I have to coach a negative employee, can I recover from a terrible interview, and more

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

1. I’m supposed to coach a negative employee

I work for a company with multiple business units. Our unit is successful and healthy, with a lot of collaboration and employees who stay for years and grow their experience. Another unit is having a lot of problems in my functional area, and I’ve gone over in an advisory capacity for a bit to help out, temporarily. I’m not a manager, but a high-ranking individual contributor. It’s already very obvious that the majority of the problem is one of the few people I’ll be coaching, who is technically the highest ranking, but actually has lower skills than others, and really lives in a place where she enjoys complaining and being a martyr-type personality. I’ve documented my feedback on her for management, who agree she is the problem, but in the meantime, while management figures out what to do, I’m supposed to try and coach her.

She is just not interested in doing anything other than complaining. She comes to me in our coaching meeting with a list of complaints, and when I ask her to focus on finding solutions to what she does have control over and come up with some ideas, her response is literally “you’re kidding, right?” And then she keeps complaining.

A this point, I don’t have the energy, time or patience to spend 2-3 meetings a week with her just listening to her complain and refuse to do anything to change any of the situations she complains about. Many of her issues are actually within her ability to change, if she would just look through a different lens and take some personal accountability, but, she seems incapable of doing so. How do I protect myself from this emotional vampire, and how blunt can I be with her about the effect her complaining has?

I think the bigger question is whether you’ve been assigned an impossible task, and the answer is probably yes. You can’t coach someone who doesn’t think there’s a problem, and the person with the standing to explain that problem to her is her manager — not you. You don’t have standing to insist she change. Her manager does.

Instead of meeting with her two to three times a week (!), everyone here would be better served by you going back to her boss and whoever gave you this assignment and saying this isn’t a problem that will be solved by outside coaching, at least not until her manager has a serious conversation with her and makes it clear her behavior must change. If that happens, you can see if she’s open to being coached — but right now it’s clear she’s not, and it’s not a good use of your time to simply listen to her complain.

If you’re forced to do it anyway, then explain that in order to have any effect, you’ll need to tell her bluntly what you’re seeing — and make it a condition of doing these meetings that you have their support in doing that. But really, I’d try to get out of this if at all possible. You’re being asked to do the hardest part of a manager’s job without the authority needed to do it.

2. Can I recover from a terrible interview?

Recently I applied to a job in my home state and was given several phone interviews. Those went so well and I was such a good fit that I was flown out at their expense for in-person interviews.

This where things went wrong. I was supposed to fly out the day before and arrive in the late afternoon, and my interview was at 11 the next day. Because of cancellations and plane delays and so on, I didn’t get a flight until 10 pm and after two unplanned connections my flight landed at 9:30 a.m. the morning of the interview, which gave me just enough time to make it there as I was told rescheduling was not possible due to vacations.

Well, due to the lack of sleep and the energy drink I tried for the first time that day, I ended up making such a mess that I haven’t heard back. I mean, I made the kind of mess where you are showing pics of your kids and talk about the weather when asked your best accomplishments. Is there anything I can do to try and salvage this?

Oh no, I’m sorry! The reality is, it may be unsalvageable. But you have nothing to lose by trying. You could send a note saying that you weren’t at your best because of the overnight flight and missed sleep and that you realize you performed well below how you would have normally. You could say you’re kicking yourself for what happened because your previous conversations had made you think it might be a strong fit on both sides, and that you’d be glad to make yourself available for future conversations or work demonstrations at their convenience.

If they were really impressed by the earlier conversations, it’s possible they’ll weight those more heavily than the in-person interview once you explain what happened. Or not … but it’s at least worth a shot.

3. Someone who was awful to me now wants me to refer them for a job

Years ago, when I was fresh out of grad school, I worked at Large Vendor, which provided business services to some of the top corporations in the world.

Asha was the same level as me but started a few months before I did. She, and the other associates, made my time at Large Vendor a living hell. She deliberately sabotaged my work, she tried to make me cancel an important professional engagement, she delighted in pointing out the smallest mistakes and berating me endlessly about them. I left Large Vendor after 11 months just to get away from her.

I now work at Big Vendor in a related but different role. When I bump into Asha at industry events, I’m polite but distant. Recently, she reached out over LinkedIn regarding an opening at Big Vendor and asking if I’d submit her resume. After enjoying this for a few days (I’m petty, I’ll admit) I realize I have no idea how to respond. Of course there is no way that I’d submit her for the job. How do I respond but keep my professionalism?

The best option is simply to ignore the message altogether, and let that convey your message for you. It will.

The other option is to say something like, “I’m not able to recommend you” or “That’s not something I’d be able to do” or even “I’m surprised to be asked, given your conduct toward me at Large Vendor.” But I don’t think those will ultimately be more satisfying than cold silence. Sometimes spelling something like this out for someone takes something from it. And if she’s really horrible, it’s possible it’ll give her something to twist; you don’t want her relaying an inaccurate account to others. So I vote chilly silence.

4. Can I re-use my cover letter with the same employer?

I work in social services in a smaller city. There’s a great local network of people in my field that connects with each other, both to share resources for clients and to make friends.

Most of the people in my network work for one particular organization, which treats its employees fantastically. I’ve wanted to work there for over a year, and last year, using your advice, I wrote a banging cover letter and had the best interview of my life. He said he would have hired me on the spot if they didn’t have an internal applicant. This organization prefers to promote from within, so although I’m more than qualified and have stellar in-company references, I’ve been passed over for two different positions in favor of internal applicants.

The first position I applied for, when I had the killer interview, has just opened up again! The director is a different person now and two people have told her specifically to look out for my application. The former director specifically mentioned my awesome cover letter in the interview — I’m pretty proud of it. I made significant tweaks to tailor it specifically for the other jobs I’ve applied for, but since it’s the exact same position at the same organization, is it alright to reuse it? Or should I edit somewhat to acknowledge time has passed?

I would love to tell you that you can re-use it … but you really should write a new one. There’s too much chance that the new director will pull your old application and see the letter is identical — and while that’s not a deal-breaker, it doesn’t look great either. It’ll look sort of perfunctory and it’ll kill some of the magic of it.

But you wrote an awesome cover letter before and you can do it again! And it’s okay to use or modify pieces of the original one; just don’t re-use it word-for-word. You can also reference the previous interview and anything you learned in it that will strengthen your candidacy now (like if you learned they place a heavy emphasis on X and you excel at X, or so forth).

5. Will age discrimination keep me from getting hired?

Over the years I’ve worked as both an administrative assistant and an executive assistant. I’ve worked at big and small companies, across many different fields (high tech, start-ups, education, finance, and more). 

I was laid off about a month ago and I’m still reeling from the experience. I know that in general I’ve been told I’m a good interviewee. I dress nicely, follow the tips in your book on interviewing, and send out specific and targeted thank-you notes. However, for the first time ever, I’ve interviewed for six positions and received six rejections. Since I work with staffing agencies, I often get some feedback. I’ve been told two of these went with internal candidates, and in another a candidate had an experience in a related industry; no one suggests anything I could improve on.

My husband and mother-in-law say it’s my age, 46. While I feel I look younger than my age, my MIL insists I keep getting rejected because of my age and that employers only want to hire 25-35 year olds. Is this true, is there no hope for me at all to get a job?

No. Age discrimination is a real thing, but people over 40 get hired every day.

That said, could age discrimination be in play? Sure. But there’s just no way to say with certainty that’s what’s happened in all six of these situations (and indeed, your staffing agency has given you pretty legitimate-sounding feedback on half of them), and so the fact that your husband and mother-in-law are so certain (with really limited info) makes their opinions on this … not especially useful.

By all means, follow the usual advice to combat age discrimination: only go back 10-15 years on your resume, leave your graduation date off, make sure that your skills are up-to-date, make sure you don’t come across as inflexible or set in your ways, play up your experience as an asset … but don’t freak out about this too much. You’ve only been job searching for a month, rejections are common, and your family is being way too dogmatic about this.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 402 comments… read them below }

  1. Anathema Device*

    #1 If you can’t get out of it, maybe it would help to give her an agenda for the meetings.

    1. Name of Requirement*

      And if she offers no discussion of solutions, ask her to be prepared next time. Then leave.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        That’s probably the way to go. I’m not sure the employee will actually get the point if the LW responds to “you’re kidding me” with “No, I’m completely serious,” and ends the meeting and leaves if the they refuse to engage, but at least the LW will be wasting less time.

        It’s not clear what management has actually said to the problem employee. They probably need to tell her bluntly that her job is on the line, and she needs to work at improving X, Y and Z if she wants to stay employed. Anything less direct (and with less dire consequences) and she’s unlikely to pay make any effort at working with the coaching.

        1. Quandong*

          This employee should be on a PIP and it’s astonishing that she is instead receiving coaching. I think the LW is in an untenable situation and should ask for greater clarity around their powers. Can LW refuse to work with this dreadful person after she so clearly showed her contempt for the coaching process?

          1. SunnyD*

            Coaching by a lower ranking person in another dept, no less!!!!!

            The Michael Scott approach to management, folks.

        2. Polymer Phil*

          “It’s not clear what management has actually said to the problem employee” – that would certainly explain why both participants’ expectations for the meeting are very different. I suspect the complainer thinks OP 1 is in a position to fix all of the perceived problems, and the purpose of the meetings is for her to explain the problems to OP 1 so this can happen. I can’t blame her for not knowing that she’s expected take direction from OP 1 if management hasn’t clearly spelled this out to her.

          1. Femme d'Afrique*

            It would also explain the “you’re kidding me” reaction, which sounds more like a casual, peer-to-peer reaction than a reaction to coaching. OP#1 is in an impossible situation because, as Alison points out, she has no authority and the complainer knows this.

      2. Engineer Girl*

        I agree. Let there be consequences.

        “If you’re not willing to work on this then I’m leaving. I’m not here to listen to your complaints.”

        1. Artemesia*

          At home we have a ‘this is a no whining zone’ rule; time for that here. Absolutely refuse to listen to complaints; leave if they continue. But nothing changes if they don’t bite the bullet and fire the person who refuses to improve.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Do the sessions have a specific stated goal from on high? That’s what I’d put on the top of my notepad.

      Then, anything not contributing to the goal is on another notepad. “Someone else did something I didn’t like”, “customers are a nuisance “, “traffic,” etc. Listen intently and categorize accordingly. Duplicate complaints get a single checkmark, regardless of length. Dutifully copy each page for her records and for her manager.
      If you are forced to continue, bring a prelabeled Excel tally sheet. Act like this completely normal. Rinse, repeat, until either she switches to accomplishing the goal or you convince the boss to release you from the hell.

      1. boop the first*

        Woah, your guesses as to her problems are intriguing. I was just wondering how someone could have MULTIPLE problems/complaints at work. I wouldn’t have thought it was something like traffic, that would be nuts.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I had a coworker like this once, and traffic was definitely one of her complaints. I think you’re thinking of the employee complaining ABOUT work, while Aspiring Chicken Lady was thinking in terms of the employer complaining AT work. When you’re complaining AT work, your complaints aren’t all necessarily ABOUT work. And every time I’ve worked with a habitual complainer, they have been equal opportunity complainers who would complain about anything to anyone who will listen, whether it’s directly related to what’s happening right now or not.

    3. M&Ms Fix Lots of Problems*

      This is my thought too after reading the comments so far. Have an agenda, have it printed out, and take lots of notes on it during the meeting. Copy after meeting and then turn it over to management (I’m suggesting copy so that if she does have a “rose-colored glasses advocate” you have evidence saved for later.
      I think you need to have a section every time for “employee’s ideas for solving issue” and then when she doesn’t give you anything or says “you’re joking” or similar thats what you note down.
      It’s possible that she’s on a PIP or that management is trying to get all the documentation in order to prove she had resources and was given chances, didn’t avail herself of them, and thus must be let go. It also possible that maybe she’s inherited from a prior boss and now new boss is having to clean up the mess prior person created.

      1. Mr. Shark*

        I think even better than employees ideas to solve issues, is an actual list of action items, with due dates.

        This drives the other employee to work directly on concrete actions that need to be completed. If the employee doesn’t perform those actions, then it’s easy to send up the ladder to the manager. “We agreed in our coaching meeting that these were the actions that were to be taken in order for Employee to improve their production.”

        That takes away the allowance of complaining, and forces the employee to take responsibility.

        I also agree that the Manager needs to be more involved here. The OP needs to have the manager clarify their position. “OP is here as an advisor to help improve X, and we need to listen to her direction, since we are struggling in that capacity.”

    4. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      What if, instead of an agenda, as soon as employee starts complaining, OP held up her hand and said, “Stop. If everything here is as awful as you constantly maintain it is, then why do you work here?” And then wait for her answer, no matter how long it takes. It might shake her out of her everything-is-horrible reality. Or not. But at least you tried something new.

  2. musical chairs*

    #1, I wonder how the rest of the team is perceiving this. I know if the most complaining, least skilled worker on my team was getting what looked like frequent specialized coaching with a high ranked individual contributor because of how much they complain, I would be super annoyed. Her complaining by itself is already a morale issue on its own, I’m sure but unless your one-on-one work with her is part of a multi-pronged approach to solve the problems on that team, it’s worth considering if your help is ultimately helpful!

    Maybe that argument could be part of your discussion about this task.

    1. BeenThereOG*

      The fact that they are the highest ranking and are a martyr smells like someone in the management chain has a favorite. I’ve worked with people like this, there has always been someone up the chain unwilling to admit the particular individual isn’t a rockstar and often listen and believe the complaining.

    2. Lena Clare*

      I think Alison got it spot on when she said that OP is being asked to do a crucial management role without having the authority to make any changes. I think the problem is the management – they’re not taking effective action against the employee causing problems, and shoving the responsibility of dealing with it onto the OP. This is stressful for everyone involved.

      I completely agree that it’s demoralising for the rest of the team for someone who complains and is negative to get all of the attention and support. I think it sounds like the workplace isn’t a constructive one for workers to be in and I bet there are other problems with morale and management too.

      1. Massmatt*

        I agree, this problem employee has been known for some time and rather than have a manager actually deal with her they got a non-manager to spend time coaching her. Either the manager did a crappy job explaining what these sessions were supposed to be for to the problem employee, or problem employee is willfully hijacking the sessions to vent.

        You are in a no-win situation unless you get the necessary authority to manage the problem but of course that is unlikely. Management seems to prefer lots of pointless meetings (what is the manager doing during all this?) to dealing with the problem.

        That a great contributor (you) is wasting so much time (2-3 meetings a week, plus the prep time, plus the emotional labor all this frustration is causing) on this fruitless endeavor indicates deeper problems than the single negative employee. When it comes time for your review I wonder are they going to factor all this time you spent coaching miss Payne-Díaz, doing a managers job, or are they going to say “yeah yeah, you met with Payne-Díaz a few times, and also you produced 10% fewer widgets than last quarter, no bonus for you”?

        1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          Honestly, my experience with stuff like this is that the LW is going to be the one with the disciplinary consequences, for ineffective coaching, when Complainerpants doesn’t change.

        2. M&Ms Fix Lots of Problems*

          I’m almost wondering if there is new management in Payne-Diaz’s unit, and they are trying to create or document a point to get rid of dead weight.
          I will agree that this may not be the best way, but maybe manager wanted to make sure they seemed fair to higher-ups?

    3. Rebecca*

      I can tell you how the rest of the team perceives this – as management not doing their job, giving the complainer way too much leeway, and asking why someone is being allowed to stay on the staff who complains constantly and doesn’t do a good job, while they are held to a higher standard. I know this because I was paired with a complainer and a non worker (he was let go finally after months of management documenting his work, or lack of it!), but still, it was awful for me. I had no standing to tell the person to get with the program, but I was expected to help him if he had any questions while he was “retraining”. I was subjected to the complaining and watching him goof off for months while I was swamped with work, and yes, I am glad he’s gone, as it was really demoralizing.

    4. peachie*

      I can imagine how they feel. We have someone like that on our team and it is so, so frustrating. I only see him at team meetings, but man, that kind of negativity just sucks all the energy from the room. It makes us feel like we have to tread lightly with what subjects we bring up because we don’t want to set him off, which means there’s a lot we can’t accomplish in meetings and have to figure out one-on-one. (Manager is aware, manager is trying — I feel for her, because there’s only so much you can do if firing is functionally off the table.)

  3. StaceyIzMe*

    For the employee who is stuck in a “coaching” role, Alison is absolutely right. Coaching only works with a willing (and motivated!) client. Coaching is generally regarded as client centered and client driven in the private sector. It almost sounds like you’re in a consultant or mentoring role, where your function is more along the lines of subject matter expertise or institutional knowledge. The only way this seems likely to work is if her superiors bring the heat by putting some real shock and awe into her by casting a vision of negative consequences she might want to avoid (hell) and positive consequences she might attain (heaven) through her choice to fully cooperate or not. If the heat makes an impression (and that’s a BIG “if” since they’ve let it get this far), you can be the rainmaker that helps her cast some vision for different choices, better outcomes and a solid plan for progress. She sounds like she’s been catered to and not effectively managed at all. Your lack of patience is understandable, but resolves nothing. If you do have to coach her, there are some great resources out there that can help. (I personally recommend Bruce Schneider books, or an accredited iPEC coach with a niche in executive coaching and a proven track record if they’re determined to save her bacon. That coach could serve the whole division by shifting the collective energy towards a healthier, non-toxic resonance. Your mileage may vary.)

    1. Anathema Device*

      To be fair I think it means managerial coaching which is different. But requires actual authority.

    2. Not Australian*

      It strikes me this is a case of management being unwilling to grasp the nettle and therefore setting the OP up to fail. If the co-worker’s attitude doesn’t change, they’ll blame the OP for being unable to sort it out rather than acknowledge that they knew there was a problem and let it continue far too long.

      1. C*

        I don’t know if they’re setting the LW up to fail, exactly, so much as abdicating any authority in this situation in the hope they don’t have to do any dirty work themselves. Management knows what the problem is. They didn’t need to bring in a consultant in the first place (like, pretty much every situation I’ve seen at my job where consultants are brought), as they certainly knew Problem Employee was a problem, they were just hoping someone else would deal with her and it would fix it and it would all go away so they wouldn’t have to put their big girl panties on and fire her.

        LW, have you spoken to your boss about what’s going on, to get her take on whether she thinks it the best use of your time? If I were your boss, I’d be steaming mad at the waste of time of one of my employees, and would pull you out and put the onus back on their managers to deal with their employee. How ridiculous.

      2. nonymous*

        I’ve had situations where management wanted to change a particular behavior but didn’t want to tell that employee to change that behavior – perhaps it wasn’t a hill they wanted to die on, abdicating authority, etc. In that situation the easiest approach is to just cut that person out of the process as much as possible.

        Theoretically, it could be a case of skill mismatch on the part of the problem employee (to be clear, her attitude is unprofessional, but her low performance could be explained by weak skills, either technical or soft). And cutting her out of the process for the task OP is focused on will allow management to restructure or eliminate her role. For various political reasons the org might find it preferable to lay her off or let her coast to retirement.

        I’m super curious about the coaching though. Why is she driving the agenda? Start with one item from her previous list. Ask her to brainstorm a solution in the moment as an exercise (the idea is that she will come up with a crappy idea and you point out the flaws and suggest an alternative which becomes her action item). If she tries to change topics and complain about other stuff, redirect her (like a puppy or a young child). I would also keep the coaching sessions really short, like 30minutes tops. Also consider that she may simply need coaching that is beyond the capacity offered by coworkers – EAP for business coaching is a legitimate referral. Too often we view EAP as a perk for therapy, but there are usually business services offered as well.

  4. Engineer Girl*

    #3 – Abusers retaliate when you don’t give them what they want. It would be satisfying to tell her exactly why you won’t be forwarding her resume. And that will unleash a slimy barrage of abuse toward you. She most likely will also retaliate by going to others and spreading rumors. She’ll tell others how you blocked her from getting a job, etc.

    On the other hand, simple silence is clean. It’s hard to retaliate against it. There is no ammo there. It leaves her unsure about things.

    Don’t engage with the abuser. Go low contact and no contact for the big long-term win.

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yup. Telling a bad person that they’re bad can be gratifying, but won’t really do anything. Telling someone with the ability to make decisions “please don’t ever hire this person” is far more productive.

      2. CupcakeCounter*

        Exactly what I came here to add – find out the hiring manager and give them a quiet heads up a la “I was approached by an ex-coworker about your posting for Y position and asked to pass along her resume. I did not have a positive experience with her at Large Vendor and have no plans on referring her and wanted you to be aware in case she applies and uses my name.”

        1. M&Ms Fix Lots of Problems*

          I think that’s a good idea in case former co-worker tries to interpret silence as a go ahead.
          Also, what do you in the comments think about this in case she runs into that person out in the world in person “Sorry, I can not forward your materials on because I’m not in a position where that is possible.” Not sure of industry, but that is absolutely what I would have to say at my current job, I have no connection or standing at all with HR.

          1. Genny*

            If the position is already filled at that point, I’d say go with vague language like there were lots of qualified applicants. If she gets asked electronically to recommend Bully again, she can ignore. If Bully asks her in person she can give a general brush off. Personally, I’d go with something like “So sorry, but I’m not in a position to make a strong recommendation”, which can be interpreted as it’s not you it’s me and gives enough wiggle room for LW to make up some benign excuse if Bully keeps pushing.

        2. KRM*

          Oh, I’ve done that. A former fellow grad student reached out via facebook to ask if I could recommend him for a senior scientist job (for which he was wholly unqualified), and then he told me he wanted to move on from his current lab because reasons [and complained in a highly racist manner about people he worked with]. Rather than deal with any of that avalanche of “no”, I just ignored it and went to my boss and told her that if he applied and used my name (which I assumed there was a 50% chance he would), I could not recommend him at all and would in fact not even interview him.

      3. Stitch*

        As someone who participates in hiring, I would 100% want this information. I would never ever hire someone who sabotaged a coworker.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I’m in favor of silence, as well. I’ve been in OP#3’s position, and it is perfectly valid to ghost someone for behaving as a bad person. It also helps avoid creating a dialogue about Asha’s behavior toward OP—it’s hard to argue when there’s no one responding.

      Even if Asha pushes OP for a response, OP’s silence will become deafening to Asha. And that outcome can be quite satisfying (and in my experience, more exciting than telling the person off), as well.

      1. Jojo*

        I vote for silence as well. Anything you say can and probably will be used against you. If you come into personal contact with her you can just say you never saw the email.

      2. Anonomoose*

        I’m torn. On one hand, silence is absolutely the best call.

        On the other, as established in a previous thread, I’m petty and unprofessional. I’d be tempted to keep any response short and sweet. Something like: “Haha, no”, and then blocking her on all platforms

        1. Sara without an H*

          Anonomoose, I’d split the difference: dead silence, plus blocking on all platforms.

          1. Ganymede*

            I wouldn’t even block. The trick is to keep Asha utterly uninformed that OP even *saw* her request. Utter, watertight, puzzling, Teflon silence.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              And if Asha is uninformed, that means there’s a chance she’ll try to drop the LW’s name by mentioning her in a cover letter or even (dare I hope) using her as a reference, putting LW in the delightful position of being able to say “She used MY name? I can’t imagine why. I would not recommend we hire her.”

              1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                I think that is why silence toward Asha, and then going to hiring manager to let them know Asha is applying and OP did not have a good experience with them in a previous job is a good route to go in case Asha does try to name drop.

              2. it's-a-me*

                But unfortunately that assumes they’ll ask her opinion. What if they take the applicant’s word for it?

                If I was OP I wouldn’t engage the person, but I would talk to my manager and whoever is involved in the hiring process.

            2. MarsJenkar*

              Depends on how the “blocking” is handled. If blocking is handled in a way that the sender wouldn’t know they were blocked, go right ahead. For email, I’d suggest setting up a filter that moves all emails from this person straight to the Trash.

            3. Anonomoose*

              I’d suggest blocking, just because it’s kind of mentally freeing to not have to look at what awful co worker is doing on linked in. But also, because I’m the kind of person who’d be really far too tempted to reply.

              Probably with something terrible, like ” Oh, important tip. My boss discards any CVs that aren’t printed on really nice paper, and considers candidates that use the online portal as lazy. They also *love* comic sans, but make sure your margins are under a centimeter wide”

              1. Anonomoose*

                *note: please don’t do this. My current boss would think it was funny, if the circumstances were explained, your’s may not

              2. dunstvangeet*

                Don’t forget to make it scented. It just gives it that little something extra, don’t you think?

            4. Michaela Westen*

              “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”… It’s good to know what they’re doing so you can take steps to protect yourself.

            5. Jasnah*

              If I felt threatened by someone then yes, but if I wanted to send a message with my silence, I would mark it read (if read receipts is a thing on the platform). In my experience, people who do things like sabotage and bully others don’t always notice pointed silence.

    2. PurpleMonster*

      And if you weaken, imagine her hoped checking her email multiple times a day for your reply, only to face the crushing disappointment of…nothing. Schadenfreude.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        I’ve thought about this…

        OP first set up a rule that all mail from her goes to the trash. Then…

        1. Reply “send it.”

        2. Delete it.

        3. Give a heads up to whoever needs to know that she might try to use your name and not only did you not giver her permission to do so but that you are specifically not recommending her.

        4. (Optional) give info that she was a/the primary reason you left that job.

        5. Smile…

    3. Harper the Other One*

      Yes, agreed. If OP absolutely HAS to say something, it should be neutral like Alison’s suggestion of “I am not able to recommend you” but silence really is the best option.

      1. Rebecca*

        I recommend saving that one in case Asha runs into the OP and is pressed for a response – but otherwise, silence is golden.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          In person I’d probably resort to something like “oh, I didn’t think you were serious…go ahead and send it.”

          Then I’d do the stuff I suggested in my post up/down thread. If course I’m petty like that. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    4. AdAgencyChick*

      Plus, guarantee that Asha doesn’t see her earlier behavior as awful. I predict that a “no, certainly not after how you treated me” will produce a barrage of “what do you mean, how I treated you?” emails.

      I’m in a similar situation right now — the [expletive] who once told my then-boss I was interviewing, thus putting my job in jeopardy, just messaged me on LinkedIn asking if I could help her find freelance work at my company. OP, I feel you. I was really tempted to reply with “remember when I was job hunting and you told Eddard about it? You will never work for me. NEVER.” But I realized nothing good can come of doing that.

      OP, write a cathartic email if you like…and then delete it.

      1. Going anon for this*

        As someone who has been on both sides of this coin, silence is the way to go. It ensures you have all the power and leaves the other person twisting in the wind.

      2. Massmatt*

        Very tempting to call or email her boss to call attention to her job-searching! Silence is the better way to go but VERY tempting!

        1. Michaela Westen*

          Well, if the opportunity falls in your lap… you run into Asha’s boss at the sandwich shop and catch up – and innocently mention Asha contacted you… :D
          When it’s that easy I assume it’s meant to be and go for it.

    5. Smithy*

      Have to agree with this as well.

      Depending on how Asha engaged with bullying, sending any kind of response opens the door to her using that response, forwarding it, etc. in a fashion that you can’t control. This just can give her ammunition to couple with her version of events of when you worked together. It’s something she can show people and editorialize.

      Intentionally ghosting someone can feel awkward and unprofessional, but professionally emails going unanswered is really common. People are busy, inboxes are really full, etc etc.

    6. Sara without an H*

      Silence is golden and curiously satisfying. It also doesn’t waste your time.

      Do you know the hiring manager in this case? You may be tempted to drop a quiet word there, as Troutwaxer suggested, but be very, very careful of your wording. You want to make sure that anything you say is scrupulously professional, rather than personal.

    7. Lily in NYC*

      I had a similar situation, but the person I didn’t like was a coworker who was trying to get her best friend a job in my department (so I couldn’t choose to completely ignore her). This woman was one of those people who was unfriendly to everyone for NO reason; she even body-checked me once when we were walking by each other in the bathroom. I didn’t know her at all except for the fact she scowled at me every time I saw her. Then one day, she came over and was sweet as pie, so I immediately knew she was up to something. She wanted to us to waive an important qualification you’d need to be interviewed by my department. I could have done it as a favor but I took great joy in smiling at her and saying, “Oh, sorry, it doesn’t matter that your friend studied abroad in undergrad; that does not count as international business experience and we won’t be able to consider her.”

    8. MommyMD*

      Agree. Just ignore her. No ammo. Feel satisfaction that she is checking her messages a few times a day and nothing.

    9. Trout 'Waver*

      Go for ultimate petty. Wait until the posting is closed and send a quick note:

      “Sorry, I just saw this. I don’t check LinkedIn frequently because I don’t really use it as social media. I’d be happy to forward along a resume in the future if there’s another posting.”

      Respond to any subsequent reply, request, or resume 3 months after you receive it, conveniently missing the next request as well.

  5. JJ Bittenbinder*

    LW 5: your mother-in-law can’t possibly know what all employees want, correct? Sure there may be some who are hoping to get the 25-35 demographic, and there may be others who think young workers have no work ethic and would prefer an employee who’s been in the workforce for longer.

    Hopefully most fall into a third category: those who hire for skills and experience, and disregard the applicant’s age.

    1. MayLou*

      Even if the age issue is true, there’s almost nothing the OP can do about it, so her MIL’s insistence isn’t constructive and will only undermine OP’s confidence.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. ‘MIL you have said that — how do you think it is helping?’ But it does also suggest getting creative in the job search; try to find as many paths to a future job as possible especially working connections who can personally recommend you. A really good AA is hard to find; if there are people who think you are terrific, see if they can connect you to people who might be looking.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I think personal connections are key after entry level, especially if you want to get the salary you deserve. Someone mentioned below that executive assistants are normally older. I agree, most of our EAs are over 40, with many over 50 and 60, but those opportunities are harder to find from the online job ads.

        2. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

          One of the executives I supported has said (to me and others) that I was the best EA he’d ever had. As soon as the rejections started piling up, I reached out to him for help. Unfortunately, he’s moved to a nearby state, and he doesn’t know of anyone hiring yet, but I should try reaching out to others I’ve supported directly and indirectly.

          1. NKOTB*

            Hi OP, six rejections really doesn’t sound that bad or unusual to me. I’m a 38-year-old EA and I look young for my age (I’m often told I look late 20’s or early 30’s). I feel I’m a good interviewer but before receiving the offer at my recent job, I received countless rejections and ghostings, sometimes not even making it past the phone screening. It could be anything – someone else had more industry experience, other candidate was a better personality or culture fit, they decide they don’t want to make a hire afterall, etc. It took me two months of multiple interviews with different companies a week to finally receive an offer. I personally don’t think you’re at the age yet that you need to worry about age discrimination, especially for an EA role (as opposed to, say, a junior digital marketer role). Just keep doing what you’re doing – you’ll find something!

      2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        This was my thought. Maybe there is some age discrimination, but what exactly is the OP meant to do about it? Lie about their age? Magically get younger? Give up and become a bitter housewife? I don’t know what the MIL thinks is useful about this insistence on age discrimination.

        1. WS*

          I think it’s meant to be a form of comfort, that there’s nothing wrong with the OP, it’s other people being terrible. But if you think about it for a moment, it’s not comforting at all, it’s discouraging!

          1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

            Half of the time I really never know why my MIL says what she does. She’s from a very different situation where she worked for the same huge company (that I know everyone on here has heard of and probably uses a product or two from them weekly at least), so she really didn’t have to job hunt that much. If she meant to be helpful (which maybe in her misguided sense she does), I wish she’d follow up with “I’m sure you’ll find the right job anyhow”.

            1. SuperAnon*

              Sorry she’s not on team OP5.

              At 46, you’re just entering your prime earning years, if you ask me…

              1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

                She’s a very negative and quick to complain person overall. My husband and I have tried hard to get her to change this, more for her benefit than ours, as it seems people who have a negative outlook on life in general continue to find more negative stuff in their life.

                I think part of what concerns her is that we have a young child at home. I’ve hit a lot of life’s milestones late – married for the first time at 43, had my only child at 44, etc. In a weird way maybe she thinks she is motivating me more to look/try harder, but truly I am looking for agency jobs and on my own, so it’s not lack of effort that’s the problem.

                1. GreyjoyGardens*

                  Is it possible to put MIL on an information diet? Just tell her what she *needs* to know about your job search and nothing more. If you are dependent on her in some way (child care, living situation) that is harder, I know. But it doesn’t sound like she has anything constructive to say. She sounds very “Old Economy Stephanie” like my parents were – you get one job in one company and keep it for life; they may even have got it by gumptioneering! Some of these Steves and Stephanies don’t get that times have very much changed.

                2. Rusty Shackelford*

                  So you’ve got a 2-year-old? Maybe you need to find a way to subtly drop that into the conversation. Then they’ll assume you’re in your 30s. ;-)

                  (No, because then you’ll be faced with a different type of discrimination.)

                3. Michaela Westen*

                  I’m also a late bloomer – still haven’t married – and I got my first really good job at age 49. I looked for jobs that play to my strengths and that helped. Can you do that as an AA/EA? If there’s something you have an affinity for or a lot of experience, or both, look a little more in that area?

                4. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

                  My son is 19 months, he’s adorable, but I sincerely never show pictures of him or mention him on interviews.

        2. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

          I have a young son at home (late in life natural conception, for which I’m very grateful), so if my husband earned a lot of money I could in theory be a stay at home mom and housewife. However, despite him earning a good salary and having a stable job, it’s not enough for us to live in this high cost of living area on just his salary (I do know couples that do this, but most cannot afford it).

          One thing I’ve tried to do is revamp my interview look. I had my son’s godmother (and good friend of mine) over to give me makeup tips to look my best. I had three of my interviews after that and since I got her seal of approval when I showed her how the makeup turned out, I don’t think my makeup appearance was a factor in the rejections.

          1. Stitch*

            Honestly you’re young enough I would more suspect a resume gap/mom discrimination over age discrimination.

            1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

              I 100% do not mention my son in interviews. I had one interview (phone only) where the manager asked if I’d need benefits (it was a small company so I don’t know if it was as they don’t have any and/or they were trying to see if I have a child, which I do.

              I do wear rings on both ring fingers – wedding and engagement on my left hand and a garnet ring on my right. I suppose someone might think the garnet is a mother’s ring (though most I’ve seen have two or more stones), but it’s not a mother’s ring per se, nor is it my son’s birthstone. He’s 19 months, so it would be opal for October.

              1. SuperAnon*

                I think you’re reading too much into stuff like this — it’s all peripheral. No one is analyzing your rings, honestly.

                1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

                  Probably so, I just meant if a potential employer was trying to determine if someone was a parent that might work. Most mother’s (and/or grandmother’s) rings I’ve seen have multiple stones in them. I can’t think of anyone I know in real life who wears one, though we did debate buying my MIL one of her grandkids for a present.

                2. GreyjoyGardens*

                  I wouldn’t know a mother’s ring from an ordinary decorative ring at all. Don’t sweat the little details. I know it’s tempting to nit pick and go over everything with a fine tooth comb if you are facing a lot of rejections or having a hard time finding a job, but believe me, nobody looks that closely at your (ordinary) jewelry unless you are in the fashion industry.

      3. SunnyD*

        It doesn’t even fit what I’ve seen at big and mega corporations. Very young admins generally aren’t really trusted to manage C-suite matters – they usually want a seasoned pro who gets not only the job but also the politics, organizational context, and how to filter / protect your exec. An executive admin is an impressive, many-layered job, done by solid professionals.

        All to say, don’t let your MIL’s voice of negativity plant roots in your mind. Any more than it already has.

        1. SunnyD*

          Oh, and as someone who reeled for quite awhile after being laid off, it’s NORMAL to have this whole churning mess of Feelings after a layoff. If you can manage it financially, you might schedule time with a therapist. (If too expensive right now, I’ve heard of low cost text based therapy services.) And think of body- and soul-nourishing treats you can do right now. (For me: long baths, ling walks and body brushing with a hair brush.)

          Layoffs suck.

          Job searching sucks.

          Be kind to yourself, and guard what gets in to you.

          1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

            Somehow my response to you got logged at the end, oops.

            I really appreciate you sharing your experience and reminding me of the importance of self care.

        2. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

          I’m trying not to give so much weight to what she says, it’s just hard as it’s constant and daily and since she worked for one of those big mega corporations, she has had the opportunity to see literally hundreds of AAs and EAs.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            Just because she saw them, doesn’t mean she understood them.
            Since she worked in one company, she only saw one hiring practice. If the company favored younger admins or skewed in some other way, your MIL won’t be aware of this.
            Also as others have said, younger admins aren’t suitable for many positions because they lack experience and sophistication.

            1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

              I do agree her 27 years at a mega corporation were impressive and yes very focussed on one particular company. I do think a company who appreciates a middle aged admin are out there, I just need to find the right one.

        3. Ella P.*

          “An executive admin is an impressive, many-layered job, done by solid professionals.”

          Thank you for your comment here. I’m an EA and have been working for over 20 years… and am somewhat dumbfounded that in my current role, my organization seems to think I’m more of a maid than anything else.

          1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

            +1 that’s a great description of it that I wish more people saw.

            Ella, I’ve had people think EA = maid, also, both are hard working but very different positions, of course.

    2. SuperAnon*

      OP5, I got two serious full-time positions after age 60. IMO your family is perpetuating ageism by saying no one will hire you. That’s total BS. Prove them wrong. Good luck!

      1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

        That is amazing and so hopeful to hear! I really appreciate you contributing this.

        1. SuperAnon*

          …and I’m not the only one, of course. A friend got a full-time position at a non-profit at age 68.

          1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

            I’d love to work for a non-profit, one of the positions I got rejected from was one. Perhaps another one will give me a chance.

            68, that’s amazing.

        2. Cloud 9 Sandra*

          The most recent hires for the EA like position I hold vary in age from 25 to mid 50s. It’s can be so hard job searching at our age (I’m 46 now and started at this position at 44), but there are absolutely people hiring people in their 40s and 50s. Don’t lose hope!

          1. Kat in VA*

            One of the things I found with EA positions is that a lot of companies use the word “mature” or “seasoned” when they really mean “In your 40s-50s and not willing to put up with a lot of shit that younger folks might tolerate.”

            Alternately, that could mean, “Older and willing to baby our executives because they’re damned near helpless without their EA to wait on them hand and foot.”

            1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

              LOL I’ve met and in some cases worked for the executives who expected hand and foot help. This was easier to do when I was single and childless, but as long as they aren’t expecting 24/7 help (and some are judging from the stories I’ve heard and been in), I’m Ok with being half EA / half baby wrangler.

      2. EH*

        My Dad is in his 70s and works in tech, and hasn’t been out of work for more than a few months for… 20 years, I think? He’s great at networking, which helps, but… yeah. Age discrimination is real, but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible to find work post-40.

        IME, people from other generations frequently have no idea what they’re talking about when it comes to jobhunting while in a different generation. I’m 41, and while I love and value my Dad and his senior friends and ask their advice around big picture stuff or “ugh, I’m having this issue at work, what do you suggest?”, but when I’m trying to figure out something about jobhunting, I come here and/or ask my friends who are about my age. People with a significant age gap from me experience a whole different kind of jobhunting. When they were my age the market was super different, and when they jobhunt now their experience is super different from mine because of their age and longer time in the field.

      3. Anomalous*

        I know that 6 interviews with no offer is beyond frustrating, but just hang in there. With 6 interviews, you are doing something right.

        I was recently on a search committee for a government position — all of the candidates were internal (currently employed by the government, but the government is very big.) After the selection process, one of the failed candidates filed an age discrimination investigation. But there wasn’t any discrimination — he was just a very strong second choice candidate, who we would gladly have hired, if there wasn’t someone who was just a little bit better.

      4. Librarian of SHIELD*

        The best person I ever hired was 75, and he was absolutely perfect for the job. Don’t give up, OP, the job you’re perfect for is out there!

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          We hired someone who was like 78 IIRC. She ended up not being able to handle the pace of that job, but she was such a good worker we basically created a job for her.

          It was stuff (lots if stuff) that needed to be taken care of that had been put to the side for way too long. She rocked it. She stayed on until she passed away.

          Fortunately for us she created such a good system that 10 years on we haven’t gotten all disorganized all over again.

          1. TardyTardis*

            Nice to hear an older woman being appreciated–I remember the movie THE INTERN where the older guy was a rockstar, but older women the same age as the hero were a joke.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      I’ve reviewed a lot of resumes and sat through a lot of interviews, and I’ve seen lots of knee-jerk reactions (justified and not) to resumes and applicants. I’ve never heard any of my colleagues say “this person is too old.”

      1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

        That’s good to hear that no one has verbalized that as a reason. Thank you.

      2. Le Sigh*

        When it comes up, I haven’t seen it in the direct form of “they’re too old” in part because it sounds so obviously over the legal line.

        But I have heard stuff like, “is this person really a culture fit” (which can discriminate based on gender, education, race, class, and age), or “are they going to be able to keep up” or just…coded stuff like that (which I’ve also shut down, but you also need to have your ears open to that kind of code speak). Or just leaving them off the phone screen list to begin with.

        I still think OP’s MIL is being a bit ridiculous of course.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Well then, let me be more specific and say that I’ve never heard anything that was code for “they’re too old.”

    4. Stitch*

      I do a lot of hiring and I wouldn’t find 46 to be older than average at all. We once had a guy who we thought was trying to lay the groundwork for an age discrimination claim by listing his age on his resume, and that was weird, but he was over 70.

      1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

        In some ways I think my MIL is using age as a code for willing to sacrifice all work life balance. Ironically, at my last job I was working crazy hours including taking work home on nights and weekends, and despite that I still got laid off in the second wave (they just did the third last week). I really don’t want to work again another job where I felt like I was on the clock 24/7, but I don’t know what the next job will be like.

        1. Stitch*

          I am 30 and work life balance has always been important to me (moreso since I became a mom). I work in government and love it.

          1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

            I honestly feel that companies are shooting themselves in the foot expecting anyone, regardless if they are parents or not (and/or taking care of other family members) to not have a work/life balance. People who have only their jobs tend to get burned out (even if they stay in the same roles due to financial necessity and/or not wanting to job hunt).

        1. Stitch*

          We interviewed him. He told us he didn’t like using computers… for a job that is entirely digital.

          1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

            LOL I wonder what he hoped to gain from such an interview (assuming it wasn’t just to win in court at a discrimination suit).

    5. What I do have are a very particular set of skills*

      I am female. I have gray hair. I am 56 years old. I interviewed last year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I was told by my “friends?” that nobody hires during the holidays, plus I should be worrying about looking too old and color my hair.

      I didn’t worry about any of that nonsense.

      I’ve been at my new job for 6 months now. Gray hair and all. Best Christmas present ever.

      1. GreyjoyGardens*

        Congratulations! What a great Christmas present indeed.

        Honestly, I think there are jobs – and EA (outside of youthful industries) is one of them – where gravitas, including gray hair, would be seen as a plus. It says, “This person has years of experience. They can hit the ground running, and I won’t have to worry about how they’ll cope in a crisis or crunch situation, because they’ve been through it before. They know all the little quirks and work-arounds. I can trust them to do their job well so I can do mine.”

      2. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

        That’s awesome I’m so glad you found a job despite your “friends” saying you wouldn’t be able to at that time of year and/or while interviewing the way you see yourself and want to be.

    6. Nana*

      early 1970’s…When I was 30-something (but going gray), I walked into a temp job for high-level exec my age, who exclaimed “You’re not a 19-year-old with big tits!…don’t get me wrong, I like them…but not in my office” In that job, and others, I found being older to be a benefit. Got my last two jobs at 55+ and 65+

      1. GreyjoyGardens*

        Oh my! While the sentiment is laudable, Exec should have left it in his silent thoughts and not opened his mouth. I’m glad we’re not in the 70’s anymore.

    7. Jasnah*

      I would interpret husband & MIL’s insistence that it must be ageism as attempts at reassurance that there couldn’t possibly anything wrong with OP, therefore it must be something out of OP’s hands like ageism. Kind of the work equivalent of “how could he dump you, you’re too good for him! He just can’t handle a strong independent woman like you!”

      1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

        Possibly, but they are pretty blunt people. Case in point, when I had only interviewed with one company, my husband had said “the older you get the less they want you”. I really think they believe I’m aging out of contention, entirely.

  6. mark132*

    OP1, can you get away with “blowing this assignment off”. Simply do it for a few months/weeks and the just be too “busy” to schedule more sessions?

    Though another thought I have is she may be on a PIP, and you are unaware. And a little honest reporting from you may be the last straw for her. So doing it right might be the best course.

    1. M&Ms Fix Lots of Problems*

      I am wondering this as well. Could management be working on getting everything lined up to be rid of her, but using you as a way to show that we were trying to give her unbiased support to help her fix things? Like maybe the immediate manager thinks she is the problem but her advocate is in an upper level management position so they really have to dot all their “i’s“ and cross all their “t’s” to be shot of problem.

  7. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    OP#2 – I think it’s weird they didn’t take all of that into account. A decent person would see you were trying your best. And given that you were willing to go through all of that, just to make it on time, shows your commitment. (I’m wondering whether it’s a warning sign that they insisted it wasn’t possible to reschedule and yet didn’t care at all about your situation.) Good luck reaching out, I hope they listen to you.

    OP#3 – Definitely ignore the message. Don’t give her any ammunition against you. If she keeps messaging you, block her. You don’t need that kind of person anywhere near you. Hope you don’t have to deal with her again.

    OP#5 – I’m with Allison: it might be age discrimination but it probably isn’t. Getting all those rejections must hurt, though. I hope you find something soon! Keep us updated.

    1. Rebecca*

      I thought the same thing about OP#2 – if they were aware of the circumstances, a reasonable company would realize the person arriving for an interview, literally 90 minutes after landing, won’t be at their best. I get that people might not be available due to vacations the next day or week, but really, they couldn’t have left the OP check into a hotel and rest for a few hours and regroup in the afternoon? I wonder about how they treat their employees in general when circumstances beyond the employee’s control arise.

      1. Darren*

        Sometimes rescheduling isn’t an option at all. I do a lot of the interviews for my current place of business and once we’ve settled on a slot I’m likely going to have had a significant portion of the rest of the day booked out with other meetings or interviews meaning not a lot of wiggle room would be available to adjust if necessary. The more people involved the less wiggle room there can be (unless there are replacements for these people which sometimes you have but given the situation sounds like there wasn’t many replacements for some of the people that needed to be there).

        It is definitely unfortunate (and I’d feel the same if I were giving the interview but if I couldn’t adjust anything then I can’t adjust it). I don’t think it’s really anything that bad. As for how you handle it when things outside an employees control arises you deal with it as you have to. If someone can’t make a meeting you move on without their input (if the process has to be completed by a specific timeline) if it absolutely has to have their input then it gets put on the backburner until they get in for it. I’ve lost count of the number of times someone has been sick or otherwise delayed and we’ve had to do important meetings and make decisions on how to move forward with things down one or two people (sometimes it’s me). It sometimes sucks when you don’t get to discuss your point of view but sometimes decisions can’t wait for everyone to be in.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        I’m curious if the position would have any of those types of situations in the actual job, though. I think someone should get more leeway in an interview situation, but I can see if it’s the type of role where you’re expected to be unaffected by a terrible travel day and then go perform for clients that it might be judged harshly by interviewers. I have that type of role. If a client needs you, no polar vortex or blizzard will stop us. Sigh.

        1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          Same. In my role unfortunately it often just isn’t possible to reschedule. I’m about to head into an interview for a new position on my team – this person will be meeting with over a dozen staff members (in groups of 2-3) over the course of a full 6.5 hour day. And sadly, most of us don’t have the context to know why someone is interviewing poorly, unless they started each interview panel with “sorry I’m not at my best for X reasons”… and even if they did, many of us would think “so what? I’ve had days where I had to be up at 3:30 am to catch a flight and then have a huge client meeting immediately”. While I agree with Alison’s advice that there’s nothing to lose by reaching out to the hiring team, I think OP #2 will have to chalk this up to an unfortunate interview experience.

          And who knows, maybe it wasn’t as bad as s/he thinks!

      3. Lily Rowan*

        Honestly, I’m a nice person, but it probably wouldn’t even occur to me to try to reschedule the interview, as a hiring manager. I’m here, in my normal routine, the candidate will be there for our 11 o’clock appointment, great! I would certainly give the person more leeway than usual, though.

      4. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        I agree. And after seeing the OP’s update below, my thoughts are just ‘bullet dodged’.

        1. quirkypants*

          I can’t seem to find an update below that makes me think they dodged a bullet… what are you referring to?

          1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

            There’s a comment from the OP saying that HR knew about the situation. That’s what made me think ‘bullet dodged’ – if they knew and didn’t give her any leeway, that’s a warning sign to me (admittedly based on the info I have – I could be wrong!). But I see a new comment that she’s reached out, so maybe it’s not as dire as I think.

            1. Valprehension*

              Eh, I mean, there’s leeway, and then there’s *the interviewee appeared to be completely incapable of staying on topic*. It sounds like OPs condition went well beyond the understandable effects of not getting enough sleep. I do think that reaching out might help given the circumstances of having taken an energy drink in an attempt to help and having it backfire, but ultimately I think OP has learned an important lesson about consuming drugs with unknown effects before an interview.

              1. AnotherAlison*

                Yeah, a senior level employee should know nothing new on race day is a phrase to live by. I feel like explaining this away with a tale of an energy drink gone awry sounds just makes it sound worse. Maybeee a bad reaction to a new prescription, but experimenting with an energy drink sounds like a rookie move. You want to show you can handle bad circumstances, not that you come unhinged in them.

                1. Ego Chamber*

                  Blaming it on an energy drink just sounds really inexperienced(?). The only people I’ve ever heard try to pull that shit are teenagers/early 20-somethings in entry level jobs, and it doesn’t play any better there.

                2. Jasnah*

                  Agreed, Ego Chamber. I totally get being sloppy due to sleep deprivation but blaming it on the energy drink would be weird. I get being hyper on caffeine but honestly that wouldn’t make me want to cut someone more slack.

                3. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

                  I think it’s one of those things that you can’t know unless you’ve experienced it. Sleep deprivation affects people in different ways. As for energy drink, I don’t think it’s a rookie mistake at all. A lot of people don’t know how badly they can impact a person. They’re marketed as giving you energy and making you more alert. If you’ve never tried one and are desperate for a boost, it’s completely understandable that you’d take it thinking it’s just a strong coffee or something similar. And then you don’t realise the mistake you’ve made until later.

                  I find the lack of understanding for the OP really bizarre. The company wanted her for her skills, not for how she functions without sleep. They asked her in for an interview, she went out of her way to come and see them. If they can’t reschedule, then it’s on the company to make her comfortable and do what they can to help her recover from a terrible trip.

      5. quirkypants*

        I don’t think an inability to reschedule in and of itself is a red flag if we’re talking multiple schedules.

        If that same scenario happened at my office, we might be able to reschedule a person or two but probably not everyone. By the time you reach the last round of interviews here you’re likely meeting with a peer (typically easy to reschedule) but possibly a couple senior folks (harder to reschedule). So even if we could reschedule with 2 out of 3 or 4 people, the candidate would be at a disadvantage having only met two people… so the choice MIGHT be to wait several days to find a new slot, but if I have several great candidates, I’m probably not going to risk passing on other really good talent if one of them really impressed me. I work in a competitive market and people can get snatched up REALLY quickly if I take too long to make decisions.

        I would likely reschedule what I could for

        1. quirkypants*

          Ooops, I hit enter too soon.

          I would likely reschedule if I could for the people who had flexibility in their calendar but it would be difficult for them to really be on an even playing field if I couldn’t reschedule everyone.

    2. Samwise*

      OP #2: I’m sure the hiring committee was aware that OP might not be at their best given the circumstances, but OP says they *really* tanked, not just performed below par. I’ve been on hiring committees where candidates have experienced travel hell, and I’ve been the candidate, too. You still expect a certain level of competence and it sounds like OP did not demonstrate that even that.

      At this point, the employer is probably going with other candidates. I would say OP needs to write this one off.

      1. fieldpoppy*

        Agreed. I feel terrible for the LW, but if I were on the hiring committee I would expect the person to be able to manage the travel stress — like, if they hadn’t had a chance to shower, etc., I would certainly overlook lack of physical polish, or even a little jitters. But in a role you are willing to fly people in for, I would expect the person to be seasoned enough to not totally tank it. I don’t think it’s a red flag that HR knew about it and didn’t change anything — interview processes are complex to organize and while I don’t approve of “trial by fire,” I also expect people to be resilient if stuff like travel delays happen.

        1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          Exactly. Things like not being perfectly polished or perhaps needing a few extra moments to collect your thoughts are understandable and can be overlooked. It sounds like this was even beyond the usual travel stress plus nerves of most interviews. I don’t mean to make OP #2 feel worse, but I have a hard time imagining how one gets to the point of pulling out their phone to show photos of their children during an interview.

          1. Jasnah*

            “I have a hard time imagining how one gets to the point of pulling out their phone to show photos of their children during an interview.” Totally agree. And if someone blamed this on an energy drink or lack of sleep, I’d be concerned how they would act in meetings where coffee was provided… this is just waaay beyond normal.

    3. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

      In some ways it hurts as it’s never happened to me before. I’ve literally been laid off and found a new job in less than a week, sometimes less than 48 hours time and time again (in part due to the agencies I work with, in part timing, in part what my husband and MIL would say is plain dumb luck and what I’d say is help from God (not trying to start a debate among those who believe and don’t, I just happen to believe).

      1. SuperAnon*

        The reality today, though, is that you can easily be searching and interviewing for 3-6 months to find the right job. I think your past experiences finding work were out-of-the-ordinary.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          Or a sign of the times then. In the 90’s I temped for 5 years straight and never had a lag of more than a few days between assignments. It was also relatively easy to get “permanent” jobs.
          Then in the mid-2000’s, there were barely any temp jobs, and it took 5 months to find my current job in 2011. It’s all about the (perceived) economy and how much employers are willing to hire.

      2. GreyjoyGardens*

        I think SuperAnon has a point – it’s not you, it’s the way job hunting works these days. Often it just takes longer.

        Having had the same luck (but in a different field) in the 90’s and early 00’s, I think that being able to broadcast a position through the internet has made employers pickier and take their time more in hiring. Pre-internet, or even when Craigslist and job boards were a thing but advertising on company websites or LinkedIn weren’t, employers often were content to go with the bird in the hand – someone who serendipitously showed up or applied – because advertising and interviewing were time-consuming and expensive.

        If you have a LinkedIn, it might be time to leverage that, especially if people you worked for/with in the past can recommend you for another position.

        1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

          I really like this idea. Right now my LinkedIn headline reads “Currently seeking new Executive Assistant opportunities” and I have the button turned on to hear from recruiters. I signed up for a job coaching program (free and federally funded) with classed in resume writing, interviewing, networking and leveraging LinkedIn. It’s a great program but the classes rotate. The first LinkedIn one available is this Thursday and I plan on being there.

          1. GreyjoyGardens*

            It sounds like you are doing everything right! Hang in there and ignore the Debbie Downers.

            1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

              I will and I promise to write in to update when I find my next job as well.

              1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

                Please do, we’d love to hear from you. You sound like you’re doing all the right things and it might just take a little longer than expected. Job searching can really do a number on your self esteem, which is made worse by unsupportive people in your life. If you’ve got good friends who are more supportive, spend time with them to balance out the negativity. Sending you all the good thoughts!

                1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

                  Thank you so much.

                  I actually have two interviews this week. One was today (this was finally MY internal – it’s at . my husband’s company, though our jobs would have no overlap). I hadn’t mentioned it yet as while I knew it was a serious interview part of me had no idea how it would go (figuring at least some had to be a courtesy interview), and now hours later I’m actually I’m feeling pretty darn good about it.

                  I also have an interview with another company on Friday (I just found out about it today – like I’ve said above, job interviews through agencies can come up fast).

                  So, we’ll see if two interviews this week will land any offers, or not.

  8. Brooklyn Nine-Niner*

    Regarding #3, Personally, as much as I enjoy the silent treatment, I enjoy making people know what they did even more (I’m petty too). I’d recommend the OP (politely) tell her what she did, and because of that, no, you won’t be getting the recommendation.

    1. MK*

      This is not about what would be more enjoyable though, but what will be better for the OP’s professional reputation. Telling someone that they mistreated you in the past is risking that they will try to open a conversation where they want to convince you it wasn’t so bad, and no matter how polite you are, it could be used against you.

      1. London Calling*

        Silence cannot be miscontrued, misquoted or misreported. Plus it conveys stinging contempt – you are not worth even the effort of a one word refusal – in a way that can’t be bettered.

        1. Artemesia*

          This. Silence is much more powerful than honesty here; it also has no risk to you. So if you want to be petty (and so do we all in this circumstance) then silence is perfectly petty.

          1. EPLawyer*

            Silence also has the upside of not expending any more energy on this person. An abuser is not worth your time or energy. If you bother to respond, even negatively, they know you have expended time on them. They win no matter what you say.

            The worst thing you can do to an abuser is ignore them. They have no control over you if you are not dealing with them.

          2. London Calling*

            And if you really want to be petty, OP, you know that the former colleague is wriggling like bait on a hook; checking her phone, wondering why you didn’t reply, if you ever will, and weeks or months later wondering why you didn’t.

      2. Myrin*

        I mean, I can see saying something and then being silent.
        Depending on the person in question and also their and my general standing in the field, I could see myself going that route. But I’m also someone who is entirely unmoved by peoples’ attempts to convince me of basically anything and I know that you wouldn’t be able to cajole me into any further contact. But I also know a lot of people for whom this would be very hard and who definitely shouldn’t do it.
        In the end, I agree that “just ignore it” is certainly the best blanket answer.

    2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I’d love to tell the person off, but on considering the other replies I think ignoring them will be best. Maybe write out a fantasy email (in a text editor!!) about how this person must be delusional and then delete it, and the email. Quietly getting in touch with the hiring people to tell them that this person is not a good hire might also be satisfying, but otherwise I wouldn’t even engage. What’s the point?

      1. Harper the Other One*

        I would absolutely get in touch with the hiring manager about this. “I heard from X that she’s planning to apply for your position. You should know that my experience with her at another company was extremely unpleasant; I can provide details if you would like, but the long and short of it is that I strongly recommend against hiring her.”

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Yes. Although I would suggest finding a way to make it clear that it’s well beyond a personality issue. The examples you cite are inappropriate behaviors. Honestly just the third one raises my hackles — new employees *will* make mistakes. Point the mistake out and let them correct it. Help them correct it if they don’t immediately get it. If they repeatedly make the mistake then you deal with it up with increasingly strident preventive&punitive measures. But haranguing someone about a small mistake? No.

        2. Qistina*

          I had a coworker who was awful to me at my last job and always wondered what I would do if she were to ever apply at my current job. In general, how receptive do you think hiring managers would be to letting them know X would not be a good hire? Especially if X applied independently and not attempting to apply through me? (Say they don’t know I’m employed here or plain doesn’t care or thinks it’s a big deal.) How would I say it to make sure I don’t sound like I’m making up stories or exaggerating? I mean, I know *I* wouldn’t be, but how do I make sure the hiring manager knows? I need to prep – just in case!

          1. Washi*

            I think it depends so much on how well the hiring manager knows and respects you, and the what the facts are regarding the applicant. And the more egregious the facts are, the less capital you need to bring them up; like in the OP’s example, actively sabotaging someone else is very serious and I would be glad of a heads up on problems like that, even from a coworker I didn’t know well at all. But if the facts are more subjective, like “Tangerina sighed every time I asked her to do something and always shot down my ideas” you would need a lot of pull with the hiring manager to be sure it wouldn’t be construed as a personality conflict.

          2. Allison*

            I’ve told my manager that I didn’t get along with two particular people in my past. I have been assured that they would not be considered for roles with my team. But it helps that I’ve been here for years and my manager doesn’t want to lose me. If I was new or disposable, that’d be a different story.

          3. Wells*

            I had this happen, and talked to management about it. A very problematic former co-worker reached out to let me know she was applying with my company, and I knew that on paper she would appear to be a great candidate. I had a strong relationship with the hiring manager, and found a quiet moment to chat about it. I told her I wasn’t doing this lightly, and wouldn’t torpedo someone’s candidacy without real concerns. Then I lead with the ironclad objection (“I have seen this person lie to sabotage the progress of a project she disagreed with”) before slipping in the more subjective concerns (“Her approach to teapot marketing is completely at odds with your team’s goals”).

        3. NKOTB*

          Yes – this is perfect. I thought this was the only thing missing from Allison’s answer, since they will probably apply for a position there even without OP’s help.

    3. Minocho*

      I absolutely get that, because I have that urge too with people that have treated me horribly. But the chance of the message being used to cause problems for the OP is a real potential issue, especially if the person asking for the recommendation is petty and mean, as described.

      If the need to tell her exactly why she will not get a recommendation is overwhelming, save it for a conversation, and even then only if the OP can keep it professional.

    4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I wouldn’t put anything in writing to this person, which is what the LW would have to do to respond on LinkedIn. Sure, it might be satisfying to turn the request down an say why, but it is too easy for text to be twisted.

  9. Loretta*

    I have been put in that similar “impossible coaching” situation, leading a small team of young, uninterested operations workers to somehow become competent in data analytics as our department transitioned to a more knowledge-worker/analytics focus.

    I went to management (who were usually great and reasonable) and tried to explain that skills that took me a university degree, over a decade of experience and prolonged effort to acquire could not simply be passed on (by osmosis?) to low paid workers who wanted to merely follow orders and go home.

    Management thought I was just being pessimistic or lacking faith in the team. But I felt that I was expected to perform miracles.

    I kinda burnt out of that role, which is a shame as I loved it in other ways. I felt my perspective was ignored. I think it’s important for management to figure out the difference between stretching people professionally and asking the impossible. It’s extremely demotivating to work at a task you know will fail.

    1. Documentor*

      Related, sounds like management or at least manager found a way to not deal with this problem employee and kick this down the road for a while. This is similar to throwing good money after bad, with time, energy, and motivation being the substitute.
      OP – would suggest making a final report, showing that to problem employee and then submitting that both your and the person’s manager before throwing your hands up and focusing on something else. Hopefully that is a realistic option there, and that they aren’t just taking advantage of your high performance to avoid doing their jobs.

  10. ..Kat..*

    For #4, I understand Alison’s advice to write a new cover letter. But, if they are always going to go with internal candidates (even less qualified ones), I would not put a lot of time and energy into applying.

    Good luck.

    1. Kathleen_A*

      But…OP didn’t say they will always go with internal candidates – just that that’s their preference. Sooner or later, even a company that has made this commitment will have to hire some outside candidates, and it could be that this is one of those times. Since the OP has said that she really wants this job, I say she should go for it and do her best.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          Where do you see that? Has the OP replied in the comments? Because all I see is that she says she is “more than qualified and have stellar in-company references.” She doesn’t say she’s more qualified than the successful applicant – just that she herself exceeds the requirements.

          Besides, it less it’s something really blatant (like that a master’s is required and the other applicant has only a bachelor’s) it’s almost impossible to tell from the outside if another candidate is “less qualified” anyway.

  11. Liza*

    Re. LW2, I think a crucial element might be whether or not they are aware that LW had literally stepped off an overnight flight and interviewed on no sleep. All they know is that there was a flight cancellation, LW tried to reschedule but couldn’t, then went ahead anyway. They might not realise just how sleep deprived LW was. Some people can sleep on planes after all so they might be making assumptions.

    1. Jsm1974*

      The company known what I was going thru as the HR woman and I were in contact on the day I was to fly out and the only reason i got the flight I did is thru her efforts.

      1. Sara without an H*

        Yikes. They certainly should have taken your situation into account, and given you points for persistence. I once hired someone who interviewed in jeans because his suitcase didn’t make it onto the plane. We all commiserated with him, and then conducted the interview as usual. I hired him.

        But now that you’ve had some time to think — do you really want to work for these people? I wouldn’t.

        1. Dana B.S.*

          Might be a situation in which HR misread the urgency of the interview and also didn’t pass on exactly how terrible this experience was for you. Even if it’s a situation in which all interviewers are required to make the decision and are about to go on consecutive vacations for the rest of the summer – surely there was a way to reschedule. No position is that important that someone couldn’t sit out on the interview process or delay it by a few weeks – even for a CEO, they should wait to ensure the right candidate is selected. If that is the situation and the decision makers insisted that the interview take place in spite of it – sounds like a terrible employer that will bottleneck decisions at every stage and not take care of their employees.

          1. quirkypants*

            It feels like you’re reading a lot into this situation.

            The ability to wait on a hiring decision really depends on the industry, the person’s seniority, how did the candidate communicate their desire to reschedule, how competitive the field is, etc.

            My industry can be incredibly competitive. If I have 4 GREAT candidates for a single position, there’s a good chance one or two will be snapped up in the course of 3-4 week hiring process even if I’m moving very quickly. I could decide to wait a couple weeks to accommodate a candidate in OP’s position but if I had a couple of GREAT candidates who I *was* able to interview, I might just move forward with those… it’s a risk for me to wait to reschedule with someone who may or may not be as good as those I’ve already met with and possibly lose out on those.

            Most people here would be EQUALLY put off if they were the candidates who travelled to an interview and then had to wait a couple weeks for the employer to come back with a final decision. You’d have possibly have people here saying that’s a red flag, too. The employer really can’t win in this situation…

            As an employer, I would really try to accommodate the candidate, if I could, later the same day or the next day but I likely wouldn’t wait much longer unless the other candidates I did get to meet with weren’t very good.

            You’re right that with some positions, like a CEO, there is an expectation that takes a lot of time but that’s not realistic for many other positions.

            I would like to add that I really feel for the OP who had a hellish travel day and then made a mistake taking a terrible-sounding energy drink. I’d be upset if I were in their position but I don’t think this alone is a red flag for the employer.

      2. Silver Fig*

        That really bites, LW 2. Unless you were interviewing for a position in which extreme fatigue is expected to be ignored (trauma surgeon? bomb defuser?) they should have treated you with more consideration.

        1. Pilcrow*

          Don’t know about you, but I want my trauma surgeons and bomb defusers to be well-rested and alert.

          Getting on my soapbox for a bit. The whole notion that certain high-stress professions need to work on no sleep needs to die.

          1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

            I thought the point was more that for some kinds of emergency personnel the ability to occasionally push through exhaustion to complete urgent work is a crucial skill, not that they should routinely expect to be sleep deprived.

    2. Kendra*

      It’s also possible that the radio silence the OP’s getting might be for another reason entirely; she mentioned that the interview couldn’t be rescheduled because of vacations. That may have thrown a wrench in the works on their end, and stalled the process out; whoever’s ultimately in charge of hiring for the position could be at a family wedding or something, and that’s why nobody’s emailed or called. I wouldn’t assume just yet that you’re completely sunk; they might very well know that they put you at a pretty extreme disadvantage, and have cut you some slack because of it.

      I’d follow Allison’s suggestion; hopefully, they’ll come back from their vacation time and be willing to let their memories of your earlier conversations weigh more than one bad interview. Good luck!

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        I think the vacations angle is definitely worth keeping in mind.

        Whenever I applied/interviewed for jobs I always took the position that I didn’t get the job. I always presented my best self of course, but kept looking.

        When no one followed through, I wasn’t disappointed. When they did…happily surprised.

  12. Lena Clare*

    No. 5
    I’ve encountered exactly this, and it’s very disheartening. For the first time in my life, I’ve had a series of interviews and rejections. I’m really not used to that.

    Alison is right, but I have to say that for the majority of jobs I’m applying directly to, an online company form is the required format for application and there’s no way to tailor your work history and qualifications. Dates must be filled in with No Gaps in history.
    So I feel for you!
    Good luck – let us know how you get on.

      1. Lena Clare*

        Oh my goodness, yes that is depressing!
        Particularly this hit home for me:
        “It is toughest for women, who suffer more age discrimination than men starting in their 40s…” that’s where I am now! Lovely :/

        1. pugs for all*

          yes, no false advertising about it being depressing! :)
          Here’s hoping that we all get great new jobs soon.

      2. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

        Wow. That was an interesting and scary article. They even mentioned men over 50 and women over 40 as feeling discriminated against. I may be way off base, but I honestly don’t think I look my age or even 40. My resume goes back only 12 years in experience, though with two degrees on it someone might be able to do some fairly accurate math.

        At the suggestion of a career counselor, I made up a second resume that just takes off the second degree. All jobs I’ve interviewed for so far have seen the two degree one, however.

    1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

      While I hate that it’s happening to someone else, I do appreciate you sharing that you’re also experiencing it, it is good (in a weird way) to know I’m not alone in this (or for that matter having had good luck before but now not). I will definitely update on this.

    2. Close Bracket*

      Dates must be filled in with no gaps in history, but you can leave off the earliest jobs without creating a gap.

      1. Lena Clare*

        I do that on my resume, but an wondering how to manage it when you have to put the dates of the degree in as I’ve worked since leaving uni but that was eons ago!

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Take some classes now and use recent dates? I know, that’s probably no help. I do like being able to show recent-ish dates though.

    1. Jsm1974*

      That’s just what I can remember doing. Most of the interviews (and there were 4 of them I think) are like trying to look th

            1. Femme d'Afrique*

              It sounds like exhaustion coupled with a reaction to the energy drink. I’m so sorry!

        1. Batgirl*

          Oh dear! If it’s any consolation I’m sure the explanation of exhaustion was obvious; you’d given them a heads up about that and you did your best.

      1. Bananka*

        Sounds like you were intoxicated by this energy drink and may have even appeared under the influence…..Best to move forward from this, reaching out can do more harm than good.

        1. boo bot*

          I think reaching out is still a good idea, especially in the way Alison suggests – I can’t imagine it’s going to make things worse, and it might leave a better impression for her to acknowledge that she wasn’t at her best; that’s worthwhile if she comes across any of these people in the future, even if this job is off the table.

      2. Jasnah*

        If you can’t even remember what you did… I think it’s best if you give up on this one. And that energy drink.

        1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

          (I know this isn’t my topic letter, hope no one minds I’m chiming in.)

          I’m very curious about that energy drink. I’m wondering if this was one of those 12 hour energy ones in little bottles or a more traditional one you can buy in grocery stores.

          From personal experience they make my heart race, and I wouldn’t interview after drinking any for that alone, but the OP seems like s/he doesn’t have a lot of experience with them in general or at least whatever one s/he took that day.

          Coffee might be a better future alternative for you.

  13. EPLawyer*

    #5, it can be rough if you never had to really look for a job before. If you always just moved from job to job easily suddenly have rejections is difficult to understand.

    But only looking for work for a month is nothing. Really. You just got started. From the feedback it doesn’t really sound like you aren’t great, it’s just not the right job for you.

    Hang in there. Keep us updated.

    1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

      I realize a month isn’t a long time in the grand scheme of things. I know there are people who have to search a lot longer, but having never had this been the case for me, it’s been quite daunting (while at the same time receiving the negative messages from my husband and MIL – but mainly MIL). I do know I’m capable and good at the work I’ve done in the past. I will definitely update on this.

      1. wafflesfriendswork*

        Hang in there! My 29 year old fresh-out-of-grad-school fiance is on month six of his job hunt, sometimes it can just take a long time. You sound like you’ve got it together and you’re good at what you do, there will be something out there that’s a good fit. Wishing you luck!

      2. Batgirl*

        Is there any way to silence these messages? Cause I think that’s your problem, not a fairly average length of job hunting. Personally I’d answer all questions with varieties of ‘It’s going fine!’ Or ‘No job hunting talk today I’m off duty’ or blatant subject changes.
        I happen to have a negative nelly in my life and sometimes it’s rather fun to push them for positive solutions if they truly won’t back down.
        If they complain about their own lives, impassively say “Well what are you going to do?” without feeding the martyr machine. You can even brightly add: “I’m sure you’ll figure it out!” like you haven’t noticed the hand wringing and sympathy bait.
        When they complain about my situation I usually say “What are you suggesting I do?” (Seriously, are they telling you to give up or get a time machine?) Sometimes this leads them into a little ‘woe of the world’ speech and it’s perfectly appropriate to respond to that with “I’m sure I’ll figure it out!” Or “Huh, thanks for the encouragement.” on the days when it really sucks that you’re having to reassure others rather than vice versa.

    2. Pretzelgirl*

      Hang in there for sure! I used to fancy myself a strong interviewer. When I got my first few jobs out of school I never had to interview more than one or two places. My current job, I got 18 months ago, I literally went on 20 interviews (not the same place), before I got this job. It was very frustrating.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      I’m 5 years older than the LW and have had no problems getting job offers. But back in the recession of 2009-2011 it was BRUTAL.
      Even today, it can take a month to get calls and up to 2 months for interviews… so HANG IN and be persistent at applying for openings and not waiting.

      And certainly, appearance does matter, you should look polished on an interview and dress in a modern style, keep your hair trimmed and makeup neutral and natural (less is more as we get older). If you are gray, you might consider coloring, but I don’t think it’s required if you have an overall nice, modern hairstyle. Sure, there are many little tricks to help one look a bit more youthful, but I don’t think this matters as much as you’re hearing.

      1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

        My natural hair color has way too much gray in it for me to even consider not dying it. I’ve been making it a different (but still natural) color for decades now, one that I think makes me look younger and certainly less washed out as my skin color is pretty pale. My hair is a few inches past my shoulders and I’ve tried a high pony tale and simply down in recent interviews.

  14. PB*

    OP #5, this reminds me of my last job search. After I’d been a finalist for a few positions and then rejected, my stepmother confidently asserted that I was getting rejected because I don’t have a PhD. My field does not require a PhD. I tried to explain this, and pointed out that if they were rejecting me for a basic qualification, they wouldn’t wait until they had only 2-3 finalists. My dad and stepmother literally laughed at me and asked how I’d know what industry standards are in my field, when I’d only worked at two places? (Um, networking?)

    The reason I was being rejected, of course, was not my lack of PhD. It wasn’t even that I was a bad candidate. In one case, the person who got the job was one of the top people in my field. In another case, it went to someone with similar qualifications, but a different skillset they needed.

    Bottom line, people in your life can mean well (or not), but they’re not the folks sitting at the other end of that interview table. They don’t really know. As Alison said, use the regular tricks to avoid age discrimination, but I suspect that the right job will come along sooner or later.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yes, I came here to say this. I was a finalist 7 times before getting an offer and my family, bless their hearts, had the craziest ideas of why this was. You just have no way of knowing what is happening internally. Keep your chin up, OP#5. You’ll get there.

    2. Kimmybear*

      I’ve had more post-college employers than both of my parents combined but they insist on providing advice about job applications (not resumes but applications) and reference letters because those are standard in their field but not mine. I just nod and smile.

      1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

        lol my MIL insisted that I ask the CEO of the last company for a reference letter. I did politely ask for one and was told the company didn’t give them. Instead they gave me this totally useless letter of verification that has dates employed and duties on it. Meanwhile, the company just had layoff wave three (I was hit in wave two).

        1. SuperAnon*

          Most companies don’t offer general letters of reference. That’s pretty much an outdated thing.

          Companies you’ve worked for will only verify employment dates.
          Your list of references, however, are individuals who will vouch for the type of employee you are. THOSE are the ones that count.

          1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

            I agree, to clarify, the most recent company I worked for won’t even give references. Say you called today and asked tried to ask was I a good worker or bad or about any specifics, they would tell you that due to company policy they don’t give out that information.

            Luckily, I do have employers who will give that information, just not from my last relevant job.

  15. NJ Anon*

    #5 I found a new job at the age of 58. I, too, swore I was facing age discrimination. It took me a year but found one. Keep trying and use Alison’s tips for your resume. I only included my past 15 years’ experience and left the date of graduation off. Fortunately, hey were looking for someone with a lot of experience to handle a bunch of different personalities and I fit the profile.

    1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

      It’s so great to hear that others (yourself and others on this page) found jobs older than I am now. My resume only goes back 15 years now, my experience past that would include jobs so not relevant that they would hurt my chances even more.

  16. Javy29*

    LW 2 ugh, this exact same thing happened to me a few years ago and it’s awful. My flight was cancelled and no hotels were available. I had to to interview the next morning straight from the airport on 2 hours of sleep and luggage in tow. I managed to do well enough to get asked back for a second interview, but was than ghosted by the company, despite paying out of pocket for airfare for both interviews. I would follow Alison’s advice, but also mentally move on and assume you didn’t get the job at the same time. Also, I know you said they haven’t gotten back to you, but you also said they were going on vacations. Is it possible that’s why they haven’t been in touch?

    1. Boobookitty*

      Wow, the company ghosted you after you’d paid for airfare for two interviews!? I hope you wrote something about this company and your experience on Glassdoor.

      1. Javy29*

        Yea, it definitely taught me a lesson and ever since I’ve been much more cautious about paying out of pocket to fly for an interview. However, at the time I was job searching from out of state and was still in my first job out of college, so I was inexperienced and didn’t feel I had a choice. Of course now I know if they are really interested in me, they’ll fly me out to interview. And yes, I waited 6 months and posted on Glassdoor. Looking back I don’t think the job would’ve been a good fit, but a simple email letting me know they filled the position would’ve been nice! OP #2-I’m sorry this happened to you! Even if this opportunity doesn’t work out, It sounds like you have a strong resume based on the fact that the company was willing to fly you out. I’m sure you’ll have other amazing opportunities!

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          Just curious what kind of positions were they that you interviewed for? My thought was that unless the company was specifically conducting a nationwide search for a particular position, companies will not usually fly people in for interviews. Most lower/entry level and even some mid-level positions tend to be local searches. For example the position is based in Denver and search is located in Denver, if a candidate from LA applies it is fine, but based on the assumption that the candidate will be responsible for their own travel for in person interviews.

          I have no experience being flown in for interviews so if anyone else can shed more light on this please do.

      2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        This happened with my husband, too. He had a (not so great) offer and when he didn’t accept (because he got a great offer), they ghosted him and refused to reimburse the parts of his expenses that couldn’t be booked on the employer’s account.

        It was well worth losing the few hundred dollars because the second job was so much better, but still. Very unprofessional.

    2. Jsm1974*

      It’s only been a little over a week so there’s still hope I suppose. I sent a friendly email paraphrasing what Alison said and thanking them for the opportunity to come out and interview. Considering the number of times we talked before I came out if I dont hear and up or down in a week I figure that will tell me what I need to know.

      1. Carlie*

        Good to hear! Even though HR knew what was going on, there’s no guarantee that they passed that information along to the people who interviewed you or who are responsible for the hiring. It was a great idea to let them know directly.

  17. Bagpuss*

    LW#1 I agree with Alison that you’ve ben put in a very difficult position. I would suggest that you speak to your management. Explain that she is not willing to take on board any of your advice and ask them for permission to stop trying to coach her.

    ifthey say that they wantyou to continue, then I would be very explicit with them, perhaps say something like,

    “When I have tried to encourage [name] to consider solutions to the issues she is complainingabout, she refuses todo so, amking dismissive comments like ‘are you kidding’. Moving forward, if you do want me to continue to try to coach her, I will need to challenge that and to make clear to her that I am not there simply to listen to her complaints and that I will end the meeting if she isn’t willing to work with me to try to find soluctions.
    I would also like to be able to set an agenda which will involve her coming to the meeting with perhaps one or two specifc issues to work on, and some suggested ways of doing so, and would like to be able to en stop the meeting and send her back to do that preparation is she comes to the meeting without any preparation. Do I have your authority to move forward in that way?”

    You could also ask that her actual manager comes to one of the meetings so she can see how this person is behaving (and if she acts dofferently with the manager there, tell them that, and suggest that in the circumstances the coaching is likely to work better if it either comes from the manager, or includes the manager beong present)

    The pther thig I would consider is actually making notes of meetings as they happen and ask complainer to read and sign them at the end of the meeting. These don’t have to be detailed, maybe bullet pointslike:

    Complainerset out that she feels xxx
    LW1 asked complainer what suggestions she had for improving / addressing xxx
    Complainer has no suggestions to make
    LW suggested a, b and c.
    Complainer made clear she did not think these would be workable.
    Complainer also stated that xyxy is an issue
    LW asked complainer what she has tried so far to address xyxy.
    Comapliner has not tried any specifc solutions as yet

      1. Bagpuss*

        That too, but also to document for management what is actually happening and because it is just possible that setting it out might focus her mind, (and if she disputes the accuracy you might be able to get her to focus that way – i.e if she says it in’t true that she doesn’t think your suggestions are workable, that becomes ‘Oh sorry, my misunderstanding. So you’re saying that they are workable? Great, I’ll note that done. Give them a go for the next few days, and let me know how you do ‘

    1. Sara without an H*

      I like this approach, since it will provide some protection for LW#1. It seems that management here is trying to avoid doing what’s unpleasant, but necessary, which in this case is probably firing Archcomplainer. (Full disclosure: I have never in a 30-year career seen a hard-playing complainer turn around and become constructive.)

      My concern for LW#1 is that she is being held responsible for something management refuses to do. Documentation may help protect LW#1 from blow back and, possibly, help her set a time limit for the coaching sessions. After two weeks or so of documented dead-end meetings, it should be possible to go to management and say, “Hey, this is what’s happening. How much more time do you want me to invest (waste) here?”

    2. pcake*

      That’s some very good ideas and a very good list. Roping in the manager may be helpful, letting the complainer decide what to work on ditto.

      I would also be sure the complainer knew that higher up management is who wants me to work on this with her.

  18. SigneL*

    OP#3: anything you say will be taken as an invitation to a debate, and I agree with those who say Asha would twist anything you say. So, I also vote for silence.

  19. Fieldpoppy*

    I don’t have a strong opinion about any of the letters but I just wanted to say I hope you’re feeling better, Alison!!!

  20. DiscoCat*

    Regarding age discrimination: How does leaving off date of graduation or only going back 10-15 years of work experience help? Don’t you have to state DOB and disclose full employment history? In central Europe, where I live, leaving such details out would seem careless and as if you’re hiding something. Ok, they also overdo it here with the requirement to add a photo etc.

    1. puffle*

      I don’t know about the USA, but in the UK disclosing your DOB and full history isn’t the norm at all, and would mark you out as a candidate who doesn’t understand or wish to follow the usual conventions

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        Yeah, in the US that isn’t usual either (you’ll give your DOB and such in the HR paperwork once you’re actually hired, but not in the job application) other than in some government and other high-security positions.

    2. OrigCassandra*

      In the US, putting your date of birth on a resume is Not Done, to the point that it would look very odd to the folks hiring. Full employment history is only given if asked for; a resume often won’t contain it.

    3. Washi*

      Sounds like conventions are very different in central Europe – I have never seen a DOB on a resume and would find it very weird if that was included. Same with an exhaustive work history, here that would be a sign that the person wasn’t savvy enough to only include recent and relevant experience.

    4. Kimmybear*

      A lot of the European conventions I’ve seen over the years (date of birth, marital status and photo on resume pop to mind) are absolutely not done in the US and as others have mentioned would come across as unfamiliar with US norms.

      1. Lucy*

        These were on their way out in the UK when I was first looking for teen jobs twenty years ago. They’re now actively discouraged, and the questions that would draw them out would also risk discrimination issues. Europe is not homogenous!

        I think the only people who have to include their entire employment history are those very early in their careers. It would be unusual nowadays for anyone to have space for every single job and qualification ever.

      2. nonymous*

        It was common in the US in the 60s and 70s. Or at least that’s my impression from going through my deceased father’s belongings. He was a midlevel exec during that period and his demographic section included stuff like his ethnic heritage and that of his wife.

    5. Heidi*

      I also don’t think that the point of this suggestion is to hide the applicant’s age indefinitely. I think the purpose is to prevent them dismissing her application right away due to subconscious bias. If the employer sees a long list of experiences dating back multiple decades, that might call a lot of attention her age and cause the employer to screen her out before the next stage. But if they don’t see this long list, they might focus their attention on her actual qualifications.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        This is exactly the reason for the edits. It’s to make it easier to pass the screening round.

        You want to get around the possible bias and get to actually meet a person first. Since most aren’t necessarily maliciously discriminatory against older applicants.

    6. The Original K.*

      No. You wouldn’t disclose your DOB until you were actually hired when you have to put it on HR paperwork. And a resume is a marketing document; you can put anything you want on it (as long as it’s accurate, heh), so leaving stuff off isn’t unusual. If you’re a lawyer, you wouldn’t put your first high school job working at an ice cream place on your resume either.

    7. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

      In the US, a resume is very short — usually no more than a page or two — and generally tailored to the position rather than being an exhaustive chronicle of your entire career. They’re different from CVs, which are more complete.

      Americans also don’t tend to include things that are irrelevant to job experience (with one exception being that you might include your hobbies to give a sense of you as a person), so DOB or a photo would not be appropriate.

        1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

          I did say “might.” In my field, I’ve been told to include hobbies as a jumping off point for conversation with the interviewer (“Ah, I see you also enjoy parasailing!”). You aren’t obligated to put it in, but neither are you obligated to leave it out.

        2. LawLady*

          This is industry-specific. Hobbies were the most-discussed thing when I was first interviewing for BigLaw jobs.

        3. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

          I actually do have one volunteer experience on my resume. I’ve used it to talk myself up in some interviews. It doesn’t have any political or religious ties, nor does it disclose I’m a parent. I did have one interview recently where they seemed to think I’d be on call for it 24.7, but I was able to explain that it was just a few hours a week commitment and on a weekend to boot.

    8. Kendra*

      In the US, it’s unusual for a potential employer to ask for your date of birth because of this very issue (age discrimination); technically, they can ask, but they’re not allowed to consider your age when they’re deciding whether or not to hire you, so most would just prefer not to know.

      Putting it on your resume yourself is right up there with listing your religious beliefs; sure, you can do it, and there might (in very specific circumstances) be reason to, but the majority of employers will be deeply uncomfortable with seeing it on there, and may even wonder if you’re trying to set yourself up for a lawsuit against them.

  21. LQ*

    Assuming you try and can’t get out of it. Be blunt. Painfully blunt.

    Cut it down to size. “We are going to try something different with these sessions. You bring up one concern and then you need to bring up 3 possible solutions. I’m happy to help you brain storm for what those are. Then you’ll identify one solution that you will try before our next meeting. If you bring up another problem before you finish with the first agenda item I will warn you once, then I will leave.”

    Then follow through. Find the ice and let it flow through you because it will likely be really hard to do this.
    Then go back to your desk, make a note of what happened, and go get some coffee. Rinse and repeat. The first few times you’ll get disbelief, that’s fine. Just keep doing it. Either she changes or she doesn’t, either way you’ve learned a valuable skill and that’s worth while.

    And meanwhile find someone you can mentor who will appreciate it, it will make you feel a lot better about this. If someone has reached out or shown potential just encouraging them, giving them tips occasionally, helping them trouble shoot. It doesn’t have to be formal, but being available as a senior person to someone who is trying to grow will help. (And it will likely be a LOT less time than 2-3 times a week.)

  22. KC*

    For LW#1 and others in this tough spot:
    I’m a teacher, so I get a lot of young adults with bad attitudes that I need to coach. One thing I’ve found useful is the Accountability Ladder (googling this will find you a lot of images of it). It basically explains what behaviors are accountable behaviors and what behaviors are “victim” behaviors. Whining, blaming, or “I can’t!” are victim behaviors, so when students are in that place, I tell them I can’t help them and send them on their way. Once they face their problem, take responsibility for it, and actively problem solve, then I can work with them. I actually make them point to where they are…while this would be patronizing in a workplace, it does help to have it in your head to help draw boundaries for what you can and cannot do for a protege. I find it helpful, hope some of you do too!

    1. irene adler*

      Hi KC.
      If nothing else, this Accountability Ladder helps me crystallize the whining I field at work. Always felt that whining doesn’t accomplish much; find an action that might remedy the situation can make things better. But never had a chart that I could point to and show “You are here. If you want to remedy the situation, start here. Work up.”

      Thank you for posting this.

    2. Kimchi*

      Whining, blaming, or “I can’t!” are victim behaviors

      You must be a joy to work with if someone files a sexual harassment complaint.

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        Or a disabled student: I can’t run the mile, I’m in a wheelchair.
        Teacher: That’s victim behavior! Tell me what you can do!

        The accountability ladder sounds like an abusive tool to enable victim blaming. Disgusting.

        1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

          I can totally see it working for someone who is in a management role (where they really do have some power and the only thing holding them back is their attitude). And indeed, when I googled it, I see it mostly in the context of people in management or leadership positions.

          The problem with applying it to students is that they rarely if ever have control over their own lives (I know that when I was a student, I certainly did not choose to have a different 2-4 hour after-school club per day), and things that an adult might be able to control or at least handle more effectively, like managing a learning disability or compartmentalizing bullying, a child can’t.

        2. Close Bracket*

          I’m not sure how you got that impression if you googled the term and did some reading. Have you done that yet, or are you going off Kimchi’s assessment?

      2. Beth*

        I would hope that it’s being used with nuance and understanding that there are situations where the person suffering the consequences of a problem actually doesn’t have the power to fix it.

        But I’ve seen enough anti-bullying campaigns that go “just ignore them and they’ll get bored!” to know that not everyone has that nuance…

        1. Michaela Westen*

          “Just ignore them” didn’t work when I was a child, and it probably doesn’t work now.
          When I tried to ignore them, they persisted and usually escalated. :( What really hurt was my parents and other grown-ups did nothing to help me.
          A little guidance on how to *really* handle it, and know I didn’t deserve it, would have meant the world.
          FYI for all teachers and child care workers: Ignoring a problem and the child who is having it is very hurtful.

          1. Beth*

            Yep, that’s my experience too–we’re on the same page! It’s a situation where expecting the victim to handle it doesn’t work (since the victim can’t make the bully stop, and can’t reasonably be expected to be unaffected by what’s going on). But since some people refuse to accept that there are problems that the victim can’t solve, “tell the victim they can handle it themselves (so I can feel like I’m supporting them but don’t have to do anything myself)” keeps on getting used as a way to handle it.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              Oh, I see. I haven’t seen that much as a grown-up, but I think it was prevalent when I was growing up.

      3. Genny*

        Wow, you all are massively reading into what KC said. They never said it was a tool to deal with harassment, discrimination, or disability accommodations or that it should be used in every situation ever. They said it was a tool to help redirect students from passively complaining about a problem to actively finding solutions for it, which doesn’t necessarily mean the students have to be the ones to solve the problem, just that they have to change their mindset about it before the problem can be effectively solved.

        1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          +100. Some serious fan fiction writing going on here. Or something.

      4. Batgirl*

        I use similar tools to build independence in students who don’t have any confidence yet and no trained teacher would use motivation tools and standards to deal with any of those types of issues. Come on.
        A student being sexually harassed is a safeguarding matter. The police and social worker cavalry would be called in. A disabled student would have their needs documented by occupational therapists. You’d be fired for ignoring that.
        It’s not for situations like that. It’s for situations like the one being discussed.

        1. Washi*

          Right, the top rung of the accountability ladder is “make it happen.” That makes absolutely no sense applied to sexual harassment. It’s for improving performance/motivation on tasks that are within a person’s power to change.

    3. deesse877*

      Even if the device is used as responsibly as possible, it still frames “being a victim” as both shameful and something that one personally has some measure of control over.

      That is not how the world works, to put it mildly, and I agree with other posters that people who have real problems will be hurt–not just insulted, but injured in real, practical ways–by the use of this thing. Most importantly, those whose true problems are not obvious (e.g., disability or embarrassing personal circumstances like food insecurity or domestic violence) will be incentivized to continue to hide them.

      Now, imagine you’re that person complaining about something, who has a real issue behind the complaints, and you’re being told to stop “being a victim,” and you can’t explain the truth of your life because it’s complicated and you’re already being shamed. You have to grovel to the person brandishing the “ladder” and pretend to learn a fake life lesson to get them off your back. It’s absurd.

      I really hated high school.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        OTOH, I’ve known many able-bodied, non-handicapped people who seem to see themselves as victims and complain and have negative attitudes instead of making an effort. I’ve seen middle-aged and older people who apparently lived their whole lives this way. IME it’s much too common in our society.
        Getting someone out of that mindset and making it clear they *can* solve problems and change things, would be life-changing for them.

        1. Batgirl*

          It’s supposed to be completely embedded in all educational stages. Its very, very normal for children to start out entirely passive and develop new levels of independence as they go. Sometimes school is the only place were they are considered to be capable. A lot of parents throw up their hands and act helpless over the very idea of their kids taking ownership, but then it happens! When you’ve got a fully grown adult doing this, it’s very embedded.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            It seems very common in adults where I live, I see it everywhere. Not everyone, but I might see 3 people a week doing this, and of course I know a few personally. I keep them at a distance. They will drain a person.

      2. Jasnah*

        I think you’re projecting a bit here. This is not about high schoolers being discriminated against. It’s about training someone to categorize their problems in a more helpful way. OP’s problem coworker only knows how to complain, and needs to learn how to refocus her negativity. If this was about actual problems then this would be a totally different question.

  23. just trying to help*

    #1 – document as much as you can for her manager to review and to see the effort which you have made. While you can try to tell the problem employee to come to you with solutions instead of problems which should put her in a bit of control over her perceived predicament, it sounds like she just wants to complain. Document her efforts, or lack thereof. Then, move on.

  24. CommanderBanana*

    Just a general reminder, if you don’t normally drink coffee or energy drinks, I’d highly recommend not giving them a test run before anything important.

    1. Dana B.S.*

      Agreed. Sounds like LW2 had a very out-of-character and unfortunate experience which might be funny in a few years. However, in my case, with too much caffeine I can actually have a panic attack.

    2. wafflesfriendswork*

      Fully fully agree. I take meds for ADHD and the first couple of days I felt *insane*. Any kind of stimulant will do that at first if you’re not used to it.

  25. Phony Genius*

    OP1 says that they are not a manager. I wonder if this assignment is some kind of test for potential promotion to a manager.

  26. boop the first*

    5. They’re also not being very smart about sharing this with you… What are you supposed to take away from this advice? Just give up forever? Do they want badly to support you? That sounds super demotivating.

    1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

      Neither is in a position to make up for the slack years of me not working would involve. I really don’t know what their motivation.

        1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

          LOL ask them to support me (which we all know they can’t do), or what they hope to gain by this?

          Perhaps I will after Father’s Day. This holiday is a bit of a hard one for my MIL (who we will be celebrating with as her husband/my husband and his sibling’s dad, died when they were so young, so they didn’t have a father around).

          1. Michaela Westen*

            I was thinking, ask them what they’re trying to do when they say these things.
            Hopefully they would say they’re trying to help or encourage, and that would open the door to you telling them how it affects you, and then you could tell them what you need them to do to *actually* help and encourage you.

  27. Peanuts*

    For OP1, is it possible that the negative employee is already on a PIP? As a non-manager, the OP wouldn’t have this information but it doesn’t mean it’s not the case.

    It seems like the negative employee is being given an opportunity to change their attitude and behaviour, but is not taking it. Documenting, with specific examples, how rude and dismissive they are being seems like it could be a very good way to build a case that they are not engaging and not able to turn their performance around, despite getting special interventions to help them.

    For the OP, I think the best things to do are:
    – document the outcomes of the coaching meetings and feed it back to the relevant manager(s) – perhaps contrasting with how other members of this team are using the coaching opportunity
    – ask the negative employee what they want / need from the coaching sessions. If they say that it is pointless and they don’t want them to continue, use this as a reason to push to end them: “we’re both in 3 meetings a week and neither of us is getting anything out of it. Is this really the best use of our time?”

  28. Loux in Canada*

    I had a coworker like #1… She’s a nice lady, but at one point we had a project for another dept and I was the lead… (No managerial authority, and I have less seniority than she does, but I was basically the subject matter expert, so… yeah…) I sat right next to her, like two feet away from her, and her constant interruptions and negativity and general refusal to learn the tasks was really draining (she’s smart, but basically she’d panic and then her brain would stop working, is the best way to describe what happened). Eventually we all got pulled off the project anyway because there was more pressing work to be done in our home department.

  29. addiez*

    OP #5 – My comment may be divisive, but I’m curious whether you’re sending email or handwritten thank you notes. I’ve found that sometimes handwritten don’t make it to their destination fast enough, and may unintentionally make you seem older than you’d like.

    1. SuperAnon*

      I’d have to agree. Email thank-yous are the norm now, and get there quickly enough to leave an impression.

    2. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

      Thanks for the clarification question. I’m sending email thank yous. I always have them completed within 14 hours of my interview. This is assuming of course the agencies send them on, at least one agency I think doesn’t forward them, but no way for me to know as most want me to communicate only with them even if I happen to receive business cards with email addresses on them.

      1. addiez*

        I don’t think that this is the thing holding you back then – I’d say Allison’s advice seems spot-on. However, I do think it’s worth trying to ‘guess’ at an interviewer’s direct email address if you’re just sending them directly to HR. A lot of companies use the same email structure and it can often be easy enough to find them.

        Interesting to hear that they don’t want you to communicate with folks outside of HR – that’s not something I’ve ever experienced. Anyone else familiar?

        1. SuperAnon*

          Yes, the agency wants to control all communication. Speaking directly to a hiring manager, even to thank them, means the agency is out of the info loop.

          1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

            Anyone who went outside of agency guidelines would be burning a bridge. I’ve had agencies tell me I could go ahead and contact people directly, but it’s rare. As far as I know they actually do get forwarded on, so it’s not a huge deal to me.

  30. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP#1: There’s some good advice upstream. You and I both know that you’re unlikely to reform your complainypants co-worker. (H/T Mr. Money Mustache) Do NOT invest a lot of emotional energy in this project. It will do no good and just drain your reserves.

    I’m curious about what your manager’s expectations are for this assignment you’ve been given. If the manager hasn’t been specific about desired outcomes, I would recommend pressing for some clarity on that, plus a time line. (And document all sessions as several commenters have described above.)

    Possible script: “As you know, I’ve been working with Whiny for two hours every day for the past week. Here are the notes from our sessions. Can we talk about your goals for these coaching sessions and how long you expect them to take? I have to say, she’s been very resistant to feedback.”

    Adapt as you see fit. Good luck!

  31. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    OP#5: I am over 40 too, and I believe there are some positions/work environments where being a mature, experienced professional is an advantage (imagine an executive assistant position in a high profile law firm), but there are other positions/work environments where the culture is promoting a young, less expensive candidate (imaging a start-up in the social media space). I do believe that one can project a “youthful enthusiasm and energy” for a position, no matter one’s age, but you may have to focus on selling that in the interview. I have noticed in past experience being on interview committees that enthusiasm for the corporate mission and culture (which I more commonly see in younger candidates) can hold a lot of weight in certain work environments with cult-like corporate culture. I don’t necessarily agree with that approach, but it’s a real thing. Are you targeting the types of positions that would value your professionalism and many years of experience? Good luck, OP!

    1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

      On my own yes, through the agencies – sort of. I work with a number of agencies that are given lots of jobs to fill, to which they present resumes, probably 5 or so, and they choose from that which candidates they want to see. Of course the employers can and do work with other agencies, so I may be up against a lot of candidates from a lot of agencies or even just one or two others, no way to know.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        It might be worth expending some effort to find a decent agency. In my experience, the smaller head-hunters are better to work with (I’m not sure if you are in a large enough city that you have a ton of recruiters to choose from ). They might know which firms would be a good fit for someone a bit older.
        I think that admin work probably has a bit less age discrimination than other careers because some people actually want a “seasoned” assistant instead of someone who is trying to get a foot in the door to get promoted out of the admin role as soon as possible. Which might be a good way to “brand” yourself. As in, you offer peace of mind and stability. I’m an EA who has stayed at my company for over 15 years because I like my job, but I admit that part of the reason I’m still here is because I’m nervous about having to search now that I’m almost 50. As for your MIL, start feeding her less info (gradually so she won’t notice). One thing I’ve started doing with my anxious mother is to just say something offhand like, “oh, I’m sick of thinking about my job search, let’s talk about something fun”, and then ask her a question about something she enjoys talking about.

        1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

          I’m actually registered with several agencies, but it might be time to find new ones. Of those I’m registered with some have been more helpful than others. There is one I really want to work with, but ironically they won’t’ work with me as they only represent people who’ve worked huge stretches at their last companies (think 10-15 years) and the longest I was at any of the companies I was at was significantly less than 10 years.

  32. GreyjoyGardens*

    OP5: It sounds like you are surrounded by Debbie Downers. Boo. With your husband, can you get across to him that he needs to be encouraging rather than pessimistic? Maybe say “Womp womp!” every time he says something negative. As for your MIL, it sounds like it’s time for an “information diet.” Share as little as possible of your job search with her.

    I’m in favor of “information diets” for the Old Economy Steve, you-just-need-gumption types in one’s life. Alison has written a ton on why parental advice is usually terrible when it comes to job-hunting. Unless a parent or in-law is holding the “I own the roof over your head and you live here at my pleasure!” line over your head, it’s often best to tell them what they need to know and no more.

    As far as age discrimination is concerned: Just avoid “glamor” fields and ones that skew young and you should be fine. There is a lot of room for experienced executive assistants out there – in fact, the age and experience is an asset in many fields – higher-ups want an assistant they know is experienced and knows how to handle a crisis or a delicate situation. You do want to demonstrate that you are up to date with the latest technology, and that you don’t give off an impression of being low-energy or super conservative/set in your ways (IME the biggest concerns with someone over 50). And sometimes it takes a while to find a job even for the most energetic, polished youngsters in the world. Good luck! Pulling for you.

    1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

      I do want to share less with her, she’s very into knowing everything. Case in point, my husband has a job where he can usually respond to questions and texts from her in a couple of hours. One day he had back to back meetings and couldn’t get back to anyone, even me. She started texting me asking where my husband was, was he ill, had there been an emergency, all the while he was fine, just too busy to respond to non work related texts.

      It’s not that I think I look 20, but at the same time, I don’t think most people who see me would think I’m 46 either, but I could be wrong.

      Thank you for the good thoughts, I will definitely update on this.

      1. nonymous*

        oh goodness, 46 is not old! Last week I was a guest at a Big Tech Company and I was pleasantly surprised at the age spectrum I came across – it’s not the stereotype of tech.

    2. Bookwormish51*

      #5. I concur that there are places that will want someone with more experience and judgment. We would love an experienced executive assistant/person who can do a variety of admin tasks well, and we get too many newbie applicants with energy but no judgment.

      1. Spongebob WorkPants*

        I agree, but I think it’s also that experience equals high salaries. I’d rather have an admin with experience and judgement, but in my industry (advertising/PR) and my former industry (publishing), the salaries for support staff won’t support a seasoned executive assistant. Because of the restricted salary range I have to hire from new college grads or people in the workforce for a couple of years who really want a foot in the door for advertising/PR/publishing.

        1. GreyjoyGardens*

          Those tend to fall under the category of “glamour” industries, IME, and there is a lot of competition for admin positions to get a foot in the door (again IME). That’s why I think it might be good for OP to target “stodgier” industries that get fewer eager applicants, can pay a higher salary, and would value the experience OP would bring.

          Government might be another possibility for OP. The application and hiring process is slower than frozen molasses, BUT, government jobs tend to be more secure and the benefits are good. And I have heard, anecdotally, that they do value older EA/admin types crossing over from non-government work because they are more likely to stay in their EA jobs rather than angle for a promotion ASAP. You don’t need to be a “lifer” to get a government job anymore.

  33. Rainbow Roses*

    #3. Like others, I vote for silence. This way she can’t accuse you of sabotaging her. People like her will even twist a simple reply of “no” “sorry” or “I can’t.”
    And what if she *did* end up working at your current place of employment? Don’t give her any ammo. If she hasn’t changed, it won’t be long for others to see her as the bad guy that she is. She’d be in your turf now where I assume you’ve already build up a good reputation.

  34. curious*

    OP#3 I totally agree that silence is the best method in this situation.

    I keep thinking…. Asha knows what she did. How could she not? I’m thinking that Asha thinks that you will be “professional”; forgive and forget; sweep things under the rug. OP3 your silence will speak volumes

  35. Narise*

    OP3- I would not respond to former co-worker however I would give the hiring manager a warning that this person may apply. I would state in an email that I had worked with them previously and cannot recommend them. Then in person or over the phone I would just focus on the facts: not a team player, focuses on laying blame and pointing out others mistakes, not welcoming to new employees and anything else you can think of that is relevant to the job opening.

  36. BadWolf*

    On OP5 — I am a little younger than you, but I can say that many of my friends dress and look pretty similar to what they did in high school (over all look wise). Which looks fine to me/us (oh 90s, who knew I would miss you?), but might have an unintended aging effect.

    Now that MIL put this “age” bug in your ear…I might consider mixing some things up — different interview clothes or shoes? Maybe a hair change (you don’t need to radical or lop it all off, but is it the same since high school?)? Maybe a different make up look (if you wear it)? Maybe some different than normal jewelry? Don’t change everything, of course. But don’t do things where you feel super uncomfortable or like you’re trying to dress like a 20 something. Some changes to feel confident.

    I’m not an admin, but I feel like being very confident about technology you’d be likely to use would go along way if you aren’t doing that already. We grew up with tech, but it is changing so fast it’s easy to forget who has been playing Oregon Trail forever. Have you ever been the go-to tech (ish) person? Play that up. You know who to find even the weird drawers on the copy machine? You can spreadsheet the crap out that? You survived three migrations of the company data to different “clouds”? Avoid making any jokes about tech being hard or annoying unless it’s in reference to you working around it or getting things working.

    1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

      I am trying to do my makeup different, it’s hard for me as the last few companies I worked for almost no one wore it, myself included, so I had my son’s godmother give me some recommendations, and then unfortunately had three of the rejections (my first time interviewing for and getting rejected from three companies in one week – an experience I don’t recommend).

      I am tempted to get some new interview clothes and I have a lot of costume jewelry appropriate for interviews that I could mix up.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        If you’re not used to makeup or not comfortable with it, don’t wear it. I’m sure you’ll look fine!
        Same with clothes. The important thing is how you feel and if you’re wearing things you’re not sure about, that will come across in the interview.
        I’ve always gotten along without makeup. If you want to change your interview clothes, get just one new piece you really like, and after you’ve worn it a few times, maybe another – so you’ll feel comfortable and confident.

        1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

          If I do get new clothes, I’d probably bring my friend who is also my son’s godmother along for advice. I feel that the stuff I get even when new is still the same type of style, and it might be worth branching out with someone else giving some input.

    2. MatKnifeNinja*

      FWIW data point of one…

      I have relatives that work either in tech or in teaching. Some do hiring. I have heard variations of this more than once.

      I don’t want to work with/manage my dad.
      I don’t want to work with/manage my mom.

      The people saying this are mid 20s to late 30s. It is really short sighted and gross, but people have said this to me. I’m 55, and must he ready for worm burps.

      If this is the attitude of the interviewer, considered bullet dodged.

      It can’t hurt to do a once over on wardrobe, though I doubt you are still rocking high school (though some of my cousins never left 1984). If you are up to date on the latest and greatest stuff in your field, and you sound “presentable”. It’s networking and hoping.

      1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

        I really wish I could see what others wear to interviews to judge.

        Recently I signed up with a new agency and person after person came in for interviews (with a client there, sometimes done for space reasons or to hide from people in the company they are hiring). Anyhow, unfortunately, this was for a job in which dressing up wasn’t a factor, almost everyone came in T-shirts and jeans, so it didn’t help my research.

        As I’ve mentioned before I’ve signed up with a federally funded job search center so I can take classes about steps along the way, perhaps I should ask them about current wardrobe trends for successful interviews.

  37. Michaela Westen*

    #3, the nerve of some people is unbelievable. Her asking you for help finding a job tells me she has no friends or contacts she can ask. Or is deluded enough to think you’re her friend.
    I fantasize about the acquaintances who have treated me badly and then tried to connect on LinkedIn asking me to help them find a job. All the things I would say! (probably not really… maybe one or two of the more civil things…)

  38. S*

    #3 I’ve been there, I worked with a not so nice woman that terrorized other departments at an old job. After moving on she and other people I didn’t particularly like are still at old job (which is about to be shut down), and are trying to network like crazy on Linked In. I just ignore the requests, but it would be so satisfying to reply back why I refuse to recommend them or even connect to them. Silence is stealthier and you’re not giving these toxic people any attention. Maybe they’ll get a clue one day.

  39. CM*

    OP#4, I’d suggest that your new cover letter could look like this: 1st paragraph of new content: I heard you were reopening this position, I was really excited about the position after interviewing last year and felt like it would be a great fit; 2nd paragraph of mostly reused content: this is my experience and why I’m a good fit – modify this with what you learned about the org when interviewing last time; 3rd paragraph of standard “hope to hear from you” stuff that is basically the same, but worded a little differently than last time.

  40. Beth*

    #1: I think there’s two approaches you could take simultaneously here that might help.

    First, talk to the complainer’s manager. Make sure they know how these sessions are going. Double check that you’re on the same page as them in terms of what you’re hoping to accomplish–do they also think the complainer is a problem that needs major improvement, or are they seeing her as a generally strong performer who needs some extra support in this trying time? Assuming they agree that her performance is a major issue, check that they’ve communicated this to her explicitly. She needs someone with actual authority over her to tell her that this IS her responsibility to fix and there WILL be negative consequences if she doesn’t; while you can maybe help with the process of fixing, you don’t have the authority to either tell her it needs to happen or enforce consequences if it doesn’t, so her manager needs to be involved as well.

    Second, talk to your own manager (in your own department, where you’re a rockstar and which is probably missing you while you’re on loan). Communicate how difficult this assignment is and ask for support. Phrasing this as something like “Here’s what I’ve tried, and here’s how that’s turned out. I’m really not sure how to best proceed from there. Do you have any advice on handling a situation like this?” can get the message across without sounding like whining. Odds are your manager won’t have any immediate fixes–don’t expect miracles or anything. But they’ll likely get the message that you’re not being used wisely in this other department, which will protect you somewhat if the other department complains about you failing to fix everything. And since you’re a high performer, they may well go to bat behind the scenes to get this ‘loan’ wrapped up and you back to the work that you can actually make an impact on.

  41. iglwif*

    OP3 — ignore, ignore, ignore. Engaging with this person to tell her exactly why you would not recommend her for a job even if all the other candidates were literal raccoons might be more satisfying in the moment, but in the long run what you want is not to have to interact with her, and IME ignoring her request is the best way to achieve that.

    OP5 — I don’t think your MIL needs to hear about your job search anymore! :) Or at least, she doesn’t need to hear more than the very barest bare minimum. Companies absolutely do hire people over 40, and anyway, you want a role that will pay you for your skills, experience, and know-how, not an entry-level job with an entry-level salary. Rejections suck! But if the rejections were based just on age, you wouldn’t even be getting interviews, so it seems safe to say that your MIL is off base on this.

    OP1 — I used to work with someone who was very good at the core functions of her job, had good relationships with what for the sake of anonymity I will call customers, and was a very nice person, but who could sometimes be E X H A U S T I N G to work with because whenever something went a bit wrong, she would freak out first and ask questions later. Things broke on her computer that literally no one else on the team had ever had happen. Or the kind of weird human errors that happen to everyone would become A Big Deal — like, “My mouse hand slipped and this folder accidentally got moved to the wrong place” turned into “My computer has eaten all the work I did today!!1!1!” and so on. BUT! The team put up with it because as soon as one of us spent 5 minutes fixing whatever wacky-ass thing she’d done to her computer, she’d be super grateful and would then go back to being productive for the rest of the day … and she genuinely was productive. If someone’s not even good at their job AND spends all day complaining and refusing to even suggest solutions to her problems, I really really question why she still has a job…

    1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

      Thank you, I do think the number of interviews I’ve gotten is pretty encouraging. Though, it was something (and not in a good way) having three interviews and then three rejections for them (the timing for agency filled jobs goes quickly) all in one week.

      1. iglwif*

        Oh, yuck. Yeah, I worked at an agency for a while when I was young and the speed at which decisions are made can be great for candidates or it can be really, really disheartening :P

        1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

          Yes, it’s both good or bad. As my skillset is impressive but definitely not something that makes me one of only a handful of people can do, I doubt I’d have had 6 interviews in less than a month (I didn’t have any the first week of the layoff) without them.

  42. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

    It’s hard to only give her some details. She is the kind that pries and pries and if I don’t give her some details, she will press my husband for them. I agree the fact that I’m getting so many interviews at least suggests that for some companies age is not the most important characteristic.

    1. Batgirl*

      It is tricky to get the hang of information diets! But I promise you that your MiL’s prying nature is no barrier. This is literally the only type of person to get put in an info diet! You just have to be very determinedly evasive.
      “Oh I’ve applied for lots of jobs”
      “So many I don’t remember!”
      “Really I can’t think”
      “They’re all very similar”
      “You’ll know when I know”
      “The agency have the details”
      “Oh that’s very standard to not hear/not know/not have full info”
      “Let me ask your advice about this blatant subject change”
      Hopefully your husband would understand and keep her on the same diet. If not, then keeping the details vague with him means he can’t tell her anything. As long as he knows you’re job hunting, does he really need the ins and outs?

      1. Batgirl*

        Oh and it might even be worth leading her into believing it’s going to take quite a while as she will check in less regularly.

        1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

          It would certainly be something to have her on one. This is a woman who literally asked to go to ONE of my prenatal appointments, kept inviting herself to more and ended up coming to most of them and quite a few of my son’s pediatrician visits. My BIL and his wife excluded her from every single prenatal and pediatrician visit, so this kind of thing is doable. In case you haven’t guessed, my husband is the oldest and the one of her kids that she leans on the most to make up for her own lack of a social life.

          1. Batgirl*

            I really feel like I know her! Captain Awkward would say she likes to leave people an anxiety mouse on their pillow. If so, giving her information isn’t going to help. It just gives her something to worry about that she didn’t sign up for. If you tell her you have a job interview she won’t be excited she’ll be full of foreboding. That’s not good for either of you. Let her fret over the things in her own life, which she has deliberately kept small. Be as cheerful and blase as you would be with a kid who is asking about terrorists on the news. It’s also a good (wordless) example for your husband.

            1. GreyjoyGardens*

              OP 5 might consider taking the “how to put MIL on an info diet” to Captain Awkward or reading the archives there. Alison and AAM are great for work-related stuff, but with MIL, it sounds much broader and more personal/relationship related than just prying into OP’s job-hunting business. She sounds like she’s both needy and a Debbie Downer pessimist, and those can be so tricky to keep at arm’s length and still have a good relationship with. (In my case I had a dad who was a Danny Downer and also needy, especially after Mom died. Fun times! He wound up in assisted living and making some new friends there, which was nice for us both.)

              1. Michaela Westen*

                I don’t know if this is doable with OP’s MIL, but if she could get the MIL to do an activity she likes, it would both ease her anxiety and give her friends outside the family.
                When I got involved in music and dancing it made a huge difference, and it’s still keeping me alive after 20 years.

      2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Or the Blather Option. Where you talk about unimportant but vaguely interesting minutiae and never get around to the actual important stuff. Tell her about the super weird job ad you saw, or the trouble you finding the parking lot at the interview, or every piece of data you noticed about the interviewer. Then change the subject.

    2. Beth*

      Talk to your husband and decide together what you’re going to share with her. Then if she tries to triangulate around you, she’s just going to get the same answers from him.

      And remember ‘no’ is a complete sentence! She can pry all she wants, but she can’t make you tell her things if you don’t want to–you can change the subject, you can say “I don’t want to talk about the details right now,” etc. And if she gets obnoxious with her pushing, you can always wrap up the conversation and head out; she’ll eventually connect the dots and realize it’s not getting her what she wants.

      1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

        Potentially. We also have the side issue that when I’m working she watches our son two days a week (the other three he goes to daycare). While I love that they bond so much (I rarely got to interact with my grandparents due to distance) it does put her in my my face and space two days a week in most cases, so she has a stake in all of this.

        1. Batgirl*

          Hmmm, I see what you mean. I’d still reserve real worries and your need for adult conversation for trusted friends. But for Mil it should be more dementedly perky, like “Oh it’s normal to take awhile” or “Luckily there’s lots of temp work!” Because otherwise it will be all violins.

          1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

            LOL one of the agencies I work with did have a client today ask for me to come back (I worked for them a few weeks ago). Unfortunately, it’s in two weeks and only for three days, so I will do it if I’m free then, but I’m still hoping to have something longer in duration in place before then.

        2. Beth*

          That doesn’t mean you owe her every detail! You can still say, “Oh, the job hunt? It’s going. Let’s talk about something else though, I’ve been thinking about this all day and I’m super burnt out on it. Did kiddo do anything funny today?” If she keeps pushing: “Seriously, I’ll let you know if I have any major updates, but for now, I’d love to talk about literally anything else. Any fun plans this weekend?” And if she keeps going…”Okay, I think it’s time for kiddo to (have a nap/have a bath/go to the park/eat/etc.). Thanks for watching him today! I’ll see you Thursday?”

  43. Pretzelgirl*

    OP #5- It says you work with Staffing Agencies. Have you looked outside of them? Personally I haven’t had good experience with staffing agencies (I do recognize that this isn’t the case for everyone, but its just my experience). It may be easier to get rid of that middle man. Best of luck to you!

    1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

      I have my resume on Indeed and I’m working on retooling my LinkedIn profile. This is in addition to applying on my own. However I can’t apply to companies that my agency has submitted me for even if it’s for a different position (think if a company is looking for two EAs, one for their Chocolate Teapot Department and one for their Strawberry Teapot Department, if I’ve already been submitted for Chocolate I can’t apply for Strawberry if I see that on their company website).

      In the past 12 years I’ve worked, only 1 job is one I got not from an agency. In general they’ve been great for me at finding things quickly and overall easily.

  44. Close Bracket*

    OP #5:

    I found a job at 47. Granted, it took a year and a half of looking, but I found a job. You can, too!

    1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

      Thank you for the confidence and story. We literally can’t wait a year and a half for me to find something, unfortunately. If I don’t find a perm job I’ll have to take a temp one and continue looking.

      1. Close Bracket*

        lol, I wasn’t unemployed during that time. I took a freelance editing position to pay the bills while I looked. It was actually great for job hunting bc I could accept assignments or not, which allowed me to schedule around filling out applications and having interviews. I bet being an EA has given you the skills to be an editor, too. There’s a lot of conforming to style guides and looking up rules you don’t use very often. Look into Scribbr.

        1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

          I’ve never heard of Scribblr, but I will check it out thank you.

      2. GreyjoyGardens*

        Temp jobs can actually be a great way of finding permanent work for EA’s! Consider working temp-to-perm or going through temp agencies to get temp jobs now, to bring in the $$$, while you are looking for full-time work. Knowing that you can bring in some income will help keep the anxiety at bay, and most temp agencies are very understanding about the need to interview while temping (because most of their employees are doing that, it’s expected).

        1. Batgirl*

          Right? What better way to advertise yourself? It’s how I got myself out of toxic old job and into super great new job when nothing was being advertised.

          1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

            The agencies I work with do also place for temporary and temp to hire positions. Right now it’s as slow as I’ve ever seen it. The only jobs they seem to have are one or two day ones or need a completely different skillset then I have like driving a forklift, assembling medical devices or driving a truck (all great skills, just not ones I’m trained on or that would be good for me to use as part of a career).

            1. Batgirl*

              I think you’re trying to solve the mystery of the change in demand for your industry while wondering if it has anything to do with your age.
              Honestly, the best people to ask about job demand are in your industry, but I’d be very surprised if it was your age. When agencies were last being discussed on here quite a few people said the quickfire jobs element seemed to be nothing like it used to be. Agencies are slower and more deliberate for some reason. With my agency it took a while to get gigs even though there was a lot of demand.

            2. Michaela Westen*

              That’s how it was in the mid-2000’s when I tried to go back to temping. I had temped for years at a time in the 90’s, and there was almost nothing in 2006. They told me it was because of the (perceived) economy – when people felt the economy was booming, they were more inclined to expand and hire, and when it wasn’t, they weren’t.

  45. poodleoodle*

    LW #2-
    This kinda happened to me once!! I was flown out for a senior engineering position and due to flight delays, instead of landing at 9pm in a major city (plenty of food options, time to relax in the hotel) I landed at 2am, picked up my rental car, then drove 45 mins to the hotel. I checked in around…3:30am? My best guess after disembarking, waiting in line to get my car–lots of us were renting from the same company–then the drive over. My interview was at 9am that morning and I ended up just getting a frozen burrito at the hotel to shove in my face before getting a nap. I didn’t do very well in the interviews either–they went from 9am to 4pm or so–and I was late because I hadn’t been able to scout it out the night before and it was a huge campus so I got lost. I mean I could have scouted it out I guess…but I was so exhausted. It was horrible, and no, I didn’t get the job. I am not sure the job would have been a great fit either tbh, but I felt so badly because I was basically running on fumes the whole day from barely sleeping. Plus it was a 2 hour time difference, not much, but enough to add to the situation!

  46. That Work from Home Life*

    Ugh I was in a similar situation to LW1 and the short version is: nothing I did got the person to stop complaining, but I did get them to improve their work performance slightly. It was a slightly different setup, however. I was placed on projects with the complainer employee as a co-lead and I simply performed my tasks on-time and always had solutions for issues that arose. Having me perform the same/similar duties without issue caused him to buckle down and start meeting deadlines, but he complained the entire way. It was a nightmare for me and I completely resented being put in that position. The complainer employee frequently tried to undermine me (I am significantly younger, and a woman, so that was fun), but my work spoke for itself, luckily. The person I was babysitting did eventually get let go, but not because of performance issues; his entire tier was let go during a round of restructuring/layoffs. The worst part of it was we were quite friendly outside of work prior to this and it definitely damaged our friendship.

  47. No Coffee No Workee*

    For LW#3 – I have to disagree with the consensus of completely ignoring her (though disclaimer, I’m a little petty myself!)

    I like Alison’s simple line “sorry, I cannot refer you – good luck on your search.” and leaving it there.

    If you ignore her, she can always tell herself something like, “she must not gave gotten my message or remember whom I was” – and I would not want to give her that satisfaction!

    Acknowledging her email politely. And them ignoring any additional correspondence is the best F. U.

  48. catch more flies with honey*

    #3: I vote responding with something vanilla. As in, “I’ll pass your resume over to our recruiting team.” That way you’re taking the high road. You can pass the resume over, not as a positive referral, but as a be on the lookout for this person (which all the above advice is telling you to do anyway). Point is that it’s a small world and you may end up needing her connections at some point or even working at the same place again (hopefully not on the same teams) and it’s better to have kept your enemies closer.

  49. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

    These are all great ideas, thank you for suggesting self care.

    It’s funny, in a way being fired would have almost been preferable as then I could pinpoint something I did wrong and learn from it..though if I was fired for cause I wouldn’t be eligible for unemployment in my state, so it’s a good thing I was not.

    1. irene adler*

      I can feel your frustration with this.
      I’m in my mid-50’s. Have been looking for a job for 4 years now.
      Initially I wanted to move up the next step on the ladder.
      Now, well, I’m looking at big pay cut with no benefits as those are the only jobs offered to me. Other option is to stay where I am with no hope of ever advancing.

      I’ve been on many job interviews. Some I know I blew the interview- mainly because I didn’t want the job all that much. Others have been a combination of employer not hiring anyone for various reasons, or the other candidate had more skills than I do. Some have been very obvious cases of discrimination. They tell me they are very interested in my resume, ask me what year I graduated from college (but nothing else), then ghost me. Or, during the interview, they ask about skills not listed on the job description. Hence I’m suddenly not qualified for a job where I match all the skills listed in the job description. One recruiter actually sang songs to me (1970’s hits), asked me to name the singer. I named them all. Shortly thereafter, I was ghosted.

      I keep plugging away at it. And keep taking classes to add to my skill set.

      I think employers these days are much less sure about their hiring needs. So there’s a lot more waffling, or not wanting to hire anyone who doesn’t exactly fit the description + bring lots of additional skills not addressed in the job description. I think there’s also the absolute fear that they will make a bad hire should they ‘go against the grain’ and hire someone who fits the role differently than they expected.

      I haven’t read all of your posts here so I may have missed this. Have you networked much? Looked into professional organizations in your field of expertise? They may have some suggestions for you. And offer networking opportunities. I’ve actually watched folks make connections and get jobs because they know each other via the professional organization.

      1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

        I have to be honest that I haven’t been networking that much. I did go to a networking in general group this weekend, and signed up for a job training place (classes in interviewing, Linkedin, etc.). I am looking for networking groups, though a lot near me charge to attend (food and entrance) meetings.

        1. Nessun*

          You might be interested in checking out IAAP or AAA. I know IAAP charges members a fee, and then they have access to online forums for job searching and networking, but there should also be some information on coffee & connecting sessions that non-members can attend. (I don’t know AAA myself apart from that it exists, but I imagine it functions similarly.)

        2. irene adler*

          Some professional organizations will waive or reduce the fees if you volunteer for them. Might ask.

          1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

            I can’t believe I didn’t think of that myself, great idea, thank you.

  50. Argye*

    LW5 – I feel you, I really do. I’m 52, and for a long list of reasons, back in the faculty job market, which is almost entirely centered around new PhDs and recent post-docs in their mid-20s to early 30s. There’s a whole huge red flag for me to even be applying for a new faculty position at my age, especially since I had one previously and got laid off, which virtually never happens. I’ve been doing temporary stuff for the last 4 years, and man, it is DRAINING. I just found out that my current temporary gig will end in August. I can always adjunct, but no benefits, lower pay, etc. I can’t hide my age, since they require the date of the PhD degree, and, if anything, I seem older than I am, since I got my degree at 24. I’m beginning to be burnt out by the entire academic machine – seriously, there’s only so long you cna pound your head against a brick wall without getting a permanent headache. I’m seriously contemplating moving to something else, except I’m not sure what, and how can I change fields at 52 when I’ve been in academia since I was 21?

    1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

      I have a friend who seems to have a new job every two years, in many different fields. I asked her how she did it, and she says it’s all personal recommendations.

      I really think layoffs in any industry are the worst. Companies may need to save money but they are really impacting people’s lives short term and maybe even long term. I see jobs every single day for EAs and others involving EA skills, and yet, as this is my second layoff in half a decade and EAs often seem to be caught up in layoffs, I’m scared my next role will be a temp one even if I’m hired as or convert to a perm job.

    2. Michaela Westen*

      Argye, I’m going to attempt to answer your question. What worked for me was realizing what I’m good at and getting a job that played to my strengths.
      So, what are you good at? Is it the field your PhD is in? Can you work in that field or something related? For example, if your PhD is in math, could you work in finance?
      What are the things you do easily that others seem to struggle with? Look for a job doing that.
      It turned out I should be an analyst – I excelled in algebra and linear thinking, I’m good at math (but not trig or calculus), I like detail work… when I stopped trying to be an admin and applied to be an analyst, I got my best job.
      The job agencies might be able to help you. They should be able to tell what skills you have that would transfer out of academia. For example, as a professor you’re probably good at organizing details and information. That’s a valuable skill. Coping with students and college administrators has probably honed your people skills. I’m sure you have others too.
      Good luck! :)

      1. Argye*

        I’ve thought about being an analyst. I mean, I write Filemaker Pro. databases for fun. I’m completely self-taught, but fairly good, though not an expert. I mean, I have one that integrates gardening, recipes, food nutrition, dieting, etc. so that I can say, if I want to cook these recipes worth these many calories in a year, I need to plant that many square feet of carrots on this other date. And track daily consumption. It’s mildly insane. OK, possibly a lot insane. I’ve got another one for genealogy that has 14 interconnected tables. I’ve used it professionally in large genetic dataset management. So, yeah, that might be a direction, though, again, I’m self-taught.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          There you go! A self-taught data manager! Most of the people I know would be in awe of you teaching yourself this and I am too. Impressive!
          Go ahead and apply for jobs working with data such as data analyst or data management.
          Looking at the titles of the people who send me data, one is Financial Analyst (in Revenue Cycle, works with billing data), and the other is BI Developer. I assume the BI is for Business Intelligence. So check out the job descriptions, not just titles. Check out Developer positions as well as data positions.
          Meanwhile, you could take a class in data management to make sure there aren’t any gaps in your self-taught knowledge.
          See if there are any certifications you could get by taking a short class and/or test.
          I want to caution you about trying to get a 4-year degree in this. Some people and employers will tell you you have to have one to get a job, but you should be able to get a job based on your self-taught knowledge, maybe with a class or two and/or certificates. See what’s out there now, don’t wear yourself out chasing a degree.
          Someone who can handle data thoroughly and accurately and has the people skills to maintain good relationships is always in demand. I’m sure you’ll do well if you make the effort! I’m excited for you! :)

          1. Michaela Westen*

            P.S. – you might want to bring samples of both your databases to any interviews to show what you can do. :)

  51. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

    LW #5: If it helps, I am one of those fresh and dewy 20-somethings, and it took me… well, depending on when you start the clock, either four months or over a year to find a job. That four months was non-stop job hunting with multiple applications per day and constant interviews, only a few of which panned out into an offer.

    There are a lot of reasons you might not get an offer, especially if your industry has a lot of competition and it’s a buyer’s market for employers. A couple of failed interviews doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything wrong with you or your applications.

    1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

      I suppose not, it’s just crazy that for the last 12 years when I’ve needed a job I’ve found one, some really quickly (I’m talking 48 hours or less) and the longest gap between is now this one, with the most number of consecutive interviews I’ve ever had without a single offer.

    2. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

      Also, I should have added I do appreciate hearing that someone in the “right age group” according to my MIL didn’t find a job in .0000005 miliseconds like some people would have as believe. I hope the job you did find in either four months or a year is/was a good one for you.

      1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

        It is a great fit for me, and I can see myself staying here for a while! So really it was worth waiting for this one, even though I had a couple of offers that I turned down in that search (mostly because they paid so low that I wouldn’t have been able to survive on that income in the area that I was searching in).

        I should add that the four months was the end of my job search when I was searching heavily. For about nine months before that, I was either in law school and job searching (and so hadn’t technically graduated yet), or studying for the bar (meaning I didn’t search at all because I didn’t do anything in that period but study and sleep). So part of that length was because I wasn’t 24/7 searching and didn’t have the qualifications I needed: once I’d taken the bar, I went into high key job searching mode and it still took me four more months.

  52. Argye*

    LW1 – I have been both the complaining employee and the manager of a complaining employee. Both sucked.
    As the complaining employee, my complaints were things like, “Fergus won’t give me the information I need to complete a project, and it’s making me crazy!” I’d get the feedback that I just needed to talk to him, silly! So, I’d ask him again, he’d say he’d get it to me ASAP. Nothing would happen. I’d ask again, I’d beg, I’d plead. I’d talk to the supervisor, who would say, “Just TALK to him!” Nothing ever changed. It’s 10 years later, I don’t have that info, that project is dead in the water. Fergus is fine. I got blamed for the failure of the project. Yes, I’m still mad. All this to say – the employee may have a better idea that you do about the viability of the solutions you are proposing. That doesn’t mean to give up, but maybe you need to do some more in-depth brainstorming. Or maybe there really isn’t a solution. Fergus is *still* dropping balls left and right, and there doesn’t seem to be anything anyone can do about it. (He’s very like the employee in #2, in fact, except he’s been enabled for 20 years now.)
    Not much to say about the employee I managed. He got assigned to me because he was failing so completely, and bitching and moaning constantly that he wasn’t being allowed to do the cool parts of the job. Except, he had one big deliverable that he hadn’t started. He wanted to make it a big, giant, shining production, but then got overwhelmed. We needed a beginning. He didn’t want to do the small thing first, he wanted the whole BIG thing. I asked for outlines, he didn’t know where to begin. I told him where to begin, asked for an outline. But he wants the shiny stuff! Well, finish the dull stuff first. But that’s boring, and I don’t know where to begin! Round and round. He ended up being fired.

    1. Close Bracket*

      Communication is really overrated. Your first story reminds me the story in the comments from the daycare worker whose preschool charges were told to use their words, and then enforcement of the words was left to the preschoolers themselves. Dudes, you can talk until you are blue in the face. But words are not magic spells that cause the other person to change their behavior.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      I feel like you as complainer. I literally cannot accomplish some of the projects I want to do because of other departments (well one department in particular).
      I could do this work without involving said department, but I am denied access to the tools I need to do the work myself, and thus blocked. What’s worse is this department doesn’t even do things correctly! But nothing happens and no one cares.

  53. Maika*

    LW # 1 – you can’t coach someone who doesn’t want to be coached (Alison already mentioned this). However, if you are coaching someone who is open to being coached, the single most important thing in attitude and approach by the coach is to be non-judgmental. So often I have seen managers who are trying to coach start with the assumption that the person being coached is fatally flawed and incompetent beyond repair. They blur the lines between professional competency and box the person as ‘who they are’, rather than ‘they can learn this’. I have seen very professionally competent managers at their core tasks unable to coach their staff because they already judged them to be ‘stupid’, ‘dumb’ people.

    1. JM in England*

      Early in my career, I had a boss who judged me as too “stupid” to be trained in one of the core instruments used in the lab. So I bit the bullet and went on a three day course in said instrument, paid for out of my own pocket (around £700)!! This proved to be a shrewd investment because soon after taking this course, I left that job and went to one in which they were willing to develop me on this instrument; as a bonus the pay rise I got at the new job was nearly three times the course fee! I now tell this story at interviews as an example of taking the initiative but diplomatically replace the boss’ judgement of me with that there were insufficient resources for training….

  54. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    #5 You have to go back and remember that 3 of the 6 rejections were due to things outside of age, right off the bat. Two went to internal candidates, that’s because they knew the company and therefore had a leg up all along. Then one went to someone with industry experience, that will often sweep out anyone who is in the running with them.

    You’re also working with a staffing agency, which will dim your prospects for getting hired as well, it’s not because you’re not awesome and wonderful. It’s because people tend to not want to hire from a staffing agency unless they have to, so they dip into that pond to test the waters and get the best person but in the end, picking you costs them more money. So unless you’re killing it and able to sell them on why you’re better than anyone else they can get without the staffing agency fee, you’re disadvantaged. This isn’t to say that staffing agencies aren’t great, I recommend them often when people are struggling but you should keep that in mind if they’re not just sending you on temp assignments or temp-to-hire that they’re specially brought in to handle, you are not going to be the top pick unless again, you knock their socks off.

    Please be kind to yourself and if you’re not working with multiple staffing agencies, I’d cast a wider net. Often times staffing agencies will toss candidates out there that don’t really meet the criteria that the hiring manager wants either, it could just be coming down to you’re being told you’re a good fit where needless to say, you’re not really what they’re looking for. Instead of when you’re sending out resumes and finding openings of your own, then they only tend to interview people that really jump at them and your chances are higher.

    1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

      I’m working with a bunch actually, and of the six places I interviewed, they were actually all different agencies (which is good because if one place sent me to six places and I didn’t get the job, I assume they wouldn’t work with me again).

      In my last twos role as EA, I saw executive placement agencies submit the candidates that were chosen a number of times, even when we looked outside of them. I know these are different than non executive placement ones, but in both cases the applicants come vetted and sometimes it works.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It really depends on the agency, I hope that you’re working with the same agency that placed people with your former companies!

        A lot of that is the luck of the draw too.

        When working for an agency before, I was unceremoniously let go [as a young woman, right within the age band that your MIL seems to think is what everyone is looking for] because the owner got his first bill, saw the price and had a freakout. They gave the job to a family friend who was “cheaper”. Yawn.

        1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

          This is going to sound like an exaggeration, but it’s really not. I have 23 agencies I’m signed up with. Of those, 6 have placed me within the last 12 years at something (some very short term temporary, some much longer). Part of why I have so many is that you just never know who has the right job for you. Two are even boutique – very small and tend to send one person (rarely two) out for the same job and one of those sent me to an interview I was sure I was going to get, one of the ones that took an internal referral – heck they thought I had that one, also.

  55. ZucchiniBikini*

    LW#5, I’ve seen age discrimination up close and personal.

    I’ve sat on a hiring panel where a very qualified, very competent 61 year old applicant was deprecated by the other panellists because they decided “he’ll be gearing down soon / too set in his ways”. (I argued hard for him to be at least our second-choice selection; our first pick passed, so we hired him, and he was amazing, stayed in the role 8 years until his retirement and trained up a terrific successor). On the other end, I have also seen hiring panels be reluctant to hire people in their early-mid 20s for any job with any kind of seniority or management function, on the basis that “no one will take them seriously”.

    What I haven’t seen, or credibly heard of, is a qualified person in their *40s* being discriminated against because of their age. Totally honestly, one’s 40s are seen as prime of working life by many employers – you are seen as experienced / seasoned, and probably at the peak of your working capacity. I’m 46, like you, and although I’m currently a freelancer by choice, I’ve never had so many employment offers in my life as I’ve had in the past 3 years.

    So I would say, don’t worry too much on this one!

    1. OP # 5 - Is Age a Factor?*

      Thank you for sharing your story and I’m so glad you gave the 61 year old a chance and that he worked out well for you. It’s not that I haven’t though about freelancing, but I’m not sure if I could turn years of EA experience into freelancing say as a remote assistant available to a few clients or even as an event planner (and I did aa lot of event planning as an EA).

      1. Close Bracket*

        ” I’m not sure if I could turn years of EA experience into freelancing say as a remote assistant”

        The VOT website. It stands for Virtual Office something-or-other. I’m sure a quick google search will bring it up. I would regard it as another avenue for freelance work to tide you over until you get a permanent position, not a replacement for a permanent position.

  56. Susan K*

    #2 – I feel for you; I had an almost identical situation a few years ago. I thought I had a strong chance at the job since they told me during the phone screen that they would only fly out the top 1 or 2 candidates. I was supposed to arrive the evening before the interview, but due to flight cancellations and delays, I arrived a couple of hours before the interview on two hours of sleep and had to change into my suit in a McDonalds bathroom. I got pulled over on the way to the interview because my rental car had a tail light out. I was exhausted and flustered and definitely not at my best for the interview, and I never heard from the company again. I often look at that job as the one that got away, but I’ll never know how it would have turned out if my flight hadn’t been canceled. Maybe it was my dream job, or maybe it was toxic and I actually dodged a bullet.

  57. Jennifer Juniper*

    I hope OP1 isn’t held responsible if the problem employee doesn’t clean up her act! Given that OP is being forced to do the manager’s work already, I wouldn’t be surprised if that proves to be the case.

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