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February 13, 2014

WorkWise Q&A, Blog Tip: Gifts, bullying, surprises

I found a job I’m very happy about after what feels like a difficult, protracted search. I had help along the way, especially from my three references and my mentor. What can I do to thank them?


Q: Dear Dr. Culp, I found a job I’m very happy about after what feels like a difficult, protracted search. I had help along the way, especially from my three references and my mentor. What can I do to thank them? Grateful

A: Dear Grateful, You have a lot of options other than the standard desk items. The best gift you can give them might well be something intangible, such as an offer to help on a project when they’re overwhelmed or to be a source when they’re helping other job seekers and need referrals. These types of thank-you’s are particularly appropriate, because you know that you caused your references and mentor work. This is an excellent time to help them with theirs.

If you know them well (you should, if they’ve stood behind you), you might give them a book or online subscription in their particular areas of interest. Skip Information 101, which could appear thoughtless and make you seem superficial.

Other possibilities might be a catered lunch on a busy day, croissants or another treat delivered. Of course, none of these would be complete without first sending an eloquent expression of thanks in writing for their contribution to your search. mlc


Q: Dear Dr. Culp, I resigned last week, because my boss kept bullying me. I’d been reading about bullying on the Internet and learned that it’s becoming more prevalent and that it’s against the law. It seems to me that this should be a good reason for me to be able to tell potential employers what happened, but I also know that I shouldn’t bad-mouth an employer. I feel caught between the truth and my career. How can I get around this? Caught

A: Dear Caught, Free up your mind so you won’t be.

You could say that you decided to move in a different direction. (Certainly, that’s true – out the door!) You could also capitalize on what many employers love to hear by mentioning that you love to learn but that you’d used up all of your opportunities to do that there. You might also say that your job had become rote or static and that you wanted to make a greater contribution. Consider mentioning that you wanted to change industries or use different skills.

You’ve got the drill. Focus on yourself, professionally speaking, and leave bullying out of it. Employers don’t want to think you might tell tales when you leave them. mlc


Lynne Sarikas has encountered surprises in the application process both in business and higher education ( One day she was slogging through resumes for an account executive position. They didn’t put her to sleep. “I was surprised to find one from a man who majored in swine management and was an expert in pig feed,” she reports. “Key words don’t tell the whole story.”

Will ANY thank-you note do? Sarikas was speaking with an employer who’d received one from a student. Embarrassed, she learned that “his name was spelled incorrectly, crossed out (like some other words) and then spelled incorrectly another way,” she recalls. The employer asked her if he merited a re-do. Sarikas remarks that actions can be telling. Just thinking about doing something – or doing something unthinkingly – may do more harm than good.

Is there such a thing as too much focus, grit and determination? A woman racing through a downpour was determined to interview. She arrived in such disarray that “the receptionist suggested she go to the ladies room and use the hand dryers to repair her hair and suit,” Sarikas explains. What if there hadn’t been dryers in the restroom or a receptionist to head her off?

Mildred Culp welcomes your questions at

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