update: is my parents’ advice destroying my job search?

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Back in 2011, I answered a letter from someone who worried her parents’ advice was ruining her job search. They were recommending things like visiting managers in-person every day to check on her applications, and to call when managers seemed annoyed by the in-person visits. Here’s the update.

Sometimes when work is slow, I like to hit “Surprise Me” on your website, and I was truly surprised when I came across a question I had sent in over eight years ago. I remembered that I had emailed you, exasperated with my parents’ advice, and you had responded. I felt so validated and reassured by what you said.

At the time, I was 18 and this was the summer between my first and second year of college. I didn’t explain this in the original email, but I suffered from severe social and generalized anxiety and this entire experience was mortifying for me. Whenever I’m back home and drive by that coffee shop, I cringe. I’ve gone through years of therapy and am a completely different animal now but I don’t think I can ever bring myself to go back inside that building. What if they remember me?

(I did, funnily enough, become a barista later on. But I was a liberal arts major and that was my fate.)

A few years after the incident I had emailed about, my parents relocated for my father’s work. My mother then got to experience, firsthand, the “joys” of modern job hunting. I had to show her how to make a resume, how to turn it into a PDF, and how to upload it, and reassure her that yes, even though you just uploaded that PDF you now have to retype all of that information again. She had relocated to the other side of the country, and had no network or any modern tools one uses to get a job nowadays. She didn’t even bother to check to see what the process was to transfer her nursing licenses, and spent months unemployed while that was getting figured out. I think she just thought she could walk into a hospital and get a job, just like she had in the 90s. Experiencing their bad advice firsthand ended most of their vintage notions.

I’m now newly 27. Your advice was to trust my instincts, and I have. I worked a myriad of odd jobs during and after college, and kind of flitted around trying to figure myself out. My parents offered lots of advice for what I should do, and I have done none of it.

After settling into an office job a few years ago, I just accepted a position as an office manager, which will come with a 25% raise. A great thing to get right before my wedding this winter! I read up your posts on negotiating salary and vacation time, and interviewing. You’ve been a resource for me for almost a decade now.

Thank you for the validation you gave my younger self. She was new and deeply insecure, and you allowed her a moment where she could print out a blog post and yell “SEE? YOU’RE THE WRONG ONE!” at her poor, misguided mother. I think I may have even hung your response on our fridge.

Hopefully, I’ll never have to write for your advice again. :)

{ 212 comments… read them below }

  1. Detective Amy Santiago*

    This is such a delightful update! I wish AAM had existed when I was new to the workforce.

    Good luck with your new job, OP!

    1. Cartographical*

      This is one of my favorite updates to date. I remember reading that letter when I first explored the archives and I vowed never to do that to my own daughter, who’s about your age, OP. I haven’t job searched in years, neither has her other dad, and we wouldn’t know where to start (thus my reading the site the first place). Congrats on all your successes! Social anxiety is a steep hill to climb but it sounds like you’ve done it.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I really loved this update—it was so heart-warming, and I’m so happy for OP. :)

    3. cuddleshark*

      Same here… I graduated in 2007 and I’m not sure if AAM existed back then, but if it did, I didn’t know it! My parents were on my case 24/7 to call and follow up, deliver my application in person, hit the bricks, all that jazz. Like OP, I had (and still have) social anxiety and the only defense I had against doing this stuff was my personal worry about nagging strangers, which of course my parents steamrolled. It wasn’t a fun time.

  2. Jam Today*

    It took me a very long time to learn that, despite how much I love him and he loves me, my father’s advice to me is wrong 99% of the time. I have learned to take a George Costanza-like approach to anything he suggests I do, namely — do the opposite. So far its served me pretty well.

    1. CC*

      This is exactly what I do with my father, haha! And he also gave the “hound them everyday” advice, although he wasn’t using that in 90s, it was the 70s and he had asked a busboy there who personally said the manager liked that.

    2. Jen S. 2.0*

      So much this. I love my father, and he is an intelligent man with 40 years of legal experience, but … he’s wrong a LOT about how I should do a lot of things. Smiling and nodding is a good skill.

    3. Door Guy*

      I love my father dearly, but he worked the exact same job from my earliest memories until his retirement a few years ago. Towards the last few years he did work in a few other departments, but they were all interior moves assisted by HR and his disability advocate (leukemia survivor, he never got his strength back after his chemo)

      Circumstances led to my wife, toddler, and I having to live with my parents for a few months while I was unemployed in 2010. I was online every single day (well, evening after toddler had gone to bed) applying and sending out resumes and filling out repetitive forms. I couldn’t even get call backs from industries I’d worked in prior.

      My dad was after me every day because I wasn’t going out and beating the pavement, or spending all day on the phone calling everywhere I’d applied. I did go in to a few places when I was out to pick up applications and they all either told me straight up they weren’t hiring, or to go on their website.

  3. LoV*

    What a great follow up. Job hunting can be bad enough without having misguided advice to make it even worse. Glad it all worked out.

  4. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    Originally, I hadn’t realized that you were still in school and I felt bad that you were struggling. Now I see that you were only 18, in school and looking to move up in the work world. Yeah, you are going to do just fine!

  5. PeachyKeen*

    But did she get the bakery job? That’s what I want to know (and I’m happy things have worked out so well).

    1. Minocho*

      I find myself wondering the same thing!

      But either which way, it sounds like the advice was just what was needed to start someone on their best path in the wonderful world of working!

  6. Dame Judi Brunch*

    Congratulations OP!
    Your mother’s experience with modern job hunting had to be an eye-opening experience! (At least I hope!)

    1. JohannaCabal*

      Heaven forbid my mom had to go back in the job market. She got an education master’s in the early 80s right as she quit being a teacher to be a stay at home mom. She never worked again. I once asked her what she would have done if something had happened to Dad. She pointed to her master’s diploma proudly and said she’d just walk into a school and get a guidance counselor job. This was the late 90s and even though I was only in high school, I knew she was deluding herself and that jobs like that require experience (which she lacked).

      Congrats on your success from someone who also somehow thrived in spite of bad parental advice!

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        My MIL is just like your mom (Master’s in education in the 80s, quit to be a stay at home mom shortly after.) She got divorced when her oldest was in college and had to go back to the workforce, and it did not go well. Years of part-time retail, minimum wage paraprofessional work, followed by full-time jobs that paid $25K a year and were in toxic and abusive environments where she was sexually harassed and berated, but she had to stick with the job because she couldn’t get anything better. She is on an extremely tight budget and can barely afford housing/food/transportation; she has nothing saved for retirement and will either have to work until she is too infirm to, or hope one of her kids progresses in their career so they can start giving her an allowance.

        It’s…not good.

        1. Jaybeetee*

          Does your FIL have access to any kind of pension? Here in Canada, divorced spouses can still be entitled to a portion of their ex’s pension – precisely designed for the situation you describe, where perhaps a woman spent decades as a SAHM (ergo not contributing to any pension), to find themselves divorced at retirement age with nothing in the bank except OAS (our version of SS).

          Mind, the dynamic between the two is meaningful here, and if your FIL’s retirement pension is also low, he might not welcome her coming after a chunk of it. But… it may be worth considering.

          1. Dot Warner*

            And if they’re in the US, she might be entitled to a portion of her ex-husband’s social security, depending on how long they were married. (I think it has to be > 20 years, but I’m not an expert so you should ask someone who is.)

        2. JohannaCabal*

          I do have respect for SAHMs but situations like your MIL’s and my mom’s always the first thing I think about when someone I know talks about dropping out of the workforce.

          1. J.B.*

            Yeah, it’s tough. Alison actually had a post at one point where someone wrote in about how to keep skills up while staying home and there were good suggestions. But that is definitely a factor for staying in the workforce with little kids, even if it’s a stupid boring job you hate.

            1. JohannaCabal*

              I agree. And it’s also hard for people who have to stay home to care for aging or disabled family members. Not only was my mom looking after me but in high school she had to take care of my senile grandmother. There are now easy answers.

          2. LawLady*

            In 1980 Terry Hekker wrote a book called Ever Since Adam and Eve that was all about the joys of staying home and being a wife and mother, and how that is a woman’s proper role. Then her husband divorced her after 40 years of marriage and she was given limited alimony and told to go to “job training” (at age 68). She then wrote another book called “Disregard First Book” about the importance of women maintaining financial independence.

      2. ellex42*

        Just walk in to a school and get a guidance counselor job? Oh…oh dear…

        Setting aside that many schools no longer even employ guidance counselors, these days that’s often considered a specialized job requiring specialized education/training. Decent jobs in the education field can be thin on the ground even for the newly graduated, much less someone whose degree is now decades old. Plus she’d need clearances (to work with children), she’d have no continuing education credits, no experience to put on her resume…

        My mother got her master’s in early childhood education in the 60s and was teaching before I was born. She took a few years off to have me, and another few years later for my brother, but other than that, was working steadily as a preschool teacher and doing mandatory continuing education credits for…well, as long as I can remember, until the early 90s when we moved and she couldn’t find work in the education field in that location. She switched to elder care, which she says isn’t much different except your clientele move a lot slower.

        I was out of work for about 7 months a couple of years ago, and couldn’t even get part time retail work because I had no experience at it!

      3. RC Rascal*

        Education jobs are really competitive. People think they aren’t, but they are. My mom retired after 40 years in the public system in our state. She had the Masters & chose to work her entire career instead of staying hone w kids. ( Not a popular choice in the 1970s but she was liberated & dad was cool with it. ). She talks about all the talented student teachers she had who struggled for full time employment. So many had to turn to rural areas or private schools to get that early experience.

        1. Beth Jacobs*

          I’m curious, how is there so much competition yet a proclaimed teacher shortage? I’m not doubting either, I’ve heard both from reputable sources – but am genuinely curious as to how they are compatible.

          1. Sleve McDichael*

            It’s because there is a shortage of teachers in some subjects like maths and science and too many teachers in areas such as PE, early childhood, english and drama. Both are definitely true. I have seven teachers in my family and not all picked the right paths, so don’t get me started.

          2. Teacher’s Pet*

            The teacher shortage is a shortage of people willing to teach for the salary/ conditions offered. In my state in particular starting teacher salaries are about $5-10k higher in neighboring states. I could also go into a related field pretty easily and find myself with a $10-20k annual salary bump. Education is woefully underfunded.

  7. GreyjoyGardens*

    I’m really happy things turned out so well for you, OP! Congratulations.

    And I am sitting here nastily cackling to myself, “Karma’s a you-know-what, Mom!” She got a nice big swallow of her own medicine there. Were I her daughter, I would not be able to resist rubbing her nose in it just a teeeeeeeny bit.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Oh I loved that part. Mom found out the hard way that it’s not gumption that gets you jobs (did it ever? I mean other than the one off that makes the news — simply because it is so unsusual.)

      Nursing jobs are going begging. There has been a nursing shortage for decades. Your mom’s failure to find a job was solely a lack of initiative on her part. Which is different than gumption.

      1. CL Cox*

        Probably more likely the lack of licensing in the new state. You can have the most awesome/application out there, but if you’re not yet licensed in that state, you can’t even do PRN work.

        1. sacados*

          And also I would imagine that — license stuff aside — even if she were to walk into a hospital, ask for a job, and they wanted to hire her, she would still probably have to go through the whole resume submission/online application rigamarole anyway, for formality’s sake.

          1. Maria lopez*

            In addition to being fluent in computers and being familiar with EMR(electronic medical record).

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Totally agree, nursing is a very unappreciated job (my mom and grandma were nurses). I can understand being picky when moving about making sure you like the culture of the new place your joining, but being unemployed because you didn’t research how to transfer needed licenses?

        (Unfortunately this is way too common, as in yesterday’s mail at my house I got the renewal form for his license of the guy who owned my house – FIVE years ago………)

  8. Antilles*

    Wow, that’s a ways between updates! Cool to see that the OP was eventually in a position to pass the advice along and correct her parents’ misperceptions.
    Side note: The original post had a link to “10 pieces of outdated career advice to stop following” and my gosh. In 8 years, some of that old advice has gone from “outdated” to “seems like it’s taken from a time capsule”. Always use a landline, special resume paper, physically mailing a hard copy resume via overnight mail?

    1. FuzzFrogs*

      The only context in which I’d use special resume paper would be if I was auditioning for the part of Elle Woods. And then it’d be pink. And scented.

    2. Persephone Mulberry*

      A few years ago, a friend of mine started a job search after 10 years at the same company. She posted on Facebook about “can I still get resume paper at Office Max?” and I had to tell her not to bother.

      I print my resumes that I take to interviews on slightly nicer paper – like, the 24 lb copy paper instead of 20 lb. But spending $$ on formal resume paper? Definitely no.

      1. Marny*

        I bring my resumes to interviews on formal resume paper now simply because I’m still trying to use up all the linen paperstock I have left over from my last job search 17 years ago. That stuff was expensive– I can’t bring myself to throw it away.

        1. T. Boone Pickens*

          Haha same here! I also have wayyyyyyyy too many fancy gold paperclips that I bought with that resume paper!

        2. Midwest writer*

          My box of resume paper went into my kids’ art supplies box a few months ago. I felt bad … but it was just sitting there, unused, almost 20 years after I bought it (and 15 years after I used it last).

        3. ampersand*

          It makes me happy to hear I’m not the only one!

          I actually did just throw out the resume paper (there were only a few sheets left) not too long ago, but it was 15+ years old and almost all gone. I couldn’t take it anymore!

        4. Quill*

          Use it for holiday cards, Marny! Or handwritten letters to family and friends! Anything but interviews, they don’t deserve it. :)

        5. Jen S. 2.0*

          Ha, this is what I do! I print the few copies I carry with me on the nice paper, not to make an impression, but to use it up! The resume paper in my file drawer has been around so long I think it’s still in a Kinko’s bag.

          1. Helena*

            I think there’s a happy medium between handmade specialist resume paper, and the see-through, smudgy, cheapo economy printer paper you find in most photocopiers (or maybe that’s just in our office?).

            I print my CV out on thicker, higher-quality paper from home, but it is still just printer paper (in my industry, our jobs rotate every twelve months, so there’s no issue with printing CVs at work – everyone does it completely openly).

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      I still remember getting in trouble once for accidentally using my dad’s fancy watermarked paper to print something.

      He’s been basically retired for as long as I can remember so I’m honestly not sure what he even needed that paper for?

  9. Batgirl*

    This is a completely joyful update. Learning that your instincts are on point is the best part of getting older.
    Lol at your mum thinking you can walk into hospital jobs right off the street. Sounds legit; what could possibly go wrong there?

  10. A Simple Narwhal*

    What a lovely update!

    It must have been so satisfying for the OP to see her mother have to experience her own bad advice.

  11. Jessen*

    I’d like to let you know I burst out laughing at that last paragraph and putting the advice on the fridge. So many of us have wanted to do that with our parents so very very much. So congratulations on your success and on the successful parent wrangling.

    1. BradC*

      Totally depends on the relationship, but if you’d rather avoid the inevitable argument, just say “thanks, Mom, I’m taking care of it” while utterly ignoring their advice.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        True, but at 18 and dependent on parents for things it can be a little harder to just tune out parents and outdated advice (that may have been good and relevant when they were last job searching).

        But great update from the OP and glad that you are learning to trust your own instincts.

  12. CreativeNameHere*

    This is awesome, OP, congrats! I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when you handed your mother that printout!

  13. Heidi*

    Loving the long-term follow-up! Thanks for writing in, OP.

    I’m curious though, what did the parents think was going to change between one day and the next that the OP needed to keep going back every day?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I can almost guarantee you it was “shows initiative,” “keeps you in the front of their minds,” “shows you really want it,” “you’ll be there when they have a need,” etc.

      1. Rainy*

        Parents are still telling my students this, and it’s always about “letting people know you really want to work there”, which always makes me murmur incredulously “In this economy?!”

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          I just saw a FastCompany article on Google News yesterday giving this advice. “Call or check in every day to stay fresh in their minds and let them know you really want the job!”

      2. Kelly L.*

        Yep. I even heard once that some people think that it’ll make them physically pull out your resume each time and plop it on top of the stack, and you want to make sure they plop yours on top every day, because everybody else is supposedly doing this too! And of course they’re going to hire whoever’s on top of the stack! LOL.

      3. Heidi*

        I guess I can almost understand the insidious logic behind this advice. Employers want to hire people who want to be there. If the applicant shows up repeatedly, she must really want to be there, right? But in order for this tactic to work, the parents would have to assume that 1) qualifications are not going to matter much in the hiring decision, and 2) the employer values and welcomes being visited daily in this way. I can’t imagine that there are a lot of jobs where those assumptions would be met.

      1. Serin*

        A hiring manager would have to be an idiot to think, “This person is inappropriately, annoyingly persistent. If I hire them, they will become LESS of a problem for me.”

      2. Danish*

        My father used to say that to me all the time, that he hired his sole (honestly very good!) worker because “he was tired of seeing him come in every day”.

        Great for him, but I’d prefer that my employer not already be sick of me by the time I start… and hearing that I was hired because I was annoying, not because I was qualified, would be a real downer.

      3. Helena*

        To be fair, this advice works (or used to work) for temp agencies. Maybe not calling every day, because that is making a nuisance of yourself, but you needed to call enough to make sure the recruiter knew who you were. Kind of like somewhat intense networking.

        People who asked for assignments got them, because when assignments came in they were in the top of the recruiter’s mind. People who signed up and were never heard from again, didn’t get called because the recruiter had no reason to think of them.

        This was for fairly low-skill work like bar work, entry-level admin and waitressing, so it’s not like they were short on applicants, plus lots of new work was coming in every day. I can well imagine this doesn’t work when the pool of applicants and number of jobs is smaller. It’s also not something I would ever do for a normal job application, though I have been offered contracts before they were ever advertised by just emailing to remind people in my network that I’m looking, which is not a radically different concept.

    2. RC Rascal*

      When my cousin graduated undergrad in 2003 & had difficulty finding work my uncle didn’t understand why he didn’t just go down to the Personnel Office & full out an application. Which is how he got his job in the 1960s & we worked at that company the rest of his career.

  14. Anon Accountant*

    I tell my mother “sometimes the best teacher is experience”. Glad it all worked out well for you and that your mom landed a new job too!

    Best wishes.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      I mean that your mom got to experience how modern job searching goes. Sorry words were failing me.

      (My mom used to persist with bad search advice too until her niece set her straight and she stopped.)

  15. Mimmy*

    What a great update! 8 years feels like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it?

    I do wonder if gumption *occasionally* works. I think a couple of my current coworkers got their jobs this way. One of them was a summer intern in 2017. I think he kept contacting our center until he got a part-time job. Lo and behold, several months later, he applied for and got a full-time position and is doing very well and is well-liked. We are a state-run facility, so that might be why. I think government norms are a little outdated.

    Still, I personally would never just keep contacting an employer until they agree to interview me.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sure, gumption sometimes works… in the same way that catcalling on the street sometimes works. One success in hundreds doesn’t make it a good idea to do it.

      (That said, I’d be surprised if government norms were the reason here; they’re typically extra rigid about application processes.)

      1. MicroManagered*

        But has catcalling ever worked?

        I’ve always wondered that when it’s happened to me or I’ve witnessed it. Has anyone, in the history of humankind, ever catcalled a woman to have her slow-mo turn around and realized she’s been waiting her whole life for this moment? (With an 80s song playing in the background, of course.)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I once witnessed it and it was fascinating — a woman actually stopped to talk to the catcaller and struck up what appeared to be a friendly conversation. I wanted to shout “what are you DOING” but did not.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            Not gonna lie, it would have worked on me when I was much younger, had terrible body image, and hated that no guy ever expressed any interest in me. Man I wish I could reach back to teen/young 20’s me and reassure her that she is worth so much more than an object to be desired.

          2. Foila*

            I think Amanda Palmer (the musician) does this, but it’s not exactly friendly – more like challenging her catcaller to see her as a human with a name and a personality.

            1. LabTechNoMore*

              Has any girl in history said, ‘Sure, you seem so nice. Let’s get it on!’
              But I always shock them, when I answer, ‘Hi, my name’s Amanda’

          3. JSPA*

            I’ve stopped and had a real conversation, but it was sociological curiosity, not returning the sentiment. Or father the sentiment supposedly expressed was very different from the actual sentiment; I was pretty much returning and negating the power play. (He was tongue tied and abashed. His older friends on the worksite all started ribbing him–same guys who’d been egging him on before.)

            1. KM*

              Seconded this one. I’ve definitely catcalled my husband when I’ve run into him on the street unexpectedly.

            2. Arts Akimbo*

              That’s what I was thinking, too. My friends and spouse and I have done this to each other.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Knowing our audience here, I sure hope we don’t have any first hand stories of this working…

          It isn’t necessarily the slow motion “love at first whistle” thing. But it could be one of those things where it gets your attention, you break your slate over his head for calling you “Carrots” moments.

          1. Harvey 6-3.5*

            Shirley, it would be better than a woman’s blythe acceptance of catcalling (which is not something a kindred spirit would do).

        3. Rainy*

          My first husband’s brother employed a strategy that I always called “99 percenter”. He figured that his odds of getting a random woman to have sex with him were about 99 to 1 against, so all that meant to him was that he had to approach 100 women and someone would bang him. He bettered his odds by doing this on the beach, at vacation spots/tourist traps, etc, but he’d just, for example, walk down the beach and ask every woman if they wanted to have sex. It usually only took 40-50 women and a few times of getting slapped or punched before someone would go back to his place with him.

          It pretty much goes without saying that he went into sales, I guess.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Your former brother in law is Lloyd Christmas himself, I see.

            So you’re telling me, there’s a chance…

            1. Rainy*

              Oh god, yes, pretty much. I really didn’t like him at all, which I should probably feel bad about since he predeceased my first husband by about 8 years, but I don’t.

              I don’t think I ever attended any kind of family gathering where he didn’t hit on me. Ughhhhhh.

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                I think it’s silly that we’re supposed to pretend people didn’t suck after they die. If you didn’t like him then you didn’t like him! As long as you’re not like dancing and spitting on his grave I don’t think it’s disrespectful to remember him honestly.

            1. Rainy*

              He was a gross person, but I think that was pre PUA, as it was back in the 60s.

              Or maybe it was undifferentiatable from normal society. Either way, different eras, same gross behaviours.

                1. Polaris*

                  Excuse you, Original Series Captain Kirk was actually very respectful of women, which is part of why he had so much success with them.

                2. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

                  Pedantic nerd time: all of Kirk’s canonical ex-girlfriends are scientists except one who’s a JAG lawyer, and most of his seductions on-screen (including all four women – four whole women in three seasons – with whom sex was actually implied) were situations in which he had a significant lack of power and was either genuinely not in control of his actions (Elaan of Troyius, The Paradise Syndrome) or was captured and used the seduction as a distraction or ruse rather than as a genuine expression of romantic/sexual interest (Wink of an Eye, Bread and Circuses, The Gamesters of Triskelion, etc.).

                3. Third or Nothing!*

                  Only 4? It’s been a while since I watched TOS but it felt like way more than that. I distinctly remember getting annoyed at all the seduction. I was also single and very annoyed at that fact so that may have played into the perception. I’ll have to rewatch it when I’m done with TNG.

          2. Mary*

            This is what Ivan in the Vorkosigan books does and it’s presented as endearing: it jars *so* horribly and feels *so* outdated.

            1. TardyTardis*

              I met an “Ivan” once in the Air Force, and I kind of liked him. It was refreshingly honest and there were no guilt trips when I told him ‘no’. He simply flew off (clearly a future fighter pilot) and tried his luck elsewhere, instead of trying to lean on me to change my mind.

          3. Chidi-Janet*

            My partner had a similar approach in his 20s, but it was more about being prepared to accept the rejection willingly than anything else, and he says he only really did it at places like nightclubs and bars and such, where people are expecting to be approached.
            His method was to approach one person, crack a small joke, offer to buy a drink and if the answer is some variation on ‘no’ give a cheery wave and say ‘no worries, enjoy your night, I’m gonna go dance now.’
            He might approach up to a dozen different people over the course of several hours (roughly every 20 minutes or so between hanging out with his mates), so there’s not an obvious ‘I’m going to ask every single woman in this bar, one after the other’ situation but sometimes he’d find that one of the women he’d spoken to earlier in the evening would come up to him later to start a new conversation which tended to have a more favourable outcome.
            Mostly he reckons that it was his demonstrated ability to happily accept ‘no’ without making things weird or feel unsafe that was the key to it all.
            He was definitely playing the odds of ‘you’re going to get 10 nos for every yes’ or something, but in my estimation it wasn’t particularly sleazy.

            1. Rainy*

              Your partner was offering to buy people drinks. He wasn’t saying “wanna have sex?” which is what former BIL was doing. To total strangers.

        4. Kelly L.*

          I have this theory that a lot of the “I saw your grandmother on the bus and just had to strike up a conversation” stories are really euphemisms for “we met in a bar,” which would have been seen as kind of disreputable back then.

          1. Rainy*

            You saw the same kind of thing about ten years ago with couples who met through online dating, because there was apparently a stigma or something.

            (I met my current husband on Twitter. I personally don’t think there’s a stigma about how you meet people unless you were both like, coincidentally knocking over the same convenience store at the same time and then Found Twoo Wuv while cleaning out the cash register.)

            1. scribblingTiresias*

              …That’s a romance novel plot in the making if I’ve ever heard one.
              Maybe not the best idea in real life, though…

              1. Rainy*

                You’d both have to be doing it For A Good Reason, I guess. Maybe she’s doing it as a prank and plans to mail the money back, and he’s doing it because his baby sister needs an operation.

                1. Quill*

                  And you can run the entire plot on “should I ask for the money back to clear my name? I can’t turn him in because that could doom his kid sister. But I committed a crime now!”

                  No need for convoluted miscommunications when you’re on the lam!

            2. Donkey Hotey*

              Fun tidbit: about three months before my wife and I met, we both came up for each other as possible matches on a dating website. We both looked at each other’s profiles and went, “Nah.”
              Three months later, we met at a wedding where we had two friends in common (one was the bride.)
              Five months later, we moved in together.
              We’ve been together for 10 years as of August.

          2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            This is why I’m glad I come from a long family of truthful to a fault barbarians. What do you mean, this isn’t a “good look”, I think it looks fantastic, it’s how I get what I want!

            I know for a fact my grandparents met in a bar.

            Just like everyone knows I met my partner with an online dating app.

              1. Foila*

                I know this is way after the fact, but I’ve been laughing for the last couple days about “Had A Thing For Sailors”. It’s so evocative.

            1. Quill*

              I don’t know how my grandparents met, but I do know that there was a brief tussle with grandma’s parents about my grandpa not being catholic.

              Every single one of her six siblings came down on grandma’s side, including the one who was a brand new catholic nun at the time, and my great grandparents, realizing that they were vastly outnumbered, gave in gracefully.

              1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                Grandpa’s family wasn’t thrilled with their 25 year age difference or the fact Grandma had a baby from a previous out of wedlock marriage. But that didn’t stop the two. Grandma never remarried after he passed away and would tell stories about how he was a true gentleman [including stories about picking him up from the drunk tank for fighting. He was fighting for the honor of others, aka he’d lay out someone if they were rude to a lady, not on his ship!]

                We’re a long line of “We do what we want, you’re not the boss of me.”

                1. Quill*

                  Lol. My gramps had never raised his hand to anyone even when he was in the army, and was well known in the community for removing bee swarms from people’s property by sweeping them into a cardboard box, taking them home to establish a new hive, and leaving the person with the swarm a business card so they’d remember to buy honey from him in August.

            2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              I have one of those truthful barbarians as well – which is how I know how my parents met (Dad was assigned by the fraternity brothers to keep my uncle sober enough to make it to enough college classes to pass, and then walked my mom home when she was disgusted by the party her older brother dragged her to, she was a very sheltered 18 at the time). It’s been 44 years since that party.

          3. Dahlia*

            That’s how my grandparents met. My grandmother was sad because her boyfriend died, her best friend took her out partying and introduced her to her boyfriend’s best friend. One one night stand later…

          4. emmelemm*

            Oh yes, my grandfather definitely saw my grandmother on the ferry and “just had to strike up a conversation”. (For real, there was a ferry, this was a thing.)

        5. Tobias Funke*

          It worked on me until I was probably 25 or 26. I had zero self esteem and desperately wanted someone to be decent to me. I hated myself enough to think catcalling was them doing me a favor since I was so ugly.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            Yep. It took me a looooooooooooooooong time to stop hating my body. It didn’t help that no man ever expressed any interest in me whatsoever, except one guy in high school who I dated briefly because it just felt so nice to be wanted.

        6. Snarkastic*

          Yes. It worked on a high school friend (the key phrase here being “high school”).

          It turned into a fairly long relationship that still boggles my mind.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I suspect they get through *despite* gumption, as government hiring won’t allow for excluding irritating applicants in early stages.

        1. Green great dragon*

          I think this is much more likely. We wouldn’t have anywhere to mark them down for such gumption, and probably the person suffering wouldn’t have any input into the decision.

        2. Ktelzbeth*

          Somehow I managed to read “government hiring won’t allow for irradiating applicants in early stages.” That might get rid of the irritating applicants.

          1. Arts Akimbo*

            They don’t irradiate you until *after* injecting you with supersoldier serum. Or possibly superfileclerk serum. Whatever your aptitudes are.

      3. Archaeopteryx*

        And like catcalling, even if you would’ve seemed like a candidate on paper the gumption/catcalling rules you out all by itself.

      4. Socrates Johnson*

        Yes, I saw on LinkedIn recently an article about how to be annoying basically to get noticed (not in those words, but it was the same terrible advice). I can’t remember who or what org I follow posted it, but I thought about bringing attention to it here!

      5. Ope*

        LOL I technically got my work study job by walking in and asking for it. A professor I had sent an email to the class that the department was looking for a student worker, and I was the only person to talk to them about it. I walked in, said that I heard they were looking for someone, and 20 minutes later I had a new job! I am the job seeker your dad tells you about.

    2. Catsaber*

      There’s a well-known private university in my city that has a very strong alumni culture, and alumni often work there in staff positions. I have heard of people applying upwards of 40 times just to get any kind of job there. I looked for a job there once and was told by several people that I needed to call every day and apply to anything and everything, even if I wasn’t qualified or interested. I was like…no thanks, not THAT interested.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      And some of us really did pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.

      But seriously, you throw enough random stuff at the wall something is bound to stick! That’s no way to live your life, unless you’re the Gambler himself.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        Yeah…. I got a job by accident. Misread an address and walked into the wrong shop. Handed in a resume for a receptionist job. They were hiring delivery drivers and hadn’t even advertised yet. The owner gave me an on-the-spot interview and hired me even though I didn’t know how to drive the type of vehicles they used (!!!).

        Just because I had enough dumb luck to land a job this way does not mean I recommend people walk into random shops and apply for jobs they don’t know how to do. It’s really not a winning strategy.

    4. JanetM*

      Gumption does occasionally work, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

      I got a receptionist job once (in the 1980s) by calling back after a few days to check on my application. An hour later, they called me back and asked me to start that day. (I wasn’t employed, so I did.)

      A year or so later, I happened to see my resume, and it was marked, “Too quiet – do not hire.” When I asked, I was told, “You were the only one who called back.”

      Times have changed, though, and in retrospect, that office had some definite disfunctions. It was the same place where I was instructed to convince a candidate to walk out on his current contract to accept a different contract job with us. My reaction was a shocked, “But then why wouldn’t he do the same thing to us, later?”

      Of course, it was also the same place where one of my managers ordered a candidate to take his resume and leave, when the candidate was rude to me. “If you can’t be polite to my staff, I can’t trust you to be polite to my clients.”

      1. Dagny*

        In that particular situation, if they are looking for someone who could possibly start *that very day,* they will go with the person who has made contact most recently: they do not want to spend days on end trying to get in touch with people, hearing that someone could maybe start in three weeks, etc. (For the same reason, law schools that are pulling people off their waitlists in early August go with the people who have been in touch with the school: the school knows they are getting a quick “yes” from a reasonably candidate if they ask, which is, at that time, more important than getting a “yes” from the ideal candidate weeks down the road.)

    5. LegallyBrunette*

      A summer intern following up with contacts he made during his internship to ask about open positions seems like good networking more than gumption. Gumption would be more like the intern refusing to leave the office until he was offered an interview for a permanent position.

    6. Nanani*

      You’ll occasionally get a gumptioneer in a hiring position, and they’ll decide to bypass the actual norms in favour of the person who shows gumption. These are not hiring managers most people want to work for though.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I got overridden by gumptioneers at one of my previous jobs. I didn’t want to hire Jane because she kept Following Up and it was driving me nuts, but my higher-ups were tickled by it, so they hired her. She got canned a few months later for repeatedly no-showing, so I guess her gumption was limited to the hiring process itself.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I LIVE FOR gumptioneers who get the job and then turn out to be flakes.

          They’re not “hard workers” they’re not “really invested in this job!” they’re not “the best choice because they really want to be here, look at them keep going!”

          They are usually people who are difficult, who don’t realize “no” is a real answer and who are self centered AF. Everyone my bosses and myself [only once, only once!] have been conned by this “go get ’em” attitude “never take that first no!” stuff have turned out to be awful and end up being terminated or if we’re extra lucky, they just ghost.

          My one time was being badgered until I just didn’t care anymore, since the job was a turnstile anyways, fine, take it. Yeah, nope. Less than 3 days.

          1. Dagny*

            “They are usually people who are difficult, who don’t realize “no” is a real answer and who are self centered AF.”

            This also describes how they operate outside of the workplace. If someone doesn’t realise that “no” is a real answer (as you so aptly put it), they will be problematic in a variety of ways. It’s not cute, it’s not a sign of being an up-and-comer; it’s almost sociopathic.

        2. JohannaCabal*

          Same thing happened to me! My gumptioner even handed me a copy of a resume on scented paper. Of course, after she was hired, my director (gumptioneer) wondered why said hire was always talking and not working!

        3. RC Rascal*

          A grad school friend was a gumptioner who was chronically dissatisfied at work. Basically she got a self esteem shot from getting offers but not from doing the work.

    7. Ralkana*

      Heard my boss on the phone once, discussing candidates with grandboss, and he said, “He’s called several times to check on his application, I guess that shows perseverance, maybe we should call him in,” and I wanted to shout, “No, don’t reward the gumption!”

      We eventually hired a woman for the role, so I guess his gumption didn’t get him the job in the long run.

  16. Catsaber*

    Thanks for the update, OP! I’m glad this has all worked out well for you. And congrats on your promotion and marriage!

    I’m a fellow lib-arts major who sort of floundered after college, but I eventually found my path (in higher ed IT, of all places). I, too, chose to ignore a lot of advice from my parents…otherwise I would have ended up in a career I hated with too many useless degrees (at one point I was planning on getting TWO master’s degrees at the same time, because my mom thought it would be a good idea). I also cringe at some of the stuff I did in my early jobs and job searching. I was that coworker who talked loudly and incessantly in an open office space about personal things (mostly my cats).

    Best of luck to you!

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      Username checks out, then. :D

      I totally wouldn’t mind listening to chatter about cute animals, provided I got to see plenty of pictures of said cute animals. It would be soooooo much better than what my coworkers typically talk about! (Lots of complaining about sales people, celebrity gossip, reality TV, cheerleading…)

      1. Catsaber*

        Oh, there were pictures. :) The coworkers I had at the time would drone on about finance and Wall Street so I felt a little justified in punctuating that with some cat talk.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          This is an instance where I really wish we had the ability to share pictures here. I feel like we could easily gush about how cute your cats are and my dog is.

          1. Sunflower Sea Star*

            There’s a post somewhere on this site where Alison asked everyone to send in pictures of their pets and she shared them!

            1. Third or Nothing!*

              SO CUTE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I LOVE IT! The animals sitting in front of the computers looking like they’re working are my favorites. When I work from home, my Hermione just curls up next to me on the couch.

  17. pally*

    Yeah, I’m enjoying this one!

    Right now my job search is closing in on 5 years. So yes, my mom is giving me advice. Right now, it’s the “you need to hire a job coach”. Oy!

    1. EPLawyer*

      If it’s been 5 years, have you read Alison’s book? JOb coach probably not, but Alison does have a resume service that might be worth exploring.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Just so no one goes looking for that — I don’t, actually! I used to offer resume feedback once every year or so, but haven’t done it in a while for lack of time.

      2. pally*

        Yes, I have read and followed Alison’s book. And have read several others- including the bad ones that instruct one to “bypass the HR dept” and pitch directly to the hiring manager. And nope, I haven’t done that one. I already know it’s not gonna endear me to anyone.
        Problem is, there’s rampant age discrimination in biotech. Not much I can do about that except keep trying.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Have you tried saying you have hired a job coach?

      I mean if you stretch the imagination, being on AAM is probably way more relevant than anything one of those frauds would try to pass off on you…

      Unless your mom is the kind of person who then wants to MEET the job coach or invite them to dinner =X

      I’m awful, don’t listen to me.

  18. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Your first instinct was to check their advice when you were just 18, that says a lot about your instincts being really well tuned! I’m so glad that things have gone well for you and that advice has been carried on throughout the years, especially with anxiety involved.

    I feel for your mom reading about her experience after relocating. I just had my aunt talk to me about her struggles with everything being computerized now, she’s thankfully been able to push through and get hired on but damn, it’s a hoop for a lot of aging healthcare workers. I was on board helping migrate records when our major provider was finally abolishing paper recordkeeping, everyone was floored by my ability to do it so quickly because they were struggling the system and just technology in general =( I’m glad you were able to help her and I hope it helped her see times really are changing given the experience, sometimes that experience is extra humbling [sometimes it’s not].

  19. Jennifer*

    Awww, this made me all warm and fuzzy inside, like the end of a good movie where the heroine finds a career, love, and herself along the way. Best wishes to you, OP!

  20. MissGirl*

    I would like to publicly thank my mom for giving me good career advice and also knowing when to not give career advice.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I think this can be the hardest thing for parents to learn, when to just listen and not give any advice to their child.

    2. blobola*

      My parents also gave me good career advice, they were awesome.

      Sadly I wasn’t particularly interested in listening to it until I was in my mid twenties, but that’s on me not them!

    3. Red 5*

      That’s what I was just thinking. My mom was actually in charge of hiring entry level college kids at her office and she was the one telling me that our career center was full of it and helped me figure it all out. Thanks Mom!

  21. Third or Nothing!*

    Awwww what a great update! Don’t you just love it when people who are wrong have to eat their words later on? Delicious, delicious karma.

    Also, congrats on the promotion and wedding!

  22. aqua arrow*

    I was absolutely dying reading this update and your old letter because pretty much the same thing happened to me. I’m roughly the same age as you and at about the same time you sent in your first letter, I was applying for my first job (if only I had found this blog years ago!). My parents with the best of intentions, gave me just about the same advice. We got into a massive argument over applying online vs. applying in-person (most of the places I applied only had online applications, a fact which my parents straight up didn’t believe and I was basically forced to harass some poor employees until they got their manager for me) and I basically ended up humiliating my sixteen year old self over and over again by going and demanding to speak to managers about my job application status after I applied just to appease my parents. I still cringe about it to this day!

  23. awesome*

    “I think I may have even hung your response on our fridge” is the most charming response. I love it. Congrats and thanks for the update LW!

  24. Socrates Johnson*

    “My parents have offered lots of advice on my job search and I’ve taken none of it.”

    This just kind of made me laugh. Thanks for the update OP after so much time!

  25. Harvey 6-3.5*

    This site has helped me, as a parent, know that when my youngest was floundering, the best thing was to just apply to more online retail jobs. He finally got a couple, but I will say the easiest and best hiring process was surprisingly a large hardware chain where they wear orange aprons.

  26. Sara*

    Interestingly, my daughter was looking for a job after dropping out of college last spring. For a variety of reasons, I told her to stop in at the new daycare near us and see if they were hiring. Totally old school, but online job searching was turning up very little. Turns out they were and she got the job. They had an ad on Indeed but it wasn’t coming up when she searched (perhaps they weren’t “promoting” it enough $$$). Anyways, I definitely did not advise her to harass them, lol, but figured a quick stop in couldn’t hurt since those types of places are often hiring.

  27. Entry Level Marcus*

    Good to hear things are going well OP.

    As a relatively young person myself, I gotta day that job searching in the 80s and 90s sounds way better than today. Instead of sending applications for job ads with hyperspecific requirements into the void you could walk into an office, have real conversations with the people who work there, and talk people through your transferable skills.

    1. Rainy*

      More to the point, you could walk into an office, have real conversations with people who worked there and could then discriminate against you or hire you based on appearance and presentation rather than skills and qualifications.

      You weren’t usually having real conversations with people; you were dropping off your materials and the receptionist was scribbling whether you were white, male, high SES etc on your résumé.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      As someone who started out in the world right at the end of the “bring in your resume directly” decades, it sucked and it was awful.

      You dealt with a lot of awful people who were rude and condescending for their various reasons.

      “You’re not in school? What a waste, no you simply won’t do.” [For a receptionist position, assuming that because I wasn’t at school at that very moment [at 19 years old] that I was just going to be a career secretary [which is fine, it’s been a thing forever…why are you acting like it’s awful] and they didn’t “want none of that career secretary stuff” in their office.

      “Oh, wow, aren’t you tall! How’s the air up there, ha ha ha. I don’t think you’d fit in here with us short folks.” [WTF WTF WTF indeed].

      It was often just dropping a resume off at the front desk, where you get a nod and a “good day” if you’re lucky.

      Now instead you get to research a business. You get to be more in control of your first impression because they only see your skillset listed and cover letter.

      The other places would then have you simply mail to a drop box at the local newspaper that did classified ads. So you got to send your resume into a much longer, more desperate void. You had to spend money on that fancy resume paper because oh man, they did bring it up when you dropped it off as well.

      If you’re a talker, sure I guess I get it. If you’re conventionally attractive and a talker, yeah you’d be employed in a heartbeat. So yeah…I guess it was great for those folks.

    3. RC Rascal*

      Employers expected you to be waiting by the phone when they called. Also they frequently called in the evening & also Sunday night. I spent a lot of beautiful post grad days sitting by the phone watching a beautiful day trickle by.

  28. Colorado*

    Love this!! When I open this site and see an update post, I can’t help but to hear “it’s the most wonderful time of the year!” music in my head :-) Now you all can hear it too!

  29. Quill*

    OP, I am your age and also having to walk my relocated mother through the online application process! fortunately my mom didn’t come with bad advice from the 90’s (just from the early 00’s when she finished her masters degree.)

    She’s quit telling me it should take less than 15 minutes to fill out a job application…

  30. Teapot Polisher*

    “My parents offered lots of advice for what I should do, and I have done none of it” is the best thing I have read today.

  31. Happy Pineapple*

    This is a fantastic update! Congratulations, OP, for surviving with your sanity mostly intact! My mother was similar when I was job hunting just out of graduate school. She insisted that I had to apply to jobs in person and follow up on the phone. When I showed her that everything was online and that job ads even specifically stated, “online application only; no phone calls or drop ins” she said they didn’t really mean that, because “no one uses the internet.” This was in 2015, and she hadn’t been in the workforce since 1988.

  32. PhyllisB*

    So glad things worked out well for you OP!! Like a lot of other readers here, I wish AAM had been around in my younger years; I would have saved myself so much grief.
    At least my children are getting the benefit from it; the lazy things don’t read it themselves, they will ask me, “What does your friend Alison say about…” and they usually take the advice.
    My 18 year old granddaughter is looking for work now, and my 89 year old mother was telling her things like “show up and ask for an application” or “call and check on the status..” We were both yelling, “NO!!! It doesn’t work like that anymore!!” Bless her heart, at least she had the grace to admit that things could have “changed a bit” since she was a working woman.

  33. Serin*

    The thing that irritates me about the bad parental advice isn’t that it’s bad advice (job application technology is changing fast, and it’s not surprising that someone would get behind) — it’s that parents seem to uniformly assume that their kids are (1) lying and (2) only unemployed because they’re lazy. So just when job hunters need confidence the most, they have to deal with their parents bringing them down.

    1. Observer*

      Eh, that’s not the case. We get to hear the worst stories. And even so, it’s more likely to be “You don’t REALLY understand how the world works, honey” than “You’re lying.”

      1. Rainy*

        I live in a town where the average house costs a little north of a million. My parents just moved from Nowhere, Midwest to Oh God Are You Joking, Southwest, and bought a tidy little piece of property plus house and barn for less than 10% of the price of a house here. My mum kept demanding to know why I didn’t buy a house on my aggressively mediocre salary, and I kept saying “the houses here cost a million dollars” and she kept pooh-poohing me. I even told her repeatedly that I was not engaging in hyperbole, the houses here cost a million dollars.

        I finally had to pull up Zillow. The first house on the list in my neighbourhood had one bathroom less than our current apartment and cost 1.3 million.

        The difference between “you just don’t understand/you’re being hyperbolic” and “you’re lying” is often functionally zero.

        1. Rainy*

          Oh, and I’m in my mid-40s and just hang up on family members when they annoy me too much. I can’t imagine how frustrating it would be to be in your early 20s, doing your best, and be told “you just don’t understand [the world you are living in that I am not] and if you took my [utter garbage] advice, you’d be raking in the dough”.

          1. Observer*

            Oh, I agree. And I try to keep that in mind when I talk to my kids about job hunting – and everything else.

        2. TardyTardis*

          I knew I was being cruel when I sent my daughter in the LA area the real estate pages from Outer West Puckerbrush to show to her friends, and yet I did it anyway…

  34. ]*

    we once had someone walk in to drop off a resume, ‘can I leave my resume here?’ ‘yeah, sure, we’ll give it to our hiring people to look over’

    ‘oh great, let me go get it’, they promptly turn around and walk out the door, whoa wait what, where’s the damn resume

    cue me standing there looking expectantly, internally screaming as i wait for them to grab resume, come back in

    hold hand out expectantly, do not receive resume, uh??????

    give me the damn resume already- wait they want a pen, sure, ok, whatever, wait why are you writing on an envelope now, and why are you asking me ‘hey, what’s the address here?’

    standing here trying to keep a straight face as they scribble over the resume ‘PREFERABLY LOOKING FOR A PRODUCTION/MANUFACTURING JOB’ and write out the address of our business on an envelope while i finally compose myself and suggest

    ‘um, i’d be happy to just take the resume and drop it off to our hiring people, it doesn’t need to be in an envelope’, said while smiling the fakest of smiles

    it took all my willpower not to toss it in the garbage immediately, it was so weird

  35. Lils*

    OP, I think about your original letter quite often and have even sent the link to a couple of people. I too have parents whose career and job advice was … incorrect. I’m in my 40s and still have to remind myself to ignore it. I’m so proud of you for trusting your own instincts and doing what *you* knew was right.

  36. Captain Awkward*


    I mean, I am sorry for your parents’ job hunting difficulties and wish the process were easier for everyone but as a tale of vindication, this really can’t be beat.

  37. Dot Warner*

    Congrats, OP! Weirdly enough, I remembered your letter when it was slow at work last night and went digging through the archives to find it but couldn’t. I’m so glad your story has a happy ending!

  38. Elizabeth West*

    Great update!

    It’s not just parents. A recruiter recently gave me some ‘gumption’ advice and told me to follow up on applications by calling people. If I hadn’t been reading AAM all this time, I wouldn’t have known not to do that!

  39. Breeeee*

    I’m making a new account just to comment and say how much I appreciate this line:

    “My parents offered lots of advice for what I should do, and I have done none of it.”

    I feel like those are words to live by!

Comments are closed.