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  Dear Dr. L’esa,
I have been looking for a job for 9 months and I am slowly slipping into a depressive state. I have my BS in Psychology & Secondary Education and I am working towards my MSed, but I can't seem to complete my last semester. I have no money I can't afford another student loan payment and I can't seem to find a good job. What can you offer by way of suggestions? I have temped and they appear to be drying up here in MD and I have substituted as well. Help, I feel like I am unemployable. Future MSEd

Dear Future MSEd,
I know it is discouraging when you can’t find a job after months of looking. With little information about your specific situation here is what I suspect. You are certainly not unemployable. You may either be seeking jobs for which you are overqualified or specializing too much. Sometimes applying for jobs far below what your education suggests as logical makes employers afraid to hire you because they assume you will always be looking for something better and leave.

If you are specializing in your field there just may not be jobs out there in your search range. You may need to broaden your search beyond your local area or open your options to other fields that remotely relate to what you ultimately want. In the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, habit #2 is Begin with the End in Mind. What type of job are you hoping to get by having a Master of Science in Education degree? What job can you get now that will begin to move you in that direction?

Here is what I suggest: Get any job you can in Higher Education. The website www.academic360.com will take you to the Human Resources pages of almost every university in the United States. Once you get a job in a university set your sights on better jobs from the inside. When you go into a job interview go in with confidence. Keep in mind that no one knows how many interviews you have been on and how many resumes you’ve sent out, but you. Working temp jobs is a very good way to keep your resume filled while you are looking. It might also help to go to your university’s career center to have them review your resume. Best of luck finding the right job…Dr. L’esa

Dear Dr. L’esa,
I am an ex-felon who has recently graduated with a Bachelors of Computer Science degree. I was incarcerated for more than six years in the early 90's. Since my release I have been working hard to maintain a good work record. I even got the degree after my time locked up. I was locked up for a violent crime and now that I'm looking for a second chance how realistic is it that I will find a job in my field (programmer). What else can I do to over come this BIG BAD Mark against myself? Thank You, Trying Over.

Dear Trying Over,
Congratulations on your diligence and hard work to start anew. It is impressive that you completed your bachelor’s degree. And of course you can start over and become successful. However, I can’t say that you may not have some difficulty and you may need to chart an alternative course of job search than the traditional routes.

Academically you have prepared yourself. However, the field of IT is very competitive, especially now because so many jobs have been sent overseas. But keep in mind, there are jobs out there. In most states the fact that you were convicted of a felony cannot alone be grounds for not hiring you. The difficulty specifically with your situation however is if a company discovers that you were convicted of a violent offense they may be concerned about hiring you for fear of workplace safety obligations under the law.

If an employer does ask about your conviction, be honest and remorseful. Don’t go into too much detail. Say what you have learned, done to improve, done to control your anger, or other steps to assure them that you would not be a risk to hire. You might consider going to a few non-profit organizations that work with ex-offenders and volunteer to do some computer work for them. Non-profits always need help getting into the 21st century when it comes to technology.

Once you have that experience and do a great job for them, you can ask for a letter of recommendation or if they know of a place where you might get some paid temporary work. You might luck out and find a paying job right away, but be creative in your approach and don’t expect anything overnight. If you need money right away you’ll have to work harder but I suggest taking a non-demanding evening job so that you can pursue your area expertise in the daytime. A previous question was asked by someone who also has a computer science degree and was answered by IT Professional and Author, Ian Fisher. Refer to that answer for some additional ideas.

Dear Dr. L’esa,
I majored in sociology and obtained my bachelor's degree in 2002. After I graduated I was uncertain as to what I wanted to do. I searched around and found the job search to be quite difficult, especially since I didn't have a concrete career focus.I thought that I would take some time to work in different positions to get an idea and perhaps gain some insight as to what my interest are. However, I find myself after 3 years of working 2 distinctly different jobs ( I really don't like) that I still don't know what I want to do.

One day I want to be a social worker, the next day it's an accountant, today it's a speech and language pathologist... and so on. I find myself researching careers daily, yet none of them interest me enough for me to consider pursuing them. Just a little insight, I attended 3 different universities, I had approximately 6 different majors (biology, sociology, interior design, architecture, etc.) at the last school alone. I'm trying to discover my passion in life, but I don't think that I have one. Also, I've been seeing a career counselor, but I don't think he really know how to help me. Any suggestions for me.

Dear Career Seeker,
Your question touches one of my passions. There are far too many people stuck not just in jobs they hate but careers they hate. Your situation is far more common than you might know and unfortunately most career counselors don’t know how to help.

I’ve noticed there are five types of career paths people follow. The first is the career lucky, this individual has no career goals, no path, and falls into a job or career and stays there for 30 years. The second is the career focused, this person knows exactly what they want and they go after it with an unwavering vengeance. The third is the career challenged, this person doesn’t have a career goal and drifts from job to job, not seeking but just trying to survive. The fourth is the career scared, this may be you—but I don’t think so. The career scared person is in avoidance about having to go out into the real world and work. So they do multiple things to delay the process including work at teenage jobs into their 30’s and go to school for degree after degree after degree without ever getting a real job The fifth is the career seeker, I think this is your type.

The career seeker is usually a very intelligent and talented person who could follow any one of many career paths and be successful. The problem is the career seeker wants the perfect career. I have found that often career seekers are stuck trying to fit their interests in the box of traditional careers. Career seekers are generally very creative people and have been socialized to think their creativity or multiple interests cannot possibly make them money, so often they block out what they really love or try to fit it into a traditional job title.

Here’s the abbreviated version of what you can do to gain some clarity on your career interest. First, STOP researching careers and figure out what you love to do. What is it that you truly enjoy doing? If you could do anything in the world and didn’t have to make money what kind of things would you still do? Do you draw when you are alone? Do you fix things? Do you take photos? Do you research? What type of documentaries do you watch on television? What news stories get your interest the most? What do you read? Finish the sentence: I absolutely love and get energized when I ______________.

Once you figure that out, and only after you figure it out, then research to find the career(s) that incorporates all of those things. Good luck, and let me know what you’ve discovered. Dr. L’esa

Dear Dr. L’esa,
I am very frustrated right now. I have been actively seeking employment for about a year. I was a teenage mother at the age of seventeen, but I graduated from High school. I continued on to college and after three children and ten years later I graduated with my BA in Business Mgmt. I also continued and received a MA in Organizational Mgmt. I am now back in school getting a MS in Human Resource and I can't find a job. I have been told to take my degrees off of my resume because I have too much education. This makes me so mad and sad. I have worked very hard to achieve my education and work experience. I have had several jobs in Management and was living in AZ and CA.

I moved back to Chicago (where I grew up) after a divorce and now I can not find a position. I have tried everything. I have applied for jobs that do not require any education and I have applied for jobs that I am highly qualified for. I have had several interviews including 2nd interviews. I have been required to write papers and still no offers. Can you offer me some advice I am very depressed and frustrated? Please don't tell me that all the years of my struggle to get an education and provide for my children as worth nothing!

I have followed the "American Way" of getting an education to get ahead, Why or What is happening to me? Any advice would be deeply appreciated! Thank you, Degreed and Frustrated.

Dear Degreed and Frustrated,
People often think a degree will open doors. Unfortunately, it doesn’t usually open doors anymore than a high school diploma. What it does, is allow you to open bigger doors and door that lead to a bigger and better office. However, you may have heard the phrase “it takes experience to get experience”. Many companies want people who have experience or they want young college graduates with no experience that they can “mold.”

It’s hard to guess what might be happening in your situation. There are so many factors. However, definitely do not take your education off of your resume. Since you fairly recently attained your degrees and your work experience has not directly been related to the degrees, you will want to include the years you graduated. Honestly, it seems to me that your two master’s degrees are so closely related that you might be wasting your money. You may be better served by taking an HR certificate program or even a few HR classes from the continuing education division of a local college.

Apply only for jobs that fit your desired work. Be realistic, you probably won’t be hired as the Training Manager of an organization right off the bat. Since you have worked management jobs in the past, apply to industries where you have work experience and apply for jobs in their HR department. Don’t settle. Work temp jobs in the meantime. Temporary assignments can help you get your foot in the door. There are temporary agencies that specialize in Human Resources. Temporary Agencies are also great about giving direct feedback if there is something specific you can change that is hindering you from getting hired. I did a yahoo search on [“Human Resources” “Temporary Agency” “Chicago”] and there are many agencies specializing in HR professionals. Do the search and call them.

Also, join local chapters of Human Resources organizations. SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management), ASTD (American Society for Training and Development). If you are African American there is the NAAAHR (National Association of African Americans in Human Resources). Don’t only join the organizations ATTEND their meetings religiously. That means make it a point to attend every meeting just like it is a job. Volunteer at the meetings to do anything. The key is to get people to know you and like you. BEWARE: There are lots of people who attend industry association meetings for the purpose of finding a job and they often find each other, then spend each meeting talking about how hard it is to find a job. DO NOT! I repeat DO NOT, hang out with them. They are poison. Spend your time with the people who are working and involved. Volunteer to hand out flyers for some event at the door, serve refreshments, set-up chairs or take down chairs. Present yourself with confidence. If people ask, say, “I’m transitioning into Human Resources. Know of a job?” And leave it at that. Don’t belabor the point and don’t allow them to dig too much at that point. If they have advice say, “thank you” and decide if it is advice you want to take. Don’t talk about how hard it has been for you to find a job. Make it seem like you just started and you know you will find something soon.

Stick with it. I had a friend who was out of work for two years and then landed a job making twice as much as he had expected; so don’t get discouraged. Go to each interview with a positive attitude. I wish you the best of Good luck. Dr. L’esa

Dear Dr. L’esa,
Hi Dr. Lesa, I am in nursing school and it’s hard. Whites are so damn smart sometimes I hate them, but then a sister comes and shows me what hate is all about. Sisters on the job do not have unity and it hurts me that they are like that. I wanna change my career but am confused about it. I rather work from home away from everyone. I was in the streets God saved me. Now I am doing right but where are the good people. Well I am one of them. Sincerely, Future nurse.

Dear Future Nurse,
It sounds like you are doing a lot of good things for yourself. When we stretch ourselves, we often feel we don’t measure up, and that is when it seems that other people are smarter than we are. We look for comfort from the people we think are most like us, but you have to remember they may be dealing with some of the same feelings you are. When under stress people don’t necessarily come together. The important thing is that you stick with your plan. You need to experience the sense of accomplishment you will have when you finish nursing school. Nursing school is hard, but with what you already have accomplished you can do it. Imagine what you will feel like when you achieve that goal. If you then choose to change your career you will know it was your decision, and you won’t feel like you just gave up. Keep in mind, you are not going to change other people. You have no control over their behavior. Knowing that you are a good person is important. Don’t let your positive attitude be affected by others. Dr. L’esa

Dear Dr. L’esa,
I am a non-traditional student, pursuing a career in Business in Sports and Entertainment degree. I am a 32 year old African American female wondering where my future is headed. I have a 2-part question. How do go about finding research in this field for African American women and would my age keep me from getting into the field at all? I am in need of answers !!! I am a little afraid of pursuing an interest that I may not get experience with. Sincerely, Afraid but Anxious

Dear Afraid but Anxious,
At 32, you are hardly over the hill. Your age will not be a hindrance to getting into the field of Sports and Entertainment. You didn’t mention what your area of interest is. Are you interested in marketing, business management, some other area, or are you open to whatever job you can get?

It is time to start your job search now. I suggest you start by contacting the Sports and Entertainment Program department or the alumni office at your school. Ask for the names and phone numbers or email addresses of graduates working in your field. Contact each of them and ask to have a few minutes of their time either on the phone or in person. This is an informational interview. In person is better, but if they are out of the area or very busy, then set up a phone interview. When you set up a phone interview always make that a different interview than your initial phone call, but be ready in case they say, “Well, let’s talk now.”

When you have the informational interview you are not asking for a job, you want answers to questions that will help you break into the field. Have your questions written down and make it a very formal interview. Dress professionally. Ask questions like:

1. How did you break into this field?
2. Where did you go to find this job?
3. What are some good organizations I can join?
4. How can I start getting experience now?

Follow the advice you are given. The advice from someone who has already done it is far better than any advice you can get from well-meaning people who are not in the field. Also, start reading every journal and magazine available on sports and entertainment. Follow recent sports law; by reading recent cases you will gain perspective on what is happening in the field.

From this moment on, every job you take should be focused on moving you into your desired career. For example, if you are interested in going into marketing, get any job you can in either sales or marketing. And volunteer or work weekends at the local sports arena. When breaking into a new field, keep every move focused on advancing your progress towards getting into the field. Before you take any job, think, “Can I spin this job on my resume so that it fits into the job I want?” If your answer is no, find another job. Congratulations on your new degree and good luck.Dr. L’esa

Dear L’esa,
I am a 35 year-old single mother, all my life I have been a strong woman. When I turned 35 I became depressed not knowing where my life is headed and its scares me. My dream is to own my own building, finish school, which I have not done I don't have will power nor help. I have been on my job for 5 years which I do not like and headed no where in that field. What do I do now with my life? I have no one to talk to, no one to ask for help. 35 and confused.

Dear 35 and Confused,
Certain age markers have a way of making us reflect on our lives. That reflection usually highlights the things we have not done that we either want to do or thought we would have done by that age. Each of us needs to follow our dreams until they become a reality. Starting your business does not depend on you finishing school. Decided which is more important to you today, finishing school or starting your own business. While you could do both at the same time, it’s better to start with one and hold the other until later. Take it one step at a time. If you have a burning desire to start your own business you should begin by finding out what it will take to do that. Write down your business idea. Go to the Small Business Administration in your area for help. The web site is http://www.sba.gov/. Find a women’s support group for entrepreneur’s or business women in your area. The chamber of commerce is also a good resource.

Finishing school is a personal goal that you need to accomplish if it will make you feel more complete to do so. If finishing school is your priority there are many programs out there to help you finish. Go to your local community college and talk with a counselor. You didn’t say what level of schooling you want to finish. If it is high school, the community college counselors can generally even give advice on doing that. If it is college then community college counselors can definitely help with that. Did you know that nearly one-fourth of all college students are over the age of 30? So, don’t be discouraged and depressed. Just start today by making one call to one of the sources above. Good Luck, Dr. L’esa

I am a 29-year-old chiropractor with my own practice. Even through I have only been in sole practice for only 7 months I am considering going back to school to get my M.P.H. in Health Care Organization so that I my have something to fall back on if my practice doesn't do well. Plus I would like to work in the corporate part of health care one-day. My husband is supportive and thinks it is a good idea, but others don't understand why I want another degree when I have a doctoral degree. What do you think? Thank you Dr. T.B.

Dear Dr. T.B.
There is nothing wrong with going back to school if you are doing it to enhance your skills or gain additional skills because you are planning to go in a different direction; but be careful about having a career to “fall back on.” The best way to ensure you’ll need something to fall back on is to prepare for it. If you sincerely enjoy chiropractics then I suggest sticking with it and put the money you’d spend on your MPH into your practice. Think of innovative ways of creating more business. If you are finding chiropractics is not exactly what you want to do, then another degree is always an option, but sincerely explore the area before you go into it. Dr. L’esa

Dear L’esa,
I was convicted of a felony when I was 18 in 1991. I was sentenced 5 to 25 years, served 1 year and got out on supper Shock Probation in the state of Ohio. I was released off of probation after 1 year. I never had any previous convictions. My parents always raised me to be honest and never lie. When I was arrested I admitted all my wrongs to the police. I didn’t know what my rights meant at the time. Later after I consulted my public defender in the county jail, he told me if I just kept my mouth shut, I never would have been charged. I was a senior in high school and went to the state prison in Chillicothe Ohio with a 5 to 25 year sentence. I am now 32 years of age and have been out of prison for the last 13 or 14 years. Every day is a struggle. I still wake up in prison every morning. I have found if one gets charged with a felony its an automatic LIFE sentence.

When I was released I could only get minimum wage jobs. Always dead ends. I pondered on how I can make a living out of poverty. I started my own business in the roofing industry. It was a solid hit. I was making excellent money, but I hated what I was doing. I was going to save my money so I could put myself through school. My dream ever since I was a kid was to become a commercial pilot. After my ninth year of my business I sold my company. I got married and was on my second owned average suburb home. I was now ready to go after my dream of flying the friendly skies. I went to aviation a academy that took 3/4 of my savings $60,000.00. I was almost now broke and the rest of my savings I had to really watch because I was now in school full time for the next 2 years. My wife took on a full time job to help.

The aviation academy I went to had contracted guaranteed job placement. The school at that time also was aware of my background. Well 2 years of schooling and graduation was about a week away I had high scores and held a pilots license now. Then September 11,2000 happens 3 days before my graduation date. I was screwed from there on out. My dream down the drain. Lost my cars my house, everything I had worked for to better myself, GONE. My wife god love her stuck by me and still is. I'm back to my minimum wage dead end jobs, educated with college and living back in poverty with my wife. I recently got a school loan to go into truck driving school, I graduated that with a 98% grade point average and no one is hiring me for what happened 13 years ago. After 9/11 if you have been convicted of a felony in the US you'll never succeed no matter what you do or how you better yourself.

I did the crime, I confessed to the crime, I did the time, and I'm still and always will be doing the time until something changes. The really sad thing is my wife has to do the time with me. Something, sometime is going to have to change!! Thank You, 2nd. degree convicted

Dear Convicted,
I understand how discouraging it must be to have something you did when you were eighteen haunt you for the rest of your life. I sympathize. And, I applaud you for what you have done to advance your life. Think of what you have done. You have owned your own successful business, saved $100,000, obtained a pilot’s license. You are amazing. Regardless of their past, how many people can say they have accomplished what you have accomplished.

I understand that you are feeling depressed now because of the events and prejudice since 9/11, but it doesn’t have to be your fate. First, there are many companies that do not do background checks. Let people get to know you well before you disclose your conviction. There is no reason for that to be a significant part of your identity. You have so many options and great experience. You’ve already owned a successful company. You could start another company. If you really want to work as a pilot or a truck driver or anything else, keep your focus on that type of job. Work an evening job; maybe an evening administrative job in an aviation school where you can keep logging hours while you find a job. Leave your daytime hours for your job search. You may never get a job with a major airline, but you may be able to get a job with a courier service, a private shuttle service or something like that. Trucking is the same.

Apply to as many places as you can, if you don’t get the job don’t think of it as being convicted one more time for the same crime. Most people have to search and search and search for a job they really want. Even without a conviction it can be hard to get the job you want. You certainly have one disadvantage, but you also have a huge advantage. You are obviously intelligent and ambitious. By your letter alone, I can tell that once you put your mind to something, you do it. Keep focused, don’t be too quick to disclose your past conviction, don’t sell yourself short, talk about the great things you have done, keep your head high and I’m sure you will continue to do great things.

Dear Dr. L'esa
Hi, I am a African American college student majoring in business administrative. I have been unemployed for quiet some time now do to the company going out of business. That was the only company I have work for being that I am 20 years old and I was not a job hoper. I believe I can not get hired because of my non verifiable employment. What do you think I should do.

Dear Unable to verify references,
Unless you started working at 16 years of age, your work history is not extensive and most companies do not expect an extensive work history from 20 year olds. If you are getting interviews and the companies you are interviewing with are requesting references, you can use personal references. I would also suggest getting a part-time job to rebuild your reference pool. If you have a way of getting in touch with anyone from the company where you worked, contact them for a reference. If you don't know where to find any of the former employers take it as a lesson and get a letter of reference from now on when you leave a job.

If you are not getting interviews, it is not because your references are not verifiable. It is almost unheard of for a company to verify references before an interview. The problem is more likely your cover letter or resume is laden with typos. Everybody makes mistakes and typos, but your brief letter to me has nine typos. I suggest you have someone proofread your letters before you send them. If you are planning to work in a professional field you would benefit from a few beginning English classes. When I receive a letter with typos they are generally corrected before the letter is published. However, I believe this might be a serious detriment to your job search, so below I have corrected your letter to be more grammatically correct.
* * * * * *

Hi, I am an African American college student majoring in business administration. I have been unemployed for quite some time now due to the company going out of business. That was the only company I worked for being that I am 20 years old and not a job hopper. I believe I cannot get hired because of my non-verifiable employment. What do you think I should do?

* * * * * *

Dear L’esa,
Boy, it’s a struggle out here! I am a professional Administrative Assistant/secretary/project manager. I have a Masters Degree in African Studies and a BA in Political Science with Minors in English and Philosophy. I am now 35 years old and stuck in an unemployed rut. I am constantly 30 days away from losing my home. I was teaching about three years ago but I was in a bad marriage. I made the choice to leave my husband. The way I had to do it was leave town without a trace. I left school my job and took my kids out of school and left my home in Chicago. I ended up returning to Chicago, got my house back with a lot of bills, unemployed and well, you know the story, time to start over. However, I have not been able to get a “good” job since or start a successful business. I have failed at several “web-based” businesses (My Dad and I sunk, I am embarrassed to say, thousands in a web store that was unsuccessful).

I have become discouraged because all the jobs I apply for do not come through. I am ready to succeed. Anyway, I am an “African American” and I have Nappy hair (naturally). I know that should not matter to an employer but honestly, we know that how a person looks makes a big impression on if they get the job and what kind of job they get. I have a college degree from UIC with a 4.0/5.0 GPA. I am a very intelligent woman with many skills and talents. Many recruiters solicit me due to my “wonderful” resume and background. However, when I show up to the interview it’s “no jobs available”. I have been looking for work in my field “Administration/Secretary” for three years. I feel very bad about not getting a job. Yeah, I could go work at McDonalds or Walgreen’s but that won’t pay my student loans, my mortgage, car insurance, school fees, utilities etc. I am trying to find employment comparable to my education and skill levels with a salary I can live off of. I am signed with over eight agencies and I always score advanced levels in those tests (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Access) I have experience working with doctors, lawyers and educators.

I spent 10 years in the US Army Reserve, honorably discharged as a Sergeant. Being a member of the US Army for 10 years says a lot about an individual’s character. I received a secret security clearance from the government due to the nature of my job. However, all of my skills and experience seems to have no value in gaining employment lately. I also just finished job training school where I trained for Oracle 10i DBA certification, still “not enough experience”. I am not trying to “switch” fields; I am simply trying to get a job.

I stopped working in 2001 because I went through a very ugly divorce which left me with two small children and I left my house and moved out of town for six months. When I came back to Chicago, I started substitute teaching. I have been trying to get back into regular employment ever since. So now my only alternative is to go back to school. I don’t really know what to take, what more certification, qualification, and testing, do I need to become qualified to work? The employment standards have become so complex I feel confused. I just need some insight and encouragement in my job search before I lose my house and become one of those statistics. My family and I are on our way to homelessness if I don’t find a job soon. Is the job market so bad that even I cannot find a job with all my qualifications and experience? Educated, Gifted, Divorced, Black, Seeking Employment

Dear ...Seeking Employment,
If education is the key to success, you certainly have the key. You just need to find the right door. Going back to school is only a solution if you know exactly what you want to do and you don’t currently have the education or skills to do it. It is absolutely clear that you are intelligent, well educated and experienced in many things. While I can understand that you are panicked right now, if you show any trace of that to a potential employer it is pretty certain you will not get hired. I don’t know if you are making statements of this type in your interviews, but statements like “I just want a job” and “I can do anything” are not appropriate statements for someone with your level of education and experience. They will quickly lose you any job opportunity. Other things that might be hindering your success once you get to the interview are if you begin discussing your ugly divorce. Even saying you went through an “ugly divorce” is a red flag to companies who these days are frightened by possibilities of workplace violence.

The less said about your personal life in an interview the better. Honesty does not have to include all details. If you are asked what have you been doing the past “x” years, simply say either, “I was caring for my children and recently divorced, and I’m happy to get back into the job market” or “my father and I were starting a business, but I found running my own business was not for me.” Both of those answers give a sense that you want to be working, but not that you are desperate. You’ve heard the old saying, “Never let them see you sweat” that the same in the interview. Present yourself with poise, confidence and clarity of purpose. Why do you want to be an administrative assistant? The right answer is not “because I’ve done it and it’s easy to get a job doing it.” But something to the effect of, “Having worked a variety of jobs, I know how important the role of the administrative assistant is, and I’m good at it. I am detail oriented, know how to develop systems and love the sense of accomplishment that comes with having a task and finishing it.” Tailor your answers in a way that makes you look strong, determined, confident, clear about your goals, and not vulnerable.

It’s hard when you’ve been looking a long time, but be positive and keep focused on what you want. As I was reading your letter, it occurred to me that if you like teaching children why don’t you apply to teach at an Afrocentric School in your area. It seems like a natural fit with your teaching experience, master’s degree and even your computer knowledge. Of course it would have to be something you want to do. Hang in there, I’m sure you will succeed.

Hello Dr L'esa,
I was reading your column and I’m familiar with a case similar to the pilot trainee convicted of a felony at 18. I explained to my friend that most governors and even the president will often clear or pardon dozens of felons each year if they have been model citizens. Franklin D. Roosevelt pardoned 3687, Clinton 456, Carter 566, but Washington only pardoned 16.

On a project that I work on, Port Chicago Memorial, a group of 50 Black sailors were charged with and convicted of mutiny, a capital offense in war time. They refused orders after a huge explosion that killed hundreds at Port Chicago, a WWII Navy base near Concord. Two of the remaining survivors were pardoned in 2000 and perhaps would have been a lot sooner, but they DID NOT ask. They kept their record secret for over 55 years. In 1945 their courts martial convictions were even appealed by Thurgood Marshall, but denied. So Clinton pardoned them. http://www.house.gov/georgemiller/rel122399.html

I'm not sure how often governors do so, but California's governor can terminate a one-time felon's record. In most cases it helps if you have a good and sympathetic pro bono lawyer. Each state will be different. Please mention this in your response to the pilot. It would be a great public service if more people in our community knew this. Have you ever thought about writing a newspaper column in the classifieds? http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/pardons.htm
Gene Fleming

Dear Gene,
Thank you for the information hopefully it will help either the young pilot or someone else.

Dear Dr. L’esa:
I had a felony charge and in the disposition of the case the conviction was set aside and the case was dismissed. Does that mean to Human Resources that I do/do not have a felony conviction? Applying for jobs

Dear Applying for jobs:
If your conviction was set aside and the case dismissed, you do not have a felony conviction. If I were not you I would not say I was convicted of a crime, nor would I volunteer any information about being arrested, charged or appearing in court, etc. The rule to follow here is “don’t tell; they shouldn’t ask.” Best of luck on your job search.

Hello Dr. L’esa,
How are you? Good I hope. I would like to get some advice for my husband. He is already in college going for a Masters in Radiologic. He does have a felony that is 7 yrs old this year for attempting to distribute a controlled substance. Well, the college he is going to now told him because of the criminal background check he can no longer take the courses needed. Why, because it's in the medical field. But he told his advisor and dean about his situation before he enrolled, and 6 months after starting school the college said back in April of this year a bill was past that a felon cannot work in the medical field.

One thing I forgot to mention is that before he enrolled in school he also thought he didn't have a chance; so I took it upon myself to call the local hospitals, clinics, etc. and told them the situation and asked them would they hire someone with that on they're record. All the places I called all said that they would hire him in a minute because they look at the degree you have that's all and they all did mention that this is a high demanding position in hospitals. So my question is what states don't have this law. If it wasn't for that then he would have no problem getting a masters but we never thought that a school would tell you no. We want to move to Florida. Hope you can help, thank you for your time, NOT GIVING UP IN COLORADO

Dear Not Giving Up:
According to The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists http://www.arrt.org/web/ethics/standardethic.pdf a felony conviction may prevent licensure. It would be irresponsible for the school not to inform your husband of that information. It is better to receive this information after 6 months of schooling than to complete his coursework, get a degree and then find out that he is not able to get licensed. While I am not familiar with the laws of each state and if there are any exceptions that would allow your husband to not only get licensed, you can contact the individual state’s licensing board.

A Google search on “radiologic technology” followed by the name of the state will give you the requirements and generally from there you can find a phone number where you could contact someone to get the information you need. Another resource, with which you might already be familiar, is the American Society of Radiologic Technology https://www.asrt.org/. The important thing is to persevere. If radiology is not a viable option after you explore the options, have your husband list all of the reasons he wanted to go into radiology and then write me again and we can look at other occupations that might fit his career and personal goals. Best of luck to both of you.

Dear L’esa,
I am returning to teaching art after being laid off (two years) from an affluent, white school district.  I am a woman of color, with a degree in Literature, Fine Art and a MA in Art Education and several semester hours in addition to my degree.

I have been in contact with the department chair and the teacher that had the post I will hold.  Unfortunately, after a month or so of soliciting feedback on essential elements of the job, I have very little to go on. Getting information from that guy and the department chair was like pulling teeth.  For example, I have no idea what supplies or budget exist for me to start the term in August.  I feel ill-prepared and that will certainly inform my level of confidence. I am also teaching on course I've never taught, using software I have never used--Ugghhh.  I am teaching another course I have never taught.

The department chair has over-shared about her ex-husband and made comments about my future colleagues that lead me to believe that I too will be a source of verbal fodder and gossip.  I will teach three courses in two different rooms, both I will have to share.  At this writing I am anxious about having a small amount of privacy, since I will have to share both classrooms and I am not sure how to manage my position since I think the chair and the other colleagues have not been good colleagues thus far. Please share any advise you have on "faking it" through this position. I want to stay out of the gossip circle and have a sense of autonomy and effectiveness.  Thank you for your reply.Returning Teacher

Dear Returning Teacher,
Your question can best be answered by someone in a position similar to yours. I asked the advice of sister who is an art teacher who teaches in international schools and changes locations frequently. Here is her response:

Congratulations on your new position! It is always a bit scary getting back into the swing of things, but in my many years as an international art teacher, I have been faced with several of the concerns you list in your letter to Dr. Lesa and I hope I can offer you a few words of advice.

  Almost without exception, when I approach the staff at the new school for information about supplies, curriculum, facilities, etc.  I get back answers that are ambiguous at best. I don't know if it is simply the nature of the artistic beast, or if it applies to all areas of teaching, but I have learned to expect the worst. I usually go the first day with a about two weeks worth of lessons planned that I know can be accomplished with few supplies and a little bit of ingenuity. As much as I hate to recommend it, it doesn’t hurt to buy a few necessary items that will at least get you through until you can find out what is on hand and how extensive your budget is. 

  Privacy in an art room is a definite issue. You don't mention whether or not you will be conducting class with other teachers in the room at the time, but having had that happen, I would make it clear as firmly and as nicely as possible, that you need to have your "space" professionally and personally. Let them know from the beginning that you are not accustomed to sharing facilities, but that you will do your best not to interfere with their teaching process. (This should establish the boundaries for them as well.)

  Your observation about becoming fodder for gossip is probably accurate. It is practically a given  that if you are already hearing personal stories about future colleagues, you will be the next to be discussed. My approach to this is simple, I try not to listen as much as humanly possible. I seriously try to avoid adding to any gossip, and I keep most of my personal life private. All of these help cut down on the amount of gossip that comes my way. In fact, I am often the last one on the grapevine to hear the rumors. With all of my precautions, I of course, still get talked about.  When it’s your turn, and a friendly co-worker decides to enlighten you by saying, "Guess what so and so said about you" - just answer with "You know, I really am not interested in hearing, I am sure it would only upset me, and you wouldn't want that, would you?"  

This is my standard rely for the gossip mongers and it works every time. I am seldom bothered by comments of that sort anymore. 

  Lastly, if you have the name of the software program and you can do some home tutorials before you start the year, it would give you confidence. If the program isn't available, grab a copy the first day of school and practice. Most graphic software is similar so you shouldn't have too much of a time learning the new one. 

  How do you fake it? Go in with a joyful heart. Be excited about the students you will meet, and the things that you are uniquely qualified to teach them. No matter how much experience the other instructors have, you will bring you own talents and strengths to the position. Before you know it, you will be so involved in your lessons and the children you will forget about how you are doing. I am sure you will be wonderful....Enjoy. (Fayleta Guilian)

Hello Dr L'esa,
My boss is telling me that I am not doing a good job. He said that I’m late too often and argumentative with my co-workers. He didn’t say anything about my actual performance. He told me that he is documenting our last conversation as a “verbal reminder.” I asked him if that means I am on a performance program and he said, “No”, but I’m concerned that I’m going to lose my job. I really like the work I do and don’t want to lose my job. What should I do? -Scared I’ll be fired

Dear Scared:
It’s scary to be warned that your job performance is not acceptable. However, you should be glad that your boss was willing to give you a “verbal reminder” especially if he has told you before that he wanted a change in your behavior. The best way for you to handle this is to take a proactive stance. What I mean by this, is rather than your manager putting you on a performance program, put yourself on one. Write a letter to your manager apologizing for being late and asking for assistance regarding your argumentative style. First, do what you have to to be on time. If you are aware that you are being argumentative or if you are bring your personal life to work, you might consider going to an anger management course. Your company may have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). If so, you can probably get help free, also some health plans have anger management classes. In your letter, explain the steps you are taking to correct both problems. Ask for a formal review of your progress in three months. Also, ask your boss to tell you when he feels you are being argumentative. When you write the letter, write it to your boss and cc: your personnel file. Then, most important of all, follow through and do what you say you will do in your letter. This tactic will most likely impress your boss and make him eager to help you. Good luck and remember follow through.

Dear L’esa,
I've been out of school for about five years now. I am a journalism graduate with a great education from a prominent school of journalism and now I'm pursuing an education in advertising design. At 29, I am in a tailspin. I have no real career guidance, especially since I was downsized out of a job as a media relations writer two years out of college. I've spent the last two years trying to keep my head above water in other jobs. Trying to get back into media has been rough, since editors want someone either right out of school or with about 10 years experience. I'm right in the middle. So, I know I need to push forward and I'm making strides, but I need someone I can continuously bounce questions off of regarding applying for the right jobs, making the right career decisions, negotiating for the right pay and balancing it with a half-way decent personal life, since I'm not married and don't have children, much to my mother's dismay. I look forward to hearing your answer.

Dear Media Professional:
It’s hard to give career advice with such little information and time, however if you are interested in returning to either media relations or journalism you should definitely stay on track. There are many ways you can do this but they all require persistence and short-term your personal life may have to suffer a bit.

If you really want to get back into journalism or media relations I suggest finding any job that puts near writers, the media or as a last resort requires you to read constantly. While you are working in the field, also work freelance jobs. Your freelance jobs can either be for magazines, newsletters or creating press releases. Write articles pro bono and on spec for magazines and the internet. If you are interested in camera work, check with your local cable or public access network. The key is to do everything you can to get your name out there and keep it out there. Save every article you write or anything that has your name in the credits. There are two great books for writing query letters: Attention Grabbing Query and Cover Letters by John Wood and How to Write Irresistible Query Letters by Lisa Collier Cool.

There are also career support groups. If you are still in the area where you went to college, you should consider going to the college’s career center. If you are not, check your local library or another college in the area. Best of Luck.