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 Q & A: To Tell Or Not To Tell

(Q.1) I'VE BEEN SUFFERING WITH stress because of this job and think I should see a therapist. I want to use my company insurance to pay for the treatments but my brother, who is an attorney, said if I do that the company will have a record of my:"mental illness" and may use that as an excuse to fire me. I feel everyone in this company already is on shaky ground because of budget cuts and downsizing. Do you think I should listen to him? I really don't have the money for treatment and the insurance would cover it.

(A.) SEE YOUR HUMAN RESOURCES department to find out if your company has an Employee Assistance Program, or some other way to provide that service confidentially. If not, your brother may have a point, although no company should be able to fire you or discriminate against you for seeking therapy. He is right that there always are risks concerning mental health issues, and you have to determine if hoping to keep that job is worth suffering severe stress


(Q.2) HOW DO I KEEP VISITORS from thinking I'm the receptionist just because my desk happens to be near the door of our office and I'm the only woman. I'm as professional as all the men, and we don't have any receptionist because it's a small office. Yet whenever anyone comes in to deliver a package or letter or to see someone, they come right to me and expect me to stop and handle their situation. It's annoying, and even the men laugh about it while they make the coffee.

(A) SOUNDS AS THOUGH YOU should learn to laugh as easily as the men in your office do. This isn't a serious problem, and you can solve it by putting a nameplate on your desk with your name and title clearly printed on it and face it toward the door. If someone acts as though you're a receptionist, pleasantly explain who you are and what you do and direct them to the person they want. Also put an INBOX on your desk and point to that if they want to leave letters or packages and keep working. If you really feel self confident and comfortable with your identity, none of this should matter. So work on that too.


(Q.3) I DON'T SEEM TO BE getting anywhere in this company yet I have an MBA from a good university and have spent five years here trying to do everything "by the book" for women executives. Yet I wonder why nothing seems to get the attention of people who have the power to promote me.

(A) MAYBE YOU ARE OUT OF STEP with the times. Things change every day, and certainly have in five years.  If you've been trying to focus on others, seek approval, be modest and work harder than everyone else, it's time to change that. Today's women professionals move up to the executive suite faster if they take center stage, keep moving until they're stopped, learn what moves are politically savvy and get the others promoted and, most of all, play to win every day, not to be anyone's best friend. Also speak up and ASK for promotions. Power is never given, it's always taken. 


(Q.4) PEOPLE TELL ME I LOOK young for my age and I am still physically fit and walk a mile each day early in the morning, yet I really feel no one is going to hire me anymore. I'm in my late 50s and after being laid off last year I've heard nothing but "too qualified," even though I know they mean "too old." Do you think I'll ever work again?

(A.) NOT UNLESS YOU CHANGE YOUR attitude and begin thinking of yourself as an active, vibrant person who has much to offer any company that is smart enough to hire you and is the right "fit." And there IS one but you'll have to look harder than a young person would to find it. The reason is not that you are decrepit but that someone just entering the workforce usually costs less to hire and maintain and that's a big factor in this economy. Make sure your IT skills are up to date and, if necessary, take a quick course at the local college to bring them there. Also make sure your clothes are neat, casual and updated as well. (No wing-tip shoes and black suits.). If you have a head of white hair you think makes you appear older, have it made darker, or at least darken the top and leave sideburns gray. At the interviews stress your experience in today's market and projects you excelled at-and be ready to discuss new films, books, and current events. The most important step you can take is to think about all the good things people say about you-and believe them.

EAPs Help Employer, Employee

'Returnships' Help Older Workers