Penelope Trunk: Hi there. I'm Penelope Trunk. I am CEO of Brazen Careerist - a career management tool that is a cross between the conversational/networking power of Facebook and the professionalism of LinkedIn. I also write a popular career advice blog at http://blog.penelopetrunk.com where mostly I tell everyone they need to network and be known for their ideas in order to get the career they want. That's why I started BrazenCareerist.com -- so that everyone would have a tool to do that. Okay. So, let the questions begin! Ask me anything....
Bloomfield Hills, Mich.: For the past 5 years I have been a stay-at-home mom for my 4-year-old son. I am now actively looking for a job. I have a relatively strong IT Project Management skill set and experience. However a 5 year gap in my resume must not look good to potential employers. Would a cover letter that touches on the reason for my absence from the workforce be a good idea? How can I maximize the visibility of my resume in this case?
Penelope Trunk: You don't need to cover the gap. It is no longer news to the world that most women take time off for their children. There is no shortage of jobs in the sector you're in. What your cover letter needs to do is show that you have not become irrelevant while you've been at home. One of the best ways to show that you are keeping up in your industry is to blog. Blogging is about ideas. In order for a blog to help you with your job hunt, you don't need to have traffic on your blog, you need to have passion and intelligence. Start a blog, write about ideas in your field, link to other people talking about ideas in your field, and then, when a potential employer looks at your blog, it will be clear that you are up to date on IT trends and ideas. You cannot show this in an experience -based resume.
Arlington, Va.: Where would someone go in their local area to find a good job search group that meets regularly? Libraries? Local employment agencies? Do career coaches/counselors ever offer such workshops or roundtables? I would be willing to pay $$ for such a group.
Penelope Trunk: Go online. The top performers in any industry are using social media to network locally. Twitter is especially conducive to local networking. The problem is that if you go to a library, you are networking with people who use libraries. And, nothing against libraries -- I pretty much lived at my neighborhood library when I was a kid -- but they don't attract people at the cutting edge of their field, and these are the people you need to get to know to keep yourself employable.
Arlington, Va.: If a senior colleague or manager at my workplace asks to be my friend on Facebook. What should I do, should I add her?
Penelope Trunk: If you are professional on Facebook then it's appropriate. Most people who have been using Facebook since college don't use Facebook in a professional way, so it doesn't make sense to use it as a professional networking tool. One of the reasons we launched BrazenCareerist.com is because Facebook is great for networking and LinkedIn is very professional, but there was no tool that was good for professional conversations. So maybe you should try establishing a profile on Brazen Careerist and then inviting that senior manager to network with you there. Side benefit: One of the things older people love about interacting with younger people is learning new ways to do things.