Ask Dr. Job’s chief contributor, Sandra Pesmen, is a member of the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame and author of “DR. JOB’s Complete Career Guide.”

Winner of several journalism awards, Pesmen is a graduate of the University of Illinois Media College at Urbana, and is listed in several Who’s Who editions. She also has been Corporate Features Editor of Crain Communications Inc., founding Features Editor of Crain’s Chicago Business and a reporter/features writer for The Chicago Daily News.

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Overseas Study Over-rated?

Q.1 Our 20-year-old son just went to Rome for a semester of study and we see it as an opportunity for him to mature, although some of our relatives feel it's over indulgence on our part and won't really benefit his future. All his friends and frat brothers are doing this, and we're proud that he flew alone (while some of his friends' parents went along to get them settled). Our son found a market near his apartment and cooked dinner with his roommate the first evening so we feel he's taking charge of his life. He's been in a fraternity on campus for two years, but never had to really do that. This group will attend classes Monday through Wednesday then tour around Europe the rest of the week and we feel this is a great opportunity for growth. He is biology major, but is taking only a light course of electives, so he can concentrate on the experience. What are your thoughts?

Ans. The fact that all his frat brothers are doing it doesn't automatically mean it's going to help any of them mature or improve their chances for a great career. A visit to Rome, and travels throughout Europe with his friends most of the week, isn't the usual road toward  success. But take it for what it really is: a great fun time that he's very lucky his parents (or a loan) can make possible. He's learning to become as independent as most people should already be when they reach 20. It's possible such a trip would have been even more valuable after graduation when he knew what kind of work he planned to do and could gear the trip to places that would influence that. By waiting, he might even have been able to arrange visits overseas with international organizations in his chosen field. But that's an issue for another day. 

Q.2. I started a blog for people in my generation who are just beginning careers and are having a really difficult time. I get about 100 hits a day and I'm told it's really clever and interesting and some bloggers are suggesting I turn it into a book. Do you think that's a good idea?

Ans. The first question to ask when you think about publishing a book is, "Who is going to buy it?" In your case, the answer is those people already reading you on the blog-so good for your search engines! Grow that good start by approaching companies with products or services they want to sell to your niche and pitch them to buy space on your site. The electronic media is far more important to your age group than a book. Don't mess with success-grow it. Add a Facebook page and Twitter and keep that blog going and growing. Someday, when you have nothing else to do, you can add a book. But do some research to find out who might buy it and where. 

Q.3 I lost my job as bookkeeper in a car repair shop in the recession. Then a competitor called and offered me a similar job and I was thrilled. After I was there only a few months, I realized the books were being "cooked" and some cash payments weren't being recorded and payments by check were also being "tweaked." I am becoming suspicious that this operation may be some kind of "laundry" for money and since my employers are from the Middle East, I'm worried it may be going to an evil place. I don't want to be prejudiced because of my boss' ethnicity, but they do have a lot of people coming in here talking different languages. Should I report this to the FBI or someone? Or should I just put my head down and do the work and keep quiet. I do have t pay the rent.

Ans. You should never let anyone's ethnicity influence your opinion. Unless you have some evidence there is wrongdoing, you have nothing to tell authorities and no reason to "whistle blow."  On the other hand, you may want to tell your boss you find the numbers do not add up correctly and ask his advice about how to fix that, since there must be some errors. The hope is that he can explain it and that you are imagining wrongdoing. But you also take the risk of being fired if wrongdoing is involved and they didn't want you to notice. In that event, you are better off getting out of there, and then you can report your suspicious to authorities.

Q.4. My boss is a horrible person and I have hated working for him for two years. The good news is that he's finally going to retire and his son is going to take over the business. He's young and inexperienced, but he's been really nice to the staff and we are hoping he will create a better atmosphere here and make work a more pleasant place to be. I've been working closely with him for a few months and am trying to "get on his good side." Do you think I'm right to be optimistic about the future here?

Ans. Hope springs eternal, but "Blackbirds don't have Bluebirds." The heir apparent eventually may turn out to be very much like his father. The main issue is how well equipped this young man is to take over a business. That would include assessing his education, training and experience. Your description doesn't offer much hope since being a "nice guy" isn't enough to keep a business successful. And if profits disappear-his sweet disposition may too. Instead of spending so much time getting on his "good side," get your resume ready and begin networking in the industry. Get another offer as soon as possible, just in case this doesn't work out.

Quit with Grace

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