Q: I have been fired from almost every job I have ever had. I'm 22 years old and have been working since I was 16. I see a pattern in my behavior but don't know how to change it. As soon as I'm comfortable in a job, my emotional needs take over, and I involve everyone in my issues. I seem to need a lot of attention.
I did have a rough childhood, but I'm a smart person. I just can't seem to stop.
A: You've taken a big first step. By acknowledging that you created this problem, you've given yourself the power to fix it. To become a mature, professional adult, you need to separate your feelings from your behavior.
Suppose, for example, that you have a big fight with your romantic partner. Instead of bringing this drama to the office, you put on your "game face" and concentrate on work. Or suppose you receive a bad performance review. Despite feeling angry and upset, you simply ask your boss how you can improve.
To satisfy your craving for attention, seek the spotlight in positive ways. Take on difficult projects, stay late to help a co-worker, offer to assist your manager.
If your difficult upbringing has left too many scars, a professional counselor may need to help you acquire this emotional maturity.
Q: Fifteen years ago, I was laid off from "Company X" during a restructuring. My performance was never an issue. Now I'm unemployed again because of the poor economy. Recently, "Company X" advertised a position that fits my qualifications. Should I apply? If so, is it better to call or send a résumé?
A: You should definitely pursue this position. Even after 15 years, your experience might provide an advantage. Besides, you have absolutely nothing to lose.
To stand out from the crowd, you need to pick up the phone.
If you still have acquaintances at Company X, call the one closest to the available job. If not, locate other contacts. Your goal is to identify the hiring manager and get permission to use someone's name when you call that manager.
If you reach the hiring manager, explain that you are a former employee, describe your qualifications and ask if the manager will review your résumé. But if the manager proves to be elusive, have the resume hand-delivered by an internal contact, then follow up.
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 www.yourofficecoach.com.