves.

  24. I'm Not Phyllis*

    Not that this is an excuse, but there STILL seems to be this illusion among youth that if you go to college and make good grades, you’ll easily be making $60K plus and have a corner office with a view, and that you’ll have interns who will do stuff for you. My first job out of university actually did pay more than $60K and I got an office, because I had worked with the manager who offered it to me before – and I was awful at it. It became evident pretty quickly that I didn’t have the necessary experience and I had no idea what I was doing. It has taken me YEARS to work my way up after my contract was (understandably) not renewed and I don’t think it did me any favours … except maybe teaching me some self awareness and to not get myself in over my head.

    You’re lovely for wanting to help this young person understand what professional norms are. All young people should be so lucky. I love Alison’s suggestions, and I also love the suggestion of the first commenter who says that she also needs to learn how her actions effect others. It’s a powerful lesson and, in my opinion, the earlier she learns it the better. Five years might seem like a long time, but it’s not … and if she’s not making a good professional name for herself and gaining valuable experience in that time, she’ll be five years behind everyone else in her age group. I’m concerned that she left the job so abruptly, but more concerned that she seems to feel as though it’s no big deal. It’s not just about money – it’s about making a name and a reputation for yourself, which I know you’re hoping you can help her realize.

    Good luck!

    1. Adam*

      Yeah, when I was in high school about a little over a decade ago the college degree, ANY degree except for perhaps they mythical Underwater Basket Weaving, was very much touted as being a golden ticket like it was several decades ago when they were much more uncommon. I know the issue is super-complicated and statistically that people with degrees on average tend to do better financially over the course of a lifetime than those without, but it’s definitely not as simple as our guidance counselors/parents made it sound. I seriously pray the times have caused them to update their conversations as the kids really need to have a better idea of what it’s really like before they make such huge decisions. now.

      1. Searching*

        Ugh. Yes, exactly. The recession happened. Jobs vanished. More and more companies offering endless unpaid internships to fill real jobs and “entry level” jobs requiring 2 years of experience and a pony happened. And the “whiny millennial” stereotype doesn’t exactly take that change into account most of the time. And its understandable that kids who were pretty much ushered through school and college apps and undergrad and were sold on expensive college, good grades= good job fallacy by well meaning adults in their life feel a little like the rug was pulled out from under them. Yes, we need to grow and suck it up, too to an extent but a lot of have been/ are in somewhat impossible positions job-wise.
        Even if LW’s millennial relative’s internship was paid, it very possibly was very little. Very very possibly it was more of a job than an internship and they weren’t paying her commensurate to the work she was doing or treating her poorly. It *sounds* like a cushy deal, paid and with an office, but that can be misleading. LW may not be seeing the whole picture. The whole picture could also include health/ mental health concerns that LW is not privy to.

        1. Anxa*

          That’s a pretty great point about the actual money.

          I work with and know a lot of researchers.

          Prestigious, paid fellowships and internships often pay poverty wages. I know a few of the more….erm, ‘never-had-a-survival-type-job’ types and as much as I envy that they got to spend high school and college solely focusing on school, they still probably deserve a living wage, even if they don’t need it.

          No one would suspect what their actual earnings and short-term earning potentials were based on the job descriptions, unless they were millennials too or more familiar with the sciences.

          In fact, I once heard someone in my parents’ generation comment on how so-and-so must make gobs of money since they’re a cancer researcher. I thought they were being sarcastic and we had a brief discussion about more realistic salaries at the junior level.

      2. Kelly L.*

        I’m a Gen Xer, and I agree–we were kind of sold a bill of goods and then made fun of for buying it. It went kind of like this:

        Every Adult In One’s Life: Go to college! Go ahead and take out beaucoup loans, you’ll be able to pay them back easily with the great job you’re gonna get. If you don’t take out those loans, you can’t go to college, and then you will flip burgers for the rest of your life and that is a fate worse than death.

        Kid: …Ok.

        Kid, several years later, now Young Adult: Um, the economy has crashed and I can’t find a job and now I have beaucoup student loans. Ugh.

        Every Adult in One’s Life: What, are you too proud to flip burgers? That’s good honest work!

        Young Adult: Well, actually, the fast food places aren’t hiring either, because I asked.

        1. Anna*

          Yep. That’s what happened to my husband’s cousin. He couldn’t find a job with his physics degree so he applied at a warehouse. During the interview, the boss said something like, “I usually don’t hire people straight out of college because it’s menial work and they think they deserve something better with their degrees.”

          You can’t win!

        2. AFT123*

          Right!? I get so angry sometimes at the memory of my mom telling me to take out a bunch of school loans because “the interest rates are so low, it’s basically free, and school loans are good loans!” Well $35k and 6.5% later, I’m not sure happy with that advice, especially considering I could have put forth a reasonable effort back then to pay for school up front, but didn’t. My mom also didn’t realize the cost of college as her parents had paid her way, and once volunteered to pay for my books. She about had a heart attack for the $600 bill. The saddest part is, I know that I’m one of the “lucky” ones in terms of what my schooling cost! I feel awful for a lot of people who have gigantic loan balances.

        3. Megs*

          I’m a near-Xer (I guess Y isn’t a thing anymore?) and I completely relate to this. My dad used to constantly tell us growing up how important it was to do at least SOME college, ANY college. He loved to talk about how his English major led to his becoming a corporate loan executive. Hard work was still expected, but college was The Way To Go.

          Now that I think of it, he’s the one who encouraged me to go to law school, too. Hmmmmm… Joking aside, (most) parents want the best for their kids and it’s easy to pass on their learned wisdom without realizing that things have changed/are changing. It’s bad enough to be of the generation where that wisdom fails, but especially grating to be personally blamed for it. Like 18 year old me was going to say “clearly your advice is crap, professionally successful man who’s my personal hero.”

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yes! My dad too. Major in whatever you want, then go to law school. They told us that in freshman orientation at my college, too–that if you wanted to go to law school, law schools didn’t care what you’d majored in, as long as you knew how to think and write when you were done. And of course I never did go to law school at all, nor (as it turned out, due to the law school bubble) would it have likely helped me if I had.

            1. Megs*

              Amen. Though to be fair, the “major in whatever you want because the law schools don’t care” part is pretty much true. The part that’s not true is “law school is a golden ticket” unless “golden ticket” = “same bad job market, much worse student loan debt.” Assuming you don’t have a deeply held desire to be an attorney and a clear understanding of what being an attorney actually means, you dodged a bullet there, Kelly!

              1. Kelly L.*

                Totally! Nah, I never really wanted to be a lawyer all that badly–I think I just wanted the pay of one, or what I perceived that pay to be. :D

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      That’s what my mother assumed would happen to me. When I was offered my first job out of college and made $30k (and was THRILLED), she nearly fainted. That’s what happened to HER, after all! In a totally different field and at a completely different time.

      1. Searching*

        My parents were so angry with me when I did a year of stipend volunteer work when I graduated college at the height of the recession. To me, it was that or no job or unpaid internships. Then afterwards I worked retail for a while they were shocked again. “When I said go downtown and get a short-term job, I didn’t mean that!” Couldn’t win.

        1. Anxa*

          I think a lot of people underestimate how disruptive it can to be in that over-educated, under-qualified limbo.

          It’s hard to commit to meaningful volunteer work or unpaid internships when your financial support is breathing down your neck to get a ‘real job.’ On the one hand you’re luck to have the education and the option of low-cost/no-cost housing. On the other, you are balancing your own failed expectations along with those of your parents.

        2. Sunshine Brite*

          Mine weren’t angry but I could tell they were a little disappointed. Which to me feels worse.

    3. Honeybee*

      I actually don’t think that vision is that widespread. I’m 29 and none of my classmates expected to be making $60K with a window office in their first few years out of college. I expected to make around $35K in my first job out of college (and I kind of did – my graduate stipend was $32K in my PhD program).

      I talked to some high schoolers about that this weekend and they did have some slightly inflated ideas about their first salaries – but only slightly. They estimated they’d make around $50K, but they are also largely interested in science and technology careers. So in the 5-7 years between now and when they graduate from college, if they all major in engineering or computer science or math, it’s actually pretty possible that they are making $50K when they finish. The average starting salary of an engineering major these days is $60-65K and I think computer science, math, and physics majors average over $50K.

    4. Violetta*

      Have you talked to A Youth lately? None of the ones I know harbor such delusions… we’ve lived our formative years through a global financial crisis.

  25. OriginalYup*

    I have at least four relatives who are terrible employees. (Different flavors than what the OP describes, but nonetheless.) I’m pretty straight up when they say nonsensical things about work, mostly for my own sanity. There’s only so long I can nod sympathetically and say, “What do you think you’ll do about that?” Sometimes I just bluntly reply, “I’d totally fire you for doing that.”

    Alison’s advice is really good, particularly for talking to someone who’s new to the workforce. I agree that it’s a once-and-done conversation, but I’d also say that the OP should feel free to show authentic reactions in the future if the relative doesn’t listen to the advice and continues to be all special snowflake about work. “You did what? Holy cow, if you were my coworker I’d think you were a total PITA.”

    1. Artemesia*

      Yeah my favorite was the acquaintance who was mad because his supervisor was ‘bossing him around’ and ‘telling him what to do’ — I just blandly looked at him and said ‘do you know what the word ‘boss’ means?’ He is surrounded by ne’er do well relatives who are a chorus of fail — ‘oh no, they can’t do you like that’ ‘I’d quit if they did that to me.’ None of them has kept a job for long and they are all leeches off of people who are ‘lucky.’

      1. AnotherHRPro*

        This is my cousin! He has supposedly quit several jobs because his boss kept telling him what to do. I think he was fired from several jobs, but that is just my opinion. He has a new job and it is starting all over again. “They think they can just tell me what to do, it isn’t right.” Ah, yes, it is right. They are the boss. It is kinda their job to tell you what to do.

        1. KR*

          A good friend of mine is having some trouble finding his place in the working world and has left several jobs without notice. We were discussing the fact that he wasn’t having any luck getting hired anywhere, and when I found out he hadn’t given notice at his jobs and just kind of stopped coming to work I couldn’t believe it. So I told him that I wouldn’t hire him either with those credentials and that when he quit a job with no notice he was biting himself in the rear because he wouldn’t have any experience with good references for the next job. I don’t think it ever occurred to him. I’m so grateful my dad taught me these things.

          1. TootsNYC*

            I always want to say to folks like that:

            “Let’s say you have $10,000. You want to have someone build a deck, and you ONLY have $10,000. Once you spend it, it’s gone. Who are you going to hire to spend your money with? The guy who walked off the last job and never called them to tell them? Or the guy who finished the deck and checked back later to make sure it was still in good shape?
            “That’s what’s going on at work. The manager is given $X to hire someone. It may not be HIS money, but it’s the money he has to work with–they’re not going to give him more. And it’s not his deck on his house, but it’s his workday, and if things don’t go well at the job, he won’t get a raise. Heck, he could even get fired.
            “Who will he want to hire? The person whose last employer said he was a good worker, or the person whose last employer said, ‘Yeah, he just disappeared one day’?”

            1. KR*

              This is helpful. If he still doesn’t get it I’ll frame it like this. I’m helping him apply for college later this week and he toured with the college yesterday so hopefully being a functioning adult is sinking in for him.

  26. Beezus*

    I had to have a conversation along this vein with a member of my husband’s family. She was less privileged and more lacking in parental and professional role models and needed help with realistic workplace (and life) expectations. She thought I was going to be her professional fairy godmother and bippity-boppety-boo her into a cushy office job as soon as she finished a professional certification that she thought would qualify her to work at my workplace – it would not, and I wouldn’t recommend her for any job without big improvements in her professionalism.

    I was blunt. She wasn’t really ready to hear it, so the short-term outcome was that she stopped talking to me about her professional aspirations and changed her education focus to a completely different field. Long-term, her focus in school improved, she finished a degree program, and she has a temporary entry-level gig that isn’t in her desired field, but will give her some beneficial experience. In short, she’s grown up a bit, and I’m happy for her.

  27. Jamie*

    It won’t hit her until it’s negatively affecting her, probably financially. It doesn’t mean it’s not worth having the conversation, but I’d be stunned if she takes it to heart and changes her behavior. There’s a whole psychology behind it, people want to believe that they came to a conclusion on their own with no outside influence. If she doesn’t believe that she needs to get it together immediately, no amount of tough love will help.

    1. I'm Not Phyllis*

      You may be right – she might not get it together immediately (or believe how she does), but when her next job yields the same results (lower pay then she’d like, more menial work then she’d like, etc.) she may think back upon this conversation and *hopefully* start to take it seriously.

  28. Student*

    I’m a fan of the advice axiom: “Unsolicited advice is always self-serving.”

    You want to come to the rescue of this young lady relative and place her on the road to an easy life and be the hero. I’m sure her parents felt the same way when they protected her from the realities of the working world. I’m sure your other relative felt the same way when he/she gave this young woman a hand-wrapped internship, and then did not mention to this young woman that she departed her family-gifted internship on bad terms. You all want to protect her from the consequences of her actions and be the heroes saving the damsel in distress. That’s an understandable, human impulse. But it’s dead wrong here.

    The last thing this woman needs is more heroes showing up to save her from herself. She’ll never change unless she herself sees a need to change.

    1. fposte*

      But people don’t see a need to change in a vacuum, I’d say, and it’s also not the end of the world if the OP’s motivations are somewhat self-serving.

      That’s where Alison’s “You get one go” theory comes in. It means you can’t keep harping on it just because you enjoy it, and you won’t keep harping on it and thus make it less significant to the listener. People have given some good advice for ways that she might hear, and I think that the one go isn’t likely to make things any worse and may help. I know that there are definitely times I’ve recalibrated expectations when somebody told me I was out of line, so I don’t think we should assume it’s possible for this person either.

    2. LQ*

      Depends on what you mean by unsolicited advice, and sometimes self-serving is good. If you tell me, “Hey, when you ask me 10 questions in a row and then go off to think about it that is super off-putting, explain why you are doing it first.” I’ll go, oh shoot! I had no idea, thank you so much!

      A huge amount of what a manager does could be considered unsolicited advice and while it serves the manager, it also serves the employee in not having them be fired.

      I don’t like people who are pushy about it, but I kind of love unsolicited advice because it improves my interactions with the world tremendously.

    3. Bwmn*

      I agree.

      In assorted advice columns over the years there are so many versions of “this young person has xyz great thing but isn’t using it/doing it right”. I think it’s very telling that the OP wrote in asking what could be said to the young woman in question as opposed to “I’m having an argument with my relative who gave my niece a cushy internship that she abused and now won’t tell her that she’s burnt that bridge/has a terrible reference. What can I say to make this relative tell her?”

  29. ThursdaysGeek*

    Bleah, this is the situation we have except the young woman lives with us and isn’t related, doesn’t have a college degree nor an inheritance. I’m going to read through all the comments, because I need to find something that will get through to her. We don’t want to kick her out and let her be homeless, but she needs to start being an adult, starting with getting a job. Giving a hand up is a good thing, but not if the person is taking it as a hand-out. Alison has very good advice for clear speaking, and it’s time to do that.

    1. Anna*

      If you don’t mind her living with you, then I think that you could tell her that she will need to start paying rent and her portion of the utilities, as well as help with the household chores.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Which she can’t pay because she doesn’t have a job. I’ve read above about people with trauma and mental illnesses who reacted in a similar way, and that could be part of the issue. But I need to find a balance between enabling and kicking her out to be homeless.

        1. KR*

          That must really suck. You might need to enlist the help of her friends or other people her age to say, “We’re sick of paying for you when we go out to eat. We all have jobs, you need to too.” When he was a teen, my BF initially had no plans of getting a part time job since he was going into the military the fall after he graduated high school. He quickly realized that all of his friends were working and in order to go places with me and his friends, he needed more money. Not only that but we were all giving him the side eye for not getting a job. So he got one for a few months before he went into the military and he says it was really helpful to him looking back on it.

          I would start with entry level part time work – cleaning, grocery stores, overnight stocking, food service. That way if she bombs a few jobs, she can start over easily enough. She can get used to working under 29 hours a week (if you’re in the US) and you can make it a condition of her living there that she needs to work at least part time and give you rent each week. Perhaps show her the increase in your electricity, heating and water bills from having another person live at your house compared with rates from the local market on renting rooms so she understands that you’re cutting her a deal given her situation and that her living there is costing you real money. Once she’s more on her feet and making better money you can bump her rent up slowly to the market rate for renting a room in someone’s house.

        2. Searching*

          As a millennial who stayed with relatives while I was getting on my feet, thank you for being a support structure. Job hunting was daunting for me even with a college degree AND work experience. I stayed with some extended family members when I first moved to a new city to jobhunt. After a few weeks, they were concerned that I was not hitting the pavement enough. Part of it *was* depression/anxiety, not necessarily clinical but job search situation related. Its also- job searching IS a job, and a hopeless/thankless one. And my relative correctly concluded that without a set timeline, I was in danger of avoidance of job stuff and falling into a funk to try to reduce the stress I was feeling.
          Therefore my relative sat me down and told me honestly that due to several factors my “grace/guest period” was running out. I was asked to start with a small payment towards food each month, which would increase over time. I also was given several chores I was told that I would be expected to pay rent in two months if I did not have a job. I was encouraged to also apply for ANY job, even just at the local grocery store. I was quizzed on interview questions at dinner. I was also asked if they could help me in any way non -monetarily (look over resume, make connections, etc).
          Did I appreciate this at the time? Not really, it added to my stress. But I guess I knew they were giving me a really huge thing, and it was good for me to realize that I was a burden on them that they weren’t obligated to take. And it gave me the push I needed. I (very luckily) got a job the next month and moved out within two, but that was lots of luck. It easily could have been 3-4 months or longer. And I still have a good relationship with this part of my family. I am thankful now that my relative talked to me like this because I didn’t overstay my welcome and we cleared the air about assumptions and expectations on both sides. I also sent them a huge thank you flowers after I was employed and moved out.
          Treat your houseguest like an adult. Tell her like it is as if you were her manager in a job search/ a landlord with expectations and consequences and communication and deadlines. Help her figure out a workable plan B, C, D for jobs, housing etc. Adjust as necessary based on the specifics of the situation and kindness. But I think firmness will help in the long run.

  30. Callie*

    I have a similar situation but it’s concerning advice to a student, not a relative. I’m in academia and we are interviewing candidates for a tenure-track position. As part of the campus visits there are two “meet and greet” sessions for the candidate to have informal conversations with faculty and students. They are set up as drop-in sessions. I have a student who has been coming to all of the sessions, staying the whole time, and dominating the conversation the whole time he’s there, not letting anyone else in the room really get a word in. It’s annoying everyone and gives a bad impression to the candidates! How do I explain to him the social niceites of not dominating conversation and not being the center of attention?

    (I have not actually had this student in my classes, so I haven’t been able to work with him closely.)

    1. TootsNYC*

      kick him out–it’s too much work to have to retrain him. Just tell him you don’t need him to come to any more of these, thanks.

      Or flat-out tell him, “You are dominating the conversation, and that’s defeating the purpose of these gatherings. This isn’t a place that uses your skillset well, so don’t come anymore.”

      1. Callie*

        I really wish I could say that to him! I’m not sure how it would be taken by him or others (I’m an adjunct, although I’m full-time) and I feel like maybe his major professor, who is chairing the search committee, should be the one to say this to him.

      2. Honeybee*

        I don’t think professors, of all people, should refuse to retrain students because it’s too much work. That is quite literally part of their jobs. They should at least give a chance to correct course before asking him not to return.

        A direct statement might work. During the actual meeting, if he starts to ask a question or say something, I’d interrupt him and say “That’s great Dan, let’s let someone else speak now.” Then afterwards, ask him to come to your office or take him aside afterwards and let him know that while his input is appreciated, he’s dominating the conversation and he really needs to pull back because other people don’t have the opportunity to talk. Sometimes with these students I have had to explain to them that other people take longer to think of something to say, or hesitate to say it, or feel less comfortable speaking up when one person dominates the conversation.

        I would say in 80-85% of cases the student genuinely has never entertained the idea that others are scared of public speaking or feel like they can’t talk when the student is riding roughshod over the conversation. They just assume everyone else must love talking as much as they do, and if they aren’t talking it’s because they have nothing to say. (The other 15-20% actually do know what they are doing. Those are the ones you have to explicitly tell not to speak or kick them out. But the only way to identify which group he’s in is to give him a chance.)

        1. KR*

          I agree with you here. The professor can’t give up on the student, especially when the student is paying oodles of money to go to school and learn how to be a productive working person.

    2. Anna*

      Maybe say something like, “I appreciate your interest in helping us find a good professor, but other people need a chance to ask the candidate questions as well. I would like you to limit yourself to one question during the Q & A, and then at the end, if someone else has not already asked what you were wondering about, you can ask a second question”

      Or perhaps making it a rule for the entire group–“In the interests of time and giving everyone a chance to ask questions, I would like to ask that participants limit their queries to two.” And feel free to appoint yourself as moderator, because you’ll be doing everyone a huge favor.

      Although I have to say, if you get a candidate who can take control of the situation and say, “Let’s hear from some of the other students first, and then we can come back to your question if time permits,” that speaks volumes about the candidate’s teaching methods.

      1. Callie*

        I have to say that the most recent candidate “handled” him really well. I don’t think he even realized that he was being “handled”. So, kudos to the candidate for that, in my opinion.

    3. fposte*

      Do you have positional authority here, or closeness to the student that would give you an in? In my school this could be a little off-beam to take on if you don’t–you’d mention to the official host for the faculty member, maybe, or the dean for student services. But if you do, I think acting as moderator, as Anna suggests, is good–“I’m going to have to wrap you up, Fergus, we need to make sure we to hear from Percival and Lucretia and everybody else waiting to ask a question.” A sneakier way to do it in the moment is being the hand-spotter–“I think Lucretia has a hand up over there!” you say helpfully.

      And every department has one of these; actually, they’re lucky if they only have one. Your candidate shouldn’t be surprised to see this play out.

      1. Callie*

        I don’t really have any authority. I may mention it to the search committee chair, who is this kid’s major professor. We’ve had talks about this student before!

        The most recent candidate really handled this kid well, so skillfully that I don’t even think he realized he was being handled. Which was fascinating to watch!

        1. Gloucesterina*

          Callie, I’m following your story with interest. Can you say anything more about how the most recent candidate “handled this kid well, so skillfully that I don’t even think he realized he was being handled”?

  31. LD*

    I am trying to read through the comments and the site keeps pushing me to the advertisement at the top of the page. I don’t know if it is related to the ad… something with ITA and Ferragamo.

    1. Rubyrose*

      I’m having the same problem, but the ad is for USA: CA: 88th Annual Academy Awards – Show

  32. Tinker*

    I’ll throw in the explicit caution here that to the extent that in a relationship “you get one shot” to ignore someone’s consent and give them a bunch of unsolicited advice that can be reasonably anticipated to be unwelcome as well, what you’re doing is trading the relationship (or some fraction of it) to get to weigh in.

    Furthermore, the only thing you get to trade for is the opportunity to say the words, not the opportunity to actually change their behavior. The distinction here is not unimportant, and I would say that particularly when you don’t feel the need to respect the person’s consent, you also may also not be paying attention to (or seeing, if they already don’t trust you sufficiently to show you certain aspects of them) other things about them that are crucial to making an actually effective statement. Or — if you prefer — say that they are not ready or otherwise capable of hearing your wise counsel. So, again, you may well be sacrificing the relationship for the opportunity to make air move.

    This is not to say that there may not be cases where the trade is worth it. It seems likely that there are, and it could well be that at least parts of the OP’s desired statement rise to that level. However, I think people should be clear about what it is they are doing. I throw this in here because I have a few relatives of the older generation who have made that trade without seeming to realize it, and I think they have not been very pleased with the result.

      1. Tinker*

        Maybe there needs to be some sort of trading program, where people pair off and deliver the message to each other’s troublesome relations? Because one of the things that I find bitterly funny is that while the age gap is independently also a problem, my older relatives probably can manage to look at people of my age and place in life and see an adult provided that the person in question is not me.

        In fact, come to think, I have a friend who is very similar to me in many ways and is older than me by less than a year. My mother disapproves of our friendship in a way that (among many other problems, such as that she has incorrectly identified their faults and that she is in the mode at all of weighing her approval of her 30-something child’s friends) consistently casts them as the adult with agency that they in fact actually are and me as the helpless child lacking agency that I in fact am not.

        (This is also another example of how advice-giving can be doomed to uselessness by a lack of understanding; a friendship that spans decades and has in that time encountered zero problems is surely a unicorn, but it’s impossible to know accurately what those problems are and how to solve them when you don’t recognize that there are two people involved and each of them own their own half.)

  33. Lulubell*

    I agree it’s worth you saying something now, but it’s possible that this is something best resolved by peer pressure. When enough of her friends start moving up professionally (and she’s not) she might be more motivated to examine the reasons. Right now she and her friends are probably all in similar boats, but when the first few start getting promoted and taking pride in their work, she may have a fear of missing out (FOMO).

    1. Manders*

      While I think the OP’s heart is in the right place trying to help this naive young relative out, it might help to remind themselves that people *can* fail and pick themselves back up again. Try your best to start that conversation, OP, but understand that your relative is probably going to end up working things out eventually even if she does burn through her savings and muddle around in short-term jobs for a while longer than most people her age.

      My cousins are going through that process now, and stepping back and letting them learn in their own time, when I know exactly what I would choose to do in their situation, is SO frustrating.

  34. Milton Waddams*

    This sounds more like a class issue than a millennial issue. There have always been spoiled legacy-admits who get by on family connections, confident that their social safety net is strong enough to take them through anything short of the French Revolution, and there have always been more pragmatic members of the upper-middle class who realize that there are limits to even the oldest Old Money connections in the U.S., even today in the golden age of the 1 percent — a merchant prince is not a real prince, and if you keep pushing it, all heads eventually risk the metaphorical guillotine.

  35. Ruthie*

    As someone who manages a recent graduate with a similar attitude about work (we even had to disable the fluorescent lights above her desk and replace them with softer desk lamps), I’m so glad that you’re taking the time and energy to talk with her. When I try to explain work expectations and office culture, it falls on deaf ears because I am obviously part of “the machine,” despite my exhaustive efforts. My colleague has an extensive network of mentors, and from my point of view it seems as if they are only serving to enable her poor performance, rather than give her the kick in the pants she needs from a loved one. For example, one of her influential mentors recently contacted another colleague of mine to request she be more involved in higher level strategy when we work with the mentor’s office.

    As you might guess, this will not end well for my colleague and I am currently working with HR on what conditions she will be leaving the office in the near future. I want to do right by this young woman, and only hope that the departure from our organization will signal to her mentors that there’s a real issue.

    As a millennial myself, I don’t see this is a generational issue. Our last intern was one of the hardest working and resourceful people I’ve encountered in my career, including among my superiors.

  36. Van Wilder*

    What a tough spot. Thank God I didn’t have an insurance settlement at age 22 because I made enough stupid career decisions without one. When I see one of my relatives making mistakes like this, I usually just sigh and watch from the sidelines. I think it’s very kind that you want to try to help. Good luck.

  37. annonymouse*

    Be straight and blunt with her.

    “The sort of things you want from a job – an office with a window, more exciting tasks and responsibilities etc are EARNED through working your way up in the job world.

    Everyone successful in your network had to start there at the bottom and so will you. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to or don’t like it – that’s how the working world works.

    (Pause for answer)

    Now I know you have comfortable income and think you don’t have to work – that’s just going to screw yourself over. In 5 years time when that money is gone you’re going to need to find a job and if you don’t have a work history or a good reputation then NO-ONE will hire you. No-one.

    You need to learn NOW how the working world works BEFORE that happens.

    Take that internship for example. That was a very well paid and standard job which if you stuck with it could have opened doors to the type of things you wanted. Because of the way you left you will not get a good reference from them, you’ve ruined all chances of working there or with any of those coworkers in the future and damaged not only your reputation but friend who got it for you, too.

    (Pause for answer)

    Did you know you caused problems for them with how you left? (Pause for answer)

    Did you know it was not on good terms? (Pause for answer)

    I’m trying to help you so you aren’t in a terrible position of having no money and no job prospects in 5 years. That said I will not bring this up with you again unless you specifically ask.

    I am happy to be a sounding board or give you job advice in future if you ask. I want what’s best for you long term and I don’t want to see you poor and unemployable down the track.

  38. MrsRobot*

    She sounds like a narcissist. The world must revolve around her needs and the people in it are just there to help her along and satisfy those needs.

    I would send her straight to a psychologist for a diagnosis. If not narcissist then she is without a doubt an egoist. I have 2 in my family and your tale sounds spot on.

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