Ask Dr. Job’s chief contributor, Sandra Pesmen, is a member of the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame and author of “DR. JOB’s Complete Career Guide.”

Winner of several journalism awards, Pesmen is a graduate of the University of Illinois Media College at Urbana, and is listed in several Who’s Who editions. She also has been Corporate Features Editor of Crain Communications Inc., founding Features Editor of Crain’s Chicago Business and a reporter/features writer for The Chicago Daily News.

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DR.JOB: Climb 'The Career Lattice'

By Sandra Pesmen
(Write to sandra@askdrjob.com)


(Q. 1) I'VE BEEN TRAVELING THE old fashioned "career route" and so far "It's not working for me" as Dr. Phil would say. I earned my BS in education, qualified to teach lower and middle school and I haven't progressed past "teacher's aide" in two years. I notice others in the school system seem to be moving ahead and I wonder what I'm missing.

(A.) THAT OLD-FASHIONED ROUTE has disappeared, says Joanne Cleaver, author of The Career Lattice, and you have to be aware of a new method, called climbing that lattice instead of a ladder. This phenomenon is about continual career growth and development, says Cleaver, and it's not defined by aimless sideways changes or work-life solutions, It also doesn't mean sitting there and hoping you'll be promoted to head your own classroom simply because you have the college requirements. Instead, Cleaver suggests you make sure you're getting the right skills at the right time in the right place, filling gaps with targeted training and strategic lateral development. She also names some categories of skills to develop to make that move upward: technical, business and creative problem solving. All those courses are offered at most community colleges after you've finished your teaching day.

(Q.2) MY PART-TIME JOB GIVES ME NO PAID SICK DAYS, so I hate to take any. But I'm being treated with a strong chemical for long-ago sun damage to my face, and it looks and feels awful. My dermatologist promises I'll look wonderful in two weeks, but right now I look like a monster. I can sit at my computer and continue to work efficiently but I know my face upsets everyone. Should I stay home and take the cut in pay, or keep going in and ignoring my co-workers?

(A.) CHANCES ARE YOUR CO-WORKERS feel very sympathetic, especially because many of them may be facing the same kind of treatment as that long-ago sun damage to almost everyone becomes more evident. Yet there's no reason to upset them (and yourself) by going to the office if you can afford to stay home for a short while. Arrange with your boss to try and do some of your work from home and limit all luxuries to pay for the lower pay. If that's at all possible, it will be a relief to all. 

(Q.3) I WAS CHOSEN FOR A SUMMER internship over 150 applicants and feel honored by that. The problem is that I'll be in the media department of a large company, which creates ads and promotions.  I know that should be exciting, and it is what I've been studying in college-but I had an internship last summer and it was so boring because I was at the bottom of the totem pole and they never gave me any really interesting assignments. I hate to have a negative attitude, because everyone's so proud that I got this job, but I am afraid I'll be bored again.

(ANS.) THERE ARE NO BORING, UNINTERESTING JOBS--only people too boring and uninteresting to make them creative. Keep in mind you are embarking on what can be an exciting period of growth if you change that attitude. Any job has the potential of being whatever YOU decide you want to turn it into. If you are bored with the assignments, enterprise more exciting and creative ones, write memos about them for your boss, with copies to your boss' boss, and ask to be allowed to pursue them. Let everyone know you are eager, willing and able to create an exciting experience from this magnificent opportunity. The glass will be half full, instead of half empty, if you fill it with enthusiasm.

(Q.4) I WAS HELD IN THE AIRPORT because of a storm and had to rebook for the next day and then find emergency lodging for the night. The next day my airline's national computer system went down and all planes were grounded throughout the day. I had to buy a new ticket on another airline to get home that night. I wrote to the airline's customer relations department, asking for some compensation for this inconvenience and these costs of almost $300, and enclosed copies of all my bills and tickets, etc, I heard nothing for two weeks, and although I understand none of this was their fault, it wasn't mine either. Is there something more I should do?

(ANS) THE SQUEAKING WHEEL GETS THE GREASE so keep writing and phoning customer relations. Also, as they will tell you, it's effective to go online to the airline's Website and repeat your situation again, and if necessary yet again, until you receive productive answers and eventually some satisfaction. As long as you continue to stay calm and don't blame the people you contact personally, they will do everything they can to right a difficult situation. Be assertive, not aggressive, and chances are that one of these days, you'll be writing to this column about how well this situation turned out. After all, they want you to fly with them next time and will do whatever they can to make that happen.
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