my dad is giving me weird and sexist career advice

A reader writes:

I am a woman working in the predominantly male industry of commercial real estate. I have experienced some sexism at work, but nothing I can’t handle on my own. What I do have trouble handling is the sexism that comes from my parents, specifically my dad.

I’ve been working in commercial real estate for the last six years, so I’m not exactly new in the field. My dad is retired now but was a medical professional, and has no knowledge about my industry. I was at my last company for five years until I was furloughed in May with a return to work date of August. During my time on furlough, I did a lot of self-reflection (and read a LOT of your columns) and realized that I did not want to return to my toxic work environment. So I began my job search!

When I was applying for jobs, my dad really wanted to be involved despite living on the other side of the country. Much of what I did to keep him “involved” was just informing him of the decisions I was making (with or without his support). I sent him my cover letter, and he told me that it was “too aggressive.” When I reminded him that my industry is aggressive and male-dominated, he told me that “no one wants to work with an aggressive woman.” I told him that several colleagues I have in the industry read the cover letter and really liked it, saying it was not aggressive at all, particularly for my industry. When I told this to my dad, he said “agree to disagree then” and even seemed slightly bitter that I got the job despite his critique. After this (and reading several of your articles about parental involvement) I vowed to not talk to my dad about job hunting again.

This past Friday, I took a half-day. About two hours after I stopped working (and informed my bosses I was not going to be working again until Monday) I got an email from my boss saying he needed me to do a task for him ASAP. I did not have sufficient information to complete the request, and as this was a one-off occurrence, I told him I was more than happy to complete the task once all the appropriate information came in but until that point, there was little I could do and he left it alone. A day later, I was talking to my dad about this instance. My dad’s response was that I “sound like a difficult employee that no one wants to work with.” At that point, I told my dad that something had come up and quickly got off the phone to call my brother.

I’ve never thought of my dad as a sexist until my recent job search, and now I can’t seem to shake it. How can I go about setting boundaries with my dad regarding my career? I’m nearly 30, and I just can’t seem to get him to accept that I’m not a kid anymore and I have credibility than he seems to realize.

Well … stop talking to your dad about your work life and career.

It sounds like you’d like to be able to use him as a sounding board and/or just keep him posted on what’s going on with you professionally, which are both understandable things to want to do with a parent! But he’s making it clear that if you do that, (a) he’s going to give you bad advice and (b) that bad advice will be rooted in sexism.

That doesn’t make your dad a bad person. It might make him someone from another era who hasn’t adjusted his thinking for this one. Or who knows, maybe he was always the sexist guy at work, even a couple of decades ago, but didn’t bring it home in ways you noticed. “No one wants to work with an aggressive woman” certainly sounds like this might go way back.

If he hadn’t made the “aggressive woman” comment and instead it was all things like “don’t set boundaries on your time off or you’ll be seen as difficult,” I might think he’d been overly conciliatory and accommodating throughout his own career and didn’t realize that wasn’t required to be successful — that maybe he was a bit of a pushover himself and had just been messed up by the power dynamics of work. Or, alternately, that he’d been a tyrant with his own staff and expected instant obedience to any request, and thus is alarmed to see you doing something he’d have bristled at if he were your boss. And who knows, maybe one of those things is going on too. But the “aggressive woman” concerns speak pretty directly to sexism playing a big role.

Separately from that … I might be reading too much into one detail, but if he seemed bitter that you got a job without taking his input, your dad might not be in this to support you in the way you want. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you or want what’s best for you — but it would mean he’s not a good support for this specific stuff because, at least in this one area, he’s more invested in being right than in cheering you on. (I’d be interested to know if you’ve seen signs of that in other areas too, or if it’s all job stuff. But again, I might be reading too much into a single detail. And to be fair, I don’t doubt that it’s hard to want to offer your adult kid something of value and turn out to know less than you thought.)

That’s just all speculation though. Ultimately, what’s important is that you don’t need to keep your dad in the loop to the extent you’ve been doing, or even at all. There are lots of things you can talk to him about that aren’t work-related! Don’t send him your cover letters. Don’t give him updates on your job or share specifics about what’s going on at work. A lot of people have close, loving relationships with their parents but don’t involve them in their professional lives at this level of detail. (Most people don’t share this level of detail, in fact!) It’s not weird or hostile to pull way back on your work conversations and talk about other things instead.

At the end of your letter, you noted that you can’t seem to get your dad to accept that you’re not a kid anymore. That’s not necessarily something you can get him to accept — it has to come from him, and a parent’s timeline on that is often different than the one you’ll want them to have. All you can do is simply lead your adult life — and engage with him respectfully but while asserting whatever boundaries you’ve decided are right for you. If you take that approach, at some point it won’t matter so much whether he sees you as a kid or not, because you’ll be calmly living as an adult regardless. (And know he may never fully get there! Parents stay parents, much of the time.)

{ 378 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A note for commenters: Please remember that you are writing about the letter-writer’s parent, who she loves. If you don’t feel you can be respectful and constructive when talking about her parent, please give the comment section a pass today. Thank you!

  2. Will "scifantasy" Frank*

    “You can’t make them—whoever your particular them is—do anything, really. Adulthood isn’t an award they’ll give you for being a good child. You can waste . . . years, trying to get someone to give that respect to you, as though it were a sort of promotion or raise in pay. If only you do enough, if only you are good enough. No. You have to just . . . take it. Give it to yourself, I suppose. Say, I’m sorry you feel like that, and walk away. But that’s hard.”
    –Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campain

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      When I was 27, my mom asked me what I was doing for NYE. This was on Christmas Eve. I told her some friends and I were doing Times Square. She had the audacity to “forbid” me to go because she thought I’d get mugged. I laughed and then told her to pound sand. Then I reminded her I’d never been mugged and that her son had been mugged twice so perhaps she could redirect her concern to him?

      I’m not asking for permission. I don’t need it. I don’t care. My family will never stop seeing me as the youngest because birth order is the only power they’ll ever have. My power comes from other things. This is their problem, not mine.

      1. TiffIf*

        I remember when I was visiting my parents for Christmas when I was still a college student–I was borrowing my Dad’s car to visit some friends and he started lecturing me on what time I needed to be home by. I was just kind of staring at him, not believing he was doing this. My mom caught my expression and said “John–she’s 21.” He stopped short, went “oh right. Just make sure I have the car back by the time I need to go to work.” (He at that time had to leave for work around 3 or 4 AM.)

        1. Ana Gram*

          I met my mom for lunch while I was at work one day and, when we left the restaurant and stepped off the curb to head to our cars, she put here hand out to stop me from walking so the car wouldn’t hit. I was a uniformed police officer. I think I actually saw the lightbulb go off above her head! It was a moment in our relationship, for sure!

          1. newbieMD*

            I just love this so much! Last year I was in the passenger seat when my mom was driving and when she had to stop quickly, her arm automatically shot out in front of me to presumably keep 125 pound me from flying through the windshield. We had a good laugh about that.

          2. LemonLime*

            I can’t help but find that a sweet gesture! I remember soon after my first was born I worried incessantly about SIDS, choking, falling, etc.etc. I could barely sleep because when the babe was asleep I worried I’d fall asleep and something would happen. I couldn’t wait until my little one was past this stage and I didn’t need to worry so much.
            I was visiting my grandmother and overheard her say to my father, who was well into his fifties, she worried about him on his motorcycle. That’s when it hit me, the worry doesn’t magically go away when kids become adults. Parents have to learn to internalize those worries but sometimes it comes out in the form of a hand stopping you from getting hit by a car. Just give your mom a kiss and know she still secretly wants to wrap you in a warm hug and bubble wrap.

          3. Mimi Me*

            This is a parent instinct I think. I embarrassed my 14 year old just the other day by reaching for his hand as we were crossing a parking lot because a car approaching quickly made me nervous. My son wiggled his hand free and looking at me like I’d suddenly sprouted 4 heads. Honestly though, there was no forethought to the gesture. My brain saw approaching car at faster than safe speed and my child in the potential path and just took hold of my body. I’m sure there will be more moments like this as we all get older.

      2. Tisiphone*

        Another lastborn here.

        When I was 13, I hit upon the idea of *telling* my parents I was going to do something instead of *asking* them. The first time was hard, as I wasn’t sure what I’d get for a response. Turned out that unless there was a good reason for a no, presupposing a yes gave me a lot more freedom. The answer was almost always yes.

        But this power came with responsibility. For instance, riding my bike to the mall five miles away required me telling them where I was going and when I’d be back. In fact, my dad even showed me the super secret bike path way to get there.

        I had cool parents. They had their moments of Tisiphone Lastborn Will Always Be Our Baby. WhenI moved out of the house, they kept asking me to move back in with them, and stopped only when I bought a house.

        1. Rhonda*

          I had a similar realization in regards to telling vs asking when I was around 14. It always amused me that my friends had curfews because I don’t think it ever occurred to my parents to give me one and I certainly never brought it up. I was always (fairly) honest with my parents about where I was going and what I was doing and they rewarded that with rarely telling me I couldn’t go somewhere or do something. I never felt the need to sneak out or lie to my parents as a teenager because they respected my independence.

          Funnily enough, however, my parents are baffled that I choose to pay rent for an apartment instead of just living with them. My mom recently told me she wished I visited more, I’m over at there least once a week, lol.

          1. PeanutButter*

            Same for me – I never had a curfew, it was just expected that I’d call if my general plans changed. This has translated into adult life – when I’ve had room mates we have generally kept each other in the loop on when we’re coming and going. We’re not asking permission of each other, just letting folks know when it’s time to send out a search party.

          2. it's-a-me*

            I never got a curfew because my parents knew I’d rather be sleeping than partying. I think the worst I ever stayed out was 11pm and I was well in to adulthood at that time

            1. allathian*

              I didn’t have a curfew either, but I never indulged in underage drinking. I only started going to bars when I hit 18, which is the legal drinking age here, as well as the age of majority. I moved out at 19, mostly because it was unnerving to get home at 3 AM and face my dad at the kitchen table. I wanted him to sleep, but realized that he couldn’t as long as he had to worry about me getting home. Nothing untoward ever happened to me, except one time someone must’ve spiked my drink because I’d only drunk half a glass when I got completely woozy, but luckily I had my friends with me who made sure I got home safely.

              I was working as well as going to school at the time and didn’t pay rent at home, so I spent some of my wages on going out, books, CDs, and clothes (this was just before the financial crisis in 1991) and saved the rest. The partying money included a cab fare home.

      3. Ally McBeal*

        This tangentially reminds me of when I told my mother (a lifelong suburbanite) that I was moving to NYC and asked if I could exchange my Xmas gift (a Garmin GPS) for an iPod so I could listen to music while I was walking around the city. She agreed, but not before warning me that she had read a news story about a man who was walking around NYC with earphones turned up so loud that he didn’t hear a plane, which fell directly onto him, so she didn’t think headphones were safe. I had to explain to her that (1) no headphones could drown out the sound of an airplane less than 500 feet above you, and (2) NYC streets are too narrow for this to be physically possible. This could happen in an Iowan corn field, maybe, but not in Manhattan.

        But I’m the older of two siblings – I can’t tell gender from your story, but it sounds to me like birth order might have had less to do with it than gender.

        1. Attack Cat*

          Reminds me of my mom being worried about me walking around at 7pm because the sun had gone down. It’s the time of night and the amount of people about that matters around here, not the position of the f@$#ing sun. I realize that might not be the case everywhere, but I’m not there, I’m here. Here in a place where the few instances of sexual harassment I faced were on weekday morning/afternoons in the summertime. Because I live in a college town where you are most isolated during those times. 11 pm feels less isolated and safer by comparison. Safety is not a checklist that you follow, it’s remaining aware of your surroundings and adapting to your circumstances.

      4. drago cucina*

        On a family visit in the Bay Area my oldest son decided to go into San Francisco by himself. I had a sinus headache and didn’t want to go. So, I dropped him off at the BART station in the morning and arranged a rough time to expect him back. My family was agog that I let him go by himself. I reminded them that he was in his 30s and did search and rescue with the in New Orleans after Katrina. I didn’t think Fisherman’s Wharf was going to be a problem. I also informed them that if he could jump out of an airplane safely he could probably handle BART.

        Having an adult relationship with our children is sometimes the hardest task of a parent.

    2. GinnyDC*

      Such a great quote! (I love all of Lois McMaster Bujold’s writing but I’m a particularly big fan of the way she writes about parents and children and how even the best parents and the best children have complicated relationships.)

    3. TootsNYC*

      THE JOB of being a child is to get to the point that you don’t care what your parents think. They can’t do that for you; it’s all inside your head.

      It’s tough! And some parents make that separation easier than others do. My parents made it really easy; my ILs aren’t as good but they aren’t as bad as this dad; I’m somewhere between my ILs and my own parents.

      But the main job is yours.

      1. Jackalope*

        I think you maybe just phrased this differently than what you meant but I disagree that our job is to stop caring what our parents think. Setting adult boundaries for them and enforcing if needed, yes. But you can have an adult healthy relationship with your parents and still care plenty about what they think.

        1. 'Tis Me*

          Giving their opinions more weight than your own, perhaps? Being able to listen to them, keep in mind all of the factors that affect any advice they may have (retired parent who worked in a completely different industry with different norms, etc) – and then make up your own mind based on all of the information you have, guilt-free.

          I’m in my mid-30s, a married mother of three, have co-owned a home with my husband for 11 years now… My parents still try to guilt-trip me. They are good enough at this that there are times my husband ends up having discussions with them as if he has unilaterally laid down the law (whereas in actuality we have discussed whatever and agreed on what we want, and that this is the least painful way to get them to accept our decision)…

          I like the idea of claiming my adulthood rather than looking at the checklist and going “… OK, yeah, my room is a complete tip. I guess I’m not a real adult yet…” ;)

        2. Teyra*

          I think the key is that it has to be mutual. I can’t care what my parents think if my every thought (including ones about my own life, and my own priorities) is mocked, criticised, dismissed and branded ‘stupid’ straight off the bat by them.

          Parents need to respect their children in order to be respected by their children. Especially when the children in question are grown up.

          1. nonegiven*

            It doesn’t have to be mutual. You just say yes mom, ttyl. Then go and do what you were going to do, anyway.

            1. Teyra*

              Well sure, that’s what you do if there isn’t mutual respect. I’m not sure if you’re agreeing with me or not? My point is that you’re not going to listen to your parents if they’re not going to listen to you.

      2. DyneinWalking*

        Actually, I’d argue that it’s the parent’s job to raise their child into an independent individual, but if they fail to do so the only other person who can do the last step is the child themselves.

    4. Academia blues*

      It was literally in my head as I read the post!

      What a great quote (that and the one about heart’s desires).

      1. TiffIf*

        The heart’s desires quote is one of my favorite ever.
        (So nice to find LMB fans here!)
        Another appropriate one to the context of careers:
        “Some people grow into their dreams, instead of out of them.”
        -Komarr

    5. Retired Prof*

      Yes, I wonder how much the LW feels like she needs her dad’s blessing for her actions. A big part of adulting is learning to validate your own actions instead of looking for validation from family or friends.

  3. Sacred Ground*

    “It might make him someone from another era…”
    What, the late 20th century? This is hardly an excuse. Let’s not just excuse people’s harmful choices because they’re old, ok? Feminism didn’t just appear recently. The “product of his time” excuse has always been BS. It assumes that there wasn’t any argument or controversy back then and that everyone of a given generation thinks more or less the same way. This has never been true.

    I hear the same sexist arguments made by teenage boys today as I did when I was one back in the ’80s. It’s not OP’s father’s TIME that taught him sexist assumptions. It was his family and upbringing that did that. Plenty of men of his generation were taught otherwise.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, the late 20th century. When sexism was still wildly endemic, as it still is today. It’s not about excusing his harmful choices, it’s about the OP putting her dad in context so she better understands him. It’s not about giving him a pass.

    2. Artemesia*

      I am in my 70s and I came of age in a very sexist world where jobs were listed by gender and women were not admitted unless they were very overqualified to professional school and I could not get a passport in my name because I had kept my name at marriage and the government insisted I had to use my husband’s last name on my. passport. But all that began to change in the 70s and 80s — so the father of a 30 year old most certainly is not a product of the 50s but came of age when women’s rights were very visible. We are getting past the point where we can excuse sexism and racism on ‘oh they are old and that was the way it was back in the day’.

      1. MK*

        I think you are overestimating how visible these issues were to people who weren’t directly affected by them.

        1. TechWorker*

          Really? There’s lots of ‘isms’ that are ‘easy’ for some people to never see, if they only hang out in neighbourhoods full of people who look like them, are roughly as rich as them and don’t look hard to see who’s missing from the room. Everyone has women in their family.

          1. nona*

            But even if you (the guy) have women in your family (wife, daughers?) you still aren’t trying to get passports as a women bucking the societal naming norms, or a credit card as a women or a mortgage as a women. And the women in their family may not have noted the difference because the women weren’t encountering them (because they were married or too young to encounter at the time).

            Same argument applies – those guys didn’t see the issues women were facing because those guys were not inconvenienced by them.

            1. Jackalope*

              Yes, this. If you’re not the one dealing with it, you notice it a LOT less even if it’s your wife/sister/daughter who’s facing it. I’ve noticed at times that when I’m with a man that I care about (husband, father, etc.), if I point things out they will realize something that was sexist but if I don’t they often just don’t see it. And honestly, for women who changed their names when they got married, it’s possible they didn’t know that there would have been an issue with getting a passport in their birth name, for example. This is not to say that this is good, but just to support what MK and Nona said about people not realizing what was going on around them.

        2. JSPA*

          51% of people were directly affected by them, and a non-zero percentage of the other 49% presumably noticed something.

      2. ega*

        I just wanted to say I am 25 and my brother is 30, my dad is 78. My dad is “woke” and has never been anything put empowering of me as a young woman and recently texted me “Wow! I am very impressed with your achievements in the business world (although not surprised), as well as very happy for you.” in regards to news I accepted a new job.

        All of this to say, this woman could easily have a father who was a teen or in their early 20s in the mid-late 50’s-early 60’s.

        1. Barb*

          It’s good your dad is supportive as well as older, but it doesn’t prove that older dads are common at all– they’re just biologically possible. Is your point that much older men can still be supportive/not sexist? Or that many older men are having young kids? Or both? It’s unclear to me.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            Artemsia said “the father of a 30 year old most certainly is not a product of the 50s but came of age when women’s rights were very visible,” which is easily read as “they don’t exist.” so ega’s comment that 1) her dad is 78 (born in 1942) and 2) has children ranging in age from at least 25 – at least 30 is that they do “most certainly” exist. It may be the others too, but it’s not really something to be confused about.

      3. AnotherAlison*

        I think it takes a couple generations. My dad was born in 1952 and my sister is in her early 30s. My dad didn’t have an indoor toilet in the house he was raised in. My grandma was born in 1926 (still alive, hanging on by a thread), and lived in a freaking covered wagon during her childhood (when they lost the farm).

        My dad was raised in a small community in the 50s and 60s. Sure, feminism was alive and well when he was coming of age, but sexism was pretty well accepted where he lived and worked. My dad only had two daughters, so in some ways he was not extremely sexist. He wanted me to be an engineer. In other ways, much like OP’s dad, he is extremely sexist, like thinking he actually had a vote in what my major was, where I worked, who I married, etc.

        For me, growing up in the 80s, post-Title IX, while I’ve still seen my share of sexism in the male dominated world, it was a lot different from your gen and my mom’s gen, but it wasn’t until I got older that I realized how much had changed in one generation (like getting to wear pants to school!) and that some people did not get the memo.

        1. JSPA*

          Right–we had to fight for pants, and never won shorts. I’m in my 50’s.

          My mother had to fight to wear snowpants, walking to school, home for lunch, back to school, back home, in grade school, a distance of ~10 miles a day (and yes, I’ve walked it myself, using Strava to confirm the distance)–in winter, in a European country known for snow and ice. Pants were not ladylike, even if you tucked your skirt in and removed the snowpants for class. Her parents backed her up, 100%.

          But they were not shy about making comments of other sorts on women being the “right sort” of women, or men being the “right sort” of men.

          Nor, for that matter, were my parents.

          It’s a process.

          1. TardyTardis*

            Our school didn’t let us wear pants even when it was 12 degrees with snow, and it was at least a mile to walk to and from. Still mad? You bet.

          2. TheOperaGhost*

            In the late 90s my class in middle school lobbied for the right for girls to wear pants. Catholic School, the building was old and drafty, and we had to stand outside the building for up to an hour in the morning (depending on what time the bus dropped you off) in the winter cause it was locked. We were freezing.

        2. Union Maid*

          in Junior High we went on strike for the right to wear pants to school. The boys came out on strike with us. We won. 1969/70.

          1. BubbleTea*

            Letting girls wear trousers at my school was still very recent when I started secondary school – in 2002. I think the uniform rules had changed three years earlier. There was still a lot of sexism from some of the teachers, for instance the textiles and home economics teacher who didn’t like having to teach boys to cook and sew.

      4. Sasha*

        I’m not sure how old you think the father of a 30yr old is, but they could easily be in their 70s. I’ll be in my 70s when my son is 30, my husband will be older.

      5. Jack Dedham*

        I’m (she/hers) in my 30s, and my dad is in his 60s. And he’s sexist. He doesn’t think he is and wouldn’t call it that but he is. It’s a product of his upbringing and his unwillingness to challenge and change his own upbringing. I wouldn’t give him a pass, because he damn well should know better, but I could absolutely see him giving similar advice to me that the LW’s dad did to her. We’re not here to try to change her dad. She needs advice on how to deal with his sexism and her career.

    3. MK*

      I am happy for you that you know plenty of men old enough to be fathers of a 30-year-old who were taught not to be sexist. That is not a universal experience. Many of us don’t know “plenty” 30-year-old men who were taught that, let alone 50+-year-old men, or women for that matter.

      1. Sylvan*

        +1

        My dad’s pretty good about this stuff, but as a 29-year-old from the Bible Belt… lol. A lot of people are straight up taught to be sexist.

    4. Threeve*

      When I got my first office job, an older relative advised me: “don’t let them know that you can type.” (The idea being that a woman who could type quickly was only ever going to be assigned typing, and thus get held back professionally).

      It was based on a very outdated perception of an inherently sexist working world, but being uninformed about current norms is not the same thing as being against them.

      1. peachy*

        I don’t think it’s that outdated of a perception.

        Whenever I am working on a project where I am the only woman on the team, I am usually asked to take notes. Usually, they give some thin excuse like, “I can tell you’re a good writer!” (even if they have no evidence of this other than the fact that I can send email like every other professional on the planet). I used to be a writer, but I work in technology now and try to downplay my writing skills , because if I don’t, that’d give them more reason to constantly assign me to take notes and schedule meetings.

        In my undergrad, my mentor very strongly advised me not to volunteer for certain things coded as “feminine” (like being secretary of a club). I thought that was a bit sexist. But then I started my first tech-related role and I was one of two women on the team. The other woman volunteered to organize kitchen clean-up day once, and also decorated someone’s cubicle for their birthday. And suddenly, she was put in charge of organizing kitchen clean-up day for the next two years. Our boss also asked her to decorate the CIO’s office on his birthday. I pretended to be bad at cleaning and decorating, and was never asked to do those things. And suddenly, my mentor’s advice made sense.

        This was like, in 2017, so not so outdated.

      2. Suz*

        I got the same advice from my high school guidance councilor when I was trying to decide what to major in. Much better than advice I got from the junior high councilor who didn’t understand how a girl could be so good at math.

        1. MassMatt*

          OMG when I was in college (mid 80’s) someone told me that in a meeting for all those planning to go to college at their high school, a girl asked about testing requirements and the college counselor said “you don’t need to know that, you’re a girl”. This took place in Kansas, but not a small town. My jaw dropped. OK I knew sexism existed but not to this extent, in my generation. If someone had said that in my town (a suburb in NE, 90+% going to college) there would have been a huge scandal and the person would probably have been fired.

          It’s sobering how slowly change happens, but it does happen.

          1. Sasha*

            Ha, in the late 1990s, I was told by my school careers advisor not to apply for medical school, but to instead become a nurse and I could marry a doctor (this was not an academic thing, I had the grades).

            I mean, that was crazypants advice even then, but “roll eyes” level crazypants, not “parents phoning the school” crazypants.

          2. Jack Dedham*

            My dad told me that girls are better at English and history, and boys are better at math and science. I believed this into adulthood, even though I was in the Gifted program and legitimately good at several kinds of math. I’m in my mid-30s and my dad is in his 60s.

          3. TheOperaGhost*

            In 2001, in my very first science course in a major US university (consistently rated as one of the top public universities), the professor said “we’re not going to go real heavy on the math in this course, so you girls don’t have to worry.” 2001.

            1. Jane Gloriana Villanueva*

              Ugh. “Thank you, Professor. I’ll make sure to simplify my calculations on my exams so you won’t try to correct something you don’t understand.”

          4. Mimi*

            My mom was a high school senior in the late 70’s, and despite *her* mom starting the meeting with the new guidance councilor with “MimisMom WILL be going to college” it was an argument that was not resolved until he grudgingly looked at her test scores. (and even then he spent the whole year trying to introduce her to the wholesome young men a few years older than her that she should be marrying).

        2. Alaska Admin*

          At my rural state school, the winners of the math field day for all of the grade levels who were competing… all happened to be girls (I was one of them). We were all supposed to go on to a county-wide competition. The principle of my school actually called my mother and tried to get her to convince me to give up my slot to my grade’s runner-up (a boy) because ‘boys are more competitive’ and it would look bad for the school if ‘all these girls’ showed up at the event. This was in the mid-nineties.

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      Experiences are not universal and are heavily impacted by where you live and your social milieu. My in-laws live in a community that is conservative and patriarchal and like a timewarp to me every time we visit. My spouse (late 40s) never fit in where he grew up and is very progressive in his thinking, and we *still* run into thoughts and feelings that I find problematic now and again that are rooted in his upbringing. There mere existence of or awareness of a social movement doesn’t mean that it’s part of people’s lives or that they agree with it. We both make a lot of sardonic jokes about “overcoming our upbringing”. In the 70s, 80s, and 90s.

      It is also not an all-or-nothing proposition. My grandfather, born in the early 1900s, made it very clear to my mom and aunts that he was not sending them to college for an MRS degree and stressed the importance of education and independence, but I’d hazard to guess that he’d fail the feminism test of 2020 on other points.

      My mom is the one who gives me crappy, sexist career advice. She means well, but she’s stuck in what was normal for her as a woman growing up in a conservative city in the 50s and 60s, even with parents who expected far more of her than to marry well. She’s not unaware of feminism and would tell you that women should be paid the same, should be eligible for the same property and loans, and should not be harassed at work… but, good lord, does she give some shitty advice that has its roots in sexism. She advises me at least once a year not to make my husband “feel bad” about the fact that I outearn him by a lot and, if I listened to her advice, I’d be stuck in the dead-end job I had as a recent graduate and not in a management position. She also asks me to double-check (solicited) advice I give her by my husband to see what he thinks.

    6. Mill Mike*

      The Dad doesn’t even have to be sexist himself for the “from another era” thing to apply. If you’re not sexist yourself, but every boss you’ve ever had is, then “Expect sexism from bosses” isn’t itself a sexist thing to think. Even if you’re working to change the system, you still have to engage with it as-is until that change happens.

    7. JSPA*

      Both things can be true.

      In the last 50 years, official culture norms and legal requirements (as opposed to actual behavior, which varies more) have tracked very strongly in favor of women’s rights in the workplace.

      As a result, people who intend to be non-sexist can occasionally unthinkingly reflect the dominant attitudes from their childhood, even if their parents (and parents’ parents) were more egalitarian than the average, in their time. (“I just heard my mom’s/dad’s voice come out of my mouth” isn’t just an affliction of parents with small children.)

      Separately, people of any era can be intentional and unrepentant sexists, born and raised.

      I would toss in a caution that reverting to long-disavowed stereotypes from childhood is occasionally caused by frontotemporal dementia or a small subset of strokes. If this is WAY out of the ordinary, it might bear noting down for future reference.

    8. DiplomaJill*

      Watching The Queens Gambit last week my husband suddenly said, wow, being a woman used to suck! — apparently it was the first time he realized there’s a reason I’m relentlessly feminist. He’s not sexist, whereas I’m overtly anti-sexist, and I think it was the first time he realized I’m not overreacting.

      1. londonedit*

        Yep. I mean, this is why #MeToo became such a thing, because every time someone speaks up about sexism/abuse/catcalling/violence towards women, people (both men and women) line up to say ‘Well I’ve never experienced that’ or ‘Well I’ve never seen that’ or ‘Yeah sure there’s the odd bad apple, but really, I can’t believe it’s as bad as you’re making out’. I know several men who were totally shocked to realise that yes, the majority of their female friends and family members had experienced some form of sexism or sexist abuse just while existing in everyday life.

      2. TechWorker*

        Which is also kinda hilarious because the Queens Gambit is an example where the male characters are often (not always, but often) shown to be supportive of beaten by a woman. In reality if you look up Susan and Judit Polgar they had to fight their countries chess federation to play against men and fellow top level chess players said things like ‘ She has fantastic chess talent, but she is, after all, a woman. It all comes down to the imperfections of the feminine psyche. No woman can sustain a prolonged battle.’ I feel in some ways the show showed quite a rosy attitude to sexism…

  4. I'm A Little Teapot*

    OP, the transition from little kids who think their parents are all knowing and can do no wrong to fully realizing that their parents are human, with all the imperfectness that comes with it is not easy and it isn’t fast. It wasn’t until my mid-30s that I realized how racist my parents are, because it’s not obvious. You can still love your parents, while knowing that they’re imperfect. It makes it much easier if you just avoid the problematic topics.

    1. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

      And please don’t beat yourself up for it, everyone comes to that realization at their own pace and in their own time.

      1. TardyTardis*

        Noting your name, does Hogsmeade have decent dragon service these days, or are we stuck with thestrals again?

      1. Harper the Other One*

        I think there’s value in challenging it, politely, once or twice, but in the end you can’t force someone to change their mind. So then you have to decide, what’s my line in the sand? And for many people, when it comes to parents, that line is “I will avoid the topic but if they bring it up I will firmly remind them this is not up for discussion with me.”

        1. Caliente*

          Yes- I wasn’t asking about bringing it up to change minds but to just kind of disrupt the group think. Not disrupting this type of thing just makes the other person believe you’re ok with/in agreement with what they’re saying.
          My moms homophobic (among other issues) and she always had something to say about it while I’d sit by uncomfortably, until one day I was like would you please stop, what is wrong with you? You don’t like it, fine, zip it, but other people are allowed to live their lives and why don’t you focus on the fact that you’re mean AF to your own kids. I was about 13 but I tell you she looked at me in shock and never made those comments again.

          1. I'm A Little Teapot*

            My parents are homophobic, transphobic, Islamaphobic, racist, and probably a few others. Most of it doesn’t come up in normal conversation. They’re not being nasty to people in the grocery store. As long as it only comes up in conversation with me or my sister, that’s one thing. When it’s coming up with others, or they’re treating other unfair, I will (and do) have that conversation. It also helps that my parents have functionally isolated themselves so they don’t have any contact with real people (and that’s not just due to covid). While their isolation is part of the problem, it also protects others from them.

            Overall, it sucks.

          2. inksmith*

            Genuinely, you’re really lucky with your mum. I’ve been saying this to my dad for 20 years, and he knows I’m gay, but he just doubles down on it and says worse things, because how dare his daughter tell him what is and isn’t OK to say in front of her?

            I’ve got very good at subject changes and politely excusing myself in the middle of meals :(

        2. designbot*

          Agreed. I’ve said sometimes to men I know socially but haven’t worked with, “wow, I hope you don’t treat the women you work with that way!” if they’re talking about me, or “I’d be really disappointed if one of the men I worked with thought of me that way,” if they’re telling a story about a woman they work with.

      2. I'm A Little Teapot*

        In some cases, yes you just avoid the whole topic. Or you greyrock. In other cases, go ahead and challenge. There are various topics that I simply don’t discuss with my parents. No good ever comes of the discussion and they’re not budging, so I choose to avoid it. There are other topics that I will challenge on. The use of the n word was a big one. A lot of it is driven by if it’s going to impact other people. If not, then I may choose to just avoid.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        I think different people have different strategies. My spouse’s and my parents know where we stand and we know where they do. (He walked out of Thanksgiving once over some homophobic comments.) I draw the line at saying -ist things in front of my kids. I tend to intervene more with my mom because many times, she’s just clueless or not up to speed on something (typically lack of exposure) and actually cares about hurting people’s feelings. I tend to let my spouse deal with his family but will step in if the kids are in earshot.

      4. Ally McBeal*

        My mother and I have had a difficult relationship since I was a preadolescent, and we have a list of topics that we do not talk about (religion, politics, my physical appearance, etc.). It’s not ideal, but as the saying goes, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” If you cannot reliably get helpful advice or even general supportive responses from someone on a particular topic, then stop bringing up the topic.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      And some parents never get there. Mr. Gumption is 50+, hasn’t lived at home since 18, never asks his parents for advice, tells them little, and his dad still talks to him like a kid. Personally I think sometimes a parents image of their child stops developing at a certain age like it is encased in amber. Mr. Gumption’s dad has him at about 8 years old (also about the last age before they started fighting all the time). My folks seem to have me at about 22, which isn’t great since I am later 40s, but better than 8.

        1. Botanist*

          Still a great comment, though! I think we can all get frozen at a certain age or stage in our relationships. My mom, for example, developed primary progressive multiple sclerosis when I was twelve. She died when I was 29. And I think in a lot of ways our relationship froze when I was twelve and I still have a lot of conceptions about my mom that are based on what a preteen would think. I wonder if something similar happens in a lot of parent/child relationships from the perspective of the parent.

          1. Juneybug*

            My mom’s mom died when she was 11 years old and when I turned 11, we started fighting. I believe our relationship was stormy cause my mom didn’t know how to parent because she didn’t have a mom after age 11 to show her how to parent (her dad later married a aloof woman who wasn’t a fan of my mom).
            Later on, our fights happen because I didn’t take always take her advice. I realized she wanted me to be a mini version of her.
            I don’t talk to her about politics, religion, society, marriage, raising kids, and finances because we have such different opinions. I can agree to disagree but she sees my choices as wrong. Which cracks me up as I have a great life and honestly, there are not many things I would change.
            I think I would have loved my grandma. Everyone said she was a sweetheart with a big heart.

          2. PeanutButter*

            My father died when I was 14 – I am now 36 and it was only a few years ago that I really started being able to look at our relationship through adult eyes. I realized that one of the reasons I had never really dated or been in a relationship was that I was subconsciously comparing prospective partners with the idealized, child-like view of him, and OF COURSE everyone was coming up woefully short.

  5. Temperance*

    How does your dad talk to your brother about these topics? My hunch is that he encourages your brother to be a “go-getter”, to ask for what he wants, etc., and that he’s never chided him for coming across as an “aggressive man”.

    Because frankly, I don’t know your dad, but I would be shocked if someone who used the phrase “aggressive woman” and wasn’t a huge sexist in other ways.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      It would be funny to have your brother send him that cover letter (if he hadn’t already seen it) and see if he thought it was too aggressive!

      1. Advice Seeker*

        My brothers have ALWAYS been held to a lower standard than I have, although my dad has always been condescending to the three of us. Growing up, I was the nerdy one in the family and was often seen as the one “going places” compared to my brothers. I’ll ask for anecdotes from my brothers to see if they’ve experienced something similar in their professional careers, but I highly doubt my parents even ask about their jobs as much as they ask about mine

        1. Jabail Naktush*

          Why on earth are you involving your dad in your job searches or asking him for career advice, then? You’re 30 and should easily be able to navigate this situation on your own. Pick career advisers your trust.

          1. Washi*

            I’ll be honest, I kind of had this initial reaction when I read the letter. My parents don’t give mean/terrible advice like this, but I stopped informing them about my job search in this level of detail around when I graduated high school.

            The thing is, I don’t feel the need to involve my parents or run stuff by them in any way precisely because they raised me to be confident in my own judgment and ability to handle things. I have friends whose parents really micromanaged their decisions, always believed they were right and the kid was wrong, and never trusted the kid to do anything without checking it first, and friends raised like this are generally the ones still struggling to do the information diet thing, because it’s the literal opposite of how they were raised to interact with their parents.

            It’s not easy to do a 180 from your original upbringing and to go from being told “dad is right about everything” to “dad is wrong about things to such an extent that I need to put some emotional distance between us to protect myself.”

            1. tiny cactus*

              Eh, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to talk to your parents about job searching and career stuff. You probably want to gauge your expectations based on how knowledgeable they are about your field and general hiring practices, but I don’t think it’s necessarily an issue until you start receiving responses like the ones this letter writer has.

              1. Filosofickle*

                I agree with this. I’m fully grown, don’t rely on my parents for career advice, and surely never sent them a cover letter to review, but I talk to them often about career and work stuff. I am an external processor and it’s something to have a conversation about. It’s the thing that happens every week! Work is the biggest part of my life outside my partner (no kids), and my partner would prefer I talk about work than him lol. In my case it’s fine, they sometimes have good insights and they don’t have Big Opinions. If they were being weird I would dial back.

                1. Washi*

                  Right, that’s why I said in this level of detail! (Sending a cover letter, etc). I talk to my parents about career stuff, but they don’t know about every application and every interview.

                  I’m just explaining why I think sometimes it’s the adult children who should be telling their parents the least end up telling them way more than average.

              2. Rusty Shackelford*

                Eh, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to talk to your parents about job searching and career stuff.

                No, it’s not. But when you realize their advice is completely inappropriate, it *is* reasonable to dial that back and limit what you share with them.

            2. Owlette*

              I still give my parents this level of detail about my job search. I’m an only child and I’m really close with my parents, and none of my friends want to hear boring job search stories because they’re all in the same boat I’m in.

              But the big difference between me and the OP is that my parents never give me unsolicited, sexist advice. It really depends on the relationship.

              1. tacocat*

                Same here. Mine do offer unsolicited advice but I’ve learned to cherry pick the things I want to tell them and remind myself “father doesn’t always know best, nor does he work in my field, nor is the workplace anything like it was when he was my age in the 80s.”

            3. Advice Seeker*

              I COMPLETELY relate to your friend in this situation. My parents micromanaged our lives SO much growing up. The fact that people DON’T talk about these things with their parents is what really blew my mind. I’m doing my best to break habits, but like you said it’s not easy to do that 180!

          2. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

            “my dad has always been condescending to the three of us” = a great way to condition your kids to desperately seek your approval all their lives, ime.

          3. Minocho*

            My parents give awful (and often hypocritical) advice on job searches. Oddly, I can go to my mother for advice within my current position and often get useful input or ideas. But never for actual job searching.

            My dad just has awful advice in general on anything job related. I think he would have been a terrible employee to manage. Oblivious, entitled, perfectionist, and always much more worried about the speck in another’s eye rather than the plank in his own. I love him, but…nope. No advice.

          4. Ally McBeal*

            Yeah, agreed. OP’s father is/was in an entirely different field with entirely different workplace norms (medicine is SUCH a unique field to begin with), I’m not sure why OP thought he could give relevant advice even before he started up with the sexism.

        2. Cat Tree*

          Yeah, I think the best thing you can do here is keep it neutral. If your dad keeps asking about your job, you can just tell him everything is going great and leave it at that. Or if you really want to include him in this part of your life, only share positive or successful stories. It’s tough to transition a relationship with your parent but I think it’s worth the effort.

        3. Luke G*

          I feel for you on this one. If you’re the one expected to “go places,” then your father could easily think he’s doing the right thing by meddling in your job choices. If he sees you making (what he sees as) bad career moves, it could flip that switch of “no, she’s the one who’s going to accomplish things, I have to keep her from self-sabotaging.”

          NOT that that idea means his advice is good, useful, or doesn’t come from a sexist mindset. Just sympathizing that it can be hard to blow off advice from people you love, when in their mind they’re just trying to help.

        4. Anon for Today*

          The more I learned how to put my parents on an “Information Diet” the happier we all were. My folks started seeing me as an adult and I started to see them as human beings who missed their daughter and were just trying to connect. Now we talk about things that connect us and make the most of our time together. I think you’re at the beginning of this journey, and it’s the sucky part where you’re constantly thinking “You’re not the boss of me, DAD!” Hopefully, it’ll go smoothly for you. You’ll probably never get your dad to stop being totally sexist, but you can get him to stop saying sexist things around you.

      2. Lil*

        Im still wondering what an “aggressive” cover letter looks like? Its literal purpose is to show yourself in the best possible light.

        1. Eeyore's Missing Tail*

          Dear Hiring Manager,

          I am interested in applying for the Gumption Position. I will arrive at 8 am tomorrow for an interview and will plan on starting work at 9.

          Sincerely,
          E. Tail

        2. Luke G*

          There’s that piece of (terrible) advice floating around that you should say “I’m the best candidate for this job” or something like it- I think you could have an overly aggressive cover letter by going down that path, past the point of “showing yourself in the best light” and into the realm of “flagrant self-aggrandizement to the point the hiring manager questions your self-awareness.”

          Not saying that’s what OP did- but there’s definitely a way a cover letter could be written that I’d call overly aggressive.

        3. TechWorker*

          Plus as OP says, the industry *is* aggressive! Maybe low level ‘aggression’ is appropriate :p

        4. Advice Seeker*

          I actually followed other AMA advice for my cover letter. Of the other 3 people I sent it to (all professional colleagues), two of them asked me to write their cover letters for them if they ever went on a new job hunt.

    2. Snarkus Aurelius*

      Both of my parents thought I’ve been an aggressive woman. My response was, “Well I hope so. I work in government and serve the underserved. Someone needs to care.”

  6. MysteriousMise*

    Finally, a question where I feel comfortable giving a reply!

    Stop telling your dad everything and Put him on an information Diet.

    1. Dave*

      This can be tough when you want to be close to your parents but this could be extremely helpful for your sanity. If you do make sure your siblings know for the sharing loop.

    2. Jen2*

      This. This has helped me immensely in my adult life. I live 800 miles away for a reason. Even though I love my parents and they’re interested in my life, I am independent, especially career wise, and can handle things on my own.

      For my 2nd major job hunt after school, I let them know once I’d be moving. They knew I wasn’t happy in my current environment and assumed I might start looking, but that was it. They don’t need details.

    3. Ari*

      I agree. This is a strategy I’ve employed since adolescence because of how my parents are, unfortunately.

      OP, I’m sorry that your dad is treating you this way. I imagine that you want a close, supportive relationship with him, but it sounds like that’s not possible — at least around your career. I think it’s best that you put him on an information diet. If that brings up a lot emotionally for you, give yourself permission to feel whatever ever you need to about the situation, and maybe talk to a trusted friend or therapist if you need some extra support.

      Also, know that you have options in the moment when he says sexist things to you (about your career or anything else). You can confront him about what he’s just said. You can pretend you don’t know what he means and try him to say the unspoken sexist assumptions out loud (I find this particularly useful because it forces them to admit to a bigoted viewpoint in a direct way, which then allows for some self reflection and/or cognitive dissonance on their part).

      You can also end the conversation, but in that acknowledges that you’re ending it because he said a hurtful sexist thing – e.g.- “Dad, I told you when you say things like that it’s hurtful, so I’m going to hang up now.” He may bristle at that, but it conveys your disapproval while still allowing you to end the conversation on your terms.

    4. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

      THIS. There are entire sections of my work history my parents know nothing about. They get the clean, sanitized, “family dinner friendly” version.
      They worry, and I know they do, so I tell them the situation after it’s been resolved. Like when I got laid off earlier this year due to covid, I didn’t tell them a word about it until I had a new job lined up!

    5. Red Boxes and Arrows*

      I had to do that with my dad when, after getting caught in the last round of layoffs during the Great Recession, his job advice was that I go work as a cashier at a big box store “because they have great benefits”. Nothing wrong with working retail, but I was a B2B sales professional. A cashier job would have meant a 70% pay cut. My dad’s response was, “30% is better than nothing.” Yeah….no. That’s what Unemployment Insurance and savings are for, because there’s no way I could have explained to a hiring manager in my field why I worked as a cashier instead of landing another B2B sales job. My dad said that if he were a hiring manager (he’s never been one in his entire life), *he* would be impressed with someone who was willing to do whatever it takes to bring home a paycheck.” I had to drop the subject because sigh.

      When I decided to go back to school to finish my Bachelor’s and get a Master’s, his response was to tell me how much money dog-walkers make in San Francisco, insinuating that I should do that instead.

      The good news is that I ignored him and followed my own plans, made a successful career switch, and make really good money. I also enjoy what I’m doing which wasn’t really the case when I was in sales. This year’s birthday card from my dad included the line, “I’m glad you’ve found something you love to do for a living.” I think that’s his way of apologizing for pooh-poohing my degrees and new career.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        I got the same thing from my parents with pizza delivery. Hmm, yes, let me take a job that pays maybe a fifth of jobs in my field, and which will eat up many many hours a week I could be spending on applying for career-track jobs. I mean, if I had been out of work for a long time, at some point you have to consider options you normally wouldn’t. But not the first day, or even the first month.

        1. Autumnheart*

          This is beside the point, but pizza delivery actually pays comparatively well and has pretty short hours. Most shifts, you only work during the rush (2-3 hours). Just saying. If you had to take a PT job for cash without impeding your job search, you could do a lot worse. /former pizza driver

          1. Red Boxes and Arrows*

            I hear you, Autumnheart. I’m assuming Lynn Whitehat was in the same position as I was: being laid off from a six-figure job and having our parents tell us to go work retail to keep money coming in. Which. . . is what UI is for and it pays more than any part-time retail job. And why it was wild that my dad would jump straight to me becoming a cashier or a dog-walker (in SFO, where I don’t live).

            But YES if UI is running out and my savings is disappearing at a clip I’m uncomfortable with, I would absolutely choose the highest-paying non-professional part-time job to help stop the bleeding while I still looked for a job in my profession.

    6. Lady Meyneth*

      I’ve learned to say “Mom, let’s please change the subject”.

      My mom is great, and we’re unusually close, more like BFFs now that I’m an adult. But she does somethimes reverses to “you’re my child, you need to do what I say”. I’m in my 30s, so yeah. No. The change-the-subject line helps us a lot, it gently signals when she’s crossing the line and still allows me to talk to her about details of my life most children would never tell a parent.

      It was a big adjustment though, sice it had to be consistent – when I started it back in college, it felt like I said nothing else on some conversations.

  7. Smithy*

    I think one of the hardest things to accept when it comes to setting boundaries with parents is giving up the desire that there are topics or issues where we can’t just “be ourselves” around our parents. Instead of thinking “I’m having a bad or good day and wouldn’t it be nice to just freely share that with my family are receive love and support” the thought process has to be if you want to open to door to responses or feedback that will likely make you feel badly.

    There may be times where the topic is around getting a new job, getting furloughed, getting a raise, securing vacation time, etc. and it feels like news that has to be shared. So then that process is about making sure you’re emotionally prepared for your dad potentially having feedback that will be sexist, dated, or otherwise difficult to hear.

    At first this may very well feel difficult and forced, but with practice it gets easier.

    1. Advice Seeker*

      This. Typically I think long and hard before sharing work stories with my parents, but this one was kinda an ambush call where I was frustrated and didn’t think clearly before bringing it up. It’s good to know it gets easier!s

      1. Sue*

        I’m probably close to Dad’s age and have a close relationship with my kids. We talk about their work and I’m a big cheerleader for them. If I ever overstep (it’s usually not about work but it happens with other things), I am open to feedback. I would cut way back on sharing but when he brings it up, tell him why. It can be said nicely but it gives him a chance to do better. I don’t think there’s any excuse for his sexism but if there is any chance for him to recognize and reset, it’s a gift to give him that chance. If he isn’t willing, I would never bring up my work life again.

      2. Smithy*

        Absolutely, I think it’s helpful to think about this like any habit or behavior we’re trying to change but gets amplified when we’re stressed. Like, 95% of the time it’s easy for me to not eat an entire bag of potato chips – but if I’m really unhappy, worried, upset, nervous etc….that’s the 5% of the time when it might happen.

        So maybe until it’s easier, if you see an ambush call – you let it go to voicemail, give yourself 10-20 minutes to do whatever it might be to help yourself get mentally prepared for the call. A lot of “just got out of the shower, sorry I missed your call!”

        But yeah, thinking of it like trying to break any behavior I think helps in knowing when it’ll be easier for yourself and harder for yourself. On the flip side, trying to find alternative conversation topics can also take some trial and error. But once you have a few more “phew, we can always talk about XYZ if I need to divert the topic”, things can begin to feel more normal.

    2. Mockingjay*

      Back during the Great Recession, I called my dad to see how he was. I love my dad, but he can be Mr. Doom and Gloom, waiting for the Apocalypse. He wants his kids (all adults in their 50s now) nearby and in “safe” jobs (which we know don’t really exist anymore). (I’ll spare you the hysterics when Hubby and I packed up the kids and moved to Europe).

      Anyway, during this call, my dad informed me that my brother had just been laid off and could I do anything for him? (We’re both federal contractors.) I said, “well Dad, I’ll do what I can, but I got a layoff notice yesterday too.” My dad was shocked and started to sputter. I said matter-of-factly, “Dad, I’m a contractor, I change jobs frequently when contracts expire. I’ve already got interviews lined up. I’ll ask Brother if he needs help with his resume.”

      TL;DR: I love my parents, but I learned very early to put them on an information diet about my career and major life decisions. (Dad finally conceded a few years ago that all of us have done well and managed to secure our futures.)

    3. Tiny Kong*

      Yes. It feels so weird at first to not be able to be completely honest with your parents if that is what you’re used to doing. But after a while of unhelpful or actively harmful feedback and lots of fights/disagreements, it’s just easier to give them a certain version of the truth. Maybe that’s a decision already made without sharing the details, or a version that omits certain reasons for making that decision.

      But sometimes it’s more important and more successful to preserve a good relationship with your family than to make sure you agree on every point. I think this is an important part of becoming an adult.

  8. Hey Karma, Over Here*

    I think you should tell your dad that you do agree to disagree that a woman has a right and a need to advocate for herself in the workplace and in her life.
    I think you need to be prepared to make some new discoveries about your dad as well.
    You are going to see with new, less naïve eyes the way he treats your mom, your friends, other women in general and women in support positions in particular.
    I think you may want to rethink how much of your conversations are spent defending your actions (Why did you buy that? Why do you want to travel there?) and keep a list of topics that avoid the parent lecturing a child dynamic.

  9. Not A Manager*

    I agree with everything Alison said. But maybe another way to think about this isn’t that your dad might be sexist. He might be, but this might also be a specific thing about you as his (adult) child.

    You say, “When I was applying for jobs, my dad really wanted to be involved despite living on the other side of the country.” It looks like you already have a bit of an issue with your dad wanting more input/interaction about your adult life than you would necessarily choose on your own. “Much of what I did to keep him “involved” was just informing him of the decisions I was making (with or without his support).” You found a way to placate him without having to set a clear boundary.

    What I see is that when your father observes you advocating for yourself and setting boundaries in the workplace, he interprets that as if you were doing it to him. You are assertive in a cover letter? His feeling (as if you were being assertive to him), is “no one wants an aggressive CHILD.” You set reasonable boundaries at work? His feeling (as if you were setting boundaries with him), is “you sound like a difficult CHILD.”

    What I’m seeing here isn’t necessarily that your father doesn’t think women should act a certain way in the workplace, and more that your father really, really doesn’t want you to act that way with him.

    This is a pretty common parent/adult child dynamic, and you can both overcome it. But I’d move away from assuming that his remarks are rooted in sexism unless you have other evidence for that.

    1. 2020storm*

      You do not say, “no one wants to work with an aggressive woman” if what you really mean is child, or person. He said Woman, and that’s what he meant.

      1. Quill*

        Sexism and infantilization can still go hand in hand, but honestly the solution is the same whether this is a “my child” issue or a “my daughter, specifically” issue – less information, more confirmation with the brother, learning that this is not a topic LW can actually rely on him for.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Yep. You can try to figure out what he really means and why he thinks that way, but the response is going to be the same regardless.

            1. Observer*

              Well, the evidence is actually that he is both sexist and also can’t deal with his child growing up and making her own decisions.

    2. PhysicsTeacher*

      I mean, he straight up said “no one wants to work with an aggressive woman.” We can only interpret the evidence we are given.

      1. Not A Manager*

        But there is more evidence, that’s my point. She’s in a particular dynamic with him. It’s confusing and hurtful to her to think of him as sexist, and in my opinion it’s not necessary for her to think that in order to address this issue. In fact, it might be counter-productive. She probably doesn’t need to convince him about women in the workplace. What she needs is to re-set their adult/adult relationship.

        1. hbc*

          She doesn’t need to convince him about women in the workplace, but I don’t think it makes sense to throw out the evidence that he’s sexist. For example, if OP was going to use a company/supplier/provider/whatever that her father used, and he gives a bad reference because of that terrible woman who didn’t handle his business well, she can take that with a grain (or shaker) of salt.

        2. Observer*

          So? He said what he said, and nothing you say negates that. And your interpretation is a major stretch.

          Sure, she DEFINITELY needs to reset her relationship in terms of expecting to be treated as an adult. But that doesn’t change the fact that the sexism is there and will probably affect the things she can share with him, even once / if there is progress on the other issue.

    3. Observer*

      I’m sure that Dad doesn’t see the OP as a full adult. But that does not mean that he is not also wildly sexist. And given that he told the OP that “no one wants to work with an aggressive woman” and insisting that her letter was “too aggressive” even though people IN THE INDUSTRY disagreed, it’s hard to make the argument that he is NOT sexist. It requires simply ignoring his behavior.

      1. Jabail Naktush*

        But the letter writer doesn’t see *herself* as a “full adult,” either. She lives 3000 miles away from him — that’s three times zones apart. Why is she involving her dad in her job search to begin with?

        1. TootsNYC*

          because she wants to feel close to him, and supported by him. And because he asked, and she didn’t want to tell him no.

        2. They/Them, Please/Thanks*

          Because some people actually like their parents? There are lots of different explanations for why she’s involved him and hasn’t put her foot down yet, so I don’t think uncharitably psychoanalyzing whether or not the writer sees herself as an adult is accurate or useful

        3. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

          Relationships with your parents evolve over time. Plenty off “full adults” find out that they need to adjust their expectations of their parents at different life stages. The LW is discovering what once wasn’t an issue is now.

        4. EventPlannerGal*

          Because her job hunt is probably one of the big things going on in her life right now and for a lot of people it’s pretty normal to, you know, talk about major life events with your parents and ask them for advice? The problem is that OP’s dad holds some regressive and sexist views – do we really need to act like OP is somehow at fault for seeking advice from her parents?

          1. EventPlannerGal*

            Actually on a reread she isn’t even really seeking his advice, just keeping him informed, which to my mind makes your comment even odder.

        5. Sylvan*

          If he’s given good advice about other things, it’s reasonable for her to think he’ll give good advice on job searching. Especially if he had a successful career before retiring.

        6. DyneinWalking*

          Knowingly piling on here, because which person with even halfway caring parents DOESN’T tell their parents about their life? Sure, at times an information diet might turn out to be necessary, but if a topic hasn’t yet been flagged as problematic……….

          1. L'enfant terrible*

            OP does not have “halfway caring parents” on this particular subject, though. She has a sexist dad who provides lousy career advice. It should not take a letter to an advice column to figure out what to do!!!

  10. Jenna Webster*

    I feel this – my Dad has an opinion about everything, whether he knows anything about it or not. He wants to talk about my work, so I share all the good things that happen, or even the boring things, but I never ever bring up anything about the complicated stuff, because I don’t want to have those conversations with him. I’m good at my job, and he really can’t help, but he would (and did in the past) go on and on about what I should do. Don’t put yourself through it – it really isn’t good for either of you.

    1. MtnLaurel*

      That is what worked for me. When I was about OP’s age, I was going through the same thing with my dad. He was giving me advice that didn’t work for my field and forwarding job notifications that weren’t in my field. What worked for me was thanking him for thinking of me and then ignoring the advice (when necessary). I was able to reframe it as “Dad’s trying to help even though he doesn’t know how, and I appreciate that he is.” Also, I just didnt’ talk to him about the issues/problems, instead sharing my good news. Good luck!

  11. 2020storm*

    This seems like a two-part question. The answer of how to set boundaries with your dad is great. But what you might also be asking is how to combat his sexism. I wouldn’t necessarily know how, but it would bother me a lot too.

  12. Sled dog mama*

    Yet another reminder that I need to call my parents and thank them for not giving unsolicited advice and for giving great advice when solicited.
    It helps that my dad and I work in the same industry and he is high enough up to be doing the hiring for similar positions to what I’m looking for.

    1. TootsNYC*

      my mom was great. She would say, “I don’t know enough about your industry; you’ve talked about Mr. X and Ms. Y; could you call them and ask for their input?”
      And then she’d say, “I don’t know about this job, or whether you should take it, but I do know this: Not saying yes is saying no. And there will be other jobs; if you could get this job, you can be offered another. And you have ways to earn money in the meantime. And you can take a job and quit it if you’re not happy; there just might be a price to pay, but how big that price is, that’s not something I know.” So, general advice that could be applied here.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Same. They occasionally give me unsolicited advice on topics (e.g. looking for an apartment, buying a house, selling a car) but they generally stop and say, “You know what, I haven’t done this since 197_, and have no idea how this works. Ignore me”

  13. Mel_05*

    Finding out your parent is deeply flawed in a way you hadn’t realized is hard. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this.
    Everyone is correct, you can’t change him, you can’t keep telling him about your work.

    Sometimes you can be super blunt and it works. My own father tried to give me a bedtime when I came back from my first year of college (something that had not existed when I was in high school, so it was extra weird) and I said, “I’ve been successfully going to bed & getting up in the morning all year.” and he awkwardly said, “Oh. Turn off the light when you go to bed.” And after that he stopped acting like I was 12, just because I was home for the summer.

    But, in most cases, the only thing you can do is not feed into the problem.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      The only time in my life my dad tried to “ground” me was when I was almost 20. Told me out of the blue I had to be home by 9, because it was HIS car I was driving. I held out the keys to him. He looked confused. I said “Here’s your keys back, I’ll get a ride, it’s fine.” He made weird faces for a minute, then threw up his hands and told me to just go, and has pretty much treated me exclusively as an adult since then. (But he also, for good or ill, has mostly treated me as an adult since I was like, eight, which basically forced my poor mother to be the disciplinarian my entire life. We’re good though.)

      1. MissGirl*

        My dad one told me if I didn’t follow his rules, I couldn’t live under his roof. I was twenty with my own apartment and visiting for the weekend. I left.

        OP, my long lost sister, the path to adulthood doesn’t happen all at once for our dads. They fight it and they push and they make passive aggressive statements. That doesn’t mean you’re not an adult. They freak out because they are losing control and relevancy in our lives and it freaks them out.

        Draw clear boundaries. My dad one railed that he had no say over his daughter’s life. I told him that I was an adult, I’d have to make my own decisions because I was the one who had to live with the consequences. But because he was my father, I loved him and respected his opinion even if I don’t always take it.

        I choose specific things to ask his opinion on—especially things I know we feel similarly on.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          For me – this was my mother more than my dad. It was very hard for her to understand that I was an Adult, with Adult Decisions, Adult Opinions, and that I could do my own thing.

          In retrospect it’s now rather entertaining that she once attempted to tell me when to get back for a curfew and a few other ways I was living my life …. when I was in my 3rd year of living away from home, in a space I paid for. She used the same statement – “my roof my rules!!” – and I told her that well, yes, it is MY rules, because it’s MY apartment. And we had the same argument later when I was visiting during a holiday – “you can’t live here if you can’t follow rules!” – over a curfew, when visiting my now-husband’s family for the holiday night. So I came, got all my stuff, and stayed over at the in-law’s. I truly believe that this was part of my mom’s “growing pains” of having an adult child, and losing that control over me that she had always had. It was a shock when I started pushing back, and it took her some time to really get it through her mind, to be honest. (It helped that Dad was not impressed by it, and that I stuck to my guns and said no, that’s okay, we can stay with In Laws or get a hotel. And no, you do not get a key to my apartment/house, there’s no reason for that. Along with a strict information diet.)

          Now the information diet is a lot more relaxed, but there’s still a lot I just don’t talk to my parents (or the in-laws) about. I don’t necessarily respect their opinions, but I respect their right to have one, and know that I will never be able to modify them, and that it’s not worth bringing up certain subjects.

    2. Bear Shark*

      My mother tried to forbid me from traveling across country for a job interview after college. I had to tell her that I was not asking permission, I was just letting her know as a courtesy.

  14. Dinoweeds*

    I could have written a similar letter to this a few years ago.

    I spent the majority of my adult life at odds with my dad and he always had a lot of input and influence on my life until I realized it was easier to just not tell him things. This resulted in me having a MUCH closer relationship with my mom, but it was just simpler to keep my dad out of the loop on certain things. It wasn’t worth my time or emotional energy to be constantly told that my career choices weren’t appropriate. My dad died last December and I miss him a lot – but what I think I miss the most is that we never got to have an actual relationship after I moved out of the house.

    Not much advice here, just commiseration. Do what is best for you and show your dad you love him in other ways.

  15. Ray Gillette*

    The good news, LW, is your dad lives on the other side of the country and isn’t supporting you financially, so you don’t have to tell him anything you don’t want his opinion on. Alison very likely nailed it when she said that at least in this particular area, he’s more interested in being right than in giving you what you need.

    If you’re not already familiar with Captain Awkward, I highly recommend her blog. The archives are chock full of discussions and scripts for setting boundaries with parents and other loved ones who you still love, but are difficult and not supportive.

  16. Girasol*

    There’s a silver lining in that cloud: you may still meet men in the business who think like Dad, that women should be sweet and submissive so that men are not repelled, but who also think that a proper woman lacks the fire that a man needs to advance in business and be successful. But you’ll be familiar with those ideas and have some practice in dealing with them.

    1. caps22*

      I like repelling men who think all women should be sweet and submissive. Don’t get me wrong, if that’s your thing in your private life and meet likeminded women, fine. Just don’t expect all women, much less women in your professional life, to act like that, or you will get taught a (hopefully very thorough) lesson on how to treat women like actual people.

  17. bunniferous*

    Your dad was a medical professional? Ask him if a cardiac surgeon would ask advice from a stockbroker on how to put in a stent. Then quit talking to him about your career. Most of us have parents who while we love and respect them, don’t need to be passing out advice in THAT area.

    1. Artemesia*

      Doctors are the worst when it comes to feeling like they are experts on everything. As a result they are often the target of securities fraud and other investment related scams. THEY can’t get cheated because they are the smartest guys in the room. It turns out though that being a high paid body mechanic doesn’t necessarily mean you know anything about how finance works, politics, management or anything that doesn’t involve being a body mechanic. My husband used to prosecute securities fraud and doctors were very often the victims — they have money and they have unwarranted confidence in their superiority.

        1. Artemesia*

          LOL. The worst parenting advice in my experience has been from psychologist or psychiatrist friends who have raised ONE daughter.

      1. Corporate Lawyer*

        Thank you for this comment! I could totally see my FIL, a cardiologist, falling prey to an investment scam for exactly the reasons you cite. My husband and I will need to keep an eye on him.

      2. JKP*

        Also, when it comes to real estate, everyone thinks their personal experience buying a house makes them real estate experts.

        1. Artemesia*

          And let’s not get started on teachers — EVERYONE knows more than they do to hear them talk about teaching kids.

          1. Quill*

            the maelstrom that is teachers giving other teachers parenting advice based on their teaching, and teaching advice based on their personal parenting…

            I miss wine and apps night with the school squad but I don’t miss the arguments boiling down to “But YOUR kid is 25! Instagram didn’t exist when she was in school Mine’s fourteen!” while both the daughters in question are sitting there with shirley temples trying not to laugh or die of embarassment.

      3. Risha*

        As a young teen, I was temporary Halloween help at a costume shop located near a large hospital, and I was warned in training that the doctors, and especially surgeons, would be my worst customers, as they were often demanding and condescending. This turned out to be 100% true.

      4. nonegiven*

        There is a doctor with a personal finance blog for doctors. He learned about investing because he got tired of being scammed.

    2. drago cucina*

      I think the medical professional aspect might be part of the problem.

      Hospitals are rife with sexism and elitism. The hierarchy is insane. My husband is a retired nurse anesthetist. On more than one occasion he made formal complaints about surgeons and their sexist comments. He requested not to work with one surgeon because he couldn’t take the misogynistic music anymore. (Surgeons are known for blasting their preferred music and their are jokes about types of surgeons and music.) He asked the OR nurses if they wanted to also make a request and they just said no. The hospital admin didn’t care because the surgeon is the money maker. There was the OR nurse who asked him to give her anesthesia because she knew he wouldn’t let the surgeons make their usual crass, sexual jokes about her during her operation.

      It all gets set brushed off in the name of medical commerce. It doesn’t matter if it’s a public or private hospital. So, it may be less about age than the work environment he’s accustomed to.

  18. TimeTravlR*

    As a parent of adult children about the same age as OP, I can tell you I tend to get overly invested in their success and “helping” them with job seeking, resumes, cover letters, etc. I am working on pulling back but they know I am happy t review their documents for them if they want. (I feel like my input to date has taught them to do a good job without me writing them!). Anyway, I did overstep last week when my youngest said they were trying to get a specific job. I gave my opinion and in hindsight realized it was too much so I called and apologize the other day. She brushed it off but I sense that she felt better that I had the realization.
    So to OP, your dad probably does just want what’s best for you but take him with a grain of salt and to Dad, back up a little. OP is an adult and will make mistakes and it will still all be ok.

    1. Artemesia*

      Both my husband and I have given our kids lots of job advice — he is a lawyer and I have had a lot of success managing and managing up as well as with presenting materials effectively. They have been appreciative and used the advice and it has been particularly helpful to my daughter as she established herself in her career. The key here — they ASKED for specific advice; then they were happy to listen and sometimes follow it. Unsolicited advice is pretty much never used or appreciated no matter how wise it might be. With a brand new student seeking work for the first time, you might be a little more assertive — but probably only once — and then let them come to you.

    2. TootsNYC*

      My kids are college and post-college age, and things are not going well for them.

      I run around chanting in my head, “It’s not my life, it’s not my life.”

      1. Watry*

        If it helps, things are not going great for most people in the 25-30-ish age group, between COVID, the economy, etc.

        1. TootsNYC*

          well, their situations are also unique to them; it’s not just COVID-19.

          The pandemic just makes it incredibly worse.

  19. Spicy Tuna*

    I started leaving my dad out of my work life about 15 years ago when I sent him my resume for him to review / critique and he sent it back completely altered. Like, the only correct thing on it was my university and graduation date!

  20. Brownie*

    Oof, I’m dealing with this from my mother right now. She asked me the other day about the new Agile work structure at my work and somehow managed to twist it in her head to the point where she made a comment about how my new supervisor (woman) must be sleeping with my ex-boss (man) and that’s why I’m not being promoted (instead of our horrible compete-against-your-coworkers review policies). I pulled her up short, she apologized, but I’m seeing more and more sexist stereotypes pop up, especially about women, when I talk to her about my work and office as she gets older. Cutting back on what you share about work is hard, but it may be the only way to stop being subjected to those kinds of sexist comments if you don’t have a parent who’s receptive to being pulled up short and takes reminders well that the world doesn’t operate like they imagine it does.

    1. caps22*

      Yeah, my mom was a secretary, and then flight attendant, in the Mad Men era. She absolutely lived all the sexist horror we now are able to fight against, but she had to deflect, defuse or even use. Her advice to me has been at time really awful to me, such as dressing ‘cute’ to make my boss happy, etc. I had to look at it through her lens, though – for her, it was survival since she was divorced and couldn’t afford to get fired. She no doubt thought I was naive for thinking times had changed, but at least I had more options than her and was able to get away from the worst offenders and didn’t have to put up with it.

      1. Brownie*

        I can’t even begin to imagine what my mother had to go through, but she’s always been very vocal about equality and fairness in the workplace, to the point where my dad was actively harassed at his job when I was little because my mom spoke out publicly against unfair business practices and inequality in his industry. So it’s a massive shock to hear her start reverting back to all the bad stereotypes and sexism she fought against when I was a kid. At one point in my last job search she had all kinds of advice on dressing to make myself look thinner “because they’ll look at you and think you’re lazy because of your weight and not want to hire you” and other unhelpful advice about how to get hired by making myself physically and conventionally attractive to the hiring committee. When I have to talk to her about work nowadays I’m starting to talk about the very technical side of things which I know she can’t understand rather than the employee side of things where she’ll start applying stereotypes and sexism. And if she does start in on the bad advice I do stop her and ask her to explain what she just said and that usually makes her consciously realize what she’s doing and then she’s good for the rest of the conversation. But it’s still so hard, enforcing boundaries against her and always being on guard when talking to her.

      2. Artemesia*

        My. mother was a nurse and her stories of the sexism and abuse suffered by nurses at the hands of doctors are hair raising. She worked for a small practice and one of the groping docs actually broke her rib pushing her tiny self up against a wall to grope. One of the other partners actually told him he would be ejected from the partnership if he ever touched a staff member again — but he wasn’t fired for what was assault. She has lots of stories of surgeons throwing instruments and having tantrums directed at nurses and other subordinates in surgery as well.

  21. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I’m a communications person. At in, at one job, that was literally in my job title as well as “spokeswoman.”

    My dad saw my quote in the newspaper, and he called me to tell me I was going to get fired because I talked to the press. I told him that’s literally in my job description and of course my boss knew I’d done that. My dad knew otherwise! Also was I sure I knew about Issue X because I’m not an expert? I laughed and told him if I didn’t know the answer to that question, then I’d be very bad at my job because I’ve been in the industry for 15 years at that point so that does make me an expert. He insisted I was not an expert so I was like okay then.

    Then I got a raise soon after. Not related to my quote. My dad really didn’t like that.

    It’s not our job to convince our dads that we are fully functioning adults who know how the work world works. We just do it without a care for their opinions.

    1. Let's Just Say*

      Co-signing your last sentence. My dad is wonderful and supportive of my career, but he spent his working life in a union job, so he just isn’t familiar with the job market or the realities of corporate America today. (He was appalled that my employer doesn’t cover 100% of the insurance premiums for me and my family.) Sometimes I push back on his assumptions, but most of the time, we just don’t discuss it! I think it’s tough for parents to feel like they are becoming obsolete in the “guide your kids through life” role, but as the adult kids, we need to set the boundaries that make sense for us and for maintaining a good relationship with our parents.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        My parents got state government jobs in the 1970s and retired 35+ years later. I am also in the civil service.

        Every. Time. We. Talk. About. Retirement. They. Insist. I. Have. Access. To. A. Pension. And. I. Have. Done. My. Contributions. Wrong.

        I don’t understand how they don’t connect what they read in the news with their own child.

        1. WantonSeedStitch*

          This reminds me of my MIL trying to talk to my husband about retirement. My husband is in the armed forces reserves, while his late father was active duty. The way retirement works is different for those groups. Also, times have changed and laws have changed, which my MIL never remembers or understands.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            My MIL and FIL were both military officers. When Hubs joined, MIL was convinced she’d be able to go visit him, during officer boot camp, at the base, because “she was (military branch) too!”

            She also got upset at me that I couldn’t just take a week off work with 2 hours notice to go do this visiting. 1) I do not have a military ID card yet, I cannot just mosey onto base. 2) I cannot just take off like this. “But I can!!” Yes, MIL you can because you are and have been a SAHM for 30+ years. I have a boss, I’ve been at this job 2 months, I cannot. 3) STOP TRYING TO VISIT HIM,THEY WILL NOT LET YOU AND THEY WILL GIVE HIM HELL FOR YOU TRYING.

            Same woman who upon me getting my Master’s asked me why I’d get it when all I’ll be doing is staying at home with the babies. Babies did not exist, will not exist, and thank you so much for your excitement over my accomplishments.

            1. Insert Clever Name Here*

              A friend of mine got pregnant right after high school graduation. At her baby shower, my friend mentioned enrolling in the local community college. Her partner’s mother sneered at her and said “no, your place is barefoot in the kitchen, pregnant with more babies for me.” I wish my 18 year old self would have been able to speak up for my friend.

              (She enrolled and graduated from the community college, then enrolled in a university, and graduated with honors. She then supported her self and her child after divorcing the partner who was just like his mother.)

          2. Quill*

            My parents are exactly young enough that they realize some things have changed… they just don’t seem to notice that they’ve changed *Everywhere*, they think I need to find one of the Few Good Companies Left.

            Me: if people had jobs that weren’t contract set up for people who had my skill set I’d actually see them advertised on the internet.

            My Mother: it’s where you live, not what you do.
            My Dad: it’s what you do, but it’s an industry problem, not a job description problem.
            Me: neither of those is really capturing the fact that you both got into your jobs long enough ago that anyone looking for you as workers doesn’t view you as disposable, and I got a STEM degree when everyone was pushing for it but nobody had any plans to pay people well, why do you think they’ve been telling girls to go into science since 2000?

        2. drago cucina*

          I have a friend, the same age, who walked into a government job in the 80s. He has no clue what it is like to apply for a job. No idea how to work in a non-government environment. Over the past 20 years I’ve butted heads with him on his job advice to his kids and mine. In 2008 I practically had to beat him over the head with the idea that no one was walking into a job. A college degree wasn’t a golden ticket.

          His wife is a very successful hair stylist who owns her own business. She’s tried to explain the realities to him but it’s not his experience, so he doesn’t see it as The Truth.

    2. ThatGirl*

      I worked in newspapers years ago and have transitioned to creative & marketing copywriting. Haven’t been in a newsroom for 13 years. My mom is still sure I would make a great editor of her small town’s newspaper because I’m so good at catching typos. (Also she wants me to move back there.)

      1. Artemesia*

        When my brother got accepted to Harvard Business School (and went on to become the most successful graduate of his graduating class) my uncle the HS principal said he couldn’t understand going all the way to Boston when they had a perfectly good ‘business college’ in BFnowhere where he lived.

      2. Temperance*

        My mother tried very hard to convince me that I could find a great legal job outside of Scranton. And then she sent me a listing for a position that covered 16 of the most rural counties in northeastern PA, paid $35k/year, and would have required me to live in the middle of nowhere and travel a bunch on that salary.

      3. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        My husband has an academic PhD in a human biology area. His mom keeps sending him job listings from the local hospital, telling him he’d make a wonderful doctor. And when he tells her, no, I legally am not a medical doctor, I did not go to medical school, she tells him he needs to aim higher and have more confidence in himself and stop selling himself short!

        1. Loosey Goosey*

          Don’t you know all it takes to turn a PhD into an MD is some good old-fashioned gumption! (This is probably annoying for him, but it’s sort of sweet that his mom has so much confidence in him and thinks he’d be a wonderful doctor.)

  22. hbc*

    Some parents will never see their kids as fully-functional adults. My husband is in his forties and his mom still thinks she needs to remind him to brush his teeth. :/

    And part of adult offspring growing out of the role of children is that parental approval in lots of areas of our lives isn’t necessary, and sometimes isn’t even desirable. Listening to my father and SIL talk about the “too sensitive” person in her office, I’d be worried if he thought I was a great manager.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      When I was in my late 20s, my sister heaped a bunch of broccoli on my dinner plate at Christmas. I asked her what she thought she was doing as I didn’t want that. She said, “You know the rule. Serve yourself or I will. You need to eat broccoli. I didn’t ask if you didn’t like it. I’m telling you to eat it.” I told her to never speak to me that way again, and I left the table and house. I had Arby’s drive thru that year. It was delicious!

      1. Anon for this*

        I was visiting home to introduce my new fiance and my brother was grilling steaks. I asked him to leave one on longer for me because I like mine medium. He sent them out so rare I think they were mooing. Then when I got up to put mine back on the fire, he told me I shouldlearn to like them rare ….or something like that. Honestly all I remember is the flames on the side of my face cooking the meat for me. Seriously though, I just left and went for a walk around the block came back and finished cooking my steak. I ate alone though, and older brother never said a word.

    2. M*

      This is so true. My parents are getting better about this, but my dad always talks to me like I don’t understand anything about the world. My partner’s parents (particularly his mother), on the other hand, are very much of the opinion that he and I are completely incapable of functioning. His mother, when we moved into our new apartment in February, wanted to come and tour it before we moved, just to make sure they weren’t taking advantage of us (??), and wants frequent updates on my job, I think because she wants me to be more of a stay-at-home type. She was upset that I started grad school because she assumed he would have to pay for it. I make almost 2x his salary (admittedly in a job I’m hoping to escape once I have said degree, but still). There’s literally no reason I wouldn’t be paying for it myself. I think she at least partially believed that I was after him for his money, which again, ??

      It’s difficult to keep our parents on an information diet, as someone called it above, but it’s often necessary.

    3. Buni*

      Last time I went to visit my parents my mother asked if I had any cash on me at the corner shop, and I produced exactly 28p from the bottom of one pocket. I joked it had been there for weeks, and at the end of the visit I still had the same 28p. When she drove me back to the station she tried to push £10 on me, saying she couldn’t bear to think I was walking around with so little money.

      I’m 44. I left home permanently at 23. I had to break it to my 72yr old mother that, living in the City, everything is contactless; I had been living perfectly well without using actual cash in weeks. It wasn’t infantilism on her part, it was just an utter disconnect with how life outside of her small rural village is lived. Any time my parents try to tell me ‘how things go’ a cheerful ‘Not where I am!’ has become my stock response.

      1. Media Monkey*

        haha – we have a little toll bridge near here which is (inconveniently) between our house and our kid’s school. any time we need to cross it (a couple of times a week, not every day!) we are scrabbling around for 60p in change. we never have any change and often very little cash, especially since covid when contactless has been pushed more. i always just pay with my phone which also has all my loyalty cards loaded onto it.

    4. Angus’s Mom*

      Oh so much this.

      My mum actually threatened to come into my office and speak to HR when I was being bullied at a toxic job.

      I was 34 at the time and I dealt with it by, guess what, going to HR myself. I’m now 39. She still can’t see me as anything but that little girl in pigtails running across the garden to her.

    5. tiny cactus*

      Amusingly, although my mother mostly comes to me for advice and seems to think that I have vast stores of knowledge in every subject she doesn’t know about, she still has the occasional vestige of parental wisdom slip through. For example, she is convinced that I have no idea how to ride a bike and will give me a primer on how the gears on my own bike work every time I go for a bike ride.

    6. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

      I had to travel with my parents across the country for a family wedding when I was in my early 40s. My father kept giving me “helpful” instructions about how I was going to need to remove my cardigan and shoes to go through security. At that point, my job had me flying out of town for at least 2 conferences a year, while my mom (who flies once every 4-5 years) got no lectures at all. This is the same man who was shocked that I was studying for a high level certification exam, since he remembered how tough that exam was for his colleagues 30 years ago. I made sure to call him and let him know that I’d passed, since he’d expressed how it was “…really hard. Are you sure you handle it?”

      Some day he’s going to remember that I’m not 12.

    7. allathian*

      I think one reason why my parents were so great when I was growing up was that his mom, who was an absolutely wonderful grandma to me and my sister, had trouble accepting that her son was an adult. When I was about 15 and my dad was past 40, one day my grandma asked my dad if he’d started using long johns yet… I remember this vividly and it was an interesting take on their relationship. My dad was either too taken aback by it or too used to being infantilized by his mom to say anything, but I remember saying something like “don’t you think he’s old enough to decide for himself what he wants to wear?” For the record, my parents trusted me to choose my own clothes from around that age. My taste in clothes was pretty neutral, and once I got a job at 17 and started buying my own clothes, they never commented my clothes unless it was something positive like “that shirt looks great on you”, “are those jeans new, they’re nice.” I guess it helped that I’ve always had a fairly conservative taste when it comes to clothes and they were supportive enough of my increasing independence
      as I was growing up that I didn’t feel the need to be a rebellious teenager.

      I actually got my current job because my mom found an ad for it (I was 35), but she just called me and asked if I’d seen it yet and when I hadn’t, she brought it round (we lived on the same block at the time) because it was a newspaper clipping. But after that, all the rest was up to me. At the time I was working evenings in a call center and looking for work during the day.

  23. Artemesia*

    You’re 30, have years of successful professional success and thus don’t need to involve your Dad in your personal decisions. Some parents are great sounding boards; others have trouble moving past seeing you as a child or in this case seeing you as a girl. The best way to keep your relationship with Dad warm while not feeling constantly beaten down by him is to stop using him as a sounding board. If he asks about the job, it is ‘fine.’ then you can toss out anodyne details about some recent success or project or even the product or service the organization sells and how well it is doing. Stop sharing anecdotes about your own conflicts or difficulties or specific decisions. Just be bland when questioned and describe things that give no purchase for him to berate you and move the topic to other things.

    Some parents are good job coaches; your Dad isn’t; engage him in your life in other ways. During COVID my husband and son, 2000 miles apart, are reading and discussing the same books. It doesn’t have to be about your job.

  24. Advice Seeker*

    It’s kind of funny because this is exactly the advice I was hoping for/expecting to get! In terms of “he’s more invested in being right than in cheering you on”, but unfortunately, he’s ALWAYS more invested in being right rather than being there for his kids. It’s something he’s always struggled with, and unfortunately even in his 60’s just can’t seem to get past. The biggest reason I’m excited you chose to publish this question and a response is now because when I do employ the “you lost the privilege of hearing about my work life” to my dad, I can send it to him!

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      I also recommend

      “Thank you, but I don’t need your permission to do X. I’m a grown woman, of course!”

    2. Another health care worker*

      That’s really sad–that he’s more invested in being right than in your well-being and success.

      When you send him this column, my guess is that he’ll just discredit Alison, and 100% of the comments, and explain why he still knows better. My Dad was like this too. I’m sorry.

      1. Advice Seeker*

        Sending it to him could go either way… When he made the aggressive woman comment, I sent him an article from Alison about how to write a cover letter. He responded by sending me 3 articles also about cover letters (which I had already read and followed the advice of). I sent him one final article about how parents should not be involved at all in the job process… I think that’s what made him the most bitter about me landing the “aggressive” cover letter job

    3. Anon today*

      I understand why you might be tempted to but, genuinely, what do you get out of sending your dad this post?

      Do you think it will change his mind? Do you want him to know someone thinks you’re right and he’s wrong? Will it do any of those things?

      It should be enough when you, a seasoned professional, who is in an industry he has no clue about, says something regarding your knowledge/experience, but he’s clearly shown it doesn’t.

      Drop the rope. Don’t engage or fight this if he’s been like this his entire life. Unless you genuinely think he might listen, but from what you’ve said, it’s his way or the wrong way.

      1. Tiny Kong*

        I agree. Sending him this just sounds like you yourself are more interested in proving him wrong than just living your life and having a good relationship with your father.

    4. Bear Shark*

      I wouldn’t bother sending it to him. My parents and in-laws have been the same way at times when it comes to career advise. He will 100% have some reason why we’re all Millennials (or whatever version of “kids-these-days” he uses) who don’t understand the real world. Mine don’t understand working remotely and that pensions aren’t a thing anymore.

      Put him on an information diet. I don’t tell mine anymore about job applications, raises, reviews, or anything like that. It’s not your report card from school where you had to tell him about it. It can be hard to adjust the level of detail you give him so cut yourself some slack if you find yourself giving him more information than you meant to at first.

    5. hbc*

      This will sound like a quibble, but I don’t think sending him an advice column will help your case here. It only reinforces the idea that you don’t get to make your own decisions–it’s just a question of whether he or Alison wins. This is kind of like the idea that you don’t need to convince an employee that they’re doing a bad job or an SO that you’ve got enough reason to dump them.

      You can’t change his mind on whether you’d be a better worker if you just listened to him. But you can tell him that this is a topic that you don’t want to discuss anymore, and end the call if he refuses to drop it.

      1. Artemesia*

        part of being grown up is knowing when to drop the rope and manage the information rather than having to be ‘right’ too. Your Dad HAS TO be right. Well maybe so do you. don’t prove it with the column, just gently proceed and restrict what detail you share. That is the mature grown up way to separate yourself from your role as baby girl.

        1. Washi*

          Right, the whole point is you don’t need to persuade him to give you his stamp of approval on your career.

          1. Advice Seeker*

            My parents really micromanaged my life a LOT growing up, so I’m prone to second-guessing myself. Basically my thought process behind sending him this advice column would be “here is secondary validation that my decision is one I am sticking to and you will not change my mind”. It’s not necessarily me saying “I’M RIGHT YOU’RE WRONG” but more like, “here is what I am doing, I got a second opinion to only reinforce my decision”

            1. Observer*

              This is actually all the more reason to NOT send the article. If your father doesn’t like your decision, all the outside validation is not going to change his mind. It’s not even going convince him that you did your due diligence. But it WILL signal to him that he gets to weigh in on whether you’ve gotten “sufficient” validation. That’s not what you’re going for, of course, but that’s what he is going to take out of this.

            2. Tiny Kong*

              The second opinion is for you, not for your dad. The point is you can’t trust and don’t need your dad’s judgment, so why are you getting a second opinion…for him?

            3. nonegiven*

              Don’t say I have gotten outside validation, so you’re wrong. Say, I’ve made my decision and you don’t get a say.

    6. Gingerblue*

      As another daughter of a dad like this, I salute you. He knows nothing about my life, and isn’t particularly interested in doing so unless he thinks there might be a crack into which he can work the thin end of some unsolicited fatherly wisdom. I’ve become a big fan of “I’m not looking for advice” and simply not engaging if he tries to bestow some anyway.

      The number of people giving you scoldy, condescending advice on a letter about dealing with scoldy, condescending advice is hilarious to me.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Except the problem is he’s more invested in being right than being a supportive parent. And rubbing the advice column in his nose seems to me showing the same need to be right at the expense of someone else. So no, I would not suggest sending him a link to this page.

        1. Autumnheart*

          Kinda makes me wonder how he was as a psychiatrist. Yikes. I hope he was better at listening and understanding as a professional than he is as a parent.

    7. Observer*

      It’s great to get validation. But I do think that you will have better results if you do NOT send him the article. For one thing, he’s likely to use this to try to argue your decision. Why do that?

      On the other hand, from your point of view it’s PERFECT place to set a really important boundary. That is that you get to make decisions without the need to explain or justify those decisions.

      Your best bet is ti keep your explanation short. Then refuse to engage on the issue.

    8. LTL*

      I understand the impulse but if your goal is to set a boundary, sending this article is counterproductive. It’s a way of continuing the conversation with him.

  25. AvonLady Barksdale*

    While I understand this is not a universal situation, I completely got it when LW said her dad is a retired medical professional. And of course I don’t know all the details, but… yeah.

    My whole family is made up of medical professionals, mostly retired. They DO NOT get it. Nothing about corporate America makes sense to them, but don’t tell them that, and they will never trust my experiences or my judgment. My stepfather, a dentist who owned his own practice, doesn’t understand why I would need approval for time off (“No, you need to come do this thing now”) or salary (“That’s too low, that’s ridiculous”) and my mother, a physician who left private practice for a government job when she was very, very senior, says the same stuff to me your dad does. It’s absolutely sexist (in my mother’s case, the ingrained sexism is really hard to take) and it also stems from a complete lack of understanding that there is a world outside of medicine/healthcare with different norms and hierarchies. I was going through a horrible time with my last job, it was a terribly abusive environment, and my mom’s response was always, “What are you doing wrong?” because as far as she was concerned, it was always my fault and I must be a Very Difficult Person. (I’m not, according to my actual colleagues.)

    I stopped discussing my job searches with them a long time ago. I don’t even tell them when I have interviews. I realized a few years ago that neither of my parents has ever had to job search, and that was a revelation. You will get there too, I promise. They don’t need to be involved, they don’t know better than you, and if you make a mistake, well, you’ll learn from it because that’s how life works.

    It took me a whole lot of therapy to realize that some people grow up and realize how right their parents were, yet some of us grow up and realize how wrong they can be. If you have a good network of friends and potential mentors, turn to them for work advice. And good luck!

    1. Anon today*

      My dad has had two interviews in his life, three if you count him being headhunted for his current position.

      He realised life was very different for me, graduating in 2010, when I phoned him crying after a period of 6 interviews over 5 days, stressed, worn down and close to numb.

      He was able to understand that the world has changed, but sometimes people get stuck in their own little worlds and can’t look past it, especially if they interact within a one industry echo chamber.

  26. Researcher*

    No excuses for this kind of discourse in 2020, but….

    I think Dad being a former medical professional could be highly relevant here. Medicine is only recently starting to see an equal number of women entering medical school, being attending physicians or learning advanced surgery skills, etc. This is a field in which a woman in scrubs is still assumed to be a nurse. And, pardon the broad generalization, nurses are some of the warmest and most helpful people (or at least unlikely to be characterized as aggressive and difficult to work with). So while Dad’s comments are still not-cool, I think there’s a lot more to unpack here than just being from a different generation.

  27. OrigCassandra*

    There is a pretty decent chance your father’s profession may have sparked, enabled, and/or fostered his sexism, OP. Doctors are pretty notorious for it.

    You’ll know better than I whether this is part of the problem; I mention it because it’s one thing in this mess that you absolutely, positively don’t own and can’t fix.

    Agree that Dad needs to go on an information diet. My parents did after Dad viciously excoriated me for leaving a Ph.D program that was destroying my health. If they can’t be supportive in the way you need, they forfeit any claim on information from you.

    1. SwitchingGenres*

      “If they can’t be supportive in the way you need, they forfeit any claim on information from you.”

      Yes! Exactly this.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      I work in a medical school library so we get doctors regularly as patrons and, while I haven’t had to deal with any pointed sexism I have definitely had to deal with high-maintenance elitists. I got told how to do my job just this week by someone who has definitely never done my job.

      1. Damn it, Hardison!*

        Oh, you just reminded me of a similar situation when I worked at medical school library. A doctor called my line when no one picked up at the reference desk. He proceeded to tell me what he wanted, and when I replied that I couldn’t help him but would be happy to take a message and give it to a reference librarian, he responded that he was giving me an opportunity to learn how to do something new that day. I told him I had enough of my own work (totally unrelated to reference, barely related to working in a library) to do and that he would get much better results from a professional medical librarian. He was Not Pleased and let me know, as well as the poor librarian who had to deal with him.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I got asked for a last-minute inventory of an archival collection, by the doctor who donated the collection but needed more detail in a hurry for a new research project, turned a workable inventory around in 24 hours, and then got reprimanded because it wasn’t a polished finding aid.

          My supervisor wrote this person back with an explanation of a working inventory vs. a finished finding aid, which was an extremely polite and professional way of telling them to stuff it.

  28. lazy intellectual*

    Not only is he sexist, but he sounds mean! My dad isn’t afraid to dish out criticism, but I could never imagine him saying anything like “no one wants to work with you”. Ouch!

      1. Advice Seeker*

        He then launched into a story about how when I was a child doing a science project, he was “helping me” and told me I did it wrong and had to restart. He said I was very visibly upset and frustrated, but how my attitude hasn’t changed over the years when someone tells me something I don’t like to hear. I responded with “that sounds more like micromanaging than actually helping them” and he said I didn’t know what micromanaging was. I should’ve responded with “I wonder where I learned how to react to things I don’t like to hear…” but unfortunately the thought didn’t come until I was bitching to my brother!

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I wouldn’t be surprised if you were one of my estranged half-siblings, except I’m pretty sure none of them talk to my biological father either. But you’re the right age! Anyway, if you are… it’s not going to get better and it’s TOTALLY NOT YOU and I hope you have a great support network of friends and chosen family.

        2. Sinister Serina*

          I’m just so sorry to hear this. My parents think (thought? My dad died last year) that the sun rises and sets with me (okay, not entirely) but if someone didn’t get along with me, it was clearly them and not me.
          And seconded-keep your Dad on an information diet. You can discuss anything else with him-sports/news/TV/anything you have in common, but no need to keep telling him about this. He may be having a hard time watching you grow and be successful without his input but that’s his problem and not yours. Live your life, be who you are and if he can’t be happy for you because you are successful without his input, well, that’s too bad.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I wish I had never heard that before. I find it very special yet very sad when I see the relationships some of my friends have with their parents.

        Also, if you call them out on it and ask why they’re saying such mean things, they say they want to help you and help make you better. I like to remind my mother that it doesn’t work, yet she persists.

  29. Former call centre worker*

    OP, this sounds familiar. I grew up with a controlling, know-it-all dad, and because of the unearned confidence he projects, I internalised the idea that he’s generally knowledgeable and it did take several years of adulthood before I stopped seeing him as a source of knowledge and experience on all subjects.

    Now, I will still ask my parents questions about things that are their area of expertise, but things like job searching, which they have no specialist knowledge or recent experience of, I don’t talk to them about.

    Your dad has asked to be involved in your job search. As a thought experiment, think about how it would feel for both of you if he was the one job hunting and you insisted, without being asked, on being involved, reviewing his cover letters, etc. That probably feels odd to you and he wouldn’t like it either. That’s how it should feel that he’s done that to you. Your problems aren’t his to solve any more than his are yours to solve.

  30. AK*

    When my dad (or my mom for that matter, ugh) says things like “no one wants to work with an aggressive woman.” I try to lightly, gently, humorously, but also damn firmly reply with things like “and no one wants a sexist instead of a supportive parent”. But it depends on the parent in question. Some people back down when mildly confronted, others dig in and demand you reassure them and basically change the topic to “how dare you?!”.

    Regardless, I’m sorry you have to deal with this. I know parents are human too, it just sucks to realize they have the same blindspots and biases as a lot of other people do when it comes to racism, sexism, homophobia etc. We want to look up to them, or at least be personally exempted from their beliefs.

  31. EgyptMarge*

    Giving your dad the benefit of the doubt, I’d imagine the standards of when you’re expected to respond and be on call are wildly different in the medical field than in almost every other field. So that might be coloring his thinking as well.

    Best of luck with setting some boundaries in the future, OP!

  32. Gaia*

    I’m sorry, OP, that’s really hard. I have a similar issue with my Grampa (who is my father figure). It hurts when he says clearly sexist things related to my work. I’ve learned not to discuss any details with him. I wish I could talk about it more because it is important to me and something I take pride in. But our relationship just wouldn’t have stood up to his unwillingness to see how wrongheaded he was being.

  33. Blisskrieg*

    OP–this letter hit home for me. I am very very close with my parents, and love them dearly. However, growing up any time I would express interest in a career, my mom would ask “wouldn’t you like to be a teacher?” even though I had expressed multiple times, that no, that doesn’t interest me. It took me a long time to realize she never asked my brother the same thing. Any career choice he mentioned was definitely on the table!

    It can be hard to separate your love for a parent from some of the misinformed ideas or prejudices they carry. Good for you for moving forth “aggressively” (and I say that with a positive connotation) with your career. Keep pursuing what means the most to you.

    1. caps22*

      Ugh what is it with expecting women to be teachers? I mean, it’s a great profession if you’re interested in it, but that’s for both men and women. I was good at science and wanted to be a scientist for as long as I wanted. So my parents kept trying to push me to be a science teacher so I’d be home with the kids while my husband presumably worked long hours doing testosterone things. Relentlessly it was be a science teacher. I just ignored them, funded my own education, got a doctorate and became a scientist. Guess who were sooooo proud when they bragged to the neighbors? You guessed it.

      1. Elle by the sea*

        That’s quite interesting, actually. I grew up in a family of teachers and while other parents who were teachers didn’t encourage their children to follow suit, so to speak, me becoming a teacher had always been a fait accompli as far as I was concerned. Not that it was forced upon me in any way. But then my career moved in a completely different direction.

        Anyway, that’s beside the point, but since I have first and second hand experience (I did train and eventually work as a teacher for a while), I fail to understand how anyone could assume that it’s a “feminine” job. I have heard many people say that you get a lot of time off and it’s a comfortable, low-risk job. Well, I’d like those people to try it for a few days, especially in a tough locality. It is a tough job and you need to be extremely tough to be effective, let alone successful. And then I didn’t mention the overtime, working on weekends, correcting assignments and tests at night, preparing every lesson fresh (no, you can’t keep reusing material forever if you wish to spark the curiosity of students for the subject). Don’t get me wrong, I loved it, but I feel far more relaxed in the so-called highly competitive tech world, sitting in an office and doing my job without juggling all these responsibilities (even as a manager).

        1. Quill*

          My mom entered teaching when I was 15, so I like to joke that’s why I knew better than to go into teaching.

          However, there are a lot of multigenerational teaching families where I grew up because until about 2015 it was a fairly secure job with good benefits and was actually in my rust belt midwest town, so you didn’t have to drive to the city every day. So it was very attractive for young women who went to college but did not have a good job market unless they moved to A City, especially if they wanted to have kids. (You can tell which teachers’ kids were planned with the career in mind based on if they have birthdays that butt up against summer vacation… so many late spring babies…)

        2. Blisskrieg*

          Agree with all of the above! Teaching is not low stress at all, and requires a lot of time that people looking in don’t recognize. It also should not be gendered. However, the *perception* is that it is good for young women with children because their schedules can match up! Additionally, from an historical perspective, teaching was one of the very few career choices that were considered acceptable for women through the industrial revolution–this also fostered the perception that it is a woman’s career. None of this is accurate of course, but still plays a major if underlying role in these conversations. I can attest that is *exactly* where my mother was coming from with those suggestions…

      2. Starbuck*

        Oh, it’s because they look after children, of course. It’s not mysterious. Anything to do with kids is women’s work, especially with younger children. That’s why so many people don’t want teachers to get paid as much as other professionals with similar education, because they’re seen essentially as baby sitters (well, and some people don’t think any government employee should be paid adequately).

    2. DG*

      Oof, I used to get the “Why don’t you be a teacher?” question from my family all the time. My parents’ reasoning was that a teacher’s workday ends by 3:00 and they have the summers off. Even as a teen, I knew my teachers worked much longer 8-3 and that most of them required summer jobs to make ends meet.

      1. Sinister Serina*

        My dad started his career as an English teacher before getting his PhD and he would never recommend being a teacher.

    3. knitcrazybooknut*

      My dad was in the US Army for years right out of high school. He was convinced that his peace-sign-wearing, barefoot-even-in-winter, hippie-college-attending daughter would excel in the armed forces. I got calls from recruiters until I graduated. Sometimes the only thing they can see is what they have done. Since his family had all joined the military or gotten married after high school, I think he might have been trying to keep me from getting married instead!

  34. Ash*

    It’s usually very hard to acknowledge your loved ones’ flaws, especially when they are as egregious as sexism. But LW, you already have done most of the work! You are not trying to make excuses for him, and that is admirable. Please take AAM’s advice and don’t discuss your career or work with your dad. He’s likely not going to change (especially if he begrudged you getting a job!!), and your discussions with him will only make you feel bad.

  35. Anon today*

    This is hard to deal with, especially if you love your parents and they were mostly good parents to you. You’re less prepared for that disappointment.

    My dad is fantastic in terms of sexism and understanding that my career opportunities/the world is different since he fought his way from poverty and emigrating on a wing and a prayer to high level academia to senior corporate leadership. He actively works to be an ally in a male dominated space. He listens when I explain diversity goes beyond certain categories he believes it covers.

    And unless I have a long term female partner he will never know I’m not straight. And that hurts, but it hurts less than what his reaction to me will be.

    You need to decide what situation you can be happy with, whether it’s giving him surface level information or whether you need to have an indepth conversation, but you likely won’t ever have the perfect situation you want.

  36. MissFinance*

    I’m a 25 year old woman who still, for various reasons, has to live with my parents. Setting boundaries was so important, especially when I started working from home. My dad isn’t sexist, but some of his ideas are outdated. He’s worked for the same law firm for 30+ years; my mom hasn’t worked in an office since before I was born. He was horrified when I started wearing jeans to the office. He couldn’t understand working from home before the pandemic (but how do they know you’re actually working)? The fact that I didn’t have to be in my seat at exactly a specific time baffled both of my parents. Eventually, when they saw I was doing well and I would tell them about my excellent performance reviews, they let up. It was a lot of repeating, “This isn’t how this works anymore.”

    I let others review my resume and cover letter. My parents are good for advice on many topics. Career advice isn’t one of them.

  37. LadyByTheLake*

    When I was in my twenties I realized that my Dad is super sexist (and a bit racist to boot). It was there for anyone to see, but as a child it can be difficult to see where your parents are on the sexism/racism scale until you get away and have something to compare it to. I never had the degree of sharing you appear to have with your dad — you seem to be sharing a LOT — but to the extent that I discussed my life choices with my dad, I stopped. It wasn’t worth the aggravation. And to the extent he would provide input that was completely irrelevant to my situation, I would ignore it or simply acknowledge receipt. A few times I had to get more specific — “No Dad, I’m not going to be moving back to Home State to live with you and do a community college cooking program. Why? Because I live in New State now, I just finished law school and I’m happy being a lawyer.” (A real conversation that actually happened). But for the most part, I just give my dad vague updates “still a lawyer” and talk about something else (books, movies, travel, his health)

    1. Dust Bunny*

      My dad is a terrible liberal benevolent racist: Always eager to show off how inclusive he can be, to the point of being really patronizing. Yes, we’ve tried to talk him down but he gets angry and won’t listen.

  38. Some internet rando*

    I don’t mean this to sound harsh but your dad won’t treat you like an adult until you start to act like an adult. That means you have to start being more independent, even if he is not comfortable with it.

    You will have to be the one to start setting boundaries and not involving him at all in your work life or frankly the details of other aspects of your life. Don’t tell him if you take a day off. Don’t tell him the details of work – save that for other people who are more supportive and less anxiously invested in your success. It sounds like he is anxious about your success (and I agree he is also probably sexist) and he is managing his anxiety by trying to exert some control over you – like reading your cover letter and making sure you are perceived as “nice” and “not aggressive.” But his advice is bad. And his anxiety about your success is not your responsibility. Every time you involve him in your life, you reinforce that your success IS still his job, and you are probably maintaining some of his anxiety about this. Put him on an information diet right away. I bet he didn’t have his dad read his cover letters! I bet he didn’t tell his dad when he took a day off or had a disagreement at work! When he asks about work just say vague superficial stuff and what is going well. Assume he doesn’t really know anything about your field so don’t share any details. If he does give advice, you can pleasantly ignore it.

    I do wonder if there is an generational difference… I am Generation X and when I left for college in the mid-1990s I never involved my parents in any decisions again. We are close but I just told them the basics (e.g., I am majoring in X, I am applying to grad school for Y, I just got a new job!, I am dating someone and its going well!, etc.) I can’t imagine including my parents in a job search at age 30. But I don’t blame you, letter writer. You sound pretty smart and frankly awesome at your career. I think higher parent involvement is more common now… but its doing you a disservice. Your dad is expecting to be involved. YOU are going to have to re-shape that behavior by weaning him off being so actively involved in your life. You can do it!

    1. learnedthehardway*

      This is really good advice.

      Another piece of advice – figure out who to go to when you need support, and go to that person, rather than your father. Some people just cannot be the supports we need, and rather than bang your head against a wall trying to get the support you need from them, it is easier and more productive to find the support elsewhere.

    2. ribbet*

      I don’t think it’s about involving them in your job search like a helicopter parent thing. I think it’s just a normal topic of conversation. I would tell a friend who asked me about my day if something bad happened at work, and I just asked 2 different friends to look at my resume. I know people have hangups about friend vs. parent, but if you have an adult relationship with someone, you should actually be able to tell them what’s going on and get some input on life decisions.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes I mean I send my parents job specs when I go for them, because they like to know what I’m doing. They wouldn’t complain if I didn’t but they love me so they care what I’m doing. Also it helps Mum to be able to visualise me going about my life.

        Obviously it helps that my parents are supportive but don’t interfere or try and run things for me. They like to see what my job is and which promotions I’m going for, but they don’t try and intervene or tell me how to progress in my career. My father does occasionally help me when I am failing to get Excel to co-operate (aargh pivot tables are evil) but that’s because he’s much better at it than I am and he only does it when I ask.

    3. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Oh please with this condescension — get off your Gen X high horse. It is as normal to talk to a parent about your job/job search as it is to not talk to a parent about your job/job search. It’s all about the relationship people have. The things she’s mentioning are completely normal, conversational topics. THAT is not problematic. What’s problematic is her dad’s response. His RESPONSE is the reason she should put him on an information diet.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this. But some things were different in the era before cell phones. When I went on a student exchange in France, I didn’t have a phone. My parents had no way to contact me in an emergency, because they don’t speak French and the student secretary at the college I went to didn’t really speak any English. I used to go to a phone booth (remember them?) and call them once a week. I also sent the occasional letter and postcard.

        Much the same thing happened when I worked as an intern in Spain. Then at least I was a receptionist and answered the phone, so they could get a hold of me when I was working.

        These days, when most young adults have a smartphone, asserting that independence is much harder. I think we’ve all heard the horror stories of freshmen in college who have their parents sign them up for courses or exams.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Yes, things were different before cell phones. But does that mean when you were on that payphone telling your parents about the place you visited that week they were actively involved in your trip because you were telling them about it? Nope. LW definitely needs to avoid talking about work with her father, but not because by talking to him she’s going “oh daddy please be involved” — it’s because her father has proven himself absolutely incapable of reacting in an appropriate way ***through no fault of the letter writer***

      2. Outside Earthling*

        That’s harsh on this commentator, who gave some great advice. It’s a different point of view to yours, that’s all.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          They gave great advice up until the point they started being condescending. “But I don’t blame you, letter writer. You sound pretty smart and frankly awesome at your career…You can do it!” Let me just pat you on the back for being such a smart worker!

  39. SwitchingGenres*

    You can’t make your parents treat you as an adult but you can claim adulthood. Why not tell your dad how offended his comments are to you? Adults tell each other these things, kids defer to their parents. I went through a similar thing with one of my parents. I actually ended up writing them a letter, explaining how they weren’t treating me as a adult. After sone time talking my parent and I now have an actual adult relationship, not just parent and child. And it’s great. It also never would have happened if I hadn’t been confrontational about it. It can be scary! But it’s worth it in my mind, no matter the outcome. Because whether they respond positively or negatively they have seen that you aren’t a child.

  40. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    Wow. As if I wasn’t thankful for my wise, kind, loving, supportive father before. He was a lawyer too and he gave me wonderful advice. But maybe your father, although he doesn’t know anything about your industry, just wants to be more involved in your life. Maybe you can make an effort to find other things to talk to him about. I hope you have other things you have in common. My father passed away when I was 39 and I miss him every day.

    1. irene adler*

      Yeah. I miss my Pops too.
      He was a very good listener. He would have asked ME what I thought would be the way to negotiate any given situation. And then told me that he thought that I had a good idea.

      1. Sinister Serina*

        My Dad was a teacher/college administrator all his life. And his way of teaching was always “you have to think about these things”. The biggest sin was not to have given thought to whatever it was we were talking about, and he firmly believed that his job was teaching people to think. What they thought about was out of his hands. Yeah, he died last year and it hurts.

    2. UKDancer*

      I miss my Grandad. Not because his career advice was brilliant, it wasn’t on many levels. He worked in a steel factory all his life and had no qualifications, I do a white collar, office based job so he couldn’t advise me on my job. But he was brilliant at dealing with people so I learnt a lot about management from his lessons from being the foreman in his part of the mill.

      I miss hearing him advise young UKDancer on how to manage staff while we drank endless cups of tea and he smoked foul smelling baccy. Not all of the advice was helpful but I would give anything to hear his Yorkshire accent explaining how to run a union meeting again.

  41. CRM*

    Although OP’s dad does sound like he may have a bit of a sexist lens, my parents are fairly progressive and even they give me very similar advice in terms of “not rocking the boat”. They just want to see me succeed in my career, and sometimes they forget that I can succeed while also taking vacation/sick leave, working from home, making the occasional mistake, and advocating for my needs.

    1. Observer*

      There is a difference between advising someone to not rock the boat – which may be good or bad advice, but not inherently sexist, and telling someone that “no one wants to work with an aggressive woman”. That IS inherently sexist. And if your parents said that to you, they WERE being sexist, no matter how progressive they may otherwise be.

      1. Tiny Kong*

        There’s no need to criticize CRM’s understanding of their conversation with their parents.

        We can certainly talk about strategies to survive sexism (and other isms) and that is not propagating sexism in itself. It’s not black-and-white where response short of flipping the table is conceding to sexism and therefore BAD. Sometimes you have to prioritize money over principles and it’s not BAD to want your loved ones to survive in this messy world long enough to claw their way up to something better.

        1. pancakes*

          It can be / might be bad. It might not be, sure, but wanting to help someone survive and giving them advice that would in fact help them survive are two different things.

  42. TootsNYC*

    In addition to the sexist outlook, there are also some parents who just assume that they need to constantly correct their children.

    I wonder how this dad was when she was a kid–if any topic from school came up at the dinner table, did he automatically correct her (or her brother), and tell them how they should handle it?

    There is also a thing where many men (some women, but many men( have the outlook that they must “fix” every topic of conversation, or every little glitch, in the life of the women who are somehow under their umbrella of responsibility. They thing it’s their responsibility, or that this is why someone is bringing it up; they think that “fixing things” is how they support people. Throw in that “parent” dynamic, and it could get a lot stronger.
    (Deborah Tannen first introduced me to this concept, and I have seen it at play in my husband and my FIL.)

  43. been there...*

    Something I’ve found helpful is sharing harmless anecdotes from the office with my parents, rather than work-related updates. So I’ll tell them how a mystery coworker was stealing everyone’s lunches, or how the same person always forgets to mute themselves on Zoom, but never about my personal work duties. This way they feel connected to my work life in some way (and in a way they can understand, since they don’t get my industry at all).

    For context, my dad was an HR exec for 30 years, so boy does he love giving work advice. He is also more than a bit sexist – I called him while I was at an out of town conference after the sessions had ended and I was having a glass of wine at the hotel bar, and he told me I shouldn’t have a glass of wine at a hotel bar because people will assume I’m a “hooker.” And when I graduated college he made me dye my blonde hair darker so interviewers wouldn’t think I was vain and frivolous. So, yeah.

    1. Artemesia*

      Great advice in any intrusive situation with snoopy people or micromanaging parents. You have lots to tell — cute stuff your cat did, the horrible traffic situation, the beautiful fall leaves on your hike, that book you just finished etc etc — you can babble on and give the illusion you are sharing while keeping yourself behind a brick wall. Only way I survived being around my parents as an adult whose work and life they never ‘got.’

    2. Anon for this one*

      Before escorting moved online in recent years, a woman nursing a drink alone in a hotel bar very likely was “working.” Your dad’s advice is outdated, but wasn’t wrong until recently.

  44. Myrin*

    OP, in very practical terms, I think you have a lot of choices ahead of you. What I mean by this is the following:

    Since you ask about setting boundaries with your dad regarding your career, really the only way forward is to do exactly what Alison says and share less with im.

    However, realising that is only the very first step. You will now have to decide how to go about this “sharing less” thing.

    It sounds like you talk with your dad pretty regularly, I’m assuming by phone or Skype/video call and not something less immediate like email or carrier pidgeon.
    So your very first decision will have to be around whether you just want to talk with him less, period, or whether you want to talk about other things instead.
    If the latter, it would probably be helpful to think about a few topics which are harmless or not controversial or even positive which you can use instead to fill any conversational space.
    If the former, your second decision will have to be about whether you want to be candid with him regarding your pulling back or whether you’ll just, say, call only once a week instead of three times and see if he comments on it.
    If you decide to be candid, as in, you know that he’ll be suspicious/upset/whiny if you suddenly start contacting him less so you want to actively bring up that going forth, you’ll call less often, you will have to make a third decision about whether you want to make something up – like you’ve been feeling stressed lately and decided you need more time to yourself and less on the phone – or whether you want to be honest and explicitly spell out that his behaviour is making you uncomfortable and hesitant to talk to him at length.

    Whatever you decide, none of these are bad or wrong decisions. A lot of it depends on both your personality and that of your dad independently of this particular situation. But I did want to bring this up so that you’re able to mentally arm yourself in advance and to speak to him confidently and clearly without having to come up with something on the spot you might later regret or decide wasn’t the best way to go after all.

    1. nonegiven*

      I would definitely say, you know what? If you can’t give me the support I need, I’ll have to ask someone else. I’ll call you next [time interval.]

  45. irene adler*

    I wonder if Dad ever experienced receiving “outdated” career or job advice from his elders?
    Might be worth asking him to recollect the advice he was given-back in the day. And ask him what he thought of it.
    Maybe it will get him to realize that his advice may not be as relevant as he thinks it is. Times do change.

  46. Generic Name*

    x2 on the last sentence. You don’t need to convince your dad that you are a fully functioning adult. You act like an adult and if your dad still treats you like a kid, then you get to set a boundary around that. I understand that you are still very young and you really want your parents’ approval (most people do!), but part of being an adult is that you don’t run all your life decisions past your parents, even after the fact, to this level of detail. Sure you can tell your parents, “Hey! I got a raise/new job/I bought a house/I’m engaged!”, but you don’t tell them you are job searching or that you’re house hunting or that you’re going after a promotion or that you’re thinking of proposing because that invites their (bad/unsolicited) advice.

  47. Dina*

    With my dad being a successful executive (CEO, COO) for many years, I totally understand where you’re coming from. He has the experience which has been helpful, especially early in my career. Now, times have changed. I have been in a workforce for 15+ years and it’s a different world from even when I entered the workforce, and especially since my dad has retired. A few of years into his retirement, I realized that I can take his advice sparingly. There are business things we talk about but I have to weigh it against my knowledge and put into context of his work environment. There are also things I don’t share because I don’t think he would understand. Instead we talk about his garden, baking cookies and chess, all of which he loves and would have never considered as a part of his life while he was working. There is no point in discussing or trying to change his ways.
    It’s a circle of life and I just see it as a part of growing up for me and him getting retired. Give your dad a hug, find different light topics to talk about so he feels that you value him, and find a different mentor for business discussions.

    1. Artemesia*

      My advice about managing upward is golden — my ideas about how to get a job are seriously out of date — no clue at all these days. So recognize that with advice from another generation.

  48. Jean*

    I can sympathize with your frustration, OP. And I agree with Alison’s advice to stop talking to your dad about work. My own mother is maddeningly set in her self-destructive work habits, and clings doggedly to the idea that if she puts her employer’s needs over her own 100% of the time, that she’ll somehow be rewarded for it, despite the mountains of evidence to the contrary. I’ll never be able to get through to her, because to her, I’m still a little girl with pigtails and missing my 2 front teeth, and not an adult with decades of professional experience. I’ve stopped talking to her about work – mine and hers – because I know she doesn’t approve of me recognizing and leveraging my own power vis-a-vis my employer in our business relationship. And I certainly don’t approve of her chosen approach of endlessly complaining about her job but refusing to do anything about it. Sometimes it’s just better for certain things to be off limits as a conversation topic.

    1. Observer*

      The OP wasn’t asking her Dad for advice. He was insisting on giving it. That’s much harder to deal with. Necessary, but totally NOT easy.

  49. Dust Bunny*

    My dad is not a bad person but he comes from a family that is congenitally arrogant, he is reliably and consistently wrong about people’s psychological and emotional motivators, and he doesn’t listen to anything that doesn’t fit his preconceived ideas. And he gossips, I guess for attention since he no longer has work to give him status. Also, he’s (probably; I’m older than you are) even older than your dad and at least as out of touch. He and my mom drove my brother nuts encouraging him (brother) to avail himself of the benefits provided by his university during grad school . . . benefits that were apparently common when they were in grad school but were long gone by the time brother was finishing his degrees.

    I go to my parents for a lot of things but career advice is not one of them, and I don’t tell Dad anything personal. I wish it were otherwise, but it’s not.

  50. Public Sector Manager*

    I’m just going to say that getting your parents to stop treating you like their child isn’t going to happen. I just turned 50, my salary is about 4 times what my parents get in retirement, and the last time we drove to my folks, my dad tried to palm me a $20 for gas money.

    For the OP, I’m sure your dad is the same as my folks–they mean well and they want what’s best for you. If they ask about a job hunt or a new job, just tell them everything is great and move onto a different subject. My folks are in their 80’s, and even though some of their comments drive me up the wall, I’m really going to miss hearing their voices when they are no longer with us.

    1. Generic Name*

      My parents are the same! The last time they visited I strategically just went grocery shopping before they arrived, because my mom likes to go along and then pay for my family’s weekly groceries. It’s a nice gesture, but really not necessary.

  51. MediumEd*

    OP, my dad is the exact. same. way. He also takes it really badly when I don’t take his advice, ranging from blaming me when a job doesn’t work out to just not acknowledging it when it does. My father does not know when he is saying sexist things, and when I call him out on it, he doesn’t understand why/how it is sexist. Its like he was programmed to think only one way when he started working in the 1960s. And yes, he treats my brothers very differently when it comes to job advice. He is a wonderful person in many other ways though and we otherwise have a great relationship! I have stopped asking for job advice a long time ago, or even telling him if/when I am thinking of applying for work. It saves us, especially me, a lot of headaches and obnoxious conversations.

  52. Delta Delta*

    Last time I saw my dad, he went to get something out of his wallet, and I saw that there’s a picture in there of my brother and me when we were little. I’m 42. My brother is 39. It’s just that we’re probably always going to be 6 and 3 in his mind because he’s our dad.

    I think it sounds nice that OP and her dad have a close relationship. Maybe OP’s move is to stop talking about work with her dad. He’s always going to be older and protective (because he’s dad) and since they were in different industries, what seemed appropriate for him just might not work in her industry. [NB: I am not suggesting men in healthcare are sexist; I am suggesting that the tones of their two industries may be very different.]

    Maybe make it fun – say you’re making a New Year’s Resolution not to talk about work with family. Then start on NYD and stick to it.

  53. midwest katie*

    My Dad never worked in am office so he gets really worried about me taking an afternoon off or meeting someone for lunch during the workday. I just kind of breeze by it and say “oh it’s fine” and change the subject. I haven’t heard any sexism thankfully but I just know he will never understand my job.

    1. Batgirl*

      “I just kind of breeze by it and say “oh it’s fine” and change the subject”
      Absolutely. Parents catch the confidence you have in yourself like a cold. If you defend, argue, justify etc, you seem like you need the advice.

    2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      My dad worked in an office with a Dress Code: dress slacks, collard shirts, a tie, every day. My first full-time job was a department director in a fitness center, and my dad was horrified to find out I did not wear dress slacks, a collared blouse, and dress shoes every day. You can’t wear yoga pants and sneakers to work, you will get fired!

      No, but you will get fired if you’re strolling around the basketball court in shoes that mark up the wood, or helping out the lifeguards in dry-clean-only clothes.

  54. Daughter of an HR Manager*

    My mother was a corporate HR manager who worked HARD in her career, and rose up in ranks accordingly. I knew what open enrollment was when I was in grade school, and she was an invaluable resource in my early career. In her early 60s (my mid-30s) I began to suspect that her advice was losing its value. This blog is one of the things that helped me realize that she was not really evolving with the rest of the professional world.

    Three years ago a previous employer asked me to return to fill a specific position on a new team that was starting. I interviewed and was assured the role but at the last minute asked to throw my hat in the ring for the team lead, the supervisor to the role I was expecting to fill. My mom was so against this- said that it would communicate disrespect to the company because they wanted me for X role, and that it was far too risky. She said I should take X role and do a whole list of things to prove myself and then go for a raise in a year, then a promotion, etc.

    I made a plan, prepped hard, and received a great offer for the team lead. When I told my mom I’d gotten it I could tell she was hurt that I’d gone against her advice and applied for the stretch role.

    Outgrowing your parents in a professional capacity is bittersweet, but it’s going to happen to most of us. I still discuss work issues with my mom, but I keep it to low stakes things that have a pretty obvious next step, so that I can “follow her advice”.

  55. Khatul Madame*

    The part about the situation OP had on her half-day off got me thinking about “difficult employees”.
    The work culture almost everywhere IME encourages being a yes-man (woman, person). OP responded to her boss’s request with a “Yes, but”. Ironically, many workplaces prefer an enthusiastic worker who responds with an unqualified “Yes” (and later comes back to the asker for information, help/additional resources, or no-can-do report) to a thoughtful one, who asks for information and highlights caveats up-front like the OP did. The first is seen as a “doer”, the second as, well, a difficult person who looks for excuses not to do the work.
    I’ve seen this preference and judgment in men and women bosses/clients alike, so view this as a cultural, not a gender issue.

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      I was wondering this too. I had two female bosses who, in the end, I was quite close with for bosses and am still in friendly, regular touch with despite having not worked with them in years. At various points when we worked together, both of them made me absolutely fume with anger from sexist advice and feedback they gave me.

      But in retrospect, they weren’t wrong. They were calling the situation as it was- both workplaces featured a very sexist Grandboss- while I was calling the situation as it should be -there should be no sexist norms at work. But ultimately you have to please the boss, even when the boss is very wrong, or leave.

  56. Batgirl*

    OP, my father gave good advice on some things but on others he was way, way off, because he’s human. Now, I did reach a point where I told him to put a sock in it on certain topics because I definitely knew better than him. It was his role to be all-knowing, until I could more confidently tell him that he definitely wasn’t. You can choose the direct or indirect method of doing this: so “Oh, I don’t want to talk about it/It’s handled/I’m so bored of that – I called you to hear more about subject change!” Versus: “Really I had no idea you’d battled sexism in the workplace and had first hand experience of how to overcome it with subtle feminine wiles! This is fascinating. However did you learn, as a man?” (I mean; of course he’s clueless!) and “Sorry Dad, you know a lot about x but every time you talk about my industry/gender politics at work, I’m wincing in pain at the inaccuracies. Let’s not.”
    Oh and never, ever, ever give someone a sample of your writing unless you want a critique. Especially not an emotionally invested, clueless party. Details are for relevant advice givers. Im sure there’s something your dad can weigh in on if you want them to: nerves on big work occasions, travel bag packing… but you’re in charge of what advice you allow, and how much you share with him.

  57. LogicalOne*

    Some parents will always try to parent you throughout your life. If you don’t agree with what a parent says, acknowledge it and take it with a grain of salt. At least make them feel heard. Sometimes that’s enough to keep them at bay with your work life and if they continue pressing the issue more, it may be time to put your foot down. It may hurt but it might prevent future headaches and future awkwardness and future unsolicited advice.

  58. Sleepy*

    My parents also give terrible career advice. Not surprising when I remember they haven’t been in the job market for 30 years! (One self-employed, one in the same job for 25 years). But it’s surprising to them–they think it’s the same job market as their youth.
    Like you, I have a hard time not taking it personally. They’re my parents, I respect and love them, and they can definitely hurt me unintentionally.
    I’m glad to see you have a strong sense of professional norms in your industry. Not everyone does, and that’s when bad advice is most harmful. My brother has always been a bit clueless about these things, and some advice from my parents actually played a role in him being fired.

  59. So Anon for this*

    I think this is a situation of learning to accept the parent you have and recognizing the relationship you need with the firm boundaries you need vs the one you want (or thought you had). It’s a hard lesson. I fall into this myself at times when things are going really well and I say too much or accidently open the door to a topic that must remain off limits and all that flows through is criticism and / or boundary violating remembering’s of past events I remember very differently. I kick myself ever single time. I will say, the older I get the less I do this – but it still happens. It got easier once I truly accepted we will never have the relationship I wanted. It still makes me sad, but its better for everyone to accept it.

  60. Lora*

    *laughs until tears are in my eyes*

    I agree with everything Alison wrote. Put Dad on a severe information diet. When he asks “how’s work?” the answer is “fine.” Always, it’s “fine, thanks, how is your Retirement Hobby Club going?” He has demonstrated he is not good at this stuff, so talk about things he is good at talking about, whatever those might be.

    My mother, when I expressed to her that I was frustrated with grad school and job hunting several years after college, took it upon herself to write my resume for me, despite the fact that her education was at a tiny fine arts school which she barely graduated from in 1962 and my education was in STEM, and she had only job hunted exactly three times in her entire life, the last of those times during the George HW Bush administration. She wrote down words she had heard me say occasionally, but which she had never seen written down so didn’t know how to describe or spell. “Aseptic technique” (I think) became “steriltechnics”- like pyrotechnics, and similar misunderstandings, all listed randomly as skills and/or job duties from my college work-study job and the couple of jobs I’d had as a bench chemist post-college. She then printed out a few dozen copies, with a generic form letter to hand-write in the company name and address, on fancy pink (pink! it was pink with little flecks of blue and grey!) resume paper with matching envelopes. FYI, this was still in the early days of the internet but some large companies DID have online applications. When I tried to explain exactly how wrong and unhelpful this was and would she please butt out, it did NOT go well. Clearly I didn’t understand what employers were looking for, I was a stupid little girl and she despaired of my ever having a job, and I was killing my chances at getting any job ever by listing the actual paid positions I had which were not all STEM-related but in communications and event planning type of roles (i.e. demonstrating other skills that might be relevant to certain jobs) because it was…apparently embarrassing? or controversial? that the radio station, small newspaper and local college I’d worked for occasionally had political news coverage, locally popular music and religious events. And someone who wanted to hire me in (Major City) would be potentially offended by…yeah, I don’t know.

    To this day she is quite sexist and feels I should simply find a man with a good paying job to take care of me, because obviously every career setback or problem I have ever had is due to my being a woman trying to use my ladybrain to do a Man Job, and not because of crappy luck or discrimination in my male-dominated field or anything like that. She literally does not believe that I have the job I do in fact have, because no real company would allow a woman to do that job, and I am just the secretary having delusions of grandeur – on rare occasions where she actually met my male colleagues, she apologized to them on my behalf and told them how kind they were for putting up with me. Also I do not typically wear a suit to work (none of my male colleagues do either, but that’s beside the point) and she believes that all white collar jobs involve formal suits at all times and the reason I didn’t (get a promotion, ace an interview, whatever) is clearly because I wasn’t dressed circa 1984 power suit with shoulder pads, sort of thing.

    Just put Dad on an information diet. Work is Fine. Everything is Fine. Job hunt is going along OK. It’s fine.

      1. Lora*

        Batgirl, it was SO BAD. I didn’t save it alas, it went directly into my circular file. I was highly experienced in the skills of Microscopes, Fuzzy Logic (don’t know where she got that one), Steriltechnics, and Geneology. Printed in a very decorative font (not Comic Sans, one of the more cursive types). Cleaning out her apartment when she was going to assisted living, I found her giant stash of Resume Paper – she still had reams of the stuff.

        1. Kevin Sours*

          Just be thankful that this *was* before the internet and she didn’t helpfully upload it to job search sites on your behalf.

    1. Temperance*

      When I told my mom that I was going to law school, her exact words were “that’s because you can’t just be happy being a secretary” and “so I guess you’re okay giving up your only chance to have children”.

      She was trying to insult me. Then again, she genuinely couldn’t understand why I wasn’t going to drop out of law school in my third year because my sister was having a baby, who apparently I needed to move “closer” to. After living in another part of my state for ~10 years, having friends, contacts, a life … my sister was horrified on my behalf, and her kids and I are super close, even though I live 2.5 hours away.

      1. Lora*

        Your mom and my mom should get together and drink cheap wine. I escaped the “but but but BABIES” thing only because mom was sure I was so hideously ugly and unfeminine that I could never attract a Responsible Family Man. My aunt disagreed with her, saying, and I quote, “she has nice eyebrows at least.”

        For the record, I get just as many unsolicited random marriage proposals on LinkedIn as any other woman with a photo attached to her profile.

  61. Nassan*

    I talk to my dad daily and he likes giving advices on every topic. I also ask him about work as he was very successful in his career and had seen a lot. When he advises something that I don’t agree with I sometimes argue to understand where he’s coming from and get more background. It’s useful for me to see things from a different perspective. But if I still don’t agree I say “thanks, I’ll think about it”. I don’t need to convince him that I’m right and it’s an advice, not a command. My dad doesn’t expect that I’ll always listen to him and I update him if I used his advice to tell him how it went or – when I don’t take the advice – to give him an update without describing how I got there. But he doesn’t push it, so might not work for everyone. I love arguing and being right or at least reaching consensus so this was a big learning point for me.

  62. Bostonian*

    Yeah, I can’t imagine sharing play-by-play details with my parents about something that happened at work the way you described here (and it’s not because my parents give unsolicited bad advice!). That’s just not something we talk about in detail: at most, I’ll tell them about major events, like getting a promotion, hiring new staff, and generally that things are going well.

    All of that to say, it’s perfectly normal to have a good relationship with your parents and talk about other things without going into details about work!

  63. H. Regalis*

    CW: Brief mention of racism and abuse

    Part of the reason I cut off all contact with my mother was her complete inability to not give unsolicited advice and lectures 24/7. There was a lot of far uglier, abusive things I found out later, but the fact that we could not even make small talk–and I *tried*–because everything out of her mouth was a stream of consciousness, “Bend with your KNEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES. You’re going hurt your back! Make sure to push fluids. How much money is your bank account? You shouldn’t apply for XYZ Job because you’ll be waiting as a bus stop to go home and [racial slur] will rape you” did not help; this plus someone I dated who thought they were put on earth to optimize other people means that I now have an extremely strong, kneejerk, negative reaction to unsolicited advice and people being overbearing.

    LW, I don’t have any good advice for dealing with your dad other than not telling him about job stuff, having no doubts about standing up for yourself, and telling him where to stick it when he’s being a jerk. It really, really sucks when your parents don’t protect and support you the way a parent should. It takes some time to mourn the relationship you will never be able to have.

  64. Lizy*

    OP – if you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to join CREW Network! It’s a business networking organization and was literally created for commercial real estate women (hence the “crew” lol). I used to work at HQ and met a lot of the women (and men!) in the organization.

  65. KWu*

    The last paragraph is excellent advice and something I could use as general reminder when I struggle with my mom seeming to never being able to see me having a different opinion from her without arguing with me about it. “a parent’s timeline on that is often different than the one you’ll want them to have. All you can do is simply lead your adult life” is a good way to think about it.

  66. Brusque*

    Oooooohhhh, daddies and their little girls! I remember mine fondly even though we had tough times together. I was the youngest daughter and his advice for me was always horrendous. Still I loved him dearly and was sometimes quite hurt how sexist and outdated his advice was.
    There came the day we almost had a true conversation. Almost. But it was also the day I realised why he just wasn’t the right person for some conversations.
    I was with my longtime boyfriend for almost ten years when we finally decided to marry. When I announced my marriage to my father, his very first reaction was: don’t you think this decision is a bit hasty? Are you sure he8the right one?
    Out of reflex I answered: we are together for ten years! I’ve moved in with him eight years ago! What did you think would happen?
    At first he tried to dispute it was indeed ten years, then he told me very subdued that he expected me to realize I was too young for a relationship and would come back home again.
    At first I wanted to argue then and there. Throw a tantrum so to say. But then in a rare moment of clarity I realized what all of this was really about.
    His little girl, the one daughter who shared the most time with him growing up, who had taken more from him than even his son and eldest child, didn’t need him anymore.
    He had given me so bad job advice it bordered on sabotage, he had downplayed my relationship and undervalued my experiences in very hurtful ways and our once so trustful daddy-daughter relationship had become estranged. But not because he loved me less. It was because parents are human too. Seeing me grow up and leave him meant he was now old. Every success in my life meant I needed him less. In his mind, he’d already lost me.
    I hugged him back then and accepted that part of being an adult sometimes means letting go of the support of your parents. Accepting them with all the flaws they have and otherwise count on yourself.
    I found other topics to talk about with my dad then my job or my husband and our relationship grew closer again.
    I guess LW’s dad is either more elderly, or yhere was a sognificant change in society during LW’s early childhood. If the gab between child and parent is high, either by age or by social development, finding common ground is hard and sometimes I guess parents even subconsciously sabotage their children to feel less overwhelmed.
    In my case, I was the youngest child, completely unplanned very late in life of my parents, and I grew up during the digital awakening while my parents lived the mayority of their life completely analog. We never ever where on the same page.
    I don’t know if that figure of speach is common in English but in Germany we say: an old dog doesn’t learn new tricks.
    This is especially true for an old dad seeing his daughter grow up.
    If I was to give a tip I’d say be mild with your dad. Enjoy him as long as he’s there. If he gives you advice don’t judge it too personal. Just smile and change the topic to something you both like and agree on.
    Like pets, or hiking, or whatever made you so fond of him when you grew up. Seek his advice on topics you really know he has expertise. With my dad that was foraging for mushrooms and how to rennovate our flat. Not much but enough.
    Don’t try to change him and accept: childhood is over! You are responsible for yourself.
    But that doesn’t mean you both can’t have a good relationship. It just means, now you have to put in a little more efford and decide what parts of your life you want to shate with him and which to keep quiet about.
    As soon as you’ve found something you both like to talk about, your relationship will be warm again.
    Save your strength for fights worth fighting. If your boss or a coworker gives you sexist shit rip em a new one! But fighting with your dad will hurt you even if you win so let it rest.

  67. Underemployed Erin*

    My mom, also a physician, was giving similar “be a doormat” advice to my sister.

    I think part of this has to do with the ways that careers have shifted in the past few decades. It has been drastic.

    My mom worked at the same place for her entire career. If there were difficult people, she had to suck it up and deal. However, that meant that she essentially kept the same job with the same place until she retired.

    Now, we are changing jobs every few years. There are not that many people who are working for their own small companies (like doctors used to do.) Also, work bleeds into our home lives in a way that their work did not. We have all sorts of electronic modes of communication where work is asking us to do stuff outside of normal business hours.

    They are doctors so they had phones and pagers. When they were called in, it was often for a true emergency and not things like “Someone is setting and unrealistic deadline, and somehow this is now my problem.”

    I left the work force about a decade ago to do parenting. When I returned last year, it was so different. For example, we have so many electronic forms of communication that no one has phones on their desks in my field anymore.

    Things have changed wildly!

  68. LMM*

    My dad, who is in every necessary way a wonderful dad, is terrible – TERRIBLE – with 21st-century career advice for his daughters (we are both in our 40s now). We’ve both repeatedly received the advice to not complain about workplace issues because it will ruin our reputations (similar to the “no one wants to work with a difficult woman” advice the OP got). When I wanted to leave a company I’d been with for far too long and far too complacently, my dad worried endlessly about my professional reputation. I have since stopped telling him anything beyond my work is going smoothly and I’m a top performer, whether or not that’s true.

  69. Sinister Serina*

    I can’t call my Dad to say thank you for never being sexist/racist/ableist and I don’t think I ever said it to him when he was alive just because that’s how things were in our house and I didn’t realize other people grew up differently until I got older.
    So, thanks Mom and Dad who were (and are, Mom is still alive) not being racist/sexist/homophobic/ableist.
    However, I still never rally talked to them about my job-my Mom worked for the state programming the first mainframes and my Dad was a college administrator. Their perspectives were very different from mine, although they always sympathized when I worked with a terrible person.

  70. Dagny*

    The career aspect of this is straightforward: determine whose advice is good (and it’s not your father’s) and listen to those people. You sound like you got good advice on your cover letter and landed a job, so you have found those people.

    I would be willing to bet that your father worked for the same employer or only a few employers throughout his career. (If his hospital was bought out numerous times, that does not exactly count.) My own father worked for the same company through various ownership changes for 40 years, and his work advice is great insight into **what works at his company.** It has a whole lot of nothing to do with anything in a different industry or even a different company in the same industry. People who change companies are forced to adapt to new environments and expectations, and it does not sound like anyone ever demanded that of your father.

    Larger emotional issue: you’re right about the age where you start being able to really reflect on your parents and their shortcomings. When you’re a teenager and they are adults, almost all the advice that any reasonable parent gives out will be better than what the teenager makes up; however, when you’re an actual adult, your own experience counts for quite a lot. It’s also entirely fair and rational for a grown adult to assess their own parents’ abilities; unquestioning obedience is inappropriate. You’ll learn that they give good advice in some areas and lousy advice in others. Your dad gives terrible career advice. That’s his own issue; don’t make it yours.

  71. mourning mammoths*

    RE Alisons note about how most people don’t share this level of detail about job searching with their parents: Happily, resumes and cover letters is one of the few topics that my parents actually consult *me*. I’m the only college graduate among us. I’ve always been the better writer. And as it turns out, the terrible curse of my generation bouncing around to lots of different jobs has at least one silver lining – first hand experience from lots of different industries and workplaces. I’ve therefore edited their application materials, helped them to explain or reframe their past experience when changing role or industry, and prepped them for interviews for which they ended up getting job offers more than once. Only when asked, of course.

  72. school of hard knowcs*

    Make the following presumptions
    You want a good relationship with your Father
    Your Father wants a good relationship with you.
    Your Father wants to be right (everybody wants this) and give you advice
    What is he knowledgeable about? The relative difference between solo practice and having partners, how to grow cacti? Find the thing he knows and ask him to share. This builds the relationship and put him on an information diet about other things.
    I lived with my parents for years as an adult and put them on an information diet; you have distance, you can do it.

  73. CM*

    I get the impression that this is a bigger issue than just the job search — that this OP wants her dad’s approval, and her dad thinks he knows better than her about how she should job search (my guess is, other parts of her life too), and he’s not going to approve unless she follows his instructions and gets the desired outcome. I don’t mean to do armchair psychologizing here, but this doesn’t seem like a career issue since OP did just fine on her own. It’s more about seeking acknowledgment from her dad, which he doesn’t want to give her.

  74. Good Wilhelmina Hunting*

    I’m a mid-life career changer (if you can call what I had before a “career”). After redundancy from my admin desk jockey job, divorce, and a spell of sofa surfing, I took stock of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and went back to school. But because I had nowhere else to go except back to my teenage bedroom, it was difficult to keep my folks on any sort of “information diet”, and the comments started, particularly from my Dad, a retired shopkeeper.

    Their contention was that I had a perfectly good “career” as a secretary, so why did I need to spend years training for something else?

    When I applied to grad school part-time, and initially got myself a part-time office job to support myself through my postgraduate studies, which I still do a few hours a week from home, that was fine. That was “work”. But when I do my PhD work, or do academic teaching or curriculum writing, he doesn’t have any respect for what I’m doing, even though I get paid a good deal more for the latter than I ever got doing office work. For example, if I had to excuse myself after lunch because I have mountains of typing to do, great, I was industrious. But if I had to excuse myself because I have to teach a seminar or I have to finish preparing a lecture before a deadline, I hear comments as the door closes behind me about how I “never” do the dishes. (Never mind that I am actually working and they are retired.) It’s like they think I’m just an overgrown school prefect.

  75. Quinalla*

    So sorry you can’t go to your Dad for support on career stuff since it sounds like you want to share that with him, but I agree, I would stop taking this stuff to him too. My Dad is more sexist (and frankly racist) than I would like and so is my Mom, though she is better about it than my Dad, but is still stuck in the exceptional woman phase of feminism enlightenment – I went through it myself, that’s how I know. I had conversations with them in the past about #metoo that were extremely hard for me because of this where it was me and my brother doing that thing where you try to patiently explain something so important and I think they got it a little, but not much, and I was on the verge of tears a few times in the conversation, phew. I still push back on my parents, especially anytime around my kids as I’m trying my best to have their family life be as free of gender essentialism as possible, but yeah sometimes I just avoid a conversation cause it is just going to piss us both off.

    I have other folks I go to with career things most of the time, mostly because my parents don’t really understand my career :) I will share the occasional accomplishment or general office frustration, but sexist stuff pretty much never cause they don’t get it or minimize it and yeah, I don’t need that from my parents.

  76. HB*

    Daughter of a surgeon here:

    I had a problem for a long time getting my father to accept that sometimes I knew more about something than he did. He’s gotten better over time, and I don’t know for sure if it’s him being proven wrong occasionally, me getting older, or his own growing self-awareness.

    But one thing that occasionally helped was calling him out on stuff that was genuinely hurtful. As stubborn/obnoxious as he can be when he’s convinced he’s right, a simple ‘Hey, it really upsets me when you completely discount my knowledge/experience’ is like hitting a reset button on his brain. Suddenly he’s willing to acknowledge that other people have perspectives too – not just in a ‘agree to disagree’ sense, but in a genuine ‘Oh, right, I’m not the only person in the world.’

    And a technique I’ve never tried, but am intrigued by… I’ve heard asking people to explain their reasoning is used – like, to an insane level of detail. The idea is to get them to the point where they say the quiet part out loud. So for example when he said no one wants to work with an aggressive woman MAKE HIM EXPLAIN WHY. Why work with aggressive men and not aggressive women? Like, really make him say it and not just throw out “Well everyone knows that no one likes aggressive women.” Don’t cede anything. Make him say that he doesn’t like aggressive women (and make him explain why) and then make him explain why he thinks *you’re* aggressive.

    Like I said, I’ve never tried this technique, because it feels like it could go off the rails quickly, but I’m fascinated by it because you’re basically forcing someone to examine their self-awareness (or lack there of) on the fly.

    1. TPS reporter*

      My dad is also a doctor, tends to be emotionally distant and probably used to people deferring to whatever he says. He also lives in a bubble where he’s mostly interacting with his generation of men with a similar political bent.

      The technique you mentioned does tend to work, if I feel like I have the energy to call him out. Sometimes it’s so exhausting though, like explaining something to a three year old who is just hell bent on being a contrarian.

    2. specialist*

      Surgeon here. Your technique never tried is a really good one. I encourage you to use it. On your surgeon parent.

    3. Adultiest Adult*

      This sort of reminds me of evading a conversation with a relative the first family holiday after I finished my graduate degree in counseling. He kept asking me why I wanted to go work with “those people.” I just kept innocently saying, “What kind of people are ‘those people’?” We went around four or five times before he got the hint that I wasn’t going to play along and didn’t share his opinions, and that was the end of that (or any subsequent) conversation among those relatives. It was very satisfying.

  77. Aphrodite*

    My dad before he passed on in 2012 also shared his thoughts on job hunting. You should always go in person to the company. so they see how enthusiastic you are. You wear a suit or equally formal business wear regardless of the type of business it is. And stick to boy and girl jobs, please. AT&T’s operators were women’s jobs and linemen were, well, men’s jobs. (For those of you too young to remember this, jobs were segregated in the newspaper by gender at least through the 1970s. (Jobs for Women columns. Jobs for Men columns. Yup, it was all there.)

    When it was common (in the 1980s?) for companies to place ads using a “fax your resume to …” format he couldn’t, and wouldn’t, believe it. Fortunately, he missed the whole internet thing. I think it would have driven him crazy.

  78. Michaela*

    It’s so interesting reading everyone’s dynamics with their parents.

    I recently had an unsolicited work advice session with my Dad – I have a new job which ended up in the news for all the wrong reasons after I accepted. Since fairly young I’ve come to accept his advice tends to be poor, but it makes him happy to give it, so I don’t mind listening. This time it wasn’t bad advice, just the difference with being a mediocre employee who keeps plausible deniability but not help fix the underlying issues, or someone who tries to improve the way things are done.

    Unlike other commenters, he always laments that he wishes my brother will approach things more like the way I do, and values my opinion. He is also a bit sexist and racist, though a live and let live sort of guy. I often call him out when he’s being insensitive and he will grumble but take it. It’s sad he won’t listen if it’s coming from my Mom or brother.

  79. Evil Annie Edison*

    “It’s just–parents, after a certain point, you gotta let go. Even if you know better, you’ve gotta let them make their own mistakes.” – Joey Tribbiani

  80. TPS reporter*

    I don’t talk to my parents much about work, other than oh I’m really busy/working hard. Frankly I don’t really talk to anyone about work that much besides co-workers because who really cares?

    With parents, it takes a long time to get over needing their approval, especially if they were critical while you were growing up. I am a little sad that I feel like I avoid certain topics with them in order to not trigger my deep seated need for their validation but I can share with others in my life (friends, spouse, co-workers, therapist).

    Putting all that aside, if you do hear anything sexist/racist/homophobic/etc from parents it has to be addressed. Avoidance is not a good thing in that instance even if it’s painful to confront and you don’t think you’ll change their mind. The best shot you have is to be frank with them about how their comment is hurtful.

  81. germank106*

    I graduated High School in 1979 and wanted to become a commercial pilot. My first name is a bit unusual and in all communication with the Airline I applied to it was misspelled slightly. I finally got a letter asking me to go for testing. Again my name was misspelled. When I arrived at the testing location the airline employee taking our information was visibly taken aback. They were under the impression that I was male. Once the error was cleared up I asked how to proceed with the test. I was told that it would be better if I would take the classes for flight attendants (they were called stewardesses back then) since the Airline had no intentions of hiring a female pilot any time soon and the test would be too difficult for me.

    1. nonegiven*

      My cousin graduated high school in the late 70s. She went to a college, where she learned to fly. She’s been a commercial pilot with an airline for over 35 years, now. She is one of the few female captains. She started out with things like flying tours and instructing beginning pilots, though.

      There still aren’t very many but things will have to change. They’re about to run out of qualified pilots as older ones retire. https://thepointsguy.com/news/the-real-reason-there-are-so-few-female-pilots/

  82. Sue*

    I think what she wants is what he would give a son. Respect and pride that he is an adult and making his own way. Would he infantilise a son like that? Or would he just be proud he got the job? I’d be open with him because he doesn’t sound unreasonable, just clueless. He may have taken an ego hit when he was wrong.

  83. MissDisplaced*

    I’m sorry OP, but sometimes you just have to exclude parental units from job and career stuff.

    I had to do the same with my mum because she just is not at a level of understanding about professional white collar knowledge work and can’t get past her “factory” perspective. And it would come out in weird sexist or diminishing ways sometimes.

  84. MicroManagered*

    My dad’s response was that I “sound like a difficult employee that no one wants to work with.”

    My mom hears *every* work-related story I tell her in the absolute worst, most extreme light. One time I told her a coworker tried to turn in something I wrote as her own work, but grandboss recognized my “voice” to the writing and busted her. My mom was convinced that coworker is a back-biter who is actively scheming to get me fired, take my job, etc. None of that is true (said coworker recently moved to a different, unrelated department) but there’s no convincing my mom that. It’s her own anxiety talking. She is an anxious person who doesn’t understand much about the work world, and tends to assume malicious motives first in many life situations. It has more to do with her, and her outlook on life in general, than it does me.

  85. specialist*

    Okay, I’ve read this entire post and the comments. What great commentary. I’ll add a perspective that hasn’t been covered. Physicians don’t know anything about getting a job. I’m a surgeon. I’m closer to your dad’s age than yours. I know how the getting physician jobs thing works, and I can tell you with certainty that it is completely different than the way you get jobs currently and also the way you get jobs outside of medicine at any time. Physicians would have had entry level/low paying jobs as they were coming up the ranks. You don’t get college internships because the companies use internships to look for potential employees. I learned that one the hard way. Residency pays really badly–usually less than minimum wage. Doesn’t really matter as you have no time to spend money. Applications to residency have your picture on them. (My business friends were really incensed about that. It is apparently a bad practice.) Once you finish residency you are very marketable. You get recruited. It is a really weird change. You don’t have a resume, you have a curriculum vitae. You now go from minimum wage on June 30th to big bucks on July 1st. Your dad got his jobs this way. He has absolutely no idea what it is like to write a resume and cover letter! Your dad is spectacularly unqualified to give you job hunting advice. The vast majority of physicians are unqualified to give you job hunting advice because we’ve never applied for a normal job. So I recommend that you not ask your dad’s advice on this at all, not only because of the history of bad advice, but because he’s got zero experience . He shouldn’t have given job hunting advice in the 80’s either. I will also tell you that misogyny is alive and well in medicine.

    Someone up thread discussed drilling down on the comments your dad makes. This is fabulous advice. Nobody likes an aggressive woman? Ask him what makes him say that and keep drilling on it. Keep in mind, he’s a psychiatrist. Anybody would have a hard time winning an argument with a psychiatrist. It’s like arguing with an attorney. You can ask him about his job searches, again getting really specific. He’ll be happy to talk to you about something. At some point, you should tell him that his advice is really out dated. Be prepared to give examples. He may need to worry about something. I have a physician friend who gives his dad something unimportant to worry about. Your dad wants to have conversations with you. I also have a father who can give some bad advice. I have had really great conversations with him about buying a vacuum cleaner and about the changing perspectives on wall to wall carpeting over the last 70 years. Get him to tell you about how something was when he was 20.

  86. Ross*

    I think sometimes one just has to set some boundaries with parents and be accept the fact that they (particularly fathers) spent much of their time working in a world that is very different than the one we have today. I’m the older of two children and male. I vividly recall when my younger sister was heading to college and my father was talking with me about how he was trying to encourage her to find a major he felt would lead to a viable career (this was in the mid 2000s). “What can women do these days?” he asked rhetorically. “Teaching? Yes. Nursing? Yes. Accounting is an up and coming field for women.” I was aghast.

    My dad is wonderful, liberal, intelligent man. But he’s older (in his mid 70s now) and just worked in a very different era with different expectations (as an accountant, actually – which is probably why we cited that as a field with gender diversity). He doesn’t feel that things are as they **should** be, but always feels one should do what they need to do to support themselves and their family and not buck the system at their own personal expense (recently I was visiting and 60 minutes did a segment on Alexei Navalny, the dissident poisoned by Putin. Navalny said that even despite what he’d been through, he’d continue fighting for democracy in Russia. At this, my dad exclaimed, “You’ve done so much! Let someone else pick up the reins! Take care of your family!” That should give you some insight into how he thinks.)

    In short, sometimes you need to distance yourself from these conversations and accept that the advice coming from a (typically male) parent is just not pertinent to the current era. Ultimately, they just love you and are trying to guide you in what they think is the best direction, but their reality has little applicability in the modern working world.

    1. Anon for the moment*

      Advice Seeker, I feel this question so much. I was raised by a dad who simultaneously treated me like a son and was disdainful of “aggressive women”–and apparently never realized he was creating his own contradiction. I am selective in what I tell him about my life and my work. Information diets are a struggle but it’s what allows us to stay connected to each other. Be proud of how strong you are, and find other strong female mentors in your field to show you what’s possible. Continue taking your career advice from those who have relevant advice to give. I also like the suggestion of finding things that your dad can talk about with you, things he either enjoys or can feel like an expert in. Mine has a great memory and loves telling old stories, which also gives me some perspective on why he thinks the way he does.

      I will say, there has been an unexpected silver lining: after decades, my dad has had an awakening of sorts and has begun to realize that I am an adult professional. I’m in management and sometimes tell him stories about managing employee issues. Recently he has been saying, “I could never do what you do. I don’t know how you do it.” I’d like to believe that I’m beyond needing his validation, but it’s nice to have his respect, even at this late date. Stay strong, Advice Seeker, and good luck.

  87. Secretary*

    I’ve been through this too!! My Dad treats me like I’m still a teenager, and when I’m around him I’ve learned I need to be mentally guarded so that I don’t let him influence me too much. Some things that helped me:

    1) Information Diet: I’m very selective about what I tell him. I have safe topics I move to but with certain subjects I give him really bland answers to any of his questions.

    2) Avoiding Questions: Because my Dad still sees me as a teenager, he will ask me questions about things he would NEVER ask a peer because of our “close” relationship… most recently it’s been things like how much I’m making, how much are we (my husband and I) paying on rent, why don’t I dye my gray hairs, am I being careful of my caffeine consumption, etc.

    I come to any conversation with my Dad on guard for questions like this, and role play how to handle them. It’s taken some time and some trial and error but it’s better now.

    3) Forgiveness for his Perspective: He sees me as his little girl, even though I’m an adult woman. I make sure I get my advice from others who can help me go farther than my Dad did, because that’s the best way to honor him.

  88. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    OP, it might be helpful to learn to talk to your father differently. Telling him what you’re up to rather than asking him what he thinks you should do.
    My Dad took me shopping for a birthday present. My company was going bankrupt so I said I needed an interview outfit. I started looking at some funky clothing and he cleared his throat and said I should be looking at white blouses and black skirts. I told him I was looking for a creative job rather than applying to work at the undertakers.

    When he passed away, there was a trick my brain used to play on me, which hurt every time: I’d catch myself mulling over something that happened, and starting to craft an account of it for my father before remembering that there was no longer any point – I’d got that used to “rewording” stuff to make it Safe to Tell Dad.

  89. Bob*

    I am reminded of a quote by Max Planck:
    “A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”
    and Douglas Adams
    “I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
    1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
    2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
    3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”
    The point being that people’s values are often set early in life. And they may never be able to transcend them as social progress moves forward and they will often take those values to their grave.
    It seems very likely that he is stuck in 1950s gender roles/values and he may not be able to make the journey you want of him. So the best advice is to follow what Alison suggests, don’t talk to him about your work, ever. And if he offers any advice stand your ground and don’t try to fix him but don’t let him push you around.
    You do not have to disown him or try to educate him or convince him this is 2020, because its not your job to do so and it may be an impossible task that you will ultimately resent attempting.
    But you can work with it on his level by not giving him any information to process and not listening to his very outdated and insulting advice.

  90. tectonic*

    I highly recommended Captain Awkward. She’s a great resource for dealing with ‘difficult’ relationships.

  91. NinaBee*

    Oh man this could SO be my dad.. I think medical professionals sometimes can get a bit of a god complex and think they know everything! My dad and I have argued over things like this, with him insisting information about my field that wasn’t the case (eg. overstating importance of degrees as opposed to portfolios for design field, just because in HIS field degrees and qualifications are). And he has views about men and women that are very old school. I don’t even talk to him about anything like that anymore because I always come away feeling belittled and not taken seriously (despite being a senior professional running my own freelance business!). You can’t win. Best to just keep away from career talk with dads like that.

  92. AMR527*

    This is my dad. He got a job right out of college in 1968 and stayed with the same company in different roles until he retired in 2002. I lost my job in June, and he’s been trying to give me job search advice since then. He’s made comments over the years that indicate that he thinks that I must be difficult to work with professionally simply by the way I speak with him, and I’m sure he thinks that I’m one of those “difficult women.” He has also offered unsolicited advice regularly in my current job search. I actually shut him down when he does, and my mom has started to help me do so when she’s also party to the conversation. “Dad, when was the last time you looked for a job?” “Dad, when was the last time you wrote a resume?” (This one has been particularly effective since he admitted he didn’t think he had a resume when he applied for his first job in 1968 and certainly had no reason to write one afterward.) “Dad, you haven’t received a paycheck in nearly 20 years. I don’t think you’re the best person to be offering advice right now.” He doesn’t mind being called out on it, and occasionally, it does actually stop him from offering advice. I don’t let him read my resume or my cover letters – I have a job coach for that – and he pretty much knows that I’m going to do what I want no matter what he says (further proof in his eyes that I’m one of those “difficult women”). I think it also helps that he’s my go-to guy for financial advice, so he feels like he’s helping me in *some* way and I’m not totally ignoring every single piece of advice he ever gives me. I will say, though, that I’m older than the OP (late 40s) and it’s taken me a long time to get to the point where I am confident that my own impressions of my professional life are real and where I understand that my dad’s impressions of it are colored by his sexism and lack of experience in my field. OP, go with your gut and your understanding of your field, and if you need professional advice, find a mentor in your field (maybe another woman?) who you can bounce ideas off of and learn from. Dads like this, while well-meaning, need to be left out of the professional decision-making process.

  93. MCMonkeyBean*

    I don’t have anything helpful beyond empathy. Sometimes my dad has really good advice and I want to tell him things about my life and ask for his opinion, but he so often makes me regret it. I finally at least identified a couple of things he does that upsets me most. The big one is that I will tell him something I have done or am doing and he treats it like it’s still the brainstorming phase. Like a small example recently, I put together these big framed pegboards to hang on the wall that I could hang my cross-stitches from and move them around easily if I make more. I thought he would think it was a cool idea! I sent him a picture of my mockup and he responded with “you could use a metal sheet and put magnets on everything.” I know he just wants to feel helpful, but it hurt a little because it felt like he didn’t like my idea (which I had already started and was not going to change).

    Parents are hard! I do think a big part of it is probably what Alison mentioned of him wanting to feel like he’s still helpful to you so when it turns out his advice is bad or at least not needed that could be where that is rooted. Doesn’t really change anything, but it can help to know.

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