Q: Six months ago, I was fired from a company where I worked for two years. My co-workers were a tight clique of women who blamed me whenever something went wrong. The supervisor supported them, and human resources didn't seem interested in my side of the story.
Before this happened, I had a good work history for 30 years, but I have not been able to find another job. When I tell employers I was fired, they never call me back for a second interview. How can I convince someone to hire me?
A: If you worked successfully for three decades, then the last job was obviously an anomaly. Perhaps you were unsuited for that particular position, or maybe the office drama just spiraled out of control. But regardless, the key to re-employment is highlighting your earlier record.
For example: "In my last job, I found myself in a difficult situation which I still don't fully understand. Perhaps I was simply not a good fit for that position. But as you can see from my résumé, I previously had a long, successful work history. My former managers have provided reference letters, and they will be glad to talk with you about my ability and work ethic."
Ask your references for permission to share their names and contact information, then prepare a summary sheet to give employers. You must also make a concerted effort to sharpen your interview skills. A strong personal impression, combined with glowing recommendations, will help to offset any concerns about your termination.
Q: I am extremely angry with a colleague who keeps copying my work. When "Jody" was hired three years ago, I let her use my project documents as a model. But she is now quite capable of creating her own.
Although I have hinted that I don't like having my work copied, Jody continues to do it. We used to be friends, but now I try to avoid her. How can I stop this without creating a conflict?
A: I hate to break it to you, but if you are angrily avoiding a former friend, then a conflict already exists. The problem is that your refusal to communicate directly makes it impossible to resolve. Like many timid souls, you drop "hints" about your feelings, then become resentful when no one picks up on them.
Since you originally allowed Jody to copy your documents, she may have no idea that your feelings have changed. So instead of continuing to send subtle signals, try expressing your concerns like a mature adult.
For example: "Jody, I gave you permission to copy my work when you were new, but now I feel sure that you can do a great job on your own. Although I prefer not to have my documents duplicated, I will be glad to help if you should run into any roadblocks."
If imagining this conversation makes you queasy, then you will have to choose between taking an emotional risk and accepting the status quo. The only unacceptable alternative is to continue acting like a passive-aggressive child.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of "Secrets to Winning at Office Politics." Send in questions and get free coaching tips at http://www.yourofficecoach.com, or follow her on Twitter @officecoach