Ask Helen

Dear Helen:

I’m a really good writer. Not the Great American Novel kind of writer, but a knock out answers on a job application, write a cover letter
that’ll land a job interview, kind of good. Over the years I have helped friends get jobs and then their children with college essays. I’ve learned to give people examples and make them reorganize their drafts to save myself time. Ditto re rehearsing answers to typical interview questions. They get focused on the words, even though I keep telling them it is about storytelling and engaging the listener. Then there’s the payment problem. These are my friends. I don’t want to charge them for something that is second nature for me. I don’t want to do this as a business, but my time is increasingly precious.
Yes I Can Help

A Nosh of Jewish Wisdom:
There is a time for everything under heaven.

Dear Can Help:
When my remotes go whacky or I’m trying to install electronics, I have folks I call to help me navigate the incomprehensible maze
of menus and arcane instructions. I usually give a good faith effort first, but my confidence is higher simply knowing they’re on tap. Sometimes I say “Thanks,” other times I gift them. I suspect your friends feel the same way. Eons ago I wrote articles with Your Jewish Fairy Godmother’s 10 Commandments for resume writing, interviewing, etc. Your ideas may be different, but I suspect you’ve been repeating the same advice over and over for years. Write a tip sheet to give folks. Be ready to say, “Read the attached, and get your draft up to speed before we talk.” For interview prep, there’s no good substitute for talking it out and role-playing. I’m all in favor of compensation in the form of a bottle of wine/spirits, taking or sending you to dinner, or gifting you with concert tickets or other special treats. Practice saying, “You can decide how to thank me,” and then be gracious about accepting what is offered.

A resident of Eugene since 1981, Helen is a member of Temple Beth Israel, where she studies and speaks on Torah. She claims to have black belts in schmoozing, problem-solving and chutzpah. She’s a writer and an artist ( Please email your questions to and subscribe to the blog at

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