CAREERS: Pandora's Problem Page

Q The other day, my boss called me into her office to ask me a computer question. She wanted to know how to open two windows at once, something that I believe is a basic skill of operating a PC. Yesterday she asked me how to find something on the internet. We're a boutique firm specializing in fashion PR, and though complex computer skills are not required in her position, I think it's only fair to assume that she knows how to do basic applications such as operate a search engine.

Q The other day, my boss called me into her office to ask me a computer question. She wanted to know how to open two windows at once, something that I believe is a basic skill of operating a PC. Yesterday she asked me how to find something on the internet. We're a boutique firm specializing in fashion PR, and though complex computer skills are not required in her position, I think it's only fair to assume that she knows how to do basic applications such as operate a search engine.

I discovered that the reason she asks me these seemingly basic questions is because we recently laid off our receptionist, who used to do this for her all the time. I don't mind showing her how to do these things, but not every time she has a problem or has to send an e-mail. I'm really getting frustrated.

What should I do?

Ms. Z, New York

A Please know that I sympathize with you, Ms. Z, but you need to show a little compassion for your boss. There is a reason we call them computer skills, and it's because computers are something that you have to learn.

I can't imagine why your boss hasn't learned how to use a search engine, but as you said, it's not as necessary in the fashion industry.

Instead of laughing at her or pitying her, the thing you must do is help her to learn these basic skills for good so that she won't have to come to you with every question. This can apply to almost any annoying, recurring situation. Ask her to make a list of all the things that she uses her computer for, such as sending e-mails, word processing, and doing internet searches. Then set up a meeting with her to teach her how to do everything.

That one long meeting may save the hassle of several small ones. It's like the old maxim states: "Give a man a fish, and you have fed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you have fed him for a lifetime." Then teach him how to surf the web, and welcome him to the 21st century.

Q I read your column in a friend's copy, and thought that maybe you could help. I don't have a workplace problem, but one that involves my state of mind.

I've wanted to be involved in politics since I caught the bug as president of my class in junior high, and I've wanted to be in media relations since rabidly consuming every magazine I could find as a teenager. Now I have my dream job, on the press relations team for a statewide political campaign.

The problem is that I've lost the enthusiasm I used to have for a good cause and a dynamic politician to represent. I've grown sick of catch-phrases, empty promises, and the need to teach people how to avoid questions instead of answering them. Our campaign began months ago, and now that we're at the most critical point, I'm having a very hard time doing my job. Should I consider a career change?

Mr. C, Washington

A One thing that I've always admired about political campaign workers is their seemingly undying devotion to their candidate. I've always wondered if they just put up that front, or if they really believe that their candidate will be the one to change the world. And while politics is not exactly my forte, I do know that your job depends on keeping up that front, on supporting your candidate and helping him/her to win.

If you want to keep that job, then you need to separate your personal and professional drive, or at the very least, find some way to reconcile them. If it's a higher level of fulfillment you seek, maybe you need a job that is a better fit, or perhaps a new candidate. Decision time is this week, so good luck.

- Do you have a problem that no one else has been able to solve? Try Pandora. E-mail her at pandora@prweek.com.

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