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CAREERS Q & A

Dr. Marie McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of Secrets to Winning at Office Politics. Here are her answers to three questions about jobs and working:

Returning to the work force

I am a mother of three who wants to return to the work force. I keep sending out resumes, but can't seem to get an interview. I know that I would be hired if an employer could see my commitment and willingness to learn.

There are two paths to an interview: sending out unsolicited resumes or making personal contact. Since your positive attributes may outshine your lack of recent work experience, personal referral is a better bet for you. To identify people who might aid your job search, ask family members, friends and acquaintances for suggestions. When you call these networking contacts, briefly describe your career goal, offer to send a copy of your resume and see if they can suggest others for you to call. Then ask if you can touch base by e-mail every month or so. You might also consider "informational interviewing" - that is, calling people simply to learn more about a particular type of work. If you make a good impression, they may offer some job-search advice.

Workplace attire

I want to know when it is appropriate to wear jeans to work. My husband, who is a lawyer with a large company, insists that jeans are okay because of the casual attire policy. After some recent management changes, he has become increasingly unhappy and complains about not getting respect. I maintain that, even though it may not be fair, people are judging him on his clothes and not just his work.

Whether jeans are appropriate depends on official policy and accepted practice. Lawyers typically dress rather conservatively, but your husband's company might be an exception. For a definitive answer, just drop by his office and see for yourself what others are wearing. Another possibility is that your husband feels somewhat rebellious toward the new management and is using his apparel to convey that message. If that's the case, he needs to resolve his differences or prepare for a job search. Expressing defiance through denim is not likely to improve his situation.

Speedy work

One woman in our office is a very high producer who runs circles around the rest of us. Our new supervisor constantly praises her as the ideal employee. My pace is not quite as fast, but I am always finished before the end of the day. The supervisor has started asking if I need help from this co-worker, which I find very offensive.

If you put your own nose to the grindstone, could you be as productive as your speedy colleague? If so, then you're making the choice to work at a more relaxed pace. Nothing wrong with that, but you shouldn't complain if she chooses to go faster. On the other hand, if you are working up to the best of your abilities, then you simply have the misfortune to be paired with a superstar. This may not be good for your ego, but you can't blame your supervisor for being happy about it. Nor should you blame your boss for trying to increase productivity by asking someone who is finished to help someone who is not. After all, a supervisor's primary job is to get work done as correctly and quickly as possible.

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