Q: When I opened up the “jobs” section on LinkedIn, I could not believe it. I found a job posting in Anchorage that seemed written for me. I read the announcement all the way through with increasing excitement, only to receive a strong shock when I saw the name of the individual to whom to send resumes. It was my best friend. Even though we talk several nights a week about almost everything in our lives, she never told me about this job.
I immediately called her and asked, “Why didn’t you let me know about the job you’ve listing?” Her silence told me a lot; she must have been hoping I wouldn’t see the ad. When I again asked her “why,” she answered, “You can apply” in a flat voice. I felt so betrayed I shouted at her, “Why don’t you want me to work at your company?”
She then broke my heart. She said, “You’ve been terribly unhappy in your last jobs. If you’re not happy in this one, I’m the HR manager and I’ll have to deal with it.” I couldn’t believe my best friend was using everything I’d told her in confidence to deny me a job ideal for me. I shouted something at her, I don’t remember what, and slammed the phone down.
For two years, my best friend has listened to and supported me, and now, when she could really help me, she clearly didn’t intend to. What do I do with this? Do I apply or not given that she holds all the cards?
A: You apply, after you think the situation through and apologize.
Your friend may have felt it right to support you by listening to and encouraging you when you talked about your job woes. Like others, she may have swallowed thoughts she never voiced, such as “have you looked at your role in this problem?” or “you’re blaming your supervisor, but your supervisor is just doing what she needs to when she finds you chatting on your cellphone on work time.” Many individuals don’t voice those comments because they don’t want to hurt a friend’s feelings, because they want to be supportive and not critical and because they don’t want to ignite an argument.
When your friend posted the job, she did so in the capacity of HR manager for her company. In that role, she may feel it her duty to her employer to select the right applicant. Are you that person?
She may also have had multiple reasons to avoid telling you about the position. She may not think you’re right for the job. She may be conflict adverse and worry that you’ll apply and she’ll have to turn you down. She may feel that if she hires you, you’ll expect her to take your side when you get into workplace disagreements with your supervisor. How will you feel when you expect your good friend to jump to your defense but her HR role dictates that she maintains neutrality? She may realize she’ll need to shut down your evening discussions about your feelings about your job, ending your ability to use her as your stress relief valve. If she doesn’t, she’ll learn things, in confidence, that put her in a compromising position.
After you’ve thought this through, take a fresh look at the job posting and yourself. Are you the best candidate? If so, apply. You owe it to yourself.
Finally, demonstrate maturity. When you saw the posting, it shocked you, leading you to react in ways you may now regret. Apologize to her for shouting, and she may in turn apologize to you for not telling you about the posting. Once you’ve apologized, ask her if there are thoughts she’s held back because she’d tried to support you. Your willingness to ask honest, direct questions and to listen to difficult information may positively impact your future, whether or not you get the job.