Q: I’ve been homeless for three months, living in a shelter. The people here have arranged for clothing for me to interview. We also get counseled about how to job hunt.
My appearance doesn’t make me seem homeless, but I have a hard time explaining my situation to employers, even with the counseling I’ve been given. I need a new way to think about this. Do you have a workaround?
A: People on both sides of the desk are entitled to privacy. Would you ask an employer where he lives? Employers most likely won’t ask you, either, and if they do, mention the neighborhood only.
Discipline yourself to compartmentalize. Leave your living arrangements in the shelter. The minute you open the door, notice the world around you. Think about the company and your qualifications for your job. Review your selling points. Make them dominate your thoughts, along with questions you’ll be asking employers.
As you walk to the door of the building, stop briefly and think about your qualifications again. Focus squarely on work, not your personal life. As you approach the interviewer, take a deep breath and exhale.
Q: My classmates and my friends are retiring. I’ve watched colleagues disappear one at a time, and while I’ve been happy for them, only one has said he wants to stay in touch.
I guess it’s time for me to start thinking about finding colleagues who aren’t contemporaries and building relationships with them, but I don’t quite know how to do it. It’s so much easier with your own generation. Any ideas?
A: Many people in the workplace are looking for a person to help them. Why don’t you reflect on the people you know and see if you can provide guidance of some kind? If you can’t think of anyone you believe would appreciate your efforts, build from the ground floor.
Potential colleagues who are younger can’t be expected to have the same track record as those who retire. Scout for character first, then brightness and promise through initial accomplishments. Build bridges by singling them out for a little attention and asking questions about their work. Although you may be from different generations, you have more in common than not. You just might have to bring it to the forefront.