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February 20, 2014

WorkWise Q&A, Blog Tip: Missing link, research, bloopers

I’m having difficulty researching the field I want to enter. The idea of developing a list of 20 organizations to contact is ridiculous.


Q: Dear Dr. Culp, I’m having difficulty researching the field I want to enter. The idea of developing a list of 20 organizations to contact is ridiculous. There’s no easy way to find them, because directories don’t list them. Also, search engines aren’t returning them for leads. How do I move from Point A to point B? Distraught

A: Dear Distraught, You have resources at your fingertips.

Find a business librarian to show you how to use Google effectively. Get help with search terms to pull up what you want. Keep hunting for a list of companies in your area of interest.

Meanwhile, don’t follow the conventional advice about 20 companies. Find three. Call potential employers to rise above the masses of emailers. Before each call, practice what you’ll say about what you’re doing so you’re clear and direct.

Make certain you walk away from each conversation with at least one lead. These people are in your market or closer to it than you are. Ask this simple question: “If you were in my shoes, what would you try next?” Go away; think about what you heard; turn even suggestions that miss into new tactics to try. mlc


Q: Dear Dr. Culp, I haven’t had any offers. In interviews, employers ask about a skill I don’t have. It’s not one I could get anywhere but on the job. I’ve told them that I’m willing to learn, but people with the skill are lined up behind me. What else can I do to open the door? Not Creative

A: Dear Not, You’ll be creative with several new tactics. First, convince employers that you’d bring significant benefits. Then say that you’d be willing to take a lesser salary until you get up to speed. Establish how long that would take so you don’t have a life-sentence of under-compensation. Get it in writing.

You could also find a tutor through local business resources or LinkedIn. If people are standing in line behind you, they’re out there, even if they’re not in formal education or training environments.

If these don’t work, do the unthinkable. Say that you’ll work as an intern for a specific period of time until you’ve mastered the skill. Get that in writing. A company that doesn’t value you after you’ve offered these alternatives may feel too rushed or not value employee development. mlc


Kelly Walsh assures me that the guffaws she’s gathered from two decades in HR and, more recently, coaching, are “unembellished” ( She indicates that interviewers aren’t expecting perfection, but that some errors don’t pass muster.

Dissing his previous job, an applicant reported that he was averse to work that’s “hot, dusty and dirty.” Might have been appropriate for an office job, but not a firefighter opening.

Another applicant imbibed to be less obviously nervous. He concluded with the obvious, remarking “that we were great and it’s the most relaxed I’ve been on an interview,” Walsh reports. Did he think she’d missed his breath and his failure to leave on cue?

“We celebrate your uniqueness,” Walsh maintains, “but when your name is something like Mary and you happen to pronounce it ‘Má-r-why’ (but spell it Mary), don't be horrified and correct everyone while rolling your eyes. We’re trying and you should be trying to show that you can play nice,” as your resume indicated.

So you goofed? “Don't swear at the nice HR person for not getting the job and then keep coming back and try to interview again,” she advises. “We remember you and the curse word. Very well. So try, try again – somewhere else.”

Dr. Mildred Culp welcomes your questions at

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