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February 6, 2014

WorkWise Q&A, Blog Tip: Incarceration, confidence, experience

I’m writing for my 31-year-old son, who’s hesitated trying to change from a professional job that he hates.


Q: Dear Dr. Culp, I’m writing for my 31-year-old son, who’s hesitated trying to change from a professional job that he hates. A few years ago, he celebrated too heartily and was held overnight for DUI. How does he cover this in a job application where he’s asked if he’s ever been in jail? I suspect he doesn't know how to respond to this question. Mom

A: Dear Mom, Tell him to expect the issue to come up not only in written or emailed applications but in person. If his references know, he needs to go back to them.

He should be honest in applications. The incident might be overlooked in a job that doesn’t involve driving. When it or a background check surfaces in an interview, he should volunteer that in a moment of youthful indiscretion he partied too hard, didn’t ask a sober friend to drive him home and spent a night in jail for DUI. Have him add quickly that it was X number of years ago and he learned his lesson. Now he parties less (if it’s true) and, if he has any questions about his intake, he asks a person to take him home or takes a cab. mlc


Q: Dear Dr. Culp, I know that I need help with job hunting. My resume hasn’t been doing as much for me as I’d hoped and I’m even less confident about how I interview. I live in a small town with few career resources. What are my options? Isolated

A: Dear Isolated, It appears that you’ve been interviewing; so your resume probably isn’t your biggest problem. Focus on lack of confidence.

The Internet has numerous career coaching services. However, it also increases your risk of finding poor service providers, because you can’t interact with them in person. If you’re extremely uncomfortable doing business virtually, identify a city near you and some resources there.

Do your own research whether you look for virtual or in-person help, even when you learn about the service through the media, because reporters may not be qualified to assess services or individuals providing them. Get references from each resource. They must have one person who’d be glad to speak for them.

Ask about success ratio. Beware of false claims, because success ultimately depends on the individual, not the service. To avoid a runaway tab and unnecessary dependence, listen for information about limiting services. mlc


Brooke Allen learned how to job hunt by watching Sally, who applied for a secretarial job at his company (

Sally dropped by to present her resume and asked to speak to the hiring manager. She told him she was a high school grad with six months of secretarial school and an estimated typing speed of 40 wpm. The employer countered with his highly degreed applicants speeding above 100 wpm.

She peppered him with questions about whether he needed a degree and a speed demon and, to his question about dictation, that she didn’t know it but would learn it. Than, after shaking his hand, Allen watched Sally ascertain that the receptionist was a temp. Looking directly at her interviewer, she said, “I can do what she’s doing and that is the kind of work I want to do. Tell her not to come in tomorrow and I will do her job for free while we both continue our search.”

The temp lost her job. Sally landed it, with back pay. Allen’s take: “Don’t do the interview; do the job. If you don’t like rejection, make offers that are hard to refuse. Work first and you shall receive.”

Mildred Culp welcomes your questions at

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