‘I don’t want the boss to think I’m the problem’ - Albuquerque Journal

‘I don’t want the boss to think I’m the problem’

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site www.workitdaily.com. Dale Dauten is founder of The Innovators’ Lab and author of a novel about H.R., “The Weary Optimist.”

Dear J.T. & Dale: I just joined a company and have to work with a woman who’s senior to me. She does great work, but I noticed that she takes a ton of sick days and has a lot of medical appointments. Our boss doesn’t seem to mind, and she definitely tries to make up the time, but it’s a challenge for me when I’m on deadline and need something from her and she’s not available. Should I bring this up with my boss? I don’t want the boss to think I’m the problem. — Eugene

J.T.: Talk to your co-worker first. While it’s not her responsibility to tell you her personal situation, it is her responsibility to work with you effectively. Explain the problem with meeting deadlines and ask her if there’s a way to set up communication so that you can be on top of things on the days when she’s not available. Let her know that you just want to be as successful as possible and don’t want to create any additional work for her. But, at the same time, you’re worried that you might not be seen as a strong performer because of these challenges. I think if you say it sincerely, she’ll understand that it’s scary for you, and she’ll want to be able to help. She may offer some insight into what’s happening with her health, but if she doesn’t, you’re at least politely giving her a way to work through this challenge without bringing it up.

DALE: That should help, but if it doesn’t and your co-worker shows no concern about your situation, I agree that you should not shoulder the blame. How do you accomplish this without ratting out a colleague and, doing so, risk becoming a pariah? By being a great teammate. In your department meetings, let everyone know your focus is on meeting deadlines and that you’ll examine every shortcoming, not to assess blame but to get better as a team. It’s not criticism, it’s teamwork.

Dear J.T. & Dale: I went to school and got my undergraduate degree in history. I went to college because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, and I studied history because I liked the stories and thought it was interesting. But now that I’ve graduated, I cannot find a job. I always get stumped in the interview when they ask me about why I studied history. I tell them the honest answer, and I can see the disappointment in their faces. I regret not being more intentional, but I didn’t know any better. How can I overcome this without having to lie in these interviews? — Jenna

J.T.: I think what you need to do is just keep the explanation short and pivot that conversation toward the kind of work you want to do. Tell them honestly that you weren’t sure what you wanted and chose history for the storytelling aspect and are now struggling to translate it into a career, adding that you regret the decision. Then, focus on skill sets. For example, since you enjoyed storytelling, maybe you should be getting into a social media or marketing job where you could tell stories. Tie your interest in history into what’s happening in the working world and that will show them that you are connecting the dots and have some sense of direction.

DALE: All good advice, except I don’t want you to apologize for your degree. I’m guessing your sheepishness on the subject is what’s disappointing interviewers. Do not forget that history is a way to understand the present and the future and a superb background for any career. Just tell interviewers that you wanted a strong general degree, because, a couple of years ago, you weren’t sure what career you wanted; now, however, you’ve chosen (whatever job you’re considering). You might even ask what they studied in school and if they’re using what they learned. They’ll love you.

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site www.workitdaily.com. Dale Dauten is founder of The Innovators’ Lab and author of a novel about H.R., “The Weary Optimist.” Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. (c) 2022 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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