my friend keeps asking me to get him a job, but he’s completely inexperienced and unqualified — Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I work in a fairly specialized field in the nonprofit sector, but one which sometimes features in the news and which many people not in the industry therefore take a passing interest in (think something like promoting women’s soccer). My field is not one which has a fixed route to get into, such as needing to go to law or medical school. But there are no entry-level roles — you have to have relevant skills and experiences gained elsewhere. To take the women’s soccer example: some people have previously been women’s soccer players; some have extensive experience organizing amateur soccer teams or volunteering with girls’ soccer charities; some have specialized skills and qualifications like being a sports physical therapist; and some have previously worked in different-but-adjacent nonprofit sectors.

Which brings me to my current situation. A close friend keeps asking me to get him a job in the industry, but he has absolutely no relevant knowledge, skills, or experience. He is one of those who will read and be interested in news articles when they appear, but beyond that really does not know much. When he first asked, I assumed he was joking, and that it was just a nice way of telling me my job sounded interesting. But then he kept asking, over and over again. This has gone on for … a long time.

When I point out that he knows nothing about women’s soccer and has no experience of nonprofit work (or anything which that entails such as project and grant management), he says that he can learn that on the job. When I point out that there are no entry-level roles and that nobody would hire somebody with no relevant background just because the applicant thinks they can learn the required skills on the job, he says I could recommend him.

One thing making this stranger is that he already has a successful career in his (totally different) field, in the private sector. I have suggested that if he really does want to work in my industry, he could transition to nonprofit work in his current field (there are a lot of opportunities to do so), then after a few years use that experience to try and move into mine. When I suggest that, he asks why I can’t just get him a job.

I will soon be moving to a new role, and he has now started asking if he can have my current job when I leave it. Aside from the fact that I won’t be the hiring manager, the answer is unsurprisingly no. But he is continuously asking and getting annoyed and frustrated when I keep saying no.

I’m not sure if this stems from a genuine naïveté about how people get jobs (he basically fell into his current field and then just stayed with it, so maybe he thinks that is the case for every job) or if he’s just trying to be an opportunist because he thinks my industry pays more, or a mix of both. Is there any way to shut his questioning down once and for all?

I think your error may be that you’re still trying to reason him into understanding why you’re not going to find him a job. That made sense in the beginning, when it was reasonable to assume he just didn’t understand how hiring in your industry works, but at this point you’re throwing good effort after bad in trying to logic him into understanding.

Instead, you probably need to just be blunt: “Dude, no. I’ve already explained that isn’t how my field works. There is zero chance I could do what you’re asking. Stop asking!”

If he keeps asking after that and since he’s a close friend: “It’s really frustrating that you keep asking this after I’ve told you it’s impossible. I’m calling a permanent ban on the subject so it doesn’t start affecting our friendship.”

Frankly, it might be worth adding that his certainty that he could step right into your field with no qualifications is pretty insulting to you: he’s devaluing your work, whether he intends to or not. (He’s also making himself look pretty delusional at the same time, which is a weird — although strangely common — combination.)

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