Ask Jack: Holiday Work Dump, Older Job Seekers, Job of the Week

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Ingrid's co-workers have her in a bah-humbug mood. She explains....

The deluge is relentless at work as everyone scrambles to dump their stuff in my department before they take off for the holidays. One of the worst things about this time of the year for me. What can I do?

Uggh, everybody is sending me questions so I have to write this column right before the holidays. Oh wait, but then somebody else has to find a photo for me, and somebody else has to code it, and schedule it for posting, and share it on Twitter.... Ingrid brings up a really important point: All too often, we think the world begins and ends with just ourselves. I can't even tell you how many freelance assignments I've received on late Friday afternoons. Hey, I'm thankful for the work, but I like weekends too. Especially this time of year, let's practice some of that "goodwill towards fellow people" stuff we like singing about.

But until the world does become a better place, Ingrid, your department will need to set its own boundaries. In early November, send out a group e-mail explaining when different members of your team will be taking time off, and that to have work back by Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Years, they will need to turn it in by such-and-such dates. When someone inevitably drops something off at the last minute, calmly and kindly explain that you'll do your best to meet normal turnaround times, but you can't absolutely guarantee they'll get it by 4:59 on December 24th, and that, yes, you too hope to get home for the holidays.

AOL Jobs reader Roy submitted his question in the comments section below. (You can too!)

I was a Sr. Computer Analyst (mainframe) for over 20 years. My last company was bought out, then we merged with another company, and finally was outsourced to a very large computer company. I sat in the same chair, doing the same job, with the same people -- but worked for four different companies in five years before finally being laid off in 2008. I couldn't find another mainframe analyst job (I was in my early 50s at the time), so I decided to get my Masters in Information Technology degree -- not that I needed it, but I thought it wouldn't hurt me trying to get another job in the technology field. Boy, was I wrong. I spent over $30,000 getting the degree, and not a single offer, after sending out over 100 resumes. So here I am, eight years later, having worked in two jobs that are below my experience and skill level, making approximately 1/3 of what I used to earn, thousands of dollars in debt, no prospects for anything decent because my skills and knowledge are old, dusty and rusty, and all my investments and retirement plans gone. I'll be 60 on my next birthday. What did I do wrong? I've given up hope of ever living a decent life (financially) again. Is there any hope? Thanks.

Roy, hang tough, and thanks so much for writing in. What you describe is, sadly, not an uncommon situation for those who have been in the workforce for an extended time. And it can be particularly challenging in technology jobs, with the non-stop changes in that field. I wanted to bring in a specialist to answer your question: my fellow AOL Jobs contributor John Fugazzie. John is the founder of Neighbors-Helping-Neighbors USA, a free, national, job-search support organization. He says:

"Roy, you didn't do anything wrong; you have been caught up in this unfortunate economy that is much worse still than anyone will admit. Age can be an issue too. Today you need to network and meet people who can help connect you with jobs. Supply and demand of jobs is in the favor of the employers today, which has lowered salaries substantially. And, many industries are converting full-time jobs to contract work to avoid having to pay medical benefits and to increase their flexibility. Unfortunately, the longer you are out of work, the less likely you are to be seriously considered for jobs. Please review our website, nhnusa.org, and join our LinkedIn group. Look for project work and temp assignments too that are closer to the work you want to be doing; in many cases these can lead to permanent positions."

Last week's Ask Jack questions

Do you have a work-related question for Jack? Write it in the comments below (better answers to this week's questions are also welcome!) or tweet it @AOLJobs with the hashtag #AskJack.

Jack's Job of the Week

Santa, I don't want much this year, but maybe you could fly Roy down to Tampa for this Vice President of Information Technology job? They do want someone with 15+ years of experience, after all. To the rest of you, maybe take a day or two off from your job search, and spend some more time with family and friends. When you're ready, a search on AOL Jobs is just a click away. Happy holidays, everybody!

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