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

Making a Fresh Start

Dear Sue: I walked away from a very good job. There were a lot of changes taking place, my job description was changing and I was given additional responsibilities. I felt overwhelmed, and although I should have given notice, one day I just left.

Now that I am about to begin looking for a job, I know I will be asked why I left my previous job. I am not sure what to say. Can you help me? 

- Starting Over

Sue Says: If you don't feel as though the real reason will suffice, follow the guidelines Martin Yate, provides in his book, "Knock 'em Dead With Great Answers to Tough Interview Questions." He suggests using one of the six acceptable reasons from the employment industry formula, derived from the acronym CLAMPS:

Challenge: You weren't able to grow professionally in that position

Location: The commute was unreasonably long

Advancement: There was nowhere for you to go

Money: You were underpaid for your skills and contribution

Pride or prestige: You wanted to be with a better company

Security: The company wasn't stable

Yates provides this example: "My last company was a family-owned affair. I had gone as far as I was able. It just seemed time for me to join a more prestigious company and accept greater challenges."

It is wise to be prepared to answer this question, as you know it will be asked. Think about what you want to say and in addition, try to turn it into a good reason for this person to hire you.

Dear Sue: I am in the process of looking for a job. A position I am interested in has requested resumes to be submitted by fax. I am wondering if I should include a cover letter with the resume.

No name or address is given so I am unsure how to write the letter. I don't want to miss the chance for an interview because I failed to write an appropriate cover letter. What should I do? 

- Looking for a job

Sue Says: You have nothing to lose by writing a cover letter. You can begin with something like, "To whom it may concern" or "Dear Madam or Sir." Then proceed to express your interest in the position and write it as you would any other cover letter.

Dear Sue: I have an "unofficial" BS degree in journalism. Ten years ago I completed all course requirements, but put off filing for an application for a degree. Now that I am looking for work I want to get my degree, and the university says I must take enormous amounts of math and another journalism class to meet the new requirements for a degree.

I need a job and I don't want to spend any more time or money on my education. I am wondering if I could get some type of signed statement stating that I fulfilled all requirements for a degree back in 1986. If I could, do you think that would be enough for me to get a job that requires bachelors degree?

I would prefer not to have to take more classes because I did fill all of the requirements in 1986. Please help. 

- Valerie

Sue Says: Are you sure you need the degree to get the kind of job you want? If so, tell potential employers the truth, or explain that you are a few credits short of a degree, but that you plan to slowly finish it -- if you really do.

Once employed, if you are interested in pursuing the degree, you may be able to get financial assistance from your employer. Some companies provide financial assistance for continuing education.

The fact that you completed your education is a plus and I am sure you can find some way of documenting that. Many successful people didn't even complete their education and don't have degrees. Don't assume this will be a problem for you or let this stop you from pursuing the job you want.

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
For more Ask Sue articles, click here.

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