Q.1 THE FIVE WOMEN IN our office work very closely. We know each other's problems, but try and keep our relationships professional. We did take one woman out for a dinner Friday to celebrate her daughter's upcoming marriage. Since our colleague is divorced, and lives on her salary, her ex-husband and the marrying couple are helping with some wedding costs. The problem is that the groom has a huge "ethnic" family, accustomed to large weddings and they didn't offer to pitch in. They keep saying they'll give a wonderful rehearsal dinner. But that isn't helping our co-worker, who has missed three house payments and hired an attorney to keep her out of foreclosure because she's spent all her money on the wedding. She was actually crying when she told us, and we don't know what to do besides tell her she doesn't have to invite us. Would it be appropriate for us to give her some money too? We want to be nice.
(A) BEING NICE DOESN'T MEAN paying bills for your friends. Charity is a whole different path and you should choose it carefully for the most needy and deserving people. Overspending on a wedding doesn't fit that category. It's not too late for her to pare down the wedding expenses, limit the number of guests and ask the groom's family to pay for any extra people. While we all want to send daughters off in grand style, no one should spend more on any wedding than he or she can afford. It's far more important to have a small wedding and a big marriage than the other way around.
Q.2 MY GRANDMOTHER HAS A "family plan" with a wireless phone company and she pays the basic monthly bill for all of us. I made a deal with her when I bought my Smart phone that I would pay $360 yearly to cover the extra annual cost of connecting me to the Internet. The second payment is coming up soon, and I wonder if I should ask her to forgive this year's payment because I don't make much money, still must live at home, and have extra expenses because my car died. Do you think she should be sympathetic?
(A) NO WAY. PAY THE $360 even if you must do it in installments. You made a deal and didn't put in any "special needs" clause. It's really nice of your grandmother to pay the monthly bill for the family. Don't push it or she may decide to dump you from the plan and spend that money on herself.
Q.3 I'VE BEEN READING A LOT of rules for writing the perfect resume and I wonder if there's some shortcut to getting the attention of interviewers and actually getting a job. I spend hours at the computer answering classifieds.
(A) YOU ARE RIGHT TO BE working full time at the job of finding a job, but you should not be spending all that time at the computer answering classifieds. That's a small part of the process and not always the most effective one. Granted, that will give you leads. Then you must get on the phone and out on the street making personal contacts wherever you can in those companies an others. No one is going to find you in your bedroom sitting at the computer. Network, network, network and follow up every name you can mine through family friends and any other contacts. Meanwhile, Microsoft Word offers a template that works well on those resumes: Open with a Summary, what you are known for, your brand. Next state your Objective, what you want to do. In the critical Professional Experience section, list your accomplishments statement including results, actions and what you did to accomplish those. Finally, make clear and reinforce key words that communicate your value, clearly and strongly, to each prospective employer. That part should be done individually.
Q.4. I HAD A BABY, TOOK MATERNITY leave, and now am in tears when I drop off my baby at daycare every workday and drive on to the office. It's breaking my heart, but I know I have to work so my husband and I can pay our mortgage and all the new bills that came with parenthood. How do I reconcile these feelings?
(A) YOU PROBABLY DON'T. MOST working mothers have those same feelings if they must return to a job so quickly. Unfortunately, Yahoo is setting a difficult precedent by demanding all employees work within its brick and mortar building. There is something to be said for employees' production as it relates to their happiness and peace of mind. You do have some choices to discuss with your husband though. You may consider selling the house and buying or renting smaller space at far less cost than your current mortgage. Also start looking for a job you CAN do from home, and the daycare cost savings will probably be enough to justify the change. Another choice is to work through these emotional upheavals and realize, as our wise old grandmothers used to say, "You'll keep worrying about them from the moment they open their eyes until you close yours." No women's or telecommuters' movements seem to change that.