Q Out of the workplace for the past 12-plus years to raise children . . . what's the best advice you can give someone trying to enter the workplace once again? Do I train for new skills? Or do I try and rely on the ones I had prior to leaving the workplace?
Karyn, from Crystal Lake, Ill., via Facebook
A: The first step, according to career experts, is to give some serious thought to what you would like to do and what you're good at doing. You have the skills from the work you did prior to having kids, and you now have a wide array of additional skills that come from more than a decade of dealing with incredibly difficult people, i.e. children.
Marina Parr, spokeswoman for the Washington state Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board, suggests starting off with a self-assessment. "How many of us have actually taken a self-assessment test and seen what we want to do for the rest of our lives?" Parr said. "Part of it is knowing yourself, knowing what you like to do, what you're good at and seeing if those skills and abilities translate into jobs."
Many people have skills from one type of work that might fit even better in a different job, said Greg Rivara of the Illinois Department of Employment Security, which offers job assessment and training programs.
"You take a look at your skill sets and find what other areas those might be a good fit in," he said. "Then you identify what training, either education or vocational, would be required to get where you want to go."
The next critical step is making sure the job you want is in a field that's hiring.
"You do your dream and then you temper that with reality, which is: Is there a job waiting for you?" Parr said. "The dream better be aligned with reality."
Study the field you're interested in and make sure it's something in demand. Then pick a path and go.
Tactfully declining 'friends'
Q: How do you respond to younger co-workers who are hurt that you won't be their friend on Facebook?
Cecelia, in Montgomery, Ala., via Twitter
A: Many young employees have been marinating in social media for so long that it has become a part of who they are, and it's not easy to teach them that friending and texting and whatevering with co-workers isn't always appropriate.
In 2009, Meg Langland, director of career services at Westminster College in Missouri, wrote an article for the National Association of Colleges and Employers titled "Evolving e-Etiquette in the Workplace."
She said the best response to co-workers put off by a Facebook friend denial is to explain that you keep your work life separate from your personal life. (She did say LinkedIn is an acceptable place to maintain professional relationships.)
Langland believes explaining all this to a younger co-worker helps define boundaries and prevents the inevitable office drama that would come with the full-on intermingling of professional and private lives.
Rex Huppke writes for the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter RexWorksHere.