People are always surprised to hear that I’m three years out of college. They think I’m much younger. I have been working since I was 16 and I have a lot more experience than most kids just out of college. How can I get people to take me more seriously? I never wear jeans to work and it’s not like I’m showing up in pajama bottoms and flip flops. I almost always wear heels and a nice skirt or suit. But still people assume I’m really young and have no work experience.


I’ve joined this firm at the beginning of this year and work-wise, its been great. However, on hind sight and looking at the problems I’ve been having, I think that I am being bullied. I was looking forward to being part of a young and dynamic organisation. However, it turns out that I’m being called a bitch at work.

I cannot even begin to consider who my ‘enemy’ might be. I am always friendly and try to be non-threatening. A colleague at work told me that it could be due to the fact I am young, married to a successful man and have nice things without being broke. I think its silly but no one else seems to have an explanation.

This affects my life because a bunch of women put together a performance plan for me and presented it to a partner. This will affect my career progression. I’ve recently done more work for men and they are happy with what I have done for them. I don’t want to think that my problem is due to women taking each other down. Can you offer a way to get rid of this problem? I am over understanding why but rather a solution to how to deal with office politics without trying to look ugly or make an effort to be inferior in some way.

I focused on academics during my college career and wanted to go down the academic/public policy analysis/research route. However, after 1.5 years at a think tank and 1 year in a Ph.D. program, I decided to switch things up. I am currently at a niche consulting firm in pharmaceuticals. I would like to succeed in this career. One thing I continuously hear is that social skills are important in this industry. As my background suggests, my social skills were not refined. How does one go about improving their social skills? Would Toastmaster’s be a good thing to try? People I have talked with really haven’t given concrete advice. They primarily say that “you are introverted.” That may be true, but I would like to improve them.

I work for a large corporation and have been with the company for eight years. In those eight years, I have been promoted or moved to another division for more pay four times. I am fairly certain another such opportunity will be coming up at the beginning of 2012. Here is the issue: When I am told that I have gotten the job, I am either told the salary is X or am sent a letter with the salary information, so there is really no opportunity for negotiation. I understand why the company presents the information in this way, but each job has a salary range (which is not known) and I would like to negotiate up, if possible. Do you have any advice on opening up negotiations when the salary is presented in such a “this is final” way?

I’ve been seeing a co-worker now for about 2 weeks, and like any relationship where you spend all your time together, things have escalated quickly. We’re not in the same department, but the company is only about 45 people, so I do see him several times a day. I try to be nonchalant about it, but outside of work, we’re becoming emotionally and physically attached in a way that I was unprepared for. A drunken kiss-turned-relationship in about 3 days flat.

Is this totally stupid? I’m new to this office and city, and until him and his group of friends I hadn’t found my “people.” Now I think I have, which complicates him and the situation even further. We literally haven’t been apart except in our cubicles for nearly 10 days straight.

What do you usually tell people in this situation? He’s not my superior, he’s not even much older than me, and we haven’t told people at work. How would you navigate this?

I have questions about performance reviews:
What can I expect to happen at a performance review?
How should I prepare?
I have been preparing for my performance review by tracking the goals they set for me and making sure I am meeting and exceeding them. However, I was curious if there was anything I needed to do right before my performance review?
Should I create a list of great projects I have worked on and results I have created?
Should I bring a list to the meeting to help me stay on track?
Should I send an email to my supervisors prior to the meeting with notes and details from the past year?
Should I expect a raise or do I need to ask for one?
I am expecting to get a raise at my review but I wasn’t sure if I needed to ask for one or if they would offer me one?
What if I don’t like the raise they offer me? How should I prepare?

I have blown work relationships with more people than I care to think about because of my bad temper. Now I’m struggling in my career. Part of it is the shrinking jobs and pay but I know it’s more so because of the bridges I’ve burned. I’m good at my job and I can be pleasant and fun –when my buttons aren’t being pushed. I’m actually very capable, responsible and smart. It’s just that I have issues.

I’m in therapy and I know it has to do with being criticized and having emotionally abusive parents. I get easily wounded and insecure, and I lash out.

Right now I should be using some of the many contacts I’ve developed along the way, and the influential people I know. (You can’t tell from looking at me that I have this problem and I have lots of friends.) But I fear using some helpful contacts because I know those people know the people I’ve had incidents with and I worry they know about it. Ugh.

I am a 35-year-old queer lady working in IT. I  have been out at work as a lesbian for 10 years, and always felt comfortable doing so.

But now I’m hitting a new challenge in my life. I was recently unemployed for a year, and during that year my female partner went under treatment for gender identity issues, and changed genders to male.

The relationship has worked out for us, so I am now a queer lady partnered with a queer-identified man. The word “queer” seems to be the best identifier for me: I have a nuanced enough identity that I don’t identify as “bisexual.” I’m not in a “lesbian” relationship. And I’m into my partner, but not most guys.

In the last few months, I have found myself starting at a great new job, but find myself plagued by the feeling of being in the closet.

Having a girlfriend was always shorthand for saying that I’m gay at work, but now I have a boyfriend who doesn’t want the whole world to know — upon first meeting — that he used to be a woman.  If I told my coworkers the whole story — which might be too much right now anyways — I would be ‘outing’ him before he has even met most of them socially and has a chance to decide what he wants them to know.

How does someone like me avoid this feeling of being in the closet?

Socially I’m in a whole new world here.

I’m a management consultant with an MBA and a technology focus. Every time I try to choose an area to specialize in, I get interested in something else. I really don’t care very much what subject matter I’m working on. What I like about my work is rapidly learning new things, making sense out of ambiguous situations, high pressure to deliver, meeting a lot of new people and the prestige and good salary/benefits that allow my husband to stay home with our kids. There is enough work to do at my company that so far I have always taken new projects in totally different areas just based on what interests me and avoiding too much travel.

But I don’t think I’m going to be able to progress and become a leader if I don’t choose a niche – and I can’t see myself ever finding a new job with such a broad focus. I do eventually want a new job to avoid travel and to build a more lasting network. For that I am pretty sure I need to specialize and become an expert in something. But how do I choose what?  It can’t just be random or I’ll have a hard time committing.

Penelope what do you when unwanted advances escalate after leaving a work place?

A senior manager of my friend’s company has been making unwanted advances to my friend. So [she quit working at the company]. That manager, who is married with children, has taken the advances further now that she has left the company.

She has not told her husband the full extent as with most men he would confront him, possibly physically. She has not told her new boss even though she made it clear if she has any probems especially with men to let her know.

Now it’s a small world and this man has been appearing at some of the same events… [Note: I deleted the rest. It was twelve paragraphs of details. But you can imagine it.]