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Explain reason for leaving old job during interview

Dear Kate & Dale: My sister could get fired or quit and have a new job within weeks. I, however, have been looking for nearly a year. My sister said she never tells prospective employers that she was fired, because they can verify only whether or not you worked at the company. Is this true, and would you recommend it? It seems dishonest, but I am the one still looking for employment. Ė Shon

Kate: On the employment application, in the "reason for leaving" box, you should not state that you were fired. Thatís too harsh. Instead, write, "Prefer to explain in person," and then have a good story. Why were you fired? Most times, itís impersonal. That is, the company was downsizing and you were caught in it, or you worked for a boss who fired everybody.

Dale: Yes, have a story, but if Iím the manager and I see "prefer to explain in person," I roll my eyes and put the application in the reject pile. Whoís going to volunteer to hear someoneís tale of woe? Instead, Iíd put on the application some clichť like "Left to pursue other opportunities." You just leave out the part about the hand in the middle of your back, pushing you out. In the interview, you can say, "I was planning to leave, but they beat me to it." Or, "It wasnít a good fit, and they did me the favor of pointing that out to me." Then you smile, explain what youíve learned from the experience and how youíre determined to find the right place to be the great employee you can be.

Kate: As for what your ex-employer can and cannot say about you, it depends on the state youíre in. So perhaps your sister is right. It seems to work for her, so maybe you should take her advice. If you find yourself obsessing about what the old company is saying about you, you can get someone to call them and say, "Iím calling for employment verification," and see what they are telling people.

Dale: Iím betting youíll find that your old employer is not the problem. Thatís when you can ask yourself what else your sister is doing that makes a job search easy for her. Get her to role-play with you, and perhaps you, too, can breeze into a new job.

Dear Kate & Dale: Iíve been working with a career coach, and while he is knowledgeable, I donít feel we are making the right personal connection. I have another coach in mind, but he is suggesting group sessions. They have five people in a session, which seems too large to me. What do you think? Ė Deidra

Dale: Kate is the expert on this, but let me interject a general comment. Iíve been doing some creativity work with hospitals and pharmacists, some of whom have been researching group sessions for patients for all types of ailments. Now if ever there was a situation that seems to call for personal attention, itís discussing your personal health issues. But patients who try the group sessions prefer them. In the group, you get to hear all the other questions, get comfortable discussing health topics and have more time Ė an hour versus 15 minutes, say. No wonder the group sessions are given higher ratings. The same advantages to group interaction occur in career groups.

Kate: Absolutely. There is feedback and suggestions from peers, as well as networking and support. Further, the group is actually a practice interview. You are forced to cover topics succinctly and learn to get to the important points up front. Thatís why weíve come to believe, after years of research and experimentation, that five to seven is an ideally sized group. We believe you also should have private time with the coach, but the group will make you better, faster.

Kate Wendleton is the founder of The Five OíClock Club, a national career-counseling network (www.fiveoclockclub.com). Her newest book is "Mastering the Job Interview and Winning the Money Game" (Thomson Delmar Learning). Dale Dauten is the founder of The Innovatorsí Lab. His latest book is "Better Than Perfect: How Gifted Bosses and Great Employees Lift the Performance of Those Around Them" (Career Press). Please write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail dale@dauten.com.

Published Date: 10/11/2006
Bidding wars are risky ways to obtain pay increases

Dear Kate & Dale: My daughter has signed a letter of employment with a new firm. However, her present company is now offering more money. She does not want to stay with her present company; however, she wants to negotiate with the new firm. Can this be done? Is it considered a bad thing to do?
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Published Date: 10/4/2006
Conviction doesn't have to be the end of a job search

Dear Kate & Dale: I have a felony conviction from 1989 in California. Six years ago, I moved to the Midwest, and ever since Iíve had difficulty returning to my career in health care. It seems the system would rather keep me on welfare than let me honestly pay my bills.
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Published Date: 9/27/2006
Get help, take chances to find a new coaching position

Dear Kate & Dale: How can my husband salvage his career? He was a college soccer coach who was released when his assistant coach made recruiting violations. He and the school agreed to state that he was leaving to pursue another position. To make matters worse, he was released from an elementary-school position due to an outburst of anger; then he received a DUI, which resulted in a suspended license. Yes, heís in therapy, but he desperately needs employment.
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Published Date: 9/20/2006
Become an insider to make a successful career change

Dear Kate & Dale: I worked as an engineer in the auto industry for more than 10 years before I was laid off. I never enjoyed engineering work. To that end, I enrolled in an MBA program, and specialized in finance. I have two problems: Iím completely typecast as an automotive engineer, and the finance jobs all require experience.
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Published Date: 9/13/2006
Get to know a new company during probation period

Dear Kate & Dale: I am about to start a new job, after nine years with my present employer. I am trying not to burn any bridges at my current job, but I need to think ahead to making it through a probation period. Iím excited and scared. Please give me some advice.
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Published Date: 9/6/2006
Consider your options in public-interest law

Dear Kate & Dale: I think I want to go to law school, but Iím not interested in corporate law. However, Iíll run up a lot of bills in law school, and public-interest law pays less than half of what I could earn in corporate law. I have excellent sales, public speaking and writing skills, and I now work for a great law firm. Is law for me?
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