There's hope: If you feel your career is destroyed because you've battled with addiction or mental-health problems, one career expert has...

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There’s hope: If you feel your career is destroyed because you’ve battled with addiction or mental-health problems, one career expert has some positive suggestions for you.

“They need to know that all is not lost and that they can start their lives over again,” said Lee Heller, who is a vocational counselor and coordinator of rehabilitation services for Birmingham Group Health Services, a nonprofit agency in Ansonia, Conn.

“If they want to re-enter the job market, I would guess they need to increase their confidence as well as their reputation. What better way to give back to their community than to do some volunteer work? It’s an excellent way to network and open doors for yourself. Volunteer work is an opportunity to build your reputation.”

She also adds, if you want to start with a paying job, check out “the human-services field. They always are looking for success stories and will hire people who are in recovery to outreach to others.”

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That sounds like a good place to begin.

Take a nap: As the day progresses, most workers exhibit signs of fatigue. If you’re one of those trying to stifle serious yawns as closing time nears and have trouble doing your work, you’re not alone: A survey of 150 senior executives shows that 33 percent report that 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. is “the least productive time of day for employees.”

The next most out-of-it time, named by 29 percent of the executives, was noon to 2 p.m., when mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun — and when most workers are at lunch.

Not surprisingly, the most productive time was from 10 a.m. to noon, when workers still have some energy.

The payoff: College graduates who have worked as undergraduates in internships or cooperative education assignments have a leg up on students who have passed on these opportunities.

And they’ve earned money while they’re at it.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, based in Bethlehem, Pa., the grads will ultimately “reap big benefits — good pay and experience that will make them more marketable.”

If you haven’t considered a college internship because you thought that meant working for free, that’s an antiquated idea. Nearly 98 percent of 240 employers queried said they pay their interns; 95 percent said they pay their co-op students.

And the money is good: Undergrads averaged $15.44 an hour as interns; co-op students $15.64.

That internships really pay off is underscored in this finding by the association: Three of five of the new college hires in 2004 had served as interns. Nearly one-third had been in a cooperative program.

The artful dodger: Handling the persistent question about how much money you expect to get is tricky, especially when you know giving an exact figure can only hurt your chances. But J. Barry Vanek, author of “Get a Job Now: Handbook for the Job Seeker” (Soar Publishing, $24.95) has some good suggestions.

Among them: “Money is, of course, important, but being fulfilled in a position is more important.” Or, “If we are to the point of discussing money, can I assume I have the job?”

And the one I most heartily endorse: “Please forgive me for not wanting to exclude myself by giving you a number that is too high or too low. I am sure that if the fit is right for both of us, the money issue can also be worked out.”

E-mail questions to Carol Kleiman at ckleiman@tribune.com. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.