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October 23, 2013

WorkWise Q&A: Bankruptcy, career change and motor mouths


Q: Dear Dr. Culp, Is bankruptcy a huge factor in hiring? No one knows the reasons behind mine or the financial distress. I have over 10 years of banking experience, but the weather or lack of work keeps my wife from working and my daughter has had unexpected surgeries. I can handle my finances, but things out of control I can’t. Bankrupt

A: Dear Bankrupt, The stigma against bankruptcy is stronger in financial services and organizations where employees handle money. For this reason, you might want to consider leaving banking.

You have the key to your success in your statement about being competent at handling your own finances. When an employer says he’ll be conducting a background check, tell him about the bankruptcy issue, that it resulted from lack of work. Leave your daughter out of it, because employers might discriminate against you because of potential benefits costs.

Bankruptcy counselors will tell you to explain to employers what you’ve been doing to take control of your finances, from cutting out extras to paying a little on your credit cards. Calculate the percentage by which you’ve cut your bills. Showing that you’re responsible will help. mlc


Q: Dear Dr. Culp, I’ve been working in the medical field. It’s declining in my market. Every time I walk in for an interview, I notice how different the surroundings are from the antiseptic environment I’ve been working in. That doesn’t bother me, but it reminds me that I’m an outsider.

How do I convince employers that the skills and experience I have transfer to their industry and will benefit their company? Relevance Needed

A: Dear Relevance Needed, Communicating relevance is easier than you think, because businesses have a lot in common, even when they’re in completely different industries.

Take your most important accomplishments and cut out any medical terminology, such as patient, physician and doctor, to make it easier for employers to understand how you’d fit. If you know which industries interest you, integrate some of the language they use.

Focus on what you did that made you stand out, from helping make or save money to increasing efficiency, improving customer service or communication, and increasing accuracy in reports. Ask one or two friends outside of the medical field to look at what you’ve written to make certain you’ve made the language as relevant as possible to new industries. Speak the same way. mlc


Interviewing makes people nervous. Employers expect applicants to be jittery and reveal their discomfort when they wouldn’t in other settings. Applicants who pay attention to how they’re feeling about the job-hunting process expect to be nervous, too. They design all kinds of activities to keep from going overboard.

Gordon Veniard sat in with a colleague unskilled at hiring but needing a personal assistant ( “The first applicant, a woman in her mid-forties, seemed extremely full of nervous energy,” he reports. Veniard’s compassionate colleague tried to calm her with a rather nondescript first question.

Seeming to speak without breathing, the woman ran on interminably. In about 15 minutes she confessed, “I've been for lots of interviews but never seem to get offered the job. I don't know why.”

She didn’t stop for more than another quarter-hour. How does Veniard know? “With morbid fascination,” he concedes, “I kept checking my watch.” He maintains that his colleague was too polite to get her to stop. And she couldn’t seem to stop herself. She left more than an hour-and-a-half later.

“We did debate whether it would have been a kindness to tell her,” Veniard remarks. “But, to be honest, we didn’t like to interrupt!”

Mildred Culp welcomes your questions at © 2013 Passage Media.

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