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Career Seekers' Complaints...and My Responses

By Marty Nemko

Last week, I tried to answer job seekers’ main complaints. But what if you don’t even know what sort of job to seek? Here are my responses to common complaints of people still trying to figure out what they want to be when they grow up.

Everything that sounds good requires a long back-to-school stint. Well, yes if you want to be a brain surgeon, teacher, or priest. But in most fields, a percentage of people don’t the usual degree: engineers who learned on the job, lawyers who had a mentor and therefore were able to sit for the bar without going to law school, executives who never finished college, etc. If you acquire lots of learning from “You U” (mentorships, conferences, reading, etc.) do an aggressive job search, and tout what you learned at You U (“I prioritized substance over form”), you may end up with a cool career without a long back-to-school stint.

But let’s say you do have to go back to school. There are ways to make it less painful:

-- Distance learning (visit and click on distance learning. There, you can search a huge database of distance-based degree programs and course offerings.

-- Get course credit by exam. For example, go to and click on “clep. Also visit Or petition an instructor to let you take an exam instead of the course.

-- Get someone else to pay. Sometimes, your employer will kick in all or part. Or, if true, plead poverty on the college’s financial aid forms. If you know your financial aid package will consist mainly of loans not grants, go to, an enormous database of private scholarships. (If you’ll get significant grant aid, it’s usually not worth applying for private scholarships because if you get one, the college will probably deduct it from the grant it was planning to give you.)

My skills are applicable to so many careers. Right. So pick one where the salary and working conditions are good. Just pick something. Too many career seekers read self-help book after self-help book and see counselor after counselor waiting for the dream career to descend like manna from heaven. It rarely does. After a modest amount of searching, pick something.

Yes, there’s a chance you’ll make a bad choice, but more often, you’ll be happy, especially if you mold the career to fit your personality. If you sit on the sidelines, you’ll almost assuredly be unhappy.

What I’m passionate about doesn’t pay. Unless you’re a driven superstar, make it a hobby. I could expand on this for pages, but that’s the bottom line.

I’m not passionate about anything. I’ve found that many people never find a career passion, no matter how hard they search. Sometimes the lack of passion is depression talking, but other times it’s simply their personality. Such people would be wise to pick a career simply by asking themselves:

-- What are my marketable skills or knowledge?

-- What career would best meet my practical requirements (for example, salary, work-at-home, prestige, etc.)

How do I know this is the right career? You never know for sure until you’ve been in it a while, but you can increase your odds. Start by googling a prospective career and searching for books on that career. If the career still sounds good, do a few informational interviews with people in the field. Most people do like to talk about their jobs, I swear. So don’t be shy—even if you’re calling strangers out of the Yellow Pages. Ask questions such as: “What’s best and worst about this career? What tips on succeeding in it might I not find in a published book?” and “What would you do differently if you were entering the field today?” Finally, job shadow a couple of people in the field.

All of life’s choices entail some risk, but if you choose your career based on doing the above, you’ve greatly upped your chances of finding career contentment.

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