I Lied About My Degree to Get a Job. How Do I Come Clean?

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I went to college for four years but didn’t finish my degree or graduate because of a mental health issue that was undiagnosed at the time. I am not ashamed of this. But with all my friends graduating, I got nervous about finding a job without a degree. So, I lied about having one when I applied for my first professional job — which I got. The degree is still on my résumé. I am very good at what I do. I have all the skills and abilities my employer wants, and I get excellent performance reviews. Should I tell the truth eventually, and if so, how?

SKILLED DROPOUT

I’m sorry to hear that a mental health challenge derailed your graduation. And I agree wholeheartedly that it is nothing to be ashamed of. The real problem here is that you haven’t expressed any remorse for your lie — which is separate from your mental health. We all screw up. But unless we’re sorry for our errors, it’s hard for others to forgive us.

For an employer, your mistake may be more serious than your stellar job performance. In one of your first interactions with the company, you lied. That goes to integrity — no matter how sympathetic your circumstances. Drop the excuses: mental health, friends with degrees, even excellent job reviews. Own the thing you did wrong (at least to yourself).

Once you do that, you can explore fixing the problem more productively. Contact your college (or others in the area) and ask if you can finish your degree now — perhaps at night. Your original difficulties may be compelling to schools. You can also enroll in continuing education classes to beef up your résumé.

I can’t tell you what to do. I don’t know the likelihood or stakes of your being fired. Some will think you deserve it. But I see punishment already. This lie has boxed you in: You can’t apply for another job or a promotion if it risks a background check. And fear of discovery likely weighs heavily on you. The safest thing is probably to say nothing to your employer until you find a way to make your lie truer.

Our daughter is married and has three kids. People occasionally ask me, with a look of disdain for her, if her children all have the same father. My preferred response is to ask whether their own children have the same father. My wife thinks this is petty. Advice?

MARTIN

People’s social filters occasionally go on the fritz, prompting them to ask questions that are offensive and none of their business. (Other people are just mean.) In these cases, I reply: “Why do you ask?” This often snaps them back to their senses, helping them to see their rudeness and backtrack.

Not always, though! Some people double down and offer defenses for their indefensible questions. (“Well, the kids look nothing alike,” for instance.) At that point, change the subject or tell them to buzz off, depending on your aggravation.

Our wonderful family dog, Scottie, has an inoperable cancerous growth that makes breathing and movement difficult for him. The last time I brought him to our vet, she said that Scottie was probably beginning to feel pain. It’s now clear to me that any movement hurts this wonderful creature, but my husband refuses to talk about putting him down. Help!

DOG MOM

I am very sorry for your dog’s difficulties. And I can confirm, from experience, that getting family members onto the same page about veterinary interventions is not always easy. You both love Scottie, though. Schedule an appointment with the vet and bring your husband. Ask about the dog’s pain, possible treatments and prognosis. With luck, hearing this information together will make agreement easier — if no less painful.

My boyfriend and I, both 60ish, have been living together for two years. His son, with whom I have grown close, is getting married. The problem: My boyfriend’s ex-wife is giving the bridal shower. (Who ever heard of a groom’s mother throwing the shower?) As you may have guessed, I am not invited. I am certain that if the shower were being given by anyone else, I would be invited. I’m really struggling with this exclusion. How should I handle it?

CATHY

It’s rare for me not to sympathize with anyone who says her feelings are hurt. But you have tested me! It is none of your business who gives this bridal shower. Dusty old etiquette books may call it a gift grab for blood relatives to host them, but I think we’ve moved beyond pretending that gifts aren’t the main point of bridal showers.

Try to see beyond your sense of entitlement and imagine the feelings of your husband’s ex-wife — the groom’s mother — who may still be processing her hurt or anger about her divorce. What’s more, she is free to invite whomever she pleases to parties that she gives.


For help with your awkward situation, send a question to [email protected], to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.





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