what’s up with this rude and entitled networker?

A reader writes:

A friend of mine works in community development and occasionally comes across young people who she thinks would do well to learn more about my field. She recently asked permission to put me in touch with a college sophomore. Mine is a high paying, prestigious, and extremely interesting field that most college students wouldn’t know about unless someone pointed them in that direction. It’s my second career; I’ve been in the field over 10 years and have worked my way fairly high up the ladder. Friend’s mentee reached out to me via text (I’m fine with texting) and the conversation went like this:

Him: Hi [name misspelled], I’m interested in your career. Here’s my number. Hope to hear from you soon.
Me: Hello, my name is actually [corrected]. What questions do you have? How can I help?
Him: I’d like an internship that would allow me to do [main thing my organization does]. Do you have anything like that?
Me: Yes! We have recently started offering paid internships. Here’s the link to the internships and fellowships page of our website.
Him: Ok, cool. But do they allow you to [do the thing]?
Me: I recommend you check out the link
Him: [cry laughing emoji] lol ok. Reading is fundamental!

He disappeared for eight months and texted me again last week.

Him: Hi [once again misspells my easy, traditionally spelled name]. I’m still interested in internships and would like to talk more about what I can do for summer 2024.
Me: [Corrects him on my name again.] The link I sent last year is still active. Recommend checking out available opportunities there. Let me know if you have specific questions.

And then he disappeared again.

I am irrationally put off by this exchange. Is this the norm now? I don’t mean to be all “kids these days,” but good grief. When I was in college 20 years ago (!), if my mentor had put me in touch with an executive in my desired field (and they did sometimes), it went nothing like this! Even a decade ago in my first career, students and candidates seemed to have it together. This guy wants something from me, but expects me to call him? He doesn’t have time to check a link with literally the exact info he requested, but thinks it’s a good use of my time to just give him an overview up-front? Emojis didn’t exist in my day, but there certainly wouldn’t have been any un-businesslike language in my communication. Continuing to address someone by the wrong name after you’ve been corrected? Are these things no longer common sense? Is it that students are so accustomed to the educational environment in which every adult they come across exists to support them in some way (so they assume random busy professionals should be at their beck and call?)

I want very much to see my field become more diverse, and I’ve read that that may mean allowing grace for candidates with a bit less polish due to lack of exposure to professional norms (though I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the general premise that minorities and low-income folks necessarily have no idea how to behave in white collar environments).

I told my friend that I’m happy to have her keep referring mentees to me, but that she should ensure that they know the basics of business communication, job-seeking behavior (do a little research up front, ask good questions, etc.), and general good manners (respect people’s time, address them correctly and professionally) before reaching out to me or anyone. I mean, she’s my friend so I didn’t choose to let it reflect poorly on her. But for someone else, it certainly could have. I suspect I am off-base in some way, so I’d be happy to know what I should be doing/thinking differently.

You’re not off-base that this guy’s messages were Not Good … but I do think you’re off-base that it’s something new! I’ve been getting messages like this from (and letters about) students/early-career folks for years now.

To be clear, most students/early-career folks don’t send messages like this! It’s a very small portion of them.

But there have always been people (often but not exclusively in the student era of their lives) who cavalierly request favors of strangers while simultaneously putting in no effort themselves to find information or narrow down for you what might be helpful and who expect an excessive level of hand-holding, all while providing no indication that they realize they’re asking a favor. (In fact, here are some letters about it from a decade ago.)

I do think you might be overreacting a little to the emoji. It’s true that I’d advise people on the student’s end of this exchange not to include them because it’s too casual, but on your end of things I’d say not to get hung up on that. And I bet it wouldn’t have landed the same way with you if the rest of his communications had been professional.

But otherwise, yeah, he’s coming across as if he wants you to do the basic groundwork for him and spend your time guiding him through info he could easily read without your help. You’re not obligated to spend your time with people who take this approach, even when a mutual contact connected you — it’s fine to handle it exactly the way you did. And passing along feedback to your friend was smart, since she’s in a better position to set these contacts up for success than you are, and she’s the one suggesting they ask you for the favor.

I do think it’s true that when you’re trying to open the door to your profession a little wider and especially when you’re dealing with young people, it makes sense to extend grace where you can — not everyone comes from situations where they’d have the chance to pick up professional norms from their families. But you didn’t shut this guy down; you told him where to find more information and offered to answer more questions, and you tipped off your mutual contact that he could use some coaching. Then he disappeared when you prompted him for specific questions! You’re not required to chase him down after that.

He’s not very good at this (yet — hopefully he’ll figure it out), but don’t read anything more into it than that — he’s not representing his whole generation. He’s just one person, and versions of him have always been around (and probably always will be).

{ 388 comments… read them below }

  1. Chick (on laptop)*

    I only have a small point to add: it’s so frustrating when people don’t put in the effort to get your name right. It’s so casually disrespectful.

    1. Former Young Lady*

      This! Typos and slip-ups happen to the best of us, but when someone points it out, the right thing to do is apologize for the mistake — and address the person by their correct name.

      1. Turd Ferguson*

        I’ll also note that someone’s inability to notice that they’re saying or spelling someone’s name incorrectly – even after being corrected, possibly multiple times – doesn’t seem to correlate with age. People of all ages, genders and backgrounds do this.

      2. Felis alwayshungryis*

        Ugh, I did that to a client who had a name that was really similar to someone in my family (think like Anna/Ana but both names were less common and even closer than that). All you can do is apologise and explain.

          1. Andrew*

            I’d have to (respectfully) disagree. In a situation where:

            (1) the student has ALREADY made the mistake once, and
            (2) the student is clearly the one asking for a favor (LW is under no obligation to network or provide more information about their field)

            To be clear, typos and autocorrects do happen, which I get. The first time is an honest mistake, or an annoying autocorrect that you didn’t catch in time — life happens.

            But if you’ve already done it once, and the LW has explicitly corrected you, and you are the one asking for a favor, well, I will say that I would feel similarly to the OP. I do think it’s a lack of respect and I would be similarly turned off.

            1. LobsterPhone*

              Likewise…the tone is extremely casual for a professional interaction with someone you’re introducing yourself to AND trying to make a good first professional impression on…and what’s with the ‘reading is fundamental’? line? At first read I thought he was saying something like ‘yeah, thanks I got it the first time’.

              1. Not like a regular teacher*

                It’s a catchphrase from RuPaul’s drag race. Combined with the emoji, it seems like this young person hasn’t really figured out how to text in a more formal/professional register.

                1. Lilsis*

                  RIF, Reading is Fundamental was a public service message from the 1970’s-1980’s. Mary Tyler Moore was the spokesperson.

                2. Echo*

                  Not sure why Lilsis’s comment is frozen but we still had RIF when I was in school in the mid-2000s! They provided a free book per year for each student. I definitely recognized the phrase.

          2. A Haaaaaaandbaaaaag???!?*

            Strong disagree. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to misspell a name once may be regarded as unfortunate; to misspell it twice looks like carelessness.

            If I were the LW, I would just text back something like “You’ve misspelled my name multiple times, despite correction. Reading is fundamental.” And then block their number.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      One of my cousins misspelled my name in a message to me. On Facebook. Where my actual name was literally right next to the message window.

      I mean, we’re obviously not close but seriously?

      1. Rara Avis*

        I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve sent about my kid, mentioning their name, only to get a response with it misspelled. (“Can Kathryn see you tomorrow?” “Yes, I’d be glad to meet with Catherine.”) We did choose a spelling that is evidently the less common of two variants, but come on, people, I’m not misspelling my own kid’s name. (Not actually any variation of Katherine.)

        1. Newly minted higher ed*

          I have the same problem with my last name. Think a word that is used commonly in both singular and plural….yet without fail nobody can wrap their head around that there is one of me. So…this is fun when HR lectures me about how my name is not what my legal documents say and now I can’t do half the HR stuff they want me to do because the logins are all….wrong. I promise, my birth certificate is correct.

          1. Quoth the Raven*

            One of my last names is German, but there is an English version of it (think something like “House” and “Haus”) and it is the first thing I check when I get any kind of documentation. There are people who will read my last name on my email, Facebook, or what have you and for whom I spell it out, and they still manage to get it wrong (sometimes when I’m standing right in front of them).

            1. Candace*

              Sometimes in written communication, it’s not entirely their fault. Ever since auto-correct became a thing, it drives me nuts, especially when correcting names. I turn it off when I can. One of my colleagues at a past job was named “Rose Teh”. I can’t begin to count the number of times she was designated as Rose The by auto-correct! (Yes, I always checked and fixed it.)

            2. Caroline*

              My surnames, both maiden and married, are Scottish, but I grew up elsewhere, not in the UK at all. No matter how often I explained the spelling of my birth surname (there are 2 ways to spell it), NO MATTER HOW OFTEN, people routinely got it wrong and then got a bit shirty about being corrected ”oh WELL, it’s the same-same” etc. My married name sounds similar to a name that is spelled completely differently (German vs Scottish) but is far more common where I’m from. Obviously, this means it’s never spelled or pronounced incorrectly, even when I’m correcting someone in the moment ”It’s not Smith, it’s Smythe… Oh, okay, Smith. No, Smythe… yes, okay, Smith” till I’m ready to scream and cry.

        2. It's Sara not Sarah*

          My SIL decided I was spelling my daughter’s name incorrectly. For example, I was spelling it Sara and she said it should be Sarah. She refuses to spell it correctly. Some people just have to be correct all the time.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            My sister and her husband both use the same nickname for their daughter, but they spell it differently. I’ve given up.

          2. Caroline*

            My mother, normally a reasonable and kind person, was like this with names. If she felt a name was somehow incorrect, particularly re pronunciation, she’d steadfastly refuse to say it correctly. It was beyond tiresome.

        3. azvlr*

          I have an internal client who, when they first came on board, was all guns-ablazin’ about how important equity and inclusion is and was rather presumptively hostile to me. I was too busy building the relationship to knit-pick about how they misspelled my name.
          I’ve managed to work successfully with them for a few years now, but for a long time it felt really passive aggressive to me. Now that things are going smoothly and I know them well enough to have seen them miss other details, so I don’t take it personally. At this point, I know it would embarrass them to point it out and damage the relationship, so I guess, I’m just Leah, not Leia.

          1. Dread Pirate Roberts*

            Long ago in a retail job while in school I worked with someone for a couple of years who called me by the wrong name (think Anna for Anne). I did correct her the first time but didn’t want to keep correcting. At my going away party someone else corrected her and she asked “why didn’t you ever tell me I was getting it wrong?!” I said I did the first time, plus I WORE A NAME TAG EVERY TIME YOU SAW ME :D

        4. Rat*

          Haha, my name is a lesser common variant of a common name and that happens to me all the time! I’d say people actually misspell my name more often than not — even when my name was spelled out somewhere where they must have seen it, like even right in front of them… I’ve never understood it. It seems rude and lazy tbh. Also, there are so many spelling variations of my name these days, as well as many other names. I don’t know why people don’t take 3 seconds to double-check whatever my name was written on by them or in front of them to make sure they’re spelling it right. Maybe it’s my experiences with this, but I’m definitely in the habit of trying to spell people’s names correctly. It’s never driven me up a wall when people misspell my name (I’m used to it) as much as wonder how and why it happened when my name was staring them in the face. And I doubt autocorrect attacked, because they usually misspell it with variations that are even less common than mine lol.

      2. Panhandlerann*

        My aunt always spelled my name wrong. She spelled it in a way it is simply never spelled (except by her). She must have seen it written down many, many times, including by me, but that didn’t matter: for some reason, misspell it she must.

      3. Clown Eradicator*

        There is a manager(same level as my manager) where I work that is very particular about his name – which i understand and appreciate. Think – Steven, but NEVER a shortened version like Steve. He emailed me a couple of times and spelled mine wrong. It’s not a common name, but for someone so particular, I expected better; especially because it is spelled correctly in my signature as well as the corporate email contacts. I said to a cw, as he walked by, “If Stevey spells my name wrong one more time that’s all I’ll call him from then on.” he said nothing, I played it off as best I could that he just happened to walk by then, but my name has not been misspelled since.

      4. Totally Minnie*

        My mom has a name that’s been used for both men and women, where one spelling is more commonly masculine and the other is more commonly feminine (think Francis/Frances). She uses the feminine spelling, but the number of close connections we have who have known her for decades and still use the masculine spelling is kind of astonishing to me. Like, you’ve been friends with this person for half a century and never bothered to learn to spell her name, it’s wild.

        1. Beka Rosselin-Metadi*

          This just reminded me that my cousin sent a gift to my mom over Christmas. They are friends on FB, where they comment frequently. Did she spell my mom’s name as the male version Gene/Jean? Yes. she did.

        2. Reader X*

          I have a client whose wife frequently turns in his documents to us for him. Every single time, in every single note, his name is misspelled. I’m in a profession where I have access to his Driver’s License and various other legal documents – she’s obviously getting it wrong. They’re in their 70s and I’m baffled how this could be the case after 50+ years of marriage. I’ve had to fight down the urge to ask if it’s an inside joke or something.

    3. Jayne not Jane*

      I give the OP alot of credit for speaking up about the misspelling. I have a common name that has a unique spelling. Think Jayne instead of Jane. I almost never correct people, bc of anxiety reasons! But bc of this I take care in spelling people’s names right.

      1. Kate not Katie*

        Same here. I do not have the guts. I have a common name that’s very similar to another common name. My name is actually way more common for people my age but the other name is more common for people older than me (think Kate v. Katie or Julia v. Julie).

        There aren’t any people I regularly email with who always get it wrong but so many occasionally get it wrong or fairly consistently get it wrong that I do wish I had OP’s confidence.

    4. I AM a Lawyer*

      I have a semi-common name, but my spelling is not the most common one. The number of colleagues who have continued to spell it wrong after working with me for years and them receiving my emails with it spelled correctly in the “from” line every day is baffling. I’m always really careful to spell everyone’s name correctly.

    5. Rebelx*

      In this case where the LW specifically corrected the student, yes, he should have been more careful the second time, especially given the context of professional communication + asking for a favor. And of course, there are some people who just don’t care about getting it right or even insist on spelling it wrong. All of the aforementioned cases are varying degrees of disrespectful.


      As someone with a first name that has multiple common spellings and a last name that is one letter different from a couple of common words (but is itself not a word), I don’t let it bother me when people get it wrong. Honestly, I think with a lot of people it’s just one of those brain things where it just doesn’t register sometimes. Like when you proofread something 10 times but someone else STILL finds a typo in it because your brain just kept reading it the way you intended. So unless there are other reasons to believe the person is careless/rude/whatever, it saves me a whole lot of frustration to just assume it was a brain fart.

  2. Lacey*

    Alison is spot on with this one. I know some children who would have responded better than he did, but I’ve also known many older adults who did the same sort of thing around the office. I mean, no emojis, but this kinda of intentional helplessness is present in all age groups.

    1. ferrina*

      This isn’t generational- I’ve met people of all ages who think they’re entitled to have someone hold their hand and do the hard work for them.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        This is also a biased pool; you’re only going to hear from the people who are willing/able to ask for help.

        After college, I needed to ask for recommendations for my grad school application, and I had an anxiety spiral about inconveniencing my professors. I had to get CBT just to work up to asking adults for favors.

        1. Smithy*

          That’s a really good point. And from that group, some people will have a normal/professional/competent response to asking for help – and other people will have an unprofessional/incompetent/ uncomfortable approach.

          I grew up with a parent who was a bit aggressive in advocating for her kids to have different opportunities. But it was more about getting those initial introductions as opposed to doing all of the work. So after that initial introduction, sometimes I’d follow through normally/competently. And other times I really did find myself over my head in terms of what next steps were and I’d freeze, shut down, etc. So while my problem wasn’t being overly casual, the end result wasn’t always more impressive.

          I do think if ultimately the OP wants to make themselves available for “young people with potential” – they may not get to see that potential. And their best bet may be to tell their friend they can accept a certain number of recommendations a year. That number can be as small as 2 or more like 6-8? But by having a cap on the number, it’ll help the friend both be more selective but also put a balance for the OP on what a ratio on successful matches per bad fits is.

          1. 1LFTW*

            But by having a cap on the number, it’ll help the friend both be more selective but also put a balance for the OP on what a ratio on successful matches per bad fits is.

            I think this is a good solution. It might help OP’s friend code switch between “sure, I’ll refer you to my friend, they’re cool” and “my friend is a busy professional with limited time and resources, so I need to know you’re taking this seriously before I refer you”.

            1. Smithy*

              Absolutely – also “taking it seriously” can be around more quantitative expectations – like “is this an internship you want in the next 12 months?”

              Putting someone in touch with someone else for an opportunity more than 12 months down the road (i.e. putting a freshman in touch with someone for an internship they wouldn’t be able to take until their junior year) kind of sets everyone up for weirdness. If a freshman does seem like a great fit for this internship, but when they’re a junior – then that intermediary friend can best help the freshman by saying to come back to them as a sophomore or junior for that introduction. Sooner to when they’d actually want the internship.

          2. sara.bellum*

            Yes, agree with all of this. I do not think this student acted great.

            AND ALSO, I can understand there being some befuddlement on the student’s part (right or wrong) that they were encouraged to connect with the OP, who seems disinterested in connection beyond pointing them to a website. I think there was a missed opportunity to offer to reconnect with the student after they’d reviewed the site.

            It feels like the student’s lack of professional skills may be a bit as a cover for the OP being not very available for help. As a mid-career adult, I’m confident I’d handle the student role very differently (and use the correct name!), but would be confused if I was encouraged to make a connection and that person said “read our public website” and nothing more.

            1. Cookie Monster*

              I’m not so sure. In both conversations she specifically asks him if he has any questions. She pointed him to a website because that easily answered his question, and probably provided even more info that he would’ve found helpful. And then he didn’t take her up on her final offer to ask more questions.

              1. Lily Potter*

                He did have a specific question – it was “will you give me a job?”

                I got a vibe of “I’m looking for you to ask ME questions and to INVITE me to work for you” from the student.

                I’d imagine that if the student had typed out one or two intelligent questions, followed by a request for coffee to discuss further, the LW wouldn’t have cared how he spelled her name.

                1. Lydia*

                  She might have cared, but it wouldn’t have been one of a series of missteps and more easily forgivable.

            2. ClaireW*

              Yeah I agree here – also, I’m over a decade into my field and will askquestions about what a job will involve *because job ads are rarely written well and people who work in the company know the reality of the role*. If someone answered that question with “read the job ad” I was take that as a complete lack of interest in speaking to me about the role/company and wouldn’t want to take the conversation any further.

              Yes the student was probably too casual, but OP couldn’t have sounded less interested. People shouldn’thave to “earn” your willingness to speak to them, especially if you’re claiming to care about bringing in people from backgrounds different than your own.

              1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

                I think there’s a difference between “I clearly read the materials and would like clarification” and “I am asking if the internship involves llama grooming when the job description clearly states that llama grooming is one of the core responsibilities.” And while I can’t say for sure that this situation was the latter, it definitely gave me that impression.

                I also think that it’s entirely fair, when one has limited time and energy, to only engage with people who also seem to be putting the work in (although one doesn’t want to set a bar for “putting the work in” that mostly only includes people from a specific, privileged background).

              2. ferrina*

                Agree with Cyborg Llama Horde- it sounds like the student wasn’t asking follow-up questions, they wanted the basic information from LW. The information they wanted was readily available on the website LW pointed them to. The student even responded with “lol. reading is fundamental” which makes me think that they hadn’t yet read the website. If they had read it, surely they would say “I read it, but I couldn’t find info about XYZ”

              3. Caroline*

                Job ads and websites are often spectacularly poorly-written, giving very little meaningful info, and this usually passes employees and management’s notice because they already know what needs to be known, so it seems obvious.

                In those scenarios, I make sure I HAVE looked at relevant links, job ad info and so on, and then if it’s not clear, go back and say ”the job ad says that the salary is competitive and includes some solid benefits, but not what the actual range is. Do you have more info on that?” or similar. Ask targeted questions, in other words.

    2. Sloanicota*

      I don’t think learned helplessness is the only factor here. He was probably coached that he should try to make contact with this individual and make some kind of impression, not just apply via a link, which doesn’t allow the relationship to benefit him, but he probably had no idea how to do that. Unfortunately, the impression he made as a result was not great.

      1. Snell*

        If he was coached to make some kind of impression (the good kind of impression, right…?), I have a feeling that he paid as much heed to the coaching as he did to LW.

      2. Na$ty Larry*

        I am wondering if her friend may have said “Hey Student, LW is a really good friend of mine, you could reach out to her and get to know more about her field” and might have herself assumed he would know what to say from there without really going over the types of questions someone should ask when trying to network. His messages also read to me as though he thought since LW was the good friend of someone he is working with he could text as thought he and LW are also friends. Networking is a skill that I feel isn’t well-taught in a lot of fields.

        I made a similar mistake in law school by trying to get coffee with a high profile attorney who I knew of because my dad knew her dad. I had no office experience yet and emailed her to get coffee thinking it would somehow lead me to a job offer when I didn’t want to do the type of law she does (I do tax law and she is a PI litigator) and had no idea what to talk to her about other than…our parents know each other? I eventually realized I’d be wasting her time and canceled our meeting, but I look back at it like “What was I thinking???”

        I don’t think LW had any obligation to do more for this student than she already did, but I really encourage her to avoid the “is this the norm now” type of thinking.

    3. AnonInCanada*

      This. I had a similar encounter just today with a couple of 20-something coworkers. One of them was mumbling something so I made a comment about his sounding “like Charlie Brown’s teacher” from the Peanuts TV specials. They both looked at me like I had two heads and remarked “what do you mean?” I guess it’s true about generation gaps.

  3. L. Ron Jeremy*

    Probably best that you didn’t assist the person getting into your line of work, as they appear to be less than capable at reading.

    1. Tedious Cat*

      There are rude and entitled people of all ages, but one individual does not establish a pattern.

      1. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

        LOL, this is a thing I see on here sometimes. *weird/off putting thing happens at work* “Is this the nEw nOrMAl?”

        1. OP Networker*

          I know right?! Before I wrote in to AAM, I ran it by several of my friends who almost universally responded with a version of “ugh Gen Z, amirite?” However, as a milennial, I distinctly remember when every personal character flaw an older person came across was attributed to my entire generation so I really didn’t want to just let it go at that.

          1. Sloanicota*

            Yeah if we as a generation can do one thing I would love to shield Gen Z from getting dumped on the way we did almost from the moment we entered the national consciousness. We apparently can’t fix anything or accomplish much but at least we can not pay that forward to them.

            1. Lydia*

              Also, you kill industries, don’t you know. Whole entire napkin factories had to shut down because of Millenials. (An actual clickbait headline I saw was a scaremonger “MILLENIALS ARE KILLING NAPKINS.)

              1. londonedit*

                And people are *still* blaming ‘Millennials’ for everything, even though actual Millennials are grown adults in their 30s/40s and what they really mean is ‘young person doing something I don’t approve of’.

              2. Caroline*


        2. Claire*

          Yeah, it always seems to me that the question shows a greater lack of work and real-world experience on the part of the questioner than on the part of the person they’re writing in about. I know that we’re supposed to take LWs at their word, but that’s difficult when the LW is saying something like “A person asking me for career things was entitled or awkward and I have never encountered this before, is it a New Thing that Kids These Days are doing?”

  4. 2 Cents*

    OP, I’m also 20 years out of college (ouch), and I can remember classmates who were this unpolished AND entitled and sent similar communications in the hopes of “networking.” The emojis, nonchalant responses and poor attention to your name (after you pointed it out! Twice!) are all annoying, but not new.

    1. Lulu*

      I agree. I remember being around college-age and being strongly encouraged to “network” with very little guidance about what that means. And the guidance it did include was “helpful” advice like “just go up and introduce yourself!” or “just shoot them an email!”. This person is probably doing exactly what they’ve been told, which is not much. (This is why I hate general networking advice. So unhelpful.) Should he have more common sense? Yes. Is this new? No. Is becoming an adult hard? For sure. Be annoyed, but give him some grace.

      1. Annika*

        Yep, I was more blaming parents/advisers. I was thinking he was going on bad/misinformed advice. Show some gumption! Reach out to people! Just ask for the job!

      2. MigraineMonth*

        Networking was emphasized in college, but all of the networking advice I got was pretty terrible. A lot of it was asking about “secret” job opportunities or trying to get someone to recommend you even when they only know you as your mom’s kid.

        1. Lydia*

          Yeah, I think Alison answered a question on here once about the fairy tale that 80% of available jobs aren’t advertised. Because we all know companies want to fill jobs by never telling anyone about them.

      3. GammaGirl1908*

        This is where I was at this age, and I’m sympathetic because it IS challenging to know what to say to someone when you want to build a professional connection but don’t have any experience doing so.

        When I went to college, my parents gave me a list of maybe 10 researchers / professors in my field that they knew through friends and colleagues, with the advice to get in touch with them. I never did it just because I had no idea what I was supposed to say to them! I STILL don’t know what I was supposed to say when I arbitrarily emailed or called a leader in the field* to say hello as the random child of a friend of a friend!

        I absolutely understand why getting to know those experts would have been helpful, but I needed WAY more structure in exactly how to begin a networking conversation when I was a college freshman bringing very little to the table and the target was an expert in the field. I’m sure I would have been more professional than this young man, but I can’t say I would have been any more purposeful. (*at least two people on that list are now MacArthur genius grant winners.)

        Just telling your average 19-year-old, “Oh, I have a friend in [field], you should call her!” is not enough information for that call to be a good use of time. In LW’s shoes, I would advise the person connecting you to prep the students and make sure they are calling with a purpose, with questions, with a goal, or with some other structure beyond, “hey, I know you do the thing I want to do, so…”

    2. ragazza*

      Yes–I remember 30 years ago I was interviewing potential work-study students (this was at a major, well-regarded university) and this guy was so entitled, I had to tell the student who recommended him that I didn’t really consider him for that reason. It was just a work-study job, but it was a real office, so…

    3. T.N.H.*

      I feel like this also follows the “It’s who you know, not what you know” adage. This student may have been specifically told that talking to people is what gets you a job, not following an application process (I still hear this and I’m a decade removed from school). If anyone is to blame, it’s college career centers.

    4. Queen Ruby*

      I’ve been out for 22 years and I remember being the total opposite, always shaking hands and using my best manners (which, thankfully, have always been pretty good),etc. Totally fine with professors, managers, etc, but made me awkward AF in social settings lol. I mean, who shakes hands when meeting a hot guy at a club?? This chick, right here!

      1. Hanani*

        Oh I feel this. I, too, have gone way too formal in social situations. I’m a lot better about calibrating now, but sometimes I still offer a handshake when it’s a “wave across the room” kind of situation.

  5. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Im wondering if this person fundamentally misunderstands what networks and contacts are for. Are they indirectly saying “Hey, I got your name from this person who knows you, which means I automatically get (cool job), right?”

    1. ecnaseener*

      Probably, but that’s not uncommon with students – the career center tells them to network but not what that means other than “find someone in your field and ask them to tell you about it! they might have a job for you!”

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Particularly because “[some ridiculously high number]% of jobs are unlisted! The only way to find out about them is to ask your mom’s roommate’s former coworker to give you the secret password.”

      2. Lavender*

        I used to think I was bad at networking. Recently, though, I realized that most of the successes I’ve had in my career are because of networking—I just didn’t have a good understanding of what networking actually IS. Staying in touch with professional contacts even after I no longer work with them? Reaching out to those professional contacts when I had specific questions related to the field? Being kind and respectful to everyone I meet in a professional context, even if I don’t have anything to immediately gain from the interaction? All of that is part of networking! I thought networking was just cold-emailing people to ask about job openings, but it’s so much more than that.

        1. Lydia*

          So much this! Wait, you mean all the talking I do with people and chatting about things they do or are interested in and exchanging emails about information is networking? Why did I have to figure that out on my own?!

          1. Lavender*

            Yeah, a lot of it happens organically–I met quite a few of my “networking” contacts in non-professional settings, and we just happened to work in similar fields. (I got my last job because my fourth grade teacher put me in touch with the person who hired me!) And that can be hard to teach, since there’s not really a script or formula for it. But I think “be nice to the people you work with and talk to other people who work in your field” is really valuable advice that can go a long way!

      3. sundae funday*

        Yes, it seems like the student wanted to connect with OP beyond being sent a link to apply for an internship, which is likely the advice he was directly given. I remember when I was job hunting in undergrad (just looking for a minimum wage job to partially cover expenses) and turning in application after application that I never heard back from. The advice I was given was that I needed to GO IN PERSON and MAKE A CONNECTION or else I have no chance of getting the job.

        I never would’ve been bold enough to push back when I was given a link to the internship application, but I would have berated myself for not trying harder to “make a connection.”

        1. Lavender*

          Yeah, I feel like a lot of undergrads are told to “reach out to someone at the company!” or “make an impression!” without being told what that actually means. A lot of students could probably benefit from more guidance on when it’s appropriate to reach out and what kinds of things to ask about.

    2. AngryOctopus*

      It does feel like they got networking advice from someone who said “If you’re connected to someone at the company by someone who already knows that person, that’s super great for you and your job possibilities!”, and this kid has stars in his eyes picturing the internship he’s gonna get because person X gave him this connection.
      That doesn’t excuse the name thing, which would rub me the wrong way too, but most sophomores have zero idea of how to network because they’ve never been taught or had an opportunity to do so, making it a little hard to judge him 100%. I will judge him like 60% and if he shows he can follow directions after this, then his application can stand on its own.

      1. Lavender*

        I went to undergrad with a guy who was *absolutely convinced* he’d be an overnight success in our field if he could just get one opportunity to “prove himself” in front of a hiring manager. (I don’t mean in a job interview—he was picturing himself meeting an executive at a conference or something and getting hired on the spot.) This was obviously not realistic at all, but to be fair, our university didn’t do much to dissuade this belief. They didn’t really teach us much about networking aside from “you’re more likely to be successful if you do it.”

    3. Willis*

      That’s what it seems like. Obviously, his approach here was not great. But if you’re open to getting references from kids in college, you’re probably going to run into some that aren’t sure how to network and do it poorly. It seems like the OP could have been a little more direct, if they really wanted to help the kid out: “The best way to apply for an internship here is through that link. If you apply and then would like to talk more, please email me your questions,” or whatever they wanted the guy to do.

    4. Moonlight*

      This is what I was thinking too. I’ve gone to 3 schools (multiple degrees) and none of the career centres actually told us HOW to network. The only reason I got clued on was because a prof recommended a book, as I was going a degree in communications.

    1. tbf*

      Okay, I agree that it wasn’t phrased nicely, but I had a very similar thought: Is it the norm now to just reference one story and then ask “is this the norm now?”
      I’m not doing that, because I see this all the time both here and on other advice columns. Not just on this issue, and not just in a generation-specific way. For example, it’s very similar to a Dear Prudence question someone asked this morning, where they basically said, “I used to date a guy who talked a lot, and I’m just wondering, is it the norm for people to just talk all the time to the person they’re dating???? So exhausting.”
      It’s very different when people say, “I’ve gotten ten emails doing this thing, and so I’m wondering if it’s the norm.” Maybe this person did actually have ten such interactions, and that’s why they’re wondering, but they didn’t make that clear, and if they had, I would have a different reaction.

      1. hbc*

        Yeah, it’s kind of a badly-phrased attempt to say, “This thing happened that I thought literally everyone knew not to do! Please tell me that I’m not completely out of touch and that this was an outlier experience.”

      2. Hlao-roo*

        Most (maybe all?) people have a strong tendency to categorize things–the pattern recognition part of the brain wants to find a pattern. So when people (in general) experience someone behaving differently than expected, it’s fairly normal to wonder “will I experience this more?” and “will I experience this again from people with XYZ characteristics (so I can better predict when it will happen)?” And a small subset of people who have those wonders will write into an advice column about it.

        Similar to how adults have always bemoaned [new media of the day] ruining children’s attention spans, there have always been and will always be people who see one example of something and ask “will I see more of this?” (phrased as “is this a new norm?”).

        1. Allonge*

          In addition to this, it’s also an accepted way to ask ‘is this person clueless’?

          Because if it’s generational – and it’s always a generation not the asker’s – then the implication of ‘but maybe it’s me who is really out of touch’ softens it a bit.

        2. Newly minted higher ed*

          Can confirm parents have been complaining how new media will rot brains since the Egyptians started writing (reqd a translated letter complaining that letters and written records meant nobody would memorize anything anymore THESE KIDS for a grad class a few years back. It was hilarious).

          1. Lavender*

            Haaaa, I saw one from maybe the 1700s (?) where the author complaining that Kids These Days were learning to write with chalk on a slate instead of with ink on paper. If they make a mistake they can just erase it, thereby encouraging sloppiness! Back in my day, we had to be neat and precise with our handwriting because if we made a mistake we’d have to redo the whole thing! These kids won’t know the value of hard work!

          2. Doc in a Box*

            I’ve seen something like that attributed to Socrates. And of course there’s that amazing song from Bye Bye Birdie.

            1. Lavender*

              Well, that’s gonna stuck in my head for the next few hours. “Kids! I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids todaaaaay…”

        1. This used to remember my name*

          I did group therapy a while back, and my therapist had lots of reasons why she thought it was good, but honestly my biggest takeaway from it, years later, is this. If you’re wondering, “am I there only one who…?” – the answer is almost certainly no. Regardless of the subject, and I don’t mean only things that come up in therapy.

        2. Claire*

          I have such a fantastically disproportionately irate response to people asking “Am I the only one who…?” Why would you think that you are? Why???

      3. OP Networker*

        Glad I missed the original comment you all are replying to since I guess it was a little mean. But yes, while this experience was an isolated incident, I did run it past several colleagues (all of whom were college classmates of mine) and all but one of them (who incidentally works in ivy league admissions) told me that this is a thing now and proceeded to share similar experiences of their own. I didn’t quite believe it– or at least I didn’t want to– so I decided to write in to AAM.

        1. J*

          I would propose that it has become a ‘thing now’ in all of your colleague’s lives as they have advanced further in their careers.

          In college, if you kept to the company of other sensible people like yourself, you wouldn’t be exposed to many of these kinds of people. And in the lower rungs of a career ladder, most people won’t be getting many random networking requests. That comes with experience and advancement. And the more experienced and advanced you are, the more requests you receive (possibly from further afield) and the more likely you are to get an idiot in your inbox like this one.

          As a result, it can feel like a new phenomenone of people like this appearing from nowhere, when the reality is just that you have something they want now and so they’re crawling out of the woodwork.

  6. Emily*

    OP, I think it is interesting that you say you don’t want to be all “kids these days”, but then you do exactly that. I’ve experienced people from all across the age spectrum who are professional, and I’ve experienced people from all across the age spectrum who are not. It’s astounding to me the people of all ages who don’t do basic things like check their voicemail messages (then accuse you of not returning their call) or check their spam/junk folder when they are expecting an email, but don’t get one.

    As Alison said, people who are just starting out are sometimes less likely to have a good grasp on these norms, but that has been true for years. I think you handled this situation correctly, but you shouldn’t extrapolate based on it.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      I have had to tell so many people to check their spam filters for our emailed receipt (since we’re food service we get auto-filtered a lot) that I now include it in my basic spiel.

      1. Emily*

        I think that’s a good idea. If I’m at work speaking on the phone to someone outside my office letting them know I am going to send them an email, I always specify that if they don’t get it in the next X amount of minutes, they should be sure to check their spam/junk folder.

      2. Zephy*

        Same. I find Gmail and Yahoo especially find my emails sus for some reason, so I tell people to check spam or even trash if they don’t see a message from me. It happened to me – I spent all day refreshing my Gmail inbox waiting for the HR packet for my current job, only to randomly check my Trash folder at 6:30 PM and see it there. I don’t know if I somehow managed to swipe the screen just so and delete it without ever seeing it was in my inbox, or if Gmail automagically filtered it straight to Trash somehow – it was a reply to an ongoing email chain with the hiring manager, the only thing I can think is that it had an attachment and that made it look suspicious to Gmail, if the culprit wasn’t user error.

  7. Educator*

    A suggestion for folks who want to be helpful to students from someone who spends a lot of time working with students: it really helps many if you explicitly spell out what their next step should be. Like, with the words “your next step should be to X.” Language like “check out X” works really well for people who are able to figure out on their own what they should be looking for and what they should do with that information. But some students might benefit from more clear and explicit directions, like “your next steps should be to read the info at this link, pick the pathway that interests you most, and submit an application through the link at the bottom of the page.”

    Obviously, this level of support is not necessary, and OP handled this just fine—only putting this idea out there for those who want to help the students they encounter.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      This is helpful and beyond just directing students.

      Its something that can help new employees of any age that seems a little lost.

    2. Alice*

      I think that level of spoon feeding is fine if you are invested in the student- for example training them for a job or their mentor. But it shouldn’t be expected they receive this level of explicit instruction in every day interaction- OP already went above and beyond providing links and offering to be available for questions. The OP was more than generous after the student got their name wrong twice and ghosted them. Im baffled schools don’t do more to prepare kids for the workplace- emojis are more common in some offices but will absolutely torpedo your chances at others.

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        I don’t really think slightly changing your delivery from check out x to the next step is x is spoon feeding.

        People of all ages learn differently and process things differently – knowing that a simple tweak could help someone better understand what your saying is applicable in many different ways.

      2. datamuse*

        Sure, but this would be pretty solid advice for the person who referred this student to the OP.

      3. Rainy*

        You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink.

        I’ve been working with university students in one capacity or another, including as an instructor, for…oh my god, almost 20 years…and universities are *trying*, but students aren’t a monolith. Many students are thoroughly unaware of the resources that exist on campus despite constant outreach and marketing campaigns. Of the ones who know, many will not take advantage of those resources. Of the ones who do show up in an office, many will not actually take the advice they’re given. There are terrible advisors out there, but there are also people who are great, and students ignore the great advice just as often as the bad advice, because students are people, and people are unaware of resources, don’t use the resources they are aware of, and fail to take good advice all the time.

        1. College Career Counselor*

          YES. To all of this about students failing to learn, understand, or take advantage of opportunities (just like anyone else). With regard to working with students as horses, we are in the “making the water as enticing as possible” business.

          1. Rainy*

            Students also get *awful* advice from each other all the time, and unless someone has the nous to check in with someone who actually knows what’s what, that awful advice spreads like noro at a potluck.

      4. Lavender*

        I think if OP works for a company that is looking to hire interns, they should be prepared to give applicants a little extra guidance. It might even be useful to type up a list of helpful links and information about next steps, so they can have it ready to go if any other applicants reach out.

        1. Lavender*

          Addendum to my previous comment: I used to have a job that was pretty entry-level but required a special certification, and I had tons of people ask me about the certification and subsequent hiring process. (There are resources online, but they can be hard to find if you don’t know what keywords to use.) I eventually just typed up a Google Doc with links to resources and a basic overview of how the hiring process worked for me, and just copy/pasted it into text messages or emails as necessary.

    3. The New Wanderer*

      It would also be wise to review the website that describes internships/fellowships or is otherwise aimed at students and early-career people. Very often the website content does in fact mention “we have THIS opportunity or THAT opportunity” but … that’s it in terms of useful information about the opportunity. They also often lack clear and explicit directions about what to do with this information and what to expect after applying.

      I agree with Educator, it’s not the OP’s job at all to do this, of course, they handled the interaction appropriately. And one outlier doesn’t mean the website isn’t useful to the potential applicants who make some effort. But it is a common issue with web content across all domains, it’s not always as useful to the actual users as the web developers seem to think.

  8. Me ... Just Me*

    I do think it’s more of a younger generation thing. I have 5 (yes, five) kids in their early/mid twenties and I could see any one of them doing this a year or two ago. My husband and I are intentionally pushing back on this sort of learned-helplessness that we thought would kind of go away as they moved from teen-at-home to new-adult-out-in-the-world. Some have transitioned more easily than others. Obviously, the interactions we have are more personal logistical things (doctor appointments, car maintenance, taxes, etc.) but I could see how this might be translated into the business world.

    1. Totally Minnie*

      I think Alison’s right, though, in that this is more likely to be a “young and inexperienced person” issue rather than a “person born after the turn of the 21st century” issue. People who are new to the working world have been making mistakes like this across the generations, and there’s nothing about Gen Z that makes them more inherently prone to these behaviors.

    2. Former Young Lady*

      Yeah, I’ve been in the workforce for 20 years, and I’ve seen this kind of fecklessness from people old enough to remember the 48-star flag.

      Younger and less-experienced people might do it more often, but every age cohort spends some time being young and inexperienced — and there are always, ALWAYS those who make it to middle-age without learning any better.

      I think what’s different about Gen Z doing this is, they have the technology to embarrass themselves faster and more broadly. I consider myself lucky that my own youthful indiscretions didn’t get that kind of signal-boost.

      1. ferrina*

        I agree with this. It’s not generational, but can certainly be a function of age or inexperience. If you’ve never done Thing before, it can feel intimidating and little tricks like what wording to look for or what button to click isn’t always intuitive the first time (that’s true regardless of age- I’ve coordinated more than a few software rollouts, and that struggle is spread across ages/generations).

        But it can also be a function of entitlement. My ex was amazing at “not knowing” how to do household chores (didn’t matter that I’d tried a dozen different ways to teach him). And we’ve all had that coworker who refuses to learn the process because they want you to do it for them. That’s not generational either.

    3. Jayne not Jane*

      I was this way when I was in my late teens and 20s. I was clueless when it came to networking stuff like this. I really wouldn’t have known better either than, sadly.

    4. fhqwhgads*

      You’re not describing a generational thing. You’re describing an “inexperience/young” thing.

    5. ok Boomer*

      And I could say all boomers are technologically incompetent and can’t figure out how to Google basic info.

      But I won’t because that would be false.

    6. Peanut Hamper*

      “Learned helplessness” is actually “taught helplessness” because the people around them reinforce the behavior instead of redirecting it.

      I blame the parents.

  9. NeedRain47*

    My advice: how about never making assumptions about “kids these days” or any other group based on the actions of one person.

    1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      Nod. People will just make the craziest assumptions. So I was at Walgreens and folks were working the pharmacy and a busy drive thru and a guy asking about his possible heart attack and I get to hear about how people don’t want to work because they used to work for 5 cents and they just had a garden if they were hungry…

      1. Bet that guy never actually worked*

        Yep, back when you could just use good ol’ DDT to kill off any garden pests on your tomatoes! Things sure were better in those days! /s

    2. AGD*

      Yeah, this bugs me. On several accounts. One, I’ve been so, so impressed with the Gen Z college kids I work with. Two, I’m older than they are by most of a generation, but I felt as if I’d long since joined the adult world and achieved a good level of everyday competence in life skills when people suddenly started ranting about my generation. None of those complaints made any sense to me (except the one about us being too into horoscopes, which as a scientist by training I think is true and very unfortunate), so I promised myself I wouldn’t ever do this to any generations myself.

  10. Baron*

    “I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the general premise that minorities and low-income folks necessarily have no idea how to behave in white collar environments”.

    As someone who’s come up from poverty (my mom had a sixth-grade education), there can absolutely be a huge correlation between the environment you come from and how much you know about certain things, and it’s harder than it seems to catch up. I’m in academia now, at midlife, and it’s amazing how much catch-up I still have to do because some of my colleagues were just bred for this world in a way I wasn’t. That said, for me, there’s a qualitative difference between “feeling the intricacies of the tenure track in your bones” and “learning someone’s name”. Are there certain circumstances that make the latter harder? Of course – and both the LW and Alison seem very sensitive to those. But some of what the LW is seeing from this person is individual to this person.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      This is so important.

      Acknowledging a reality that many minorities and low-income people face is necessary so people can adjust expectations and judgement.

      It’s not the equivalent of saying oh all those people don’t have any idea about white collar work. Its not an insult.

      Ignoring an issue doesn’t make things go away.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        It wasn’t until I spent significant time with people from lower class backgrounds that I realized how much time my parents had spent training me to be middle class.

        1. Maple Bar*

          I’m from a very working-class family and was the first one to go to college or get into white collar work of any kind. I am fifteen years into my career and was crying this past Monday about how I still don’t entirely know how to fit in with and be accepted by people in a professional environment, who all always come from a very different life than me. Especially people in senior management, who are always (in my line of work) from very upper class backgrounds. The gap is really obvious sometimes, even if the other person is very nice.

          Everywhere else in my life I’m hanging out with people with a similar background to me, which just makes the disconnects with people at my white collar day jobs all the more obvious.

          1. sara.bellum*

            I want to give you a hug, Maple Bar.

            My partner grew up in generational poverty, teenage mom, first to go to college, and all of that. You would never know this by meeting them, but they acutely feel it everywhere – like every single person sees it and knows it and is judging them for it.

            Interactions that I perceive as “normal” (eg – very rarely, we may have to have a phone call about our kids that can’t wait til later), are absolutely mortifying to them – everyone at work will think we are trash and something is wrong. I’m like “no one at your office cares! Teenagers are jerks – this does not reflect on you. This is not a regular thing – it’s fine”

            I have a lot of compassion and understanding I didn’t have before. Because even when those professional skills are learned and up to par – there are so many people who feel othered.

          2. Wishbone Ash*

            Oof, I feel this comment so much! When expected to move up in my previous job & was surrounded by admin/execs in meetings, the divide was painfully clear. The implied “we all share this background & understanding” was really alienating because I very much didn’t share it.

    2. ferrina*

      Truth. I agree with all of this. Social capital is real, and being brought up in a certain environment gives you cultural capital and absorbed understanding of specific social structures and unwritten rules. This is real.

      But some things are pretty universal. Spelling someone’s name right? Yeah, that’s pretty basic.

    3. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      I read that parenthetical statement and literally said, “Oof.” I think it’s great that you want to help diversity the industry/work you do, but before you jump in head first you may want to start with unpacking this. Does every person who identifies as low-income struggle with how to behave in white-collar environments? Absolutely not. Is there a disproportionately larger percentage of those folks that do? Absolutely yes.

      1. Local Garbage Committee*

        And so much of “how to behave in a white-collar environment” at least in the US is “how to follow the white cultural standards” – there’s a question of ‘knowing how to behave’ and a question of should organizations be working on a more inclusive definition of workplace norms. (this sort of an aside from OPs main question)

        1. Snell*

          “so much of ‘how to behave in a white-collar environment’ at least in the US is ‘how to follow the white cultural standards'”

          Absolutely. Sometimes this discussion comes up as “Hey, low-income folks/minorities/the significant overlap between those groups aren’t ignorant, boorish, rude, etc., they know how to behave politely!” when the concern is actually the “secret-handshake” aspects of the white collar world that are neither polite nor impolite (and therefore aren’t a matter of knowing one’s manners) but do in fact present barriers to people who weren’t taught how to pass.

          1. OP Networker*

            I’m aware I have some privileges, but wealth and whiteness are not among them. I am a Black, female, first generation American. I am from a working class family and I went to public school all 12 years. I lived the first 25 years of my life in various low-income, high-crime areas. Still, I can’t STAND when people treat me differently because of assumptions about my background.

            To illustrate, I was profoundly insulted in a previous job when just before a business lunch my boss took it upon himself to give me a crash course on forks and whatnot (though he subsequently proceeded to tuck a napkin into his collar and lick his fingers at the table). He tells himself he meant well, but he very clearly just assumed that I couldn’t possibly know.

            1. Snell*

              Your boss’s condescension wasn’t exactly what I was referring to, and I hadn’t assumed you were white or anything else about your person. In the comments above, “white cultural standards” don’t refer to you yourself, they’re something that people fit themselves into, whether naturally because they’ve never known anything else, or they learned to /make/ themselves fit. And that’s exactly my point.

              Fork order is cultural. It has to be taught. If someone uses the wrong fork, that doesn’t necessarily say anything about their personal character or work ethic. If someone else thinks less of them for using the wrong fork, why? Fork order is a cultural marker that not everyone shares. Then in the workplace, when someone doesn’t know the “fork order” as it were, they’re put at a disadvantage for not assimilating well enough.

              I understand that you’re watching yourself so as to not become that aggravating boss, but not everyone knows fork order. Not everyone was taught, not everyone makes the choice to learn, not everyone has a reason to learn…until they come up against this invisible barrier in the workplace, and they don’t even know what they’re missing. But everyone else knows what they’re missing, and know they don’t fit in.

              *This whole thing leads into “‘secret handshakes’ disadvantage low-income/minority people for no good reason; get the frick rid of them,” but that’s a whole thing on its own and increasingly less relevant to your letter

            2. Ellis Bell*

              See, the assumption I would make about you is that you’re exceptional and that you’re good at absorbing things which haven’t been explicitly taught to you. I make that assumption because I was one of the few people to make it out of a low income high crime area and the first in my family. You can’t do that if you’re not exceptional and flexible at figuring out new environments and their rules. It was not until I went back to teaching in an area like this, that I started thinking about the people who didn’t quite make the same connections and leaps. In many cases, all my students needed was a bit of explicit guidance.. just like they would have received if they’d been middle or upper class. You’ve passed that guidance on, so I think you’re good. This guy will get feedback about spelling names (it could equally be carelessness or dyslexia, they may be reliant on the spell check version of your name). They will also get feedback about the interaction. I don’t think it was a good interaction either, and I’m constantly spouting about students in frustration about similar issues, but there’s a good chance it will go better next time because of you.

              1. OP Networker*

                I just wanted to say this really resonated with me. You made an excellent point, and I’ve been thinking over it since I first read it. Thank you!

    4. V monster*

      Thank you thank you thank you! I felt a little inappropriately angry reading that comment. The difference in understanding of not just white collar office work environments but college even being something discussed as an option in grade school and that once there you even have the option of networking to get a job or internship between myself and my peers who came from college graduate parent families is mind blowing.

      I hope OP spends a little more time trying to increase diversity by actually listening to what the folks living those lives say and have experienced, and less questioning them. There are a ton of first gen to go to college focused mentor/mentee programs out there that would love the help!

    5. Lydia*

      There is work being done in community colleges and universities specifically to address the gap of knowledge for students who are the first to go to college and don’t have a family member to help them navigate that environment, as well as the isolation people can feel if they didn’t come from the same socio-economic background as their cohort. First generation college students are more likely to drop out and what campuses are trying to do is create an opportunity for connection and support so they can complete their educations.

    6. N*

      I also grew up in poverty and work in an industry where most are from upper-middle class to wealthy backgrounds. There is a learning curve. Maybe there shouldn’t be. If someone wants to use an emoji and doing so is effective, why is that so wrong? Same with adopting a casual tone. Professional standards are set by those with privilege and require those who are not from privilege to conform in to their norms. It’s more about appearances than actual know-how. There’s a lot of bias in that.

    7. kt*

      Of course there are differences, and as a white person who grew up in one set of circumstances (immigrant, in a neighborhood my friends’ parents wouldn’t let them visit) and now lives in another (much higher income, etc) I still acutely feel the differences at times.


      The general premise that the OP refers to is indeed classist and racist, and leads to behavior that is again discriminatory. I know plenty of people who are minorities who are much more ensconced in “white collar” cultural norms than I (and likewise plenty of white people who are lost in a “white collar” environment).

  11. Dawn*

    Alison was very kind about this, I will be a little more blunt:

    “Is it that students are so accustomed to the educational environment in which every adult they come across exists to support them in some way (so they assume random busy professionals should be at their beck and call?)”

    This is not, and has never been true. School is much more difficult and challenging today than it ever was, and students are facing a very difficult world (many of them are graduating into a recession in a world with a skyrocketing cost of living where they will never own a house of their own, etc, etc…) and it is at best ignorant to assume something along the lines of, “These kids are all so coddled they can’t function in the professional world!”

    You would be doing yourself, your organization, and other humans a service to reassess that line of thinking.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I think this varies quite a lot actually. Good teaching environments place an emphasis on teaching independence, but good teaching environments aren’t universal. I think when I was at school, (I think I’m a similar age to the OP) there was a sink or swim attitude that was honestly shameful and neglectful. You’re right though that the level of challenge was easier, and the world we graduated into was a bit more forgiving too. Then, schools were told more firmly they had a responsibility to all students, but instead of teaching independence there was a period of coddling, which is easier to do but similarly neglectful. I would say most educational settings now are harshly judged if students aren’t taught how to be independent learners but there’s always going to be people who expect you to do stuff for them, especially if they are somewhat privileged.

      1. Dawn*

        Of course; what I mean here is that it’s not a good prejudgement to make of an entire generation of students. Frankly, it smacks of “participation trophies” rhetoric, but I’m trying to be polite and not jump to my own conclusions.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            Basically, as an educator I really appreciated that you’ve noticed that the world is changing and education with it. Pedagogy is an ever changing science (just this week I was despairing that no one had done any controlled studies about x) and it helps no one to believe that once there was a golden age of schooling which is only being muddied and fecked up by change. I say that as someone who is super wary of fads, and of helicoptering. Just because you’ve seen a fad, or some helicoptering (concerning, for sure), doesn’t mean that’s the fate of education or a particular generation.

      2. Distracted Librarian*

        Agree. There’s also been a shift in parenting styles that in many ways is kinder and better but can also foster helplessness. I’m an older X-er, and much of the way I was parented would qualify as child neglect nowadays. I’m glad kids have more support and attention now, but the helicopter parent trope has some basis in reality. Some parents, probably overcompensating for their own upbringings, do everything for their kids. This certainly doesn’t apply to everyone, but I’ve seen enough of it to identify the pattern.

        1. Rainy*

          Yeah. I often refer to my childhood as being raised by wolves, but what I mean is not “I was parented in ways appropriate to my species and taught useful life skills in a supportive and protective environment whilst being encouraged to exercise autonomy and judgement in stage-appropriate ways until I was capable of being a mature member of my species in a wider world” but “I was refused information and autonomy in an environment that provided for only certain of my physical and psychological needs and was profoundly unsafe in many fundamental ways until the moment I was required to function as an independent adult in a larger world I was not allowed to know existed until I was in it, alone and unsupported”.

          I’m almost 50, so a younger X, and I often feel like my generation’s parents were either controlling or absent (and sometimes, confusingly, both, either by turns or simultaneously depending on topic) rather than the cotton-wool protective style that I associate with helicopter parents–which is also controlling but the flavour is quite different, in my opinion.

          1. jane's nemesis*

            I often feel like my generation’s parents were either controlling or absent (and sometimes, confusingly, both, either by turns or simultaneously depending on topic)

            I’m similar in age to you and YES YES A THOUSAND TIMES YES to this description! Especially the “confusingly, both” part!

            1. Lydia*

              Literally was just talking to my mother about this a couple of weeks ago. I’m firmly Gen X born to late Boomer parents (go, go teen pregnancy) and my sisters are all Millenials. One of my sisters and I were talking to my mom about the differences between kids in the 70s and 80, and even 90s, to kids who mainly grew up in the aughts and early 10s and she genuinely felt there was no difference to levels of independence. The conversation was around me, at 6 years old, walking two blocks by myself to a friend’s house. Her argument was that since she knew where I was going and the family I was visiting, it was “safe.”

              1. Emmy Noether*

                Well, “safe” is a relative term. Nothing is ever safe in the sense that there is 0% chance of something bad happening, so the question is really where to draw the line for “safe enough”, knowing that there’s independence and autonomy of the child as a tradeoff. The line has certainly shifted over the years.

        2. Observer*

          in many ways is kinder and better but can also foster helplessness.

          Part and part two are mutually exclusive. Parenting that fails to foster competence, confidence (which is difference than ego) and independence on the one hand, and which DOES foster helplessness is neither kind nor good.

          Some parenting shifts are absolutely good. But some of the trends are seriously problematic.

        3. Rara Avis*

          I teach at a K-12 school and we work very hard to encourage parents to teach their students independence. For instance, at the middle school there is a lot of contact from teachers to parents regarding missing work, poor test scores, etc., while still encouraging the students to learn to take initiative (go talk to your teacher if you don’t understand a concept, for instance). The high school teachers back off. At parent meetings with high school parents, administrators are always telling them to let their students drive — let them make choices, face consequences if they drop a ball, etc. There is still a lot of helicopter/snow-plow parenting and parental anxiety, and as a parent of a high-schooler myself, it’s easy to understand, given how much harder it is to get into college now than it was for me. (Gen X)

          1. Kate*

            I’m the Gen X parent of a 12th grader and it’s similar at our school; through 8th grade parents and the teacher talk regularly, in 9th grade the students are expected to communicate with their teacher directly, and/or along with their advisor.

            There is a lot of pointed direction to the parents to not jump in the middle, (correctly) advising families that these kids will have 4 years of an on ramp into adulting as long as parents don’t continuously jump into the middle to handle things for them.

            That said, what I wish the schools WOULD do, is have parent education sessions starting in 8th/9th grade that teach *the parents* how and what to teach their kids about navigating school, adulting, etc.

            I’ve spent the last 4 years saying to my kiddo: I’m not going to college with you, so…[let’s show you how to open a bank account and use the ATM, know your balance, pay a bill; let me show you how to write emails to teachers and adults, lets show you how to figure out when you need to leave to reach ___ by ___, and how do you find the right sequence of public transit to get you there; here’s how to make a doctor appointment, here’s how to make a dentist appointment and why you should make your next appointment the same day you go in for your cleaning; here’s how to…]

            Here’s how you make a request and a proposal.

            Here’s how to ask to meet with your teacher: explain why you’d like to meet, propose three times that are open, and then ask “what would work best for you?”

            Here’s how to properly ask for an extension, and when to do it.

            Why texting or emailing a friend is different than texting a teacher, adult, coach, mentor, job prospect, etc. Use whole words, punctuation, be polite, recognize that tone doesn’t necessarily come across and how to navigate that.

            For all of 9th and 10th grade, anytime my kid needed to email an adult he would write a draft, and then I’d read it and we’d talk about changes that should be made to the email and WHY so that he could do that next time. In 11th grade, when he would have a college interview, we would talk about how to write a proper thank you email and follow up to the admissions officer. Now, in 12th grade, every now and then he’ll ask me to read an email to an adult or potential employer or coach – for feedback. And I gladly do it!

            But it’s because I know how to do these things.

            A lot of his classmates don’t have these skills, at all. And a good portion of that is because their parents may not have those skills themselves. High school teachers have so much on their plates, I don’t know when or how they could integrate “learning to adult” into their curriculum – but that’s when these kids need to acquire those skills.

            1. Rara Avis*

              My 9th grader asks me to check their emails to teachers etc. They’re always fine, so I’m about at the stage when I’m going to say no.

      3. Observer*

        but good teaching environments aren’t universal.

        That is true. That was true when you graduated, and it’s still true now.

        There are many different ways in which that can manifest. But spoon feeding students everything the actually need and even want is not the most common problem you see with schools.

    2. datamuse*

      I do think this is true in some ways (I’ve worked in higher education for close to 20 years). I also think that we have more students now who are the first in their families to attend college, and so they have fewer opportunities to learn ahead of time how it all works–my university recently started offering what’s essentially an extended orientation course to help these students get situated and take advantage of what’s on offer. I don’t see any of that as coddling.

      1. NeedRain47*

        University where I worked been doing that for years. It’s not out of the goodness of their hearts, it’s b/c it helps their retention numbers, but I believe there’s evidence that that kind of support does help people stay in school.

        1. Rainy*

          As a grad student, I taught at a university that was even then, many years ago, very proud of its great track record with first-in-family students. One of the things that I did a lot of every fall was reassure students who’d gone home at Thanksgiving and confessed that university was harder than they’d expected only to be told that “maybe it’s not for you, then, there’s always room for you on the farm/in the family business” by parents who had not completed (or not even attended) post-secondary education that they did belong here, that they were experiencing normal feelings and reservations, but that I believed in their victory.

          I think first year experience courses are a great idea. They do help with retention and persistence, but I’m a big believer in exposing the “hidden curriculum” wherever possible. Students in that position need knowledge, of course, but they also need encouragement and support, and a lot of them (no matter their background, honestly–it’s not just FIFs) just need someone to tell them that feeling overwhelmed is not a sign that they suck.

      2. Observer*

        I don’t see any of that as coddling.

        Agreed. *Educating* students on the non-academic aspects of their college experience is not coddling, by any stretch of the imagination. It’s. . . education. Like, the very thing colleges are for.

        1. Lavender*

          I completely agree. Students go to school *because* they don’t know everything there is to know about having a job in their desired field or just navigating adult life. If they ask for help, that’s a good thing! It means they’re aware that they still have things to learn, and are open to learning them! That’s what school is FOR.

      3. Sparky*

        I wish my high school had done this. I wasn’t the first in my extended family to go to college, but I was an only child and my parents didn’t go to college and worked labor jobs, so I was woefully underprepared for anything. I didn’t realize that I couldn’t just declare my major — I had to be accepted by that particular school at the university I was going to. I didn’t even realize you could go to schools in other states, unless they were one of the Ivies. The majority of kids I went to high school with attended one of the two big state schools, a few went to some smaller state schools and one went to Harvard. The only thing I did know about was scholarships because boy howdy did I apply for any and every scholarship I could find.

    3. SofiaDeo*

      I find that this response to someone *asking a question* to be pretty offensive, and overly harsh towards OP. OP didn’t state, or conclude, anything, that it *was* because of X factors. OP had some theories, and asked if they were right or wrong. Jumping down their throat for coming to a conclusion you disagree with is not kind at all. I think that people automatically jumping to negative conclusions, when someone is ASKING A QUESTION are out of line, and contributing to the stress people are going through nowadays. Dawn, you didn’t need to add that third sentence, your previous 2 adequately explained without the snarkiness. Please just consider, moving forward, that people asking a question are simply asking, and don’t have rock solid preconceived notions. If I had asked you a question at work, or socially, and got a little lecture about how I “needed to reassess my thinking”, I would avoid you thereafter.

      1. Dawn*

        This being a comments section and not my workplace, the norms are – in my opinion – a little different.

        I don’t consider myself to have “jumped down anyone’s throat,” but that’s obviously in the eye of the beholder. I was firm, certainly, because that question has some unfortunate implications, as questions sometimes do, and I think it’s healthy to bring those implications up, in the right setting, which I would hold an advice forum to be.

        I’m very sorry you found my comment so upsetting, and you are more than welcome to disregard it.

        1. SofiaDeo*

          Thank you for pointing out the norms are a bit different in a comments section of an advice forum! I think you are right, and I had not considered how the setting changes things. This is *not* work or a social setting. So I, like the college person under discussion, still have some learning to do….and am happy to have found this site to educate me.

    4. whingedrinking*

      Yeah, I was surprised at the disapproval coming off that line. In an educational environment, every employee (not adult – in post-secondary the students are also adults) *is* there to support the students in some capacity. Helping students learn is kind of the point of education. However, good educators and systems are supportive without keeping students in the helpless baby bird phase of life.

    5. OP Networker*

      That’s literally why I came here…to investigate not just that line of thinking but various others I presented. Also, I entered the working world in the year of our Lord two thousand and seven with 6 figures of loan debt and a stock market crash around the corner. I only *just* managed to buy my first house. I know a thing or two about tough situations.

      1. Claire*

        You know about YOUR tough situations, sixteen years ago.

        I invite you to consider that maybe you know a little bit less than you think about the tough situations faced by newly graduating students today, and the differences that may exist between your level of preparation for those tough situations and theirs.

  12. KatEnigma*

    What has changed is you are 10 years older than you were, and have less patience for the people who expect you to do everything for them.

    It would also be okay for you to tell him “Until and unless you’ve read the information at the link I sent you, I’m afraid there’s nothing else I can do for you.” or even “When you contacted me X months ago, I might have been able to guide you toward an internship, after you read the information at the link I sent you, but it’s now late to be looking for internships for summer, and I don’t have the time available that I did X months ago”- aka inform him that he can’t ghost people for months and then expect those people to be in a hurry because he’s left it late.

  13. Cait*

    I have to agree that this guy is the exception and not the rule. When I think back to when I was a sophomore, I cringe at how I clueless must have appeared to professionals in my field. Hopefully, he’ll learn his lesson and then he too can cringe at remembering this text exchange in a few years.

    Everything you responded to him was spot on. I also don’t fault you for wanted more polished referrals and telling your friend to only send people your way with basic communication skills isn’t a big ask. It’s the difference between referring someone she’s familiar with and someone she just met. That being said, a lot of college kids can sound very “wet behind the ears” when it comes to professional communication so, while continuously misspelling your name is a red flag, I wouldn’t be too concerned about the occasional emoji.

  14. Temperance*

    I would probably mention his unprofessional nature to the people who actually hire interns, but that’s just me.

    I’ve dealt with entitled students previously, but I think it’s more of a function of privilege than general “kids these days” stuff. Like I was approached for an internship by someone who ghosted me on a simple request FOR A FAVOR I DID FOR HIM. One of my attorneys needed a donation receipt for the ~20 suits he donated to this guy’s clothing drive for veterans, and he accepted the suits, didn’t send a thank you note, and I had to hound him for a receipt. When I finally get it, he asks to intern with me in the same email.

  15. Aggretsuko*

    I see this kind of thing in my job alllllllllll the time. They refuse to Google, they’d rather have a human TELL them what to do, and they go to college and yet write illiterate emails. I don’t understand why the 20somethings want someone to talk to them on a phone to tell them how to look at a website link. What the hell happened?

    Seriously, if we had a dollar for every illiterate email saying “how do i sign up for summer school” we could all retire. YOU CAN GOOGLE FOR THAT YOURSELF rather than making us wade through 900 emails saying “how do i sign up for sumer skool.” They got a chatbot to handle queries like this and apparently that hasn’t made any kind of a dent in this idiocy.

    I would tell OP to forget about/ignore this ding-dong unless he actually takes some action and does something.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      It’s not only 20somethings who do this.

      There’s a subset of society who takes this approach, and it knows no bounds of age.

    2. Former Young Lady*

      If you’ve honestly never met a 30something, 40something, 50something, or 60something who engages in the same level of blithe entitlement and learned helplessness, I invite you to spend one week in higher education administration, or one day in front-line customer service!

      1. Side slow Bob*

        And every older generation has said this about every younger generation as far back as Ancient Rome. It’s not a youth thing, it’s an “I’m old and forgotten what I was like” thing.

      2. mreasy*

        I am a media executive. The amount of failures to a) read supplied info or b) make any attempt at finding the info themselves demonstrated by my peers can be stunning. These are peers. Explaining these things to them is by no means my job, but still they expect it!

    3. Lily Rowan*

      Honestly, I was at an Ivy League college 25 years ago with people who were like this, and I bet some of them are STILL like this. It’s not new.

    4. Baron*

      Your job sounds frustrating! But I don’t really understand this comment, which seems to imply that kids today can’t even Google stuff, whereas back in the ’50s, people simply Googled stuff all the time.

      The modern generation is the first one for which Googling something has consistently been an *option* throughout their lifetimes. If you’re older than 24, you have lived in a world where Google did not exist and where phoning someone and asking them for help was, in fact, the only option. Suggesting that not Googling stuff is a problem with this generation, when this generation is the only one that’s lived their whole lives with Google…I don’t know if I agree with you 100% on your police work, there, Lou.

      In my day job, I provide support to professionals of all ages. There are learned-helplessness types across all age brackets. But my older clients tend to have more trouble specifically with technology than my younger clients. I mean, of course they do. If you lived 60 years calling somebody on the phone for help, you might still want to call someone on the phone for help.

    5. Lavender*

      My last job had a very wide range of ages (we had people fresh out of college and people near retirement age working in the same roles), and this kind of thing happens across generations. I had a coworker in her 60s who very obviously didn’t read her emails, and our staff meetings would often drag on and on because she kept asking questions that she could have very easily found the answers to on her own. I also had coworkers in their 20s who stayed on top of things and hardly needed any guidance. It’s not a generational thing; some people are just Like That.

      I wouldn’t suggest referring to the behavior you’ve seen from students as “idiocy.” They’re students and they haven’t learned professional norms yet. If they’re in college, this is likely to be the first time in their life that they haven’t constantly had a parent/guardian around to help them navigate new situations. Every generation was young and inexperienced at some point.

    6. Nonny*

      Agretsuko, you must not deal with faculty then. Lol.

      Did the kids at the universal I worked at ask dumb questions sometimes? Sure.

      Did the faculty at the university I worked at seem to be helpless and entitled children who lacked basic problem solving skills (with the exception of a handful of lovely individuals)? Without a doubt. Made me insane that these folks with PhDs couldn’t seem to help themselves at all.

    7. elle *sparkle emoji**

      It sounds like the problem you’re describing is a frequent one. While dealing with it so often definitely sounds frustrating, as an outsider I’m curious if there is something going on with your website where information that is obvious to you isn’t clear to others. I’ve had frustrating experiences where necessary info was technically on a company website, but in an obscure spot. Same thing with the letter, the internship page on the website might be super clear to someone who is familiar with what they’re looking for but this kid may not have that knowledge. Things that seem obvious to you may only be obvious because you have a piece of context someone else is missing.

    8. It's Not Just The Current Generation*

      I remember as early as 25-ish years ago receiving emails from students asking me to answer career questions they easily could have found answers to on the search engines of the time (Magellan, Lycos, Alta Vista, etc.) After all, that’s where they had found my career company — at the top of the search engines.

    9. Avery*

      There’s a certain generation of people I’ve interacted with repeatedly where they seem to assume I’m a tech whiz based on nothing except my age, are clueless about Googling basic pieces of information, fall apart when their first plan for fixing something doesn’t work, and sometimes have to be told to read the error message before wildly extrapolating something that’s not anywhere close to what the error message says.
      That generation? My parents’ generation, the Baby Boomers.
      (Specifically thinking of my parents and a family friend. My parents refer to me as “in-house IT” because I can manage basic problem solving and think to Google “what to do when X” if my problem solving skills fail. The family friend had to be assured that an error message saying her phone couldn’t connect to the Internet didn’t mean her Facebook account was hacked, it meant… her phone couldn’t connect to the Internet. I’ll show them how to do something a million times over and they’ll still call me to help fix it the next time.)
      This isn’t a young people’s problem. It’s not a Baby Boomer problem either, though. It’s a clueless helpless people problem, and that transcends age.

  16. Anthony-mouse*

    One thing I will add (but doesn’t seem to be relevant here) is that information about a job on a companies website can be massively different to how it is to actually do that job everyday or what that job even is! I have read the websites and descriptions of every job I’ve had but the reality of doing the job is different. If I were reaching out to someone about their job, it’s because I’ve read everything on the website and want to know the actual truth about what it is like doing that job and/or doing it at that company

    1. Lavender*

      I think that’s a fair point! The student in the letter could have done a better job of conveying that, though. For example, he could have said something like, “I’m interested in the Teapot Design internship, but I was wondering why the job listing mentions needing experience in cupcake decorating. Is that a big part of the job?” That said though, he’s a college student and might not have even known what kinds of questions to ask.

    2. OP Networker*

      In this case, he didn’t even glance at the website. Before or after we spoke. I referred him to the precise page for internships and responded within one minute asking me to summarize it for him instead. I found that even more disrespectful than getting my name wrong.

      1. Happily Retired*

        Well, that’s just pitiful. You told him where the information he wanted was laid out, and he demanded that you give him a digest? That’s ridiculous.

        —btw, for others who haven’t read all the comments, OP is Black and does not come from a privileged background.

  17. ecnaseener*

    LW is far from the only one to think this way, but I think the misconception comes in when you say “Is this the new norm? I never acted like this when I was this guy’s age!” You’re not only taking one data point (this guy) as representative of his generation, you’re also taking one data point (yourself) as representative of your own generation.

    You didn’t act like this guy, and now you have a successful professional career. You probably had one or two classmates back in the day who did act like this guy, though, and you wouldn’t have been privy to that behavior. (And they would have been less well-positioned for success than you, until/unless they learned their lesson.)

    1. Olivia*

      That’s such a good point. It hadn’t occurred to me about how OP is taking themselves to be the general rule for their own cohort, but that’s so true as well.

      I think anytime someone asks “is this just how [group] is these days?” based on one or a few interactions, the answer is probably going to be “no”. And I think maybe the OP didn’t realize they were doing that, because they didn’t use a whole lot of the cliché “kids these days” language, but the readers have rightly seen that that is effectively what they were saying.

    2. goducks*

      Also, people don’t necessarily see their own experiences objectively. It’s entirely possible the LW did act in such entitled and clueless ways when she was young and inexperienced, but if it wasn’t pointed out to her at the time, or she didn’t suffer a consequence due to it she may not realize/remember she was like that herself.

    3. Lavender*

      Also, looking back on some of my own behaviors as a college student trying to break into the professional world…I definitely had some moments that make me cringe now! But I quickly learned my lesson and figured out what the professional norms are, so I don’t really dwell on my not-so-professional moments anymore. Once you’ve had some success with your career, it can be easy to forget that you didn’t know everything from day one.

  18. I should really pick a name*

    Is asking “Is this the norm now?” after one weird interaction becoming a norm?

    1. The Rules are Made Up*

      Lol!! The real new norm was the asking if something is the new norm alllllll along

    2. le teacher*

      Seriously. I feel like most of the letters these days on AAM all end with “is this the norm now?”

  19. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

    IMO the only thing LW could be doing/thinking differently is taking it less personally. There’s no obligation to mentor or coach anyone, but an early twentysomething being oblivious is pretty mundane. Politely declining and moving on is the way to go.

    1. Over It*

      Came here to say exactly this! Yes, this student was being obnoxious. They asked LW for assistance, LW provided a resource, and the student chose not to look at it. But LW has no obligation to engage this student if they reach out again. I get it’s aggravating, but the easiest thing to do is let it go.

    2. Lavender*

      Agreed. They did a kind thing by pointing the student toward resources, but it’s out of their hands at this point. I think it would be fine for them to treat this situation like they would with any other potential applicant who ended up not working out.

  20. Critical Rolls*

    I think the emoji itself is less an issue than the general casualness of the communication, and that (as Alison pointed out) has always been a very common calibration issue with people entering the workforce. Getting your name wrong (twice!), and failing to even follow the link you sent are the things that would actually give me pause.

    With that said, I don’t know how much insight your friend can have into that skill area for these mentees, or whether she’s in a position to coach them. You said you “choose not to let it reflect poorly on her” buuuut I kinda get the impression you think it does. If that’s how you feel it was the right move to ask her to screen a little more thoroughly and leave it at that. But if you’re sincere about wanting to help diversify your field, consider having a more in-depth conversation about what to expect from mentees who come from different backgrounds, and how to sort the unpolished from the unwilling, and what kind of guidance/support those with just a complete lack of exposure to workplace norms might need.

  21. Helen J*

    This seems less like a mentor/mentee type situation and more like an informational interview.

    I would view a mentor as someone I am working with who is guiding/training me on the norms of that profession, offering advice and pointing me towards resources. It seems like the young man was wanting information about internships. Yes, he should have been more professional, he should have gotten your name right and explored the link you sent, but I wouldn’t think of him as a “mentee”.

    1. Rob*

      I’d say it wasn’t even an informal interview the OP didnt even want to engage with this person beyond sending him a link to the internship posting.

      If that’s all they were interested in answering any questions, didn’t have the time or didnt want to help at all they could have just sent the link to their contact and said you can just pass this on to the candidate.

      1. Willow*

        It sounds like OP would have been interested in answering more substantive questions about the field, but the student didn’t ask any.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      I think you have things a little confused. There are three people in the letter: the mentor/mentee relationship consists of the OP’s friend and the entitled networker (the friend is the mentor, the networker is the mentee). The OP is not part of the mentor/mentee relationship, which is why they told their friend (the mentor) to educate the networker (the mentee) on better networking etiquette.

      1. Lavender*

        That was my interpretation as well. I don’t think this interaction falls under the category of mentor/mentee OR an informal interview. It sounds like the student was given OP’s contact information without much guidance on what they should ask about.

  22. Rob*

    It is weird to me that the OP seems upset the disappeared, but in both times he stops responding when they tell him to just go to the link.

    When someone is asking for more details and all you have to tell them is “go to the link I sent” why are you upset that communication ended? You’ve made it clear you do not want to engage with him and his questions outside of telling him he should just be going to the link to apply for the internship.

    If I was “networking” with someone and they told me to go to the company website instead of having a conversation with me I’d take is as 1. they are too busy to engage or 2. they aren’t interested in communicating further,

    1. ecnaseener*

      Oh I think both 1 and 2 would be mistakes to assume — more likely the message is “please go look at the posted information so we can address whatever specific questions you have about it. It’s setting up a better conversation than “yes we have internships, one does ABC and the other does XYZ.”

      1. Lilas*

        Plus, he may have thought that “Can you tell me about your field” is an OK broad opener to the conversation, which by its nature should be steered by the person he was told to contact for information. He might’ve been able to come up with some more specific questions in response to a very brief overview statement from OP, but not have any framework to come up with questions if OP just said, “no, you tell me specifically what you want to know.”

        I would approach this differently from an informational interview request you received from a professional. In that case, it’s definitely reasonable to expect them to already have a few specific questions narrowed down in order to save you time and effort.

        In a case where a student was told to connect with someone to learn about a field they wouldn’t otherwise know about, I don’t know that it’s reasonable to expect him to have any basis on which to preemptively come up with a short list of questions, rather than expecting to just initiate the conversation and have the experienced person be ready to talk to them.

        He may have gone silent after OP directed him to the link not out of laziness but out of confusion about how to respond to that, or whether it was a rebuff.

    2. Willow*

      Asking basic questions about the details of an internship when the answers to those questions are easily available online barely qualifies as networking. The student could have asked more substantive questions about OP’s experience in the field that showed he had done the bare minimum of research himself rather than expecting to just be given an internship.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Yes, and if there are different internships those could lead to different questions. It would be different advice had he written and said “I’ve looked at the available internships, and see you have X and Y. I’m really interested in A, and don’t see it mentioned, but person B recommended I reach out to you for more specific i formation. Can you tell me how A fits into both/either opportunity?”

    3. Boof*

      I’m not 100% sure I would have been able to put myself in a higher up’s shoes properly as a fresh trainee, but some thank yous or I really appreciate its are distinctly missing.
      I don’t think I understood just how little time someone like LW (or myself now) has, and how valuable it is (as a higher up you start to really understand the billable hour and/or get consulting offers, a hundred requests to meet from different reps… on and on)
      Not that I’d necessarily be deeply offended by it now, but I’d cringe at my younger self for not indicating some level of appreciation they are helping me out if I’d sent messages like this (IDK, I might have once or twice when I thought it was research related and mutual business, but to someone like 2 levels above me, and my mentor corrected me)

    4. Dust Bunny*

      I mean, I would assume that they are too busy to engage, at least at the square-one level we’re seeing here. They’re a professional in a niche field, right? I would assume that it’s on me to do the minimal research of visiting the link and considering what questions I might build off of whatever I see there. So more “the ball is in my court”. Granted, I’m a lot older and more work-experienced than this kid, though.

      Expecting a high-level professional to personally discuss the bare basics of their job without my having done any preparation seems kind of entitled in and of itself.

      1. Me ... Just Me*

        Exactly. It’s on the prospective intern to show some actual interest and ask specific questions of the stranger that they’re wanting to learn from. Not just, “How do I get your job?”

      2. Lilas*

        But you would assume that because you have some experience of this kind of networking or mentoring dynamic.

        As a student, if I was just told to contact an adult who is willing to talk to me about their field, I would assume that they were willing to take the lead on what they have to tell me, not that I should assume that the thing my mentor instructed me to do, that the expert apparently agreed to help with, constituted an inconvenience that I should minimize.

        I think from a student’s perspective it’s reasonable to go in saying essentially “Hi, I was told you have some insights and experience to share with me?” And expect the other person to then do that. Knowing what types of questions you even ask that situation demands a level of experience that it’s not reasonable to expect of a sophomore.

        That said, I definitely agree that the tone was unprofessional, and that this whole exchange should’ve been peppered with thank you is on his part.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          “Hi, I was told you have some insights and experience to share with me?” And expect the other person to then do that.

          See, this is an expectation gap: The student expects a lot more individual attention, and the contactee expects that they have, in fact, started a discourse by asking the student to review the link first. Because that is a common thing that you do in professional settings. Or at least it is in mine. If you contact my office looking for information one of the first things I’ll do is ask for your email because I am definitely going to have informational links to send you. It’s not practical to chat about it over the phone.

          Actually, one of the first things students should learn from this is that, yes, the busy professional they contacted is a busy professional and the rules of engagement are different in that world, and if they send you a link then they have actually given you the first step.

        2. Lavender*

          Yeah, I can see why the student might have gotten that impression if he wasn’t familiar with how networking works. His mentor probably should have been clearer about what kinds of questions to ask, and maybe prepped him by saying something like, “Jane has a really demanding job and might not have time for a long conversation on such short notice. If she seems busy, find out as much as you can on your own before coming back to her with questions.”

    5. Maple Bar*

      I did have this thought, I’m much older than this guy and any time someone has connected me to someone at a company I’m interested in and they tell me “go read and apply on the site” and if I ask anything else they say “idk look at the site,” I assume they are not actually interested in talking to me and leave it alone. Every time I’ve had an exchange like this, I’m left wondering why they offered to talk to me in the first place? Though RE: blue collar background, perhaps this is yet another thing that I’m supposed to understand but don’t.

      The LW says they offered to answer questions, but when he did ask a question about the internships they just told him to read the link. I don’t think I’d keep asking questions after that. This guy’s making other mistakes but I’m not sure this is one of them!

      1. Willow*

        I think there’s a difference between responding to all questions with “look at the site” and responding to basic questions like this student asked with that. If I’m going to reach out to someone for networking I would do a bit of Googling first and if I was interested in internships at their company I would look for information about them on the website first. Then when I connected with the person I could ask questions that aren’t so easily answered so they don’t wonder why I bothered to contact them when I’m just asking them to copy/paste from their public website.

        1. Maple Bar*

          He asked about some specific work involved, possibly something in the job posting. Job postings (including for internships) are usually both somewhat vague and with a long list of possibilities. The actual day to day of a job, especially what specific opportunities are available to the interns, is never extremely well captured in the posting alone. That’s why you’re often asking questions about that in interviews. Like, you wouldn’t think someone was a dummy for asking in an interview “can you tell me more about [job duty] for this position?” So I don’t know why it’s stupid or entitled for him to ask that same question of someone who specifically said they were happy to talk to potential interns. Especially since he’s inherently someone who has never done this work before.

          1. Lavender*

            If his question was something like, “Would the internship involve teapot design?” and one of the available positions was called Teapot Design Intern, I could understand OP’s frustration! If it was more like, “I noticed the Teapot Design Intern job description mentions llama grooming as one of the key responsibilities, can you tell me more about what that would involve?” then that would be a much more valid question. Based on follow-up comments from OP, though, it sounds like his questions were closer to the first option.

          2. OP Networker*

            He didn’t ask about specific work involved. He asked about the general nature of the work. This was less than one minute after I shared the link to the internship page (meaning he didn’t even look at it and perhaps never intended to). If I work at Teapots R’us and he says he interested in an internship with us, then I say ok great here’s the site, check it out and then let’s talk. And his immediate response is “well do your internships involve Teapots?” Well, it will seem eitherhis reading comprehension or his commitment to actually earning the internship are lacking.

            1. Maple Bar*

              So, let me start by saying that the fact that he breezed right by getting your name wrong (which you told me in another comment) is the kind of thing that would make me less likely to be super helpful with a student. Not totally write them off, but not go way out of my way for. I want to establish that because I am about to mega disagree with you and I don’t want it to look like I’m specifically white knighting for this dude, who I do understand is probably kind of frustrating. The thing is that… That’s normal. Always has been.

              The impression you’re really giving me here is that you are really hyper judging this interaction in a way that I find to be pretty pointless. Students and interns, necessarily, do not know what they are doing. Some lucky ones will, but it has nothing to do with their commitment or intelligence, it has to do with what they have been lucky enough to be exposed to growing up*. So as a general rule, you’re going to see some weird little fumbles with them. They’re going to be, as this guy is, varying degrees of frustrating. And I think that if you’re not willing to meet that with good-humored patience, then you’re not a good resource and may as well just not volunteer to do this in the future at all. I don’t say that to be a jerk, not everyone is the kind of person who’s gonna enjoy working with early career folks and that’s totally fine. But if you’re not, then don’t set people up by volunteering and then acting like they’re putting you out by being entirely normal.

              I’ve had to onboard, train, and oversee student work for years. All of them, no matter how smart or dedicated, are sometimes out of sync with how we would prefer them to act. If I decided to write off every one that made me furrow my eyebrows a couple times, I would be throwing literally every student in the garbage. I would almost guarantee that you yourself made people furrow their eyebrows a few times when you were new to the working world. None of us learned this stuff magically on our own, we learned because at least a few people ahead of us were willing to overlook the times we looked stupid and try to teach us anyway.

              *You wanna know the only kind of student who seemed to really know how to handle themselves? The ones with doctor parents that were walking them directly through all the steps. Following your rules, you’re gonna avoid helping anyone who doesn’t have (your industry’s equivalent of) doctor parents because only they know how to meet your standards. I doubt that’s what you want!

      2. Pocket Mouse*

        I mean, it’s exactly the answer her asked for! “Do you have internships?” “Yes, here is the information for them.” *crickets*

        If he had had any different questions for LW, presumably LW would have given a different answer.

        1. Maple Bar*

          No, it was the step after that. They gave the info, then the guy asked about some specific possible work, and the LW just told them again to look at the posting. Asking about how an intern gets to handle some specific potential job duty (from the posting or not, I’m not clear on whether it was in there or not) is an extremely valid question!

          I know someone will probably tell me “well actually he didn’t ask that because he asked too vaguely and might not have looked at the posting yet,” but that honestly feels like playing games to me. If someone asked me this I might roll my eyes at the way they asked it but I am capable of understanding what they’re getting at and answering the question. This isn’t hypothetical, either, I work with a new batch of students every academic year. And I do my best to be patient and helpful to them, because what’s the danger? That I’m accidentally too nice to someone who’s, gasp, kind of annoying?

          So the LW answers this guy’s question and he ends up still being useless. High probability of that, given the name thing. Well… So what? What did it cost them to give them the benefit of the doubt for like five minutes?

    6. SofiaDeo*

      But OP said “let me know if you have any questions AFTER reading the link”. I would not interpret that as too busy/unwilling. There weren’t computers when I was in college, but when I got an introduction to someone I was told was willing to possibly mentor me, and in the initial phone call suggested I read some things before getting back to them, I read the stuff then reached out again. I didn’t ghost them, then call again with the exact same initial questions.

    7. Lavender*

      I don’t think that’s necessarily true (although there are situations where it could be). When I send links to people in response to a question, it’s with the understanding that they’ll be in touch if they have any further questions not answered in the link. (I usually make this clear, though: e.g. “Feel free to get in touch if you still have questions.”)

      It sounds like OP’s workplace had several internships available, so they may have wanted the student to confirm which internship they were interested in before proceeding further.

    8. OP Networker*

      But wouldn’t you actually review the link, then come back with questions as invited/instructed?

  23. Blue Moon*

    My husband is in his 30’s and, unfortunately, is This Guy. Strict control from his parents across all aspects of his life until he was in his mid-20’s lead to this sort of learned helplessness. It’s definitely held him back in his career but at least he recognizes it and is actively working on it with a counselor/coach.

    1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      This cracks me up because I’ve never seen RuPaul’s Drag Race, but “Reading is Fundamental” was a PSA in the 70s.

      1. Phony Genius*

        Yes, that’s how I know it – RIF. They used to have celebrities in the spots. It’s actually a non-profit pro-literacy organization that still exists today.

    2. BorisTheGrump*

      I came here to say this as well. This kid is clearly off-base, but at least they keep the library open.

      Stay gold.

  24. Just Wondering*

    I agree that these networking texts come across as unprofessional and even a bit entitled. However, I wonder where this college student would learn how to better network and make connections. I’m an old myself and I’m pretty far removed from college so what I’m asking is: Is this the type of skill that all students are taught in school? High school? College? If not, then how can we expect everyone to know how to do this?

    It is rude to misspell someone’s name repeatedly. Unfortunately, some people need to have everything stated to them explicitly. They may genuinely not realize it’s rude to spell someone’s name wrong. (Just like some people may not be aware of how negative body language, facial expressions, or tone of voice come across). I’m thinking the same thing about OP’s recommendation to check out a link. Some people hear “recommendation” and don’t realize it’s an instruction for how to proceed.

    I’m sure there must be resources for young adults looking to network that give clear and what may seem like obvious information on how to reach out professionally. Is there a website or source or something that could be shared with rude and entitled networker? Not that OP has a responsibility to educate this person, just that it might be a way to genuinely help this young adult. Could that be a go to response for this type of situation? Something like: “Thanks for reaching out. Here’s a link that has helpful information. Read it first and let me know when you’ve finished reading it. Once that’s completed I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.”

    Also, does anyone have those links?

    1. e271828*

      If that’s how the actual text sequence went, the words “please” and “thank you” are notably missing from the student’s vocabulary. He goes straight to “gimme.”

      Thinking about the professional communication issue, I vividly recall being taught how to write letters in the fourth grade (age 8 or 9). In ninth grade (freshman high school), everyone took typing and basic business letter forms were intrinsically part of practicing, after we slogged through typing to John Philip Souza and learning to not look at the keyboard. The day before Christmas break, we typed pictures of kitties or something… Anyway, although kids are exposed to keyboards early now, covering basic communications skills for email and whatever other media exist probably should be on the grade school curriculum still.

    2. Me ... Just Me*

      You are assuming that the college student doesn’t know enough to understand that spelling someone’s name wrong, even though previously corrected, is rude? Seriously? — How low is the bar that we want to set for these supposed budding professionals?

    3. Lavender*

      I agree that this is something young adults are just expected to know, but they’re not really ever taught how to do it. (Spelling people’s names correctly is the exception here–I don’t think there’s an excuse for that.)

      When I taught middle school, I gave my students a (very very basic) lesson on email etiquette. (This was during the pandemic school closures, so they were sending and receiving more emails than the average middle schooler normally would.) Things like opening with a greeting, saying please and thank you, not spamming someone’s inbox if they don’t get back to you right away, and so on. I told them that learning how to write a polite and professional email will get them far in life!

    4. Snell*

      “lol ok.” is already rude and dismissive in a SOCIAL setting. So it’s not that he needs help learning professional norms; we can see he’s perfectly fine flouting social ones, directly to someone who he’s asking for something from, at that.

      1. Happy*

        I could read “lol ok” as rude and dismissive OR as self-deprecating and apologetic. It’s so easy for this sort of communication to be confusing when the interlocutors don’t know each other wel.

        1. Snell*

          All the more reason to err on the side of caution. I will grant that the phrase could be used to be self-deprecating and apologetic, thought I took that view because I’ve just personally only ever seen it used to mean “sure, whatever you say” with a sarcastic bent that implies you’re stepping back and letting a fool be foolish.

          Rude guy (whether or not intentionally so) can learn to err on the side of caution, but that’s mostly down to experience, which will come in its own time, and guidance, which is more the purview of LW’s friend than LW, so +1 on letting the friend know.

  25. Emily*

    For what it’s worth, I’ve connected with a handful of people in their early 20s who are interested in my career field and this has not been my experience. If anything, they’re overly hesitant about asking me for stuff, and I have to be like, “no really, here is what I can do for you. Yes, I really want to help you.”

  26. The Rules are Made Up*

    I’d also say that it’s not that POC and people whose family’s are not in white collar jobs don’t know anything about *general* professional behavior. Hopefully nobody is saying that to the OP because that assumption would be both racist and classist. It’s the small things that don’t actually have bearing on whether someone can do the job (like thank you notes) that aren’t usually taught or like office politic type things. Common sense things like dress in clean professional attire for your interview and attempt to spell the contacts name right aren’t part of that.

    My ex came from a family of trade workers and was really bad at picking up on subtle office job cues that I knew because I was the child of a single mom who constantly had to lug me to her office. So when he got an office job he’d tell me about his day at work and not pick up on subtext and I’d be like uh this person is telling you in office speak that they are NOT happy and you should take it more seriously. Its just not something he picked up on.

    1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      My parents were factory workers. I have had NO problems discerning “subtle office cues.” To assume that someone from a blue-collar background cannot adjust to professional norms is actually classist.

      1. Maple Bar*

        It’s bigoted against us, actually, if you don’t strictly hold us to the standards of a different cultural group that we are not a part of. Brilliant!

        Come on. A lot of us struggle with learning this, you don’t get to give everyone a Get Out Of Jail Free card on this just because you found it easier than most.

        1. kt*

          But there is a difference, don’t you think, between “Hey Maple Bar, I see something happening in this interaction that you may not be picking up on, is that the case, want to talk it through?” and “Hey Maple Bar, this is how you use a fork” and then the next step “I have this assignment and it involves a dinner with clients, Maple Bar won’t know how to do that, I don’t have time to teach them to use a fork.” Especially when it’s paired with a dash of ignorance (“oh Akiko won’t pick up on these American norms” (though her family’s been here in the US for 150 years) or “Jamal can’t be that polished” (he’s from a rich family with three generations of successful business ownership, more ball gowns and gloves than Barbie, and a big sis who heads up Alpha Kappa Alpha’s donor development efforts)).

          The point here is, don’t assume!

      2. The Rules are Made Up*

        “To assume that someone from a blue-collar background cannot adjust to professional norms is actually classist.” Yes, that was my point. I didn’t say they cannot adjust, just that if its not something you’ve been around you might not know. There are no one sized fits all blue collar people, so I’m glad you had no problems, SOME people do.

        OP’s comment sounded like they think there’s an expectation to let people do or say whatever in order to “diversify” workplaces, which automatically assumes that non-white, non-wealthy people are unprofessional by default and everyone else has to lower their standards. Which is what I was responding to. We don’t even know the race or class background of the student who reached out to them so I’m not even sure if that part of the letter was relevant, it seemed odd to me to stick it in there.

        1. Maple Bar*

          I think a very important component of this is that it is not lower standards, merely different standards. The way people in my community interact with one another is not BAD such that other people would be “lowering” themselves by understanding or accepting it.

          The statements being made here, in order, are “it’s classist to say people from poorer backgrounds do not inherently know all cultural norms for people of other backgrounds” and “the way people from poorer backgrounds behave is inherently worse, such that if we accept it, we are lowering our standards to an unacceptable level.” You gotta be able to see that’s wild, right?

          1. The Rules are Made Up*

            “I think a very important component of this is that it is not lower standards, merely different standards. The way people in my community interact with one another is not BAD such that other people would be “lowering” themselves by understanding or accepting it.”

            Oh I completely agree, my whole sentence (“which automatically assumes that non-white, non-wealthy people are unprofessional by default and everyone else has to lower their standards”) was me saying “this is how people sound when they say things like this” not that I think anyone is or should be “lowering standards.” Basically I’m saying that the comment, similar to the OP’s *sounds* like “Do I have to learn to just be okay with this since we want more diverse people?” when the things the student did have nothing to do with that. THAT student made some cringy missteps, that isn’t a reflection of any group of people.

            Marginalized people are not inherently “unprofessional” because a lot of what is deemed “professional” is dictated by class, purposefully. And those standards, which extend to hair for POC (I’ve dealt with this, 0/10 do not recommend) to judgements of crooked teeth (also classist and other -ists) or fatness, or pricey business clothing etc etc etc. Different, where different is outside of a particular class’ norms, has been read as unprofessional for decades. That is wrong.

        2. Boof*

          I think the question is whether they should expect someone to know norms, and maybe especially if you’re trying to attract people who might not historically have been in the sphere, and so are even less likely to have been primed by the norms, expecting them to know it could be more exclusionary [phew]
          It’s not that any given group can’t learn or shouldn’t get the norms once explained [barring the norms themselves being problematic somehow – whole other conversation/adjustment], it’s the not knowing why someone brand new to you is behaving a bit out of professional norms and yet not really being the right person to figure it all out and teach them since the contact is already an ask and needs to start brief, not demanding a big investment in for someone who hasn’t proven themselves and has no other relationship to LW

          1. The Rules are Made Up*

            I just think some of the norms are unimportant, like you can have not learned to send a thank you note and be perfectly capable of the job, ya know? And other norms I feel like people can usually learn as they go. But yeah OP doesn’t need to invest any more energy into this.

            Another anecdote, I had an intern who was….. not good. He was not marginalized in any way and I think that made it worse, but that kid could NOT read a room. And it frustrated me but AAM’s letters on that topic reminded me that it was my job to let him know those things, like true story, even if a client offers us a drink when we’re working offsite, you are literally underage and you should not ask what IPA’s they have, and even if you were 21, you are an intern. If I say no and I’m of legal age and a full time employee here, you should definitely say no too. (among other fun convos)

            1. The Rules are Made Up*

              Mind you, that not good intern ACED his interview, he knew what to say and how to say it and to send a thank you note, my coworker raved about him and was so excited for him to start. Then he actually started working and……. the point is he benefitted a lot from his background, he could play the role pretty well to a point, but none of that helped him not be a pain in the butt all summer.

            2. Boof*

              Yes, it depends a lot on what norm we’re talking about, but for the above letter I think saying “thank you” to someone helping you is a relatively universal norm and the lack of any clear thanks is the most glaring problem to me. Understanding exactly what/ how much to ask of someone, how to say thank you, etc is more of an understanding details of the norms tho.

  27. Noelle*

    I slightly disagree with Alison on the emoji. While using a smiley face, thumbs up, etc shouldn’t be generally upsetting, I’ve seen some Gen Z people use the laugh-crying emoji to mock someone’s response, like “Oh, you said something so crazy/stupid I can’t help but laugh”. Given the contents of the rest of his message, I think it’s fair to take this interpretation and be upset about it.
    That being said, this guy is an entitled jerk and not at all representative of anyone else. I’m a borderline Zillennial, my siblings are Gen Z, and I don’t know anyone who would act this way in any professional context.

    1. jes*

      I get that everyone can use emojis differently so my experience isn’t the gold standard, but that sounds like a stretch to interpret it as mocking the person you are talking to. I interpreted it here in a self-deprecating way (like “OMG I’m embarrassed, I should have read that link first, sorry I’m new to this”).
      Yes, the overall interaction was unimpressive, but I wouldn’t be UPSET per se, just unimpressed and slightly bemused.

      1. Lilas*

        Yes, I would 100% interpret this as like a smiling forehead smack- frustrated but self deprecating.

        Still a bad idea, obviously, but I think it’s off-base to interpret it as laughing at OP.

    2. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

      Hard disagree, I don’t think there’s any way to take “reading is fundamental” as anything but self-deprecation.

      1. sb51*

        +1 That line plus the emoji to me reads as an apology/self-deprecation over asking before reading. The second exchange with the repeated misspelling makes me cranky but the initial conversation to me comes off as someone not knowing exactly what to ask, apologizing when called on it, and then and getting shut down a second time pretty hard over it.

        I’d hope I’d say something more like “no worries, ping me when you’ve had a chance to read over the page and I’ll answer any questions you have then!” I.e. switch to a casual but business casual style and still put the work on the student to figure stuff out but make the offer of help after that genuine.

      2. Lavender*

        I agree. The cry-laugh emoji can definitely mean laughter at someone else’s expense, but in this case I think it’s more like, “Whoops, my bad, I should have looked at the link!” Kinda unprofessional (especially in the context of everything else), but also probably not directed at OP.

  28. Friyay*

    There is actually longitudinal generational research that people have done (Igen by Jean Twenge being one example) and I do think, as someone who has worked with college students for 13+ years, that things are just different. Not bad, not good, just that things change. The summary of Twenge’s research is: more risk adverse, less likely to have a driver’s license or worked while in high school, less confident, highly values work-life balance, values a more democratic supervision/leadership style, and need more precise instructions, reassurance, and encouragement. We have to give really specific instructions on how to network (it’s scary!), or even how to filter well for jobs and internship opportunities and ultimately do the application. If any questions on an application are ambiguous, students are less likely nowadays to take a guess or problem solve or google the instructions, but will immediately ask for help – they don’t want to get it wrong or presume whatever answer they found on their own is right.

    1. Lavender*

      Yeah, I think young adults have different challenges now than they did in other generations, but every generation was new to the workforce at some point. Some things are easier now and some things are harder, but I would imagine it mostly evens out.

    2. AABBCC123*

      And I blame (part of) academia for that. I mean they obviously had NO IDEA that publishing studies calling teenagers idiots and saying people shouldn’t have any responsibility before age 26 because of brain development would have led to this, right? /s

      They should be held to account for what they did to young people.

    3. Thorton*

      The results are interesting, and I wonder if changes in primary education account for them, at least in America. I’m a Zillennial, and, while I wasn’t wholly aware of them, there were subtle changes in how education was viewed. The pressure of standardized testing made having the correct answer from the beginning really important, more than learning from mistakes. In high school, we were constantly reminded that having a degree meant making more money; they would always sh9w the graphs of what a high school dropout vs. High school diploma vs. Different amounts of secondary education would earn us. We were also pressured to take classes that aligned with whatever career we wanted when we graduated, or would make our college application more appealing. I also remember the pressure to choose the best college you could get into and afford, since the college you went to would be a factor in getting a job.
      There was a lot they didn’t teach that would have been very helpful. We were instructed to Google answers, becuase Google was this amazing resource, but we were given vague instruction on how to vet resources from a Google search, mainly Wikipedia was bad and couldn’t be trusted, .com websites were okay, and .gov/.edu were the best we could find.
      Then there was American society growing up. The general fear and apprehension after 9/11. I don’t remember that day very well, beyond being happy that I didn’t have school but not understanding why, but I do remember the years after. My mom finds it odd that I’m not friends with my neighbors, that I don’t remember their names, even though we have been introduced, but for me, that’s typical. Because we are supposed to be wary of others since we can’t tell their motives, and we should assume the worst.
      Take my personal experience with a grain of salt, though. This isn’t everyone’s experience.

  29. Book lover*

    The kid’s rude, but he also just doesn’t know.

    It’s not your job to help develop this kid, but it would be a kindness. Could you pass along some feedback to your community development contact or someone else close to him that he needs some specific training on professional communication? He’s young enough to learn!

  30. Coverage Associate*

    On tone in written communications, probably for every young person going too informal (or a lower register), there’s another going too formal, and potential mentors being put off, feeling spammed. I know early in my career I was told I was too stiff in informational interviews. And AAM had that fascinating interview way back with a summer camp that hired teen counselors for their first jobs. The owners talked about trying to pull personality out of interviewees.

    Finally, I have a minority spelling of my name (like “Mikal” instead of “Michael,”) and people use the wrong spelling all the time. Coworkers who have known me for years. Federal judges. Some people struggle with this, especially in the age of auto correct.

    1. But Not the Hippopotamus*

      Excellent point. Every time my spouse or I get a new phone, it has to learn our uncommon but not rare child’s name. In the meantime we have a different child according to the phone – let’s say Paula. Note that our child’s name doesn’t even begin with a P. We joke about it now, but it was really confusing at first! Who the heck is Paula and why do I care if they took a nap?

      1. Coverage Associate*

        I really appreciate the employers where my name is in all the spell checks on my first day. I have to “teach” my personal devices not to correct my name, even though I go through all the device registration steps.

  31. Dixon*

    Why do people jump to ‘this entire generation is this way’ based off of one bad interaction? Yes, it’s the first mentee sent your way but I would just think ‘wow, this student is way off, good luck to them’ rather than judging everyone in their age range. Just yesterday I had a woman 20-30 years older than me call me to ask me to solve a math question that has nothing to do with the job I’m in or business I’m part of. I’m not sitting here thinking ‘all these old people can’t do math or pick up a calculator, how dumb of them’. I just marked it down as a one odd interaction.

    I hope you don’t let one bad egg color your view of any other mentees who may come your way.

    1. irene adler*

      Exactly- there’s nothing generational here.
      My rule: Unless one has personally met every member of a specific generation, maybe hold back on the generalities.

      Hey- there’s people older than me who are like this. Like 80 years old.

  32. Boof*

    Hi LW I think you handled this exactly right; both how you replied to the person, and it’s definitely worth giving your friend a heads up that 1) how this particular mentee seemed to go astray and therefor b) it’s worth your friend coaching a little before handing out your number
    I don’t think it’s worth your time or aggrivation to try to coach someone you’ve never met more than you did, they didn’t ask for feedback, but the person doing the referring can/should if they have enough of a relationship with them
    Hopefully knowing you’re doing good things even if it’s not always appreciated helps with the aggrivation, and do bow out /protect your time whenever it becomes too much!

  33. Matt R*

    i can’t help but think part of this is a consequence of the mode of communication. texting – presumably using the phone, although i know this isn’t a guarantee – is inherently less formal and feels (imho) more ‘disposable.’ texts always seem to have more typos and grammatical errors, which is why i avoid using them for work like the plague.

    you can also tell when someone is emailing from their phone, by the way – something about the phone makes people about 99% less likely to proofread before sending.

    it’s also pointed out elsewhere – if i reached out to someone for advice / connection and was pointed to a website (again, on my phone), i’m not sure i’d be all that excited about the response.

    1. Observer*

      Yeah, that’s a really entitled take.

      For starters, this person couldn’t even get the name right. I don’t care where you are texting from – if your phone causes you to make a typo in someone’s name, YOU APOLOGIZE. Especially when when you do it a SECOND time. I know this is shouty, but getting someone’s name wrong then failing to apologize is just blazingly rude.

      Beyond that, you are asking for help from someone and you can’t even be bothered to go to the link the person sent you to? You REALLY expect them to spend the time to type up the information that already exists to save you a few minutes? On the phone, yet! If it’s SO hard for you to do this on the phone, what makes you think it would be easier for the person whose help you are asking for?! Why would you expect them to take that effort if *you* can’t be bothered to do it for yourself.

      In the second interaction, the OP even explicitly told the student that they are willing to answer questions that are not clearly covered by the site. But that’s not good enough.

      If you are “not excited” that someone won’t do your work for you, that’s on you. That’s not a slaw with the information provided.

      1. Matt R*

        okay! i was really just trying to make a point about the perils of text messaging as business communication, but okay!

        “if your phone causes you to make a typo in someone’s name, YOU APOLOGIZE. Especially when when you do it a SECOND time. I know this is shouty, but getting someone’s name wrong then failing to apologize is just blazingly rude.”
        :: i’m not sure where i said otherwise.

        “Beyond that, you are asking for help from someone and you can’t even be bothered to go to the link the person sent you to? You REALLY expect them to spend the time to type up the information that already exists to save you a few minutes? ”
        :: if it were me, i wouldn’t have just said “check the website.” y’know, TWICE. if i TRULY (i guess we’re shouting at each other) wanted to mentor a kid who an acquaintance had sent my way, my response would have been something at least somewhat conversational, as in “you should definitely check the website – it outlines the tasks and experiences you might have with our organization. if you’re still interested after that, we can chat further.” if i’d been the acquaintance who sent the kid their way i’d be disappointed that they weren’t more helpful. maybe that’s just me.

    2. Lavender*

      I think spelling someone’s name wrong is more serious than a regular typo, though. It happens, and it was almost definitely an honest mistake, but the student should have apologized after the first instance and then been more careful about proofreading going forward.

      As for the website link, I don’t think OP was being dismissive or rude. Sending the link was probably easier than manually typing out all of the open internships, and it sounds like they would have been open to answering further questions. It seemed like a way of opening up the conversation: “Here’s what we offer, feel free to take a look at these and we’ll go from there.”

      It would have been different if the student had said something like, “I looked at the list of internships on your website and I have a few questions about the Llama Grooming internship” and gotten a link to the same website in response. I’ve had email exchanges like that, and it’s annoying! But that doesn’t seem to be the case here, and I think it’s reasonable for OP to ask the student to look at the website before proceeding further.

      1. Matt R*

        i completely agree, lavender: the name typo is really bad, particularly after you’ve already been corrected. you apologize, profusely, and move on.

        i agree with your other points as well, in particular the note re: the reasonable expectation that the student do some work before proceeding…certainly before the second, months-later exchange.

        i do truly think that, in the first exchange, the “check the link” response to a reasonable question in the course of a presumably continuous conversation (“but can i do this?”) was unnecessarily short. if you’re going to use texting for business communication i think you have to accept its informal, conversational nature and be informal and conversational.

  34. Onward*

    Okay, I’m a little blown away by how much these comments are hounding on OP. Yeah, someone fresh out of (or still in) college is going to need some professional polishing. I think OP understands that; however, “some people don’t realize it’s rude to spell someone’s name wrong”? “You have to tell them explicitly that they need to click on a link, figure out specific questions, then get back to someone?” “They don’t know not to ghost people?” C’mon.

    Yeah, give college kids some leeway but also have SOME standards for how to interact with other human beings. If they don’t learn how to SPELL SOMEONE’S NAME after being told twice, you don’t need to hold their hand anymore. Don’t normalize this level of rudeness and entitled behavior. If the kid in this story doesn’t figure that out, he won’t get an internship – the kid who learned to spell someone’s name and follow normal social cues will. That would be totally fair.

  35. Dust Bunny*

    I promise you I had classmates who were entitled twits 25 years ago and my parents had classmates who were entitled twits 25 years before that, and I’m fairly certain that my grandfather was one of those entitled twits in like 1932.

  36. Gato Blanco*

    I think this is someone who was not explicitly taught how to communicate in a white-collar professional environment. It is something that has to be taught! My parents are both college-educated. My mother worked in public relations and human resources in her career. My father worked in marketing. They did sit me down at 15 and show me how to write a resume, write a cover letter, write a business letter/email. They took me to career fairs and college fairs to teach me how to interact with potential employers and school recruiters when I was 17. Was their advice a bit outdated? Yes, but it was still helpful to get examples of a “business formal” tone. I also had examples of their formal language and way of speaking to clients, to bank tellers, to pharmacists, to insurance reps, etc. all my life.

    Not everyone gets these life lessons from home. I don’t think the student was being rude or entitled. Just clueless about how to network, what questions to ask, and how to interact with a potential mentor or future employer.

    1. Me ... Just Me*

      They’re in college, not 12 years old. College. Twenty years old. Spelling names correctly and using please and thank you aren’t “white collar”. I think it’s very classist to assume that “poor people” don’t have basic manners and shouldn’t be expected to know the basics. So classist.

    2. Observer*

      I think this is someone who was not explicitly taught how to communicate in a white-collar professional environment. It is something that has to be taught!

      Except that what the OP describes really is not about “white collar professional environments”. Most of this is basic common courtesy. Getting someone’s name right and saying “please” and “thank you” are NOT things that should only apply to those environments. That’s how you should treat EVERYONE.

      Yeah, the emoji thing is about professional polish. And if that were the worst thing this person did, the whole conversation would look different. But the student’s behavior is unacceptable even in casual personal interactions.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      My parents had 1.8 Ph.D.s between them and I don’t recall them ever specifically telling me how to do professional communication.

  37. irene adler*

    It is probably more work on the OP’s part, but I like to answer a question with a question- when someone clearly hasn’t done their homework (so to speak).

    Yeah, so Miss Manners won’t think much of my doing that.

    So when asked: “Do you have anything like that?” I’d refrain from giving information. Instead,
    I’d respond: “what did you see on our company website? Let me know what you find.”

    1. Lavender*

      I like that approach. I’m also a fan of, “Have you checked out our website? If not, here’s the link. Let me know if you have any further questions.”

  38. Samwise*

    I work with students this age.

    Many students will try to be more polite than this one or (more to the point) recognize that this kind of breezy “do me a favor” request is Not Polite.

    Collège students *do not know how to correspond with professionals*. Because in general they don’t have experience, or they don’t have the social capital to have learned how to correspond, or have anyone they can ask about it. Especially younger students/ first-year or second-year students.

    Even students from privileged backgrounds often do not know. (I could give you hilarious examples from my own family. My brother finally told his daughter, get back in touch with Aunt Samwise and do everything she tells you, do not complain to me or her about it, just obey.)

    My first year students are doing informational interviews. We spend time drafting emails /scripting phone calls to request the interview, we work on the questions, we draft and revise thank you emails. We discuss how to follow up later. This is *unusual*. Many students do not get this kind of guidance.

    Your responses to this student are fine. If you want better responses from students, you could ask your friend to help students prepare. Most likely your friend has no idea that some of the students are corresponding this way.

    1. Samwise*

      Let me add as well that periodically AAS does a round-up of dopey-cringey stuff you did as a new worker-bee. Full of bloopers, missteps, misunderstandings etc etc –many of them a lot worse than this student’s texts.

  39. Samwise*

    It’s possible that this student is actually not that interested in internships or career exploration and networking. College sophomore. It may be that your friend pressed the student to reach out, and then reminded them again to follow up.

    1. Lavender*

      That seems likely to me. It reminds me of a friend of mine, whose parents pressured him to audition for a very prestigious music program when he was a teenager. He nailed the audition and was put through to the interview stage. When they asked him why he was interested in the program, his answer was, “I’m not. My mom wanted me to do this.” They thanked him for his honesty and let him go home

  40. Hiring Mgr*

    I don’t know if I’d call him rude and entitled – he only texted you twice in eight months after all so it’s not like he was demanding things from you

    It sounds more like he’s not really that interested in the internship and was maybe just making some basic outreach. Could be that his mentor pointed him your way so he went through the motions

  41. AthenaC*

    “I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the general premise that minorities and low-income folks necessarily have no idea how to behave in white collar environments”

    FWIW, my experience with disadvantaged folks is that they often try TOO hard to be professional and I have to coach them to relax a bit to fit in with the culture. (for example, using first names in email, skip the honorifics) And then they apologize for having to be corrected, and then I have to explain to them that no apology is needed; coaching is to be expected.

    If I’m giving “grace” for unprofessionalism, usually it’s with people from more privileged backgrounds.

    But that’s just been my observation.

    1. Askalice*

      Ive seen a bit of that too, cover letters written in formal language that a 16th century lawyer would be proud of!
      The casual attitude does seem to come more often with entitlement.

    2. Mea*

      As someone who is working class, this would be me in my communications. More so when I’m asking a favour of someone, especially someone I do not know.

      Reading the back and forth, I was wondering how anyone got ‘blue collar’ background from it. Being such, if I’d written it, there would be pleases, thank yous and an apology for not having questions and being grateful for the link.
      To me it’s not an age thing. I politely contacted professionals from the age of 16, to ask a ‘favour’. I was respectful and cognizant that they were busy and answering my query was in no way part of their job. They were kind enough to reply with information, for which I was very grateful.

      1. Mea*

        I’d also have been mortified, even at age 16, if I spelt the person’s name wrong and apologised for that!

  42. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    Honestly, I get this kind of communication on LinkedIn from random strangers, many of whom are full-up adults.

    Vague requests and no response if I ask follow up questions. It’s too bad, because I love helping folks out and am reasonably good at it.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      My personal favorite is when people I used to work at the same company with reach out and say “I see your company is hiring for X. I attached my resume, please help me apply for the job”. Uhhh, what makes you qualified? (Not sarcastic, like really tell me why you match up with this job). Why are you interested in this job? I didn’t actually work with you, so I need more information, cause all I have right now is that you’re counting on our previous company association to get you a job.

  43. PsychNurse*

    I volunteered to serve on a committee when our church was looking for a new minister. We had gotten a list of possible ministers from our denomination headquarters. I remember reaching out to one of them– who was in his 60s– by email and getting back a response like “yes im interested” and nothing additional. I responded once and again got one line back, no punctuation. At that point I decided if he were actually interested, he’d be putting more effort into it!

  44. Bosslady*

    I am a leader in my industry, which is a niche subset of a very popular career. For the past 19 years I have had adult, experienced people in this career approach me with similar and even more clueless behavior. The only thing new about it is the texting. I’ve had people approach me at professional conferences and ask with their mouth full of passed appetizers if I would give them a job, sometimes before even introducing themselves. Or ask how much I make. Or ask if I can review their resume/CV/sample report.
    I participate in a lot of presentations about getting started in my niche, starting a business, and networking. I’ve found that people oblivious to politeness and unprofessionalism are doing you a favor by wearing it on their sleeve.

  45. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    I may be alone in this, but being shocked that someone would use an emoji, while using the form of communication they are most associated with, is weird. My entire team, ranging from 50+ to 23 uses emojis at work in our Teams chat and not just as react. We love GIFs.

    Agree with Alison that the person’s communication Not Good, but the emoji thing struck me as weird when they are a common thing in text communication. Woudl I put an emoji in an email? Nope, because that’s not where you use them. I’m not sure I could be upset with someone for doing exactly what you do in texts.

    1. SofiaDeo*

      But you are already coworkers. I see a huge problem, and not just in work interactions, where relative let alone total strangers treat someone like they are a long standing friend. Other languages have actual titles used with strangers! I think it’s rude to get treated like someone’s frat buddy when I don’t know the person. IMO this is basic manners/politeness, and unfortunately people aren’t being taught this. I saw a documentary a few years ago on current high school students, and was appalled. I would not have dreamed of treating my teachers/been allowed to treat them, the way it was portrayed. So I hope I understand a bit of where this is coming from. Good for OP to mention to their friend, that the students friend is trying to help should probably get a basic manners reminder. Because I don’t think it’s necessarily generational, that it’s just an example of an ill mannered person who can’t/is unwilling to follow basic directions like “check out our website link”.

    2. Lavender*

      I think the reasoning here is that the student is a potential job applicant, and so he should be more formal. It’s like how some offices are fine with employees wearing jeans and t-shirts, but you’d still dress formally if you were interviewing for a job there. The student obviously hasn’t been offered an interview in this case, but erring on the side of formality is generally a good idea when dealing with a potential employer.

      If OP had used emojis or more informal language in their messages, then the student could have taken that as a cue that it’s okay for him to do the same. Probably not a great idea to do that right off the bat, though.

  46. BellyButton*

    I’ve read the letter multiple times trying to nail down exactly why it bothers me so much. Maybe it is the way OP described their position and their industry- it seems like she expects to be treated a certain way and anyone who doesn’t is a waste of her time.

    Reading the person’s text it doesn’t sound entitled, it sounds like someone who doesn’t know how to start or keeping a conversation going about a career path he doesn’t know anything about o with an actual adult. He is young, he doesn’t know, he hasn’t experienced it yet. I would have given him more direction- “read the link, paying close attention to the job description and then we can discuss what those points mean when you have done a bit more research” That isn’t the OP’s responsibility, but it is my natural tendency to give some direction and coaching to someone.

    I think if OP really is interested in attracting a more diverse group of people to her field, she should be a bit more open.

    1. Not Peggy Noonan*

      Reading the person’s text it doesn’t sound entitled, it sounds like someone who doesn’t know how to start or keeping a conversation going about a career path he doesn’t know anything about o with an actual adult. He is young, he doesn’t know, he hasn’t experienced it yet.

      He is old enough to know that “[emoji] lol reading is fundamental” is not appropriate language for professional communications.

      1. BellyButton*

        Maybe? I think most of it is inexperience and he just didn’t know that this should have been a more formal communication. Maybe I am too forgiving on things like this, but I work with a lot interns and new grads, and so nothing surprises me anymore.

    2. SofiaDeo*

      Anyone who is even marginally an adult should have learned, by this age, how to be at least marginally polite when asking a favor. It’s not entitled for OP to ask to be treated politely! OP got back to their friend, to give feedback re:referrals not following polite norms. Then friend can either reinforce the lesson if they are teaching this to the students, or include it if it’s not. When I had interns, who were required to do the unpaid internship in order to qualify to graduate/take a health care profession license exam, there were always those who didn’t read the info, follow the rules, etc. If a student was incapable of following the directions, they would eventually get dropped from the internship. I didn’t consider myself “entitled” to insist these people follow a set of norms.

    3. Lavender*

      I think some of this can be chalked up to inexperience and some of it is just plain rude.

      A college student wouldn’t necessarily know what questions to ask in a networking conversation, how to follow up after being sent a link, or when to use formal vs. informal language. It’s not ideal, but I probably wouldn’t be too concerned if he was really new to the professional world. He should have known to say please and thank you, though, and to apologize when he spelled OP’s name wrong.

  47. The Eye of Argon*

    There are probably cuneiform tablets out there full of complaints about kids those days. And those kids grow up to be the adults of the future who go on to complain about kids these days.

    When I was in college almost 30 years ago (ouch and a half!) and the internet was brand new, I was working on a research paper and pretty much emailed a bunch of random people asking for resources instead of tracking them down myself. Not surprisingly, few answered, and the answers I got were variations on “do your own dang research.” I cringe at the memory now and definitely know better. So there’s hope for Mr. Misspeller yet.

  48. Maple Bar*

    I wonder if this is the classic “try to communicate in a conversational way” job application advice gone very awry.

    Did he apologize for getting your name wrong ever or is this directly how the exchange went? I don’t know why I feel like that’s an important piece of the puzzle here, but I think that would change a lot of my opinion on this kid were I the one getting these texts.

    1. OP Networker*

      It was a faithful paraphrase, though slightly redacted. No please, no thank you. No apology for misspelling my name. No acknowledgment that he intended to look at the link.

  49. Lauren*

    He wants you to hold his hand and set up his interview for him or get him the job directly. His stupid school is telling him to reach out with unrealistic expectations most likely.

    1. BellyButton*

      They tell them to “reach out” but they don’t explain what that means or how to do it correctly and professionally.

    2. Lavender*

      The school might have given him bad advice, or they might have just not given him any advice at all beyond “networking is important and you should do it.”

      My undergrad program really stressed the importance of networking, but didn’t really give us much advice on how to do it. I don’t think I ever got any guidance on what to say in a cold email, or what to expect from an initial conversation. When I graduated and started trying to build some of those professional connections, there was definitely a learning curve at first.

  50. kiki*

    I think part of the reason it’s common for younger people to be oblivious in this way is because they really don’t have any concept of what people’s jobs entail or what somebody’s seniority means. I feel like with young people, you see overcorrections both ways– the intern who asks the CEO how to find his inbox and the intern who stays at the office until midnight trying to track down a document somebody forgot to send them rather than ask their manager about it.

    I don’t know if there’s anything making it more common today except that maybe it’s easier to send somebody a message without thinking than ever before.

    It has helped me to reframe occurrences like this from, “What an entitled person!” to “Wow, this person is so untouched by the professional world and norms that they have no idea that this is a wild thing to do.” The latter is honestly a little charming to me when I think of it that way.

    1. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

      I work with lots of college-aged interns and am cracking up at your examples because it’s so true.

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      This is all so true. Oh man… I’ve seen all those things from interns. And you’re right- naive can easily read as entitled. Plus, it’s easy to forget all the “unspoken” workplace rules most of us have learned.

  51. fort hiss*

    All generations have people who are rude and clueless. They just find new ways to do it. If you find yourself thinking “wow kids these days” after a single bad interaction with a young person, examine yourself first.

  52. Not Peggy Noonan*

    Emojis are almost never part of professional writing. Emojis (much less “lol, reading is fundamental) should *certainly* not be part of a cold e-mail.

    OP is right to dismiss this applicant, who has shown poor communication skills, and she should give feedback to her contact as to why.

    1. PsychNurse*

      I 100% agree. The only thing I want to point out is that “reading is fundamental” is essentially an apology. The student is saying “oops, I can’t believe I missed that, I should have read more closely.” So… they’ve got the right idea, but they didn’t say it right! Definitely something for OP’s friend to coach her students on.

  53. Apple Townes*

    My SO is an instructor at a public university in a field where “book smarts” don’t necessarily correlate with success/ability. He often vents to me about advisees who miss deadlines to add/drop courses, forget to schedule required meetings, turn in assignments suuuuuper late with no explanation, etc. etc. So I think college students being flaky and oblivious is not uncommon, especially among those that weren’t pressured to or rewarded for being high performers in grade/high school (which it sounds like maybe OP was)! They’re learning. It’s not personal, OP. You can be annoyed and think he should know better, but for whatever reason, he does not.

    If you’re bothered by messages that are overly casual/informal, maybe ask your friend to give students your email instead of having them text you? Texting is pretty informal by nature, especially the way younger people use it, and email might subconsciously prompt them to communicate in a more thoughtful/professional way.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yes, I require all “networking” requests (and I get a fair number) be done through email. It’s much better and I think it allows for a little more understanding that this is professional to professional- not a casual thing between two friends.

  54. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

    > This guy wants something from me, but expects me to call him?

    I suspect he was expecting you to text in reply. Texting and calling usually use the same device and the same phone number.

    I also think that LW would have been less off-put if the student had responded with “Thanks” before the silence. (If nothing else, it’s good to acknowledge a text because they do sometimes go astray.)

    I also note that the student is described as a college sophomore, so he’s probably 19, maybe 20. Which I do think explains and partly excuses some of the texting behavior.

  55. IT Manager but not like Jen from The IT Crowd*

    To be honest, I’ve found this far worse with older employees expecting everything to be spelled out for them without putting in any legwork themselves, versus younger employees.
    It’s one of the traits I find most irritating in prospective and existing direct reports; a need for everything to be spoon fed to them (I don’t indulge them, I hasten to add, but it’s irritating nonetheless).

  56. Ann O'Nemity*

    I can’t defend the student’s messages, but I hope the OP realizes their own privileges and stops expecting that everyone had similar preparation for white collar communication. The OP did the right thing in their responses and giving a heads up to the connector, but should get over being so irrationally upset about it.

    Also, I can’t even count the number of times I’ve gotten similarly lazy messages from recruiters and salespeople on LinkedIn. It’s not just students….

    1. OP Networker*

      I had no preparation for white collar life whatsoever. I posted above about my own background. But, other posters have pointed out that the ability to pick up such things without having been taught (and the inclination to learn them on my own) is its own privilege.

  57. OtherBecky*

    As a university instructor, my colleagues and I have actually noticed a sharp decrease in what I can only call maturity and self-sufficiency among students whose last year or two of high school happened under Covid lockdown.

    To be clear, it’s not universal. But I’d say that somewhere around 20-30% of our students are essentially experiencing a developmental delay. There are a lot of soft skills around time management, social interactions, and initiative that are normally learned (or significantly expanded) in that last year or two of high school. Some students’ experiences of lockdown allowed for that development, but some didn’t.

    I’ve got a lot more students than usual who need explicit instruction on things like looking up the definitions of unfamiliar words before they email me to ask, or not using emojis in formal written communication.

    It’s not new; there have always been students who needed to be explicitly taught those things. But there are currently a lot more than there used to be.

    1. Lavender*

      Yeah, that’s fair. I taught during the COVID-19 lockdowns (although my students were middle schoolers, not high schoolers), and some students really fell behind during that time. That’s not their fault, and I am completely confident they’ll catch up if they haven’t already, but…it is what it is.

      I also spent a lot of that year in “survival mode teaching”: as long as my students were showing up to Zoom meetings, making an effort to do the assignments, and basically letting me know periodically that they were alive, I was happy. I definitely wasn’t as concerned about things like spelling or grammar as I otherwise would have been, and I did a lot more “hand-holding” (for lack of a better term) when students needed help with an assignment.

      I don’t think that means this generation is lazy or entitled, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some lessons in professionalism they missed out on. Again, not their fault, and I’m sure they’ll catch up.

    2. kiki*

      I do feel like the decrease of in-person school, work, etc is contributing to delays in young people picking up norms. In person, you get to learn a lot from watching others and seeing responses to behaviors/questions/etc. When you’re remote, you’re kind of isolated. I can ping my bosses anytime I want or hop on a meeting with them pretty easily, but I’m not seeing how they respond to questions my other coworkers ask.

      I think more senior folks are going to have to start being more explicit about expectations and norms than we are used to being since younger workers don’t necessarily have a great way to pick all this stuff up organically the way they used to.

  58. There You Are*

    I am *not* defending the student’s behavior but, sigh, I can empathize with him.

    At his age, I was very, very used to adults having all the answers and telling me what to do. “Contact this adult, they’re in an industry / role that I think you’d be interested in,” would have (a) given me a huge anxiety attack, and (b) led me to expect that they’d be just like all the other adults in my life, i.e., someone who will guide the conversation and direct me.

    I’m still lost on this stuff sometimes as a middle-aged adult [Gen-X, represent!]. We were assigned mentors at work and mine said at our first meeting, “So, what questions do you have for me?” (Um, none? I’ve never had a mentor. I have no idea what is supposed to happen here). I at least honestly told her that my question was, “What questions am I supposed to have?” because I don’t know what I don’t know.

    So I can see this kid — ahem, young adult — being kind of “deer in the headlights”, too.

    FTR, I can also see him being some kind of immature, entitled ass, but “lost and full of anxiety” can look the same as “general asshole” when there’s minimal information to go on. And no one should have to expend any energy trying to figure out which one they’re dealing with in arms-length interactions like this one.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      I think what’s important here is your observation that it isn’t the LetterWriter’s job to sort out the “entitled and immature” from “nervous and anxious”, because that’s just too hard to tell. Personally, I think this one reads more the former, but it could be the later. I do think people do a big disservice to themselves when they don’t prepare for these things, but then I’m sure I was young and immature and probably wrote some lame emails to people over the years, so I try to show grace.

  59. Late, Not Lazy*

    Something I experienced as a college student, and in early career worker, is that everyone told me to network and do informational interviews, but nobody told me how to do it. I graduated in 2014 from a prestigious university and did all the career center prep things available. But even the guides provided by the career center, or what I found online, weren’t actually helpful — I needed an intership, I didn’t really have any other questions! — or so I thought.

    If someone, anyone, had sat down with me and listened to my story and said “okay, I think these are the things you want to know about, from these types of people, ask questions like this,” maybe I actually would have replied to the people my family tried to get me to network with, or had useful informational interviews with the people I did contact with.

    I am now in a position to hire my first intern and I’ve been thinking really seriously about my experiences as a student and junior worker, to figure out how design the role to be useful for me, useful for them, and seem cool enough for them to actually apply.

    1. Lavender*

      I had a really similar experience: my university really emphasized the importance of networking, but nobody ever really explained to me how to do it. I think part of the problem is that the process is so different for everyone that it’s impossible to come up with a one-size-fits-all formula: it depends on your career goals, how many industry contacts you already have, prior work experience, professional norms in your specific field, and probably a million other factors.

      I was very fortunate to find an amazing professional mentor shortly after I graduated, pretty much through pure luck. She basically gave me the talk you described: “Here’s what you need to be doing, here’s who you should talk to and what to talk about, here’s other stuff you can do in the meantime to strengthen your resume.” She was awesome and I think every college student should have someone like her in their life. I feel like every university department should have a career counselor specific to each major, because personalized advice is so much more useful than the broad “make sure to network and get a lot of professional contacts” advice that you often see at college career centers.

  60. AABBCC123*

    Is there any chance this student was *intentionally* misspelling the name? The fact that he was told three times and still continued to misspell it suggests something more than an oversight.

    1. Lavender*

      Why would he do that? I can’t think of any reason for it aside from deliberately sabotaging the relationship, which would be a very odd thing to do and a very odd way to go about it!

      1. SaffyTaffy*

        @Lavender, some people still think negging will get them a positive outcome, by throwing a person in a position of power off their game.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      It could be something much more innocuous, like a slightly-less-than-common name that spell check automatically “corrects” (think typing in “Darla” and your phone changes it to “Darling” and you don’t notice) or a name with multiple spellings and the student knows someone with a different spelling (think OP’s name is “Mat” and the student’s brother is named “Matt” so he always types it with 2 t’s out of habit).

      1. OP Networker*

        My name, is old, European, spelled exactly like it sounds (and I can’t even think of any alternate spellings), and autocorrect has never suggested anything in its place. Think Elizabeth. I wasn’t offended the first time, I just corrected him. That he ignored the correction was where he lost my empathy.

        1. I Talk About Motorcycles Too Much*

          But don’t think Elisabeth or Elizebeth…(both of which I have run into). ;) More unique!

  61. Just Me*

    Honestly, I wouldn’t label this lack of common sense or poor communication. To me, it reads as a student who was told networking was important and is therefore networking. As it is taught in school, networking is pretty much exactly what this student did: get a name, contact said name, wait for a response. The exactly how this process is supposed to be helpful is really not taught, and now as a professional I still see close to zero value in networking ‘events’ and minimal value in a mentor for anything beyond proofreading presentations/documents and mock interviewing. Reading this makes me wonder what this letter writer expected the student to say and what the writer wanted to give if anything in this relationship.

    1. Lavender*

      I think this is partially the case here, but not entirely. A college student should absolutely know to apologize after getting someone’s name wrong, and to say please and thank you when you’re asking someone for a favor. That’s on the student.

      As for the rest of it, though—yeah, I agree that he probably just hadn’t been taught how to network. His mentor could have given him some advice on how to move the conversation along: things like doing your own research on the company so you have some background, or coming up with a list of specific questions in advance. And who knows, maybe his mentor did do that and he just ignored it—but it really is a learned skill that most students aren’t taught, so I’m betting that the student just hadn’t learned.

      1. Just Me*

        I respectfully disagree…I would expect thank you in this context to be at most an email sign-off, and as sign-offs are not used in texting I would not expect a thank you. Please is similarly an out-of-touch expectation when the communication medium is a text. For the name thing, if someone corrects me on their name, I don’t make it a big deal, nor do I want someone else to make my name a big deal. Clearly this person expected otherwise, but even as a somewhat seasoned professional I can’t come up with a non-awkward way to acknowledge the correction via any non-verbal communication, and this letter-writer seems quite opposed to verbal communication.

        1. Lavender*

          I think since he was talking to a potential professional contact, though, he should have been a bit more formal–even though the medium was text. Not as formal as he might have been in an email, but something like “Thank you for sending the link, I’ll check it out” would have been appropriate. (You’re right that “please” might not be entirely necessary in this context, though.)

          As for the name thing, I think he could have briefly addressed it with a quick “Sorry, I meant to say [proper spelling]!” or similar. Even if he didn’t do that, though, he definitely shouldn’t have gotten it wrong a second time. OP shouldn’t have had to correct him more than once.

  62. Fala*

    I’d wager the potential intern is a by-product of higher ed. in the sense that universities and colleges have been tripping all over themselves to attract and retain tuition dollars because of tax shortfalls, and that means running circles around students, handing them everything and giving the impression that the world works in kind.

    I share your frustration, OP.

  63. anon23*

    I agree with OP. I’m a professor and have never seen anything like what I am seeing this last year in my 15 years of teaching. The level of disinterested entitlement is at a new level.

    1. OtherBecky*

      I’ve noticed something similar, but I don’t think it’s entitlement; I think it’s a lack of maturity, and I mean that in a literal, non-judgmental sense.

      There’s a large percentage of students whose experiences of the pandemic have meant they’re developmentally a couple of years behind where we’re used to them being. It’s not their fault, and getting them caught up would ideally be something for colleges and universities to address at an institutional level.

      My institution isn’t, at least not yet, so a lot of it is falling to individual instructors. I’m used to having to tell some of my students that when I teach them a concept or principle, I expect them to be able to apply it to new examples or situations. I’m not used to having to tell them that they shouldn’t ask for a letter of recommendation if they routinely slept during their discussion section, or that they shouldn’t use textspeak and emojis in emails where their professor is trying to formalize the consequences of the student’s honor code violations.

      1. SofiaDeo*

        I am not sure it is just the pandemic. I wonder to what extent the “need for 2 incomes” (whether or not there are 2 parents involved), plus the emphasis on kids passing the state mandated exams in the US at least, means that these kids don’t get the same level, let alone types, of interaction with adults at an earlier age. I was fortunate enough to have my grandmother watch me, while my single mom worked. I got a number of life skills I don’t see a lot of other younger folk getting. I was taken to Mom’s office intermittently, I listened to the adults talk about work at the dinner table when the extended family got together. We talked together instead of watching TV/playing video games. So I agree that while the pandemic exacerbated this to some extent, it started a while ago. With parents having to work so much they come home exhausted, not being able to spend as much time with them like a lot of earlier generations did. Even the earlier times when kids had numerous chores/*had* to help around the house, meant they learned at least some problem solving skills and how to apply themselves. I know people that never had chores as a kid, instead got all kinds of extracurricular activities, and they are struggling as adults. They never *had* to finish stuff, and got “rewards” for even the slightest attempt. So now we have a lot of folk who don’t get that at work, *you won’t keep your job if you can’t do the work as described by the business*. And are upset that “I am doing the best that I can” won’t allow them to keep their job.

  64. Secret Chef*

    The responses here are interesting—it seems like this is either a generational issue or something that’s been happening for decades. What field do you work in, OP?

  65. Skamig*

    To me the one thing that really did seems like it could a generational divide was the emoji and statement about reading. It seems like the “Gen Z humor” that might not be as familiar to people who use different apps and spend time with different people. I am young enough that I see this humor is around, but old enough to feel like I am out of the loop. Hopefully, and likely, people will get more used to it over time!

    1. Lavender*

      I think every generation has their own slang and sense of humor that feels overly casual to older generations, though. Emojis are new, but not necessarily the idea of younger people communicating in different ways. A few generations ago, “Okay, cool!” would have sounded way too slang-y and informal for a professional setting, but I say it to my boss all the time without a second thought.

  66. TechWorker*

    I never tried networking in this sense while I was a student so I don’t know how bad I would have been at it.. the main place I spoke to potential employers was at careers fairs.

    At the careers fairs at my university, employers were basically competing to get people to apply to their jobs, and a student walking up and saying ‘hi can you tell me about your company and the jobs available’ is not just normal but TOTALLY expected. And the employees at careers fairs were expecting to repeatedly elevator pitch the company and why students should apply… I have no idea if this student has that experience, but if they do I could see them getting the wrong end of the stick about this sort of interaction.

  67. Lkr209*

    Well now I really want to know what the OP’s career is…I’m thinking something very cool, like the Vampire & Demon Hunters department within the British Museum.

  68. theletter*

    I also went to college about 20 years ago and I think I was about as clueless as this student. But I think a lot of it does just come from old advice from another time, when a quick, personal contact, bolstered with a name drop, was a the prefered way to circumvent the application/hiring process for both the candidate and the manager.

    Advice from 70 years ago paints a picture of a hiring manager waiting for a swarm of paper resumes to swim through when they just wish their contacts would send along some smart students who could learn fast and work hard and take care off all the filling for them.

    But that’s just not how the world is anymore – hiring managers have less control over who they hire, but more resources on hand as well. And everything feels more specialized than it was for out parents. “I’m willing to learn the ropes!” just doesn’t sell like it used to.

    In any case, I work for a large company that often hires data science PhDs and I get these emails from time to time. “I just graduated and I want to know more about your company and what you do, can we set up a call? Can you do an informational interview?” And I have to tell them I don’t work for that team, I just posted link for the referral bonus. You’d find me about as useful as the pigeons who are roosting outside their office window. Just apply for the job! I’m not a secret backdoor passage. I don’t have a magic key. That’s not how this works anymore. Didn’t you notice you emailed me about this a month ago? You just have to take your chances with the resume slush pile like everyone else.

  69. Heather*

    I just want to add as someone that works with a lot of students, this is very normal. Lots of college students would have done better in their communications, lots would have done worse. It’s been like this since we were in college in the early 2000s.

    I think a big thing to keep in mind when you run into stuff like this, is kids are told again and again, they HAVE to network. They HAVE to do these things. Even if they are not good at it.

    Also, other side, just because a student is bad at communicating does not mean they will be bad at the job you are asking them to do. The same for a student that IS good at communicating and organized. Some of the most amazingly horrid interns I’ve ever had are the ones that aced interviews. Same for those that totally flubbed the interview but I felt they had something interesting (sometimes, I thought they might entertain me during the summer, because it is an art form finding both stuff for interns to do and keeping yourself sane). Those students would most of the time would be the best and ones I would hire myself or recommend out to others.

    Students are young adults that have limited life experience and most of the time no work experience. We should both give them some slack, and try to give them good examples to learn from. But only as much energy as you want to give: sounds like you can just keep on directly this kid to the intern website, because that’s all the energy he gives out. Will he ever apply? Who knows. Bless his heart.

  70. Mark Baron*

    Personally, I would appreciate, not be put off by, the mentee giving me their phone number so I can call them. That allows me to call when it is convenient for me, when I have time set aside for it, rather than have them call and interrupt me.

  71. NotYourMomsJob*

    Glass half full: Even though he’s not very good at communicating with you about the internship, at least he is doing it himself, and not having his parents apply for him. Happens all the time. (And those applications go to the bottom of the pile.)

    1. Rainy*

      I had a dad sit in on his grad student’s (virtual) appointment with me a couple of months ago, and when he said he planned to call headhunters on the student’s behalf, I went from zero to HULK SMASH in like a tenth of a second. I don’t know if what I said to him made any difference. I was really just very pleased with myself for not reaching through my screen and throttling him. I was so angry.

  72. Pol*

    I’d be willing to bet he’s been given some vague, unhelpful advice about the “need” to network before applying for anything – that’d be why he doesn’t actually have any questions to ask but feels the need to message LW anyway. Lots of young people get given the instruction to network without any explanation as to what that actually entails.

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