Career Track Live.

Byline: Mary Ellen Slayter

The Washington area is a magnet for smart, ambitious young workers. Post columnist Mary Ellen Slayter writes a regular column for these professionals who are establishing their careers locally, and offers advice online as well.

Career Track Live.The transcript follows below.


Mary Ellen Slayter: Good afternoon! Hope all is going well this afternoon. Lots of good questions, so let's get going ...


Virginia: Hey, Mary Ellen!; I have a resume related question for you. I graduated last year with a degree in political science and have been having a tough time finding a job due to my "lack of experience." In college, I was extremely active and was involved in several student organizations. How do I address the work I did for the organizations on my resume? I was elected or appointed leadership positions in every single organization, and I think the work I did should count for something. My question is, does it all count or should I just list the organization, my title, etc., and hope they see me as a "well rounded" individual? Thanks so much!;

Mary Ellen Slayter: This is one of those cases where a functional resume would work. A quick Goggle search should turn up some examples for you. Also, it's very important to have an objective statement in this situation. Use your resume to show how those skills you picked up in college apply to the particular job you're applying for. Just because it wasn't paid doesn't mean it wasn't good experience.


Ashburn, Va.: I'm a software engineer that wants to get into corporate finance. I am planning on doing my MBA in the fall part time at George Washington University. I just found out my work will not pay for my MBA. So one option is to pay for it myself. Another option I found is that my company will pay for a Masters of System's Engineering with a specialty in Finance through an online course from the University of Missouri-Rolla. I'm wondering is it worth the 40K to go to GW, or just change plans and go the SYS engineering route.

Mary Ellen Slayter: I'd balk at a $40K tuition bill. I suspect you can switch into finance for a lot cheaper. Have you researched what sort of salary you can expect with this high-priced degree? Will it justify the cost?

Remember that GW isn't the only school in the area, just one of the priciest.

Talk to your company about your goal of switching into finance. Will they consider the SYS engineering degree a sufficient qualification to move into the job you want?


Virginia: Hi Mary Ellen,

I have two co-workers (one male and one female) who constantly want to know every part of my life. It has gotten so bad that the male co-worker asks me personal questions such as who I'm dating, when was my last serious relationship, when I lost my virginity, when my last date was, etc. These questions are completely personal and I have tried numerous times to tell him that it's non of his business. He is not flirting or hitting on me, it's just that he is very nosey about the personal lives of others. The female co-worker is a bully who likes to start arguments for no reason.

How do I get these two to leave me alone? All I want to do is come to work and do my job. I don't want to go to my manager because my group is very small (just 5 people including my manager and myself). Although we all work in the same group, our jobs are completely independent of each other so we don't really have to work together.

Mary Ellen Slayter: I would ignore them as much as possible, in a very polite, distant way. Continue to tell Mr. Nosey that things he's asking are none of his business and that if he doesn't stop, you will take this up with your boss. If he doesn't stop, you need to follow through on that. The questions about your virginity are grossly out of line. As for the Arguer, don't engage her. It takes two to tango, so you can put a stop to a lot of these petty fights just by walking away.

Any other suggestions, chatters?


Arlington, VA.: My son just graduated from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago -- he studied painting.

Can you suggest any job search strategies for him to find work in Chicago? He had tried the school counselors but claims they were not much help.

Mary Ellen Slayter: What kind of job is he looking for?


Fairfax, Va.: I am a recent graduate of George Mason University with a degree in Journalism. I have gone through the web sites of media organizations and tried JournalismJobs.com. Are there any tips to get employers to notice a just graduated student with 1-2 years experience?

Mary Ellen Slayter: Go back to your school's advisers. Not sure how things work at George Mason, but in my program at Maryland, it seems the profs and career counselors still work with their grads long after graduation. Journalism jobs are all about contacts and clips.


Arlington, Va.: Oh, Mary Ellen, I'm an idiot. I applied for my dream job yesterday and realized after I had emailed my resume that I had mis-typed the actual job title in the subject line of my e-mail. I went over my actual resume and cover letter several times for mistakes but didn't even think twice about the subject line. Ugh. Do you think there is any way to fix it or just suck it up to the karma gods? I'm glad I'm pretty happy with my job that I have now or I would REALLY be banging my head on the wall!

Mary Ellen Slayter: Nah, you're not an idiot. You were just nervous.

Resend the e-mail with the correct subject line.


Vienna, Va.: I have a salary and compensation related question. Is it normal for a company to expect employees (entry level, but with degrees from top programs in their field) to work for the same salary for 2 + years? I was told when I was hired that I could expect to move to the next level in 12-18 months. Once hired, I was told 2 years for promotion, but that it was possible to get a pay raise with out a level promotion. Since raises aren't given until June of the following year, I have been working since January 2004 for the same salary...only to be told that I would not be getting a raise. I received a top rating at review time. Does this happen frequently? I feel like I was mislead and that my company doesn't feel I have learned anything in the past year and half, when I clearly have. Thanks.

Mary Ellen Slayter: "Normal" is a relative word. There aren't any hard and fast rules about pay increases. The factors at play involve more than just your performance on the job. You could be the greatest worker ever, but if your company or industry is on a general downswing, you probably won't see an annual raise.

Do a little investigating and find out what the pay range is for your profession and how that relates to your current compensation. If you're grossly underpaid, consider going elsewhere.


Rockville, Md.: Hi Mary Ellen,

I'm writing on my brother's behalf. He's an economics major, and will graduate next year. He doesn't have any sort of "real" work experience, except waiting tables. Try as I might to help him, I have no clue where economics majors go to look for jobs and what kind of jobs?? Do you and your online chatters have any ideas?? Thanks so much. Love your chats by the way.

Mary Ellen Slayter: I'll throw this out there for the chatters. Economics majors wind up in all sorts of fields.


Long Island, New York: Hi Mary Ellen,

I just started a new job the other day and, per my track record of the last 10 years since I graduated college, I am thinking of how long I will stay. I like the job and my staff, and have clear goals of what I want to do in this job (which is what the management wants me to do as well.) I want to achieve them -- and then leave.

(For the record, I am the general manager of a health club, but want to eventually start my own small personal training studio.)

Do you think it is a trend that people want to "own their own life", as I call it, whether it be a small business or produce their own art or freelance? I think it is a healthy mind set but a lot of people of all ages disagree.

Mary Ellen Slayter: I think some people are suited for running their own businesses, some people aren't. All you really have to know is which setting one works for you. Also, don't judge people who get more out of being part of a bigger, more established institution. Both arrangements have their merits and problems.


Washington, D.C.: For the last ten years, I've had a job that has taken me around the world in what some of my friends call "a jet set" lifestyle. Different countries in different days, living in corporate apartments overseas, seeing much of the world and living on an expense account.

But I am exhausted.