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How do I tell well-meaning people their suggestions are terrible?


I’m not saying a firm and unpainted response – “Nah, sorry mate, that’s not a good suggestion at all” – is out of the question. For some people, this is exactly the kind of tone that works. But for others, this will come across as ungrateful, rude, or both.


Then there’s the question of whether you really know which tone works for which friend or family member. I don’t say that to question your judgment. I say that because I’m almost certain part of the problem here is that people you know and love are making assumptions about you. They very likely don’t mean to, but by doing so, they’re using incorrect information to guide their on-your-behalf job searches.

My point is, don’t fall into the trap of making assumptions about the people making assumptions.

How do you avoid this? If you have the time, I think the answer is to sit down with the people sending you these way-off-the-mark opportunities and having a chat. It doesn’t need to be a “Sorry, but I’d really like you to stop doing this” chat. It doesn’t even need to be a chat entirely about their bad proposals. But it does need to get around to the question of how they decided a job was “perfect for you”.

You might find some people just don’t quite get what you’re interested in career-wise or where your professional skills lie. You might find some have misinterpreted conversations you’ve had previously. You might find some people mistakenly believe you want as many jobs thrown at you as possible, regardless of their suitability. You might find some people don’t understand your level of experience or proficiency in a certain field. You might find some are putting very little thought into it at all. Whatever you discover, base your response around that.

As you’ve said in your question, most, if not all of these job ideas are sent to you in good faith. Try to put aside the fact that some are so inappropriate they’re insulting, and reply to them in that same spirit.

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