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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Command Respect!

Dear Sue: I've been a successful daycare provider for 15 years. However, I live in a town where everyone seems to be a professional working outside of their home. I'm so tired of the demeaning comments I hear. It seems as though people look down on me because of what I do.

They are always asking me if I'm still "babysitting." It's to the point where I feel like I should change my profession. I'm sick of the comments and sick of defending myself, but I'm not sure if I would be changing careers for myself or to please others. Do you have any suggestions? 

- Defensive

Sue Says: You say that you have been a successful daycare provider for 15 years, but that everyone else is a "professional" working outside of the home. Are you not a professional too? I think that a 15-year track record is quite an accomplishment!

Why would you even consider changing professions just because other people may have the wrong perception about what you do? Or are you tired of your work and looking for a reason to make a change?

I understand that a little recognition would be nice, but if you like what you do and your clients like the job you do, that is what is most important.

Although you can't control the perception others have of you, you can portray your business more positively and professionally. The next time someone asks you if you are still "babysitting" say, "Yes, I still have my day care business." And watch your tone of voice -- make sure you don't respond with a sigh or sounding as though you are apologizing for what you do. And although you perceive the questions you are asked to be demeaning, people may simply be taking an interest in what you do.

Come up with a sentence that you can use when people ask you about your work that will help you project a more businesslike response. When asked, "What do you do?" a daycare provider I know replies, "I'm in child development." This helps herself and others see her role as more than "babysitting" and perhaps it will for you too.

If you are happy and successful, stick with what you do best. However, if you are looking for a reason to make a change, you'll need a better one than doing it because you are tired of the comments you are hearing from people.

Dear Sue: I was in an administrative position for two years. It was very stressful due to many changes taking place, and there was a lack of support from management. Because of this, I've been demoted.

I've always been a good employee and have given all I have, but now I'm questioning myself. I'm trying to get motivated by working on my resume, but I feel confused and unsure of myself. Can you help me?

- Demoted

Sue Says: I can understand your confusion because most of us see ourselves moving forward in our careers, not taking a step back.

If you have made the decision to leave and are going to apply elsewhere for employment, make sure you work on building up your confidence first. As difficult as this has been, chances are it was for the best. It may help you to know that things like this happen more often than you realize. People make changes all the time, and even if you feel as though you have taken a step backwards, ultimately, this experience will move you forward because of the changes you are making as a result of the demotion.

Don't place all of the blame on yourself. This didn't happen solely because you were incapable of doing the job. As you said, you didn't get the support you needed at a time when there was a lot of change taking place.

As you begin the interviewing process you can use the changes taking place in the company as the basis for the change in your position. Learn what you can from your experience and move on -- it's the best thing you can do for yourself.

Dear Sue: In all of the sample cover letters I have seen suggest addressing the letter Dear Dr./Mr./Mrs. However, if I am answering an ad that wants the reply to go to a P.O. Box, I do not know if this person is a doctor, man or woman. What do I do? 

- Wondering

Sue Says: Here are a few options of ways to start a letter when you are in doubt of the gender of the person you are addressing. You can use Dear Madam/Sir, Dear Mr./Ms. Or To whom it may concern.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
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