Q. I report to two people and would like to give both of them something for Christmas. I want to keep it professional, but one of them doesn't celebrate Christmas and the other is a man. What would you suggest? I've thought about books or a magazine subscription, but I don't know what either one of them likes to read.
A: Look for a time during the season when your gifts might stand out. Although you could give the woman something for Hanukkah and the man something for Christmas, what about giving both of them a New Year's present to start off 2013? With this timing, your gifts compete less for attention, are sensitive and may really focus on work.
Think about a plant to keep their jobs growing or a special lunch you order in for them. What about some unusual fresh muffins or other breakfast baked goods you pick up on your way to work? What implement keeps disappearing from their desks? You might make a difference if you identify a task you could do for them and offer it in a cheery New Year's card.
Q: I'd been in hospital security before a merger put me out of work for a couple of years. I did part-time stuff. I'm 61 with basic, not bad, computer skills.
A temp agency sent me to a collection agency. Excited about doing something new, I filled out numerous papers and started training. We had eight hours on the phone, half-hour lunches and no breaks. We sat at cubicles. They outlawed cell phones, pens and paper. Are we machines working machines?
The third day I left, because I couldn't do it. I had six minutes to talk to people (about 100 calls per day) and an intake minimum of $5,000 per day ... way too much information in three days. Not a good fit.
You say to research more before going in. Didn't I get the best information from the recruiter? He later said 20 percent of trainees wash out. I was just happy someone said they'd give me a chance. What do I do?
A: Avoid jobs requiring a warm body. In interviews ask if the work style is highly structured. Get people to describe a typical day. You're not an automaton!
You've done everything you can think of to get ready for your job hunt. You updated your skills, bought the appropriate garb and developed a list of companies where you think you'd like to work. Because you researched the companies, you geared your resume to each one. In some cases you submitted your resume online, but knowing your chances are poor that way, you've also contacted employers directly and taken your resume into interviews.
Do you ever wonder why your job hunt seems to be going nowhere? "Spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors may be the reason a potential employer is just not that into you," comments Allison VanNest (grammarly.com). Grammarly's Facebook survey of 2,200 respondents cited spelling and grammar as "the scariest issues in professional communication," VanNest says.
She points out that people misuse words, write run-on sentences, goof with apostrophes and forget salutations. A variation of the latter is the "To-whom-it-may-concern" greeting.
"... the aevrgae job sekeer maeks less than one spelilng misktae per remsue," VanNest reports. But what about when you consider grammar, spelling and punctuation together? Women-four, menmore than six.
"Since one mistake is too many in your resume," she concludes, "there's no winner in this war of the sexes."
(Dr. Mildred Culp welcomes your questions at email@example.com. © 2012 Passage Media.)