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 our anonymous form, and she might answer you here. Read more about the Career Doctor here. Contact information is here.


Dear Career Doctor:

I am a minority who graduated from school and worked as a professional in financial aspects. I was very nervous for this first job. Thus, I worked very hard and not focus on socializing. English is my second language. That's why I don't socialize a lot. I was the only minority in the company. With different culture, I had no common topic to talk about. I have just been this country for a few years. My boss liked me at the beginning and gave me good first evaluation. Afterwards, everyone in the company hated me because they considered me as a kid. I was totally lost by American's company politics. My choice was to leave. Finally, I was left with a bad impression.

My question is how to develop good social skills to survive in American firm. What American firms are looking for? Thank you very much.


Dear Carol:

The good news is that your professional skills were good enough that you received a good first evaluation. The other good news is that most people find American social skills pretty easy to learn because there are fewer rules and restrictions than in most other countries.

What are American firms looking for? In addition to professional skills, most companies want a person who acts friendly and pleasant with their co-workers. I doubt that people hated you because they considered you a kid. It sounds like you made them uncomfortable, not because you are a minority from a different culture (Americans are usually interested in people from different cultures), but because you didnít talk to them. They probably thought you were being hostile or snobbish.

It is clear from your writing that English is not your first language. I would suggest that you get some tutoring to help you write better. But you do not need to have better English skills to talk to people and have them be friendly with you.

Some tips: In many countries it is considered rude to ask personal questions, but here it shows an interest and sparks conversation. So, when you meet people you can ask about where they live, where they grew up or if they have ever visited your country. You can tell them how customs differ in your country and ours (as long as you do not make it sound like one is better than the other.) You can also admit that you are having trouble understanding what constitutes comfortable conversation here and ask people to help you figure it out. (Americans usually like to be helpful and give advice.)

It is very difficult at first trying to figure out how to behave in a foreign culture. While you are learning, remember that a friendly smile will overcome many awkward situations.

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.


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