I Just Work Here: Handling the office stinker

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Smelly co-workers

It's not always their fault, but no matter the cause, handling a co-worker who smells bad is difficult. (Getty Images / August 1, 2011)

— Lou in Cincinnati, via email

A: Lou, I'm not a fan of sunny aphorisms or of telling people muddling through a crummy job market that everything's going to be OK. The fact is, you have logical reasons to be concerned.

But — and here's where the happy music starts playing — I do honestly believe that people looking for jobs have to remember that they don't represent a demographic, they represent only themselves. So if statistics say it's harder for people 50 and older to find jobs, that doesn't mean it's going to be harder for you.

You, Lou, are not all people over 50.

Before I say something that winds up as a peppy bumper sticker on a Prius, let me segue to an expert on matters of workplace behavior and careers. Karlin Sloan is the author of "UNFEAR: Facing Change in an Era of Uncertainty" and CEO of Karlin Sloan & Co. in Chicago.

"The more you pay attention to statistics, the more you have to really refute the idea that you are one," Sloan said. "I hear the same questions from college grads that I hear from people in their 50s and 60s now. 'How can I get a job in this market?' You have to stop telling yourself the story that you can't get hired."

I know, I know … it's easy for a person with a job to say; "Don't feel defeated." But Sloan's point is that if you can't walk into an interview with some honest confidence and enthusiasm, you're probably not going to get anywhere.

Sloan warned against three fear-based behaviors that can rise up during any job search: fight, flight and freeze. Fight means you turn irritable, perhaps becoming depressed or grouchy with family members. Flight means you just want to run away and hide or you suffer a complete loss of confidence. Freeze means you simply stop — you surrender.

She said to be vigilant that you're not falling into any of those traps. You can exercise, diet, do yoga, whatever — just maintain the mental toughness that will keep you going.

When I was a job-searching senior in college, my friends and I would post rejection letters on the walls outside our rooms, turning rejection into a bit of a communal joke. Sloan said she has a friend who has gone through about 100 interviews and keeps her pile of rejection letters as a motivator to keep pushing forward.

And on a final note of optimism (this is going to kill my snarky, pessimistic street cred), Sloan said she often favors older job candidates: "I always go for the older ones, personally. I want people who have real-world experience, who are willing to work hard. I have a bias in that direction."

So, good luck, Lou. If anybody needs me, I'm going to go cast aspersions on a few people, just to get my mojo back.

TALK TO REX: Ask workplace questions — anonymously or by name — and share stories with Rex Huppke at ijustworkhere@tribune.com, like Rex on Facebook at facebook.com/rexworkshere and find more at chicagotribune.com/ijustworkhere.
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