DEAR J.T. & DALE: After 10 years as a stay-at-home mom, I recently returned to the workforce. I did work in my 20s that I loved, so I read everything I could about returning to a career (including J.T.’s site Careerrealism.com). I went to the interview with my first-choice company and knocked their socks off. I also had knock-your-socks-off references and a vision for my future to share. I landed the job. However, having been in the job awhile, I’m finding I don’t like this work anymore. To top it off, its 40-hour week has turned into 60 hours. How do I handle looking for a new job without looking like a changeable jerk? – Bella
DALE: As J.T. and I read your question, we both were smiling with admiration for your organized, intelligent re-entry to the work force. Nice. I wonder, however, if the career/industry you went back to has changed, or is it you? A job with a family waiting at home is not the same job.
J.T.: You could start by figuring out if the 60-hour week is the new normal in your industry. In short, it’s time to do some informational interviewing with others in the field to see if there’s a place where you might be a better fit. Then, if you conclude that it is no longer the profession for you, you might consider some career coaching or career assessment tools.
DALE: You can begin with a marvelous career assessment tool: Your network via your children, your “kidnet.” All those hours sitting around watching T-ball or waiting for the dance recital to start can be marvelous times to discuss careers with people who have life situations similar to your own. There is no better way to explore career alternatives than to find people you admire and figure out how to be more like them.
J.T.: Once you find that new direction, do not be paranoid about appearing to be a “changeable jerk” – few hiring managers will be too concerned about a single “miss” with your first job back. Once you have a career path you are excited about, we have no doubt you’ll knock the socks off other employers.
DEAR J.T. & DALE: I am a nurse who has been looking for employment since moving to the mainland from Hawaii earlier this year. I’ve never had any difficulty until now. Maybe the problem is that I could not afford a professional résumé writer. Or that I have been a nurse for 38 years. (I consider myself young for my age of 61.) I’ve gone to several interviews without any success. What’s wrong? – Karen
J.T.: Yes, finding a job can get harder as you get older. Why? Your skills and expertise are seen as “too much” for many of the jobs available. That’s why you need to focus on meeting people instead of submitting online applications. Your résumé doesn’t tell the full story, and employers need to see your personality and aptitude. I would encourage you to find industry associations and other events where peers in your profession meet.
DALE: Just tell those peers that you recently moved from Hawaii and they will, after their eyes briefly glaze over with recollections of their vacations there, be pleased to offer assistance. However, something else is troubling me: You said you’d already had several interviews. If your résumé is a problem, you wouldn’t have gotten interviews. Same with being new to the area, or your age. So forget those, and focus on interviewing skills. See if you can get one of your old managers to do a practice interview over the phone. Further, as you make new friends in the profession locally, ask one or more to do practice interviews with you, and try to get solid, critical feedback. There may be something about terminology, standards or procedures, or even how you dress for interviews that’s different in the mainland. These are things easily fixed.
J.T.: Don’t be shy about asking. You’ll be amazed at how many people will be willing to help you. Give them that chance, and soon you’ll have a terrific new job.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm jtodonnell. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com. Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.