Dear Tina,

OK here's my situation: a few years ago I worked for a printing company and loved my job, but I had the boss from hell so I quit. Instead of the regular 2 weeks notice I came in the morning of my last day and handed him a letter that told him what a [expletive] he was, tossed my keys on the desk and left.  I didn't even pick up my last paycheck.  Since then I've been working, but not that happy and one of my old coworkers told me that old jerk-face is no longer at the company.  Tina do you think that I should try to get my old job back or have I been blacklisted?

Pariah? in Philadelphia

Dear PIP

Wow. I suppose I should be glad that you didn't yell at him over a P.A. system and leave down an emergency chute,

Leaving a job professionally certainly has its' advantages and recrossing that now scorched bridge is the biggest one.  While it may be a temporary high to tell your boss to "kiss what you twist and you don't mean your wrist", you should keep in mind how much of an impact your departure can have on your career. Not only will you have caused bad blood with your former supervisor (who may take the bad experience with him if/when he changes companies), but the company may have had to classify you as "not eligible for rehire".

However all may not be lost.  The first thing that I would suggest that you do is to contact anyone at the company with whom you still have a good rapport and get an idea of your current reputation.  Even if the manager and/or HR staff has changed there may be a paper trail in your employee file or even be a copy of your little letter, so find out how much damage your departure caused.  Secondly, I would suggest that you tailor your cover letter to highlight your growth since you left the company - not personal growth - but rather what skills and industry expertise you've gained during your hiatus.

Finally, if things work out promise me that you'll give your current employer nothing but a nice professional resignation letter with appropriate notice. Deal? Deal.

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Dear Tina,
I suck at writing cover letters, any tips?

Uncovered in Yonkers

Dear Uncovered

A cover letter is simply a one page introduction to your resume that outlines your interest in the position and highlights why your qualifications are a match for the job.  Here are a few tips that should help you create an effective letter:

  1. Personalize your letter by addressing it to the person outlined as the contact in the job description.  If no one is listed, some quick research can help you find the contact.  Search online for the department head,  check your LinkedIn contacts for anyone who may know the answer, or simply call the company and ask for the name of the hiring manager (do not ask to speak to them). If all else fails use "To Whom It May Concern", but avoid using "Dear Sir/Madam" (seriously, when was the last time that you called someone "madam"?).
  2. Remember that it's not a novel. Your letter should be 3 well written paragraphs that underscore your education, experience and what skills you plan to bring to the position/company.  You may also add a few bullets that highlight your core competencies, but the letter should not be one giant grocery list.
  3. Include all requested information. Be sure to read the description carefully and address any specific requests such as adding your salary requirement.
  4. Proofread and spell check your letter.  Nothing screams incompetence like someone who blatantly ignored the wavy red lines under their misspelled words.

If you're still unsure of what to include in your cover letter or need more assistance, consider hiring a professional!

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