This story was adapted from the Life Kit newsletter. For a weekly dose of life hacks, relationship advice, health tips and more, Subscribe to our newsletter.
It can be difficult to know how to behave at work. I want to be my relaxed, authentic self – but sometimes that seems too casual.
For example, I once called my boss “dude.” She’s not much older than me, so I adopted a more casual attitude that should probably be reserved for my peers. I immediately felt like I had crossed that invisible line that separates professional from non-professional. Since then, I’ve made a concerted effort to button down a bit.
Luckily, Life Kit is here to help you solve these tricky workplace dilemmas. This summer, we asked you to send in your work-related questions, whether it’s dealing with a boss with different political views or fighting age discrimination. We then asked career coaches from leadership training organization Embrace Change to step in and give some actionable advice.
Here is a selection of questions and answers. They have been edited for length and clarity.
I hit a wall in my work. When is it time to take a step back from my work to advance my studies and therefore my earning potential? —Talia
Advice from Career Coach Brandon Johnson: Ask yourself, is it really education that’s holding me back? Or something else?
Make sure it’s not other factors like burnout, your company culture, or your manager. If you’re sure it’s schooling, then maybe it’s time to go back. However, going back to school is a big undertaking, so you want to make sure it’s the right fit. It might be better to look for a new organization that offers greater growth opportunities and support for your development. Read the full response here.
I recently took sick leave from my job due to mental health issues, and after a few months I decided I couldn’t continue working there and quit.
Although I’m enjoying the break, I’m having trouble talking about my situation with friends and family. How can I talk about my mid-career state without sparking shame or criticism? —Kara
Advice from Career and Personal Empowerment Coach Payal Shah: First of all, congratulations for listening to yourself and making a courageous move in alignment with your values and well-being. I’m glad the journey since you left has been liberating. At the same time, it’s normal to feel anxiety and other emotions during the process.
How to do You how do you feel when you share your news? Are you coming from a place of excuses, uncertainty, or lack of confidence? Or enthusiasm and conviction? Know that people can react differently to different energies, and that the energy and emotions behind our words can play a role in how others react to us. Read the full response here.
I have worked for my boss for over 30 years. During the 2016 election, he messaged me on Facebook to tell me who I supported. After his rant, I stopped him by saying that I am a lifelong Democrat. Since then, he has treated me differently.
I’m 60 years old and I can’t retire until I’m 65. I don’t want to quit my job because of my age. I would have a hard time getting hired anywhere else. —Nancy
Johnson’s Advice: I would ask you: What is within your control? Can you limit direct contact with this person? Can you avoid the things that trigger his rants?
Depending on your comfort level, you can also request a meeting with him to discuss workplace boundaries. Express that you want to co-create a positive environment by keeping discussions of personal information such as political beliefs out of the workplace. Read the full response here.
I am 56 years old and trying to re-enter the clinical nutrition workforce. I’ve had many Zoom interviews that I think went well. I think my age is the problem. There are so many young professionals I’m up against. Any suggestions? —Marcy
Johnson’s advice: I’m sorry you had this experience. Companies have a responsibility to prevent bias from creeping into their recruitment processes, but we all know that not all companies meet this expectation.
In the case of age discrimination, there are tactics you can employ to help overcome bias. Approach your job interviews and networking from a place of energy rather than experience. At the interview stage, employers already know that you bring a lot of experience, because they have seen your resume and cover letter. Use your interview to show your motivation to fit into the culture, work with diverse groups, and play your role. Read the full response here.
We want to hear from you
What would be You what would you do if you called your boss “dude”? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts, and we may include your response in next week’s Life Kit newsletter.
Need more career advice? Check out these Life Kit podcast episodes.
The digital story was edited by Malaka Gharib. The visual producer is Kaz Fantone. We would like to hear from you. Leave us a voicemail at 202-216-9823 or email us at LifeKit@npr.org.
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