Monday, July 31, 2000

Divorce can create tough search for job

Older, inexperienced job hunter should find help

By Andrea Kay
        Dear Andrea: I am a woman in my mid-50s with no formal job skills. I worked in my husband's businesses for 30 years. He sold our recent business behind my back, and we are now divorced. I took the first job that would take me.

        I haven't been received well by my younger fellow workers. I am ignored and brought to tears on many occasions. I have just learned that one of my managers told my fellow workers I am the stupidest person he has ever met.

        I do come across pretty helpless. They throw things and have tantrums when I don't do the right thing.

        I have stomach problems and am afraid to get another job for fear of being intimidated. I am so new to this — is this the way it is?

        I'm taking a computer course at a women's center. It's not coming easy. I have never felt so alone. Where do I begin? — Alone and confused

        Dear Alone and Confused: The fact that you got yourself out into a work world you don't feel comfortable with is a good start. Give yourself credit for forging ahead under difficult circumstances.

Don't believe all you hear
        Regarding what your co-worker told you the manager said, you don't know that it's true. Don't believe everything you hear.

        Yes, there are some workplaces that have thoughtless idiots working there who throw tantrums and other things. No, that's not the way it is everywhere, and you don't have to be in that environment.

        You do indeed have skills if you've worked in an office for 30 years. Get help to understand what those skills are. Check out Catholic Social Services, Jewish Vocational Services or a United Appeal agency that offers career help at little or no cost. This will help you find a position you're better suited for.

        Look into other courses you could take through this women's center such as assertiveness training.

        There may also be support groups for recently divorced women. Concentrate on building a new support system. Talking to others who have been through this can be the best medicine.

        Dear Andrea: I am a recently separated mother of two teen- agers. Is it all right to mention my impending divorce during an interview if the discussion turns toward family situations?

        I don't want a potential employer to think I'm emotionally unstable or unreliable. But it feels awkward calling my-soon-to-be ex-husband “my spouse,” especially when he doesn't even seem like my husband to me. — Separated

        Dear Separated: Your marital status has nothing to do with your ability to do the job. Therefore, any discussion about it is irrelevant. If the interviewer inquires about your marital status, you should respond with, “Why do you ask?”

        Do not — under any circumstances — use the interview to air your emotions about your personal life, which is what will happen if you start talking about your marital status.

        Dear Andrea: I have been unemployed for almost seven months and am becoming quite frustrated. I have worked part time in photography and for 11 years worked full time as a fitness director until the club I worked for closed its doors last year.

        I want to get involved in photography full time, but it is tough to break back into. My dream is to photograph celebrities, but I am married with a child to support.

        Any suggestions or am I just out of luck? — Photographer

        Dear Photographer: If you're looking for an easy way to achieve your goal, I can't help you. If you're willing to accept your reality and create a plan, that's another story.

        Reality is, for 11 years you focused on an area that had nothing to do with photography. Don't be surprised you're having a tough time getting hired in this industry. You'll have to show employers how you've kept current and what you can do now. You may need retraining or to start at entry level.

        If your long-term goal is to build your own business, get real about that, too. Define the scope of this dream. Who will pay for your services — celebrities or magazines? How can you start shooting photographs to build your portfolio and reputation?

        Figure it out, do it and if you're good, eventually it can be your full-time gig. In the meantime, find a position that will support your family.

        Career consultant Andrea Kay is the author of Greener Pastures: How To Find a Job In Another Place, Interview Strategies That Will Get You the Job You Want and Resumes That Will Get You the Job You Want. Send questions to her at


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