Special to The Washington Post.
The Career Coach recently fielded questions from readers. Excerpts:
Guns at the office
Q: I've just started a new job and I've recently discovered that some of my coworkers are taking advantage of my state's lax concealed weapon laws and bring their own personal firearms to the office. As a child, I was a victim of gun violence and this makes me very uncomfortable. If I'm seeing red flags like this, is that a sign that perhaps this isn't the work environment for me?
A: I would certainly check with your human resources staff to see what they think and what the policy in the company is. You could also bring this up to higher-level management. Learning how HR responds or those of higher-level managers will let you know if this is indeed the company for you to want to work at.
What do to about a DUI
Q: Within the past year, I was [charged with driving under the influence]. How does this now affect my job search? What can I do to let employers know it was a stupid mistake, I've taken the steps to correct my issues and I've moved on?
A: Do you also have some good references? Some folks that can call the companies you are interested in to vouch for your work ethic and successful performance? Sometimes this can be very helpful because it shows that others have found your performance to be exemplary. Also, very few individuals often call employers (proactively) to speak on someone's behalf, so this might be viewed in a very positive way.
More on the DUI
Reader: I think it depends partly on what the legal outcome of your DUI charge was. I had one 10 years ago in Maryland, got probation before judgment and served my probation with no problems. It depends on how a job application is worded then — some just care if you were convicted of a felony. I applied one place where it asked if I had to plead guilty to something other than a minor traffic violation, so I said yes. The HR recruiter called to ask me about it, I was very worried, but explained about the [probation before judgment] and said I'd been to an alcohol counseling program (true), and the recruiter acted like it wasn't a big deal, and I ended up getting the job. Now, if you were in fact convicted of felony DUI, then you'd have to disclose that — and you might want to disclose it anyway even if not, just to be safe. But as long as the job doesn't involve driving or operating machinery, it's probably not as big a deal as you think. Not that I'm saying a DUI isn't a big deal — quite the contrary — but that it's not necessarily a big deal to employers, in my experience.
Russell: Thanks for sharing your insights with our reader.
Older worker trying to find a job
Q: I am a financial executive with over 30 years experience, who has been unable to find a job at my level for more than a year. How do I market myself to avoid the age discrimination issue?
A: Have you had someone review your resume and practice interviewing with you? I have worked with many executives who have been with one company for a long time, and when they have decided to move, their resumes were pretty out-of-date (just because they never had to update them). Try to get a professional to look over all your materials (resume, cover letter, social media site, etc.) to make sure it all looks as it should.
Also, are you up on social media sites such as LinkedIn? Are you attending professional conferences and networking events? Having more experience means it is critical for you to use personal contacts and networking to help you find employment opportunities.
Q: I work in a very small office with no current leadership in this country. One staff member uses vulgar and abusive language toward other staff members and outside contractors. Out-of-country (read: not under U.S. rule) superiors say to "just ignore it." The troubled staffer is a political appointee. I am looking for other employment, but I am wondering how to word my reasons for leaving. Any input greatly appreciated. Also, worth filing an [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] complaint?
A: Sorry you are experiencing this. There is more and more being written today about incivility in the workplace, and vulgar language comes in to play here.
You would not really file an EEOC complaint unless you could make a charge about harassment in the workplace. I would suggest checking out the www.eeoc.gov Web site for more details and information to see if you have a case that is worth pursuing.
To your point about how to word your reasons for leaving, you could just meet with HR (if they have HR) to verbally have an "exit" interview. But, I think it depends on where you go next in your job. Would you need some of your current employees or bosses to write or give recommendations for you? This might determine what you will say. Some people prefer not to say much about reasons for leaving so that they won't burn any bridges.
Sadly, many people are often not truthful in exit interviews since they are worried about potential backlash. This means the company does not get the information it really needs to make improvements.
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Russell is the vice dean and the director of the Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Program at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. She is a licensed industrial and organizational psychologist and has more than 25 years of experience coaching executives and consulting on leadership and career management.