Q: My wife would like to go to work. She doesn't think that anyone will hire her, because she doesn't have a work history. She is 52 years old and she applied at a motel the other day to clean rooms.
Does she really need a work history to apply for these types of service jobs?
A: If a worker quits or is fired, an employer may need to fill that slot quickly. Your wife can convince an employer that she's the one to choose by sounding enthusiastic and showing how she can do the job, work history or not.
How many times has she changed beds, vacuumed carpets, washed bathrooms and floors, picked up and emptied trash? How many times has she followed lists? (Think "grocery shopping.") These numbers will make the point.
When you practice interviewing, ask "Where have you worked?" and "What is your work experience?" Have her mention the states or neighborhoods where she's kept house.
If she doesn't get the job using this method, the employer won't reward ingenuity. Encourage her to find one who will and to keep calling back until he does.
Q: I've been working in sales for five years and I'm burned out. I used to enjoy it, but my industry tanked during the recession and it isn't coming back. I need to find some work that will keep me in front of people but not require me to be making cold calls all of the time. Where would you send me?
A: Because your work has involved facing customers and potential customers, you could move into several different areas. Marketing would be the closest to sales but might not give you the desired break.
Customer service would enable you to help keep sales and, perhaps, identify them for the sales staff. If you enjoy writing, communications and advertising functions would benefit from your experience in persuading people.
Watch out for jobs that focus internally. You probably have too much energy and pizzaz for a job in administration. Ditto for one in IT.
If none of these sounds good, you might look for companies large enough to provide you warm leads, which will increase your closing ratio. It's also possible that selling in an up-and-coming industry might give you the jumpstart you need.
Chris Delaney (employmentking.co.uk) has some imaginative strategies for landing jobs, beginning with two to capitalize on the fact that many employers will search you on Google. Make your Facebook and LinkedIn pages represent you well. A little preening never hurt anyone, correct? Next, flaunt your brains in blog articles. Access the power of social media. If your posts go viral, potential bosses might discover them.
Get the most out of a club membership. Follow your prospective employer if you have to, Delaney suggests, to find the best club. In a casual conversation there, mention what type of job you do well. Listen for the employer to marvel at the coincidence of his opening in that area!
"The James Bond Approach" Delaney uses tops it off but could backfire. If you are working and know your competition, follow the person around, camera in hand. "As soon as the competition does something outrageous, disgusting or even illegal," he says, "snap a picture and send an anonymous e-mail to the boss with it attached."
Of course, if a person in IT traces the email, you might get an award for Photo of the Week as you're whisked out the door.
(Dr. Mildred Culp welcomes your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2012 Passage Media.)