Dear J.T. & Dale: Now that we are working remotely, my company is having virtual meetings with clients. My boss just messaged me that she felt my backdrop for these virtual calls was inappropriate. She said that it was dark and the lighting was poor and that it looked "suspicious." She asked that I improve the backdrop before our next call. I was mortified. Shouldn't she have told me sooner? Also, I feel like if she wants me to have a set-up, she should pay for it. — Anders


J.T.: Perhaps your boss was waiting, hoping that you would pick up on the fact that your backdrop didn't match that of others. Bosses often assume that if employees are paying attention, they will figure it out on their own. The fact that nobody else has the problem should indicate to you that maybe you should be more self-aware. That said, you should be grateful that your boss asked for improvements. I think it is well within your scope to ask your boss for advice, but honestly, these days it's not very hard to put a lamp in front of you and create a neutral backdrop. That said, if you do feel you need coaching, it is totally appropriate to ask your boss for some help. The most important thing to do is to be enthusiastic in responding to this request, because if you want to grow in your career, you were lucky to get some feedback.


DALE: As people sit through online meetings, they can't help but check out the settings of the participants and draw conclusions about each person. That makes these sessions a marvelous opportunity to shape your corporate image. So, spend some time looking at videos about how to look good online. It won't cost anything. Then, give some thought to how you dress and how you sit and how you engage. How should you do those things? Look like the ideal teammate. Pay attention to others on your calls and look like and emulate the ones everyone wants on their teams.


Dear J.T. & Dale: During the pandemic, I started a craft business, and I'm selling online. I'm pretty good at social media and have been getting an increasing number of orders every week. I'm feeling pretty confident that if I stick with it, I can make a living out of it. I'm living at home, so my rent is free, but my parents are furious that I'm not looking for what they call a real job. How do I explain that this is a real job? — Krista


DALE: First, a big BRAVA! for using these pandemic times to create a business. As for dealing with your parents, I have a suggestion: Treat them like you would investors. They have, after all, invested a lot in you. So, when you are tempted to get annoyed at their interference, think about that show "Shark Tank" and how entrepreneurs win confidence with backers by showing respect while laying out a convincing case for a better future.


J.T.: Yes, your parents are obviously just concerned about your well-being.


DALE: Well, and maybe concerned about whether you'll ever be able to move out.


J.T.: Perhaps. But either way, to their way of thinking, a traditional, full-time job would give them peace of mind. They may not realize how many young people are thriving by owning their own businesses online. So yes, win them over. Put together a presentation on businesses similar to yours and how successful these young entrepreneurs have become. Then, give your parents the financial data to prove that this is a smart move on your part. And then, if they don't agree, you'll have to make the big decision as to whether to pursue your passion or have your parents' approval. That's a tough decision, one that I guarantee many of the entrepreneurs you admire have had to make, too. So you may even want to reach out to some of those role models and ask how they dealt with the pushback from their parents.


Jeanine "J.T." Tanner O'Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site www.workitdaily.com. Dale Dauten is founder of The Innovators' Lab and author of a novel about H.R., "The Weary Optimist." Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803.