returning to work after 10 years as a “kept woman,” should I let my manager know about my crippling anxiety, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Should I let my manager know about my crippling anxiety?

Over the past two or three years, I seem to have developed a crippling case of social anxiety in certain work situations (namely, talking in meetings) to the point where if I’m asked to share an update with the group or even introduce myself, I have a panic attack, start trembling, quite literally can’t speak, etc. I’m mid-level career-wise and am not sure why this has started (other than some traumatic experiences in a past position at another company), but it’s becoming a real problem. I’m afraid I won’t be able to advance my career if I can’t talk in meetings, give presentations, etc. So far I have done a fairly good job covering it up (saying I had to go to the bathroom when really I was hyperventilating outside the suite) but know I can’t keep this up.

In addition to wondering if you or anyone has any advice on overcoming this, I also have been wondering if this is something I should share with my manager. On one hand, it might give him insight to what’s going on with me in these situations. But on the other, I’m afraid I’ll be marked, intentionally or not, as someone who can’t handle the stress of more responsibility, a promotion, etc. I know I’m great at what I do but am afraid I’m going to sabotage myself.

Get professional help with this, ASAP. It’s likely to make a huge difference, and if you do it quickly enough, you may be able to side-step the whole question of whether you need to talk to your manager about it or not.

As for the question of whether you should tell your manager what’s going on or not, it depends on (a) whether he’s noticing that something’s going on and (b) what he’s like. If he’s not noticing — and thus doesn’t need an explanation — I probably wouldn’t. There’s just too much potential for it proving to be career-limiting, without enough reason to take that risk. But if he is noticing, and he’s a generally kind person, it’s not crazy to let him know that you’re dealing with some anxiety issues that came up suddenly and that you’re actively working to resolve. But seriously, get yourself to a therapist immediately — as in, stop reading and go set up an appointment right now — because it will make a big difference in your quality of life.

2. Returning to work after 10 years as a “kept woman”

I was unemployed for the past 10 years. I was someone’s “kept woman.” I considered myself a leisure domestic manager with a comfortable monthly allowance from my man. To be honest, I do not feel that I have been missing out on anything from the corporate world at all. Three months ago, I made the critical decision to leave my “husband” for good. I found a decent apartment, moved out of our luxurious house, and returned all his credit cards.

Now I wonder how should I explain my ridiculous unemployment gap to future employers. I have a degree in Tourism Management and worked for 10 years before resigning for my man. I do hope people will be less judgmental, though I am not looking for sympathy. My most immediate task is to find employment to sustain basic living. I am very prepared to take on entry level jobs. Grateful for assistance you can offer.

Well, I wouldn’t go into details with employers about the nature of the relationship; it’s irrelevant, and it’s going to make many people uncomfortable. But you’re basically in the same situation as women who stop working during a marriage and then want to return to work later, and your best bet is probably to frame it that way — that you took time away from work to manage a household but now are ready to return. The bigger issue is going to be competing with candidates who have recent experience, when you don’t — so this advice for stay-at-home moms returning to the workforce might help.

(And for the record, this is why I worry about anyone dropping out of the workforce who might later need to return to it — it is much harder to do later on than if you have a record of steady employment.)

3. My cover letter said I’d follow up in a week, but they don’t want follow-ups

I recently applied for a position with a nonprofit. I submitted my application to a generic email address ([email protected]). In my cover letter I said that I would contact them the following week to request an interview. However, on the website for the company they have posted the following message: “Due to the volume of applications received, we regret that we are not able to respond to individual inquiries regarding application status. Only candidates selected for an interview will be contacted. No phone calls please.”

Is it sill appropriate for me to send a follow-up email requesting an interview? I don’t want to pester or annoy a potential employer. However, I also don’t want it seem that I cannot take initiative or follow up when I say that I will do. What are your thoughts on this issue? Should I follow up and request an interview?

Nope. You applied, so they know that you’re interested and would like an interview; that’s what applying communicates. You should stop writing in your cover letter that you’ll contact them in a week about an interview, because that is annoying and unnecessary. If you absolutely must follow up because you can’t stand the thought of saying you’ll do that and then not doing it (although I’d guess that 85% of the people who use that line in their cover letters don’t actually follow up), then you can send one low-key email … but only if you promise to strike that line from your cover letter hereafter.

4. Prospective clients are asking for my resume

I’ve recently been hired by a facility within a university to provide a technical service on a fee-for-service basis. I’ve been emailing clients of the facility to let them know we’re offering this new service and ask if they’d like to meet to discuss their needs. Twice now, I’ve had clients who are happy to meet with me but would like me to send them my CV. Does this seem odd to you? It seems like a weird way for them to operate. I’m not applying for jobs in their labs; I’ve got one here.

It’s not unusual to want to know the background of someone you’re considering contracting with to do work. They want to use your background to assess whether you’re a credible person to offer the service you’re offering, at the fee you’re requesting.

5. Interviewing when obviously pregnant

I’ve recently been laid off by my current employer – leaving me in search of new employment. The kicker is I’m six months pregnant. I’ve read some articles on how to address this issue and I’ve found conflicting answers.

Obviously, if a woman was early in her pregnancy it’s not as much as an issue, but for someone in my situation, it’s a lot harder to hide and the issue of maternity leave poses a threat. I know legally the employer cannot ask about it during the interview or deny you the position because of pregnancy – even though I suspect that might happen in some situation. So how does a potential employee bring it up in the interview? I want to ensure the company that I’m upfront and honest and not hiding anything.

If they’re going to realize you’re pregnant whether you mention it or not, you might as well raise it and address the questions that are likely on their mind — when will be out and for how long? They’re unlikely to ask those questions themselves since they can’t legally consider your answers, but will certainly appreciate hearing your answers. So you might say something like, “As you can probably tell, I’m pregnant. I’m due in June, and plan to take three months off then, but I plan to do X, Y, and Z to mitigate the impact of that.”

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