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

Finding a Job After Self-Employment

Dear Sue: I am re-entering the job market after being self employed. I am returning to the Human Resources field. I have my BS in psychology and decided to go back to school to receive my certificate in Human Resource Management. While doing so, I was self employed as a director for Mary Kay Cosmetics. I really love the business and feel it has added to my experience in Human Resources. However, I am getting mixed responses from employers and am not sure if I should remove my Mary Kay experience from my employment history on my resume. If I do remove it, how do I explain the time away from the job market? Please help. - Brenda

Sue Says: You say you have been getting mixed responses to your position with Mary Kay; I am assuming you have found that some people have not responded favorably to your experience. I hope you realize that even if you remove it, you will still find that some people will not respond the way you want to everything on your resume.

You say youíve loved your work with Mary Kay, and believe it has enhanced your knowledge and will benefit you in future work. Why then would you consider removing it, ignoring it entirely? You cannot change your experience for every potential employer; you need to bring the best of who you are to every job you have, and your experience with Mary Kay has been a part of your growth and experience. I am willing to be that the people who cannot understand or appreciate the value from your experience, are not the kind of people you want to work with anyway. Donít you want to work somewhere you can be yourself and be appreciated for who you are?

Perhaps it isnít the experience itself that people are responding to, but the unanswered questions as to why you are leaving it to work in human resources. How do you explain leaving the success and enjoyment you have had from Mary Kay? A potential employer may be concerned about your ability to work in a structured environment or how you will handle direction from supervisors. Perhaps there is concern that you will continue to sell Mary Kay and not be able to devote yourself to a new position.

There are many assumptions people have about working in a direct sales company such as Mary Kay. Some people do not take that type of work seriously, assuming it isnít equivalent a ďrealĒ business, while others think it involves a lot of hoopla and prizes.

You need to find a way to explain your experience and your reason for leaving it. You are partly responsible for the way people perceive that experience, so rather than allowing others to determine whether it was a valuable part of your past, decide for yourself. Determine what you gained from it, how it will help you, and then communicate it with pride. You will always find people who second guess you or your experience, so if you are seeking the approval of everyone, you will never get it. Being comfortable with who you are is an asset, and something you need to work on.

Dear Sue: I am an executive assistant to a CEO of a software company. His calls come directly to me. have very specific rules about transferring calls to my CEO. If I am unable to get a first and last name, company, phone number, and very specific nature of the call, then my CEO isn't interested in speaking with the person. Usually when someone calls, they ask if he is available. And when I try to ask my questions, in a very polite manner of course, they often don't want to give information, or say they will call back. Callers feel entitled to know his schedule, and
they are very pushy and rude. Of course no one will ever get that information from me, but I donít always know what to say, or how to say it. I realize that I am the one in control of the call, but I don't know how to project this. If I sound too rude, my CEO could get mad, but if I give in to the caller, I will get fired. Thanks for any ideas!

Sue Says: I suggest you consult with the CEO; let him know the challenges you are facing and ask him how he would like the calls to be handled. After all, the calls are for him and you are representing him. However, since you asked for my advice, here it is: In a firm, but pleasant and polite voice, let callers know that you are in charge and do what you have been instructed to do. For those who are pushy, tell them that you are not authorized to put any calls through without the information you are asking for. Keep in mind that you are the one in control and you determine who gets through to the CEO. Wise callers will recognize this and treat you well; donít worry about the rude callers -- they will be rude with or without your help.

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

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