- The Washington Times - Monday, June 9, 2003


Dear Kate & Dale: My son is going to college this fall and taking psychology. He is excellent in math, too, but kids come to him for advice, and therefore I think he’s going in the right direction. Is he on the right track? — Doug

DALE: An undergraduate psych degree is actually practical — once you graduate and get out in the job market, your knowledge of human nature will enable you to understand why people are turning you down for jobs.

KATE: Pay no attention, Doug. I certainly wouldn’t object if my son were to major in psychology. I agree that a bachelor’s in psych is not all that useful for getting a job in the field — you normally need a graduate degree — but it does provide a basic understanding of people, and forms a solid core for almost any graduate degree — or to go directly into such areas as sales or marketing.

DALE: If you really want to understand human nature, I’d suggest either literature or history … these days, maybe genetics. Even so, none of those degrees is going to end with recruiters fighting to give you signing bonuses. So let’s back up: You can (a) pick a major based on the love of learning and forget about careers till later, (b) pick a career and work backward to decide what degree will help you get there, or (c) fashion some combination of the first two. No matter what major your son falls into, he needs to get out and meet people working in the field. My wife got a degree in psych, then set out to get a master’s in social work. Once she started interning, she realized she didn’t belong. She bumped around till she fell into sales, where she became a star. However, if you’d asked her in college about a sales career, she’d have scoffed. Lucky are those who are born to a profession. For the rest of us, it’s trial and error. The sooner your son starts with the trial-and-erroring, the better his chances of finding his niche while still in school.


Dear Kate & Dale: I have spent 30 years in manufacturing, mostly in management. I would like to get out of manufacturing, as three of my last four employers have closed their U.S. plants. I have tried most everything, but to no avail. — Len

DALE: When you decide to change fields, “most everything” doesn’t work. Most job-hunting techniques are great at helping you replace a job or assisting you in taking logical steps, like going from Analyst I to Analyst II. The logic of the job market might have nothing to do with what’s right for your career.

KATE: Here’s some logic that might surprise you, Len: Stop looking for job openings. Most openings are created for people. Let’s say there’s an executive in a service business — we’ll call her Jane — who meets you and believes you’d succeed outside manufacturing. However, Jane doesn’t have any openings on her staff. On the other hand, she does have someone working for her who is an irritation — let’s call him Jack. Maybe he annoys her one time too often, and she thinks, “Why do I have to put up with Jack when I could have Len instead?” Eventually, Jack is gone and Len is invited in. If so, your getting to know Jane helped create an opening.

DALE: Or it could work out that someone else in the department leaves, and there you are, ready to be hired. Either way, you are the “employee in waiting.” How long you have to wait depends on how many managers have you on their wait list.

KATE: I hate to tell you, Len, but the number you need to shoot for is 20! You have to keep in touch with 20 hiring managers, all of whom are telling you that they would love to hire you if only they had an opening. The message of that one sentence IS the entire job-search process.

* * *

Kate Wendleton is the founder of The Five O’Clock Club, a national career-counseling network (www.fiveoclockclub.com). Her books include “Targeting the Job You Want” (3rd Edition, Career Press, $13). Dale Dauten is the founder of The Innovators’ Lab. His latest book is “The Laughing Warriors: How to Enjoy Killing the Status Quo.” Please write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or via www.dauten.com for e-mail.

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