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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DR.JOB Q and A: Consider Storyteller Career


(Q.1) I'M IN MY FIRST YEAR of college, majoring in liberal arts because I didn't know what else to major it. I like to read, and write stories, poetry and essays and I am considering a degree in teaching English, or Journalism, or Library Science, but I don't think any of those pay very well and don't really excite me. Have you any ideas?


(ANS) ANOTHER OPTION IS "STORY TELLER' which seems to be an outgrowth of 'performance art."  These creative artists write stories, for children, for adults or both, then perform them for audiences in schools, libraries, any organizations and even senior residences and community and senior centers. Some eventually make very nice livings. But the difficult part is "marketing yourself" as with almost all professions. You have to prepare flyers, and direct mail pieces and a Web Site, then start contacting everyone you think may be interested, follow up with emails, and get hired. All this is best begun if you already have a job, such as an English teacher, journalist or librarian. So you are on the right track. 

(Q 2.) EVERYONE KNOWS I'M A CONSULTANT and since my field is marketing they all want to pick my brain for "free advice," At gatherings of friends, family or neighbors, someone always sidles over to say he or she wonders if I have any good marketing ideas for their business. It's usually over drinks, and seems casual, but I'm trying to make a living here. How do I get them to pay for my service without being rude?

(ANS) YOU CAN TELL THE OLD JOKE ABOUT THE doctor who was asked how he stopped people from telling him their medical complaints at parties. He answered, "They get a bill the next day, just as you will."  But you may make more points and get more business by smiling, and very pleasantly answering, "You know, I have several good marketing ideas for you, but it would be better if you called my office and made an appointment so we can give this full time and attention." When you get the call and schedule that appointment make it clear there will be a bill. No one should expect you to give professional advice free. (Or, as famous stripper Gypsy Rose Lee once said, "Honey, I never gave it away!)

(Q.3) MY GRANDDAUGHTER IS STARTING COLLEGE and I told her that no matter what else she does she should get a teaching degree first. That way she can have a job with summers off, and take a graduate degree later in anything else she really wants to do. My daughter, her mother, says I'm giving her old-fashioned advice. Who's right here?

(ANS)  THE GREAT EDUCATOR ERIK ERIKSON wrote that we tell kids to get a "ticket to success" but when they get to the box office, their ticket's no good. That pretty much sums up your advice. Teaching jobs now are as difficult to find as any others and those degrees no longer are "safety nets." Today students do better if they understand business, marketing, technology, and globalization and major in a field that they are passionate about. Support their plan to study what really interests them. 

(Q.4) I'M JUST STARTING A ROUND OF INTERVIEWS for my first job. Is there anything I can do to get a jump on the hundreds of others who are doing the same thing and lining up in the same offices?

(ANS.) GET YOUR MIND OFF THE OTHERS, and follow some of the suggestions of Andrea Kay, author of This Is How To Get Your Next Job. Learn about what the company does, what it's known for, who runs it, and show how you can help business. Don't be defensive if asked personal questions. Answer politely. Bring extra resumes along in case the interviewer misplaced the one you sent, get directions to the office (and maybe make a dry run) so you know the way. Arrive ten minutes early! 

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