'Working Wounded': Baby Back Blues

DEAR WOUNDED: My kid is about to start school and I'm ready to get back into the working world. But it's been a long time since I've had a job. Help!

ANSWER: When I read your e-mail I thought of Emily Katrencik. She's an artist who recently spent 30 minutes a day, five days a week gnawing on sections of drywall at an art gallery. Ever wonder what goes through someone's head while she's munching on drywall? Emily says the thought about "the things in the wall that are good for me, like calcium and iron."

Like Emily, you've got to be prepared to gnaw through all the objections that potential employers will have about your effort to re-enter the work force. Also like Emily, it helps to remember there are parts of the process that can be good for you -- doing interviews, answering tough questions and proving that you have the mettle to do the job. I've listed more strategies to help you get a job after your baby, or any other long-term gap from work, below. For more, check out Quigley and Kaufman's book, "Going Back to Work" (St. Martin's Griffin, 2004).

Can you avoid apologizing for your time away? You wouldn't apologize if you had received a research fellowship or gone on a round-the-world cruise. So don't apologize for having a baby. In fact, turn it to your advantage by pointing out all of the work-related skills you've perfected during your time away from the office: how you coordinated projects, managed resources, etc.

Do you know what you want to do? Employers don't know how to handle people who are still sorting out what they want to do when they grow up. Talk to people doing the kinds of jobs that you want to do so you go into all interviews with a good idea of what the job entails.

Do you talk to strangers? This is sage advice for your kids. But it's a terrible way to approach your career. It's important to talk to everyone you can about what they do and who they know. You never know where a great nugget of information or a great lead may come from.

Are you able to talk about yourself? It's important to remember that most employers want to see a level of confidence in the people they hire. So do some practice interviews with people you know who have hired people in the past so you can be in shape when you actually start talking to an employer.

Are you comfortable discussing money? Having been out of the workplace for a while it can be tough to dive into a negotiation over the terms of your employment. That's why it's important to know from the start what compensation you want and to be prepared to fight for it.

Hopefully these tips will help you gnaw through the objections that get thrown your way in your next job interview.

We'd like to hear your strategy for getting a job after you've been away from work for a while. I'll give an autographed copy of "Working Wounded: Advice that adds insight to injury" (Warner, 2000) to the best submission. Send your entry, name & address via: http://workingwounded.com or via e-mail: bob@workingwounded.com. Entries must be received by Wednesday (July 20).

Online Ballot and Contest

Here are the results from a recent workingwounded.com/ABCnews.com online ballot:
Which movie title best describes your organization's approach to ethics at work?

       Missing, 7.3 percent
       Little Shop of Horrors, 21.8 percent
       Catch Me If You Can, 25.8 percent
       Do the Right Thing, 44.9 percent

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