Friday, March 25, 2011

Q: I'm not interviewing for a specific position but I reached out to a few individuals, mostly to network and find out more about what they do specifically/more about their field. But I'm technically not supposed to ask them for a job so it's kind of tough.

A: Ahh, okay. So, I'm sure you'll ask questions like "what advice do you have for a college graduate in this field looking for a job right now" ? But you'll also want to ask them how they got their job or how they got started in their field. Nine times out of 10 their answer will start out: "well, I had this friend who worked there..."

Ask if the company they work for (or companies like it) only hire people who have interned there before. Ask if places will let you work on a freelance or temp basis to get your foot in the door. Ask if it's cool in that industry (or at that company) to send a resume and cover letter even if there isn't a job opening currently. Some companies will just throw incoming resumes in the trash if there are no current open positions or if they are in the middle of a hiring freeze.

And this is the most important question: Ask which associations people in that field belong to - ask if you can join as a student member for now. And honestly, this will be your best shot at hooking yourself up with a job.

Can you meet any of these people in their office at work? You might get lucky and they could introduce you to the HR person - that would be stellar. But not all industries are the same. Looking for a job in a chemistry lab is totally different from looking for a job in the art auction world.

In artist-related fields, it gets very um, intimate. For these jobs, you'll want to ask whose shoes you'll have to shine or car you'll have to wash. Ask if any of them need babysitters or dog walkers. This industry is more personal than professional. Find out where they get their hair done or have their coffee. Sheesh. Good luck! And ask if you can use their name as a reference in case you follow up on any of their contacts.

Also try to be courteous of their time. Have your cell phone on the table so you can discretely glance at the time every now and then. If you're not good at being discrete, just let them know you're trying to keep it short to respect their time (even if they say "take all the time you need". Don't). It's very nice of them to meet with you. Send them a follow up email thanking them a couple weeks later.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Q: I am used to seeing my boyfriend on a regular basis because we go to college together. Do you have any advice for after graduation when we live in different states and will be busy starting new lives/careers?

A: Yes, don’t listen to other people’s advice. Ha! I know that sounds hypocritical coming from an advice column but nobody can predict the future. If you both feel like there’s more road to travel in your relationship, than find a method of communication that works well for both of you. If he’s not a texter, don’t ask him to start. Face time is important so using something like Skype would be great. It also helps to have a set time each day or week to speak to each other, making adjustments as things come up (they will). If at all possible, share the burden of traveling to see one another. If he’s always driving or flying to see you, make the effort to visit him.

The biggest favor you can do each other is skip the whole paranoia / jealousy fever. If you don’t trust him 1,000 miles away, you can’t trust him 100 yards away. Make sure he can trust you too. Be honest with him and yourself if you’ve met somebody else. Respect him enough not to just be a crutch of familiarity as you stumble through your strange new life. Sometimes we have a hard time letting go of even inanimate things like blankets, posters, clothes, much less relationships that aren’t meant to be a part of our new phase of life. So, it’s understandable that this happens.

I don’t need to tell you that it’s not going to be easy. You’ll miss each other so much it will feel like you’re not 100% present in your current locations. Just find a way to make it work until it’s not working anymore, or until one of you decides to relocate – and that situation is a whole other column. Good luck!

Monday, March 7, 2011

I received an email from a college student asking for advice...

Q: In college, it is easy to casually meet up with someone you are interested in. However, I will be living at home after graduation and want advice on how to meet guys or what to expect about dating while working in the professional world.

A: This is more common that you think. Most graduating college students are entering the workplace single – as in, not even dating anyone. So you’ve got this big stamp on your forehead that says “Available” as soon as you begin your new life. While it does become more difficult to meet guys once you’re living off campus and possibly even living at home while looking for a job, there is one time-tested solution: friends. And friends of friends.

This might scare some of you introverts, but don’t worry. You don’t necessarily have to start making new friends from scratch. Thanks to Facebook and LinkedIn, you should be able to find out if any of your friends have other friends or relatives living or working near you. The hard part will be forcing yourself to join them when they invite you out to events and parties. Just don’t go there looking for a date immediately. These are the events where you’re going to meet the friends who might later introduce you to someone you might want to date.

When I first moved to D.C., I didn’t have any friends here. My friend from high school in Florida had a cousin here, who was kind enough to invite me to her friend’s party. I ended up dating one of the guys on her friend’s soccer team after meeting this group out several times. It ended badly, but hey, at least I tried.
Too often, college grads go for the immediate gratification – date me now! Give it some time. Let yourself attend a few of these events and make some friends or become better friends with existing circles. This is also beneficial to getting the background scoop on any guy you want to date. If you’ve been hanging out long enough, you’re more likely to find out which guy is worth dating.

Ask around and you’ll learn that many successful relationships began because a friend introduced some girl to some guy – and they took it from there! A couple of footnotes on the above advice: if you’re invited to an event you don’t feel comfortable attending, don’t go. This isn’t a free pass for shy people to not attend a dinner party. This means you’re not going to find the right fit for you if you constantly attend events you don’t enjoy. And you’re going to look miserable. No one wants to date that.

As for the second part of your question about dating while working in the professional world – if you meant dating at work when you’re the new college graduate, I’m going to put a flag on the play right now. There are more reasons not to do this, than to do this, but in case you’re a visual learner, here’s your list:


- The guy you start dating is also dating your boss. She finds out and fires you.

- You chose to date the guy who has the worst reputation in the office, but you don’t know it because you haven’t worked there long enough. Everyone loses respect for you and you’re no longer CC’ed on happy hour invites.

- You end up going for the same promotion as the guy you just started dating, only he’s worked there longer and manipulates you to get what he wants.

- Your boss thinks you’re paying more attention to your social life than your work life and you either get passed over for opportunities or worse, fired. (yes, this has happened)


- You have a date on Saturday night.
- You feel attractive.

Starting to get the picture? Trust me on this. I am speaking from personal experience. Maybe, and I mean maybe, after you’ve worked at the same office for almost a year, you can safely date a co-worker. But that’s only if your Human Resources department allows it. I’ve had friends (women) who started dating an intern and had to keep it on the major down-low. That became the appeal of the relationship and once he was hired as a regular employee, their relationship hit the rocks. Even if a co-worker friend recommends dating another one of your co-workers, think things through first: how will a break-up affect their working relationship? How will it affect your friendship with your co-worker?

Once you’re in the “real world” the ripple effect from dating one person becomes much bigger, since you’re now skipping stones in a bigger pond. If you plan to work in that industry for a long time, keep in mind that certain circles are small, even though the city seems huge.

To end on a fun note, there are some great movies (and terrible ones) that explore this topic. Check out “Working Girl” with Harrison Ford. Total 80’s movie with huge hair and shoulder pads that would make the NFL jealous. . If you love the classics, check out “His Girl Friday.” There’s also Jason Bateman’s “Extract” from 2009: “In Good Company” stars Dennis Quaid (aka guy who used to be married to Meg Ryan). ... And, of course, “Boss’s Daughter,” is available for those who like cheesy flicks.