Send Your Economic Questions to Tory

Even though "Good Morning America" put me in the hot seat this morning, the people who are in the real hot seat are the millions of people out of work and eager to land their next position.

For the last few months I've traveled the country to visit job fairs, career workshops and job clubs.

Even though the headlines that come out of such events focus on the record volume of attendees and the long lines, I know those people aren't numbers or statistics. These are wives and husbands, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters and ordinary people like you and me who share one goal: to earn a paycheck and provide for ourselves and our loved ones.

If you have a question for me, the very best way to send it is through Twitter. Because the message is limited to 140 characters, I'm able to read and respond the same day. By comparison, when I receive hundreds of very long messages every day, there aren't enough hours to get back to everyone instantly.

Visit Twitter.com/ToryJohnson to follow me and to post your question. You may also hear from others with advice and ideas to help you too.

You'll also find extensive videos and articles at the "GMA" Job Club web site.

Here's a small sampling of some of the recent questions and answers.

I've been in the work force over 20 years. I have an MBA. I'm not finding things in the range of responsibilities that I'd like to find. Do you have any suggestions?

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Many people are frustrated by being overqualified for the positions they see advertised. An immediate option is to pursue consulting or freelance work. You won't find these opportunities on job boards. Instead you should bypass HR and go straight to the head of the department you'd likely work for.

If this is a marketing project, go to that department to offer your services, which would be paid from a different budget than salaries. Also small businesses might not be able to afford you full time, but could potentially benefit from your services on a project basis.

Come up with a list of companies you'd like to work for and try to bring specific ideas to the decision makers. You can also send an e-mail to everyone in your address book announcing your willingness to offer your expertise on an affordable contract basis — and explain three to five key skills you offer. Ask for their leads or their willingness to share your e-mail with their contacts.

All the while you should continue to search for that full-time role, too. Pay particular attention to industries where there are six-figure jobs right now. Medical services, biotech, civil and structural engineering, aerospace and defense are among those hiring.

As a newly graduated person, is there something I should be doing? I keep applying for jobs and nothing. Am I doing something wrong?

If you're relying exclusively on the Internet — applying and then waiting for the phone to ring — it's going to take forever. Get in the habit of networking and use your social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn to connect with as many people as possible in your desired line of work.

Spend time with your career services office. Even if you've already left the campus, schedule an appointment with the office to ask for leads and advice. Ask your favorite professors for leads too. Connect with alumni who graduated from your program to find out how they've put their degrees to work.

Keep in mind that you're looking for your first job, not a lifelong commitment. This should be about exploring and gaining experience. There's no need to be picky; be curious and open to possibilities.

How do you explain that you're willing to take less money without sounding desperate? I need to work to make a living, but I'm also able to downgrade my salary. I just can't seem to come up with the right way of putting that so I don't look desperate and I don't lose their interest.

Instead of waiting for someone to ask if you're willing to take a pay cut, which they probably won't do, be proactive about it. You can say, "I'm interested in switching gears, which I know will mean a pay cut, and that's perfectly acceptable to me because I understand the realities of this economy as well as the realities of the positions I'm most interested in pursuing. At this stage in my career, I'm fortunate that I'm able to move in a new direction where I can contribute my expertise in a whole new way. The opportunity for challenge and stimulation counts for a lot to me. There's more to a role than money."

I'm baby-sitting and dogwalking to make money while I'm out of work. Later this month I'm going on an interview for a job in operations management. My question is should I mention that I'm working as a baby sitter and dog walker, which is how I'm supporting myself now, or will that make me look worse?


The good news is if they've scheduled an interview, they're already impressed with your credentials. That's the first hurdle — just getting in the door.

While there's absolutely no shame in doing what it takes to support yourself, you don't have to volunteer this information unless you're asked directly about what you've been doing.

There's an easy way to answer if you're asked what you've been up to while out of work. You can say, "I love kids and dogs so I've been doing some baby-sitting and dogwalking, both of which are new to me. It's kept me engaged with some great people and has enabled me to make money while most importantly leaving plenty of time for me to actively pursue my real passion, which is finding the right position in operations management."

I was laid off a year ago. I have 25 years of marketing experience, a great resume and the best references. But I still can't find a new job. I've been told this is because my experience is obsolete. If given a chance I could do it, but I can't get someone to give me a chance. I'd like to get an internship to prove myself. I'll work for free to get the right experience but I don't want to say I'll work for free and I know internships are for students. Do you know of internships for qualified adults?

Once you're out of school, it's called an externship. Formal externship programs aren't widespread, but they exist. Even without a formal program in place, you can pitch employers on creating such a program just for you.

Make a list of 10 or 20 places you'd like to work and then create a one-page proposal for an externship, which is just like an internship except you're not getting college credit. Include the kind of work you'd like to focus on and the skills you'd bring to them. Include the number of days and hours you'd like to work, as well as a time frame such as three months for this program.

State what you're looking to get out of this, which is current, hands-on experience to use on your resume to leverage into a full-time opportunity in this field. Explain that this should be thought of as an internship for professionals.

Just like an internship, there's absolutely no promise of a paid job at the end of it, but it's certainly understood by both parties that you're looking to network, build your contacts and then have the experience to help you land a paid position. The goal is to position this as a win-win for them and for you.

Given that so many employers have cut back resources, this could be a welcome offer for them. You'll have better luck with small and medium sized employers than giants because of their built-in bureaucracy.

Should I think about accepting a job with a very low salary and hope things get better soon?

If you're in need of the income, which is true for most people, then yes, you should accept the position. There's a danger of running out of money if you hold out too long for the perfect job instead of looking for the silver lining in the job you're being offered. That silver lining might be the ability to make new connections and leverage the experience toward something bigger and better as things turn around.

I had to quit my job after my baby was born. Now, I feel that I have to get some money from a flexible job (work at home). It is VERY hard to find something honest, scam-free. Any suggestion?

This is the most common question I'm asked because many people must stay home and must also work. The majority of home-based ads are scams, so you're right to scrutinize everything you see. There are not easy jobs from home; all will require substantial effort for reasonable compensation.

I've created this section of resources on my Web site: http://www.womenforhire.com/work_from_home Take some time to review the options because each require different skills, experience and even home office equipment.

Once our military return home from Afghanistan and Iraq, where are they going to find jobs to support their families?

There are now several nonprofits and government resources to help ex-military to return to work. Look at local resources in your area since in-person assistance is usually most valuable. The returning base can also offer local resources.

When creating a resume and thinking about what direction to pursue, focus on transferable and relatable skills. I've seen many resumes filled with exemplary military experience, but it's not clear how the experience translates into the civilian workplace.

Look at employers such as the federal government, which is hiring, as well as aerospace and defense, which are also hiring now. There are also employers such as Home Depot, among others, with programs designed specifically for men and women returning from military service.

Tory Johnson is the CEO of Women for Hire and the workplace contributor on ABC's "Good Morning America." Visit her Web site at www.womenforhire.com and follow her at Twitter.com/ToryJohnson.

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