my well-meaning family keeps sending me terrible job leads

A reader writes:

Because of the COVID-19 crisis, my job has temporarily furloughed me, and I’m not sure when (if?) it will ever come back to its normal capacity. So, I’ve been job hunting (actually, I was doing this even before the coronavirus crisis, but that’s another letter), and told my parents and sister that I would appreciate any help they might have to offer in these troubled times.

Unfortunately, my parents and sister are both terrible at job-hunting on my behalf and continue to send me some of the most awful leads possible. I work in a few different industries, as a freelance writer and editor, but they insist on sending me technical writing jobs that are EXTREMELY technical (think literal rocket science), and I am clearly unqualified to even consider applying for them – besides the fact that I am definitely uninterested in this type of writing work.

How do I get my well-meaning family to stop sending me these terrible leads and focus on the things I am actually good at, if they want to really help me find a new job?

Most people are going to be pretty bad at finding job leads that fit you well. Even recruiters, who do this for a living, are often very bad at it!

People just won’t understand the nuances of your field and your interests the way you do — especially if they’re in a different field, but sometimes even if they’re in the same one.

In this case, you asked your family for help, so I can’t blame them for trying to find leads for you, even though they’re getting it wrong. But it’s even more annoying when people do this unsolicited, and send you jobs way above or below your professional level, or in fields that have nothing to do with the one you’re in.

You can try sending them a short, bulleted list of exactly what you’re looking for and a short list of what you’re definitely not looking for. It might work! But it would also be really normal and unsurprising if it didn’t.

If that doesn’t work, then at that point you’d need to decide whether you would rather call them off completely (“thanks so much for trying to help, but I’ve realized the nuance of what I’m looking for is hard to convey”) or deal with the slew of unhelpful leads in the hopes that they’ll include a few good ones too.

Most of the time, friends and family are better suited to help you in other ways — like proofreading application materials if they’re good editors, practicing interviews with you, connecting you with people in their networks, or providing general moral support.

{ 158 comments… read them below }

  1. WellRed*

    Is it just me or is there a friends and family theme this week? Either way, leave them out of your job search is a good rule of thumb.

    1. HoHumDrum*

      It’s definitely interesting to get a peek into other family dynamics. Like, I know my parents love me, but pretty sure both of them would rather pull out their own teeth than job hunt on my behalf. I think they both have the philosophy of “I already have enough soul-crushing tasks to do for myself, not taking on any of yours unless it’s an emergency”. I mean they’re happy to offer advice and emotional support, but that’s basically it.

      Honestly I like it this way, I agree with you it’s better to keep friends and family out of it. No one is going to know your job skills/interests like you do, plus I personally find having a nice relationship with family is much easier when they’re not involved in the initial ground floor stage of all my decisions.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, this. I’m pretty happy in my job so I’m not even actively looking. I’m on a couple of mailing lists, though, where I get the occasional message. That said, I got my current job nearly 15 years ago because my mom happened to see an ad for it in the paper. We live in the same city.

    2. Eukomos*

      They can be an important source of networking connections for people who are new to the workforce or transitioning to a new career. But the question you want to ask them is definitely “who can you introduce me to who knows about this field I’m interested in getting into,” not “what job ads can you send me”.

    3. willow for now*

      Boy, you said it. A friend thinks I work in a lab, and my dad has absolutely no idea what I do other than work on the computer.

    4. Cleopatra, Queen of Denial*

      Depends! I literally have my current job partly because my mom found a great article about writing a thank-you note when you get turned down for a position. The hiring manager ended up adding me on LinkedIn and sent me a bunch of job leads. Three months later she called me back and said the person they chose didn’t work out, so they wanted me to start.

      Thanks Mom for the great advice! :)

      1. TardyTardis*

        I once found a job networking with someone in a laundromat–it wasn’t the greatest job, but it paid more than what I was doing then, and I could buy food and pay rent with it, so hey.

  2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    You asked for help, they’re providing help. If all they know about you is a job title, then of course they won’t know specifically what to look for (I’m a Project Manager which sounds simple enough, but every company defines the job duties for the role in a different way and some may not be for me). So either tell them to stop, or continue to weed through what they’re sending.

    1. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

      Yeah, unless they are being pushy about it “Have you applied for that Rocket Science Manuals ‘R’ Us job yet?” every five minutes, I would say send them a thanks! email and DELETE. They don’t know they’re sending you terrible leads or they wouldn’t be sending them, and YMMV, but my experience of trying to explain what a realistic position would be to family is usually futile.

    2. londonedit*

      I agree. I can totally appreciate that it’s frustrating, but the reality is that a lot of the time, people really don’t understand what other people’s jobs involve. My friends and family could probably tell you that I’m an editor, but that encompasses a *lot* of different jobs, and I don’t think even people who know me well would be able to reliably find job adverts that actually match my skills and experience. It happens all the time on job sites – you search ‘Editor’ and you get magazines, TV, digital editing, technical editing, academic…all sorts. None of which I can do or want to do, but friends and family who have no idea how my actual job and industry work wouldn’t know that.

  3. Manager Now*

    Ugh. I was unemployed a few years ago under some pretty terrible circumstances, so a lot of people were trying to help me. I was in a contributor role at the time, but had a lot of experience and in a really decent pay bracket. Soooo many people would tell me about entry-level warehouse openings and similar roles. It was really hurtful at the time, because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to recover the pay and title I had lost, and it was actually pretty triggering for people to pitch entry-level roles to me. I know they were trying to help, but it really wasn’t helpful. I’ve tried to keep that in mind when my friends/family go through job loss.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      I hear this.

      After I became disabled and literally couldn’t do my previous profession (environmental chemistry, emphasis on chemistry), people would push call center, help desk, receptionist, or “supported” part time jobs at me. These jobs paid less than half of what I made previously, and I would just end up crying – entry level or brainless jobs were all I was good for now that I was physically disabled? What was worse is that I had to take some of those just to survive, and got treated like shit on top of it. Being demeaned and treated like I was a barely sentient blob when I’d previously been a valued professional because I was now mobility impaired smashed my self esteem. Even more cringeworthy: These people thought that they were helping me be “useful” again. Having physical impairments and memory issues apparently meant that everything I’d learned or done was now null and void, and all I was good for was unskilled make-work.

      It’s been over 20 years, and I’ve managed to claw my way back into a technical career. But I’m still bitter as hell about the steaming pile of ableist manure that got heaped on me while I was still trying to learn how to adapt and re-establish a career. The default assumption was that I couldn’t really do X, so shove me off in a corner to lick envelopes.

      1. Lady Meyneth*

        I hear you, and I’m so sorry you went through that.

        I was 16 when I was diagnosed with a rare and chronic disability. The number of people telling me I should apply immediatly to social programs, since I wouldn’t be able to work anyway,was staggering. I wasn’t even done with high school and had people telling me I should drop out since I’d never get to use my diploma anyway (including teachers). It was a very hard time already, and those people can make you feel like less than nothing.

        I applaud you for clawing your way back into your carreer. I also clawed my way up, and we know how specially hard it can be for us. Hang in there!

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Good. Disability is not an automatic sentence of unemployability. But it is damn hard to make people see that.

          May your successes ever increase.

      2. JSPA*

        I guess you’re not a subscriber to the “every job has dignity” theory.

        Have to say, I’m conflicted here. Nobody should be devalued for having a disability (or several).

        But neither should any job be considered intrinsically insulting. “call center, help desk, receptionist”–those are not “make work.” They’re also not “unskilled.” They didn’t use your skills. They didn’t pay the way jobs using your skills, would have paid.

        It was clearly wrong for you to be shunted into them. For two very different reasons: First, because your skills and training lay elsewhere. Secondly, because the hiring managers (like you yourself), apparently mistook them for unskilled jobs, which means that someone who could have excelled at and learned from those jobs, didn’t get hired.

        If you’d been hired for a job that was nominally in your field; been paid far less than what your previous job paid; been treated like crap; would that have been different? (Colleges, not all of them community colleges, are quite willing to pay a pittance to people with years of specialized training and experience, and treat them like playing pieces with a few missing chips.)

        Or was it your assumption that those job descriptions were beneath you–for stupid people–for ignorant people–that made the experience extra-degrading?

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Even a job in my field, but underpaid and sh!t laden, would have been humiliating.

          But you can’t tell me call center and receptionist jobs are “skilled”. Not when most of them don’t even require a HS diploma or the ability to read past a 4th grade level.

      3. GrumbleBunny*

        People were terrible to you because they suggested jobs that you ended up taking?

        People were insulting because they recommended jobs that were only for “brainless” “barely sentient blobs”?

      4. Adminette*

        I’m very sorry that you were shunted towards jobs that did not fit your abilities or skill set.

        I would like to know if you would walk up to your office’s receptionist and tell her that she is a brainless, barely sentient blob doing unskilled make-work that amounts to nothing more than licking envelopes. And if that is how you view the people you consider less “valuable” than yourself, perhaps that has more to do with why you found this such a degrading experience than the work itself.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Answering phones is not skilled labor. Outbound call centers are not skilled labor. You require no training, education, or special ability, except maybe the ability to tolerate jerks. While it is a needed job (I hate phone trees), it is not in the common definition of “skilled labor”.

          Whether or not I see those people as “lesser”, the fact remains that the people who put me into those jobs saw me as “lesser”, only suited for unskilled labor, because my body didn’t work, so they assumed my brain didn’t either.

          1. blaise zamboni*

            Nope. If I called a company and their customer service had no idea what I needed, I would be deeply unsatisfied (and so would you). Customer service jobs require lots of skilled labor, it’s just specific skills learned on the job, plus the experience of being kind, calm, and professional with people (who may see you as inherently lesser, like…you do, maybe.)

            I work in health insurance. Our customer service reps know more about coordination of benefits, claim status from internal, external, and emergency OOA vendors, utilizing our PBA, physician panels, and so on and so forth than I could ever hope to know. They are the one department in our sector that knows the basics of every other department. They are HIGHLY skilled in that regard. This is not unique to healthcare – if I call my bank’s customer service, I get answers about how my bank works. If I call my local retailer, I get answers about how their shop works. Customer service is very specialized labor that absolutely cannot be done by just anyone, and it’s insulting that you keep insisting that’s not the case.

            Customer service obviously isn’t a good career path for you, but you don’t need to degrade the skills of those who do succeed just because you don’t have them. I’m glad you were finally able to make it back to your chosen career path – can you use your place of, now, relative privilege to lift up others who are also trying to succeed?

    2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      I hear you on this one. I know that some people will see the argument against working at an “unskilled” job as classist, but when the things you’ve learned and done can have meaningful applications elsewhere, why not encourage someone to aim for those jobs?

      Like, there’s nothing wrong with service and general labour jobs, and there are always going to be people whose skills and training (and preferences) limit them to those jobs. And yes, there are some people for whom, if their industry disappeared tomorrow, these jobs would be the only ones they would qualify for without extensive retraining. And to be fair, for many people in that situation taking those kinds of roles would be a lateral move in most respects. But those people aren’t really in the same situation as many unemployed people with experience in skilled positions because the lateral moves available to us look very, very different.

      It almost sends a message to people that unemployment means that you start at zero from a career perspective, which is, well, wrong on a lot of levels and I completely get why you find it triggering and a bit insulting.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        This. They assumed that my physical disability meant that I no longer had my education, experience, or skills like technical writing or computer use. They acted like my life and brain had been *erased*, and all I was good for was unskilled labor that required zero knowledge or experience.

        The whole “You have to start from zero as if you never even graduated high school because you have a disability” thing is insulting. Sure, you may not be able to do your previous career, but you should move laterally, not drop down in terms of money and skill to jobs for high school dropouts just starting out. They do this to people with advanced degrees who get disabled, too.

        Classist? Maybe. But I didn’t claw my way into the professional class to be shoved into the unskilled labor class just because I became disabled. The worker is worthy of their hire, but it’s a waste to hire a chemist to answer phones. (Plus, I hate phone work, more since that experience. It has a horribly low locus of control.)

  4. That Girl from Quinn's House*

    My husband has a PhD. His mom thinks he has an MD. She sends him job leads for jobs in the hospital, and then when he says he can’t do it, she says he needs to work on his self-esteem and aim higher and he could do anything if he set his mind to it!

    My parents have spent the better part of my life telling me to be a secretary and that other jobs aren’t “real jobs” so I guess it’s better than that.

      1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        But you address them both as “Doctor”, so it must be the same thing!

        (My brother has a PhD. The only times I can recall him being addressed as “Dr. Hopper” are on the cake topper for his wedding (a stylized “Dr. & Mrs.), and to shut down people being know-it-all jerks. His business cards say Charles Hopper, PhD, PE)

        1. Still Giggling*

          I know that it’s not but when I read “PHD, PE” I thought that he was a doctor of physical education and I giggled a little.

    1. OP With Unhelpful Family*

      Oh no! I do feel like I am getting a bit of this kind of feedback from my parents regarding my job search, because they are giving me pep talk-y responses like “I know you can do this if you try!” and “You just have to apply your expertise!” But if you REALLY have no expertise in Rocket Science, then any hiring company is going to see that in your résumé. Sigh.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I am *not* currently job searching, and even if I were, I would want to stay in my metro area. I have no interest in moving out of the area, especially not to the small town my mom lives in. And I haven’t worked in journalism for 13 years. And yet, my mom occasionally insists I would be an excellent editor of their small-town paper. She is wrong for so many reasons. And yet.

        (All this to say I sympathize.)

        1. I coulda been a lawyer*

          She just wants you to move back into your old bedroom. I know better but sometimes think about my daughter doing that, but I’ve downsized and don’t have room for her so she’s doubly safe.

          1. ThatGirl*

            I mean, there is no “my old bedroom” in her tiny rental with her new husband, and I’ve been married for 13 years, but yes, she definitely just not-so-secretly wants me to move back to the same town.

            1. Quill*

              My mom has been trying to get me to stay in Utah with her for… since she moved to Utah.

              Which. The job market in Utah does not seem significantly better than the one in the Chicago metro area…

              1. Anxious cat servant*

                Sympathy. My in-law live in a depressed and dying little town but keep trying to find something DH and I could do there. Fortunately DH is very specialized as a clergy person in a specific denomination but it hasn’t kept them from forwarding every church and synagogue opening within 50 miles of them. They mean well.

                1. allathian*

                  I think this one takes the cake. If you’re clergy in one denomination you can’t just switch to another. I would assume you’d have to be a member of the denomination in question and actually believe its doctrine…

          2. AnotherAlison*

            I hope you’re kidding or this is only a passing, wistful thought.

            My own son is 22, graduating, and likely moving out in a couple months, yet my mom still says she would love to have any of us live with her (me, my sister, our children, maybe even our husbands). When I say my kids need to move out and won’t be living here until their 30s, she says, “Oh you could always come live with Grandma.” It seems sweet on the surface, but my parents are really narc/codependents and it’s not sweet at all. I won’t even get started on her disgust that she didn’t get to choose my son’s post-grad career for him (as they did for my sister and I).

            1. AnotherAlison*

              (Didn’t intend to imply any psychological issues with you, of course. Just gets frustrating to be told your mom would like you to move home when you’re in your 40s and have been on your own since 19.)

          3. Lady Meyneth*

            I love my mom, and I consider her a close friend not just a parent. But if I had to move back in with her, I’d go not-so-quietly insane. That, or we’d end up killing each other.

            So downsizing was a very good move for her, and I bet for you too :)

    2. Slightly Antisocial*

      Oh, my gosh, that sounds like my mother! After grad school, I had to move in with my parents and every day she pestered me to look for X, Y, Z jobs totally unrelated to my degrees. On the day she suggested I run for mayor of the town, when I said that sounded horrible, she got irritated and said “you’re going to have to pick something eventually!” I pointed out that I’d already picked something and spent the last 5 years getting educated for it (I finished undergrad a year early)! I will never understand why some people think a person has a shot in an industry they didn’t train for, particularly with as competitive as the current job market is. Okay, the CEO of HP didn’t have a computer degree, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to get a job programming whatsits when my degree is in writing gizmos!

      1. JSPA*

        Well, it is the first rule of politics; women first wonder, “am I qualified?” But that doesn’t mean women are wrong to do so… we’d be better off if everyone had that moment of self-assessment.

        But as they say, the right question in politics isn’t, “am I qualified,” it’s, “am I more qualified than the other people running?” along with, “Will my running only make it easier for someone very unqualified to beat someone semi-qualified?”

    3. AGD*

      I have a Ph.D. in nothing remotely like biology or healthcare, and as a result, I tend to hide the “Dr” on forms because I don’t want to be mistaken for a healthcare professional – especially in places where someone might suddenly be asking if there’s a doctor present (airplanes, theaters, etc.).

    4. academic librarian*

      i graduated with my MLS at approximately the same time the position for the next actual, literal Librarian of Congress was posted, and no amount of logical explanation could convince her i was not the right person for the job. i think “we don’t want to move to DC” was more effective than “generally they want the applicant to have experience, preferably more than 2 years of it”

  5. JM in England*

    I’ve had a similar problem with recruiters. Despite my CV clearly stating what my industry is, I used to get a LOT of job leads completely outside of it!

    1. SomebodyElse*

      I once got a stern talking to by a recruiter because I couldn’t speak technical enough about servers and UNIX operating systems. I finally got a little annoyed and asked him to point out on my resume where I said I was a sys admin… Oh yeah, because I wasn’t one and I wasn’t looking to be one. I was the equivalent of an end user in that regard that new a few tricks.

      Back to the OP… I’d just review the ones they send you, you never know what they might stumble over.

      1. OP With Unhelpful Family*

        So far they’re not even sending me leads, so much as PDFs explaining what technical writing IS, and… um… yes, I know what it is, I just don’t want to DO THAT. The one job posting they did send is in their state, not mine, and would require moving to their state (all the way across the country), if I were even qualified (which I’m not).

        1. LunaLena*

          Ha, I totally empathize with you on this one. I’m a graphic designer, and back when I was job-hunting during the 2009 recession, my parents suggested all sorts of completely unrelated job ideas to me. Like one time, my dad told me “I heard furniture designers make really good money… you should look into that.” “Dad, I don’t know anything about furniture design. It’s a completely different field and it’s not something I’m interested in.” “You never know! It’s probably *related*. You could probably do it if you try.” My mom also thought being a graphic designer was the same as being an art teacher.

          I just started thanking them for the advice and ignoring it after that. Since I lived far away from them at that point, it made it easier to simply not tell them I wasn’t going to follow their suggestions.

    2. Quill*

      My favorites so far have been “Teach Chinese in China” (a major autofill failure, I believe: regardless, my only languages are English and Spanish) and “3 month contract in Antarctica” (I still wonder about that one, specifically about why they offered $14 an hour for you to go to the literal end of the earth for them… probably also a typo.)

        1. HBJ*

          Yea, you’d typically have bed and board taken care of, and there’s nowhere to go and nothing to spend money on down there, so it’s pure profit. And I’m sure plenty of people would apply for the experience of living and working in Antarctica for a few months.

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            Yep. Though apparently it’s *really boring* if you’re not one of the actual field scientists, because it’s a whole production to leave the base. So most of the time you’re effectively just a line cook or an IT person or a plumber or whatever in a very small town that happens to be in Antarctica. On the other hand having hobbies that you can do indoors and maybe teach other people so they don’t go stir-crazy is way more relevant on your resume than it would be other places ;-)

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      I rarely reply to blind solicitations on LinkedIn, but I finally had to tell one recruiter to stop contacting me because she was spamming me near daily with entry-level jobs pretty far afield from the area of expertise in my profile. After that didn’t work, I sent her a note stating that, if she was not familiar enough with the industry to recognize my very straightforward/specific job title AND that someone whose title included the words”senior” and “manager” was unlikely to be looking for an entry-level admin assistant role, I would never trust her ability represent me (which I’d certainly not asked her to do) in a job search and I certainly would let my internal recruiters know that her organization was unlikely to be an outsourcing option for my openings, given the scattershot approach to candidate sourcing.

      1. JM in England*

        I also got job leads with short term contracts that would have meant relocating. Simply told the recruiter that taking such jobs would end up costing me money in the long run!

    4. recent grad*

      My university’s career center was great for this. The jobs portal they used would send out automated emails every week with jobs based on your experience, and mine usually had three different summer camp jobs, a systems engineer role, and once a job as a kindergarten teacher. I have a chemistry degree! All of my work experience during undergrad was in research roles! I don’t know how they got from chemistry to four different YMCA camp counselor jobs and I don’t want to know.

      1. Perpal*

        I *really* wonder about college career centers. Do they have like… any idea? Why bother having one when they seem to be either useless or actively bad

        1. Amethystmoon*

          I remember mine only having things like retail store work or fast food work. Granted this was in the 90’s, but even in a college town, there should have been some office-related job openings like clerk, receptionist, etc. I wound up moving to get a job.

    5. JobHunter*

      I signed up for email updates on available positions with a certain university. The algorithm has sent me some interesting random listings, which have included procurer, pipefitters, and plumber. Not quite a postdoc!

  6. Mid*

    Oof, I feel this.

    When I graduated, my parents wanted to help me job search, which I appreciated. Butttttt they really struggled with actually finding me helpful openings. I told them a short list of my must-haves (no salary below $X, no fully remote positions, staying within Y miles of my current location, generally focused on A, B, and C skills) and then skimmed whatever they sent me. Most of them were positions I wasn’t at all interested in, or positions I had already found and applied for, but I thanked them for the leads regardless. I didn’t tell them when I applied for positions or which ones, just to make things easier on both of us.

    1. rayray*

      I get this. I also get people who mean well and send me irrelevant job leads. I’m in a similar field and position as you, and I get some that are relevant, but also suggestions to apply at fast food restaurants or part-time receptionist jobs. I know people are trying to help.

      I usually just try to thank them and let them know I appreciate them looking out for me but that I am looking more for x or y type of roles that are full time with benefits.

    2. OP With Unhelpful Family*

      Oh, I like the idea of thanking them for the leads but not telling them whether or not I’m going to apply for them, that’s a great idea! I did send them some examples of jobs that would be up my alley, in my field (although not sure about salary on any of them, since writing/editing jobs tend never to post salary ranges… which is ANOTHER letter!), but they seem to be ignoring that info.

      1. Ama*

        I use it more in a professional context than with my family but the “thanks for your input!” or “thanks, I’ll keep that in mind,” response when someone offers advice or comments is a really useful tool when it’s not worth your time or energy to get into a larger discussion about something.

      2. Glitsy Gus*

        Yeah, I think keeping it casual and not really talking about which ones you actually end up applying for will help you out a lot. Even with examples, it’s hard to know what someone else would like and wouldn’t like, especially if you work in a completely different field so it’s kind of to be expected that 90% of what they find that you haven’t found already will be a little off base.

        If you don’t feel the need to explain why you aren’t going to send your resume, or that you haven’t gotten an interview because you never applied because you know nothing about Underwater Welding, it’ll take the pressure off both sides and you can just give their leads a quick perusal and then delete or move forward. Of course, that does mean not telling them when you do apply as well, but that’s a good idea anyway. Tell them what’s up when you have real news.

      3. Nanani*

        If they’re ignoring the important info, then they’re not as interested in helping so much as feeling helpful.
        You might want to say “thanks but I’ll take it from here” or otherwise shut it down.

      4. Eukomos*

        I reply immediately with “thanks, I’ll check it out!” and then never bring it up again unless I actually do apply and get somewhere in the process. No one’s ever objected.

    3. MtnLaurel*

      I used a similar approach when I was getting started. Let’s say I was looking for software developer work, and my dad kept sending me posts for network design work…it’s all computers, right? The way I dealt with it was to thank him for sending them along and thinking of me, and to be grateful that he cared enough to try to help. And I’ll second not telling them which you’ve applied for. So, simply put, the way I dealt with this was to adjust my attitude on the leads and stop expecting useful leads.

    4. CodeGal*

      I’m really lucky to have supportive and loving parents, but that also means they insist I would be an incredible COO of X Biotech company and should apply tomorrow (I am 26 and a software engineer and have no idea what business is). I just say “Thanks, I’ll consider it!” and then screenshots to my friends and laugh. It’s unhelpful and not ideal, but it’s also not worth trying to explain what specifically with computers that I do and that my skillset has nothing to do with helping me get their printer to work (but they should check if it’s plugged in, it is never plugged in).

  7. Kenzi Wood*

    Somewhat unrelated, but I’m also a freelance writer. :) I turned to the Creative Revolt site to find a lot of avenues for work. You got this!

      1. Facepalm*

        I am a former editor, and I LOVELOVELOVED my job but it paid peanuts. I applied for a couple of technical writing jobs, landed one, the job got me a security clearance, and now I make more than triple what I used to make. I still would rather my work be more interesting to me personally, but there’s a lot more to be said for having a job that ends when I go home for the day and being able to spend my salary doing things I like to do. And I didn’t have technical expertise on any of the topics I have written about–I’ve learned on the job and also the subject matter experts review for accuracy. Frequently my job is acting more as a technical translator–the experts give me the information I need to write, and I take their jumbled engineer jargon and smooth it into something easily understandable. Give it a try, you may be surprised

  8. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I’m flashing back to the moronic conversations I used to have with my mother over my job search.

    My mom was outraged when I wanted to apply to FT jobs that were NOT unpaid internships, which is all I’d been doing at that point. She felt I was arrogant and “entitled” for wanting FT work with pay and benefits because, according to her, I hadn’t paid my dues. Whatever that means.

    My mom also used to tell me to apply to admin positions as a way to get my foot in the door instead of applying to the jobs I wanted. I told her I had no interest in being a receptionist or assistant as I don’t have the drive or personality qualities to do the job well. (I hate talking on the phone, and barely keep my own schedule organized let alone someone else’s.) She had the same reaction as above.

    BTW when I did actually land my dream job, both my parents didn’t think I was qualified for it. Yeah, so I don’t think family members are the best job advice resource.

    1. New Horizons*

      What, you mean you wanted a job that would allow you to pay your bills? How dare you! /s

      I can relate to getting that advice about how to get your foot in the door, though. True story: when I had just gotten my law degree and was still looking for work, my dad suggested I apply for a cashier position at Target. Not as a way to make ends meet until I found something more suitable, but because “You might be able to solve a legal problem for them, and they’ll be so impressed that they’ll promote you to their legal department!”

      *sigh* I love you Dad, but no helping, please.

      1. OP With Unhelpful Family*

        OMG, now I *really* think we are related. Our parents definitely both live in the same weird dreamworld, at least.

    2. Glitsy Gus*

      That’s tough, I’m sorry.

      I hate the whole “apply to be the receptionist and work your way up!” advice. I mean, sure, for the right person that may work out great. However, 90% of the time, if you know you would make a crap receptionist then it’s a horrible idea! How are you going to make yourself look good to the department you want to be in when you are in a job that you hate and will just never be all that great at? That is totally different in skill and scope than the one you want to do so they have no reason to look at you as a person who does well the thing you do well? It’s also kind of insulting to the assistants and receptionists. Those are not easy jobs that ‘anyone’ can do!

      Also, there is a real thing that happens where if you DO happen to be good at the entry job you applied for you can get pigeon-holed into being “the person great at handling a-hole callers” or whatever and then you have to fight tooth and nail to be moved out of any position that doesn’t involve a-hole callers. Sorry, end of rant.

      1. New Horizons*

        Agreed on all points. I’m also sick of the whole “pay your dues” attitude that just doesn’t seem to end. I mean, it’s one thing to think you’ll be the CEO with the corner office right out of school, but my parents used to talk about “paying my dues” first after I had my degree and had worked in several unpaid internships. Apparently that wasn’t enough, and I’d need to work for minimum wage in an unrelated field until… what, exactly? At what point would I become worthy of a full-time entry-level job in the field I was already trained and licensed in? I didn’t need to pay my dues; I needed to pay my rent.

        1. Product Person*

          It’s also such B.S., this pay your dues thing. It only makes you aim low. When I graduated in engineering, jobs in my city were paying a very low salary. I decided to widen the net and got a 6-figure job in NYC, double what I had been offered in my city. If I had this mentality of starting from the bottom and paying my dues, I’d probably still be earning 5 figures in my hometown instead of in Texas with a salary that continued to grow over the years with much lower COL than in NYC were I anchored my compensation.

      2. Snarkus Aurelius*

        I remember a receptionist being promoted to meeting planning. I felt bad for her because at least once a day she had to answer a question about the receptionist job. When the receptionist was out, she always filled in. When a printer was broken, she’d get asked to fix it.

        People never “saw” her promotion.

        That’s why I never advise people to go from admin into anything else.

      3. JSPA*

        It’s a premise for a rom-com film script, not a career plan.

        In fact, one reason it works as a film premise is because it’s so laughably unlikely as a career plan.

      4. londonedit*

        It used to be a legitimate way into my industry (publishing). In fact, it’s how I got in. The accepted form was that you’d get a job as a receptionist or office dogsbody at a small independent publishing company, you’d let it be known that you were interested in working in editorial, and when the editorial assistant left you might get promoted to replace them. It actually worked out pretty well – in a very small company, the receptionist sees everything, and I spent a year getting to talk to everyone and find out how their jobs worked and find out how a publishing company worked as a whole. I was a pretty crap receptionist, but everyone knew the receptionists were only ever there to get a foot in the door, so it was accepted as the norm. That was 15-odd years ago, though, and it doesn’t happen now because the small publishers have all been eaten up by the big ones, where being a receptionist is an actual important job that needs to be done by skilled people (rather than one you can fudge by being reasonable at answering the phone and signing for parcels) and where the reception desk has nothing to do with any of the other departments, so entry-level publishing jobs are now at editorial assistant level and competition is far higher than when I was starting out.

        1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

          Your point about larger organizations taking receptionist/admin roles more seriously is interesting. Now that I think about it, it’s something that I’ve noticed in a couple of the industries where I’ve worked as well. As you start needing admins to do more and have more organizational knowledge, you don’t want it to be a revolving door role full of people who are ill-suited to the role or are going to start angling to do something else on Day 1.

    3. Fly on the desk*

      Is that like the Craig Ferguson quote about his experience of being raised in Scotland? “Yah think yer grrreat, but yer noo grrreat!”

    4. Pommette!*

      Ah yes, getting your foot in the door.
      To this day, my father insists that I apply for “stupid jobs” in interesting organizations, as a way to get my foot in the door and eventually “work my way up” to an interesting, secure, and decently-paying job.
      “Stupid jobs” is his term. As far as I can tell, he uses it to refer to jobs that may require skill and talent, but do not require formal education, and sound as if they would be low-paying.
      We’ve had this conversation many times. I’ve explained that 1- the jobs he considers stupid often require a lot of talent and/or experience (which I often lack!!!); 2- the jobs are not ones where I would necessarily be able to demonstrate or improve any of my actual abilities, or be noticed for having them; 3- the jobs in questions have often been outsourced by the organizations I would want to work for; and 4- stupid jobs are not a thing! have yet to change his mind, in any way.
      So yeah. If your family happens to give helpful advice, great, but otherwise… ignore away.

    5. Elizabeth West*


      I have been an admin for fifteen years and it is damn hard to get out of that pool.

  9. Georgina Fredrika*

    It’s okay to just say thanks! You really are the best person suited to handle your job search and instead of trying to train them to help you, maybe give them suggestions of other ways they could help you out?

    I had a lot of people send me mis-matched jobs (sometimes below, sometimes above my ability level, sometimes months out of date or a place i would never commute to) when I was laid off (and of course, sometimes they sent me good ones!)

    I decided to just land on feeling cared-for that they took the time to do random, if sometimes misguided, job searches for me in their spare time!

    1. OP With Unhelpful Family*

      True. A friend pointed out that I could tell them “The best way to help me right now is to send money,” which made me laugh, although it’s also true. ;D

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yeah, this is how we ended up handling it – we considered relocating, and some of my family members were so excited we might come live near them that the started sending all sorts of jobs. Mind you, my mother has NEVER understood exactly what I do (and it’s a bit niche-y, I get that), so I expected some mismatch, but I was getting adds for first-line technical support, network engineering, and admin assistant jobs all in the same email. Like, they weren’t even INTERNALLY consistent. I went with smile and nod and suggesting other things that were actually helpful (“How far from you would this drive be?” “What’s the commute like on this road?” “Can you proofread this for me? I need fresh eyes.”).

      I tried to do a lessons-learned from this when my mom ended up job searching – I’d send her a few and say, “Let me know how close/far this is from what you’re looking for or what job requirements are/are not a fit.” I’d never send her more than 4 at a time and the feedback on each one made it easier for me to draft search terms and hone in on what she was actually looking for.

      I am much better at cover letter and resume help than finding postings! With those, I usually have an add with details to start with.

  10. AnotherAlison*

    I’d consider any publicly posted jobs are things you can find yourself. It wouldn’t be particularly helpful to have three of you scanning LI jobs, esp. when you’re the only one who understands the nuances of what you do.

    Could you redirect them to identify contacts in the industries you work in or contacts in the writing field? Take a step back from them finding you jobs and just look for people to network with who may actually be able to identify some openings that you can’t find on your own.

    1. OP With Unhelpful Family*

      That’s a good idea. My father, in particular, is always citing some guy he knows who is a published author (I mean… so am I, but I have no idea who this dude is, because he’s never told me his name) who has equally nebulous career advice, so who knows if they actually have any connections that could help, but I did get them to pass along the email address of another nameless “person who does this for a living” so I could email them directly. That person was much more helpful, even though they ultimately made it clear the job in question wasn’t for me, so I will try to get them to send more contact info for actual PEOPLE instead of jobs. Thanks!

      1. HugsAreNotTolerated*

        Yes! This! Too often when people job hunt (including myself until recently) they ask friends and family for help by saying “Let me know if you hear/see of anything that’s up my ally”, but what they really mean/should ask is “Who do you know? Can you connect me with someone who works in this or an adjacent industry? Or “Don’t you have book club with Person A who works for Company B? Can you ask if they’d be willing to speak to me about subject C?”

  11. Turanga Leela*

    I needed to network through a family member at one point when I was thinking about moving to his region. He’s older and has a lot of interesting connections in my field, even though he never worked in it (think golf buddies). My job search got derailed for totally unrelated reasons, but I feel like I was on a good path and wanted to share what worked.

    1) I went out to dinner with “Uncle Joe” and asked, “Do you actually know what I do?” He didn’t. We spent about an hour talking about it. I started from square one and he asked questions.
    2) I gave him a list of 3-4 workplaces and departments within those workplaces that I’d be interested in. He said he would ask his friends if they knew anyone in those places specifically.
    3) I sent Uncle Joe my resume, and he said he would start talking to his contacts. The goal was to set up informational interviews with either his friends or their friends to talk about transitioning to the region, whether I should be looking at yet other workplaces, and so on.

    1. OP With Unhelpful Family*

      This sounds promising! I did try to give them more of an idea of what I do my sending my résumé and links to 3 jobs I intended to apply for, and they have read some of the stuff I have written, but I am guessing they just don’t know anyone in those areas that can help with the job search and are trying to send more general info about a career path they have heard is lucrative instead.

  12. animaniactoo*

    Honestly, there’s going to be a learning curve. But the deal is not to immediately give up because they sent you the wrong thing. It’s to give them more information so that they know what’s useful.

    At this point, you can do an e-mail blast to them, and say “Hey guys, I appreciate all of you keeping an eye out and sending me a bunch of leads. Unfortunately, I’ve realized that what’s obvious to me is not obvious to you, because you don’t know the field or my work specifically enough! I don’t want you to waste your time snagging something that’s not a good fit, so I wanted to give you a better idea of what will be useful.

    The jobs i’m looking for will come with titles like “X, Y, or Z.” Maybe “XX and ZZ”. The job duties will generally cover things like “blah, blah, and blah”, and so on.

    Technical writing is a very specific field that I’m not qualified to do, and isn’t easy to learn, so those won’t be a good fit even if the money is good (it’s good because it’s so specific!).

    Thanks, I really appreciate the effort and if there’s anything else I think of, I’ll let you know.”

    Part of the key here is that you’re naming the problem with the technical writing jobs in a more specific way – it’s not just that you’re not qualified to do them, it’s that becoming qualified is a problem, not an easy transition. So even if they see it and know you’re not really interested, it’s actually not worth it to pass it along just in case because it just won’t work period.

    If they’re generally reasonable people (and I assume they are or you wouldn’t have asked for their help), that should help winnow down what kinds of listings they send you. And if it doesn’t – honestly, you did ask, it doesn’t take long to check out, and you can adjust your expectations of what you’ll get from them rather than trying to get them to adjust what they send. If all else fails… adjusting your expectations is in your control, and something you can take action on for yourself to cut down on the frustration of expecting one thing and getting another.

    1. OP With Unhelpful Family*

      They do seem to be convinced that technical writing is the answer to all of my problems, which is perplexing, especially since I’ve told them several times throughout the years that it’s really not my forte, my interest, or anything related to my expertise. I’ve sent them examples of jobs I’d apply for, and a copy of my résumé, and told them what industries I typically work in, so the Rocket Science stuff is definitely off-base. If they keep on sending these kinds of jobs, I’m just going to say thanks and ignore them.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Right, but have you told them not just that it’s not your forte, but something you can’t easily learn?

        Because I’ll bet you pretty decent money that they hear what you’re saying and think “well, it’s good money and it’s writing, so even if it’s not her expertise, she can probably do it and sometimes you can’t be choosy about jobs”. Which is an entirely different mindset from “OH. This is a specially learned skill that she can’t just go ahead and do if she needs a job”.

        1. OP With Unhelpful Family*

          Yes, but they still think it is something I can learn on the job, and even if it’s hard I am a smart person, so it should be no problem. Which is just an uninformed opinion that they’re sticking to, no matter what I’m actually saying, so it’s just become an exercise in frustration.

          1. WellRed*

            I think it’s best not to engage further than has already been suggested ( hey, thanks!) no need wasting time on trying to educate them.

          2. animaniactoo*

            Gotcha. Okay, then yeah, it falls into the thank them and move on category.

            (Although you might wanna ask them if they think you can write a legal brief, because, you know, it involves writing, right? You can pick up all the pesky legal stuff on the job, right?)

  13. lol*

    I find that it’s more helpful to tell them directly what sorts of roles you’re looking for. In addition, rather than asking them to help you look for job postings, ask them if they know of anyone that works in the particular industries or roles that you are seeking. I found that it’s more helpful to connect with people who are actually in the industry and know the nuances of the roles that you’re seeking, rather than sending your family members who have no idea or experience of what your industry is like to blindly search for job postings on Google or LinkedIn.

    With that said, I totally empathize. When I first graduated from my Master’s and was job searching, so many of my friends and family would give me unsolicited advice or send me the first job postings that they saw pop up in Google. Whenever I told them that the job posting wasn’t in line with what I was looking forward (I can’t apply for a Director posting when I am looking for entry level roles lol), they would come back to me and say “You just gotta have more confidence in yourself! You have a Master’s degree! You can totally be the head of a non profit!” LOL. I was so irked that they would just copy and paste whatever was the top search result on Google, as if I couldn’t do it myself, but I knew they had good intentions and set my boundaries with them early on.

    Good luck!

  14. juliebulie*

    I think of this as something like getting a bad birthday present. You say “thank you” and then you put the gift in the attic (because it seems wrong to throw it away right now, but will be easy in a year or two).

    You can try to hint around or even outright say that you don’t have anywhere to keep all of these cross-stitch Uni-Jack-O’Lanter-Corn wall hangings, but don’t be surprised if you continue to receive cross-stitch Uni-Jack-O’Lanter-Corn-wall-hanging-like gifts.

    My line of work is much easier to find jobs in, but I still got mostly useless “help” from relatives. Which I greatly appreciated, despite its uselessness, because I knew their hearts were in the right place. I didn’t encourage them to do it any more, though.

    Unless you really want to train your relatives in the very specific skill of hunting for jobs that are right for you, or unless they can get you in touch with people who really can help, best to just remind yourself that it’s the thought that counts.

  15. Anonya*

    I think it’s best to not ask family members for job searching help. General advice or reading your resume? Maaaybe … though tread cautiously. But they’re never going to understand your world as well as you do, so it’s a fairly pointless exercise for everyone involved.

  16. Employment Lawyer*

    Just ask them to stop–or better yet, limit them to “jobs which aren’t on the market.” You don’t need them searching the Help Wanted sections for you; you can do that on your own. It’s nice, though, if they let you know of any things that they find out through back channels.

    1. Bilateralrope*

      Yes I considered it a win when I got my dad to stop sending me leads that had shown up in my job searches.

      Though once I got a job, he kept sending me leads to what he thought was career advancement. Some were. Others were nearly identical to my current position.

      I’m trying to be better with my brother (Unemployed and looking for any paid work). So I’m limiting myself to sending him pictures of help wanted signs is store windows of stores he wouldn’t visit regularly.

  17. The New Wanderer*

    I’ve run into this as well, except I didn’t specifically ask for help. But I get “Here’s a job for you!” type emails from LinkedIn and GlassDoor with jobs that I am nowhere near qualified for nor interested in, and there’s no easy way (if at all) to make the job suggestions more appropriate.

    My mom used to send me leads on jobs with similar titles that have nothing to do with what I do. Think “Teapot Designer” jobs, which are pretty common, when I’m a “Teapot Historical Archivist,” which are rare enough to come by. Sure they both deal with teapots but in very, very different ways. I appreciated the thought but fortunately she stopped when I got a job I liked.

    Until I was laid off, that is. Then what I got was advice on how I should take a p/t retail job at the local mall while I was waiting for the right full time opportunity, and when I demurred, a lecture on how I shouldn’t consider myself “above” doing that kind of work. I demurred because I was in the position of not needing the money while plenty of people in this HCOL area might, not because I consider it beneath me to work retail.

    Ultimately I think the best sources for leads are other people in your field, dedicated sites for your field, or your own searching. For anyone else, it might be a bonus if they happen to make a connection for you but probably pretty rare.

    1. OP With Unhelpful Family*

      Yep, I have gotten similar advice from my family like “Sometimes you need to start at the bottom and work your way up!”, as if that isn’t what I’ve been trying to do for the past… decade or so? I certainly don’t think I am “above” any types of jobs, but I also know that the line of work they are suggesting is very competitive, and since I have neither experience nor interest in learning about all the ins and outs of what is actually a whole different career path, it’s not worth pursuing. But yes, I have also been the recipient of some lectures about how I just need to “believe in myself” or apply for ANYTHING that is remotely related to writing. Which is clearly them missing the point.

      1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        Just out of curiosity, do the family members in question hold or have ever held jobs that required much more than on-the-job training?

        Like I can think of a whole cluster of my family who’ve mostly ever only worked in jobs that require high school or at most maybe a <1 year vocational college program, and you know, that's their world. They're not underemployed, those are the jobs they are trained to do. On some level I think that probably limits their perspective when it comes to what barriers to entry look like in a lot of other jobs, as well as the (opportunity) costs involved in switching careers when you have more training and lucrative skills to begin with.

  18. Half April Ludgate, Half Leslie Knope*

    Oh man, I could have written this letter.

    When I got laid off, I told my friends and family the specific areas I was looking for jobs in, as well as one specific area I DIDN’T want a job in (which has many more jobs than my niche field, but I’ve done that work before and hate it, plus those jobs are vastly underpaid). I also told them that with my severance package, I was in no big rush – I wanted the right job, not the first job possible.

    Of course, I had several friends constantly sending me those jobs. One friend in particular even told me to take one truly awful job (which she swore she could “get me in to in a snap” and just bail as soon as I found a better job! Uh, no thanks,

  19. Rexish*

    Don’t ask family and friends fror help. They know your situation and they know to let you know if they hear something that you wouldn’t come across. It will be better for you and for them.

    I’m employed but my dad is Still determined that I need to find something that pays better and would provide more room for advancement (he doesn’t know what i make and I have no interest in management, but working in public sector it is common knowledge that the pay is crap and there is no promitions). The jobs he reccomends are so not appropraite. Head of public relations of a major university or head of HR of a big hospital complex. Ehm….never worked in HR or PR. And this man was in mangememtn position of a big multiantional company and should know better.

  20. annakarina1*

    I went through this when I was unemployed, where one of my family members kept pushing job references on me (basically just randoms she met who were in my field but not the same kind of professional role) despite that, while seeming in the same field, wasn’t in my area of expertise. If I refused it, I got seen as ungrateful, pressured by my family to take the lead, and when I’d get frustrated that the job lead I knew wasn’t right for me ended up being a bust, my family member wouldn’t apologize for butting into my job search or being rude and pushy and messing with my job searching stress. She saw herself as a nice person “just trying to help.” So I don’t involve my family in any future job search that is specific to my field, they’re not going to know what my particular skills or experiences are.

  21. AvonLady Barksdale*

    In my life, asking family for job-searching help is something I can’t even wrap my head around (none of them actually know what I do and I seriously doubt they care), but I have had friends help immensely with job searches– by introducing me to people, never by sending me job listings unless their workplaces were looking for someone in my field. Job postings are tough enough to parse on your own, don’t add that extra layer of annoyance! But if your friends know people at certain companies or in fields you’re exploring, absolutely ask for an intro if they’ve offered to help.

    I have offered lots of help to friends. I have offered to proof cover letters. I have sent links to AAM. I have passed on the name of my career coach. Occasionally I will say to someone, “Hey, I got the weirdest job posting recommended by LinkedIn, it is SO not me but you might be interested.” But nah, I truly believe it’s best if people look up their own postings.

    1. OP With Unhelpful Family*

      To be fair, I mainly asked them for help with my job search so that they would redirect their energy from constantly criticizing me and my husband, whenever I mention that we are struggling. And because they kept on vaguely alluding to people they knew who did this or that and seemed to have it all figured out (I requested they actually send me these folks’ contact info, so I could find out for myself what these people really do for a living, since they never seemed able to tell me what their job titles were, or where they actually worked, etc.).

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I understand the instinct– BELIEVE ME, I do– but I have learned that it is best to give my family very, very limited information. I was unemployed a few years ago, it was horrible for me, and my grandmother kept asking about my job search. When I told her I would give her news when I had some, she would say, “But I’m CONCERNED.” Well, lady, so am I, and I’m the one with bills to pay and stress to manage. She– and my other close relatives– have a really, really hard time with sympathy.

        I realize it may seem too late for this advice, but if you can find a way to re-establish your boundaries, it’s never a bad idea to try that. One way to do that is by throwing their job leads in the proverbial round file.

        Also, free yourself from the idea that you will ever win. Call me cynical, sure, but it helped me immensely. It’s about working to get to a place where their “advice” goes in one ear and out the other. Any job I have ever had doesn’t pay enough or isn’t impressive enough. When I had a director-level position at a very well known company, my mother still sent me things like, “I heard this magazine needs an editor!” even though I am… not an editor. When I went through that period of unemployment, I took a retail job to make a little money (and it was definitely a little) and to add some structure to my days, yet that wasn’t good enough, even though they got the benefits of my excellent employee discount. Oh, and they will sit and endlessly criticize people who do what I do, without even realizing that they’re talking about my colleagues and clients, because they do not know or care what I do for a living. It hurts, for sure, but I have gotten much, much better at not taking it to heart.

        A lot of people say that the older we get, the more we realize how smart our parents are. That’s probably true for a lot of people and in a lot of situations. But for some of us, the older we get, the more we realize how little they understand about some things and how damaging their advice can be.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          +1 on everything.

          OP, I’m sorry to hear your family is so critical. I have lived it, too.

          My husband and I are pretty darned successful, and it’s not good enough. But, heck, my dad stuck his foot in his mouth and insulted pediatricians in front of my cousin, whose wife is a pediatrician, so I guess only a radiologist or something would measure up. My dad is a truck driver, so. . .

      2. Smithy*

        If this is just about keeping your parents busy/re-directing their questions – then I think it’s fair to keep using versions of this tactic. But I wouldn’t expect it to reach a place of genuinely being useful.

        The best job hunting tactic with my parents that I used was when I was working with a job placement counselor. It let me tell my parents that I was “doing everything he said, and after three months of using his approach I’d evaluate if it was working for me and whether to continue or try something else”. Whenever they’d ask me questions about what I was doing or how things were going, my responses were always through the lens of “Based on the conversations and guidance of Mr. XYZ, I’m doing X”. No matter what other idea they might have – and even if it was an idea I liked and I’d do anyways – all my responses were “I’m sticking with this program right now to see how far it can take me”.

        If there’s a point where you have a new tactic or approach – such as “This month I’m going to really focus on setting as many networking calls as possible, and deprioritize applying to job postings. Again, thank you for the postings you’ve sent along and I’ll let you know if that would be helpful again.”

  22. Donkey Hotey*

    I can definitely empathize. I am also a technical writer receive all sorts of offers and “heads up” announcements and absolutely zero are in the same ballpark as what I do. Of course, it doesn’t help when “technical writing” can cover everything from literal rocket science down to machine assembly and everything in between. I’ve just developed a “Thank you for thinking of me” boilerplate. If they ever notice that they’re receiving the exact same reply every time, I would take it from there, but they haven’t.

    Good luck in your search!

  23. Curmudgeon in California*

    So, if you tell people “I’m a system administrator”, you shouldn’t be surprised when they send you administrative assistant jobs (I’ve even had recruiters do this!) Or, they send you Windows jobs when you do Linux. The 30 second elevator pitch of “what I do for a living” that you give to friends and family is not adequate for job referrals.

    Giving them a link to your online resume works better. But you still will get some well meaning relative that picks a phrase like “write scripts”, plugs it in to Google, and then inundates you with screenwriter jobs.

    When asking for job help, it’s helpful to add “at your company”, because otherwise you get search term salad when what you want are direct referrals to stuff you qualify for. At the very least, give them the keywords that get you the best hits, not a generic title.

  24. slih*

    why not just say ‘thanks’? there will be hits and misses. they are showing they care by helping you.

      1. slih*

        Putting time into looking for job leads for you and sending them to you. You seem to feel no thanks is needed unless they send you something better than you can find yourself. I don’t really get that. They’re taking time and acting out their caring for you.

  25. Sara without an H*

    OP, I really feel for you, but you’re asking the impossible. Unless your family members are currently employed in the same field you are, there’s just no way they’re going to be able to steer you to anything like what you want. They’re obviously trying, but they don’t know how.

    You need to be working your professional network, not relatives. Update you LinkedIn profile, and start contacting people you’ve worked with before, other people you know in the profession, job boards run by professional associations, and so forth.

    Your family should be your cheering section, source of moral support, and free food and dinners out. They aren’t — and probably should never be — treated as professional contacts.

    1. Willis*

      Yeah, this. Ask industry contacts for job leads, not family members (unless they somehow overlap with your industry, which it sounds like is not the case).

      At this point, I’d either tell them “nevermind, please stop” or just “thanks” + delete any irrelevant stuff they send you, which is probably most of it. But, really, even people who have a general understanding of what you do would be likely to send lots of irrelevant stuff cause they don’t know the intricacies of what you’re looking for. It’s kind of up to you to wade through it all if you ask for the help.

  26. Slightly Antisocial*

    Job hunting has been a struggle of mine since before I was an adult, and I’m always fielding friends and family members sending me job postings with “have you seen this!” 99% of the time it’s so completely unrelated to what I want to do, I barely even look at the postings. But this is an instance where I tell myself “it’s the thought that counts,” and I see it as them saying “I care about you and you’re on my mind” more than “I can actually give you tangible help in your career.” So my usual response is to thank them for taking the time to send me something and a vague comment about “looking into it.” Might not apply to your situation since you did ask them, especially if they’re likely to take it as encouragement to keep sending completely inappropriate leads, but perhaps if they prove unable to find more appropriate offers, it’s something polite to say.

  27. Gumby*

    Yeah, my family is not great at it either. At one point I was looking for a way out of software quality assurance (I succeeded eventually – no more test plans for me!) and a family member forwarded a listing for a position as IT manager for an entire city. Because it is “in computers.” Not only was I severely under-qualified, but if I had been qualified, the salary they were offering was peanuts considering the level of responsibility.

    I just took it as a sign of their love for me and their high opinion of my abilities. Though I did long ago stop responding to each proffered job listing with an explanation of why that won’t work. So it’s low effort for me to glance at it, see it’s not a fit, and then move on.

    1. emmelemm*

      Ah yes. The old “in computers” job! “You work in computers…. you should apply!”

      1. AnotherAlison*

        This often is accompanied by, “Can you fix my router?”

        WTF, Dad? My last “computer” class was C++ in 1997. I work on a computer. That’s all. I’m a project manager. My degree is mechanical engineering. Some of my friends are great “computer” hobbyists. I’m not.

  28. Anne of Green Gables*

    If you have former coworkers who you are close to, either friendly or professionally, it could be worth asking them to keep an eye out for what you are looking for. I was laid off in 2010 and it was my colleagues who helped me find a job. And it was a colleague from a previous job who reached out to me with the opening for the job I am in today–I wasn’t looking, but it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. She had worked with me for several years so she knew my skills and my strengths. People who work with you are likely to know what you’d be good at, and they likely know the field so know what would be a stretch, at a lower level, etc.

  29. Princesa Zelda*

    My family is doing the exact same thing, so you’re not alone! I’m a library paraprofessional so I’m looking for titles like “Library Assistant” and “Library Clerk,” where I’d be responsible for reference and programming and *maybe* supervising volunteers. My parents keep sending me listings for librarians and library director. It would be wildly out-of-touch for me to even think I am remotely qualified, but trying to explain this is a Sysiphean task. *sigh*

    1. Slightly Antisocial*

      It really is impossible for people outside of libraries to understand they aren’t just one blob of available jobs! I got my MLS specializing in tech services, but my family keeps saying things like, “Have you tried school libraries?” No, because school librarianship is a completely different level of training and certification than what I have! Oy…

    2. Pomona Sprout*

      I posted about this down below, before I saw this post. I’m going to add it here as well, before it fits so well, this is where it reall should have gone in the first place…

      This letter reminded me of something that happened years ago, when I was working in a large academic library. My job classification was “Chief Library Clerk,” which meant it was a clerical position with some limited supervisory responsibilities. I was not at the very bottom of the food chain there, but pretty close, and I didn’t even have a master’s degree in library science (just a BA in English).

      When the library director retired and the library opened a search for a new director, my in laws Just. Could. Not. Understand. why I didn’t apply. Never mind that the job was a faculty level position overseeing the work of professional librarians who were also faculty members, or that it required a PhD as well as as well as all sorts of other qualifications that I can no longer recall, NONE of which I had. According to them, I was “selling myself short” by not throwing my hat into the ring! “FACEPALM*

      So yes, relatives and friends often have very odd ideas about the work we do and what we are qualified for!

    3. Pommette!*

      My family members are strong advocates of putting yourself out there. Don’t sell yourself short! After all, trying can’t hurt! Don’t be lazy!
      It’s frustrating, especially when I encounter situations like the ones you describe (different field, similar mix of qualification types). By applying for some of those jobs, I would be showing myself to be wildly out of touch with the norms of my profession, and wildly ignorant about its structure. It’s not a good look, and it’s a dangerous image to project.

  30. Filosofickle*

    Oof, this is such a conundrum. Most advice says to engage friends/family and especially “weak ties” as part of networking for new opportunities. OTOH, I work in a niche role in a niche field and virtually 100% of leads I’ve ever gotten are way off base. (I especially can’t get people to remember I don’t do the same thing as I did 10 years ago.)

    So, I totally understand the advice about “stay open to new things” and “you never know where the next lead will come from” but it’s hard when it’s always a bust. I don’t want to cut off opportunities or people genuinely trying to help, but it saps my energy. I wonder how I can dial down the anxiety I feel around it, because I can see how that’s really the problem.

  31. Mel_05*

    I’m a graphic designer, but whenever people know I’m looking for a job they always send me listings for web developers or back end coders.

    I also do freelance illustration work, which means that I’m constantly getting advice on how to get new illustration gigs. I used to explain to people that the industry doesn’t work that way, but now I just thank them for their idea.

    People just have no idea how anyone else’s job works.

    1. Filosofickle*

      I was a graphic designer early in my career. My grandmother was constantly advising me to get a job with “the pink pages” — her city’s version of the yellow pages, and she knew someone who knew someone who worked there. No one graduating design school aspires to lay out ads for the phone book. That sounded like hell. And, I had a job!

      At some point, I taught my mom to say I designed “logos, annual reports, and brochures”. (This is back in the print era.) Getting to this place was inspired by a keynote by Michael Beirut — he contacted all his design friends and asked them “What does your Mom tell people you do?” and his speech was all about their responses. Which included disapproving sidesteps like “he went to dental school”.

    2. scribblingTiresias*

      Ah, the “family members who have never worked in a creative industry who somehow know All About the specifics of YOUR particular industry” problem…

  32. Littorally*

    Yeah, OP, I feel this big time. My industry has a very sharp division between client-facing work and analytical work, and I’m on the client-facing side. Last time I was job-hunting, my well-meaning father kept sending me job listings for the analytical side, which I’m entirely unqualified to do. But they’re prestigious jobs in my general industry that pay very well! And I’d have to start over and lose a ton of career progression.

    Unfortunately, there isn’t really a good way to push back on this short of “please stop helping.”

  33. Pomona Sprout*

    This reminds me of something that happened years ago, when I was working in a large academic library. My job classification was “Chief Library Clerk,” which meant it was a clerical position with some limited supervisory responsibilities. I was not at the very bottom of the food chain there, but pretty close, and I didn’t even have a master’s degree in library science (just a BA in English).

    When the library director retired and the library opened a search for a new director, my in laws Just. Could. Not. Understand. why I didn’t apply. Never mind that the job was a faculty level position overseeing the work of professional librarians who were also faculty members, or that it required a PhD as well as as well as all sorts of other qualifications that I can no longer recall, NONE of which I had. According to them, I was “selling myself short” by not throwing my hat into the ring! “FACEPALM*

    So yes, relatives and friends often have very odd ideas about the work we do and what we are qualified for!

  34. Anon Anon*

    It took my Dad almost 20 years to get any sense of what I did, and I think he only grasped a clue because I have a sibling in the same industry. My mother has never grasped why I don’t back to working at Nordstrom selling shoes (as I did in grad school), because she felt like it was a dream job. I think unfortunately all you can do is smile and say thank you and ignore the irrelevant leads. Sorry!

  35. Sparrow*

    Yeah, it’s really hard for an outside person to judge. One of my old coworkers, who became a good outside-work friend, has been casually looking for a position for ages. We worked together closely for five years, so I have a very thorough understanding of her experience and strengths, and I fully grasp what she’d ideally like to be doing in our field. I’ve still never forwarded her a position she actually went on to apply for.

    I’m able to anticipate that she won’t be thrilled about X aspect of the position, but even with a thorough understanding of her professional skills and interests, it’s hard to tell if the overall position is interesting enough to her that she’d be willing to overlook X. Your family is working with even less information and context, so it’s not surprising that they’d struggle to identify things you’d be interested in.

    This would be a good time to reach out to your professional network – they’re likely to get closer to the mark than your family. And it can’t hurt to have your family continue sending you links – it doesn’t take too long to open the posting and decide it’s not for you, and they might accidentally get lucky!

  36. RJ*

    I feel your pain, OP. I’ve been unemployed since February and the jobs/leads that I’ve gotten from friends haven had nothing to do with what I actually do for a living. My resume details my experience as a Senior Project Accountant, listing the companies I’ve worked at, how large these companies are, the budgets for the projects I’ve handled and the workflow specifics that I’ve implemented. The positions they’ve sent me are for general accountancy, taxation and finance roles. I’m polite but clearly let them know when the listing(s) they’ve sent have no basis for what I know how to do. It’s walking a tightrope between appreciating their support and coming off as snippy and rude.

  37. I'm just here for the cats*

    This is so odd because last year when I had to take a mandatory class at the workforce development center for unemployment they said that you should tell everyone you know that you are looking for work and to pass job info on. Just another thing that shows that those in the workforce development center don’t know what they are doing. There was so much bad/outdated info I was given, including 2 people giving me exact opposite advise. One said you don’t need an objective as it’s out dated and another person said you must have an objective and implies that you would be disqualified without it.

    1. OP With Unhelpful Family*

      OMFG, I’m *so* glad this pandemic has made the mandatory workforce development center class unnecessary, because I would be murdering people over there. They have absolutely NO CLUE about the needs of nor the state of the current job market. I doubt anyone who works at these places have ever held real jobs in their lives. /rant

    2. Cat*

      It’s not bad advice because something might come up. You just can’t expect most of it to be useful. And it’s not googleable job postings you want. It’s personal leads.

    3. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

      From my experience the ‘tell everyone you know that you’re looking for work’ advice is more about leaning into your personal and professional networks – the idea is that people you know might be able to put you in touch with their old coworker who works in your industry, or their uncle who spent a decade doing the type of job you’d like to get into. The value is from using your connections to find opportunities and contacts that aren’t publicly posted, rather than just enlisting more people to search through Google with you.

  38. Solar Moose*

    > Most people are going to be pretty bad at finding job leads that fit you well.

    I’m bad at doing it… for myself.

    It took me until my last job hunt to realize what types of roles I really liked, because I had pigeon-holed myself into a different type of role.

    Now I’ve had the new type of role for nearing 2 years, and it’s been a great shift! … I’m 30 :-)

  39. House Tyrell*

    My family is well meaning but whenever I’m between jobs they send me all kinds of things I don’t qualify for and tell me I should believe in myself more. But it’ll be jobs like cancer cell researcher at a university or professor roles even though I don’t have a PhD and while yes I did used to work at a university it was as a student so no that does not translate to being a scientist on a campus. Or I work in politics so I get sent GS15 jobs even though I’ve never worked for the government or producer and editor roles for political TV shows and NPR even though I don’t work in journalism or broadcasting, they just see “politics” in the description.

    My advice: thank them but tell them these aren’t roles you are even remotely capable of doing and really stress that. Alison’s advice is as good as it gets for this!

  40. Anonymouse*

    I was once Sent an advert for a job shortly after being made redundant from my first job.

    They hadn’t read the advert themselves otherwise they’d have realised that they were looking for a Company Director…

  41. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

    Do people here find that the unhelpful family thing is a bigger issue (or more frequently leads to those weird combative “you think you’re too good for XYZ” reactions) when your family members are, well, lower-SES than you?

    When I lost my job (an analytics and research-y gig) a while back, my family inserted themselves into my job search. I heard a lot of “well why can’t you just become a receptionist?” from my health care aide mom. When I explained why I wouldn’t be a competitive applicant she started criticizing me for being picky because “they make good money”. Which…that’s not the point. OTOH, my university-educated uncle who is retired from a white-collar career (but in a different field from me) wasn’t throwing that stuff at me. He may not know my field much at all, but he’s done enough hiring to know not to suggest that I apply for things I’m not qualified to do (like I’m not an accountant! Confidence doesn’t make up for not being a CPA!). Nor was he suggesting that I start looking at working a couple grocery store jobs.

    I get that they’re both trying to help, but someone like my mom has little frame of reference for what white-collar careers look like. She works in a field where people still often apply for jobs in person, and I suspect doesn’t personally know women (other than me and her nieces) who have ever held office jobs that aren’t clerical or call centre work. She also believes most people need to have more than one job, which again says a lot about frame of reference. I don’t like making those kinds of generalizations, but I wonder if there’s something there in both the unhelpfulness and and the defensiveness about not applying for just any job.

    1. Pommette!*

      For what it’s worth, my father and his side of the family have a much higher-SES than I do (we all have graduate degrees, but they got good jobs right off the bat, in organizations that promote from within; I am struggling professionally and financially), have hired highly-educated applicants for specialized roles, and STILL advise me to apply for receptionist and administrative-assistant jobs that have nothing to do with my background… It’s baffling.

      1. Pommette!*

        All of which is to say that I can’t come up with a good explanation for my own family’s unhelpful take on the topic of job hunting, but that your explanation for your mother’s attitude seems entirely plausible. Having an understanding of where she might be coming from probably makes it much easier to take her bad advice in the loving spirit it was intended.

  42. radiant peach*

    I finished a higher ed/student affairs graduate degree in December and my aunts keep sending me postings for faculty/dean/provost positions. I cannot seem to make them understand what advising is no matter how hard I try.

  43. Nev*

    Instead of asking them to send you job leads, consider asking them to talk you up (but not in a pushy way) with people they know. You never know where an interesting lead will come from. Just last night a friend texted to connect me with a recruiter in my industry. The recruiter serves a way different part of the industry than I work in and any job lead he has would be wildly inappropriate for me, but he might know someone in my part of the industry, so I sent him my resume. (And apologized if my friend was over-pushy. ;-) I keep open to these seemingly unrelated connections because I got my first industry job based on a connection made while out tango dancing 2 hours away from where I lived at the time. The person did not work in my industry but knew someone who did. Good luck!

  44. Vickie*

    Ugh. My husband did a this while I was unemployed and looking, though he would send interesting jobs with schedules I didn’t want to work, mostly ads that specifically stated the job was 10-hour days and I repeatedly told him I hit my wall around 7.5 hours. He’s worked 12-hour days for years and doesn’t understand why I would find that schedule difficult. I would thank him for looking out for me, but give a firm “no” when he asked if I was going to apply. I think you can take a similar approach with your family: thank them for keeping an eye out, but say the job isn’t for you. GOOD LUCK! I sincerely hope you find something.

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