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AdviceHey, Bonita!

My Friend and I Applied for the Same Job

My Friend and I Applied for the Same Job

Advice for Athens’ Fed Up With Work

By Bonita Applebum advice@flagpole.com

Hey Bonita, 

I wrote to you recently about my Boss Baby situation. Even though I set a clear boundary by asking you to not tell me to find other work, you overstepped that boundary and suggested it anyway. Dammit, Bonita, you were right! This situation isn’t sustainable for me, so thanks for the kick in the pants. In the last few weeks, I’ve applied to several exciting jobs, and I check for new ones to apply to at least once a week. I’m writing again because I just had a conversation with a coworker about our mutual frustrations with our workplace. She ended the conversation by whispering to me that she’s looking for other jobs, and then named a job that I also applied for recently (it’s in our same workplace, but in a different department with different management). She spoke so quickly that when she mentioned looking for other jobs, I didn’t have a chance to say, “Hey, me too!” and then when she named the job that she’s applying for, I just froze and got quiet. I felt so awkward and immediately wondered if I should tell her that I applied for that exact same position, but I could only mutter a wish for good luck and encouragement for putting her needs first in terms of her career. So, should I let her know that we might be competing for the same job?

Thanks!

Looking For a Boss Baby Escape Plan, but I Wanna Keep My Friends

Well well well, LFABBEPBIWKMF,

First off, thank you for calling me out on overstepping that boundary. Not cool of me for sure, although I can think of quite a few reasons why I thought it was OK for me to do so. The situation you described would be untenable for me, but it’s clear that you were gonna reach the end of your rope on your own without my assistance. I am a real “dump them” type of person, and over the years I’ve lost my ability to tolerate clearly toxic environments that may even be benefiting me in some way. We’ve all had an awful job that sucked our souls away and made us hate life, but that paycheck keeps us coming back every week. I felt like you were asking for advice on how to best do that, and I couldn’t in good conscience provide that advice without at least being clear that this was not a situation that I’d recommend you stay in. But you figured that out on your own! That said, I don’t think you have to say anything to your coworker about the jobs you apply for, and you shouldn’t feel bad for applying for the same jobs she’s going after.  I’ve been on her side of things where I applied for a job and then a friend got it instead, and nothing was ever said to me. That friend didn’t apologize or explain why they applied or offer me comfort, because we were of the same mind about work: This is a small town, and there are only so many jobs to go around. Sure, I asked myself what made them more qualified than me, but I understood that if I’d been offered the job instead of them, I’d have taken it with no question. I needed a job, period. The grace that I extend to myself is also extended to my friends, who are trying to stay fed and housed just like I am.  

So no, you don’t need to tell her that you’re competing for the same jobs. You’re already supporting each other in your struggles at your current jobs, and I worry that telling her that you’re her direct competition for escape from this toxic environment could introduce petty competitiveness that would jeopardize your friendship. You work in the same field already, so she’s probably assumed as much, and a good friend would understand that there’s only so much work to go around. Take care of yourself without guilt, because she probably is, too.  

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