The Career Doctor™

by Dr. Jacqueline Hornor Plumez

Looking for a first job? Thinking of changing careers? Facing a lay-off? The Career Doctor™ is a Larchmont psychologist specializing in career counseling. If you'd like to ask a question of your own, use the anonymous , and she might answer you here. Read more about the Career Doctor here. Contact in ation is here.


Dear Career Doctor:

I'm a 55-year old woman who quit a career and moved to Larchmont to raise my special needs child. Now my child is more independent and doesn't require my full-time attention. Unfortunately, I had no time to do much volunteer work or make any social connections. I'm very socially isolated because children rejected my child and their parents seemed to reject me.

I do not know how to make small talk and have very few of the interests that seem to be popular here such as charity dinners, dances, fashion shows, tennis, etc. I tried a book club but it was very cliquish and the people's families all socialized with each other. I don't cook so don't invite anyone over for dinner. In other words, I don't fit in and don't know how to start.

Therefore, I have no references from previous jobs of 19 years ago, or character references because I've lost touch with people. I don't know how to write a resume to explain I've spent 19 years raising a child with very difficult needs which required at least 18 hours of work and attention each day. I don't know how to project enthusiasm or what to say in an interview.


Dear Bewildered:

Your problem is a common one for committed caretakers who, in devoting all their time to helping a loved one, forget to save some time for themselves. It also sounds like you have another common problem: resentment that life has given you such a raw deal. I don't blame you if you feel that way, but it is the first thing you have to put aside if you want to make new friends, find meaningful work, and learn to make small talk.

As for small talk: there are a number of books available describing "how to talk to people." I just typed that phrase into Amazon's search engine and up popped a large choice. Dale Carnegie made a fortune with one of the classics, How to Win Friends and Influence People. That book shares a powerful secret of small and large talk: if you find something you genuinely like about a person and let them know it, they will like you.

I've lived in Larchmont for many years, and am happy to report that there are loads of people who are actively engaged in a wide variety of meaningful volunteer activities. The League of Women Voters is always looking for people to help with their important studies. Every house of worship has outreach committees that serve the needy and study groups that discuss important issues. Political parties need volunteers -- especially in this important election year -- on the local, state and national level. And then there are always opportunities to meet people in cooking classes.

As for a resume, you don't have to explain the gap. Many people take time out to care for children. But you do have to show what skills you can bring back to the workplace. If you feel your only skills these days involve taking care of children, and you don't want to do that professionally, you have several options. One is to go back to school: pick up some courses that will give you needed skills or a degree. The other, is to get a job in one of the local stores, where you simply have to work the cash register/computer and be helpful to customers. This might help you meet people and get back into the mainstream.

The Career Doctor



The Career Doctor™ is Larchmont psychologist and career counselor, Dr. Jacqueline Hornor Plumez.

Her office is at 90 Beechtree Drive in Larchmont, 914-834-1982.