coworker is angry that I don’t want her grandson’s old baby things, no one will buy my networking shirts, and more

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

1. My coworker is angry that I don’t want her grandson’s old baby things

I work at a company of around 80 people. I’m expecting my first baby in a few months and my coworkers have all been very enthusiastic and excited for me.

A few weeks ago, “Prudence,” who works in another department asked me if I’d like any secondhand baby things. Her daughter and grandson live with her and she said she had lots of clothes that her grandson had outgrown. We’ve already been inundated with more clothes and toys than we could ever use so I tried to explain that I appreciated her offer and could use a few things, but we were largely set.

The next day she showed up with a bag of baby clothes and I thanked her. She asked if she could bring me more the following day. I said I appreciated her generosity but we really didn’t need any more. When I arrived the following morning, I found a bag of baby clothes in my office. Unlike the previous bag’s contents, which were in good condition, most of these were stained and threadbare. Prudence is a smoker and all the items reeked of cigarettes. When Prudence came by to make sure I’d gotten them, I thanked her again but told her more firmly that I didn’t need more baby items.

The following day she showed up with multiple sets of bedding. I had already purchased bedding and have the baby’s room decorated. When she tried to hand them to me, I told her thank you, but I didn’t need them. At that Prudence got angry and snapped, “Well, what am I supposed to do with these? Am I just supposed to haul them around all day?” She then dropped them on my office floor and stormed off. Not knowing what to do with them, I wound up just tossing them in the office dumpster (Prudence did not see me do that and to my knowledge is unaware). Now she’s barely speaking to me and shooting me angry looks whenever we encounter each other.

I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but I have no need for these items and I feel like she’s just using me as a convenient way to dump things she no longer wants. Am I in the wrong to turn down the items? If not, how do I make these unwanted “gifts” and her angry attitude stop?

No, you’re not in the wrong, and you don’t need to seem grateful for items you didn’t ask for and in fact told her you didn’t want. If we had a time machine, I’d suggest you not thank her for or accept that second bag (the one you ended up tossing) but rather hand it back to her with a firm, “I can’t accept this” (and if she refused to take it back, put it in her office later) … but it’s certainly not your fault for not knowing that you were opening up the Gates Of Never-Ending Baby Clothes.

It’s not really on you to fix this — you aren’t the rude one — but if it feels like you’d benefit professionally from at least trying to smooth it over, you could say, “Hey, you seemed upset that I couldn’t take the bedding the other day. We’re overwhelmed with stuff for the baby and don’t have room for more. I hope you find a good home for anything you’re still looking to give away!” … and see if it smooths her feathers a little; it may or may not. Alternately, you could ignore the situation entirely and just try to interact with her normally about something work-related; sometimes making a point of doing that that can reset things a bit (and other times, not — it depends on how weird Prudence is determined to be). If that doesn’t work … it’s in her court and should just continue being polite (and enjoying your freedom from unwanted bags of baby things).

2. No one will buy my networking t-shirts

Several years ago I was frustrated with the way people went about looking for jobs. I’m a small business owner and even before running my own company, I always networked. Through networking I’ve managed to do so much. Today I run six networking groups.
Again, several years ago I created a t-shirt designed to network for you. It lists various fields, each with a checkbox by it, and comes with a small sharpie so you can check off the type of job or career you desire. By wearing the t-shirt everywhere you go, it starts the job seeking conversation.

I marketed them inexpensively to college grads. I went to colleges, job fairs, and even graduations. Not one t-shirt sold. I was so angry. I was on popular talk shows and in the paper and still nothing. Today I sit with every size t-shirt in my garage. Many ask why I don’t still pursue this idea. They are the ones who got the idea and believe in it.

Perhaps I was ahead of my time. I marketed towards college grads who texted as a main form of communication. However, today communication is even worse. Young adults can barely look someone in the eye.

Please tell me what your opinion is of my t-shirts. I hoped people would wear them daily and maybe while filling their gas tank this would start a conversation that would change their lives forever. Networking will always be the way to get what you need. Referrals, physicians, mechanics, plumbers, electricians, landscapers, housekeepers, financial advisors, accountants, babysitters, trainers, real estate agents, tutors, and whatever I have missed. Am I wrong? Would my product help those unable to network?

I don’t think most people want to wear what’s essentially a walking billboard proclaiming that they’re seeking work in X field — which I think is what the lack of sales is telling you. And if someone does want to wear a shirt advertising their job search, they probably don’t want one that lists a few dozen fields with checkboxes; they’d want just their own field. (But I’m not suggesting you create one that does that instead! Most people don’t want to wear this on a shirt, period.)

From the sounds of it, all those people who pushed the idea and are asking why you’re not still pursuing it haven’t bought shirts themselves, which is telling.

I’d say listen to the what your market data is telling you.

(Also, it’s not at all my experience with young adults that they can barely look people in the eye!)

3. I can hear my coworker listening to TV shows through our office wall

I have a new coworker, John, who is just out of school and seems nice, but is a bit aloof so we haven’t spoken much. His office is right next to mine and our walls are really thin. John listens to CNN talk shows and other television shows for hours without headphones. I can hear everything and find it very distracting. I usually wear my personal AirPods with the noise cancellation setting on. However, when I need to take a zoom meeting, I have to switch headphones because I don’t like to connect my AirPods to my work computer. When I do this I can hear all of John’s shows through my headphones. I’m the only one who can hear his shows because of the way the offices are set up so this only impacts me in the office.

I haven’t talked to him about this yet because I don’t want to seem rude, as I really don’t know him well. I’m also hesitant to bring it up to my supervisor, as I don’t know if he’s watching the shows instead of working or is working with them on for background noise, and I don’t want to get him in trouble. Is there a good way to address this without being rude or can I ask my work to pay for (expensive) noise cancelling headphones that I can use with my computer?

You are making this into a much bigger deal than it should be! It’s not rude to politely ask someone to keep noise down in their office — and it’s definitely not rude when the thing causing noise is TV shows that they’re not even bothering to use headphones for. John probably doesn’t realize that you can hear him, and you just need to let him know it’s bothering you. (Definitely don’t consider going to your boss about it before you’ve tried talking to John directly!) In fact, think of it as a courtesy to him — he’s new in your office and right out of school and probably doesn’t want to be inadvertently annoying people or coming across like he doesn’t care about basic professional norms.

Pop your head in there and say, “Could you use headphones when you’re listening to shows? I can hear it through the walls, even with my headphones on, and it’s distracting.” Say it cheerfully, and in a tone of “obviously you don’t realize this and will happily fix it once you do” (as opposed to a tone that says “this is very fraught and I am afraid to ask it”).

4. Can I use an engagement photo as a professional headshot?

I could use some guidance on professional headshots. I’m relatively new to the workforce, having just graduated with my masters and getting a full-time professional position in my field. My institution doesn’t require headshots but it is very normal to have them on our website, email profiles, and presentations. I’ve never had any professional photos taken that turned out well. (My institution offers free headshots every few months but they somehow always make me look like an egg. I digress.)

However, I do have a photo from my recent engagement shoot that I want to use instead. My hair is simple and my makeup is typical for my daily workwear. The only thing that gives it away is that the black dress I’m wearing has some sparkly/celestial details (fairly normal for my closet, though) and the background is dark blurry trees. I used the same photo for my master’s program defense and people loved it.

Am I overthinking this? In my mind it seems far better than a selfie but I have no clue what the norms are around headshots. I work in academic libraries, so we sort of straddle the line between “creative community hub” and “traditional academia” culture.

The best way to figure it out is to look at the photos other people are using. If everyone else is in business suits or against a generic corporate blue background, you’d want to match that vibe in formality and not be the one person whose photo doesn’t match. But otherwise, I think you’re fine — you sent me the photo and nothing about it screams “bridal.” (And it’s a great photo!)

{ 778 comments… read them below }

  1. Not A Manager*

    LW2 – Can you articulate why you’re angry about this? You can’t *make* people want your product. Sometimes the market just isn’t there.

    1. BuildMeUp*

      I suspect OP2 put a lot of time, effort, and most likely money into this idea (and it sounds like people around them encouraged them to do it). I totally understand the frustration of investing so much only to have it not turn out how you expected. Hopefully they can work on letting this go and focusing on the successful networking groups they started.

      1. Not A Manager*

        I understand that, but it sounds like the LW is angry AT the people who aren’t purchasing. I totally get being angry and frustrated at the situation and the sunk costs, but this seems different.

        1. BuildMeUp*

          Maybe a bit of denial? Being angry at others for making the “wrong” choice so they don’t have to acknowledge that their idea didn’t work out

          1. Wes*

            I think they might still be in denial about how great of an idea it is! A sharpie on a shirt – what happens the first time I wash it? Wandering around a supermarket expecting my shirt to ‘do the networking for me’ instead of using LinkedIn?

            Even the people who came up with idea, ‘believe in it’ and ask LW why they have boxes of shirts in the garage won’t buy one! Ahead of their time, methinks not.

            1. KateM*

              Maybe the people who believed in it believe in it as the hiring managers – “wouldn’t it be fun to look at random people and see at onec if they check the box of what I need?”.

                1. Wendy Darling*

                  Maybe they work in college career centers. Or maybe just MY college’s career center…..

            2. anon in affordable housing*

              I haven’t been job-seeking for about 25 years, but nowadays I’m supposed to network for my own company. I still would not wear some kind of shirt listing freelance categories or whatever in the hopes I would connect with someone at the grocery store and land a new account.

              It seems kind of weird and aggressive to try to market myself to everyone who sees me in public. It’s like the business equivalent of those “funny” shirts advertising that you’re trying to find a date (or a one-night stand or whatever).

              1. Ex-prof*

                You’ve put your finger on what was bothering me about this. I am so tired of being advertised to every minute of the day.

                1. Totally Minnie*

                  And this may be part of the reason the college students he tried to market this to were so opposed to it. The current generation of college students has been advertised to aggressively since they were in preschool and a lot of the 20somethings I know are really over it.

                2. Cyndi*

                  Heck, as someone trying to both date and job hunt, I’m awfully tired of the feeling of advertising myself all the time! Joke shirts are one thing, but earnestly trying to find either a job or a date via t-shirt would feel so grim and embarrassing.

                3. Distracted Librarian*

                  Yep. And this kind of advertising might read as “needy” as well as out of step with professional norms. Neither is a great look.

              2. Momma Bear*

                When I first read this I thought it might be a shirt to wear AT a networking event that the LW set up. Maybe that’s a way to unload the shirts as giveaways? But no, most adults would not want to walk around with a checkmark on their clothes. This feels juvenile, pushy, and just weird. Also, I wonder how big the font is. Does someone need to be up in my space to read it? That can be uncomfortable.

                I’d take a good look at who says it’s a great idea and if they’re being truthful (and bought one themselves) or just placating. It’s frustrating when an idea doesn’t work, but many is the dud that leads to better things. Lesson learned, and move on.

                1. Tequila & Oxford Commas*

                  Yeah, this concept doesn’t seem to factor in the weirdness of potential employers having to lean in close to stare at your chest. Which, for at least half of the population, is not an appropriate area for a stranger to stare at.

                2. MigraineMonth*

                  In matters of taste, the customer is always right. They’re the ones who get to decide whether or not they want to buy a product, and they’re speaking pretty loudly right now.

                3. Mallory Janis Ian*

                  If you’re at a networking event, you’re likely wearing a suit or something along the spectrum from business formal to business casual — not a checkmark t-shirt.

                  If you are not at a networking event, the potential audience for the t-shirt ad is so dispersed it would be worse than sending your resume in to any random job available — at least in that case a resume is a resume and it is going to an available, if random, job — it’s not just a random checkmark t-shirt aimed at the general public.

                4. Turquoisecow*

                  @ Mallory, this is exactly what I was thinking. If I’m going to a job fair or a networking event, I’m not wearing a T-shirt, I’m wearing formal clothing – unless it a very casual field or requires outdoor clothing or uniforms, but even then I don’t think a t-shirt is common. So where would you be wearing one?

                5. HailRobonia*

                  @MigraineMonth thank you for putting in the REAL meaning of “the customer is always right.” It means exactly what you say… that the market is driven by customer preference.

                  It is not supposed to be (as it is often misinterpreted) “bow down to the customers no matter what.”

                6. There You Are*

                  @Mallory Janis Ian – I would posit that it’s even worse than sending a resume to any job available. It’s like sending your resume to random households. Maaaaaaaaybe the dart lands on the bullseye and your resume goes to a hiring manager for a role your qualified for, but the odds are worse than PowerBall.

                7. marvin*

                  The best use I can think of for these would be to host a novelty networking event where everyone wears one and they can self-select who they want to talk to that way. I have the same question about the practicality, though. If there are a whole bunch of categories on there, do you have to give everyone’s chest a real hard stare when you first meet them?

                8. Reb*

                  I think the other thing that people are missing is it blurs all kinds of boundaries and probably confuses anyone seeing it (and is why no one wants it). I don’t want to network while I’m buying my weekly groceries. I also don’t want network wearing a grotty t-shirt with sharpie on it. I’m a professional, so networking is generally in professional settings wearing my work clothes. I don’t want randoms approaching me as I’m trying to wrestle my cat in to the car to go to the vet to chat about work opportunities. Leaving aside the fact I do a very niche, senior-level role that can’t be explained using a sharpie and a t-shirt.

                  But who would see someone going about their business wearing a t-shirt marked with a sharpie and think they look a good bet for a business connection?

              3. PatM*

                Even if marketing yourself to everyone you walk past is a good idea, the t-shirts seem like a bad way to do it. A printed t-shirt is not going to work in any situation that calls for at least business casual dress. Having the wearer check off the positions they are interested in or skills they have means that they are going to advertise that they are disinterested in a position or lack skills.
                Something like campaign buttons would work much better for LW#2’s core idea.

            3. Pocket Mouse*

              Yeah, Sharpie does not fare well in the laundry. Seems like the letter writer missed both product testing and market testing on this one.

              1. KateM*

                Maybe that was the idea – you can reuse the t-shirt after laundry for seeking a different job.

                1. Nikki*

                  The problem is, washing sharpie doesn’t make it completely disappear from fabric, it just makes the ink bleed so whatever was written is kinda blurry.

              2. Esmae*

                It also bleeds if you sweat (ask me how I know!) so wearers could end up with a messy shirt and marker all over their skin.

            4. iglwif*

              It’s a very … interesting concept.

              I was struck by LW’s idea that people should be wearing one of these shirts everywhere they go — does that mean they have to buy a whole bunch of them, or that they buy one and just never launder it? Either way, no thank you.

              1. Tequila & Oxford Commas*

                That’s what I was thinking too! The LW seems to envision that people would wear these all the time, which seems impractical.

              2. Cynan*

                Or buy one and wash it every day so you can wear it again the next day? Doesn’t seem very practical.

            5. goddessoftransitory*

              I’m guessing those people are simply friends/relatives who couldn’t find a way to say “Uh, I don’t really get it but…” and this person took it as “you’re a genius!”

          2. goddessoftransitory*

            I think this is it, pretty much–I would guess that they took their friends’ “encouragement” as gospel and convinced themselves they had reinvented the LinkedIn wheel, only to find pretty much the opposite.

            (I also am pretty sure they are male-presenting, as most women I know do NOT want to wear tee shirts advertising their “skills” around town. I can already hear the salacious remarks and gross commentary in my head.)

        2. Jolene*

          The letter did take a turn for me at the “I was so angry.” Disappointment, frustration even – sure. But anger was interesting.

          I agree with Alison – listen to your market! And good for LW for taking a chance here – so many ideas that ended up being $1M ideas…well, I wouldn’t have seen that coming. But there have been a lot of equally good ideas that didn’t catch on. That’s just how it works!

          1. Van Wilder*

            I’ve had so many brilliant ideas that didn’t pan out. I fancy myself good at marketing but I’ve come to realize that I respond to advertising/marketing way differently than most people. When I try to implement something that would appeal to me, I get nothing.
            Sorry this didn’t work out, OP. Onwards and upwards.

          2. zuzu*

            I wonder if LW#2 didn’t do any market research before having these printed up.

            Print-on-demand services would have been a lot cheaper, and would have let those truly interested buy the product instead of being stuck with boxes of unsold T-shirts.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              It sounds like the plan was to sell them at networking events for the event, so presumably they wanted the physical item on hand. But yes, for the future print-on-demand would be less risky, and might allow you to diversify your products (e.g. a fitted shirt that only lists the skills a job seeker has).

            2. Wes*

              It’s VERY clear they did zero market research. They’re trying to market to millennials who – by their own admission – prefer to use texting to communicate!

          3. goddessoftransitory*

            For me this is the Future Version of that kid who wanted to know why no companies would hire him as their “visionary.” Still certain he’s got The Best Idea ever and still sure it’s everybody else’s fault for not seeing it.

          4. Lizbot*

            The anger, plus the casually thrown-out negative stereotyping, makes me suspect the marketing (and not just the product) could have turned people off.

        3. Lucky Meas*

          It’s always a good sign when you blame the customer for being too dumb to want your great product.

          OP, why don’t you see if old people want your tshirts? If not then it must not be because of their age, right?

          Your ageist opinions are coloring your business sense. If you barely respect your customers, why would they want to buy from you?

          1. Bébé chat*

            That is the best answer! I couldn’t have said it better, thanks Lucky Meas.

          2. Tees*

            Perfect response. I wouldn’t be interested in OP2’s shirts at any age because I don’t need any more gimmicky clutter in my life, and I could also see such a shirt being a turn-off to potential employers. It’s a fun idea, but just not very workable. It’s too niche to be of interest to most people, and for people who do need networking, there are much more practical and professional ways to do it than walking around wearing a scribbled-on T-shirt. It sounds more like the sort of thing you’d do as a joke or a performance piece.

            My opinion of LW2’s attitude is…far less amused than my opinion of their shirts. No, #2, you’re not ahead of your time, and no one owes you their patronage buying your merch. It’s not “the kids” who are wrong here. It’s you and your, honestly, poor attitude about this. “The kids” online used to call it “butthurt.” I don’t know what they call it now, but it’s something that you should be having some deep self-examination over if it’s still making you this angry a few years later.

          3. A single, solitary newt*

            Right? I’ve never seen someone get caught in a pyramid scheme that they themselves made before. >D “I was gonna be my own boss and make tons of money from home, and now I’ve got a garage full of unsold inventory.” You’ve just gotta laugh.

          4. Mockingjay*

            Please be prepared for them to say no, as well. I don’t wear t-shirts. They don’t fit well on me (I’ve tried every conceivable style, even in my slender, toned youth) and I’ve never liked wearing logos. For business I prefer a more polished look; even working remotely, I still wear a nice top for Teams meetings. As a woman, I’d prefer potential employers look at me in the eye, not gaze at a checkbox on my breasts.

            It’s a decent idea; I use forms often in my work and I appreciate the brevity, but it just doesn’t translate well to casual business clothing.

            1. Relentlessly Socratic*

              You raise a good point. As a woman with *ahem* quite a bit of t-shirt real-estate *ahem* I really don’t want to add to any inclination to look at my body rather than my eyes.

              I don’t know if the inventor even considered that.

              1. Zephy*

                Oh, almost assuredly not. Unless they come from Planet Tee Shirt where it is a normal thing to communicate important and serious information via the medium of t-shirt slogan. The other piece of this is that literally who is going to see a shirt like this, (1) actually read it and then (2) take it seriously?

              2. Ari*

                I came here to say the same thing! I have a couple of funny shirts but mostly I wear plain ones because I don’t want to invite people to stare at my chest.

                1. Random Dice*

                  If I wanted a t-shirt to network with (I don’t), I’d make a custom one for $20 on Etsy.

                  I wouldn’t scribble on it with Sharpie.

                  More to the point, as a hiring manager, I’m not hiring folks based on t-shirts. I ask people I trust for skilled trades, or post a job and interview folks.

              3. MigraineMonth*

                Even if one has a lot of shirt real estate, not all of it is equally readable. I wouldn’t put anything I wanted to be readable on the underside of my breasts.

                1. Relentlessly Socratic*

                  How else would I tell the mechanic working underneath my car that I am skilled in Excel and interpreting US Gov’t RFPs?

              4. Butterfly Counter*


                And it comes down to a lot of things. How big is the print? How many boxes are there? How still do I need to stand for a person to stare at my body to read precisely what I have checked off? Will my standing at certain angles or having folds in the shirt as I move around affect how well someone can see and read it?

                If someone needs to stare at my ample bosom for a solid minute while they figure out what my shirt says, understand I’m looking for work, and figuring out the different categories, I’m going to be super uncomfortable.

                It seems like a shirt that says, “You don’t have the perfect job for me. Change my mind,” would work a lot better.

            2. Becky*

              Yup, I have always hated wearing logos or brand names or slogans or generally any writing at all on my shirts. For most every occasion, I will wear solid or patterned tops, but nothing with writing. The few t-shirts I own that have writing or logos on them (nerdy t-shirts or company swag generally) I wear exclusively when I am exercising.

            3. goddessoftransitory*

              I don’t wear logoed shirts period, especially tees, not even for my own workplace. I developed early and have had a distinct aversion to people staring at my chest since about fourth grade.

          5. Elitist Semicolon*

            Yeah, I can’t imagine any of the college-age students I work with thinking this was a good approach. It’s especially not-great for women, since these shirts are more or less an open invitation for someone to stare at their chest.

            1. NotBatman*

              This. The shirt idea would require strangers to stare intently at my breasts for long enough to read an unfamiliar form. Either they’re courteous enough to look at my face and therefore miss the networking info, or they’re getting the networking info in a way that makes me not want to know them any better.

            2. Becky*

              OP2 almost certainly did not take into account women or ASK any women for an opinion when making this product

              1. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

                Their whole vibe makes me think they don’t much worry about womenfolk getting it into our silly little heads that we oughta enter the workforce. Blech.

          6. Minerva*

            Yeah the contempt for “young people” is…really something.

            I’m 42 years old and would not wear something like this in a million years in order to “network”

            1. bambi_beth*

              The sheer number of people out there who don’t realize that a lot of people can feel during your interactions if you have contempt for them is…. overwhelming to me. Like, how do you not know this? And you think the people you are contemptuous of owe you sales? How does this happen so often!?

              1. goddessoftransitory*

                When somebody’s approach is “Just let my tee shirt do the work for you, you stupid dipshit, you can’t even make eye contact,” it tends not to charm my money from my wallet.

              2. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

                Nthing the IMMEDIATELY NO sentiment. I won’t even wear the tshirt from Wag! that we’re able to buy for advertising we’re petsitters. I am capable of telling people that, thanks. I’m not wearing a shirt someone has to write on (incidentally TOUCHING ME). This person’s scorn for younger people needs to be turned on himself, really, for thinking this silly idea was going to work.

            2. NotAnotherManager!*

              Around the same age and same.

              I also get grumpy when people talk about “young people these days” like there some sort of monolith and they’re all whatever the most negative attribute the shit-talker has seen ever. I work with a lot of young people (hire them, even) and, like most other people in the world, the majority of them are bright, well-socialized, lovely, and eager to learn.

              Of course, the kid that LW2 is grumbling about not knowing how to make eye contact is probably my older “young person” who has autism and still manages to be quite bright and have a fabulous sense of humor (charming, even) despite being light on the eye contact. I can guarantee you he’s going to have better luck getting a job on those attributes than taking a chance that someone at the sees a checkbox on his t-shirt and clocks his eye contact.

          7. Jezza*

            Love this response. OP2, you are not ahead of your time. I understand needing to tell yourself this story – we’ve all taken a swing and missed – but I hope you will read these responses and re-evaluate your opinion of young people and your business idea.

            I hire lots of students (University job) and they certainly make eye contact. They are also well-spoken and often come with years of volunteer and community experience that has exposed them to various career fields and ideas. They also seem to understand more “traditional” networking like events and LinkedIn but they are innovative in the ways that they make connections and find or develop opportunities. I am constantly impressed by the younger people we recruit and hire and this contempt for them is so disappointing to see.

          8. Stretchy McGillicuddy*

            I cringed so hard at this idea. This actually seems like something my boundary-challenged mother would wear on my behalf in public when I was job-searching right out of college.

            I don’t claim to be an expert on fashion OR job-hunting, but I’m pretty sure “don’t look desperate” is solid rule to follow on both fronts. This shirt…does not follow that rule.

          9. goddessoftransitory*

            Exactly! If your marketing for the product is basically “You’re too dumb and limited in communication skills to make eye contact so here’s a tee shirt” I’m guessing you are projecting some issues onto your target market.

        4. Somehow_I_Manage*

          “Am I so out of touch? No. It’s the children who are wrong.” – Principal Skinner

          1. Waffles*

            Honestly. I’m 45 and I have been saying for years that if I were in the market for my first job today I would be in tropical. Young people now are so accomplished. It’s impressive.

            Your t-shirt idea, on the other hand, is terrible. Better just to admit you got this one wrong and move on. Maybe don’t put as much weight on the opinions of your friends in future. Some people are encouraging to be polite…

            1. Lydia*

              I know you probably meant in trouble, but I also want in tropical to be slang for a state of being.

                1. But what to call me?*

                  I did read it several times trying to figure out what it meant before recognizing the typo, and that’s about the meaning I came up with for it, which didn’t quite match the context :D

        5. Just Another Boss*

          It sounds to me like the LW is frustrated that “young people” aren’t eager to take his advice.

        6. Susannah*

          Yeah, this sounds a little like Elaine Benis’s idea of everyone in NYC wearing name tags to make it a friendlier place.
          The misplaced anger sounded odd to me, too, but if this is his first such venture, it can be hard to separate out all the frustration – especially if people you respect told you what a greta idea it was.

        7. Powerpants*

          I think it’s telling that OP describes young people as not being able to look people in the eye. Maybe OP is not being looked in the eye because they are pushy and righteous.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        If he should be angry at anyone, it’s those people who encouraged him and now aren’t buying either (though he should let that go too, for his own sanity). Being angry at the general public/the market for not wanting a product is futile. This is one of those instances where the market is right by definition (it isn’t always, far from it).

        This is why I love the idea of kickstarters and the fact that the internet has facilitated that – one can make certain there’s a market before manufacturing stuff that never gets bought and ends in a landfill unused.

        1. Emily*

          Misplaced anger is pretty common, so I’m not terribly surprised that’s the route LW 2 is going, but I do hope they are able to re-focus on other things, such as the networking groups they are running.

          I do also hope they find a way to get over their “kids these days” attitude. It’s not accurate and not helpful. It may also be limiting who they reach in their networking groups if that is a view they are sharing/expressing.

          1. Observer*

            I also hope they can get over their attitude. Because this kind of attitude and their apparently deep misunderstanding of their market makes me wonder how successful their networking groups can really be.

              1. BatManDan*

                Me, too! 6 is a terrific milestone for someone doing it on their own, for sure. I convene 4 groups (once a month, each) – two local to me and two national (via video conference), and that’s a handful. I wish we could share contact details or websites in these threads, but I understand why that’s not feasible.

          2. bamcheeks*

            I have to say, I too would be avoiding eye contact with someone who kept trying to sell me a tshirt and seemed angry that I’d don’t want it.

            (“what if everywhere you went someone tried to aggressively sell stuff to you” is in fact the exact metaphor I use when I’m trying to explain to men why hitting on random women in random places is a way of making public spaces hostile for women.)

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Exactly – I learned the “avoiding my eyes” look all the way back to when I was selling Girl Scout cookies.

            2. House On The Rock*

              Cane here to say this. The complaint smacks of ” I guess women just don’t like nice guys!”.

            3. MsM*

              I’m curious whether OP focus grouped this idea with any young women, because I have a pretty good idea why they might not be thrilled with the idea of random strangers coming up to them with “yeah, sure, I’ve got a business opportunity; how about I explain it to you back at my place?”

              1. AngryOctopus*

                Or “yes I am hiring for that position, why don’t we have an informal interview at X time at Y” and she shows up and he thinks it’s a date instead.

              2. The Wrong Goth*

                when I was 12, my father ran for a state office and made me a shirt that said “My father is John Smith, candidate for Blahblah office.” So many creepers used that as an excuse to say “Who’s your daddy?” with a creepy laugh. I do not wear shirts with any slogan whatsoever, and frankly, don’t pay much attention to other people’s shirts.

                1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

                  I wore a shirt like that — mom was running for school board. Luckily, I didn’t get the creep factor.

              3. Idunn*

                Exactly! As a woman I don’t relish the idea of encouraging strangers to stare at my body, then having to maintain polite conversation with any random person who uses it as an opening line. The risks outweigh the possible rewards.

              4. Willow Pillow*

                Even the fact that they’re likely “unisex” – I would much rather something that actually fits me!

                1. Margaret Cavendish*

                  This, yes. I would be perfectly happy to never wear another “unisex” shirt in my life!

                2. zuzu*

                  I’m unfortunately out of the size range of most women’s-cut t-shirts because I’m built like a Wagner mezzo-soprano, so I usually get stuck with “unisex” tees.

                  I promptly perform surgery on them by cutting out the crewneck and trimming down the sleeves into cap sleeves. Sometimes I will also cut the hem. Even doing that will vastly improve the look, even without taking in the waist.

              5. Lydia*

                Not to deny the OP’s thought process on this was flawed, but there are very few small businesses or makers in this world who can focus group an idea before starting to sell it. Of all the ways this person got it wrong, not doing a focus group is not one of them.

                1. MigraineMonth*

                  Not a formal focus group, no, but I wouldn’t have put in an order without at least 5 people being willing to hand me cash first. It seems like lots of his friends were encouraging, but no one wanted to actually buy.

                2. Kay*

                  I mean – even just doing a SurveyMonkey survey, posting on Reddit, Twitter – or even AAMs open thread would have given them the “not a friend who has to live with your anger at the notion my idea isn’t great” take.

                  Not only would I never wear one, I sure wouldn’t ever pay to wear one, nor would I ever consider hiring someone wearing one of these.

            4. AngryOctopus*

              This. And he’s So Convinced it’s a good idea that I’m sure any sales tactics used were of the high pressure you-would-be-stupid-to-say-no type where people just didn’t want to make eye contact anymore, in case it set him into a new spiel.
              LW, I’m sorry your idea didn’t work out, but this is the way of the world. Not every idea is a winner. Please focus on your networking groups and don’t try to pressure anyone into buying a shirt. Just like nobody really likes high pressure sales tactics at a car dealership, they’re not going to appreciate someone coming after them to buy a shirt they don’t want.

              1. FinallyFriday*

                “It’s you, hi, you’re the problem, it’s you.”

                –“But I’m an Entrepreneur (Taylor’s Version)”

              2. SheLooksFamiliar*

                I get the feeling OP thinks that because advertising on a T-shirt helps people in the trades generate customers, ipso facto whatevero, it will work for job seekers.

                I also get the feeling that if OP’s irritation has come across on those local news programs as it did in his letter, no one is going to want to interact with him at all. Heck, I’m a Boomer and think most ‘kids today’ communicate just fine when they’re not being talked down to or lectured.

                1. Zephy*

                  I get the feeling OP thinks that because advertising on a T-shirt helps people in the trades generate customers, ipso facto whatevero, it will work for job seekers.

                  Does it though? I mean, I admit I haven’t had many opportunities to hire tradespeople up to this point in my life. I’m 32 and I don’t own my home, so it’s not usually me arranging those kinds of services. But if I needed, like, a plumber or something, I’m not going to go into town and start scrutinizing people’s T-shirts for a plumbing business’s logo. I’m going to Google that shit. Maybe an argument could be made that if Google tells me about two plumbers near me, and one of them sponsors every charity 5k, beach cleanup, community festival and horse funeral in town so there’s probably someone around sporting their logo somewhere on their body in any given public place, I’m more likely to hire that plumber than the one who doesn’t do that. Maybe. But I don’t think the tee shirts as such are what generate business, in that case.

                2. SheLooksFamiliar*

                  Come on, I never said you should go looking for someone wearing a T-shirt if you need a plumber. And I never said T-shirts generate business, I said they help.

                  See, every local business owner I know has branded work wear, and signage on their cars, vans, and/or trucks. They also advertise their services via social media, Val Paks, flyers, window clings, decals, yard signs, and more. These owners assure me that the expense works. Their name recognition is built gradually but consistently.

                  Also: I remodeled my master bathroom because I’d been reviewing local contractors, saw a guy at the grocery store wearing a company shirt for a company I was reviewing – he happened to be the owner – and we talked for a while. He was one of 4 people quoting on my project. You ask him, he’ll tell you his T-shirt didn’t seal the deal, but it helped.

            5. Stretchy McGillicuddy*

              Yes, and as a woman I am especially not going to wear a tshirt in public that encourages random strangers to demand my contact information. This idea is just one big “yikes” all around.

        2. NaoNao*

          Yeah I have some minor sympathy for this OP. I’m a hobby writer and the number of people who have terrific ideas for books that they want ME to write (and bridle with irritation when I cheerfully chirp “sounds great! I hope you have fun writing that!”) is too dang high! Everyone’s a backseat CEO.

          I will also add that when I was dating and having a really hard time, occasionally I’d tell darkly humorous stories and people would laugh but they’d also say, almost without fail “You should write a book!” This would make me RAGE for complex reasons I haven’t quite figured out but I think it’s down to the brush off/condescension and I suspect the OP got a bit of that “Sounds fun! I’d buy that! Anyhoo, about that recent surgery I had…”

          The number of ventures that other people want YOU to embark on is infinite. The number they’re willing to actually involve themselves in: <infinite.

        3. goddessoftransitory*

          You know his supporters aren’t buying them because he’d be demanding to know why they aren’t wearing them around town all day, every day, to support his Genius Idea.

      3. T2*

        Can I say that the idea of networking is disappointing to me. Every networking event I have ever seen is filled with people who want me to hire them, and not people who want to hire me.

        LW is a natural extrovert. But his self professed anger betrays a pushiness and lack of awareness about how he would come off that young people (and even more than a few of us older people) would find off-putting.

        Ironically his t-shirts which he claims would do the networking for him would betray the a sense of general laziness to do the actual networking work of forming connections.

        In short LW, I would not wear such a shirt, and I wouldn’t hire someone who would. I am sorry you wasted your money. I would suggest donating to your local shelter.

          1. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

            Perhaps an animal shelter. They often need soft cloth for bedding, cleaning rags. Heck, putting an adoptable dog in a small t-shirt and checking off that they’re a real go-getter looking for opportunities as a personal assistant could be cute.

            1. la bella vita*

              I will personally buy one of these shirts if it goes to a rescue beagle who wants to advertise their time management skills.

              1. Cyndi*

                As a volunteer at a dog shelter I can confirm that rescue dogs have EXCELLENT time management skills, by which I mean they demonstrate impressive consistency in pooping five minutes after you bring them inside from a walk.

                1. Dog and cat fosterer*

                  They are also great at statistics. Mine know the likelihood of getting treats from each of my neighbors and will behave with either avoidance or dragging me over so that they can beg.

                2. The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon*

                  My dog is very invested in workers’ rights. He diligently reminds me of my legally required breaks, for MY sake and in solidarity with all working comrades, not at all because he gets to spend 15 minutes lying in the sun.

              2. MigraineMonth*

                Or a cat. Mine are independent go-getters who have contributed to coding projects in numerous programming languages. (Their contributions didn’t compile and had to be deleted after I got them off the keyboard, but they definitely contributed.)

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Oops, hit submit too soon. I’m sorry this didn’t go the way you hoped, OP2. Sometimes an idea comes along that should just stay an idea, or the timing is off.

            2. Suz*

              My husky needs one that says he’s got innovation, ingenuity, and persistence when finding ways to escape my yard.

        1. Snow Globe*

          As I was thinking about whether the shirts would actually be useful, what I come up with is: a socially awkward person who hates “networking” is probably not going to be able to turn a conversation with a stranger about a t-shirt into a job opportunity. On the other hand, someone who actually could manage that is probably an outgoing personality who can talk easily with strangers and doesn’t need the t-shirt to help.

          1. Lavender*

            I was thinking this. I loathe and despise in-person networking, a t-shirt like this would…not make me hate it any less.

            Also, if a hiring manager is so desperate to fill a position that they’ll approach a stranger in public because their shirt has a box checked with the name of their field, that’s probably not a company I’d be interested in working for!

              1. goddessoftransitory*

                Yes. It has a Pirate’s World from Santa Claus and the Ice Cream Bunny vibe, for sure.

            1. Elsewise*

              “Also, if a hiring manager is so desperate to fill a position that they’ll approach a stranger in public because their shirt has a box checked with the name of their field, that’s probably not a company I’d be interested in working for!”

              Yes! And it goes both ways. I’ve done some hiring, and I’d have had to be pretty desperate to hire someone I saw at the gas station wearing a T-shirt that said that they were interested in my field. I can see how it might be a start of a conversation, but the reality is that’s not how most hiring happens.

              1. Moonstone*

                I was thinking it would be extremely odd to see someone trying to get a job in something like finance or banking walking around in a t-shirt with “Finance” checked off. As if a hedge fund manager would see it and think “now there’s a real go-getter! I better hire that guy!”

          2. Quite anon*

            Yeah, as someone who has met A LOT of people in my field who… well, let’s just say their ability to schmooze far outstrips their other skills… I strongly dislike the concept of networking. like, I still do it, but after my fifth experience with someone who clearly did not do their work (because I ended up doing all their work) who then used their “experience” and the work I did to move on to bigger and better things… to me, networking seems questionable at best. Sure, it can help you get ahead, but in practice, I just don’t see it playing out like that.

          3. Daisy-dog*

            I am an introvert who spent most of last year looking for a job. At an industry conference, I chose to put “Seeking New Opportunities” on my name badge where my company name would go (I’d already quit my old job and paid the conference fee myself). I did ultimately make connections at that conference to get me my current job. But the difference is that this was just a name badge at a conference for my industry. I was at a conference, a t-shirt wasn’t appropriate. And also, I was at a conference, where networking is expected.

          4. MCMonkeyBean*

            Yeah, I think this sums it up pretty well. I’m sorry OP but I think there is literally *no* market for this. And I think your belief that your shirts are objectively good and everyone who doesn’t want to buy one from you is wrong and stupid is not going to improve your situation.

          5. I Talk About Motorcycles Too Much*

            Yes, this is what I immediately thought as well. I am not someone who is good at networking and would need to get myself into the right mindset to want to chat about job hunting efforts with anyone outside my immediate group of friends. A shirt like that would only put me in a position to ruin any possibility of making a positive connection with someone who spontaneously started chatting with me about my career.

          6. emmelemm*

            That’s my feeling; thanks for articulating it well. If you’re not great at networking, having a tshirt that makes people approach you and say, “Hey, so, it says on your tshirt…” is probably just going to make you feel even *more* awkward. Whereas if you could actually convert that into a successful networking interaction, you really don’t need the tshirt.

        2. geek5508*

          “Today I sit with every size t-shirt in my garage” – I suggest taking the loss, and donating the shirts to a homeless shelter. (A nice clean shirt is good to have, even if it has printing on it)

      4. martyr*

        This is one of those cases where some honesty up front might have helped disabuse the writer before they got too invested, emotionally and financially, in this scheme that’s clearly not a good idea. My sense based on the letter is OP had an idea, enthusiastically shared it, and no one wants to put the damper on someone’s enthusiasm. They probably gave it a “yeah, you go for it!” encouragement, because being supportive of someone is pretty cheap unless they directly demand a buy-in.

        And now, the OP is in this tower of self-delusion where they’re patently unable to see what’s sitting in front of them (no one else thinks this is a good idea), and is actually angry at the world for not conforming to their desires.

        1. Bread Crimes*

          Yeah, I’m afraid I’ve been one of those encouraging people before. I didn’t actually think of it at the time as “encouraging a risky business plan,” I thought I was just being supportive by making nice and appreciative sounds about a friend’s t-shirt idea. They ended up with a big chunk of unsold merchandise taking up space in their house while in a financial bad place–not specifically because of the merchandise, but all that shirt printing didn’t help with the lack of available funds–and I felt bad about that for years afterward.

    2. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn Profiles*

      “You can’t *make* people want your product. Sometimes the market just isn’t there.”

      This is also good advice for “Prudence” from the first letter.

    3. JSPA*

      Perhaps their self concept is disproportionately based on being good at marketing / good at understanding others.

      a) those are separate things

      b) being “good at” something is not absolute

      c) once a group of people become self-aware enough to avoid being “sold to” by someone with strong “selling you on doing it my way” vibes (which is one reason why younger people may not be keen on meeting your eyes???) you are no longer going to have current insights into their needs, status, goals, styles or desired career paths.

      Best suggestion would be to donate the shirts as work shirts to habitat for humanity or a similar house rehab group (if they’ll have them). In-kind tax write-off for you; they get shirts they can use for dirty jobs; and they may be able to make limited use of the checkboxes to track who’s on what team.

      To be clear, they’d be doing you the favor, by finding some use for a product that’s otherwise…kinda desperate-seeming and awkward as heck (with apologies that I can’t find a nicer way to put it).

      1. Not teenage but still ninja turtle*

        And honestly, Gen Z has a pretty sharp sense of humor. If OP wants to sell them, I’d suggest adding increasingly random things to the bottom of the list. Something like:

        “Hi! Talk to me about pr, comms, IT, engineering, Bigfoot forensics, preventing lizards from engaging in tax fraud”

        might actually sell. It would be a humor thing, not a functional networking, but they’re not functional for networking now.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          Hey, it is a fact that tegu lizards are surprisingly good at tax loopholes.

        2. Roy G. Biv*

          Yes – the whole premise sounded to me like a joke t-shirt you would give to another person. So lean into the humor.

        3. iglwif*

          This is the way. I know a number of Gen Z people who would wear such a shirt with glee.

          I’m not Gen Z but my shirt would say

          “Talk to me about
          * Product marketing
          * Choral singing
          * Fandom shenanigans
          * Why hockey is great but the NHL sucks
          * The Chicago Manual of Style”

          (And on the back it would say something like “Please do not talk to me about American football”)

          The existing shirts LW describes, absolutely not.

          1. Cyndi*

            I used to sell hockey gear (in a city with an especially crappy fanbase) and ultimately quit because I knew if I went back for one more shift I would no longer be able to resist picking fights with male customers twice my size. Thank you for all the lovely daydreams I’m now having about showing up to that job in a HOCKEY IS GREAT BUT THE NHL SUCKS shirt and upsetting everybody.

          2. goddessoftransitory*

            During the gas price crisis in the 1990s, I had a friend who worked at a gas station. He wore a button that read “Prices Change According to Whim.” Got a lot of laughs.

        4. Dark Macadamia*

          Yeah, I’m amazed LW got enough publicity to be on TV and no one even bought them as a joke. How boring and/or expensive are these shirts that they didn’t even have a little bit of meme potential? (Although I guess also there may not be much overlap between the talk show demographic and the buying things ironically to mock them demographic)

          1. I’m the Problem (It’s Me)*

            I’m very curious about these “popular talk shows” that LW speaks of. Popular where, exactly?

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Local cable access? Is that even still a thing?
              Sometimes regional shows get a strong area following.

    4. Rachel*

      The contributor ballooned this idea in their head to be a part of their identity.

      They were picturing a lot of positive testimonials “I’m a doctor and I get new patients at my kids Little League games wearing this shirt!” Or “I’m a plumber and hired 2 new people under me because I wore this shirt to the state fair!”

      The contributor linked this idea with their identity and when it didn’t work out, they have to grieve. You can see anger, denial, and bargaining in this letter.

      A mistake people make is thinking the stages of grief are only about death of a person, but you can see them work it for the death of possibilities, too. That is what this contributor is doing.

      They don’t want advice. They want to be heard so they can process. I actually think comments ought to be closed on this letter because it’s going to be a ton of people saying “bad idea” and the contributor doesn’t need that, they don’t want it, and they aren’t not ready.

      1. EPLawyer*

        YES. I used the stages of grief in my divorce cases. People who WANT a divoce even feel sad. I explain it this way to them.

        In this case, the LW thought he had a brilliant idea. It wasn’t so he is going through all the stages. Which there is no set time limit for working through them.

        1. Paulina*

          It sounds like they were hoping for advice that would fix their venture (like a suggestion about who actually would wear these shirts), not an assessment of why it’s unlikely to be used much by anyone.

      2. Observer*

        it’s going to be a ton of people saying “bad idea” and the contributor doesn’t need that, they don’t want it, and they aren’t not ready.

        They may not want it, and they may not be ready, but they DO need it. I hope they can come back and re-read it to get some benefit.

        Also, all of this is useful for others who are reading this stuff.

      3. JSPA*

        Browsers have a back button. Computers have an off button. Nobody (or nearly nobody) is being egregiously cruel about it.

        The good advice will still be here when the letter writer is ready to process it. If it saves them from doing the same sort of thing a second time, it’s solid kindness.

    5. Mona-Lisa Saperstein*

      I run a brick-and-mortar retail store. Selling retail products requires a lot of flexibility. You never really know what people are going to like (even when you think you do), and you just have to keep generating ideas and putting them out there. Sometimes they stick, sometimes they don’t. It isn’t personal.

      This is why small business owners are discouraged from sinking a lot of money into any individual product that isn’t market tested. The OP only has one product, so it feels like a personal affront when people don’t like it. But it isn’t — there just isn’t a market for that particular product.

      1. Van Wilder*

        Excellent analysis. It’s not personal, though it feels that way to OP at the moment. It’s just how it goes sometimes.

      2. Save Bandit*

        I learned this from running the Christmas Shop at my kids’ school for 5 years! We use a vendor who sends us the merch to sell, and every year while setting up, I’d try to guess what the popular item would be. Every year there was some random dark horse item that the kids went nuts over and we’d sell the vendor out of all their stock. And I NEVER GOT IT RIGHT IN FIVE YEARS. Last year it was an almost-life-sized mallard.

      3. goddessoftransitory*

        This reminds me of that movie where Catherine Keener is going to little gift retail shops trying to sell tiny chairs she makes out of twigs and such, and getting very defensive and huffy when she’s turned down

    6. Trout*

      Well, I for one wouldn’t ever work for a manager who hired people based on which t-shirt they were wearing. It’d be like going to a barber with a bad haircut.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        You reminded me of an old brainteaser:

        You just arrived in a new town that has only 2 barbers, and you need a haircut. One has great-looking hair, the other has a bad cut. Which cuts your hair? The correct answer was the barber with the bad hair. If there are only 2 barbers in town, the bad cut came from the barber with the great hair.

        1. Int*

          In the version of that brainteaser I’ve heard, there’s the additional detail that the barber with the bad haircut’s shop has hair all over the floor, while the barber with the good haircut’s shop is clean. Because the barber with the bad haircut is getting lots of business (where else would the hair come from?) and doesn’t have time to tidy their shop, while the barber with the good haircut has less mess to clean and more time to clean it.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            I either didn’t hear or don’t remember that extra detail, this was decades ago. But it makes sense.

        2. Industry Behemoth*

          I heard a similar one about a construction project.

          A wealthy person, Kim, wanted to construct a large beautiful building. Everybody wanted the job, too many for Kim to evaluate all their bids individually.

          So Kelly asked each builder to name a backup in the event the builder couldn’t finish the job. Then Kim chose the one most often named as backup.

          1. LB33*

            Who is Kelly and why is she getting involved in Kim’s project? Unless Kim is so wealthy that she has minions doing this for her.

            Also, they all could have named the worst builder, so that their work looks better in comparison

        3. Beany*

          This solution leaves out the possibility that the barber with the bad hair tried to cut their own hair.

      2. HearTwoFour*

        How would you know a manager did that, unless you were wearing that t-shirt and got hired?

        1. Trout*

          That’s the point I was trying to make. Even if the shirt works, your prize is a job working for someone who hires people based on the shirt they’re wearing. Hardly someone I’d want to work for.

    7. tiredworkingmom*

      #2 is killing me. This feels like the same advice from previous generations of showing up at the office with your resume in hand and demand to speak to a hiring manager. It just doesn’t resonate in this climate. I will also say, I’ve interviewed many recent gen z grads and find them to be exceptionally professional, communicative and bright. Claiming that young people can’t make eye contact is openly insulting and certainly would deter any potential customers from purchasing from someone who doesn’t see their inherent value as a candidate or professional.

      1. Lizard on a Chair*

        This. The t-shirt sounds unhelpful at best (as a woman, the idea of soliciting approaches from strangers at gas stations does not appeal to me), and as a millennial, I’ve had enough of the older generation saying young people are everything that’s wrong with society.

        1. tiredworkingmom*

          If I hear one more person talk about millennials like we’re in high school and not in our late 20s-early 40s with children, mortgages, responsibilities, careers and senior titles, I will fully lose my mind. I’m with you. This LW’s tone is so condescending, I wouldn’t buy anything from them.

          1. Xers prefer to stay out of this*

            Agreed. I swear, millennials will be retiring, and the last Boomers around will still be ranting about them as “kids these days.” There are millennial grandparents!

            1. Meep*

              As someone with (“young”) Boomer in-laws, can confirm. They were upset that my (old) Gen X parents retired at 55 years old because “what can they possibly do?” Well, they didn’t use gambling as their retirement fund or spend every penny they earned on chain smoking and they like to travel unlike you all who spent thousands of dollars going out of state to Disneyland before deciding 30 minutes in it was so much effort.

              Heck, I am a millennial with more money and equity in my 2.5-year-old home than the one they bought 25 years ago! But I am the financially frivolous one. /eye-roll

        2. DataSci*

          Give it a few years and Gen Z will be saying those ancient millennials are everything wrong with society! (Signed, an always-forgotten Xennial).

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            We are indeed the forgotten generation. *Hangs behind the strip mall in ugly corduroy pants*

          2. delaware*

            Oh, you haven’t seen the memes making fun of side parts, skinny jeans, “the millennial pause,” and unironically saying doggo? Let’s just say it’s already started.

      2. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        The thing I think is interesting is that OP2 never says that they have worn the shirt “everywhere” and it’s worked. If you’re not wearing or having success with your own product, then it’s not a good product. Time to let it go. It was an idea, didn’t work out. Big whoop.

      3. Tio*

        Also… Why would i wear a T-shirt around to a grocery store, where I maybe, possibly will run into someone who’s maybe possibly looking for someone to hire that maybe possibly fits my job field, and also thinks that this shirt is a good idea and not reeking of desperation, when I could instead just connect with people on LinkedIn who are definitely in my field and may be hiring, if not now then soon, and can see way more about my career and skills and professional recommendations than a shirt will ever tell them?

        LW2 says they may be “ahead of their time” but if anything they’re behind! Even if the shirt gets you noticed, you still have to go through all the online applications – no one skips this step anymore. So at best, you get a card and directed to a website to apply somewhere for a job you know nothing about – which you could easily find by looking at Indeed or almost any other job listing site

        There’s a reason recruiters aren’t haunting gas stations looking for their next candidate

    8. AllTheBirds*

      This letter tells me that OP has no sense of the current state of job seeking. Networking is important, yes — but you don’t make it work in very specific/defined occupations by chatting up strangers on the street.

      You connect at industry events, through one’s contacts from previous jobs, through mentors, and on LinkedIn or professional groups. NOT at the gas station.

      OP, bottom line: I don’t think you understand how job seekers search or how hiring managers and agencies do their jobs.

    9. Meep*

      My husband has one of those “I am a… [insert STEM field misspelled a few times]” t-shirts that also come in mugs. I have a feeling that she saw those and thought this would be a raging success too.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I love those Male Engineer and Male Software Developer shirts, but I’m the wrong demographic to wear them.

    10. HellifIknow*

      Right? And before sinking one’s own money, from the sounds of it perhaps thousands on “every size” etc.. of T-shirt, the OP should’ve 1) done some talking to people about “would you wear a…” and 2) done a first print of a dozen or so to get a feel. Maybe ask friends or family who in the market for jobs to “give them a test run” first to see if they got any bites. But it sounds like the OP went full steam ahead without doing any market research or testing the waters. Donate them, give them away, get them out of your garage so you don’t have to see them and let the anger GO.

    11. J*

      I really encourage LW2 to look into a local startup org focused on the business model validation process. I’ve seen so many people convinced they had a great idea and then they found out the market wasn’t there after investing time and money. With the validation process, they can often pivot before too much investment and actually meet a demand and hole in the market. They might be able to identify a problem but just have the wrong solution, or an only partially right solution.

    12. Catalin*

      LW2, speaking only for myself, the t-shirt network thing is the opposite of what I’d want. Why? Because I spend a fair bit of time trying to keep people’s eyes OFF of my chest/torso.

      If my ‘ask me’ happens to fall in ANY of the wrong places, all I’ve accomplished with a ‘success’ is that someone curious stared at my boobs long enough to know I do PR/Plumbing/Llama grooming.

      If their curiosity aligned with their circumstances (i.e., they were looking for a llama groomer), then all I’ve accomplished is that someone wants to hire and work with me who has also stared at my chest.

      1. Deanna Troi*

        Right, Catalin, I’ve spent most of my life trying (with limited success) to dress in a way that doesn’t encourage people to look at my chest. I especially don’t want a potential employer to look that closely at that area.

  2. spaceelf*

    OP 3, I had this problem with a fellow co-worker – almost into retirement, so he should have known better – but a polite “Hey, you might not be aware, but these walls are like cardboard,” *insert chuckle here* so could you turn that down a wee bit? Thank youuuuu.”

    Don’t be like my other co-worker who hollered from his own office: “GET OFF NETFLIX ALREADY, YOU’RE TAKING ALL THE BANDWIDTH STEVE.”

    It was hilarious though.

    Good times.

    1. Just me*

      I can imagine both your voice and your other coworker’s voice so vividly! Good writing. Did either approach work on Steve?

      1. spaceelf*

        Hahaha, yes. Although he does slip up from time to time, it’s so rare I let it go and he’s half deaf in one ear hence the volume. We’ve known each other for a few years and I am familiar enough with him that if he’s not straight up told, he’s not going do different. He was like, “Oh, sure.”

        I don’t think he heard the other guy from across the hall, although I did later overhear a muffled conversation with the phrase “the concept of headphones.” Yes, these are thin walls.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Ugh, that’s what closed captioning is for! I use it all the time to watch Rifftrax/MST while I exercise so I don’t have to blast it.

      1. spaceelf*

        I checked once for funsies, and he didn’t, but he started using headphones so I didn’t care. Bandwidth was fine.

    2. DataSci*

      Most places I’ve worked at, “You’re taking all the bandwidth, Steve!” would have become an immediate catch phrase!

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        I heard it in Tommy Wiseau’s “You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!” voice.

    3. Meeeeeee*

      This reminds me of all the times my husband and I have yelled at each other from across the house (while trying to stream multiple things each) to “stop using all the internet” LOL

  3. spaceelf*

    Also, OP 2, no one will buy a t-shirt with marketing optics. You could probably give them away. Everyone loves a free t-shirt.

    1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      I’m not sure I’d want a T-shirt advertising my field to one and all, but if it comes free I’ll cut it up for wash rags.
      OP I agree that networking is very important, I’m always banging on about it in professional forums, because my profession is very nerdy and introvert, and freelancers are all sitting at home hoping work will just drop in their in-box without having to talk with customers, while I’ve been gathering contacts on LinkedIn and handing out business cards whenever people might be interested, and getting plenty of great clients by dint of talking to people and showing them how much I love my job. They obviously realise that my enthusiasm will shine right through my work.
      But honestly, wearing a T-shirt that screams “I don’t have a decent job”? that’s gonna come across as needy and stupid apart from maybe at a jobs fair for industries where T-shirts can be worn like IT and tech in general. People looking for corporate jobs or in law or fashion or sales or advertising and probably lots of other industries will not want to network in a T-shirt, they’re better off dressing as the professional they hope to become.
      The people thinking it’d be a good idea are not the people wearing the T-shirts but the people who would be reading them, and honestly I don’t see why they can’t read LinkedIn profiles on a device rather than looking at T-shirts.
      Not even going to get into how women would feel embarrassed if their tick happened to line up with a nip or get scrunched up under a curve.

      1. RandomNameAllocated*

        Yeah, I’m a busty lady. I really don’t want a “reason” for people to look at my chest in a work situation

        1. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

          I once ran a 5K with the whole office, and Marketing gave us all t-shirts to wear with our corporate logo on the back. Great! A free gym t-shirt. The next year I ran it again and Marketing provided t-shirts again…that ran small and had a somewhat suggestive tag line across the chest. I did not run the next year, but those that did made a point of no-thank-you-ing the t-shirt.

          LW2: your t-shirts haven’t sold because they aren’t good. Networking is good. Your t-shirt isn’t. Take them to a textile recycler or wear them to the gym the rest of your life, but accept that young women do not want to wear this item you have designed.

    2. Snow Globe*

      One thing that seems to remain true is that college kids love free t-shirts, regardless of what they say. My kids in college had all kinds of weird ones; when I asked the answer I always got was “it was free!”

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        One thing you discover when working large events is that people will do almost anything for a free t-shirt (that they will probably never wear in public.)

        1. Boolie*

          At my college Frank’s Red Hot Sauce gave out t-shirts that said “I put that *splotch* on my resume.” People would pay for that shirt!

        2. amoeba*

          In public, no way. As homewear/pajamas, absolutely. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever bought one of those! Wouldn’t really fulfill it’s purpose though, I guess…

          1. Ampersand*

            Yes! I wear free t-shirts as pajamas, assuming they’re decently roomy/comfy.

            I would not wear this shirt in public and think LW needs to accept that these shirts aren’t going to work as intended.

        3. Merrie*

          I have a flu shot promo t-shirt I got from my ex-employer. I hated that place so much, but I still wear the t-shirt to sleep in. XD

          1. Mantic Re*

            My favorite free t-shirt ever was one I got from tequila sales reps at a karaoke bar. It said “I barely passed chemistry but I got an A in shotonomy”. It was ridiculous and I was also in a chemistry graduate program at the time so I was extra amused and wore it often (though not really out of the house haha).

      2. Freebies*

        My Mother is the same, she loves free giveaways so she has loads of custom printed canvas tote bags from random places, like local councils, charities, universities, radio stations, festivals, animal welfare agencies, shops/restaurants that have long been out of business, and strangely enough promotional showbags from a male strippers troup…

        1. Sir Nose d'Voidoffunk*

          I have a good friend who works at a screen printing company, and she would always show up at get-togethers with extras and misprints. Sadly, my buddy snagged my favorite one – a silhouette of a guy riding a Harley with the giant text:

          GOD FORGIVES
          BROTHERS DON’T

    3. My Useless 2 Cents*

      I think if this was a one-time networking event, where these t-shirts are handed out, people might get a little chuckle and put them on. An everyday clothing item just to market yourself to everyone you meet, nah.

    4. Beth*

      I would not buy any shirt from a person who was angry that I didn’t want the shirt. I wouldn’t even accept one as a freebie; I have plenty of shirts that have better associations in my mind.

  4. Raida*

    “When I arrived the following morning, I found a bag of baby clothes in my office.”

    At this point, you should have walked to her desk/office and given them back, with a clear “If you want to get rid of these, donate them. I’m not volunteering to take your baby gear.”

    1. Dust Bunny*

      This. There are so many other ways to get rid of stuff you don’t want–make it her problem again.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Right? The fact that Prudence asked “What am I supposed to do with them?” is just ridiculous. Baby clothes can be donated, Prudence, to an organization that needs baby clothes. OP doesn’t need them but there are plenty of other people out there who do. Oh, and wash them first, Prudence, because nobody wants baby clothes that smell like stale cigarette smoke. (ICKY.)

      1. Random Bystander*

        Yeah–stinky, stained, threadbare baby clothes are not donation material, nor giveaway material. Ick. And baby things in good condition should only be given to someone who actually wants them–otherwise donate them to somewhere that people who need them can access them.

      2. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. She could donate them, either to a generic thrift store or to a baby-oriented charity. Of course the kicker there is that they’d need to be in good shape/clean or that’s just passing along trash for a charity to deal with. That’s basically what Prudence is doing – unloading trash onto LW. I’d put them back on her desk if it happens again.

        (Another option is your local buy nothing group or Freecycle, but again, giving out clothes in poor condition will get you blocked from those groups, too.)

        1. Junk*

          My mom manages a thrift shop and the amount of absolute junk ppl try to donate is unbelievable. I agree Prudence needs to take responsibility for her own belongings and sort them and trash any that aren’t good to donate instead of wasting absolutely everybody’s time in this scenario

          1. Junk*

            And by trash I do mean look into textile recycling as well which I did not even think about but either way this is not LW’s problem :/

          2. Nina*

            I used to work in a charity shop (UK) and we had a dedicated rag bin. It was an entire skip. It was huge. It got hauled away every other week to be made into (I think house insulation mostly???) People are insane.

      3. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Good points, both of you, that aside from the first bag of stuff it seems like Prudence is just giving OP trash. So no, Prudence, don’t actually donate that stuff, use it for rags or donate it to an organization that collects old clothing to make rags out of, or an animal shelter or something.

        Which just reminds me of the fact that if a cat who recently had a medical procedure needs to be prevented from licking and biting suture sites doesn’t tolerate wearing a collar, you can in fact put them in an infant onesie and that sometimes works too. :-)

        1. Telephone Sanitizer, Third Class*

          I follow a cat foster called Kitten Academy who buys specially-designed camouflage-print onesies for post-spay cats, and they called them “secret agent suits”

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            Thank you, I needed that. Also love your username. Here’s hoping nobody does away with the telephone sanitizers or we’ll all be in trouble!

        2. JustaTech*

          The onesie trick totally works. When my cat needed to have a wound covered (to keep her from licking at it, so gross) I ended up sewing her some shirts because I didn’t want her to wear the onesies before the baby had a chance to. (The vet was very impressed at the brightly colored floral shirts. The cat was tolerant.)

          As for Prudence’s baby clothes – some people won’t even take stuff from homes with pets for allergy reasons, nobody’s going to take clothes that smell of cigarettes. Either Prudence is using the OP as a trash can (super not cool) or she’s totally unaware of how bad everything smells (marginally more forgivable, but doesn’t fix anything).

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            For a second I read that as “sewing her INTO some shirts” and was all, yeah, damn, that cat is tolerant!

        3. Princess Sparklepony*

          The infant onesie works for small dogs as well. I’ve used them often for animals instead of collars.

          I had a paralyzed mini-dachshund that had a wardrobe of zip off wearable sleeping bags (not sure what the real name of the item is) that were tailored to her to wear as drag bags and to sleep in since she slept in bed with us.

          Also once put a bulldog with a sore on his butt that he kept opening up by rubbing it on the wall in a pair of men’s y-front underwear. The sore healed up in a matter of days and he looked pretty cute.

          Human clothes can be very versatile.

      4. Dahlia*

        I used to work in a thrift store, and when people would bring in visibly stained baby clothes, we would thank them kindly and immediately take it to the dumpster. It’s just throwing them out with an extra step.

        Also, frankly, I’m not sure how much just washing can make clothes soaked in thirdhand smoke safe. That sounds too risky for me.

        1. Adultiest Adult*

          I think everyone should be required to volunteer at a charity shop at some point for this reason–you get a very good idea of what kind of things should be donated and which you should just toss at home. The small charity shop I was working for, like a lot of them, had to pay for their dumpster by the pound, so I quickly realized that it was super uncool to give them trashy items. You are actually costing them money in that case!

      5. Goldenrod*

        “Right? The fact that Prudence asked “What am I supposed to do with them?” is just ridiculous.”

        Right! That suggests she is likely a hoarder. But for sure self-centered, at the very least!

        This reminds me of something that happened to me at a terrible job. I had just been moved to a new department where I was still learning a lot of new processes; meanwhile, an underperformer in an entirely different department was fired, and I was assigned ONE SMALL PIECE of her work. But a self-centered woman (not my manager) in that department started assigning me ALL of that person’s work.

        When I explained, “I have my own job – I’m not the replacement for this entire role,” she looked at me in dead seriousness and explained, “But we don’t have anyone else.”

        Good times!

    3. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Or just dump it in the trash. In the kitchen, right next to the trash can where’s its quite visible yet also not overflowing the bag and it’s quite clear that this is trash but doesn’t fit. Of course, this also is going to be known to Prudence so you may not want to take such an action. But it is an option.

    4. Van Wilder*

      Some people don’t want to donate things when they don’t know who it’s going to. Hero complex, I guess, but also having to do with inherited Depression-era trauma and fear of letting anything go to waste. I know of what I speak.

      Of course, that doesn’t make it YOUR problem, OP. I think you handled it perfectly well. If I were invested in helping Prudence overcome her clutter problems, I think I would take the things and then donate them or throw them away. But that’s more in the realm of friend/family, not random coworker.

      1. not a hippo*

        Oh gods, my dad grew up in during rationing after the war and the inability to toss anything is REAL. I always feel a twinge of guilt when I throw out a bottle of salad dressing with an 8th of a teaspoon of salad dressing left or a pair of shoes that are too worn to be worn for anything other than yardwork (I also don’t have a yard).

        1. I have RBF*

          I feel this. I was a mid-career adult before I could throw out sucks or underwear – “I can darn them or patch them”. No, I’m not going to spend time darning cheap Costco socks.

          One of my roomies still tries to “rescue” plastic bottles out of the recycling. He also used to eat stuff that was going off.

          This didn’t come from the depression, though, it came from too much time being poor. When you spend years not being able to buy new socks, or containers to hold bits’n’bobs, the “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” becomes a survival technique.

          I still have to remind the household that we can’t donate stuff that doesn’t work, or that is too worn for anything but rags, because we all have spent too much time poor. We have enough money now, but not so much we don’t still need to be frugal.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Same here. I had a Silent Generation dad and have a Boomer mom. Although us kids grew up lower-middle class, years of living hand-to-mouth as an adult trained me to do that because it might be a while before I could afford to replace anything. I could have had less to move if I were better at tossing things!

            Prudence may have a similar mindset, but the OP may never know what’s behind it. Personally, I feel like she’s dumping her junk on the OP, judging by the smelly unwashed clothing.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          Rationing was a HUGE psychological marker and it went on for far longer than most people know (in Britain it didn’t end until thirteen years after the cessation of hostilities.) It most definitely defined how the Boomer generation and their kids react to the idea of throwing anything away.

    5. My Useless 2 Cents*

      Small PSA – when donating, there are a surprising amount of regulations around second-hand baby gear. Clothing will most likely be okay (but it is not a guarantee they can take it). If you are talking about bedding as crib sheets/baby blankets, again, you will most likely be okay. But anything else, and it gets really dicey. Even if only a couple years old. So, if you are hoarding a bunch of old baby gear thinking you’ll just donate it in the future if nobody you know needs it….

      1. L. Bennett*

        Particularly if the bedding etc. smells like cigarette smoke! A newborn baby should not have that right up close to their face. Yuck.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, I once tried to donate a baby gate (which I had hoped would keep my cat out and did not), and nowhere would take it. Same is definitely true for any type of infant car seat.

        1. JustaTech*

          Very yes on car seats! Now they even have expiration dates, because the plastic eventually starts to go brittle and they can’t guarantee that it will perform correctly in a crash. (This is also why bicycle helmets expire.)

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Also, do not use either a car seat or a bicycle helmet after they’ve been in a crash. Car insurance often pays for a replacement car seat after an accident.

        2. Turquoisecow*

          Car seats actually expire after some time, like you’re good to use it for the life of your kid (mine is a convertible that my toddler will be able to use a a booster until she grows out of the need for such), but if you had a kid ten or 20 years ago the car seat isn’t considered safe anymore.

    6. TheseOldWings*

      I also think people tend to be more emotionally attached to baby clothes. My SIL has given me loads of girls clothes from my nieces for my daughter, and while it’s wonderful not to have to buy things, it’s also overwhelming because they take up a huge amount of space in our small basement and aren’t organized. But she both simultaneously wants to get rid of everything but also make sure it’s going to someone who will use and cherish it like she did, and not randos at the thrift shop. I imagine Prudence is dealing with similar conflicting feelings, certainly more challenging with the family living with her.

      But’s it’s definitely not your problem to solve! You definitely were correct in saying no and probably needed to be more assertive earlier on. But she will have to get over it eventually if you work closely together, and you will have to accept that she is angry (probably not just at you) and try not to let it bother you. It’s perfectly reasonable not to accept every baby item offer that comes your way!

  5. Jessie*

    No. 4 — I recently saw a tiktok where someone used the AI feature in Canva (I think this is a paid feature) to change her shirt in a photo she wanted to use for her professional headshot! It worked perfectly — a tank top magically turned into a buttoned blouse, without even messing up her hair.

    1. Certaintroublemaker*

      I was going to say, if LW or any of her friends use Photoshop, it’s pretty easy to wipe out the sparkles on the outfit. I’ve taken all sorts of “favorite pictures” provided and made them appropriate for a department website.

      1. No Longer Working*

        Yes! Cloning out/filling in the sparkles is very easy to do. Changing out one shirt for another, not so easy. (signed, a former Photoshop retoucher)

        1. No Longer Working*

          In fact, if the LW is reading this, I’d be happy to do this for her if Alison sends me the photo!

        2. AlsoADHD*

          Much easier nowadays with AI — even when it’s not perfect if you can retouch manually, some AI tools make it much faster.

      2. No Longer Working*

        In fact, if the LW is reading this, I’d be happy to do it for her (for free of course)!

    2. Flipperty*

      Someone did an article on this, trying it for themselves, and it went very badly. I wouldn’t suggest it to anyone without high tech skills.

      1. KayDeeAye*

        Removing the sparkles would be VERY easy in PhotoShop – not high-tech at all. It would take someone with even beginner PS skills about 2 minutes.

        You could also change the background to something plain if you want, but that takes more skill – more than I’ve got. But the person who took the wedding photos could definitely do it. I think the blurry trees are almost certainly fine, but if they bother the OP, that’s definitely something to consider.

        1. JR*

          You can change the background to plain white on an iPhone in a few seconds. Press and hold on the person (or whatever the image is in the foreground) and it will kind of shimmer and a copy/share button will pop up. Press share and it will give you the option to save image. The image will then have a blank white background.

      2. Elsajeni*

        I mean, the worst-case scenario is that the edited photo looks awful and you go “yikes, that didn’t work” and use the unedited version instead — I wouldn’t assume it will be as easy as the parent comment makes it sound, but there’s no real reason not to try it regardless of your skill level.

    3. mreasy*

      If you don’t have the skills or resources to do this, I’m positive you could hire a graphic designer to handle it on Fiverr or a similar service for a low price.

      1. KayDeeAye*

        The photographer who took the photo could certainly do it as well, and it probably wouldn’t be expensive.

    4. iglwif*

      Yeah, the “background remover” tool in the paid version of Canva is freaking magical. I turned a bathroom selfie into a very nice headshot in this way! (“Very nice” is other people’s assessment, not mine.)

    5. NotBatman*

      If taking that route, be sure to send the final edit to a friend for confirmation BEFORE you submit it. It’s very easy to miss just how much you’re changing a photo if you do so gradually, and my parents’ walls are covered with my dad’s well-meaning overuse of the “enhance” button on family photos.

      1. Nina*

        Yeahhhh this is why I always save a copy as IMG_XXXX_edit and keep the original IMG_XXXX to compare to.

    6. T.N.H.*

      You could also swap out the background even just on an iPhone. I think there’s an easy way to make this look professional with a little Photoshop/Canva.

  6. Happy*

    OP2, you seem overly invested in the lives of strangers who will never live up to your expectations. It sounds like a recipe for frustration and sadness.

    “Would my product help those unable to network?”

    People unable to network (or disinterested in it) won’t want to buy a networking shirt. People who want to network may join your clubs or seek out networking opportunities, but are unlikely to see a t-shirt as the solution to their needs.

    1. McThrill*

      People like to use T-shirts to showcase parts of their personality or interests that they are proud of, whether that’s through the color choices or images/words contained on the shirt. I can think of very few people who would want their first impression to someone to be “Hello, my personality is LOOKING FOR JOB.”

      1. Rainbow*

        Especially uni students/recent grads! I’m not much of a fashionista but in my recent grad days, looking good was important to me. A t-shirt wouldn’t have cut it and the desperate vibes go against “fake it till you make it” that young people hear a lot. And I consider networking one of my key skills. (Besides, I don’t want any job from some dude at the petrol station. I want a great job, and statistically I’ve a vastly better chance at conferences or LinkedIn.)

        1. LadyVet*

          This is why I stopped wearing “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” pins on St. Patrick’s Day ;p

          But seriously, where exactly does the LW envision people wearing these shirts? The dress code for most networking events is usually at least business casual, if not more formal, and the printed T-shirts that are mass produced like this usually aren’t cut well for women, who also may not want strangers to have to read a bunch of text on their chest.

          I don’t understand this idea at all.

          1. Ladida*

            He says “ I hoped people would wear them daily and maybe while filling their gas tank this would start a conversation that would change their lives forever ”.
            So apparently he thought if you are wearing the t-shirt at the super market, there is a chance a recruiter or prospective employer sees you and invites you to an interview or sth.

            This is all very strange and the OP should ask themselves if this is how they would go about when looking for someone to hire in their business. Would they really approach a stranger at the super marker queue and ask them if they are looking for a job because their t-shirt says so? I also don’t see how this I helps you build a network, this is essentially relying on chance encounters to find a job.

            1. Snell*

              +1 to the utter strangeness. I already thought the LW was waaaaaay off-base about how terrible modern communication is and the youths’ alleged ubiquitous eye non-contact, but then I got to the part where the LW hopes this will start conversations during day-to-day life, like while filling the gas tank. Aside from the social awkwardness (which has already been touched on by other commenters), maybe the LW just lives in a different area than me (although maybe not, since the t-shirts /did/ get a non-response), but where I live, if I stopped to chat with someone while filling up at the gas station, we’d get honked at by people who were waiting to gas up.

              It just stood out so starkly how different the LW sees things, like how they thought people would readily invite intrusion into their day-to-day life, or would disrupt their day-to-day life to talk to someone who wore a gimmicky t-shirt. Or that the LW hadn’t considered (but the market likely grokked to immediately) how so very small a net their product is intended to cast—one person, walking around as an advertisement for themselves, when there are how many people out there? One t-shirt just isn’t going to have an effective reach, on top of the fact that most people just aren’t going to be paying attention to the text on a random passerby’s shirt. EVEN IF someone straight up works in talent acquisition, if they’re out grocery shopping, they’re going to be thinking about groceries, not checking out other people’s clothes for professional information. The list goes on.

              1. Clara*

                An idealist is running against the frustrating wall of reality. You can’t make things that work just in your idea of how the world works. The evidence that OP isn’t selling should be cause for them to adjust their own expectations – not get angry with the very real world that they’re operating in.

              2. DataSci*

                Maybe they think it’s GUMPTION. I can see that sort of outdated “tell everyone you meet looking for a job, you never know who’s hiring” mentality here. Fits with the “kids these days”rant, anyway.

                1. EPLawyer*

                  That makes sense. Just let everyone you know that you are looking for a job. Who knows that guy at the gas station? He may know the CEO of the company you are trying to get a job with.

                  Except that guy of thing is as outdated as just walk in and drop off your resume. It’s not how people hire these days. And its not how people look for jobs. Job hunts are focused with time spent writing good application materials, not hoping you meet the CEO’s best friend’s cousin’s former roommate.

              3. ThePear8*

                Yeah, this letter felt to me very much like reading a pushy salesperson or out of touch life coach. I don’t generally go to get gas or groceries looking to network and land a big job opportunity, in fact I would prefer people mind their own business at the gas station or grocery store. when I network in my field, I go to industry events and conferences, connect with people on LinkedIn, and join clubs/interest groups. And I would not wear this shirt, it feels like a gimmick. Why do I need to wear something that screams “I’m looking for a job” when I can just focus on writing a nice resume and cover letter that will make my actual skills and qualifications stand out instead?

                1. I Talk About Motorcycles Too Much*

                  I agree. The rest of the letter then made me question how good this person really is at networking. Are they someone who is randomly approaching strangers and pushily expecting them to have these conversations? I don’t see “professional’ shining through no matter how many networking groups they are a part of.

            2. Everything All The Time*

              the “conversations at the gas station” part to find a job is literally the opposite of what I want to do? I don’t want random people coming up to speak to me while I’m unable to leave the area, or, if it does work and got me a job while I was wearing a funky smelling shirt, it meant I basically stalked the hiring manager to their neighborhood.

              The one time I could see wearing this shirt for even a few hours would be if OP put on a full event with hiring managers and job seekers. I don’t even wear shirts I love every day; I wouldn’t wear one with less of a reach than LinkedIn multiple days in a row.

              1. Lavender*

                I had the same thought. I really don’t want to wear a shirt that essentially says “please come talk to me” while I’m trying to fill up my car or buy groceries. Maybe there’s a sliver of a possibility that a recruiter would see it, but I’d say it’s infinitely more likely that some random person would view the shirt as permission to strike up unwanted conversation.

                I could also kind of see these being used at a networking event, if they were handed out at the start and all participants were encouraged to wear them. Still feels pretty gimmicky IMO, but at least slightly better than just wearing one in public and hoping for the best.

                1. Relentlessly Socratic*

                  I had some guy come up to me at a gas station once and compliment my new snow tires (hey, they were sparkling new!). This was in 2015 and I remember it well, including immediately posting about it on the book of the Face and then wondering if this dude was about to follow me and my new snow tires home from the station.

                2. Ohh Deer*

                  My moms old work used to manufacture work merchandise with company logos.
                  At times there’d be a surplus so she’d come home with sweaters advertising a mechanic or truck companies, or polo shirts for private schools.
                  One day she at a gas station and happened to wear a sweater advertising a Dog Wash business.
                  People kept walking up to her asking about her rates and times, location was only later that she caught on to what had happened!

            3. Reality.Bites*

              Maybe I’m doing it wrong, but I’ve not once engaged in meaningful social interaction while pumping gas.

              1. AngryOctopus*

                I don’t think I’ve ever had a meaningful social interaction while pumping gas or getting groceries (if I’ve gone alone) and quite frankly I like it that way. I don’t want to be running errands thinking about if I left anything off my list, just to be accosted by a stranger who wants to talk about a job possibility. As others have said, that’s why we have LinkedIn and job searching sites.

              2. Seahorse*

                I’ve been asked for money, hit on, insulted, and proselytized to while trying to pump gas. After all that, I’d prefer to avoid anything that encourages spontaneous interaction with strangers.

            4. Dust Bunny*

              This feels like an alternate take on “I just walked in and asked for a job”, bypassing completely how job-hunting actually works now.

              1. Dust Bunny*

                Also, I stopped for gas last night and there were probably a dozen other people in the lot. I was definitely paying attention because it was a slightly rough part of town but I could not tell what the words on any of their shirts might have said. Staring at strangers in public is not the kind of interaction I want to start, and people who are pumping gas or reaching for groceries move too much to make their shirts legible.

            5. JustaTech*

              I mean, I have a friend who was approached by a tech recruiter while he was shopping at Target, but that was 1) in the Bay Area and 2) extremely weird and my friend was Not Interested.

              I can’t imagine that a tech recruiter would be interested in someone with a shirt that says “I’m desperate!”. If a new grad wants to use a t-shirt to help them network, they should wear a shirt from their school/department.

              1. Snell*

                Honestly, I think being in the Bay Area doesn’t make it make any more sense. I’m here, too, and since tech is the big thing here, there’s no shortage of channels for recruitment that are more established, reliable, and functional than what your friend ran into.

            6. goddessoftransitory*

              I mean, if I was at the store and some random stranger came up to me and asked if I wanted a job my first internal reaction would be GET AWAY I HAVE MACE and looking around for the windowless van with the engine running, honestly.

      2. DyneinWalking*

        And the problem is – when a key feature of yourself is LOOKING FOR A JOB, that kind of implies that you struggle to find a job and are desperate. Which… isn’t exactly the thing you’d like to advertise about yourself…

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        My brother-in-law is a really good networker. This means he’s good at striking up casual conversations with all sorts of people in all sorts of contexts.

        He found a team to do yard work at his mom’s deep rural place when he noticed a truck with yard work stuff in the back at a nearby gas station, and went up and asked the guys if they were looking for more local business. There’s a human touch to networking that T-shirts–or stick on labels on your shirt, or a placard you carry–don’t duplicate.

      4. yala*

        Yeah. I got a job because of a t-shirt once.

        It was a Great Big Sea t-shirt, and the wife of a comic artist stopped me to talk about it because she was surprised to see it so far from Newfoundland. We chatted, and at some point I got to show her and her husband my portfolio.

        A year and change later she remembered me at another con where a writer was looking for an artist for a gig.

        Something tells me that a “networking t-shirt” would not have got me the same reaction

    2. Allonge*

      I am far from young and I spotted another issue with the t-shirt: I don’t think that you are supposed to be that obvious while networking for jobs.

      I mean, yes, we all know we are looking for (someone to fill) a job and we are not that interested in the other person personally otherwise, but is there not supposed to be a polite fiction that this is not 100% the case?

      1. Pennyworth*

        I too am far from young, and my issue with the networking t-shirt is that I wouldn’t want to wear something that encouraged people to closely read my chest.

        1. Lady_Lessa*

          I am thinking that a cute quirky one would be “I work for” (large drawing of the chemical structure of caffeine) and in small letters below “caffeine” or “coffee”.

          That could provide a starting conversation, especially if the wearer is a chemist.

        2. spaceelf*

          Maybe it should have been on the back of the shirt. More room for more information?

    3. Bagpuss*

      I wonder whether the LW ad seen some of the individuals who ent vial on social media foing things like making a billboard or sandwich boards with their resume in order to job search, and thought they could monetise that vibe? But that kind of approach only really works because it’s both rare and personalized – even if you were the kind of person who was comfortable wearing a shirt that says you are looking for a job, you’d want it to be person, with your own attainments, skills, and contact details.
      A generic ne with tick-boxes *might* work as a joke, for instance if it played into various fandoms, advertising the wearer’s services as a henchperson, or something of that kind, but I can’t see it being at all appealing in real life!

      1. misspiggy*

        I love the constructive tone of comments on this issue. There are a lot of useful insights in this thread if OP wants to hear them.

        I wonder if the problem OP has identified is that many people are not good at making verbal elevator pitches. Exploring nonverbal ways to communicate and demonstrate your strengths could be a great focus for OP’s networking efforts. Some action research or experimentation would be needed to try out different ways to do this. Sharing the results of that could be genuinely useful.

        1. sb51*

          And people new to doing this (verbal elevator pitches) are going to need practice to be good at it—it’s not that young people are young, but they’re more likely to be completely new at it. Plus they’ve spent a significant amount of the past few years on Zoom rather than in person, where everyone’s looking at the screen and not the camera and so eye contact is a little vaguer. (So have the rest of us, but we have previous experience to draw on.)

          Heck, try to sell the shirts as a tool to use in practicing your elevator pitch in the mirror!

          1. ThePear8*

            Yes, practice makes perfect! I was terrified at my first few career fairs, sometimes nearly chickening out of talking to people altogether, and I definitely embarrassed myself in some interviews. But the more I did it, the much more comfortable I got and was eventually able to land some amazing opportunities. Giving students and new grads ways to practice im a safe setting for talking to recruiters and interviewers may be a lot more helpful to them.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, I have a cousin who collects oddball T-shirts and I bet he’d totally go for one, and fill in “superhero sidekick” or “unicorn groomer” or something, but he’s really the only person I could picture wanting one.

    4. Just Another Boss*

      I can’t imagine it WOULD work. I hire regularly and if I saw a shirt like that it would be a turn off. Kind of like the people who suggest to mail in a baby shoe to “get my foot in the door.” No. It’s weird.

      1. Stretchy McGillicuddy*

        Wait-what? Mail in a WHAT. I would assume that person is making some kind of creepy threat and call building security.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        I have never heard that advice and am horrified. I mean, I guess we should be glad no one is mailing in actual feet?

    5. Antilles*

      “Would my product help those unable to network?”
      My vote is no.

      In my experience, networking is usually a *process* – and a pretty extended one at that. There aren’t any magic shortcuts here. If you want people to be willing to hire you or recommend you at their company or etc, that requires trust and familiarity and very rarely is that something you can build up instantly.

      Personally, I’ve gotten every professional job I’ve ever had via networking. But those connections were (a) my graduate thesis advisor, (b) someone I knew from a year spent volunteering with an industry organization, and (c) a friend from my college program who I’d kept in occasional touch with for the decade-plus since graduation. None of them would have been likely to help me out if it was just a vague “oh we met once way back when” or a random grocery store conversation with a t-shirt.

      At most, I might see a market if you sold these specifically to conference organizers or networking event organizers, as basically an alternative to the usual “Hello I am ____” nametags.

  7. Coverage Associate*

    Is it still the case that the big thrift store charities have deals with textile recyclers to take things they can’t sell? They did years ago, so I would donate even non salable items in hopes that they would be recycled, instead of throwing them away. Now the for profit recyclers have bins everywhere in my neighborhood, so I just use those.

    Something for LW to keep in mind when the baby wears things out.

    1. Traveling Nerd*

      I live in San Francisco, and thrift and charity stores do not have that deal. In fact, they often lose thousands of dollars each year because they have to pay for the disposal of items that aren’t in sellable condition – so I would contact stores directly before assuming that extra clothes in poor condition would be an asset, rather than a liability.

      1. anon in affordable housing*

        I live in San Jose, and there was some kind of exposé about local thrift stores that sold items in bulk to companies that shipped unwanted clothes overseas. Problem is, they crowded out locally-produced clothing because you can’t win a price war against “junk donated by American fast fashion consumers.”

        1. Well...*

          Yup. Using thrift stores to alleviate your guilt about the trash you generate isn’t without consequences.

          Also, they perpetuate inequality. Rich neighborhoods tend to have nice secondhand clothing, poor neighborhoods don’t (an example of how it can be more expensive to be poor). People who have the free time to spend hours searching thrift stores for the best finds leave behind only the unusable clothes for those who can only stop in after work, etc.

          1. Phryne*

            I think what Coverage Associate means is different though. There are several organisations here that collect textiles here for recycling as rags. It has to be clean, so no paint or oil stains or stuff like that, but it does not have to be undamaged or wearable because it gets shredded and used as i.e. isolation material or to make packaging products with.
            But I agree one should not assume and just dump it at some organisation.

            1. Well...*

              Sorry, I thought what Coverage Associate was saying was fine — they checked that the stores offered recycling services. I meant that in general, just assuming thrift stores can do this isn’t so great. And I brought in that thrifting in general is complicated to navigate, and attention should be paid so as not to cause harm.

            2. I Talk About Motorcycles Too Much*

              Where I live, our local recyclers will accept the clothing in these instances. We can put them in a bag marked as clothing and they take care of the rest.

        2. anon for this*

          Hey Bay Area peeps – take your donated clothes to City Team instead. They go straight to shelters.

      2. DataSci*

        I don’t know if they do around here or not – we have an attic to store stuff, so once a year we take old worn out clothes to the textile recycling facility. (Anything wearable gets donated, but neither me nor my wife cares much about what’s fashionable, so we tend to keep stuff for years.)

    2. Emmy Noether*

      The thrift stores I’m familiar with do not take items that are obviously non saleable (stained, damaged). They do have avenues to get rid of stuff that turns out doesn’t sell after a while (give away, recycle), but this makes extra work for them, so using them to dump your trash that you know won’t sell isn’t nice.

      Better alternative: in recent years, some clothing retailers (H&M here for example) have set up recycle bins in a marketing effort to appear more sustainable. They may even give you a coupon in return.

      1. MPerera*

        I once worked at a thrift store where, every month, we’d fill big black garbage bags with the clothes we couldn’t sell (stained, damaged, etc) and those bags would then be offered for sale for a couple of dollars each.

        1. JSPA*

          I love dollar a pound / euro a kilo stores! Homeless shelters also sometimes need clothing for people to change into, and it doesn’t much matter what the “next to skin” layer says.

        2. AngryOctopus*

          These are a great deal for high school drama kids–things they can use to make costumes, old clothes they don’t care about ruining for building sets, stuff to use as rags for cleaning and while painting (source: was backstage high school drama kid). That’s not to say you should be donating stuff in really bad condition, but I never feel bad about putting in a slightly stained T or a pair of jeans with paint and holes (I do always wash before donating) because I picture some drama kid using them to clean up after set building.

          1. Chubbs*

            Back when I was a child at school, our Art class would receive donations of old shirts which would then be utilised as art smocks for the students, to prevent getting paint/ink/clay/glue etc on their school uniforms

      2. Dust Bunny*

        If you google “clothing recycling” or “textile recycling” there are several companies that recycle clothes/fabric. You’d have to ship it, but if you’re that determined to feel good about how you dispose of something that seems like the least you can do.

        1. Relentlessly Socratic*

          Some places also schedule pick-ups. In Massachusetts, it’s now illegal to just throw away old clothes, but they do provide information on resources for textile recycling.

          1. Freelance Historian*

            I live in MA too, and there are textile recycling containers at every school in my city. Plus, the school gets some money per pound. Very useful, especially when I was helping to clear out a family friend’s house.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        Same for the ones in my old city. I donated a ton of stuff the first time I moved but everything that was broken, chipped, or even slightly icky went into the garbage.

        1. STAT!*

          I donate chipped ceramics & glass to the local smash-stuff-with-a-bat entertainment barns. They haven’t knocked any donations back yet. At least the chipped stuff has one more chance of being useful to someone, somehow, before going to its final landfill resting place!

    3. cat with thumbs (uk)*

      Where I am (UK city) the charity shops all have this. It saves them loads of time if you put them in a seperate bag marked ‘rags’.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Yes, I’m in the UK and ‘textiles’ is one of the categories for our recycling collections – there is also a bin outside the village hall where you can dump fabric for recycling and it benefits the air ambulance service (which reminds me, I need to take a bag of stuff down there)

        1. Victoria*

          Also in the UK (London), and I have so many fabric scraps from sewing that I have to haul to H&M because my council doesn’t offer fabric recycling, they direct you to charities, and the charity shops and collection bins only take good condition clothing. Do the charity bins you have specifically mention recycling?

          H&M is the only place I’m aware of that specifically says they will take fabric of any size and in any condition, which is amazing of them, but it’s fairly sad to be relying on them for fabric recycling and I’d rather they went to raise money for a charity.

          (Just to fend off ideas for using up scraps: I’m aware and I save usable pieces but I just don’t have space to store all of them, forever).

          1. anon for this*

            I am super lucky because I have a “local” quilting charity that takes scraps. I wish there were more of these!

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      In the northeast at least, town landfills have started accepting clothing for recycling–ripped & stained is fine, but actively soiled is a no. (It’s not easy yet because it’s not included in the streetside pickup, but it’s a start.)

    5. DJ Abbott*

      A few years ago I did some research about clothing recycling here around Chicago. As far as I could find out, what they meant by recycling was, they would take unsalable clothes to Third World countries, and the people there would wear them until they were worn out. Then they ended up in a landfill there instead of here.

      1. Zweisatz*

        While ruining the local clothing market there. Yeah I’d like to know what “recycling” means before going that route.

    6. Person from the Resume*

      Not anymore. I thought this was for LW#2. Don’t donate to a charity shop b/c they are NOT going to be able to sell your unsellable shirt in the thrift store. The age of cheap recycling of clothes has passed too. They probably would just throw it away for you.

    7. Pencil*

      Yes! I’m in Chicago and recently went looking for where to take textile recycling. The place I found actually said, “please take it to Goodwill, we prefer to deal in bulk with them rather than handle individual donations from the public.” but it’s different everywhere.

    8. Dilly*

      Those deals to “recycle” = selling to wholesalers who sell to other overseas wholesalers who sell to retailers in developing countries who sell to little mom and pop shops who sell in the local market. This inhibits local textile production in these countries which forces them to rely on imports rather than building their own production which would create jobs and opportunities for the population.

      1. DataSci*

        That depends on your situation. Here we bring them to the actual recycling center / dump, where they’re shredded for use in insulation and so forth. Please don’t assume you’re the only one who does any research.

    9. Retired Accountant*

      Where I live if you Google “textile recycling” the city’s website will list various thrift shops and notes that only a couple will take non-wearable clothing (which they will send to textile recyclers.)

    10. Maybesocks*

      Clothes that smell like smoke isn’t able to be sold in a thrift-store, I think. I suppose it can be recycled as rags.

      I would put it all in the dumpster. It’s not your environmental guilt. It’s hers.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        Just throw away clothes with tobacco fumes, especially children’s clothes! Those fumes are toxic and should not be around people.

    11. Alex*

      The Goodwills around here advertise that they take everything and recycle what they don’t need or isn’t usable, so I do that too.

    12. goddessoftransitory*

      I specifically sort “donation “from “recycle” when I drop stuff off, and tell the person working which is which.

    1. Brain the Brian*

      I mean, it’s certainly better than the way most photos make me look — like a creep. I cannot for the life of me smile nicely without looking vaguely predatory, despite decades of attempts to smile nicely and look kind in photos. Bad genes, I guess.

      1. allathian*

        Oh no, you have my sympathy. I’ve been told that I have a lovely smile, but on photos it always looks either fake, or if I’ve been holding it for too long, almost angry. If I don’t smile, my RBF makes the photo look like a mugshot.

        1. Reality.Bites*

          Photo smiles are unnatural and many of them look terrible.

          Years ago, when I needed a good headshot, I recorded video of myself watching TV and from the footage I was able to get stills of myself with a natural smile.

          1. Tio*

            You know what? That’s brilliant and I may steal it. My current work photo has a strange forced grimace and I would love to replace it.

          2. Francie Foxglove*

            Yeah, I like to do a Vogue pose: lips just slightly open, head at an angle, side-eying the camera. I think it flatters me more than a wide, fake, head-on grin. But people always say, “C’mon, smile!”

        2. Yoyoyo*

          I often find that in photos where I thought I was smiling, I have a grim or dour expression. But in candid shots, I am often exuberantly smiling or laughing. I am a generally happy person who cannot control my face. But put me in front of a camera and I forget how to smile.

          1. Former psych professor*

            The big issue with a lot of fake smiles is that the muscle around the eye (zygomaticus) will contract in a real smile (known as a Duchenne smile), but most people aren’t able to voluntarily contract it. If you can think of a happy memory or something legitimately funny during the picture, you may be able to get it to contract, which makes the smile look real. #BetterLivingThroughScience

            1. Brain the Brian*

              Strangely enough, I use this technique, and my smile still looks frightening — not the “half-smile” that so many people get, but a real smile that’s just creepy. I worry about my smile outside of photos now…

          2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

            I am amazed by that in selfies. I have a real knack for taking my own headshots, but I have to go through an astonishing number of frames where I think I am putting on a pleasant / slightly smiling face but am actually scowling.

          3. All Het Up About It*

            Years ago a character on some one season TV show explained that she always took great photos and the trick was to pretend like you were biting into an apple and then smile. I was playing around with it once and was like “this feels ridiculous” and then someone walked past and said “Wow, that’s a great smile.”

            So can’t hurt anything to try!

            1. Mac (I Wish All The Floors Were Lava)*

              Out of curiosity, I just tried this, and maybe I just eat apples wrong, because I fully look like a zombie about to sink my teeth into someone’s cranium.

        3. AFac*

          I too have this problem, allathian, compounded by the fact that when I really smile, my eyes shrink to nothing. OK when laughing with people in person, not good for photos.

          The last headshot I took, work insisted that everyone use a black background. My hair is black, and even the gray hairs I’ve developed in the last year did not prevent the top of my head from just disappearing.

        4. Danish*

          My father will start to chuckle as he poses for photos. When I was younger I thought it was because he was just so tickled to be taking photos, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized it’s because even a fake chuckle looks like a convincingly dazzling smile on camera.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Literally the most flattering picture I have of myself is the one on my office ID. I have no idea how that happened. I do not photograph well.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          I have one random one from my college ID card that’s decent. Saved it for thirty years because it’s still the only one I can bear to look at.

          1. nonprofit llama groomer*

            I have one from grad school 30 years ago that I saved for the same reason!

            On some occasions I am so not photogenic that it’s a joke between me and my brothers. We were looking through photo albums at our grandparents’ house and I asked them if I was really that hideous. One brother told me he doesn’t remember me looking that bad in real life, so I must just take bad pictures. Then there are other times that I look really good in a picture. I can’t figure it out.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        I always look faintly worried. If I grin, I look like a horse. Oh well, lol.

      4. goddessoftransitory*

        I look like an albino Halloween pumpkin carved in the likeness of Mr. Ed.

        I hate having my photo taken, as you might have guessed. I don’t even have any wedding pictures up at home.

    2. Madame Arcati*

      My old work buildings pass made me look like I was doing time, tbh. It was taken without enough notice to have put on makeup or do my hair smartly and the photographer was sitting whilst I was standing (and was a security guard not a photographer) so the angle made me look like I’d chin you if you looked at me wrong.

      1. Bagpuss*

        I feel for you. I had to renew my drivers licence during Covid so the photo I am stuck with for the next 10 years is ‘woman who has taken her mask off for 10 seconds for a photo, and who has not seen a hairdresser for a year’ (The previous photo was much better, as I did it immediately after leaving the hairdresser before my hair had reverted to it’s usual state!)

        1. CommanderBanana*

          My last driver’s license photo was taken post-op from major sinus surgery and a nose job, and I had two black eyes and a massively swollen face. I had to get it redone when I got the license renewed because it was so bad that people thought I was using someone else’s ID.

        2. GladImNotThereNow*

          Similarly for me. COVID meant they only let one person in the building at a time, but due to the crowds you had to get there early and wait in line outside. 6 hours later in 85+ degree heat – picture time!

        3. Brain the Brian*

          Oddly, the best smile I have ever done for a photo — the only one where I don’t look frighteningly creepy! — is on my driver’s license. The DMV spelled my name wrong (my username is a hint how, incidentally), and when I called about getting a new one, the woman who answered thought I was so good-looking in my license photo that she called over multiple coworkers to ogle at it. A strangely objectifying experience, and all because I managed to smile nicely for once.

      2. Suz*

        We must have worked at the same place. Security did our photos too. I look like I’ve been on a 4 day bender and am hung over.

    3. Yoyoyo*

      I’ve never been able to put words on why professional photos of me never look good, and this LW has finally done it for me. I, too, look like an egg.

    4. TypityTypeType*

      The egg made me happy — I always seem to look disheveled in photos, and generally like I was left outside all night. Reminded me of a job long ago where we all had to wear white company polos for an event. When we were sorting the photos, one co-worker — a tall, broad gentleman — said sadly, “I look like an ambulance.” That was so on target it still makes me laugh.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        I wish I could pin this comment for later. “I look like an ambulance” — too good!

  8. Steggy Saurus*

    LW4, Long time academic librarian here and I can’t imagine much of a problem with you photo the way you describe it. I imagine it would be cropped to your face so who’s to say it’s not just a sparkly black work top? Unless you’re at an incredibly stuffy institution, I say go for what you think makes you look good and approachable (especially if you’re a reference or public service librarian where you want students to reach out to you. For the record, I was an academic library director at one point and my head shot had my dog in it.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’ve seen people at the office crop their wedding photos to use as video icons. It works fine for men & women. The full view photos, not so great for helt recognize people later.

      One warning for future readers: don’t make a headshot from an image where you’re wearing an off the shoulders dress… the result looks undressed.

      1. Cmdrshprd*

        My work profile picture is from a wedding picture. It was a full body shot that is cropped from the shoulders up. It is me in a suit, and you can see the top of a boutonniere.

        I think if you look at it closely you might be able to guess it is a wedding picture, but I doubt most people look at it that closely.

        The dress OP described really did not sound like it would be unprofessional or out of place in most offices.

    2. ErinWV*

      Lots of our faculty use candid photos on their profile pages, often hiking or with dogs. Our paleontologist is standing over a big footprint preserved in tar. We had a chair in the English department several years ago whose professional photo was himself holding up a giant fish he’d just caught.

      1. Nina*

        My grad school supervisor had a photo of herself scuba diving in the Caymans. Due to the nature of the department, scuba diving photos were surprisingly common. My partner (also an academic) has a professional photo that was taken at a LARP event and it… doesn’t not show.

    3. GreenCrayon*

      Yah. If the OP wants extra assurance, they could ask colleagues if they think the headshot would work without mentioning the original occasion. They will probably find that most people wouldn’t even think engagement photo or care.

  9. Rose*

    OP #1: Similar things happened to me multiple times while pregnant with my kids, although usually from friends and family. They would load up my car when I came for a visit, drop them at my house, or pawn them off on my parents. I was also too inundated with stuff to be able to accept it, but I realized they must also really want it out of their houses. So, I started sorting it into 2 piles; the usable stuff got dropped off at the local free clothing store, and the unusable stuff got taken to H&M for textile recycling.

    1. Your Computer Guy*

      My town does cloth recycling, which has been amazing. I can accept the “guilt” donations from family (as in, “I feel guilty just throwing this away…”) and then just bag it all up and take it when I get rid of excess cardboard.
      I wound up getting rid of a lot of baby stuff by listing it for free on craigslist – stuff can go pretty fast if it’s free.

      1. MsSolo (UK)*

        Hah, we can’t give ours away for free online! Clean, smoke-free, pet-free, a lot of it barely worn. Baby and toddler items is an absolutely glutted market where I am. When something’s free, people put less value on it, so we found we got a lot people saying they wanted it who just never turned up. If you’re willing to deliver it to people, you might get some traction, but you have to decide if it’s worth the cost (which, if you have to drive to take it to anywhere that takes clothing waste, it might be). Trying to sell it got maybe 1 sale in 20, which I understand because it’s cheaper to get new items at Primark than it is to pay postage, and you can get a cup of coffee as a reward for toddler-wrangling in public.

      2. Tinkerbell*

        I get these but with books. My FIL runs a charity which collects books to send to children in a particular school district in Uganda, and he’s had quite a bit of success getting donations. Actually shipping the books there… not as much. (The Army theoretically is willing to let him send a truckload when they’ve got space on a ship, but it can be a year or two in between opportunities and in the meantime he’s got a warehouse filling up with donations.) He’s overrun. So my FIL ends up pulling out all the books he thinks my kids will like… or HE thinks they should read… and passes them on to us. Normally I’m all for free books, but a) both my kids are insanely picky about what they’ll read, and b) some of them are in really terrible condition. My FIL is of the “every book must be rescued” mindset, though, so I end up with boxes and boxes of books that were weeded from local libraries with good cause, ended up in a thrift shop, didn’t sell, got donated from there to my FIL, and from him to me. And I can’t just donate them back to thrift stores because he’ll notice if the same titles start popping up again :-\ I donate some to my kids’ school library (the ones in good enough shape), started a free little library for others, and end up carting a trunk full of them whenever I visit my sister out of town to donate in HER city instead :-\

        1. Bagpuss*

          Last time I moved house I learned that my local tip ha bins for books . I asked and apparently they get pulped and recycled, but can also be used for part of the infill when new roads are made. (I had already donated the ones which were in good enough condition to my local library and charity shops, so the ones I ended up taking to the tip were mostly ones which were falling apart or otherwise damaged)

              1. MsSolo (UK)*

                Dump, rather than Dumpster – the municipal/council place for large, bulky or high volume items you need to get rid of.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Donna Andrews had a bit in a mystery novel about how the cousin who lived in California was sent the family’s unwanted items to unload in thrift stores there, where the family thrifter wouldn’t see them.

          1. Jay (no, the other one)*

            OK, I think I’ve read all of her books and don’t remember this bit….although it is completely consistent with the family in the series!

        3. kiri*

          This is a SUPER REAL thing with books getting donated to libraries, too!! I was just pondering how similar the situations are with baby stuff and books. People want to feel like they’re not just generating trash, particularly with items like books that have cultural significance (the “every book must be rescued” mentality is v real) and so they dump them on libraries (and then the libraries have to turn around and sort/donate/recycle them, and then on and on until they reach your FIL, apparently!).

          When I first started working in libraries I was so anxious about recycling books – but it’s honestly part of what needs to happen in order to manage a collection. Not every book needs to (or should!) be saved. So if you need/want a librarian’s blessing to covertly recycle some of those books you keep getting, consider it bestowed :)

          1. EngineerMom*

            I think the book thing is also tied into who historically has publicly disposed of books as a political statement (book burning), and most folks’ aversion to be even tangentially associated with those groups.

            I had some journals I needed to dispose of, and it took me years to get comfortable with the books idea of destroying them, because BOOKS! And not even books I ever wanted anyone else to read (including my kids, hence the destruction).

            1. kiri*

              Oh yes, you’re totally right! It can be a challenging thing to navigate, both because of the historical context and because of today’s current climate, where book banning is also becoming more and more of a thing.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            I once read a book about a family living for a year in a town in England known for its huge number of used book stores. The author discovered that one aspect of all these old books was frequent burnings of the piles of stuff that wasn’t likely to sell.

          3. Dust Bunny*

            Library/archives employee here: OMG please recycle books. Sorry, but the bulk of old books just aren’t worth that much. We get a lot of calls about potential donations and I swear most of them just want to hear me tell them it’s OK to pitch them.

            Side note: The cloth-covered covers of large, old, hardbound books make nice art boards for small paintings. And now you only have to recycle the page blocks!

            1. Seahorse*

              Yup – collections librarian here. I’ve decided that getting rid of books without guilt is an emotional service I can provide to patrons who cannot abide the idea of trashing old books that even they don’t want anymore.

              Letting friends or family sanctimoniously tell me how awful I am because “ALL books have some value and should be preserved” is yet another emotional service I provide…

              Anyhow, people get weird about trashing technically usable things. There’s lots of (potentially good) reasons for that, but it doesn’t mean the LW is obligated to assuage Prudence’s guilt or provide that emotional service. You’ve done nothing wrong by not accepting unwanted, unasked-for junk!

              1. 2 Cents*

                Thank you for your service (slightly kidding and also not — I am one of those people who would need the emotional reassurance I was not dooming future generations that my Twilight behind-the-scenes book that got ruined by a glass of water can, indeed, be recycled LOL)

            2. Rocket Raccoon*

              I was raised that “book = holy object” and was so relieved the first time an actual librarian told me it was OK to recycle books!

            3. MigraineMonth*

              Are you able to recycle books in most places? I was told that the book binding glue wasn’t recyclable.

          4. Critical Rolls*

            Oh mah glob, libraries do not want your ripped-up Little Golden Books and 30-year-old textbooks! Stop making work for them!

            1. Masquerade*

              Ive come across several local good will stores with signs saying “PLEASE DO NOT DONATE ANY MORE 50 SHADES OF GRAY NOVELS. OUR STORE IS INUNDATED”
              And true to what they claimed, their book shelves were filled with the 50 Shades nove, many brand new

          5. Tenebrae*

            I work in the heritage industry. Especially when I worked in a community museum, people were always dropping off stuff they didn’t want but insisted had to be preserved because it was grandma’s.

            1. Filosofickle*

              Oof, I’ve helped clear a few relative’s estates and it’s such a challenge. I’m keenly aware that most stuff is unwanted but sometimes I do wonder. Like grandma had good condition wool bathing suits from the 30s…someone costuming department might want that but where would I find them?! I don’t remember if we found that home. An army footlocker that hadn’t been opened since WWII that included every single thing an officer would have down to his uniform and transfer paperwork…our small town museum was thrilled.

              I am so grateful for Buy Nothing for taking a lot of niche items, and a local museum that collects things for their giant annual warehouse sale that brings in specialty buyers. I have rehomed a lot of things I didn’t think anyone would want, and some I knew someone would but I didn’t know who. My great-grandma’s spoon collection is headed towards one of those next!

          6. Elizabeth West*

            A lot of libraries will take donations for the Friends of the Library book sales, but there are certain things they don’t want, like textbooks — those usually become outdated quickly. It’s always a good idea to call first.

          7. goddessoftransitory*

            Baby clothes, books and Good China.

            I know so many people with MULTIPLE full twelve place settings of china they inherited from family and they cannot be given away! Nobody has the room for tons of dishes, especially fancy stuff that has to be recycled.

            1. STAT!*

              Could they just give them to a crockery matching/ replacement business? They may have to pay for shipping, but at least the sets will be out in the world going to people who might actually want them (and not taking up space in your friends’ houses anymore. Win win!).

        4. Greenpat*

          When there’s books no one wants in our place we donate them to the prison library. They don’t get as many donations and many of the people there have nothing but time to read so the books are going to be read by someone eventually. So long as there’s no writing in them and they are not hard cover they accept them around here. Might be worth looking into in your area.

    2. Clara*

      It must be frustrating though – I couldn’t imagine taking on more tasks, particularly ones that it’s clear family / coworkers just don’t want to face, whilst dealing with a newborn!

      1. Caramel and Cheddar*

        I saw this kind of thing described once as “You haven’t given me a gift, you’ve given me a task” and I haven’t thought about unwanted gifts the same way since.

        1. L. Bennett*

          +1 This is EXACTLY what it is!!

          Giving someone crap you don’t want has benefits (usually) exclusively for the person getting rid of the stuff. 1) They can take it off their mental load of stuff they have to do, 2) it’s out of their house, 3) they can feel good about ‘doing something nice’ for someone.

          The REALITY is that they just made their burden someone else’s to handle.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          ONE THOUSAND PERCENT. My grandma, rest her soul, would carefully save up tons of random stuff for me that all had, like, an owl on it (owl was my first word) and dozens of newspaper clippings. I felt soooo guilty getting rid of it, but honestly that stuff never left the box it was shipped in.

        3. STAT!*

          YES! You have put that so well! My sister frequently gets bags of clothes for younger kids from acquaintances. She has lots of kids, so they seem to think she must be poor & “needs” their castoffs. Dear Donors, she is not – money wise. However she IS time-poor, & can’t devote even 15 minutes to sorting through your bag of rubbish.

      2. cabbagepants*

        Exactly. When you have a new baby, the last thing you have time for is sorting and washing a bag of castoffs.

        If you ever give used clothes to a new parent, after confirming that they actually want them of course, please wash and then sort by size and season. My baby was born in December and toddler-size Halloween costumes were not helpful.

    3. AnonandAnon*

      While the suggestion is a really good one, it should not be the responsibility of the person who is getting the *unwanted* donations to handle. All of these items would have gone directly in the trash, in Prudence’s office.

    4. Becky*

      I know natural fibers can be recycled or even if trashed will biodegrade fairly quickly. I worry about the synthetics though. Polyester and spandex are plastic – I always wonder how recyclable they really are.

  10. Heidi*

    I think young people are networking, but they’re doing it online rather than through clothing that others may or may not randomly read. Also, the OP didn’t list the fields on the shirt, but maybe for some of them, a t-shirt would be too casual for a networking event.

    1. Isben Takes Tea*

      Also, networking is a thing done so that when you are looking for a job, you can speak with a range of people who already know you and can connect you with opportunities. In my experience, “Looking for a job” is not the same as “networking.”

      And it feels to me that unless you’re specifically at a networking event, it’s very off-putting for someone to announce, through their clothing or behavior, that they see you only as a potential job connection.

      So you may be experiencing a difference in how people approach networking as well.

      1. Melissa*

        Absolutely, about people needing to connect with one another in order to network. I have been in situations where someone identifies herself as a job-seeker, but if she’s a stranger to me, I am not going to pursue that. Like, in the checkout line at the grocery store, if someone says, “I’m a nurse [which is my field] but I’m out of work right now,” I just go “Oh, good luck!” and move on. I don’t refer them to apply at my clinic, because I DON’T KNOW THEM. If, on the other hand, a friend says that their sister is a nurse, I’m more likely to pursue that, because there are people who can vouch for her.

        1. MsM*

          I mean, sometimes I’ll say someone should check the postings on the website, but that’s as far as I’d go based on a casual five minute conversation.

        2. Irish Teacher*

          That’s sort of what I was thinking too. As a teacher, if a stranger said, “oh, I’m looking for a teaching job,” I’d probably reply with something about keeping an eye on educationposts, the website where the majority of teaching jobs in Ireland are advertised or possibly suggest the check the ETBs’ own websites as some of those don’t advertise all their jobs on educationposts and a new grad might not know that. But otherwise, I’m not going to be much help.

          Now, I did recommend a teacher for a job this year because when she was a student teacher, I’d “sat in” on some of her classes (not to judge her or anything, just because there were a lot of students in the room with additional needs and it was a difficult role for a student teacher so I helped out when I’d a free class) and she was an excellent teacher. I could speak to her ability because I’d seen her teach. I wouldn’t be able to recommend somebody I hadn’t worked with.

    2. Dread Pirate Roberts*

      The t-shirt idea very much has a target audience problem. For one thing, I can’t see a t-shirt being able to list a meaningful selection of jobs and still be readable, even if it’s narrowed down to something like marketing or the llama industry. I’ve had to fill out online forms where I have to select my job from a list, and it’s always a long list of categories that are too broad to really capture what individuals within them do. And I really, really don’t want random conversations with strangers about my profession or aspirations – networking means making connections with the right people, not everyone who crosses your path.

  11. Amy*

    For Letter Writer #2 – I can’t speak for every woman, but for me, that is way, way too much personal information to feel safe sharing with anyone and everyone while I’m out and about. Plus, are they just supposed to stare at my chest/body while they read through everything? The amount of detail is…a lot. It doesn’t seem like something that could be read quickly enough to not be awkward.

    It seems like you put a lot of effort into your idea, so I am truly sorry, but yeah. I just don’t think it would work for me.

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      Amount of detail was the first thing I thought of. I’m picturing something like a concert shirt with 20 rows of tiny tour dates and locations… and then there’s a check next to one or two of them? On the rare chance that you happen to be pumping gas next to someone in your desired industry who is currently hiring for the position you want, how likely are they to even notice your little sharpie mark, much less view it as a good enough reason to consider you?

      1. Ladida*

        Also, T-shirts that people wear for chores are often old and their message no longer relevant. If I were standing next to a person wearing a tshirt like that at the gas station I would most likely assume they got it for free at some networking event years ago. I would not think they are actively looking for a job. Most likely though I would not even notice it.

      2. The Prettiest Curse*

        And the sharpie mark is probably going to wash out eventually, too. I think these shirts would be fine to wear at a career fair for students, but I just don’t think people pay enough attention to other people’s t-shirts for them to work in the real world.

        And not everyone who says something is a good idea in the abstract (possibly out of politeness) is actually going to follow through and buy that thing in reality!

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          The people saying it’s a good idea are the hiring managers not the job seekers!

          1. Data Bear*

            I don’t think there are any hiring managers saying it’s a good idea, either.

            My guess would be that it’s people who haven’t been involved job-hunting *or* hiring anytime recently, and haven’t thought very much about how it works.

    2. amoeba*

      Ha, yes, the chest problem certainly came to my mind as well. I’m a woman and even I am sometimes self-conscious about reading the print on shirts on people with breasts!

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I’m a woman and, frankly, staring at anyone’s chest feels awkward. Even if they’re a man. it’s just a lot of staring at someone’s body.

        1. amoeba*

          Yeah, although I do love geeky tshirts. It’s a dilemma!
          (I’m not upset when somebody’s reading mine, I mean, that’s why I wear them. Still feels weird to do it to others…)

    3. Earlk*

      It’s the fact that it’s a t-shirt for me, back when I went to careers fairs I’d try to dress at least semi-professionally and a tshirt with sharpie does not fit that at all.

      Maybe it could work with some kind of lanyard for networking events but even then I wouldn’t have paid for it.

      1. ClaireW*

        Yeah that’s the thing for me too – I think this look would be too casual for most careers fairs or interviews or anything, and even if it didn’t, it would feel incredibly gimmicky and awkward compared to just carrying your CV or handing over your email address or whatever the company asked for. Even now as someone who hires I would not look at that tshirt in a positive way.

        Even moreso, LW2’s suggestion of wearing it other times (grocery shopping, getting gas, etc) seems very out-of-touch. People don’t want to advertise that they’re job hunting all day every day, and the chances of running into a stranger who wants to hire someone with all the things you write on your t-shirt seems incredibly low. I cannot imagine stopping a stranger in a store because their tshirt said they have a skill I’m hiring for…

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          Yeah, for me networking is more subtle than that. I readily talk about my work and my enthusiasm shines through and then hey presto someone else comes up to me and says “I hear you’re a translator?” and it turns out they work in the same field as me because we hang out in similar circles so I’m uniquely well placed to do their translations. I’ve handed out my business cards at trade fairs (zero ROI), at a party and at the dog park (both times I’ve managed to get a new client).

          This post reminds me of a thing that was doing the rounds on social media a while back, where someone was saying “hey let’s normalise hitting on people in book shops”. Like, they didn’t like night clubs and other places you go to in order to hook up with someone, but they would love to hook up with a book lover, and what better place to find out about their taste in books than a bookshop? The guy could offer to buy her books for her and write his number on the receipt. I responded each time with “I like book shops because I can browse in peace without getting hit on so no”.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              “Oh, you’re paying? Great, I’ll get books 2-14 in the series as well. Thanks ever so much, and no I’m not interested in dating right now.”

      2. amoeba*

        I could see it as a gimmick at university career fairs – the ones I went to were pretty informal and a tshirt would have been fine. But only if it’s a) free and b) also somewhat specific to the field/companies on offer at the fair. So something the organiser/a sponsor would offer at the entrance as a gimmick and people could put it on for the day…

        (Lanyard would probably be better though, yes, because the chances of it ever being worn again afterwards would probably be slim. And it would take away the need to change during the event, which would probably be possible but annoying.)

        Actually, that’s what I first assumed the tshirts were for. (And I thought, well, not a great idea, but not horrible…) The actual proposed use… just no.

    4. Buxom professional*

      Imagine someone were actually interested in reading which of the options I ticked on my t-shirt. Now they are staring at my (fairly bounteous) chest. This is awkward for both of us and not conducive to a good professional networking interaction.
      Or is the writing on the back and they are trailing close behind me to read it? That’s weird too.
      Nope nope.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Yeah, either way, it’s far far too much attention from a stranger onto my body.

    5. Publicly Uncomfortable*

      I had the exact same thought. Also a woman, and I’ve had more than one occasion when I’ve felt uncomfortable by attention in a public setting. The last thing I would want to do is to invite more of that.

  12. Goose*

    OP 2, as I know most resell store won’t take tshirt like the ones you describe, look into making dog rug toys with them! It can be a nice project and give back to some sheltered furry friends. I have made many with old boxes of volunteer tshirts at work that were sitting around waiting to be tossed

      1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

        Maybe a snuffle mat? I just found out about these recently and I absolutely love the idea, though I do not have a dog. (Link in next comment.)

        1. iglwif*

          Yes snuffle mats are GREAT and you could absolutely make them out of strips of t-shirt fabric!

  13. RagingADHD*

    OP2, did you not do any market research or testing before you paid for a large print run of these shirts? Or spend any time putting yourself in other people’s shoes?

    You can’t create demand out of thin air. People who are good at networking don’t need a shirt to start a conversation. People who are averse to networking with strangers would rather have the earth swallow them up than have people approach them in public to talk about their job hunt. And people who are in-between want to network in professional settings, when they aren’t going to wear a T Shirt with Sharpie on it.

    1. Tinkerbell*

      Networking is also a part-time thing. I think we all have that former friend who won’t turn off the MLM-speak or can’t stop trying to turn every relationship into a business deal, and that’s just not sustainable in the long run. Even at times in my life I was actively looking for a job, I wasn’t doing it 24/7!

    2. Cat Tree*

      I think the bigger problem is that OP2 hasn’t ever considered this from the perspective of employers. I do hiring for my department, very often new grads. This type of gimmick has zero chance of working for me or anyone in my industry. We don’t hire through “conversations”. The closest to that would be advising the person to look at job postings on our website and apply, then go through the normal process. But job candidates shouldn’t need a t-shirt and a random stranger telling them to figure out that part. Honestly the t-shirts sound like a bit of a scam and nobody is falling for it.

      Also the rant about communicating through text is bizarre. I’m a middle aged middle manager who does hiring and I mostly text, as do all my colleagues. This isn’t a young person thing and hasn’t been for a decade.

      1. ThePear8*

        Yeah, even when I went to career fairs at my Alma mater a lot of the conversations with recruiters ended with them directing me where to apply online. No one hired on the spot.
        It does feel to me like LW2 is stereotyping “kids these days” a bit – always on their phones, never having a real conversation!
        But…a lot of the hiring process is virtual these days! Even the jobs themselves can be, I work remotely in a different state than the rest of my team so I have to message them online most of the time.
        And even when things are in person, as another commenter mentioned, it’s often more of a matter of being able to practice conversation skills and get more comfortable with having those interactions, rather than having anything to do with anyone’s age.

        1. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

          Right, and many real conversations are had via text these days! I do it all the time, and I’m 47.

  14. Panda Bandit*

    LW #2, I feel for you, since I know what it’s like to make something that nobody buys. It sounds like you put a lot of effort and time and money into your shirts. And all of these people around you who were making a big deal about them weren’t even buying them.

    With anything that you sell though, you have to start with very small batches and monitor them closely. That will save you a lot of frustration later on. An artist friend reminds me that putting yourself out there was the most important thing and it might lead to other opportunities later. Best of luck with your future ventures.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      There was a letter here a while ago where OPs friend has these business ideas and was critical of OP for not being supportive/encouraging enough. I feel like this letter is what can happen if people are uncritically supportive of what (sorry OP) isn’t actually a very good idea.

      The idea makes me uncomfortable in the same way as it would if I was single and looking to date, and had a t-shirt with “she/her”, interested in “men” or whatever tick boxes on it.

  15. Kay*

    Re: #2: Networking is an extremely valuable tool, but not in the way your shirts would work. People in a position to hire or connect someone with a job aren’t usually doing so out of context. I graduated 20ish years ago, and even then I was being turned away, resume in hand, and told to apply online. Think of all the times this very site has advised against applicants cold calling businesses and using cutesy tactics to market themselves! It’s just highly unlikely that a hiring manager will see someone’s T-shirt and be moved to start a conversation.

    And gently: I think you need to take a step back and really get to know your target market from a more positive place. Your understanding is flawed (as the lack of sales shows) and a little condescending. It’s just not true to say that most young people can’t look others in the eye! And a different communication style does not automatically mean that it’s a POOR style of communication. For instance, people who primarily text are often skilled at clear, succinct communication – that’s an asset in so many fields!

    Things are always evolving. If “all” young people are doing something in a certain way, it’s likely that that method will eventually take over. No use in trying to move backwards. There are downsides to just about everything, but technology and social media are simply providing platforms for new ways of communication to emerge – and it’s not always a bad thing. The kids are alright, I promise!

    1. Emmy Noether*

      Agreed, especially on the “out of context” part. Plus, this list of fields can’t be very specific, because that wouldn’t fit on a short in a readable fontsize.

      Think it through from the other side: We are currently hiring for a few positions. If I came across someone with that shirt at the supermarket, say they had “engineering” checked on the shirt. What are the chances it’s exactly the type of engineer I need? One in a thousand? And the chance they’re actually good? So am I really going to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger that has a miniscule chance of being what I seek? Very little gain for the real risk of this being a weirdo who will try to talk at me for an hour (when I’m just trying to buy milk quick) or spam me with emails if I give my contact info.

      I have a much better chance somewhere where people are preselected to be probable matches and/or put more detailed info forward: university job fairs, former colleagues/co-students of colleagues, LinkedIn, or, here’s an idea: the candidates that came in through our job portal. I can also use preallocated worktime to do this.

      In my work life, that “most jobs come through networking” thing has turned out to be mostly a myth anyway. And then it’s through people one actually knows. Don’t know of even one case where random-stranger-in-public led anywhere.

      1. amoeba*

        Yeah, I’d assume it’s more marketed to “odd jobs for students” kind of work? I mean, no idea, but I could at least see it working more easily for that than for highly specialised roles requiring advanced degrees. There would certainly not be enough space to list all possibilities, to start with!
        (Although my city is so full of people working in the same field as me that running into random hiring managers at the supermarket might actually happen, haha! However, I’m very, very sure that a tshirt like that would… not help me with the prospect of actually getting hired.)

    2. Allonge*

      If someone was pushing me to buy a t-shirt I don’t need, I would avoid looking them in the eye!

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        Yeah and selling them at a graduation ceremony? I’ve never seen anything being sold in that context that isn’t school-branded/grad-themed merchandise.

        It’s pretty common for people of all ages to avoid engaging with ANY kind of sales booth except Girl Scout cookies or like, a market where the specific purpose of showing up is to see what’s being sold.

        1. Allonge*

          Well, nobody called me a young person for some time, but then it’s all a matter of perspective. In any case, I used to be one, so, maybe? :)

    3. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, I hire people including new grads. I’m never going to hire some random stranger at the grocery store or gas station just because I saw their shirt and had a conversation with them. I’d tell them to apply for jobs on our website and never think of them again unless they met the same qualifications that they would need even without the t-shirt.

      1. metadata minion*

        I could see this sort of thing working for repair/yardwork/etc. type fields, since blue-color businesses often don’t have a lot of online presence, but even there I would approach someone wearing a “Bob’s Roofing” shirt if I were looking for a roofer, not someone wearing a shirt with lots of fields and they’ve checked off “roofer”. The latter honestly I’d probably assume they were wearing it as a joke.

    4. learnedthehardway*

      And even if some people won’t look people in the eye – what does that really say, exactly?

      It says they’re uncomfortable. Full stop.

      Whether that is because the OP’s sales approach is too aggressive, or because some of them are lacking comfort in social / business settings. Either way, these people are not comfortable with the situation. Trying to push a product on someone who is uncomfortable is a losing proposition.

  16. Zanshinart*

    I’m sorry, LW2…running my errands around town in what sounds like pretty tacky tshirt (reads like a shopping list) isn’t how I’d ever envision presenting myself professionally at any age or stage in a career.

  17. nodramalama*

    I don’t really understand what the tshirts for LW#2 were meant to do. Networking works best when you’re in a room with people in your field, or a field you’re interested in. Yes, chance encounters can happen where you run into someone who happens to own a tech company and takes a liking to you, but that’s like, rom-com unlikely.

    As a woman these shirts kind of seem like they’d mainly result in randos coming up and harassing me when i’m trying to go about my life.

    1. Splendid Colors*

      Just think what kinds of comments a woman would get if she checked off anything in a STEM field… that would bring allll the mansplainers and “wimmen can’t be _____” types out of the woodwork.

      1. Allonge*

        Also, some women may not want random people staring at their chests to read what is checked.

    2. Tinkerbell*

      My spouse got his first job (just out of college) when my extrovert mother-in-law shared a plane ride with a similarly chatty seatmate, discovered he runs a tech company in my hometown, and told him “You should hire my son!” (He did. It was not a good fit.)

      Even there, a t-shirt would not have helped at any point in the process.

    3. Everything All The Time*

      if someone is coming up to me “at a gas station” or in the grocery store, 99.99% of the time, it’s generally not going to be a good experience that results in a new connection.

      I also don’t know about you, but I also forget what shirt I’m wearing while I’m running errands. Even if the shirt did have enough detail and had my field on it, I’m not going to remember I’m wearing my networking shirt in the event that a stranger comes up to me in public.

    4. NaoNao*

      I can almost picture the idea to be honest. In the 90’s (I’m dating myself here!) there was a line of tee shirts of ____ do it _____ with various hobbies and “just this side of blue joke” puns or lines. Like “Boaters do it all wet!” or “Divers do it so deep!” that kind of sophomoric thing. They were *huge*. And I imagine that on the golf course, over the BBQ, at the driving range, at “tee shirt ski day”, at the bar, or wherever, they *were* conversation starters for a certain demographic. People enjoyed both the cute wink wink salaciousness of it and the “I’m part of this club” vibe.

      I would bet the OP is old enough to remember those and “No Fear” tee shirts, “And1”, and many other affiliate tee shirts that swept the nation and had people clamouring to buy them even if they seemed weird, inappropriate, or crude.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        I’m from the late 80s/early 90s, the era of “Co-Ed Naked [Activity], [rhyming pun about activity” shirts. To the point where my best friend made cards for backstage crew that said “Co-Ed Naked Tech. You can never be certain behind the curtain”. LW may be thinking of a ‘professional’ version of shirts like this and the shirts NaoNao is talking about. But really, everyone has good points about why these shirts aren’t a good idea. The Co-Ed Naked ones weren’t really a good idea either!

      2. Sir Nose d'Voidoffunk*

        I got sent home from middle school for wearing a Big Johnson shirt. I now have a kid that age and I can’t believe my parents let me buy that shirt, let alone wear it.

  18. 50 birds in a trench coat*

    I work in a government agency that employs young people aged 18 – 21 for paid internships and also a more specialised year long program leading to ongoing employment, and then university graduates aged from approx 21 for graduate programs.

    With very few exceptions, the young people make eye contact in a normal fashion and are proactive in networking across the agency and engaging with mentorship opportunities. I don’t agree with Letter Writer #2 that there’s a problem with the ability of young people in building networks.

    I am certain though that these same young people would consider wearing a shirt like that to be ‘cringe’.

    They’re a pretty sophisticated generation who are well educated, ambitious and aware, and I think they’d see the shirt as silly and more than a little desperate, when they could simply engage in more established routes to networking in the midst of a strong labour market.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, the letter’s dripping with contempt for people in other age groups than the LW’s.

      I mean, the only place I’d even consider wearing a t-shirt like that would be at a fairly casual networking event, assuming there are any. The idea that you should always be open to new opportunities doesn’t work for me at all. I’m also very much not open to being approached by random strangers in public. I’m absolutely certain this LW is a man. Women, especially conventionally attractive youngish women, have enough trouble as it is to reject unwanted attention from strangers without making any efforts to attract more of the same…

      1. Red*

        Yeah, especially when that attention involves staring at your chest. As someone who would be part of the demographic OP is targeting – I’d never buy that top because a) it’s clearly desperate and b) I don’t want people staring at my chest in an otherwise professional context.

    2. iglwif*

      All of this.

      Also I am 49 years old and I, too, would consider wearing this shirt to be “cringe”.

      1. 50 birds in a trench coat*

        I definitely would too! It’s without a doubt a feeling that transcends generations.

    3. Mom2ASD*

      I hope that people would also remember that young people who don’t make eye contact may have good reasons for that. As in, think accommodations for neurodivergence.

      The whole eye-contact comment really annoys me. I’m the parent of a profoundly gifted young adult on the autism spectrum, and believe me, if he makes eye contact with you, it is a gift. It means he is putting aside his discomfort and that he trusts you. Given how much rejection he has gotten in his life for being different, for him to overcome the expectation that this will happen yet again, and open himself up to connect with someone – that takes courage.

      I don’t appreciate the contempt the LW expressed, let’s put it that way. It’s very privileged.

  19. A. J. Payler*

    OP2, it’s tough to face failure but the fault is not with everyone who didn’t buy your shirts, nor with young people who text or whatever you want to blame.

    You took a swing and it didn’t work out. Most don’t. But it’s not the children who are wrong, it’s you.

    1. Splendid Colors*

      I have prototyped SO MANY products for my business that ended up not being popular. Before I realized I needed to test-market things, I also made SO MUCH stock of stuff nobody actually thought was worth buying. It is frustrating and disappointing.

      But I didn’t blame my customers for having bad taste or character flaws leading them to reject the products.

    2. James*

      Yes OP2 you tried something and it didn’t work, and that’s the unfortunate reality of most new business ideas. It’s clear you had invested a lot of emotion into it and were genuinely trying to help people. I’m sure when more time has passed you’ll be able to look back on this more dispassionately and see ways you could have got better market intelligence or trialled the product in a different way. Life is a learning experience, all the way through.

  20. The magnificent floof*

    Lw2, you were on talk shows and in the newspaper with this product. I’m curious to know if you were equally judgemental and dismissive of young people as you are in this letter, because if you were that’s also part of your problem. Similarly, take a good hard look at how you were during the events for college grads etc. you went to – what was your general attitude there? Because if it was “I’m here to save the young people from their bad habits”…again, probably at least part of your problem right there.

    Also, not every product that doesn’t sell is ahead of its time (I would think items beings ahead of their time is actually only a small minority). Often they’re just a bad idea, and this really sounds like one. Are people supposed to read what is essentially a shopping list off of people’s t-shirts, which would probably involve them looking at people’s chests for an unusually long time? Even if these did sell, I very much doubt they’d have the intended effect.

    1. L. Bennett*

      Totally. Also, not many young people are watching day time television and reading the newspaper. Really misunderstanding the market audience here.

  21. Observer*

    #2 – Someone else already pointed out that you apparently didn’t do your market research. That’s on you, not on your target market. Being angry at people because they just do the thing you decided they need to do without doing your due diligence is not a wise approach.

    You really, truly need an attitude reset. In more than one way.

    Your claim: Networking is always the way to get or find what you want.
    Other’s experience: Not the case. Sometimes it is, others it’s not useful. There are often equally good, or even better ways to find what you need.

    Your claim: Young adults today can’t look people in the eye
    Other’s experience: The framing of “kids today” is a major red flag. It’s also not something that most of us experience.

    Your claim: Your t-shirts are necessary for people to be able to network
    Other’s experience: Even if your baseline thesis (that young adults can’t look people in the eye) were true, these t-shirts would be useless.
    For networking, because networking requires making connections (yes, they can be weak connections, but still connections). T-shirts of any sort don’t make connections. Only a very noticeable t-shirt MIGHT help because it *might* spark a conversation, but that’s not something to depend on. And your t-shirts don’t come close to meeting that bar.
    For actually finding a job, because getting a job requires applying in whatever manner a company has laid out. If someone is going to just go an offer a random person a job or even an interview because their t-shirt indicated that they are looking for a job in a field, that job oferer is not working for a functional organization, or they should not be in management.
    For getting people onto the radar of potential hiring managers, because the t-shirt is not something that is going to get the attention of reasonable people. And even if someone idly reads this thing, which is highly unlikely because your design discourages it! how would that translate into someone knowing who the wearer is and realizing that they are actually trying to broadcast usable and important information.
    For sparking conversations, because most people out in the world don’t actually read all of the text on people’s cloths, much less start conversations about those clothes.

    I get that you want to help people. But networking is not the be all and end all of career development; it’s hard to help people if you fundamentally disrespect them; you can’t really accomplish much if you know little to nothing about your target demographic, the circumstances they operate in, and the appropriate ways to navigate their world.

    1. Kim*

      It’s giving “just take your resume into the shops, ask to speak to the hiring manager, don’t take no for an answer!”
      that’s not how it works (anymore?)

    2. e271828*

      Absolutely the ONLY, SOLE “networking” incident related to personal attire I have ever witnessed was one person saying to another, “Is that a brass rat?” far outside of areas where one might reasonably expect to spot a brass rat.

  22. Bethany*

    LW4 – there are AI image services which will replace your (beautiful sounding) sparkly celestial top with a business shirt. Perhaps you could try one of those? I think Canva has one.

  23. Healthcare Manager*

    Op 2 – when you say things like ‘ today communication is even worse’ you come across as someone older who thinks their generation and their style is the best way.

    Today’s communication is different to what you’re used to, not worse. Accepting things have changed and your idea doesn’t suit the market might help you move on.

    1. Cat Tree*

      The weird thing is, I’m middle aged and texting is perfectly normal and common in my age group. Everyone I work with texts, even those older than me. My retired parents text.

      How old would OP even have to be to hate texting? it’s not even an age thing at this point, just pointless snobbery and self-righteousness.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Same! It’s so convenient, especially when communicating with more than one person.

        The t-shirts just made me think of the stereotypical guy wearing a cardboard sandwich board with “Will Work for Food” on it. Neither effective nor something I think people would or should pay money for.

    2. DisneyChannelThis*

      My 90 year old grandfather loves texting/email over phone calls. He can revisit the conversation and keep notes, he can reread messages that make him happy. We love it because he is awake/asleep at weird times sometimes and we can just asynchronously update him on our lives.

      1. Random Bystander*

        Written communications are also helpful when dealing with family members who have hearing issues.

  24. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP1 (unwanted baby clothes) – I suspect she has had all this stuff cluttering the house for quite a while, finally finds an opportunity to get rid and then the OP doesn’t want it so now she’s annoyed she still has the clutter! (I bet if OP hadn’t “offended” her there would have been many more bags forthcoming).

        1. Cat Tree*

          I was thinking she could throw it away at home, but maybe not if she lives with her daughter there.

          I understand why this happens. It’s psychologically easier to pretend that it’s going somewhere useful, especially when it has sentimental value. Before my mom moved into a nursing home, she’d give me bags of stuff every visit that I would just toss in the dumpster when I got back to my house. But she’s my family so I’m willing to do that emotional labor for her. It’s selfish for a coworker to demand that of OP. Of course OP is the one who wrote in for advice so this isn’t super helpful, except to give perspective of how to not feel bad about this situation.

    1. Somehow_I_Manage*

      Marie Kondo is polarizing, but I’ve always enjoyed the simple philosophy nuggets behind her methods. One of her chapters gets to this specifically:

      “Although by sister never complained, I am sure that she must have had mixed feelings when she accepted my hand-me-downs. Basically, I was simply transferring my guilt at not being able to discard them onto her. In retrospect, that was pretty despicable. […] If you want to give something away, don’t push people to take it unconditionally or pressure them by making them feel guilty.”

    2. GingerApple*

      She’s probably a hoardar… my cowork Mathilda is and she is a … loud and angry women… when you say you don’t want her … ship.
      She don’t want through it away… because she think it valuable… but she doesn’t understand… that ain’t nobody wants her… crap… garbage.

      1. STAT!*

        I accepted some unwanted stuff from my next door neighbour who was also a hoarder … but that is because she is a nice person, so I didn’t mind doing that little favour for her. If she were unpleasant, like Prudence or Mathilda, nooo way would I have accommodated her.

  25. Ellis Bell*

    Oh, Prudence knew what she was doing. That’s why the first bag was in a better condition than a second. OP was supposed to wax lyrical and say she’d love more (good condition) stuff and if she reacted badly to the second bag, Prudence knew being offended would make OP feel rude. OP didn’t stick to that script, but Prudence did.

    1. Ladida*

      What I don’t understand with these people is how they think it is better or simpler to keep all this stuff for years in your closet and then bring the bags to work to dump them on some colleague who does not want them rather than just recycle the clothes as soon as your kid outgrows them.

      1. Mid*

        This is by far the best part of being in a city—I don’t even have to take stuff to the donation center. I stick it on the street corner and it’s gone in literal minutes. No storing stuff forever, or having in the trunk to “drop off” for 3 years. Just walk it out the door and boom.

              1. e271828*

                A friend and I lugged a sewing machine cabinet out to the curb and someone did a U-turn to haul up and take it before we had walked back to the front door. I love curbside thrifting.

                1. What name did I use last time?*

                  I once put a table out on the back lane — not even the front street! And it was gone before I’d returned with the matching chairs :(

      2. iglwif*

        My spouse and I had a baby in 2002, and we hung onto a lot of her stuff after she outgrew it because we wanted more kids, and why would you get rid of perfectly good baby stuff that your next baby could also use?

        By the time we accepted that there were not going to be any more kids, we had indeed “ke[pt] all this stuff for years in [our] closet” rather than immediately recycling them, but it wasn’t on purpose. So I completely get how that part happens!

        I’m not defending Prudence’s behaviour, which is objectively obnoxious.

  26. Kella*

    OP #2, the business of selling T-shirts is extremely oversaturated and so it requires some research and consideration to make designs that people are likely to buy. For example, people typically buy and wear T-shirts for a handful of common reasons:
    1. It expresses one of their identities
    2. It has something clever or funny on it that matches their personality
    3. It commemorates an event or date that they want to remember
    4. Fashion/aesthetic
    5. It’s comfy or functional

    Your T-shirt doesn’t fit in any of those categories, and with the sharpy check-mark, it would likely look like a cheap novelty shirt rather than a conversation prompt.

    I think the closest you could get to your goal would be to make T-shirts with funny sayings that revolve around specific professions. If you wanted to be serious about selling T-shirts, you could do some searches for profession-related keywords on websites that sell T-shirts or on Pinterest and find funny phrases you like. To prompt conversation, you might look for phrases that start with “Ask me about…” etc. Also, if you’d like to avoid the upfront cost of T-shirts that might not sell, look in Print on Demand services, which will only print a shirt once it’s ordered.

    1. Bay*

      This is good advice! I think clothes and accessories can have a role in networking, but it’s got to be much more subtle and specific. If I see someone wearing something clever/cute and STEMmy I’ll likely bring it up in small talk, and during the ensuing conversation we’ll likely both learn all about each other’s fields and our respective roles in them. It’s like fan gear for finding other fans. But if it’s in poor taste then I’ll think the other person has poor taste, and likely just pass.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      Yes, I’d be far more likely to start up a conversation with somebody who had an in-joke about teaching on their t-shirt than with somebody who had “I am looking for a job as a *check box* teacher” on their shirt. Now, I am not in a position to be hiring, but I suspect I’d feel the same if I were a principal. Especially if the in-joke was something perceptive and thoughtful that indicated that teaching was important to the person and ideally indicated their subject.

    3. goddessoftransitory*

      You know who does fantastic tee shirts? Svengoolie/MeTV. They understand and market to their specific audience, they buy and print on good quality material, and they understand carrying sizes for men AND WOMEN up to 5X. I can’t tell you how much money I’ve wasted on fun prints where the women’s extra large was about the right size for an eleven year old.

  27. Millennial*

    #2 – if I came across someone in my field wearing one of those shirts, I would probably cross the road and hope he never applied with my company.

    1. Stretchy McGillicuddy*

      It has a very “sandwich board” vibe to it, like in some old-timey cartoon. I mean, this is barely one step above a “will work for food” sign, and not at all how I would present myself professionally to someone.

    1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      And we’re all being straightforward and telling 2.
      Communication is key!

  28. nnn*

    The first thing that struck me about #2 is the need for market research of prospective employers, as opposed to prospective job-seekers. In what fields would people be willing to hire on the basis of “That random person out and about is a [X]”?

    What characteristics do these fields have in common that make hiring some passer-by in a t-shirt a more viable decision than posting a job posting through conventional means or googling “plumbers near me” or whatever other mechanism people are currently using?

    In what kinds of situations would prospective employers be able to see and read prospective employees’ t-shirts and have the time to stop and talk to a passer-by? For example, it would only work in t-shirt weather when people aren’t wearing a coat. It probably wouldn’t work in morning rush hour when everyone has to get somewhere in time. What would the alignment of viable factors look like?

  29. Rainbow*

    “Networking is important”
    *Proceeds to disparage an entire large demographic group*
    Surely everybody sees the problem here? Networking is not simply talking to a person, then job done. Having fundamental respect for the people you communicate with and what they do is a critical and necessary part of successful networking. At least, it is today.

  30. Irish Teacher.*

    LW2, I’m no expert, but I’m not sure a t-shirt like that would really help with networking. I can’t imagine many people walking over to somebody and saying, “oh, you’re a plumber? I need a plumber.”

    If you are chatting to somebody, especially if you are in the same field, it’s likely jobs will come up naturally. If you aren’t, I doubt you’d start talking to somebody because they’ve ticked a box on a shirt saying they want a job in your field. To be honest, if I saw somebody wearing a shirt like that related to my field, I might be less likely to talk to them as I’d feel they’d be the type of person who’d want me to “put in a good word” for them, which I am not going to do without some idea of their work.

    Now, I’m not a business owner so might be missing something, but that is how I think.

    And as a teacher of teenagers, I would say teens are way more confident and willing to speak to people than my generation (I’m in my 40s) were.

    1. Lexi Vipond*

      Plumbers sound like the kind of people that t-shirts might work for – but plumbing companies looking for clients and getting their name out there, rather than people looking for jobs at plumbing companies. And not written with sharpie. So not very much the same!

      1. Ferret*

        Exactly, even someone I can imagine wearing a t-shirt advertising their services I would expect a more professional and specific option – something with a company name and logo that looks like a uniform rather than a generic tshirt that has been scrawled on

        1. AngryOctopus*

          And even then, were I in need of a plumber, I would write the firm name down, and go do some research on their business rather than go up and talk to that person. What if their firm is notorious for long wait times, upcharging, and shoddy work? I’m not taking that chance.

    2. WS*

      Honestly, a plumber (or electrician or builder or cabinet maker…) are the ones I think who would be inundated with offers! I live in a small seaside town that has hugely expanded due to remote working (a 20% population increase in two years and more houses being built right now) so we’re all in desperate need of skilled tradespeople: if I saw a plumber walking past I would absolutely approach them. But also they’re the ones who don’t need to network in this way.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Yeah, I was going to add that I don’t think that most people’s problem is finding who is a plumber but rather finding one who is available and who is reliable. Any job in such demand that people would approach somebody just wearing a shirt saying they were looking for such a job, wouldn’t need to do it.

        Especially in the current era when it’s so easy to offer your services online. If the demand is there, I think people are more likely to google than look at what people are wearing and if the demand isn’t there, a shirt probably won’t help.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Or the more effective networking for them is to wear a T-shirt that gets right to the point:

        Alpaca Plumbing Co
        Portland, Maine

        Don’t waste real estate on “I do not do accounting” or “nor do I do landscaping.”

        I have occasionally discovered a local business because their truck had the relevant information, like “Aha, I can tell this charity does furniture pickup in my area because I am driving behind their truck which says that, and can remember ‘chinchilla legumes’ to google when I get home.”

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Yeah if I see someone wearing a tshirt with like…a landscaping business, I usually think “oh maybe I’ll google them later”. I don’t bother them in the middle of the grocery store to talk about the overgrown tree in my yard.

          Marketing and networking are different things.

    3. Garblesnark*

      Honestly my spouse is an electrician and when it comes up naturally in conversation about 50% of people tell me they need an electrician and ask when is he available. This could work for him.

  31. Grith*

    LW2 could give me that shirt for free and I still don’t think I’d wear it in public with sharpie marks all over it.

  32. Simon*

    I have actually seen the t-shirts (or someone had the same idea as Joan) and the options are: – marketing – science – schools – dog walker – hats. Needs better options or space for the sharpie could write another choice.

    1. Cat Tree*

      Oh wow. That’s way too vague. “Science” is a really broad field. If I’m looking to hire a lab chemist (even broad within the subgroup), an archeologist or physicist probably won’t be qualified (although they might be based on previous experience, which is why we have resumes). As a hiring manager this t-shirt method seems really inefficient.

    2. Pineapple Salad*

      “Dog walker” shirts could be useful, maybe: when you see someone out walking a dog there’s no way of knowing that the person is a professional dog walker, as opposed to just taking their own pet out.
      Personally I can’t see much call for the other options (hats?), and there is no way I’d approach a random stranger who had “schools” ticked on a shirt.

      1. Nitpicker*

        But the professional dog walkers usually have a bunch of dogs with them. It’s fun to see because they’re usually all different breeds.

        1. Zelda*

          Maybe true in a big city where they potentially have multiple clients within a block or so, but not out here in the suburban sprawl.

      2. Stretchy McGillicuddy*

        But, like, if you have your own business like that you could just print up your own t-shirt, with your actual contact info on it. I still wouldn’t wear a sharpie’d t-shirt that lists 50 different occupations on it. What would be the point?

        This guy needs a better idea. Like a Jump to Conclusions mat.

    3. metadata minion*

      With those options, I would wear it with “hats” checked just to be random (though probably only if I got it for free), and would compliment another person I saw wearing one because I would assume they were going for absurdist humor.

    4. Environmental Compliance*

      I feel kind of bad for laughing as hard as I did at the list of options. Science???? HATS???

  33. Plum*

    LW 2: the idea of networking seems both outdated and rose-glass colored.

    And yes, I do not like the not-so-subtle undertone “Ah, these young people!”, even if I think I am in the age group of LW.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      The only jobs I have ever gotten through networking were when I was in college. Are “ice cream store” & “summer help in bindery” options on the shirt? (And a shirt would not have helped me get those jobs. I got them through connections I already had.)

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “Ah these young people!” is something you can roll your eyes at if your dad says it at the dinner table, maybe, but when it’s coming from someone trying to sell something on the premise of insulting an entire generation (multiple generations?) it’s a huge red flag.

  34. Helvetica*

    LW#2 – I network for a living, essentially, and your idea of networking seems quite off for the realities of what networking does for someone, in addition to what other commenters have already pointed out about why this may not be a profitable business idea.
    You say you’ve done it always in your business but it seems like the T-shirts are aimed at getting people jobs, immediately. That is not networking but job-searching. In my experience, networking is not about sharing static data about yourself; it is about making real, physical connections with people, and it is something to cultivate over time. I would say people who you meet through networking will not think “oh, John has 5 of the 7 things required for this job offer, better connect with him” but rather “oh, I remember meeting with and talking to John, who works in this field, and seemed like a professional and also very personable, I might connect him to Mary, who might be looking for someone like this.” In essence, it’s a long-term investment, which may be what your assessment is not in line with.

    1. What name did I use last time?*

      Thank you for articulating the difference between networking and job searching! There was something bugging me about this and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

      I haven’t done any networking or job searching for 17 years so I’m entirely out of touch, but I find myself wondering what the “networking groups” are. Support groups for a bunch of unemployed people?

  35. Adereterial*

    The networking t-shirt idea is one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever heard. The smug, discriminatory attitude just makes it worse.

    How would ticking a box on my shirt help me connect with people I might want to work for? My field is pretty niche, so I’d end up ticking the closest match, which – if this worked at all, which it won’t – would just end up connecting me with people who work in the same industry but don’t do or recruit for what I actually do. Far from helping me network, it would be a complete waste of everyone’s time.

    It’s a bad idea, compounded by a lack of proper research and some alarming misconceptions about the audience for the product. Chalk it up to experience, and please revisit your views on younger people – they’re deeply offensive.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Yes, the smug attitude really struck me as well, and gave me very strong vibes of that early LW who was a self-described visionary who couldn’t figure out why nobody would hire him to just sit around and come up with ideas.

  36. Ferret*

    I was starting to type out a list of the reasons why I don’t think the t-shirt idea would work but a few people have already addressed it. The idea is so out of sync with networking and jobseeking norms that I think it’s worth OP2 looking at where they are basing their expectations on. What may have worked as a marketing tool for someone with a small business or trying to promote themselves is unlikely to be relevant for the vast majority of job seekers. It all comes across as a a self-help promoter whose only advise is on how to write and promote self-help books and become an influencer

    In all of my experience with office jobs (which is what most of Alison’s site and readership fall into) this kind of in-person random marketing would be not only irrelevant but actively damaging.

    And for the services mentioned, eg. plumber, estate agent, accountant, I have always either gone via recommendations from people I know or searched online. Even without that I can’t see a random checklist that has a specific box ticked being effective, as opposed to seeing a leaflet or van, or even a proper uniform shirt that includes the name of the business and the website or contact details

  37. Excel-sior*

    i know a lot has been said about LW2 already, but I’m intrigued by the opening line;

    “Several years ago I was frustrated with the way people went about looking for jobs”

    I wonder what you actually mean because – speaking for myself – it’s a matter of scouring job boards and company websites for listings which match my skill set. Maybe you mean that I should be ‘more proactive’ and go to businesses directly and enquire about jobs, maybe ask to see hiring managers. I can tell you from bitter experience (having received some very well meaning but extremely out-dated advice from a parent) that this doesn’t work; if you manage to get anywhere at all they will tell you to – guess what – check their website and apply there.

    People search for jobs the way they do because that is the best way to search for jobs. Honestly, wearing a t-shirt actually seems like a step down from going from business to business asking to see someone. Without meaning to be mean, this sounds like a bad idea, badly researched and badly executed.

    (i won’t even touch the criticism of young people – I’ll be here forever)

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      This is a good point. Just because LW was frustrated by the way that other people networked does not mean that everybody was frustrated by that method.

      And now he is frustrated that nobody wants to buy his shirts. I really think this is a case of someone being so high on their own farts that they can’t see the reality of the situation–that this is just now how networking actually gets done. So of course, the psychological protection angle is to blame the very people who were supposed to buy these things but aren’t, because even they realize (despite their youth and lack of experience) know that this just isn’t how it is done.

      The sense of entitlement in this letter is just beyond belief.

      1. Pobody’s Nerfect*

        Haha yes, came here to say that…the number of times my Boomer father has told me “Just march in the front door and demand to speak to the head honcho, tell them you’re the one they’re looking for, they’ll be so impressed by your gumption they’ll offer you the job on the spot!” I mean, maybe that happened in a Jimmy Stewart movie one time, but had it happened since then, or in the last 40 years? My father has a very defined anti-technology hostility that makes it a subject we can’t discuss (or we’ll argue), it sounds like he and T-Shirt OP could be good friends.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Networking for jobs has nothing to do with cold calling for job leads.

      Networking is relationship building. It’s the long game, and it can pay off. But it starts with having genuine conversations with other humans that have similar interests. If a tshirt can communicate the actual interest, then the random conversation in the grocery store has a thin chance of going somewhere. But what would be better is to go where the humans are actually talking about the interest, and joining in. (Which could be in person, or online.)

      1. Observer*

        Networking for jobs has nothing to do with cold calling for job leads.

        True. And *neither* has anything to do with wearing a hard to decipher billboard, which is essentially what the OP describes.

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yeah “frustrated with the way people look for jobs” is odd to me. The modern way of job searching is pretty unobtrusive, and doesn’t bother anyone except the job seeker. The old days of answering a million phone calls about whether or not we’re hiring and getting handed unsolicited resumes – that was pretty frustrating tbh.

    4. Phony Genius*

      I notice that the writer didn’t phrase it along the lines of being frustrated with the way companies search for workers. I feel like he’s frustrated with how people are doing something successfully that he is not as good at, so he’s trying to get them all to change to a method that he thinks he is better at. Put another way, he comes off as if he’s trying to change what normal is to better fit himself.

      Here’s a good rule of thumb: if you can write an entire Seinfeld script around your idea, rethink your idea.

    5. Observer*

      “Several years ago I was frustrated with the way people went about looking for jobs”

      I wonder what you actually mean because

      So did I. But later on the OP makes it pretty clear, it seems to me. They say that “ Networking will always be the way to get what you need.” So to them anyone who is not “networking” is not going about job hunting the right way.

      I put networking in quotes, because what they seem to be calling “networking” is not what I and most people I know consider networking. Which makes the whole thing even more baffling. And honestly more wrong headed.

      Because the rest of your comment is 100% correct.

      1. Phony Genius*

        Good point. And while networking can give you an advantage, it is not needed for every job. Many people get hired just by looking for openings and applying the conventional way without “networking,” however you define it.

      2. Excel-sior*

        that’s what i thought, but the whole idea seems confused about what networking actually is, how people job search (and how firms search for employees) and about, well, everything, it’s leaving me confused as well.

    6. MadDog*

      Totally agree. Though it does raise another point. If the purpose is primarily for job searching, then that automatically reduces the potential market, such as it is. Because unless you are currently unemployed, there are a lot of people who do not want the fact that they are searching for a job to be public knowledge. I mean, you put on a shirt that’s advertising that you are looking for a job and then what happens if you run into your boss at the grocery store?

      Honestly, just from a conceptual standpoint, it seems like such a shirt would be far more likely to generate a negative reaction than a positive one, whether it’s something as mild as people questioning your judgment or something far worse, see, e.g., all of the comments about how unsafe or gross such a shirt would make many women feel.

  38. matt*

    not all networking is good networking. sometimes it’s not even networking in the first place.

    1. Cordelia Vorkosigan*

      THIS. Networking is important, but this t-shirt isn’t networking, it’s really poorly done advertising.

  39. Journey of man*

    Here’s the modern version of those souvenir shirts: “My grandma went to (insert networking event city) and all I got was this lousy T-shirts.”

  40. birch*

    The main problem with the t-shirts (other than the outside-of-professional-norms and college DIY vibes) is that this is not how networking works. Networks are professional contacts that are *relevant* to your work–good networking involves using the contacts you already have to get more contacts. The t-shirt thing is the equivalent of adding random contacts on LinkedIn with the hopes that some might be relevant or interested in you, or (real example) a networking event where random people just thrust their business cards into your hands before even finding out if you’re in a similar field. The t-shirt method indicates that you don’t care who approaches you–you don’t give yourself any way to vet them, and that you don’t care if they know anything about your work. The only thing you know about each other, if this works, is that you’re in the same field. That doesn’t make this person a good contact for you–strong networks are built through relationships. Good networks can be relied on to send people your way, think of you for opportunities, give informed recommendations on your work. People who have met you once and know you’re in the same field are not strong network contacts. The threshold for turning a cold-conversation into a strong contact is really high, making this a really ineffective way to network.

  41. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    The one place in my life I have seen people actually intentionally wearing t-shirts with ticky boxes on them is at Disneyworld, usually advertising their intent to get smashed by drinking in every pavilion around Epcot. Not a great look in general, but definitely not for job hunting. (I did giggle at the kid wearing a ticky box list t-shirt of all the rides he’s finally tall enough to go on this year though.)

  42. Rachel*


    They have a vision of somebody getting a job as a doctor because they were pumping gas at the right place at the right time.

    This is a almost a romantic idea. It’s not really about job searching or t-shirts, it’s about this entire story the contributor created in their head about young people changing their life because of their invention and their method.

    Finding out this isn’t coming to pass isn’t just a poor investment into the T-shirts financially, it’s letting go of a vision the contributor had. It’s letting go of a piece of their identity, like they are a networking pied piper who turned around and nobody was following.

    I hope the contributor can read this, understand they missed the mark, and stop making ageist comments. I truly do.

  43. purpleprose*

    If (as I suspect) LW2 is an extrovert, they will presumably be coming at networking from an extrovert perspective, which is reasonable enough, but introverts network differently. Personally I would hate for people to be looking at my clothing the whole time, and wouldn’t necessarily want to have networking conversations while filling up my car, or otherwise going about my day. (I suspect many extroverts wouldn’t be thrilled to do this either!) LW2, in general you do sound a bit dismissive of those who don’t choose to communicate in the same way as you. Perhaps a little more open-mindedness wouldn’t hurt?

    1. Snell*

      I don’t actually think this is an introvert/extrovert thing. LW hasn’t sold a single t-shirt. What are the odds that every single person they tried to sell to happened to be an introvert? If extroverts networked like this, I would think at least a few of them would have seen the utility and bought LW’s t-shirts.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      I think you’ll find introverts and extraverts have similar ranges of networking behaviours, they just feel different after doing it.

      1. purpleprose*

        I get what you (and Snell) are saying, was just going by my own feelings as an introvert. TBH I can’t imagine an extrovert going for it either! lol

        1. MsM*

          I think the primary difference is that as an introvert, if I’m going to wear a T-shirt to convey some kind of message, it’s probably going to be some variation on “please leave me alone.”

          1. EPLawyer*

            LOL. Yep. I don’t want strangers coming up and starting small talk with me. So I am not going to wear a shirt that encourages it.

          2. I should really pick a name*

            That’s not really a blanket rule for introvert preferences.

            I’m an introvert. I’m fine with people so long as I also get my downtime.
            Introvert does not equal averse to socializing.

            1. not a hippo*

              Yeah there’s shy and then there’s introverted. I am both but also thrive like a sunflower in May when I’m with my closest friends and never feel exhausted like I do after interacting with coworkers or customers.

              Plus most people are ambiverts anyway.

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      There aren’t really different introvert and extrovert networking behaviors. It just matters how much energy you want or need to put into networking at any given time, what methods of communication and connection are accessible to you, and how things within your industry tend to work. Of the contributing factors I’m not even sure that makes the list.

    4. Observer*

      If (as I suspect) LW2 is an extrovert, they will presumably be coming at networking from an extrovert perspective, which is reasonable enough, but introverts network differently.

      I suggest you read the comments. This has nothing to do with introversion vs extroversion. Many of the people pushing back on this seem to be extroverts.

      The problem with this whole idea is that is totally not responsive to any aspect of networking, or even straight up job hunting. And it does carry some significant potential downsides.

      To take on item that has been mentioned multiple times: The most extroverted woman doesn’t generally want random guys coming up to her to chat her up about her t-shirt.

      And, tbh, even extroverts would easily co-sign the list of things you don’t want to do.

    5. Winter*

      Is the impulse to define every behavioral trait as introversion or extroversion the quality of an introvert or an extrovert?

      Inquiring minds want to know.

  44. Heather*

    I’ve run into so many people like Prudence in letter 1! They have trash (that is what stained, threadbare onesies are) but it makes them feel too guilty to throw it away. So they want to give it to you— not because they really think you can use it, but because then it’ll be out of their own house. You can be firmer (ruder) once you realize she isn’t offering out of generosity or kindness. She wants a favor: “Please take this crap off my hands?”

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      OP1/Prudence sounds one step away from becoming one of those people who bundle up their trash to dump in charity collection bins – despite the notices asking people not to do this.

    2. Violet*

      My mother had a friend who frequently gave her rotten produce. She once gave her a ceramic bird with the head broken off (she did not include the head). And then she’d use her “generosity” to guilt my mother into doing favors for her. As frustrating as it was to watch, it prepared me to stand firm against my own rotten-produce friends. If OP1 hadn’t stopped Prudence when she did, she would’ve spent years taking hand-me-down junk off Prudence’s hands. OP1, breathe a sigh of relief that it’s over.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Yep. There would have been toys in questionable condition 2 years down the road because “baby is old enough for this now!”. And Prudence would feel Virtuous because she is Recycling Baby Things and Doing Good For Other Babies. It would never enter her mind to properly vet any of the objects being given to LW (after that first test batch). LW, you were right to get rid of the bag (although speaking for myself it would have gone back into her office with a “sorry, you forgot to take this with you” and a big smile), and you’re right to hold your ground. Sorry she’s so pushy, but hopefully if you stonewall her (preferably with a big smile because her type often doesn’t know how to respond to people who cheerfully defy her), she’ll stop.

    3. T'Cael Zaanidor Kilyle*

      On the upside, OP #1 probably saved her local thrift store or family shelter from having to deal with Prudence showing up on their doorstep with a bag of trash and demanding to have it accepted on the grounds that “they’re poor, they should be grateful for ANYTHING!”

    4. L. Bennett*

      Yep. I get a lot of crap every time my in-laws come over because they feel too guilty dropping it off at the second-hand store themselves. Then I have to do it… fun. Thanks.

    5. Excel-sior*

      “They have trash but it makes them feel too guilty to throw it away”

      sorry to go off on a tangent, but i get this from my own mum! i adore her but she’s gifted me so much of my childhood rubbish i created; artwork, stories etc etc (by no means great masterpieces; even by the age of 8 it was quite clear that my artistic abilities left a lot to be desired). I’m convinced it’s because she can’t bring herself to throw it away, but won’t mind if i do. but then i feel guilty about throwing it out because she’s kept it upwards of 3 decades in some cases!

  45. Madame Arcati*

    I’m genuinely not sure what OP wanted from AAM. Even if Alison had thought and said that it was a great idea, what would OP do with that? Tell people they have to buy shirts because an expert says they are good? You can’t force people to buy something they don’t want. (Well you can, but that would amount to extortion or thereabouts, which is illegal…) Or maybe they just wanted their opinion endorsed, because we all know that smugness is a great tool in clearing out unsold promotional clothing…

    OP, if an idea involves selling something, but nobody wants to buy it, then it’s not a great idea. It’s a bad idea. You are not a misunderstood genius, you are a person who has made a mistake and it would probably be better if you got to grips with that and moved on.

    1. NoNutter*

      If the tone of the letter was different I would say maybe they’re just looking for someone to justify that they wouldn’t be “wrong” to give up on this “dream” because sometimes people feel the need to seek out someone with some kind of authority to give them permission to follow through on something they’ve really already decided… but that is not the vibe of this letter at all

  46. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    If you could kick the person responsible for your T-shirt woes …. you’d have a very sore backside!

    Your idea sounds humiliating for the T-shirt wearer and also VERY old-fashioned.
    It reminds me of tales my parents told me of growing up in the Great Depression (1920s/1930s): The occasional desperate person would go around wearing a billboard stating they wanted a job. Didn’t work then either.

  47. Violet*

    Most people wear t-shirts for themselves (favorite band, etc.). When others do read them, it’s usually at a glance; it only takes a fraction of a second to read “World’s Greatest Dad.” A networking t-shirt would require somebody to read my shirt (stare at my body) for so long it would make both of us uncomfortable. I can’t tell you how tired I am of random men staring at my body, whistling, etc.; the last thing I want is a t-shirt that encourages them to stare even more.

    OP2, I’m sorry your idea didn’t work out, but your friends are probably encouraging you without thinking it through. Offer to sell them all your shirts at cost so they can pursue the business. If they don’t, you’ll have your answer. Instead of being angry, take what lessons you can from it and find another use for your shirts. You might be able to sell them cheaply to crafters, donate them to a local animal shelter or rescue mission, or even cut them up to use at home.

  48. Queen Esmeralda*

    I thought she meant a shirt to wear at networking events–kind of like an icebreaker. NOT a shirt that I check off boxes of what I want to do that I’m supposed to wear around town.

    1. Silver Robin*

      I interpreted it that way too. But even that would need to be tailored to the event to be useful. It sounds like OP printing off a bunch of generic shirts, which would certainly be too broad for a specific events. Besides, why do we need t-shirts at a networking event to start a networking conversation? Everyone is there to network! Those events also usually already have systems for helping folks find people within similar (sub)fields.

      It is a bizarre t-shirt idea.

  49. kiri*

    As someone who’s expecting as well, I don’t have a ton of advice, but LOTS of empathy, LW1! People get so weird about baby stuff. It’s something that often gets used for such a short amount of time, and has such meaning because it was a part of a beloved baby’s beginning of life, and I think that passing it along to other people allows it to continue to have significance in the giver’s mind (especially if it’s to someone they know) – even if it’s not particularly useful or helpful for the person receiving it (and there is just SO MUCH STUFF that comes along with babies – we have been totally overwhelmed!).

    Your coworker’s reaction is WAY more about her than it is about you, in other words!

    1. KatEnigma*

      It’s strange, but people were afraid to give me hand me downs. One friend (with exquisite taste, who sought out the most unusual and beautiful baby clothes, even for her son- which takes so much extra effort) had another friend ask if I’d be offended if she offered me her hand me downs. I gratefully accepted.

      I had another friend who had a surprise baby after being told the cancer/treatments she was diagnosed with during pregnancy #2 would prevent any more babies, and she’d already gotten rid of her baby stuff. She expressed that she overwhelmed with stuff, so I simply told her that if she saw anything my son was wearing that she wanted me to save for her, to let me know, rather than expecting her to dig through bags of stuff for the one thing she might want, and then leave her to get rid of the rest.

  50. Melissa*

    Everyone is piling on #2 and I don’t mean to add to that! Ultimately, Alison is right– your own experience shows that the idea just won’t get off the ground. And that’s not some sort of moral failure; sometimes ideas just don’t pan out, even good ones.

    Also, though, I noted that “babysitter” is one of the jobs you mentioned. That made me chuckle. I have to say, as a parent, if I saw a random person (whom I don’t know!) walking around essentially wearing a sign that said “Please hire me to watch your child”…. Well, I wouldn’t be likely to pursue it!

  51. Peanut Hamper*

    By wearing the t-shirt everywhere you go, it starts the job seeking conversation.

    No, it does not.

  52. Morning reader*

    I have an idea for the tshirt LW. Not to sell them, but to reuse for networking. Cut them up to use for signs on hats, something like the old fashioned press card you see on reporters in old movies. Only the part that reads “I’m looking for a job in…” and then clip the job categories out so that each hat sign is different. Them host a networking event hat party. People can BYOHat and attach the sign to their brim. Could be adapted to “I’m looking to hire a…” for potential hirers.

    Other ideas: take them to burning man (or similar) and set up a tie dye booth. People can get creative with them and wear them ironically.

    Turn them into baby onesies and change them to “when I grow up I want to be…” or “my grandma is outstanding in her field in….” Grandparents seem to love cutesy shirts on babies.

    1. Rachel*

      Repurposing the tshirts will be really expensive.

      I don’t think anybody is going to wear this, not tie dyed. Not a onesie. Not ironically.

      The best bet for using the t shirts is something like a company that stuffs old clothes as filler for a dog bed.

  53. The Eye of Argon*

    For the t-shirt OP, there are organizations that accept donations of t-shirts and send them overseas, especially southern Africa, where there are many underserved communities and people are desperate for clothing. It’s where a lot of unsold shirts for marathons, corporate events, and “Losing Team 20XX World Series Champion” wind up.

    That way your unsold shirts would be doing some good in the world and it would make for a decent charitable contribution you can deduct on your income taxes, to recoup some of your lost money.

    1. Extra anony*

      Think twice about this. If you Google “the problem with donating tshirts to Africa” you’ll get a lot of good info about why some countries want to ban excessive t-shirt donations because it’s destroying local economies.

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        Yeah, I won’t buy “event” shirts or anything of the kind unless I know it will be in heavy rotation and be worn out completely. Fast fashion of any kind is destroying communities, landscapes, water supplies, and humans.

        Better to donate them to use as rags at the high school band car wash.

    2. theletter*

      Oh no, Africa has a vast surplus of second-hand clothing, and at this point it is doing more harm to the local economies and environment than helping.

      There are groups that are looking for second-hand clothing for clean-up efforts.

      There might also be some high school level oriented non-profits that would like t-shirts for the kids who are in the very first blush of finding themselves.

  54. KatEnigma*

    LW2: I don’t think entrepreneurship is your calling if you’re going to get “angry” when the market isn’t interested in buying your product. That you didn’t sell a single shirt even after being on talk shows, then there is no interested market in your shirts.

  55. KatEnigma*

    LW4: If you want to use the picture without the trees in the background, you could ask your photographer if they could edit out the trees for something neutral.

  56. Katrina*

    OP1, I did volunteer work for a local organization putting together gift baskets for new moms who didn’t have a good support network. We took donations of baby clothes, and I can tell you, we would have 100% thrown out the stuff you’re describing if someone donated it.

    We had more clothes than we could use, we wanted these moms to feel special, and anything that smells of cigarette smoke is not healthy for a baby, anyway. If Prudence wants to feel like she’s giving to a mom in need, she can find a place that takes donations of formula and donate some of the hypoallergenic kind. Seriously. There was never, ever enough of it.

    But I don’t think she wants to help anyone. I think she wants to get rid of trash and somehow be thanked for it. You are in the clear to tell her no and to toss anything else she leaves with no guilt if she sees you. (Though do ask for a hand lifting anything that’s too heavy!)

    As I tell my preschool students: If you try to help and someone says no, stop. If you keep doing it anyway, that’s not helping.

  57. KatEnigma*

    LW1: When asked what she was supposed to do with the stuff she’d brought in, despite being told NO, I’d have directed her to the nearest charity or resale shop.

  58. KellifromCanada*

    Imagine wearing a “networking t-shirt.” That would just be weird and embarrassing, and it’s certainly not going to get you a job.

    And I don’t understand the vitriol towards young people. I’m in my 50’s and the young people I’ve hired have been bright and hard-working.

  59. HonorBox*

    OP1 – I’d strongly suggest trying to normalize the relationship with Prudence through work. If she brings more clothes or anything else, just return them to her office with a direct message of, “please don’t bring more things… we’re swimming in things at this point and I don’t have any more room.”

    OP2 – I don’t want to sound rude, but you may just have to cut your losses. While people may have encouraged the idea, I think it is just not working. If I was going to a networking event, either as a recent grad or 25 years into work, I wouldn’t wear a tee shirt.

    OP3 – “John, I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but with walls this thin, I can hear everything you’re watching. People on my video meetings can also hear all the background noise. Could you throw on some headphones, please?”

    1. cosmicgorilla*

      Why do I feel like “people encouraged the idea” means that OP2 kept talking about it and how it was going to solve the problem of “kids these days”, and the people he pigeon-holed made encouraging noises because it was clear nothing they said would change OP2’s mind.

      1. KatEnigma*

        They let LW on the morning talk shows though and featured him/her in the paper. But just because something is interesting doesn’t make it marketable.

        And the fact that LW never sold a single tshirt even after being on TV and in the paper is telling.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          A couple of years ago John Oliver did an entire segment on how easy it is to get on TV to hawk your product simply by paying them for air time. They even did it with a fake product called the Venus Veil (it’s a great segment, highly recommend it).

  60. Ex-prof*

    When I saw the headline for LW #1, I thought “Well everyone knows what you do in that case; you say thank you for the baby clothes and you stop on at a goodwill box on the way home.”

    But LW #1 clearly knows that, bent over backward, and there was no chance of not offending Prudence no matter what LW did. Prudence is the type of person who has a garage sale full of old junk and when you look around at it, Prudence stands there saying “Those bring $1800 on eBay, but I’m only asking $1200.”

  61. Introvert Teacher*

    Hate to say it #2, but the t-shirt idea is laughably ridiculous. Is this a real letter?

    If it is serious, here’s why it doesn’t work practically:
    1. The socially appropriateness factor: it’s really weird to wear your resume on your chest. I don’t think I’d be taken seriously if I wore one of those.
    2. We have the internet now: see LinkedIn. Wearing a shirt around town is an inefficient way of broadcasting your skills, and to the wrong audience at that. The internet and social media are more effective at getting the right eyes on your profile. And for networking events, I think problem #1 applies there.

    It sucks, but it didn’t work. We all have ideas that don’t pan out. I once thought it would be cool to have an oatmeal-based food truck. Don’t blame others, accept the loss, find a way to recycle those t-shirts, and move on.

    1. Mordreder*

      “Isn’t this what LinkedIn is for?” was my exact thought.

      It’s not just like wearing a resume, it’s like wearing a resume template with some bits filled in via Sharpie. That’s the thing I’d think was really weird if I saw it in the wild: someone decided they’d try to network with a T-Shirt but wasn’t invested enough in the (to-me weird) idea to foot an extra 20 bucks for a specialized version?

      1. Dread Pirate Roberts*

        That’s a good point – I wonder what the price difference is between LW2’s t-shirts and getting your own t-shirt custom made, given how inexpensive that is. It’s a very bad idea in any case (enough that it crossed my mind it could be a fake letter but maybe that’s wishful thinking.)

    2. MicroManagered*

      You said what I was thinking perfectly. The t-shirts are a ridiculous idea. I could see maybe using them for some kind of high school job interviewing class or something, but not for actual adults. The letter reminds me of outmoded “gumption” advice that is often associated with, but not exclusive to, the Boomer generation.

      I also can’t imagine walking up to a stranger at a gas station because I noticed their t-shirt said they were looking for a job in my field and … what? Handing them my business card? (I don’t have business cards; they’re outdated!) Exchanging phone numbers? Nah. If I have a job opening, it’s posted online and you can use one of many search engines to find it and apply.

      An oatmeal food truck is a slightly better idea, but not by much. At least people actually eat oatmeal LOL,

      1. MsM*

        I would also love an oatmeal foodtruck. Assuming I had time to wait for the oatmeal on my way to work. And even then, probably no more than once a week.

        …I think I begin to see why the idea didn’t pan out.

          1. Snell*

            There are definitely businesses in my area where you can just tell they owe a large part of their survival to the amount of foot traffic they get, which I think also applies, to some degree or another, at large events like music festivals.

      2. Middle Aged Lady*

        The gumption advice I have heard tends to come from The Greatest Generation. My dad is full of stories about his uncles and how they just walked on a job site and got hired. They also love the ‘nobody wants to work’ theme. My experience with Boomers (I am a late Boomer myself) advice is to get more education because that was our ticket to a good job.

        1. Francie Foxglove*

          My late father was a teenager during WWII. Because all the able-bodied men were overseas, women and teenagers were able to get jobs that they otherwise would have been laughed out of. Not putting him down—he had a good work ethic. But my mom several times pointed out the asterisk to his “I’ve been working since I was fifteen!” claim. “Yes, because there was a war!”

    3. Irish Teacher*

      Honestly, if somebody had a t-shirt with your username on it, that might make me want to network with them. (I really just wanted to compliment your username and it seemed like complimenting somebody’s description of their role fits well here.)

      1. Snell*

        Before I realized you were complimenting the thread OP’s username specifically, I thought you were talking about a general “you,” haha.

        I have a vague interest in supercars, and a vague disinterest in the type of person who puts the social media handles for their car’s accounts on the car itself. Whenever I see it out in the wild, it puts a smile on my face (out of amusement), and then I don’t look them up on social media.

  62. ZSD*

    I have a feeling #2 is going to go down in AAM history.

    “Networking is always the way to get what you want.” This is simply not true. I have had four different professional employers and overall a pretty good career, and I have gotten exactly zero jobs through networking.

    1. Myrin*

      Even if the sentence you quoted were true, the whole t-shirt thing is not “networking”, which is honestly what baffles me most about it.

    2. Danish*

      Conversely, I have gotten ALL of my jobs save one, even the non-professional ones, from “networking”, but in the sense that I was talking to people who I had actual relationships with who made connections for me. In no cases would a shirt worn around town have helped.

      1. Middle Aged Lady*

        I got one job this way. I moved to a new city where a former co-worker lived. I set up a lunch date, he showed me around campus and I met one of his colleagues. When a job came open, I applied and the colleague interviewed me. My skills got me the job, but the former coworker’s recommendation, and the previous meeting didn’t hurt.
        All my other jobs, I went through the normal
        Apply/interview channels.
        I am not sure I would want to work for someone who hired me just because I was X, Y or z’s friend or I was good at chatty work events. Unless I was hiring for someone whose social skills at events with strangers would be useful on the job. I don’t like pushy, look at me, give me a chance people and I don’t want to hire them. When I met with my former coworker. i told him I was interested if anything came up. I never askes him for the tour or the meet with the colleague. He suggested those things.

        1. Danish*

          Oh for sure, I did also have to interview and get the job on my own merits, but the connections were of great help.

  63. Carrots*

    LW2 – Anyone who is already a competitive candidate and/or good at networking does not need your T-shirt. To wear your T-shirt would be to signal that one is not a competitive candidate, nor good at networking.

    I have indeed had random encounters that have resulted in positive career moves. But they were simply through talking to people and putting myself in the right places, and being open to possibilities. Nothing to do with what I was wearing.

  64. Brian*

    LW 2: How often do you wear a t-shirt? Once every two weeks? Unless you buy dozens and wear nothing else, the odds are not in your favor.

  65. Delta Delta*

    #2 – Lots of people are piling on to #2 here. the thing is, though, this was just not a good idea. Nobody’s going to a networking event wearing a t-shirt. Nobody’s going to walk around in public wearing a t-shirt that says, handwritten in sharpie, “hire me for a landscaping job.”

    And “kids these days” have an acute sense of stranger danger. If OP is glowering at them and basically angrily seething that they need to buy these t-shirts, “kids these days” know to exit that conversation as quickly and smoothly as possible.

    The only domestic market I can think of for these is maybe a corrections department that sponsors work crews. Maybe people participating in a work detail could wear those shirts as a way of showing others what they might be interested in for work when they’re not doing corrections community work service? I mean, not a great idea, but would get some t-shirts out of OP’s garage.

  66. She of Many Hats*

    Headshots for work: My best ever headshots are some black & white photos from the last cruise I took with my spouse. We each did a solo set and, surprising for me, I looked a-maz-ing! I now use one of them at work where photos are needed.

    As Allison said, if you love how you look and the outfit is professional enough, use it, crop it as needed and enjoy it. And every time you see it you’re going to have a little
    lift to your day because you know how happy you were when the photo was taken and who doesn’t need that sort of boost in their workday.

  67. Jennifer Strange*

    Several years ago I was frustrated with the way people went about looking for jobs.

    Sincere question: why were you frustrated? Was it because it made it harder for you to connect with employees? Did you hear people who were job-seeking complain about difficulties they were having? Or was it just that you didn’t think it was the right way to do it? Because it sounds like your shirt was a solution in search of a problem that didn’t exist.

    I’ll be honest: I wouldn’t buy that shirt. Even if I did want to advertise myself in such a way why buy a shirt that I have to mark up over and over again instead of just buying a custom shirt (or even a hat or backpack, which can be worn multiple times without needing to be washed) that already has information specific to me on it?

    1. Person from the Resume*

      I’ll be honest, I would never wear that shirt even if it was given to me for free. I certainly wouldn’t buy it.

      LW#2 should have done some market research before investing it because he would have found very few takers.

      Part of his anger seems to arise from the fact that he failed, lost money, and his friends are still ragging on him about it. But it seems like they didn’t buy any either. So LW didn’t actually even have any understanding of the people he would be marketing these shirts too.

    2. NaoNao*

      To me, that line is talk-show balderdash. It’s just a vaguely worded “sounds good” line similar to what many inventors say “I couldn’t find a smoothing garment I liked so I cut pantyhose off and that’s how Spanx were made!” “There was nothing on the market for burn victims’ skin so X makeup and skincare was made!” “I am tired of Detrimental Dudes contacting women with “‘sup” messages on Tinder so I made Bumble, where she makes the first contact!”

      Newscaster: “Rinky-Dink, how did you come up with this idea?!”

      “Well, several years ago, I was frustrated by the way people went about job searching…”

      Audience: murmurs and groans, a few sympathetic titters

      Newscaster: “Isn’t that SO true! I can’t even read the want ads anymore, I think it’s all on CL or whatever the youths are using these days, I can’t keep up!”

      Audience: hearty, faux laughter

      1. Peanut Hamper*


        I half suspect that LW wrote in thinking the response would be “That’s a GREAT idea! Let me add a link where everyone can buy them!”

        Talk shows are just that–talk. And very little substance. They are meant to sell ads, not give out good information.

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      Those darn youths, always staring at their phones! What are they even looking at all the time?

      Among other things, JOB POSTINGS lol

  68. Extra anony*

    Maybe I’m an outlier, but I was pregnant twice and I’d just say “thanks!” whenever someone gave me baby stuff, new or used. Technically more work for me, but I found it easier to just dispose of stuff later, rather than risk offending coworkers, family, and friends – people get very sensitive and borderline unreasonable about baby gifts. You’re certainly not in the wrong to turn them down, but not accepting gifts + not angering the giver may be impossible in some cases. In my experience this was a finite problem though; most of the hand me down givers did not continue to give me stuff post-maternity leave.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      If you’re fine doing the extra work of disposing stuff, then of course, go ahead and do it, but the LW isn’t.

      1. Extra anony*

        I was just responding to the question… the LW asked for a way to make the stuff AND the angry attitude stop. I’m not sure it’s possible to do both.

    2. Pierrot*

      I think the cigarette smell is an important detail here. As someone who used to smoke, and who has occasionally received secondhand items in the mail that wreaked of smoke— the smell is strong, it inundates any enclosed space, and it can be difficult to get rid of.
      Say LW doesn’t want to throw the bag out in proximity to the office because she doesn’t want her colleague to know. She takes the bag of smoky clothes into her car to throw it out a safe distance away. Even if she keeps the windows open, there’s a solid chance that the car will also smell and will need to be aired out.
      I’ve definitely taken stuff I didn’t want to avoid making the person feel bad, but I would pass on anything with a strong odor. Also, with something like baby clothes (and a coworker who doesn’t respect boundaries), I feel like she’ll ask about the clothes when the baby is born and possibly want to see pictures. Accepting the clothes just kicks the can down the road imo.

  69. WellRed*

    OP 2: toss the tshirts in the dumpster along with OP 1s unwanted baby clothes. Seriously. You’ll probably be able to start letting go of all that anger(!) once they are out of sight.

  70. Trout 'Waver*

    LW#1, I was in a similar situation except the person was my MIL’s neighbor. My MIL is a saint and took the volumes of material, filtered it into the useful stuff (90+% was binned), washed that stuff, and gave it to us in stages as our kid grew. We ended up with hundreds of dollars of gently used baby clothes that our kiddo looks great in. It also gave my MIL a productive way to help, which made her feel valued.

    The newborn stuff was all binned since we got so much newborn stuff gifted to us during my wife’s pregnancy, but the 12-month and 18-month stuff was quite useful.

    I know your situation is different and my anecdote is probably not applicable, but I wanted to share how we found a silver lining in a similar situation.

  71. T'Cael Zaanidor Kilyle*

    #2: Nobody wants to do professional networking while wearing a T-shirt that they wrote on with Sharpie.

    (And besides, what’s the hope here? That people will wear their T-shirt with “I’m a Llama Groomer” checked every day in the hopes that the hiring manager for a llama grooming company just happens to pull up to the gas station at the same time, just happens to look over at the person at the next pump long enough to read their T-shirt, just happens to be hiring, and has decided that instead of advertising on Indeed, they’ll just approach random strangers to fill the position? Sure, you can say “you never know” and “it’s worth a shot,” but that rationalization works for just about anything.)

    The “use case” for this product is just not very well thought-out. It’s the kind of idea that’s fun to bandy about when you’re three beers into a bull session with your friends, but that probably should just end there.

    And if the LW wants to get into marketing products to a mass audience, they might want to reconsider the sweeping generalizations about an entire generation.

    1. El l*

      I think OP2 needs to chalk this up to, “Not knowing your customers.”

      The generalization about a generation is telling.

      As is the assumption that the world is so full of people who want to hire/buy-from you that someone will hit you up for your card at a gas station. Specialization really undercuts that.

      And as is the assumption that others are constantly networking, when in fact most regard it as a necessary evil they do every so often when they have a particular need.

  72. Minerva*

    LW4 – In my acting days I used one of my engagement photos as a headshot for quite some time :) Like Alison said as long as it fits your needs and doesn’t scream “BRIDAL” get the extra use out of it, professional photos are pricy!

  73. Nay*

    LW4 I used an engagement photo on LinkedIn for YEARS! In fact, I only took it down recently because I’m 9 years older now! It was trees in the background, and I had a white blouse with a bright coral cardigan if that means anything. If you like it and feel like it’s a good representation of you I say go for it! You spent the $ on ’em get your $ worth!

    1. RubyJackson*

      Just because you paid for engagement photos doesn’t mean the price included unlimited usage.

      1. Dahlia*

        It actually probably does. Most contracts say you can’t sell the photos, not that you can’t post them anywhere you want.

  74. Sociology Rocks*

    OP 2
    I agree with everyone else the execution on the idea hasn’t been successful. To me this seems like overlooking the fact that networking for many people is probably only going to be of interest at trade shows and conferences or other large gatherings. But if I’m at the llama studies conference and the conference gives out t shirts for the event that I can mark by research topic as llama herd dynamics, that seems useful for finding other people within my niche in my field. Also at big multinational meetings of groups it could be useful to see oh we’re all part of this project but that person is from the Kenya team, that person is from university we collaborate with to do X, and so on. Or even at big universities t shirts for incoming students at orientation day saying oh I’m in English, I’m in engineering, etc could be handy. It’s the context thats key, and in general public people aren’t looking for this info, but in the right context it might be handy.

    1. Observer*

      Yes, context is a key to this issue.

      But it’s not just context. Execution stinks, too.

      For instance, in your scenario, no sharpies would be involved. Rather there would be one of those machines you can get to do press on decals (or whatever they are called) so you can give each person a shirt with their location, team and specialty (so three distinct items rather than a list) in a nice big font that someone can see at a glance rather than having to take time to read from someone’s body.

  75. Capt. Liam Shaw*

    LW2: I think your shirts could work if you could sell them to folks who host job fairs.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      If I go to a job fair wearing a networking shirt on which I’ve checked “science”, I’m going to get a whole lot of useless networking because the category is too broad. If the shirt is detailed enough to narrow down my scientific field, I’m going to feel super uncomfortable with strangers staring at my body to determine what science discipline I work in. Hard pass.

  76. LB33*

    At first I thought the t shirts were basically a freebie/give away to advertise or spread word of mouth about LWs business or networking groups….. But I think the Tshirts *are* the business which clearly isn’t working

  77. ResuMAYDAY*

    Career Coach here – create a networking event that brings together college students/younger workers and local businesses/employers. Give the t-shirts away as swag . Use them as a value add-on to get people to buy your viable products, which are networking groups and events.
    There’s a small pain threshold in giving you free advice, because that means putting you in front of the same people you disparage. But perhaps by interacting with younger generations you’ll actually learn to be impressed by them. (And if you had interacted with ANY of them a few years ago, you probably wouldn’t have boxes of t-shirts taking up space in your garage.)

  78. Somebody Call a Lawyer*

    At this point, I would buy and wear OP 2’s shirt because it’s the visual equivalent of cheap ass rolls — it’ll make me smile and remind me of AAM and my favorite commentariat. (Unsurprisingly, I’m a WFH woman whose wardrobe is half novelty t-shirts with novelty boxers. Thanks, pandemic!)

    1. Morning reader*

      This is better than any of my ideas. LW, tell us how to find your tshirts! I want a woman’s XL. I plan to check all the boxes and then X out the top with my sharpie and write Retired! And add some hearts and smileys.

      Yeah I wear a lot of old work and event tshirts, to the gym and such. Would fit right into my signature style. Might tie dye it though :)

      1. Somebody Call a Lawyer*

        Right?? You nailed it re: signature style. Seriously, OP 2 — I really want to know how to buy this shirt!

  79. cosmicgorilla*

    Baby clothes – “I don’t want to seem ungrateful.”

    You don’t have to BE grateful.

    You don’t have to be grateful.

    You don’t have to be grateful for something you didn’t ask for.

    You are not responsible for managing Prudence’s emotions. She gets to be pissed and offended and hurt. That’s her choice. You do not owe her gratitude. Your saying thanks but no thanks did not hurt her feelings. She is choosing to feel hurt.

    You are not responsible for being grateful or for her emotions. You are not at fault here.

  80. Temperance*

    LW3: you think young people don’t make eye contact because they avoid making eye contact *with you* while you’re trying to give them a hard sell on a t-shirt that they don’t want.

    You probably only asked other people in your age group what they thought of the shirts. Probably just your friends, even. So, basically – people who think like you.

    You failed at proper market research. You’re trying to sell a product to younger people, but haven’t involved any in your product launch or development. Because, well, I’m not in the generation that you’re targeting, and I wouldn’t ever wear something like that and would probably avoid anyone who does.

  81. El l*

    OP4: Sorry, you’re probably stuck with professional headshots. Best you can do is see if your organization is willing to send a different photographer or try a different approach. If it makes you feel better, your professional headshot is one of these pictures – like passport photos – that typically isn’t a person’s best look.

    The problem about wedding and engagement photos is – as with wedding clothing and everything wedding-associated – it’s special. Not every day.

    1. Dread Pirate Roberts*

      Based on how the letter writer described the picture and Alison validated that it doesn’t look bridal, I think she’d be totally fine using it in a lot of contexts. I work for a fairly conservative organisation in an academic-adjacent field and our executives all have headshots with a forest-like background, and a little bling on clothing wouldn’t be remarkable.

  82. Middle Aged Lady*

    Reading the shirt would require someone to NOT look in your eyes, but at your chest. At least 50 percent of the population might find that off-putting.
    The shirts might be a good idea at a specific mingling, network event.
    But out in the general public I don’t think they would do much good.
    I feel sorry for the LW. However, denigrating young people because your idea didn’t work is not a good look. You have to like the population you are marketing to. If you dislike them, you won’t understand them or their real needs.
    And like other posters, I wonder why LW’s enthusiastic friends haven’t bought a bunch to give to all the job seekers in their lives.

    1. L. Bennett*

      “You have to like the population you are marketing to. If you dislike them, you won’t understand them or their real needs.”

      THIS!! Deriding the people you’re trying to market to is patronizing and they will see right through it. If you want a plan that will work, you have to actually talk to your market and understand what it is they want/need, not just decide for them because you think you’re so much smarter/wiser than they are.

  83. BellyButton*

    It is really really hard when we come up with an idea we think is awesome and other people don’t. It is disappointing, but being angry and blaming the YOUTHS isn’t helping.

    The shirt really isn’t the product, the product is your events. Give the shirts away as swag at an event and let it go.

  84. theletter*


    I don’t think this idea is really worth revisiting or revising, but there’s probably ways to unload the inventory. Have you tried them on Etsy, FaceBook Market, or other online market places? Kids hate being sold through text messages and don’t watch talk shows. You might be able to move it out buy selling it as ‘gifts for Grads’ to parents, grandparents, and other relatives online.

    I have some thoughts on why the product might have failed.

    When I was reading your story, I immediately thought of a t-shirt I own and wear. It’s from a company that sells a software tool I used to use, and it has an industry joke on it. The quality happens to be great for working out, and as a result, I get a lot of inquiries at the gym. But it’s the specificity that makes it work, and that it’s an item of clothing in its natural environment. The women in the t-shirt is working out in the gym, and the t-shirt happens to tell you something about what she does. Fellow Engineer sees it, gets the joke, and decides to talk to her.

    So why did this work, and a list of general skills on a t-shirt did not?

    I think one issue could be the skills listed. If they’re out of date or overly focused on soft stuff, people might not see themselves reflected in the shirt. I could see Computer Science majors checking off languages or tools they know, but kids with more general knowledge might not find a list of general skills to be appeaing. College grads with general skills face a harsh reality – a lot of job listings are looking for specific certifications and business oriented skills like project management and sales. Grads have to figure out how translate Chemistry 101 and Medieval French Literature into a world of profit and ROI. So looking at a shirt and realizing the only thing you can check is ‘Word Processing’ will be more defeating that helpful.

    But I think a big part of the problem is probably selling them in person at the very places where job-seekers are uninterested in t-shirts.

    College job fairs tend to be the first place most college kids are exposed to the horrors of the formal corporate world, and probably see t-shirts as a no-go once they’re there. They are probably also very wary of anyone trying to sell them anything at a job fair, as they’re trying to learn how to make money, not spend it.

    If you’re on the student quad selling to kids on the way to their classes, they’re probably going to wonder where they would wear it. You say it’s for job hunting, which kids will immediately think of job fairs and interviews, and the college career center just told them they have to wear suits and skirts for fairs and interviews. That misalignment will make t-shirts unappealing by default.

    As for actual graduations, I can’t think of a worse place to try and sell anything. Graduates are usually in the throws of saying goodbye to close friends and familiar places, and are managing family dynamics on top of it (and the worse time to manage family dynamics is when you’re saying goodbye to friends and family places). So novelty gifts will be the last thing on their minds, and if they’re serious about their career, they probably already have a job and wouldn’t need a t-shirt. If the graduate has put off their job search until after college, they probably just don’t want to think about it at all on the day of the graduation ceremony.

    I think the reality of being an entrepreneur is that you’re going to have some flops. This one is a bit of flop, but it sounds like it’s partly the product and partly where you’re trying to move it. People have been moving their shopping online for a while now, and gen Z especially hates being sold to in-person. If you put it up on some online market places with a little SEO, you might be able to unload what you have and move on to something greater.

  85. Lucy P*

    #3 I work with 2 hearing impaired people in my office. One cannot hear at all (but speaks and reads lips) and the other has a large amount of hearing loss and uses hearing aids in both ears.
    They’re both loud in everything because they don’t realize it. One will start watching a video while working (another discussion for another day) and doesn’t realize the sound is on and that everyone can hear it. The other one, when their hearing aids are not working, takes all of their calls on speaker phone. Plus, when they talk to each other, which they do often, it’s like they’re yelling across the street at someone.

    What do we do? We get up and ask them to tone it down, turn off the volume, etc.

    If it becomes a recurring problem, then escalate it to a manager, but usually just asking the person works.

  86. EasternPhoebe*

    LW2, I’m sorry your idea didn’t work out…it just isn’t practical for how networking works.

    More than a decade ago when I was a new grad struggling in the Great Recession job market, I actually made a t-shirt like this myself. I have a second, relatively uncommon language for my area, and I wanted to see if I could expand my job search in that language. So I handmade a t-shirt that said in the language something like “I’m a recent grad who is job searching” in the hopes that I might run into someone who could read the t-shirt and might give me a tip on a job. I was also doing ALL the traditional networking and job seeking activities, of course, but it was a super tough time to be job searching, and I was getting desperate. In the end, after wearing the t-shirt a few times while I ran errands, all I got was one nice conversation with a retiree who didn’t know of any jobs I didn’t already know about but wished me the best of luck with my search. I stopped wearing the t-shirt because it was clearly not working in my local area, and I couldn’t spend my time going to other places, rather than doing job applications and traditional networking.

    And I wouldn’t try this strategy again, even with a shirt in English! It relies too much on pure chance that the t-shirt wearer will run into someone helpful and connected in the right ways who also isn’t put off by the weirdness of a job seeker wearing a t-shirt advertising their search.

  87. Danish*

    Aw LW2, I’m afraid today’s comment section is gonna be a rough one.

    I can see this idea working if one were at an event for networking and everyone was wearing one – like networking speed dating? But not just… Out in the world. For one thing, sharpie on a shirt is a little… tacky. Very homemade vibes, which, if I were going to do, I could probably make my own with inkjet transfer paper that was more personalized to me.

    Speaking of personalized homemade shirts, this is something people could do as far back as the late 90s. The inclusion of being on talk shows and in the newspaper – two things that are in decline and certainly not frequently popular with The Youths – make me think this happened very, very in the past (in which case it’s long past time to let go of your anger about it) or if not, it was most certainly not “ahead of its time”!

  88. Immortal for a limited time*

    Oh my goodness, LW #2. Employers don’t go looking for new talent at gas pumps. I’m a woman and, back when I was just starting out in my career, the last thing I would have wanted is some person (especially a man) staring at my shirt. I’m busty and I never liked that — but even if I weren’t busty, it would be weird as heck. I imagine that employers (most of them, anyway) would feel just as uncomfortable walking up to a stranger and saying, Hold still, I’m only staring at your chest to see if you have any skills I’m interested in hiring for. You seem to be suffering from attribution bias, like when people are just sure that the house they’ve lived in for 30 years is worth $250k more than the real estate broker tells them it’s worth, because THEY like it. The market decides the value of something, not the seller.

    1. Observer*

      I’m a woman and, back when I was just starting out in my career, the last thing I would have wanted is some person (especially a man) staring at my shirt. I’m busty and I never liked that

      Reading this, I was struck with a thought. OP, if you are reading this, did you think at ALL about women? Does “every size” include women’s sizes?

      1. I have RBF*


        I’m AFAB, enby, but have big boobs. I might wear a shirt like that if the writing was on the back, and a nice design or something was on the front. Otherwise, no, I don’t want folks staring at my chest.

  89. Sunshine*

    I’m sorry if this has been said already, but LW2 – have you tried marketing to conference organizers? Something like this could actually be really fun for a networking event at a conference or trade show. It could be part of a swag bag or something that participants get up front, then everyone can wear the shirts to the event and gravitate towards others in their niche.

    1. Former Retail Lifer*

      The shirts would be a fun way to connect at a conference or event. I hope the OP tries this. I don’t want to wear one to the grocery store, but it would be a great icebreaker at an event.

  90. wordnerd28*

    I obviously have not seen these shirts, but the way they are described leads me to believe that the writing has to be fairly small to fit all the fields and checkboxes. Even if people read strangers’ shirts in general (I sure don’t unless they are SUPER eye-catching in some way), how close would someone actually need to be to see what it even is? I sure don’t want a stranger all up in my grill reading my back (or worse, chest–hard agree on all the other women’s comments here) And that’s just on top of all the other comments that everyone else has made about body shape/size, disrespecting your target audience, etc. Sorry, but this idea isn’t salvageable. Take the L and move on.

  91. L. Bennett*

    LW 2 — I get where you were going, but this product seems like a great way to get into conversations with scam artists who are trying to sell you on a fake job because you put something on a t-shirt and seem desperate for a job.

    It also doesn’t seem like you’ve been job hunting recently… the landscape has changed significantly and you would be wise to start recognizing that.

  92. Sunflower*

    #2. I haven’t read all the comments and sorry if this sounds harsh but I don’t understand this t-shirt marketing thing. What are strangers suppose to do? Take a picture of you (again, stranger) to look over the details on the shirts later? Have strangers walk up to you and claim they have a job for you?

    I understand you are angry for investing time and money on this idea but your anger is aimed at the wrong people (the consumers). It’s not just young people. I’m middle age and I don’t want strangers scrutinizing my shirt.

    There are many ideas and products out there that didn’t work out. Lesson learned.

  93. KayDee*

    As an employee, I would feel like wearing a tshirt with my qualifications would be gimmicky at best. Even if I didn’t feel that way, I’m senior enough in my career I’d want a job title specific one where I could highlight the skill sets I have specific to my title, not a list of wildly different titles where I check the one I’m looking for.

    As a hiring manager, I’d see a person I see wearing something like that as desperate and possibly less than serious about their career (I wouldn’t want an employee who thinks “why bother attending every industry event I can, I’ll just wear this tshirt to the grocery store.”)

    Also, as a product person, LR2 needs to keep in mind that you are not your client. You can’t assume because you think it would be worth spending money on, the client will. You need to talk to and actually listen to the people you are trying to serve. You might find that tiny changes might make this take off, or you might find that your market does not want or need a solution to the problem you are trying to solve or doesn’t consider your solution a good solution to the problem. Also, serious question LR2- Do you wear these shirts when you go to the grocery store? If not, that speaks volumes, maybe you don’t even think its as good of an idea as you claim.

    1. KayDee*

      Also, it would be a good idea in the future to print a few test shirts, or even work with a company that will print on demand when an order is placed. Although it will cost more per shirt, it keeps you from being $1000s in on merch you haven’t proved there is a market demand for. Once you start seeing uptake, switch to larger orders pre printed.

      1. KayDee*

        Sorry for the repeated replies, but this touches on a real area of passion for me! For a really good view on why you may have people telling you an idea is good, but it still doesn’t sell, I highly recommend “The Mom Test” by Rob Fitzpatrick. He really digs into the psychological reasons that just walking up to someone and saying “Here’s my product, do you like it? Would you buy it?” so often results in false positives, and how to better conduct research into new ideas.

  94. Professor Ronny*

    LW #4. Just do you. My organization also takes professional headshots of us and they are used in email, on out learning management platform, and much more. I swapped mine out for one of me in a western hat. (I live in the south but not Texas.) People occasionally comment but it has never once been an issue.

  95. Lobo Viejo*

    At the departmental convocation ceremony for my college graduation, under my official black gown I wore a t-shirt that said, “Just Graduated! References available upon request.”

    When the department head called me up to receive my diploma, I unzipped the gown and flashed the t-shirt at the crowd. It got a laugh rather than job offers—which was exactly my intention.

    I don’t think I would’ve seriously considered any actual job offers that resulted from the t-shirt.

  96. Amanda*

    LW4, maybe I missed this suggestion, but I belong to a Facebook group that offers to photoshop pictures for a few bucks. Creating headshots from unrelated pictures seems to be a specialty. They will take a vacation photo of someone hanging out on the beach in their bikini and crop it to a headshot, blur the background so that it doesn’t look like the ocean, and even change the swimsuit to be something more professional. It’s pretty amazing what they do! While I’m sure that it depends on the specifics of the particular photo and the amount of formality required, but I wonder if some editing could make your picture amazing.

  97. Nomic*

    I find the Juxtaposition of #1 and #2 ironic.
    #1: Coworker is angry that I won’t take these things she treasured but now are just clutter.
    #2: I am angry I have these treasured items that clutter my garage because no-one wants to buy them.

    They similarities really highlight each other:
    The unwillingness to acknowledge others just don’t want your [T-shirts/baby clothes].
    When others don’t want these items, anger is directed outward at the unwilling recipient, rather than inward to ask, “why am I the only one who finds these things valuable.”

  98. Huh*

    There is absolutely no context or situation I would ever wear or engage anyone wearing the tshirt as described.

  99. SereneScientist*

    LW2, you might be experiencing a touch of effort justification/sunk cost fallacy. Unfortunately, the reality is that your idea doesn’t quite align with what actually works or what people want. It’s okay to let go.

  100. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

    OP #2: Honestly, there are a LOT of reasons why I wouldn’t wear that t-shirt, but the biggest one for me is that I already deal with people staring at my chest and I don’t want to encourage it. I would rather do my own networking, no need to make my boobs do it for me.

    Definitely don’t hold on to the shirts, especially since their continued unsold existence is clearly upsetting you. Donate them, practice and perfect your tie dying technique, turn them into t-shirt yarn and sell them on Etsy, or drop them off for recycling–whatever will allow you to move on.

  101. Checkert*

    OP1, this made me so worried as I’m 6 months pregnant and have been getting well-meaning offers from every angle on people’s old baby stuff. Now I’m worried that someone would be so bold as to do this to me, and I will not handle it as quietly/nicely as you! In your case, I certainly wouldn’t be concerning myself with winning back that person’s goodwill unless they are a superior to you in some kind of way. They sound like the kind of person with boundary issues that likely don’t begin or end with bringing bags of responsibility and making it other people’s problem, and unless I had a specific professional need, I certainly wouldn’t go building bonds with Prudence.

  102. Good Idea Haver*

    LW #2, this sounds like an idea that I refer to as a puppy patch. Years ago I got a puppy. Before I brought him home I did a ton of research on the best way to care for him, set up the apartment for him, I even took a training class before I got him. One of the ideas was to make a “puppy patch” for potty training since we didn’t have an outside area. I thought it was a great idea! You have a little patch of grass in a cat box and the puppy learns to go in the grass, so once they start going outside it will be normal to them and they learn that grass is where to do their business.

    When I brought my puppy home, the FIRST thing he did was dig up the entire puppy patch and get dirt and grass EVERYWHERE. My entire puppy potty training plan was ruined and I had to come up with another one after I did all that work and research.

    Sometimes things seem like good ideas and they don’t play out in real life, and that’s okay. Cut your losses, learn the lessons, and move on.

    1. EasternPhoebe*

      Haha, I love this puppy patch idea. So sad it was thwarted by its own target user!

  103. RubyJackson*

    #4, as a professional photographer it’s disheartening to hear people suggest she use engagement photos for other professional uses without checking with the photographer or reading the contract she signed first. It’s one thing to use retouching software to change elements from personal photos (like holiday or hiking) to something more appropriate to use for work, but taking a professional photo and using it in ways that weren’t intended is stealing from the photographer. Photography fees are based on usage, not time, and is the basis for copyright laws- i.e., the right to copy something. Reading about this on a website designed to help navigate the professional working world is surprising – but not surprising since I encounter this misconception all the time.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      When I’ve bought photos from a photographer, I’ve never signed a contract because the photos are 100% mine to use as I choose, as often as I wish.
      I’m in Germany though. Maybe different rules in the USA?

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        or maybe different rules in USA when one visits the photographer for photos in their studio to when one engages them to come to an event.

      2. Becky*

        I don’t know about copyright in Germany, but in the USA copyright belongs to the person who took the photo (ergo the famous case in which courts ruled that the selfie taken by a monkey who stole a camera from a photographer had no copyright protection) and you don’t have rights to use the photos however you want. Copying or modifying them is most likely a violation of copyright.

        1. RubyJackson*

          “Copying or modifying them is most likely a violation of copyright.” As is creating a derivitive artwork, such as Shepard Fairie’s HOPE poster of Obama which he based on a photograph by an AP photographer which led to a lawsuit, settlement, probation, community service, and fines.

    2. Zarniwoop*

      This never would have occurred to me, and OP should definitely check into copyright issues.

    3. I have RBF*

      Aren’t wedding/engagement photos a “work for hire”?

      The photographer gets paid a fee to photograph me. They would not be taking the photos if I wasn’t paying them. That’s solidly work for hire in my book.

    4. YetAnotherAnalyst*

      This is always such a weird issue, because it certainly feels like it should be the other way around. Certainly nobody’s going back to their parents’ wedding photographer to get the rights to blow the pics up for their 60th anniversary, but legally they probably should.
      One of the deciding factors in my choice of wedding photographer many years ago was that he agreed to sign over copyright in the contract (we granted him the right to use our photos for his portfolio/advertising, in return).

      1. RubyJackson*

        Blowing up a wedding photo to use at a party is not a matter of further dissemination or advertising. Think more along the lines of taking a photo of someone for their engagement announcement and then later seeing them using it for their author photo on a best-selling book. Two entirely different uses, two separate fees.

        In general usage fees are also based on press run and size of reproduction. An image used as a cover photo on a magazine is more valuable than one used at 1/3 the size accompanying a story inside the magazine. Likewise, a cover photo on a press run of 700 copies is less than a cover photo on a press run of 30,000 copies. If it’s an original photo created for a specific purpose and not one already in your stock, there would be a flat creation fee plus usage fees, depending on use.

        I once took a headshot of a friend for a local newspaper article (charged a basic creation fee and usage fee based on the limited press run) and he went on to become a Jeopardy champion. When a national paper wanted to use the same image for a story, they paid me additional usage fees.

    5. Cheesehead*

      YES! I’m also a photographer and came here to say this. OP’s engagement photos were likely for personal use. A head shot is a commercial use. She should check with the photographer and offer to buy commercial rights to the photo if she wants to use it as a professional head shot. And do not edit it unless you’ve received the okay from the photographer to do that. Or better yet, since the company offers head shots, have it taken again but talk with the photographer about why you DO like the engagement picture and what you do NOT like about previous head shots. A skilled photographer who is skilled in posing and lighting should be able to get a head shot that you like.

    1. Heidi*

      To network? Or just to see what it looks like? I’m imagining white with plain black writing. On the front it says, “Network with me!” and on the back is the list with all the checkboxes. Or it could be the other way around.

  104. Keymaster of Gozer*

    The T shirts are one of those ‘I invented a solution that’s going to make me rich!’ incidents that happen so, so often in software. The world is filled with the ‘with this one purchase you’ll get a job/lose weight/be more confident/get a date/be a genius’ schticks and you’ve got to be truly innovative and extremely lucky to make it.

    You saw that people find applying for jobs in their area a chore, which to be fair it usually is, but came to the wrong conclusion that having it printed on their chests would resolve it. I mean, I’m currently looking for a techie with particular expertise/qualifications in large scale distributed databases – I doubt that’s an option on your shirt. People don’t hire for generic ‘software’ or ‘technology’.

    Writing something off as a mistake that cost money isn’t easy but I recommend you try to do so. ‘I made an error and learnt and moved on from it’ is a far better personality, and job attitude, than ‘I won’t admit that mistake was mine and I’ll blame everyone else’

  105. Former Retail Lifer*

    #2, I think the shirts would be GREAT at a casual networking event where everyone is there for the same reason. I feel like the OP is a successful salesperson who is ALWAYS networking and promoting their business at barbecues, in the checkout line, at a bar, etc. While this can really work out for your business if done right, the reality is that it’s often annoying to those on the receiving side of the sales pitch. Many of us want to leave work at work and not ever think about it again until Monday morning. The OP may find a niche with sales professionals and entrepreneurs that never stop selling, but the rest of us don’t want to be networking while pumping gas and would appreciate strangers leaving us alone. We have specific events and Linked In for that.

    1. redflagday701*

      I think the shirts would be better at a casual networking event, but not great, since there would still be way clearer ways to signal the most important information than with a Sharpie’d checkmark, like using big stickers or different colors to distinguish which industries the attendees were in.

      I’m sorry, LW2. It’s one of those ideas that sounds neat in theory but doesn’t work at all in practice.

  106. TrixieBelle*

    Given how easy it is nowadays for someone to have a tee shirt produced in a custom design at a affordable price, it’s really ridiculous for someone with no experience in retailing clothes or novelty items to imagine they can come up with one special design that will somehow become a worthwhile hot seller. The people making money with a real business are the companies that print the tee shirts. Reselling one design (that you’ve sort of already paid retail prices for) is not a real business idea.

    Even if people did want the design, or liked the concept, there’s virtually nothing that would stop someone else with a better business infrastructure from stealing the idea. Although that won’t be a problem with an idea that nobody likes.

  107. Zarniwoop*

    “Many ask why I don’t still pursue this idea. They are the ones who got the idea and believe in it.”

    If they really believe in the idea they’ll buy the shirts from you for half price and sell them themselves. If they don’t go for that they don’t really believe, they’re just being polite.

  108. redflagday701*

    I know there have already been so many comments about LW2, but I’m really curious about whether they ever, at any point, ran their T-shirt idea past the members of their six networking groups. If I had six groups of active networkers at my disposal, I might ask what they thought of my idea for a networking product before I filled my garage with it.

  109. Katherine*

    #1: I just heard on a podcast that hospitality means you’re doing something *for* others, not *to* them. Your coworker really showed her hand with the “What am I supposed to do with this stuff” comment- maybe it was a self-serving move trying to get rid of stuff, so she was trying to override your “no.”

  110. Dawn*

    It sounds like what Prudence actually needs is the number to a reputable garbage removal service.

  111. e271828*

    LW2, it sounds like you didn’t do any market research before manufacturing product. It’s not the market’s fault that the item you offer is not what the market wants. Admit you were wrong, write off the shirts and recycle them, and next time do some focus groups and test runs before launching.

  112. Office Drone*

    Prudence ought to have heeded the hint, respected the more direct refusal, and certainly not have become angry. She was entirely out of line.

    That said, the LW should consider never turning down a source of free children’s clothing, especially since the first bag of items seems to have been in reasonably good condition. Even if you have to toss most of what you receive, it’s worth sorting through free stuff for usable and/or eBay worthy items. You can stuff the savings/extra money in your kid’s college savings account *and* keep the good will of your donors.

    1. Ermintrude (she/her)*

      It’s not on her to deal with other people’s stuff just because maybe she’d get something useful.

    2. KH_Tas*

      That takes a lot of work, that only some people enjoy, and usually doesn’t make a huge amount of cash. It’s very optional, and preserving the feelings of boundary-ignoring co-workers isn’t always the best idea.

    3. Happy*

      It sounds like LW already considered accepting the clothes and decided against it. There’s no reason LW needs to take on that labor if they don’t want to.

  113. Caleb*

    As a young adult, I want to add some of my perspective to LW #2 and provide an additional reason why people in my generation would be wary of wearing those shirts: I grew up in an era when the internet was really starting to move from “niche thing that’s mostly used by geeks and people with a business need for it” to “widespread thing that just about everyone uses”. With that came the advent of job hiring scams: people making posts (on Craigslist or Facebook or even a usually-reputable job-searching site) advertising jobs that didn’t exist with the aim of stealing applicants’ personal and financial information.

    I’m sure those existed prior to my teenage years, but they were really picking up speed around when I started job searching, and something that was constantly drilled into me by the adults around me was to watch out for fake job scams. And it’s not a totally unfounded fear or a thing that’s gone away now; I know someone who almost fell for one just about 2-3 years ago! So for me, the first thing I thought when I read your tshirt idea was: “If I wear that in public, anyone who sees me will know 1) that I need a job and 2) exactly what type of job I’m looking for, meaning they could very easily come up to me and spin some story about how they’re hiring for a role that doesn’t exist at a company they don’t work and use that to convince me to give them my personal information”.

    Two other things that would stop me from wearing your shirt are: 1) I’m in a field that doesn’t have a huge presence in the city I live in. Because of this, I do almost all of my networking remotely, so wearing a t-shirt that’s only visible to people I interact with in-person wouldn’t really do anything for me. 2) I really don’t want anyone at my current workplace to know that I’m looking for a new job until I have an offer for it, and wearing a t-shirt that communicates “I’m looking for a new job, someone please hire me!” would, uh… not be very subtle.

  114. Badger*


    I would reassess the shirts and how they can be most effective. Could you create an activity for your networking groups that involves them? Or a program/activity that you could pitch to college career centers? People may be more willing to wear them within the context of a professional development, networking, or educational activity than just in their everyday life. But if people still aren’t interested in a reworked idea, you may have to cut your losses.

  115. Petty Patty*

    I feel like LW2 has never heard of Google reviews. If I’m looking for a new landscaper/veterinarian/hairdresser/chiropractor, I’m going to want to know what experience other people have had with them first.

    Also, when I’m at the gas station or grocery store, I have never ever looked at what other people are wearing, much less stopped to read whatever is on their shirt.


    First, there no need to be angry as someone said in the comments – Always listen to the Market and even if the product is right but the right time is the key.

    Second, I would give those shirts/Ts for free to see public reaction and ask them would you buy them if they were not free? Based on their feedback, I would make a next move.

  117. RJ*

    RE: t-shirts, LW has fallen for the ancient trap of general employment advice: “This [method specific to my context] worked for me, therefore it will work for everyone.”

    I’m a professional in my 40s, and I’ve had maybe ONE job in my almost 25 years of working I got due to “networking.” Does that mean networking doesn’t work? No, it just doesn’t work for me and my field.

    The ageist generalizations are the icing on the cake. You have to fundamentally respect the consumer group to whom you want to sell products unless you’re a conman or a grifter. Next time listen to these college grads about their needs instead of telling them what they are. You might discover an actual window for a product.

  118. Deborah*

    LW#2 — I’m also thinking — no one makes their fortune selling t-shirts. Even if people bought them, there’s no way this can be decently profitable.

  119. Moonstone*

    Honestly, LW2 seems like a fake letter to me. Would anyone seriously believe that a t-shirt would spark a networking conversation that could lead to a job? If these are in fact real (which I doubt) then it’s no wonder new grads aren’t clamoring to purchase one. How seriously would you take someone who is wearing a t-shirt that checks off their desired job field and thinks that is a valid way of landing a job?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Always possible with any letter, but they included a photo of the shirts which include their business’s web address (which I removed since I’m not providing free marketing here) so it appears pretty real.

      (It’s always interesting to see what people think is suspicious though; even without the photo this one wouldn’t have seemed particularly suspicious to me. But my inbox has shown me life is quite a rich tapestry.)

      1. Moonstone*

        Sometimes I’m a little too cynical and jaded for my own good! Something about the tone of the letter just struck me as being made up but your line about life being a rich tapestry is so true and something I usually say to myself; I shouldn’t have jumped right to the conclusion of it being fake.

        Thank you for all that you do!

  120. Flare*

    “Networking will always be the way to get what you need.”

    It …will not. Honestly. Occasionally you know someone who happens to know exactly the person you need for something, like the team that painted your colleague’s house two summers ago did a fantastic job and you happen to remember there was painting and ask if they liked their team? But for jobs in a lot of sectors they have HR departments with hiring practices that render this kind of thing not only not useful but maybe actually an impediment, because if you know the person and have talked about your skills outside of the hiring process, maybe they can’t even participate in the process.

    My late father in law was a person who believed until he died that it was always best, you’d get the best deals, if you called up your buddy who’s in the business of selling [object you want.] I can say with extremely high confidence that the deals he got doing this, or worse doing it on our behalf, were not the best deals. Think ordinary 1995 VCR (typical department store price for a serviceable, ordinary VCR: $99-119?) for $479. Right now if he were alive and wanted to buy an iPhone, he would probably call a guy and get a great deal and only pay $8769 for last year’s model or something.

    Something about this letter reminds me of him.

  121. Buxom professional*

    Imagine someone were actually interested in reading which of the options I ticked on my t-shirt. Now they are staring at my (fairly bounteous) chest. This is awkward for both of us and not conducive to a good professional networking interaction.
    Or is the writing on the back and they are trailing close behind me to read it? That’s weird too.
    Nope nope.

  122. Jonquil*

    Two things I know to be true: when you have a baby everyone tries to offload their old stuff on you and no-one wants merch t-shirts, not even when they give them away for free.

    (in turn you will try to offload your baby stuff on other people; so much baby stuff is absolutely essential for like 3-6 months then never needed again. If you’re not already active in your local Buy Nothing group, get on it, and also onto any local baby gear buy/swap/sell groups)

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