Washington: I would like advice on trying to get ahead in a company where the past four hires or promotions in my department have gone to friends of the boss. And in the company overall, at least five others in the past year have also been his friends. When asked about their qualifications (two in my department have no experience or credentials for the jobs), he responded: "Their qualifications are that they are friends of mine." HR does nothing because they fear him. Anyone have any ideas on how to cope?

Besides bonding with the guy so you too can be considered his "friend," I'm not sure there's much you can do. Hiring people you know is fairly common, but most people don't rely on that criteria to the exclusion of everything else, which it sounds like this guy is doing. I would start looking for another job.

Washington: I graduated 21/2 years ago and am working in an entry-level position in the field I studied. I see people around me who are workaholics, go in early, go home later, take work home, work from home on their sick and vacation days, etc. I don't feel the need to do this or to go back to school for a higher degree and fall deeper into debt. Am I just not cut out for Washington, or do other people my age (mid-twenties) generally feel the same way I do? There's more to life than just working, isn't there?

Well, that depends on how you feel about your work. Some people love what they do, and certainly Washington attracts plenty of ambitious people. If that's not you, though, it's just not you. There's still a place for a work-to-live type like you, even in workaholic Washington.