DEAR HARRIETTE: My friend has confided to me about her son’s troubles in school. He is the goofball of his class and doesn’t like sitting down to do work. He is in third grade, and "Adrienne" is saddened that he is not doing well in any of his classes.
I work with children who have ADD and ADHD, but I was not sure if she was telling me about her son’s troubles because he most likely has ADHD. Should I reach out to her and give her my professional opinion? I doubt she was coming to me only as a friend, knowing my profession. -- Work and Friends, Seattle
DEAR WORK AND FRIENDS: You should not give her your professional opinion, but you can speak to her in greater depth about her situation. Start by asking her if she told you about her son’s issues because she needs help. You can remind her of what you do and tell her that if she wants to have her son evaluated, you can explain the path forward. You can recommend doctors for him to visit. Depending upon how close you are and how comfortable you feel, you may also offer to have her schedule an appointment with you to evaluate him. It is important for you to be professional in your discussions with your friend as you advise about medical professionals and if you decide to help the boy yourself. Offer no potential evaluation on the fly.
DEAR HARRIETTE: More companies are now asking for a cover letter for any position you are applying for -- even an unpaid part-time internship. I have found at every attempt to write a cover letter that I sound cheesy and desperate.
I obviously want the job I am applying for, but I don’t know how else to sell myself without basically begging. What do employers want? -- Not Covered, Cleveland
DEAR NOT COVERED: Your job in a cover letter is to bring your story and credentials to life in a way that clearly shows a potential employer that you have the ability to do the job available. Your focus should be tailored to how you can be of service to this company. To the extent that you know details about the company’s work and objectives, do your best to mention those things and point out specific ways that you can contribute to the company’s success.
If you have very little work experience in general or in the company’s area of focus, write about other attributes, like being a fast learner, being conscientious, loyal, timely, professional, even-tempered, creative, etc. Select descriptions that are unique to you, and give an example or two to illustrate your point.
Avoid being vague. You must make it clear to this potential employer that you believe this job is tailor-made for you. A mistake that many young people make is to say they will take any job that’s available just to get their foot in the door, or they are undecided but want a chance. An employer needs to believe that you want the specific job that’s available.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)