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updated: 8/31/2014 6:55 AM

Career Coach Q&A: Advice for dealing with bosses, career change

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Career Coach Joyce E.A. Russell answers questions from readers, dispensing advice to new graduates ready to enter the world of work. Excerpts:

Q: I'm a senior manager at a government agency. My boss can often rail against anyone that he feels is not toeing the line, even if that person is simply trying to raise concerns before they become real issues. At this point, I feel that I can't talk to him because he won't listen. And I don't feel right going above him and complaining because then it will eventually come back to him and I will be in an even worse position. What can I do? For the first time in my long government career, I don't look forward to coming to work.

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A: How well do you know your boss? I ask since it may be important that you create opportunities just to talk with him in a social context to build a stronger relationship. While this may seem distasteful, it is important that if you are going to try to influence him that he likes you (at least to some degree). Go to lunch with him or have coffee and try to find more common ground for the two of you. Maybe you have a similar hobby in common or you can learn more about his family, interests, favorite sports teams, etc.

Correcting the boss

Q: I was concerned about a co-worker after a workplace injury. I felt that management didn't handle things very well. I went to the boss about it and while he did acknowledge that it was handled clumsily, he did not concede the main points. He referred back to our policy (which wasn't even followed). The co-worker provides support for me, though I don't manage her per se. I looked at the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines and discovered our workplace policy is way out of step (woefully inadequate). Should I bring this up? And how?

A: Yes, this is really important. According to the Labor Department, "Employers must comply with all applicable OSHA standards. Employers must also comply with the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act, which requires employers to keep their workplace free of serious recognized hazards." This is taken right from the government's website.

I think you should bring this back up to human resources (if there is an HR group in your company). If they can look into the issue, it enables you to now be less involved. If you do not have an HR group, is there a manager that you believe would listen and hear your views about this? If so, I would share your thoughts with them.

How to list contract/freelance jobs

Q: I'm currently working as a freelance editor, doing work for two different companies. I'm applying for jobs in a different field (just finished my master's), many of which have online applications to fill out. They have a spot for "Company" or "Employer" and then position. I got around this on my r�sum� by listing my job titles as the headings, so I could just have "Freelance Editor," then list the two companies below it. How should I handle it on the online applications? Do I list the name of the company for which I'm freelancing under "company/employer"? List "Self-employed" or "contractor"? It's also awkward when they have a block for salary because one of the jobs pays by the page (the other is hourly, so that's fine). I do upload a r�sum� when I am able, but most require filling out the online application, too. Suggestions?

A: I would try to do what you have been doing -- list "freelance editor" for your employment. Or, if the two companies are fine with you listing them (you might want to check first), you could list one of them.

Also, if you can avoid the salary response that would be better for you. It is generally better for you as the applicant if you can leave the salary question blank, put negotiable, or put "varies" or something else vague in that spot. From the employer's perspective, they want you to list the salary, but if you do, you might price yourself out of consideration for the job.

Need a change

Q: I'm not really happy with my career choice but I am stuck because I can't afford a pay cut. When do you know when to say when? When does it become better to enjoy what you do than be limited by pay?

A: You have to enjoy what you are doing -- we all spend way too much time at work to not really enjoy it.

It is better to be planning your next move while still employed than to quit and then plan it. Just the planning alone could bring you some more "life" joy and positive hope for your future, which could also make your current job more bearable. Also, are there any aspects of your current job that you can change to get into the things you are more passionate about? That might also be a good step. Can you talk to your boss about taking on different responsibilities or tasks that might be in better alignment with your interests? Sometimes managers don't know what else you might be interested in doing unless you tell them.

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Russell is vice dean and director of the Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Program at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. She is a licensed industrial and organizational psychologist and has more than 25 years of experience coaching executives and consulting on leadership and career management.

WASHINGTON POST-BLOOMBERG--08-27-14 0831ET

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