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Lily Garcia: Good morning, and thank you for joining my chat. I look forward to answering your career- and workplace-related questions. Let's get started.

Washington, D.C: I have been out of the workforce for the past three years. I have been a stay at home parent during that time. On my resume, I list my last employment position and the dates. When recruiters ask me about the past three years, I inform them that I have stayed home and raise children. They give back comments like "OH! I see..."How or where on my resume could I add this to my resume. Do I add any household tasks that I have done to make it flashy? Thanks, Lily.

Lily Garcia: I would recommend explaining the gap in employment in your cover letter rather than in your resume. I think the idea of listing your homemaker duties as a job is novel -- and, certainly, it is not as if you have been eating bon-bons in front of the TV -- but I do not think that is where the information about what you have been doing for the past three years belongs.

Chevy Chase, Md.: Hi Lily, I have a Russian bachelors degree in linguistics/translation (English, Spanish, Russian). It is hard to find a job, would you advise me something please?

Lily Garcia: While you look for a job, I think that you should seek opportunities for freelance translation. Post your availability online and look for opportunities on job boards and with area translation services. Beyond that, it would seem to me that you could compete for most entry level positions in administration. Where, exactly, you look and how you direct your efforts should be driven by your interests. Once you have made your way into an organization and they have seen the quality of your work, you can move into a more desirable role.

Fairfax, Va.: Hi Lily, I'm in a bind and not sure what to do. I recently put in a rebuttal to my review - I didn't agree with many of the statements and (unfortunately) believe that many of the conflicts stem from interpersonal issues between me and my boss. Since then my supervisor has not said a word and it's very uncomfortable.I see two choices resign or be fired. I've never been in this situation before and have been quite unhappy for an extended period of time but go home completely apathetic and unmotivated. What is the best course of action in situations like these? What looks better for future employment?

Lily Garcia: Option #3 is to try to talk to your boss about the rebuttal with a view toward reconciling some of your differences. If that does not work, then you might legitimately choose to start looking for other employment. Try as much as you can, in the meantime, to make the best of your relationship with your boss. The job market being what it is, it might take you longer than you would hope to find a better fit.

New York, N.Y.: Hi Lily, I'm generally happy with my job as a training manager at a large, multi-national company (company "A"). My team and I work for company "B" and are on-site contractors at "A". There have been layoffs and multiple reorganizations at "A," and there have recently been quite a few changes and cost-cutting measures at my company. My (wonderful) boss is under a lot of stress and may quit or get fired. I'm concerned about all of these changes and want to know what's going on at both companies, but I've never been particularly savvy about office politics or office gossip, and I don't know how to keep myself informed. My boss (at company "B") does vent and tell me things that are going on, which I really appreciate, but he works at several different sites, and I don't see him very often. I like my job and don't want to look for another one if there's no reason to. I'd also like to be able to give my team a heads-up if they need to look for other work. Are there things I can do to be better informed about both companies? Thank you.

Lily Garcia: You should ask your boss at company A what s/he thinks is going on. S/he might not know, but that chances are good that s/he knows more than you. Look for other opportunities to gather more data points. When companies are going through periods of upheaval, the executive team will often organize meetings at which employees can ask pertinent questions. If no such opportunities are available to you, you can try networking with other members of management. I caution you to be prepared to encounter frustration in your quest for straight answers about the future of the two companies. In the end, you might be forced to make your decision about whether to stay or go based largely upon informal conversations and intuition.

Washington, D.C.: Hi Lily -- submitting early because I don't want to type this at work. I am a federal employee thinking about applying for a another federal job within a completely different agency. I have heard that, in similar situations, one agency supervisor has called the other about the applicant. I do not want my current supervisor to know I am applying. What can I do or say, within the application, to prevent that?

Lily Garcia: You can politely request that the hiring manager not contact your manager for the moment. Most hiring managers will understand your desire to avoid the awkwardness that might result if your supervisor knows that you are looking. However, it is unlikely that you will be able to secure a firm offer unless your new supervisor has a conversation with your current supervisor at some point later in the process.

Woodbridge, Va.: I am having trouble getting a job for the past seven months and am very experienced. I need a job quickly. What is the safest way to secure a job quickly other than a temp agency.

Lily Garcia: Try working with a recruiter that places candidates in your field of experience. Also, make sure that your resume is posted with all major job search engines and that you have adjusted your settings so that your information is searchable by recruiters.

E llicott City, Md.: Are there employers for I.T. jobs that sponsor working permits or H1B visa. Can you recomend names of employers that sponsor applicants for work visa. Applicant is now in the U.S. with a student visa for conversion to work visa. Thanks for your advice.

Lily Garcia: I cannot give you particular names of companies, but I can tell you that H-1B sponsorships in the technology field are common. Most employers will not hesitate to sponsor a candidate with the right combination of skills and experience.

Sebastopol, Calif.: Hi Lily: Today I applied for a job from this site called "Data Entry - Home Typist. They only provide a PO Box in Santa Rosa, Calif. I have no URL or phone number. They don't want to me to sign a contract. They tell me that I've got the job, but I need to PayPal $18 to process my application and pay for the training material. They do provide an email address. Can you tell me if this is a scam? Thank you so much for checking this out.

Lily Garcia: I cannot tell you whether this is a scam, but I can tell you that it sounds awfully suspicious. You might want to consider submitting a tip to the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection. http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/index.shtml

Anonymous: At an interview, or as a prerequisite to hiring someone, is it inappropriate/illegal to ask an applicant wearing a nose ring if they have a problem not wearing it in the office?

Lily Garcia: If the employer is essentially asking whether you are willing to comply with their policy on dress and personal grooming, it is not inappropriate or illegal to ask. An employer who asks such a question would be well advised, however, to ensure that they are applying their no-nose-ring policy fairly and consistently to all employees and applicants. As well, if you wear the nose ring for a religious reason, you should feel free to say so and to request that your beliefs be accommodated.

Silver Spring, Md.: I have a bachelor's degree in math from RPI in Troy, N.Y. and a master's degree in Operations Research from UNC Chapel Hill. I graduated from UNC in 1975. I came to the D.C. area and worked at Booze Allen, and Mitre Corporation until 1985. I then changed careers and went into real estate. I've been able to make a living, but now feel I need to go back to work. How do I find out what I'm qualified for and where do I start? I'm not even sure what field I would want to work in. I'm very confused.

Lily Garcia: If you do not have an idea of what you would like to do, you should start there. Identify your ideal job(s). Then network with people in those positions to find out what they think about the job prospects for someone with your skills and experience. It seems to me that someone with 23 years of real estate esperience would do well in a sales environment. Then again, you might be leaving real estate precisely because you want to get out of sales.

New Port Richey, Fla.: How to research jobs at the White House?

Lily Garcia: I would start by contacting the President-elect's pick for chief of staff, but our readers might have better ideas. Does anyone out there have advice on how to secure a job on the White House staff?

Silver Spring, Md.: I have a lot of experience in a niche field, but I am currently out of work. I have submitted my resume to a couple of recruiters. Three times now, a recruiter will call or email me and say they've found a perfect fit, and then will cancel our scheduled phone meeting, and then ignore my emails for the next 2 weeks. What's going on? Does that mean they already filled the position? Should I try to talk to the recruiter's supervisor? It's extremely frustrating to feel like you're stuck in a black hole.

Lily Garcia: I don't think it would hurt to escalate your inquiry to the recruiter's supervisor. It is possible that the recruiter has suddenly become busy or has found a better fit for the position, but that is not an excuse for ignoring you.

Sterling, Va.: Hello Lily, I am thinking about changing careers but I can't decide where to start. I have been in mortgage industry for over seven years but due to current changes it is hard to survive. Any suggestion for someone who is thinking about changing careers? Thanks.

Lily Garcia: Start by thinking about related jobs into which you could make a smooth transition. I know that the financial industry in general has taken a hit, but there are surely other positions in the field that have fared better than yours. Also, what career moves have your colleagues in the mortgage industry been making? They will be a great source of information and ideas.

Paying for training materials?: No, there's no job there. They are asking you to pay for some pamphlets they've put together explaining how you can get a job as a typist working from home. And it will be a bunch of generic advice, with no real job and no real job leads.

Lily Garcia: Thank you for your insights.

Silver Spring: Those home typist jobs are universally scams. DO NOT BOTHER. Voice of experience.

Lily Garcia: Thank you. I think that the consensus is, walk away.

Maryland: Hi Lily - I work for a company that is being affected by the housing market and economy. We are currently redoing the budget for next year and it looks like we will be laying people off. I recently had to identify three people in my department that will be laid off. My problem is that I am getting the sense that I have also been selected. The layoffs won't happen till next week. While I hope I am just being paranoid, I am really tempted to just ask my boss if this is true. Do you think that would be a mistake?

Lily Garcia: I think that it would be a mistake not to ask. Best of luck to you.

For Typist: Don't do it! You should never have to pay money to receive training materials. A good, legitimate company will be upfront about who is employing you, with a person that you can contact by phone.

Lily Garcia: Thank you for adding your voice to the others.

Anonymous: Hi Lily, I value your advice and live for your chats and columns. I'm wondering what are your thoughts on dating people you work with?Thanks in advance.

Lily Garcia: If the person is your supervisor or subordinate, dating them is off-limits. If the person is a colleague and your organization does not have a policy against fraternization, you may date the person. However, you should proceed with caution. Realize that you are taking on the risk that the relationship will fail, possibly in a contentious manner, and that this will affect your other workplace relationships. It is hard to avoid romantic relationships when you spend so much of your life at work, and it is not a foregone conclusion that those relationships will end, or end poorly. Nevertheless, you should be cautious about who you date and discreet about the relationship.

For linguist looking for translation work: Look to the publishing world. Editors are always looking for good translators. The academic/scholarly presses might be a good place to start. Good luck.

Lily Garcia: Great suggestion. Thank you.

White House Inquiry: For the person who is looking for a position at the White House you can also check out Barack Obama's new website www.change.org. There's a link about applying for jobs in his administration. Good luck!

Lily Garcia: Thanks!

Washington, D.C.: I sit in a cube at work and the person across the partition is a smoker. The smell is terrible when he returns from outside after his smoke break. The smoke smell seeps through the partition. My moving to another cube is not an option. I have asthma and have allergies. Is there anything that I can do to curb the stink? Thanks!

Lily Garcia: Have you tried keeping an air purifier at your work station?

Stafford, Va.: I have a big problem finding a job. I am a recent college graduate, and I am in search of a decent paying job. I have a one year old son requiring child care, so I cannot accept a position making $15/hour. I have searched online for many hours, and I seem to get stuck with scams. Any advice?

Lily Garcia: This is an important question that calls for a more detailed answer than this space permits. With your permission, I will answer this question in next Thursday's How to Deal column.

Denver, Colo.: My company closed two offices last week and the Amex cards are frozen. I already have $1000+ of business travel expenses on my personal card. I stated yesterday that I will not travel until that is paid up and something is worked out to pre-pay for hotels and flights. Am I being unreasonable? I keep hearing that we may shut down anyday despite my busy workload and I fear my expenses will not be repaid. Lily Garcia: If you have reason to believe that you might not be paid, then I cannot blame you for taking a hard line. However, have you considered just asking the company to pay for your travel directly instead of asking you to charge it to your card?

Washington, D.C.: I work with someone who considers me insufficiently religious. Specifically, he belongs to a very conservative part of the religion, and I do not. He dislikes this very much about me. He has taken to bad-mouthing me to our boss and to clients. He runs down things I do, things I say, decisions I make -- and it only comes out later on when I hear things like "Well, that didn't work as well as you say it did because xxxxxx happened, right?" and then I have to spend time proving that xxxxxx did NOT happen, and that things went precisely as I say they did. For what it's worth, he's the only one of this specific wing of the religion here, and the two bosses agree with me (not that anyone else talks about it except him; no one else thinks it's a subject for discussion at work). Everything he denigrates me for so far has been things for which I can prove that he's actually wrong and that things happened as I presented them, but I really am tired of it. And yet "xxx hates me because he thinks I'm not sufficiently religious" just sounds stupid. Any suggestions?

Lily Garcia: Your supervisors ought to be stepping in to stop this colleague's disruptive behavior. He should be counseled in no uncertain terms that what he is doing is inappropriate. I also suspect that it is a violation of your organization's discrimination and harassment policies. My suggestion is that you ask your supervisors for help.

Washington, D.C.: There seems to be a power struggle with our office leadership and disgruntled opinons are often mentioned to me regarding benefits (I am in charge of some benefits). I agree with some of the opinions but not all and feel as though the power struggle is affecting the objectivity of providing the best approach for the company. One leader does agree with the other, so nothing happens. I don't want to take sides but I also don't want to hurt myself by not being proactive about improvements. How should I approach this?

Lily Garcia: It is not a matter of taking sides. It is a matter of deciding what improvements, if any, YOU believe need to be made. In the midst of this power struggle, the most important thing is that you continue to do your job with integrity.

Virginia: I have a year review coming up. What's the most effective way to ask for a raise especially in this economy?

Lily Garcia: I have written about this issue in the past and I will send you a link to a relevant article momentarily.

washingtonpost.com: Want a Raise? Here's How to Ask (Post, August 1, 2007.)

Lily Garcia: Here is the link. Thank you.

Lily Garcia: Thank you for your thoughtful participation in today's chat. Unfortunately we are out of time. Please join my next chat on November 25th. In the meantime, you can also email me at hradvice@washingtonpost.com. Have a great afternoon. -Lily

Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.

 
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