Send Your Economic Questions to Tory

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 I've been told this is because my experience is obsolete.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.

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