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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Q.1.  I’M NOT BY NATURE a complainer. But while I like my job as a design director a lot—for a decent-sized agency—I’m feeling my colleagues are taking advantage of me. Problem is nearly everybody I work with wants me to “just have a look” at their home business Web Site; or help them set up their wedding Sites; or "help" their friend, who’s setting up an "epic" new home brewing company, and “just needs a little help with his Site.” I’m tapped out and have only been on the job for seven months. How can I (politely) decline to help those who trust my eye without seeming uppity or cold?

A. YOU CAN OFFER UP a “little” time, meaning you can help for free for an hour, say, but then mention light-heartedly that a fee kicks in after that. Or mention that  that your student loan officer all-but-requires that you charge $50-$100 an hour when consulting. Plus, it would help if you made contact with a graduate student (from your college or a local university) to whom you could make referrals, as you’ve heard this friend, “only charges $25 or $40/hr.” Do your coworkers expect mechanics to work on their cars for free?

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