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posted: 6/18/2017 7:10 AM

How to boost a spouse's odds of career advancement

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  • In addition to being sympathetic and supportive, a spouse should be able to say one time, "I've noticed that you sometimes jump into answers before deciding what you want to say. Do you think that could be hurting you in interviews?" But be warned: Familiarity breeds resistance.

    In addition to being sympathetic and supportive, a spouse should be able to say one time, "I've noticed that you sometimes jump into answers before deciding what you want to say. Do you think that could be hurting you in interviews?" But be warned: Familiarity breeds resistance.
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Q: My husband recently applied for two positions at the organization he works for and didn't get either one. Although he is often praised for his credentials, talent, work ethic, etc., and is more than qualified for the positions he is going after, my suspicion is that he doesn't interview well. In regular conversation, instead of collecting his thoughts before speaking, he will often jump headlong into a sentence and then stammer and stutter as he tries to figure out where to go with it. Can a career counselor help with this? I am considering seeing a career counselor myself to work on some issues. I know that his ego is significantly bruised right now. How would I bring this up to him?

A: In addition to being sympathetic and supportive, a spouse should be able to say one time, "I've noticed that you sometimes jump into answers before deciding what you want to say. Do you think that could be hurting you in interviews?"

But be warned: Familiarity breeds resistance. If you've made this observation before, he may tune you out. Also, external issues such as workplace politics may be holding him back more than communication issues. And even if he wholeheartedly agrees that your diagnosis is spot on, you're right that he can probably use some expert assistance refining his interview skills.

While a career counselor can help sort through undefined issues, it sounds like your husband needs more of a career coach: someone who can identify performance weaknesses and provide targeted instructions for improvement. For example, Thea Kelley, San Francisco Bay-area author of "Get That Job! The Quick & Complete Guide to a Winning Interview," instructs ramble-prone clients to practice pausing before responding to a question. She also helps them draft talking points to stay focused without sounding scripted and stilted.

Since you're already contemplating seeking professional help yourself, Kelley thinks reporting the results back to your husband is a fine idea. What's good for the goose may galvanize the gander.

But ultimately, the gander has to get himself in gear. Jim Weinstein, a licensed psychotherapist and career counselor practicing in Washington, D.C., says that although many concerned parents, spouses and siblings call him to say "my loved one is stuck -- can you help?" only about 20 percent of the loved ones follow up themselves.

The good news is that Weinstein and Kelley usually can help the clients who do follow up. One of the biggest benefits: Frustrated jobseekers get to hear from objective experts that they're far from the only people struggling with these issues. "Normalizing it helps reduce some of the shame," says Weinstein.

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Ask Karla Miller about your work dramas and traumas by emailing wpmagazine@washpost.com.

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