Dear Prudence

Will Work for Hire

I am a recent grad, went on 30 interviews, but can’t get a job.

Mallory Ortberg
Mallory Ortberg

Sam Breach

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Dear Prudence,
I graduated college two years ago and spent a year looking for a job in my field. I went to more than 30 interviews, got lots of positive feedback and follow-up interviews, but never a job offer. I’ve done networking events, signed up for mentors, been to job fairs, asked for advice, gone to career counselors, tried staffing agencies and found nothing. I truly am open to critique and tough love if it means I could find my way to success. I’m not even being picky at this point. I’m willing to take anything that requires a college degree and pays a living wage with a chance to move up. The problem is I’ve been working the same reception job full time since graduation and I’m really starting to resent everyone here. I took a year off from trying to find other jobs, and now I’m ready to get back to it. How do I keep my positive face on at work? Job searching stresses me out. I’m unfulfilled, unstimulated, and very unhappy.

—Staying Positive

First, the bad news: This sounds pretty normal for a recent college graduate. The good news is that you are only two years out of college, and this will probably not be the case for the rest of your working life! But going through 30 (or more) sort-of promising interviews without getting a firm offer isn’t unheard of, especially when you’re just starting out and don’t have much experience. Take heart in the fact that your current situation is not unusual or cause for concern.

That’s all well and good, of course, but it doesn’t do you much good with your current problem, which is how to keep yourself from getting so frustrated with your job search that you can’t do the job you currently have. There’s a few things that might help, particularly limiting the number of hours you spend actively job hunting during the week. This may sound counterintuitive, but one of the most frustrating aspects of the job hunt is the pressure to spend every moment of your spare time on it. Set aside a day or two a week where you don’t comb listings, update your résumé, or go through your contact list for leads, and do something you enjoy after work that’s just for yourself. Once you’ve applied for a job, put it out of your mind and move on to the next opportunity, rather than speculating when they’re going to call back. You might also look within your current company for opportunities to move up or take on new responsibilities that interest you more than working reception; it’s possible you’d find your office less stultifying if you were able to do different kinds of work or shadow someone whose job interests you. Most of what you’re doing—asking for advice from people whose careers you admire, going on follow-up interviews, seeking out mentors—is exactly right; the fact that it hasn’t resulted in a new job yet doesn’t mean you have to completely change tactics.

* * *

Dear Prudence,
My boyfriend and I have been together for two years and I recently came home to find he had moved out while I was at work. I love him with all I am and want to spend the rest of my life with him. For the past six months we have been having problems because his family hates me; they’ve accused me of telling them that my boyfriend is physically and emotionally abusive (he isn’t and I haven’t), have called me a liar, and refused to allow me on their property or in their house to talk and sort things out. I knew that they were angry at me and tried to be understanding and didn’t make him choose sides. I spent so many nights alone at home while he went with his family, even Christmas.

His family members were never big fans of mine because when we first got together I was not working due to a back injury from a car accident. But my boyfriend and I have been through a lot together and are happy when it’s just us. He is very sensitive to the feelings of his family and the guilt of feeling like he was hurting them by being with me has been eating him up. He told me that that is why he left. How am I supposed to fix this situation if his family won’t even speak to me and they are endorsing this breakup?

—Broken and Alone

I don’t believe that “fixing” this situation, or getting back together with your ex, should be your goal. As hard as it may be to accept, by your own account your ex-boyfriend has repeatedly chosen to side with his family over you. You say you never asked him to pick sides, but they did, repeatedly, and he’s picked them every time. Presumably he does not believe the lies they have spread about you, but he would rather end your relationship than defend your honesty and integrity to them. The way he ended your relationship was jarring and disorienting, and it will of course take time to deal with the pain of your breakup, but consider that your ex has done you a great favor. It’s telling that he moved out while you were at work without a preliminary conversation; avoidance seems to be a part of his game. If he’s willing to let his family’s lies go unchallenged, to leave you by yourself on major holidays, and break up with you just to keep his parents from criticizing him, then he is not the person whose respect and affection are worth fighting for.

* * *

Dear Prudence,
I am transgender and autistic, and I have made a friend who is also autistic, “Mike.” Mike is cis and straight, while I am gender fluid. This is not an issue for either of us, as we have bonded over our shared social difficulties and many common interests. We’re both enrolled at the local college, and I have been helping Mike stay on top of his schoolwork. But his parents don’t want him to spend time with me. His mother apparently heard from a co-worker that I have “stalking tendencies,” and I have no idea where this came from. I do have social difficulties but have never been accused of stalking. My college has multiple campuses, and I recently learned there is another trans student there who has been accused of stalking; I think it’s likely this is who Mike’s mother has heard about.

Mike’s parents are highly critical of me and have been trying to convince Mike that I am a bad influence and even tried to ban him from seeing me. Mike is in his early 20s, although he still lives at home. His parents seem to think I am trying to turn their son gay and steal him from them. I’d like to clear up this mistaken identity, but Mike’s parents won’t respond to my request to sit down and have an honest discussion. They are treating Mike so poorly that I fear for his mental health, and all of this is taking a major toll on me. How do I even begin to deal with this?

—Friendship Troubles

As you say, Mike is an adult and does not need his parents’ permission to be your friend, even if he does live at home. I think you should, for now at least, consider his parents a lost cause. They’re clearly not interested in seeing reason or behaving rationally, but you know that you have done nothing wrong and have nothing to prove. The mistaken identity is a red herring; even if Mike were to correct his parents’ misapprehension, they would find something else to be upset about. Since you’re worried about Mike’s well-being in the face of his parents’ treatment, encourage him to access your campus’ mental health services. Consider visiting a school counselor yourself for support and guidance during this difficult time. You can continue to see Mike at school or out in public, but don’t make yourself responsible for mediating his relationship with his parents.

* * *

Dear Prudie: A guy in my dorm sets an obnoxious alarm for early morning hours and then lets it ring for hours!

Hear more Prudence at

Dear Prudence,
When I was 12 years old, I testified against my biological dad for years of sexual and physical abuse. His mother, my grandmother, sided with him. Afterward I was adopted and did not speak to any of my biological relatives for 20 years. Eventually I got back into contact with my siblings, and we have developed a good relationship. They told me my grandmother “Marigold” wanted to see me, but I learned that my biological father was about to be released from jail and she was planning on letting him move in with her. I said if she took him in, I would not see her; sure enough, he moved in with her. Since then he’s been back in and out of jail. Now my grandmother is dying and apparently begging to see me.

The adult in me feels bad for her, but the child in me wants to know why I was never protected. Why do we automatically forgive the dying? Do I have to see her? I know this sounds coldhearted, but what happened to me all those years ago was never a secret.

—Give Her Peace?

No, you don’t have to see her. If your grandmother had expressed remorse for her failure to support and protect you as a childhood victim of sexual assault, and if you thought you might gain something by meeting with her and offering your forgiveness, then such a meeting might be worthwhile, but under the present circumstances, I don’t think much good would come out of agreeing to see her. You do not have to forgive someone just because she is nearing death. The mere passage of time is not the same thing as an apology, and she is not offering one now. Without any sign of remorse, it’s likely that what she wants is to justify herself and clear her own conscience for the choices she has made. That your grandmother is dying is sad, certainly, but you do not owe her absolution. The fact that you can pity her at all for her current agitation is a testament to your compassion and kindness. Be gracious to yourself. If you decide not to see her, do not accuse yourself of being cold- or hardhearted; protecting yourself is not the same thing as harming someone else.

* * *

Dear Prudence,
Recently a friend casually remarked that my boyfriend has, in her opinion, made “lots of offensive and sexist comments,” but that she’s able to get past them because she knows he’s a good guy and not a misogynist at heart. I asked her what specifically he had done, and she said, “Oh, lots of things,” and the conversation moved on. Later she sort of apologized but implied that all men are sexist. I agree that there are experiences women have that men never seem to understand, but my boyfriend is a kind person and a self-identified feminist. He’s never said anything in front of me in our three years together that struck me as offensive. Should I ask my friend for clarification? Let it go? Tell my boyfriend so he’s aware he’s coming off as sexist?

—Friend vs. Boyfriend

There’s no point at present in making your boyfriend aware he might be “coming off as sexist” because, as yet, you have no reason to believe that he does. This is, however, worth revisiting with your friend. Either she has information about your boyfriend’s character that you ought to know about so you can discuss it with him, or she’s making baseless accusations that might lead you to re-evaluate her character. It’s one thing for her to point out that men, as a group, tend to benefit from institutional sexism (although different groups of men experience male privilege in vastly different ways), but it’s quite another to say that your boyfriend specifically has a habit of saying offensive, misogynistic things. That’s worth having a follow-up conversation!

It’s possible, although not certain, that your friend was nervous about the prospect of telling you how differently he acts when you’re not around and got conversational cold feet. Ask her to clarify. Say you were thinking about her comments and hoped she could remember anything he’s specifically said or done, because that’s not the impression you have of him and you’d really like to know. If she offers anything specific that you want to then bring up with your boyfriend, you’ll have something to go on. The challenge here is to offer both your friend and your boyfriend, at various points in this process, some benefit of the doubt. Right now you’re trying to collect as many details as possible so you can make an informed decision about what if anything is worth addressing with your boyfriend.

* * *

Dear Prudence,
I am a freshman in college. About five months ago I was diagnosed with a brain tumor after getting an MRI for a minor head injury. Thankfully, the tumor is very small and likely benign. Nevertheless, it has given me terrible anxiety. I was already a bit of hypochondriac before and now every time I experience any kind of symptom I can’t help but wonder if it’s a sign the tumor is growing. The one thing I have found helpful in countering these thoughts is reminding myself of my upcoming MRI. If the tumor hasn’t grown significantly then I’ll know I was worrying about nothing and if it has grown, I can deal with that then.

Recently, my parents (who know me very well) suggested that I push the MRI back a month, so that my inevitable increase in anxiety does not disrupt my already-stressful schoolwork. Medically, this would not be a problem as the tumor is growing very slowly (the neurosurgeon confirmed this), but I am impatient and inclined to go ahead with the scheduled date. I feel that relieving my current, slow-building anxiety sooner is worth the temporary spike that always comes with an MRI.


Get the MRI! Putting yourself through an additional month of wondering “what if?” every time you get a headache isn’t going to make getting through your schoolwork any easier. Your parents may know you very well, but you know yourself better, and they’re not the ones who have to live with this uncertainty. Whatever the outcome, you’ll at least know what steps you’ll have to take once you get the MRI. Putting it off will only increase your anxiety. Keep your appointment, and good luck.

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