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Job seeker should get to know town

Q.: My wife seems to be trapped by her fear of looking for work. She used to do freelance projects, but she has never had to find a permanent position from scratch. Her idea of conducting a job search is to stay home and complete online applications.

Because of my job, we recently moved to a new city where she doesn’t know anyone. If I suggest making phone calls or visiting potential employers, she breaks down. Although she is normally a strong, confident woman, this seems to be a very emotional issue for her. I have tried to build up her self-confidence, but nothing seems to help. Do you have any suggestions?

A.: Your well-intentioned employment coaching may actually be increasing your wife’s anxiety, so try taking a slightly different tack. Instead of proposing specific job search strategies, just encourage her to begin exploring her new surroundings.

She could start by investigating professional associations, civic organizations, or any other group that interests her. She might also look into volunteer opportunities. By simply leaving the house and meeting people, she will begin to build a network of contacts.

To calm her nerves, she might join a job seekers’ support group, where she can compare experiences with other members. As a novice applicant, she can also boost her confidence by learning about effective resume writing and interviewing techniques.

Finally, to assess the job market in her new hometown, your wife should consider a temporary return to freelancing. Project work will not only show off her skills but also allow her to evaluate potential employers. And she might just land a job without ever having to do an actual job search.

Q: One of my co-workers seldom talks to me anymore. She used to joke and laugh all the time. When I ask what’s the matter, she says “nothing.” What do I do?

A: Your co-worker may be having personal problems that she prefers not to discuss. If that seems likely, just remain friendly and wait for the situation to improve.

On the other hand, she may be sending a nonverbal message that she is upset with you. The psychological label for such foolishness is “passive aggressive behavior.”

Passive aggressive people fear conflict, so instead of addressing issues directly, they act out their angry feelings. Because this is a game, the solution is to stop playing.

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