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Jewish World Review March 15, 2001 / 20 Adar, 5761

Workstyle by Paula Bern

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Consumer Reports

Explaining gap in resume ... therapist ... unemployed -- Q: I was in a serious depression for two years and couldn't hold down a decent job. Now that the antidepressant drugs have worked their magic and a wonderful psychologist has helped me, I'm fine and have started back toward the work force. But as I go to interviews I find human-resource people asking, "You weren't employed in '96 and '97. Why?" I don't want to have to say I had a mental breakdown, but I'm bewildered as to how else I can answer the question. -Phillip, Doylestown, Pa.

A: I see no reason why you have to go into medical details or try to justify your absence from unbroken employment. Try to develop a believable alternative; say you were trying to improve your career opportunities through travel, study and self-improvement courses.

Sadly, you are correct when you suspect that most employers are less than enlightened toward an employee's mental difficulties. However, you must be believable; you also don't want a prospective employer believing you've lived in a cave for 24 months. Another approach would be to develop a resume that reflects a functional-style format that doesn't point as directly toward a hole in your resume as a chronological-style resume would.

But be sure to know what you are going to say before you go into an interview regardless of the approach. You don't want to be fumbling around for answers.

Q: Please reconsider your response to Blaine, the physical therapist who was treating his patients in one large room where everyone could see everyone else's treatment program. He was perturbed when some of the patients asked about the rehab exercises that others were receiving. Your response was equivalent to saying that the inquiring patients were rude or nosey and should be told to mind their own business.

May I disagree? If Blaine didn't want patients to see each other in rehab, he shouldn't have put them into that position. Therapy is often a painful ordeal and if the therapist is so dumb as to mix patients in therapy, he needs to kindly say, "I'm sorry, but I am not permitted to answer questions about other patients."

This certainly is not the time or place for him to be hateful to unhappy patients because of a situation he created. -Helen Martin, Boston.

A: Have you ever been in therapy? I have, and it's no picnic. In fact, I've been treated in three different facilities and they all are wide-open areas, with legs, arms and just about everything else waving in the air for all to see. I suspect Blaine doesn't have private treatment rooms where he works. It is up to his patients to keep their mouths shut and pay attention to what it is he is trying to do for their bodies.

Q: Please, please never ask a retired person that loaded question, "How do you like retirement?" I was forced into early retirement last year and it is sheer hell when you devote yourself to a good job for 40 years and then, wham, you are unemployed. I never had hobbies or outside interests, so I don't know what to do with myself. I've tried going to a spa and exercising, but that doesn't work. I need a job that makes me feel like I'm contributing something. Even though I volunteer at the hospital, the effort does not feel the same without a paycheck. So, at 55, I'm looking for a new job. But if you see me on the street, please don't ask how I'm enjoying myself. -R.W., Oxnard, Calif.

A: You're not alone. Being prematurely without employment isn't the fun and games thousands of us have been led to believe. Best to you with your job search. And maybe there are readers with recommendations about dealing with such a situation. Any ideas out there?

03/07/01: Rude public...venegeful man...whining speeder
02/20/01: Computers and preschoolers ... rude bank customers
02/13/01: Hooked on subliminal tapes ...picking up the tab

Dr. Paula Bern has taught executive seminars at Carnegie-Mellon University. Comment by clicking here.


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