I Can’t Get a Job Because I was a Bully in High School

Your favorite weekly advice column is back with a vengeance.
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I was a bully in high school and now I can’t get a job, help!

I’ve been trying to break into a niche industry (30-40 jobs in a city with a population of 3 million) for a while now. I’m in my late 20s, and though it took me some time to decide what I wanted to do with my life, I have finished my degree and completed two internships. I’m working part-time in a related field and freelancing while searching for a full-time job in the niche industry. I’m willing to move for the right job, but I’d rather stay close to home — so I was stoked last summer when I got an interview for one of the very few entry-level jobs available in my city! I ultimately didn’t get it, but the interview went well enough they encouraged me to apply the next time they had an opening.

Then an acquaintance who works at the company called me up and asked if I wanted to get coffee. I figured she’d offer me tips on how to do better next time. Instead, she told me to give up on ever being hired there — turns out, a girl I had gone to high school with is a real rock star at this company, and she threatened to resign when it looked like I was about to be offered a job. (I hadn’t realized it was her because her married name is different.) I’ll be honest — I wasn’t a very nice person back then, and I probably was pretty awful to this girl. I looked my former classmate up, and her resume really is incredible. She graduated from college early and has awards people who’ve worked in our industry twice as long haven’t won. Her public-facing work is top-notch. I’m guessing she’s the kind of employee a manager wants to keep around.

My acquaintance’s prediction appears to be true: I didn’t get an interview for a new position at the company that would’ve been an even better fit than the one I’d interviewed for. When I asked why, I was told a staffer had raised some concerns and the company would not be moving forward with my candidacy. I’m heartbroken. I worked so hard for so long to get the training required for this type of work, and I don’t think I deserve to be blacklisted for something I said when I was 17. I have my former classmate’s work email. Should I beg for forgiveness?


Oh wow. We’ve got a live one! This is a tricky situation you’ve gotten yourself into, isn’t it? Luckily, your good friend AJ is here to help you figure out the best way to solve your little predicament.

When you’re looking for a job, it’s important to pick one that you actually have a chance of getting. It’s tough to get into a niche industry in a large city when you made it a point to ruin one of said company’s best employee’s lives in high school.

It sounds like you think one comment that you made when you were 17 is the dealbreaker here, and I have some news for you that may be tough to hear. I personally was never a bully, nor was I bullied, but I saw it happen pretty often during my formative years (This was not the tough part to hear). Chances are you were/are actually a pretty terrible person. Take comfort in knowing that it wasn’t one thing that you said or did, but more likely a few years worth of generally shitty behavior towards this one individual and their group of friends that are keeping you from getting a job. Unless this rock star employee holds one hell of a grudge, that is.

Option 1

I think your first option here is to physically beg for forgiveness. Email this employee that you made miserable in high school, and tell her how bad you feel. Grovel. Make them feel like the most important employee that has ever been dubbed “rock star.” Treat them like the corporate Mick Jagger that they are. Take them out for coffee/shopping and spend your freelance paycheck on them. Chances are, they still probably hate you and this will only confirm that. But hey, at least you won’t be guessing anymore. There’s always other industries to work in.

Option 2 and my personal suggestion

The other option you have is the more likely one to work. Take your friend’s advice. Give up and move to a different city, I have a feeling you’d be doing everyone a favor.

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