Looking for a Job? What They Didn't Tell You in College.

Everyone could use a practical guidebook to get a good job and to excel once you do. Luckily, there is such a guide, written by a psychologist and college professor. Here's my take on the book "Bring Your Brain to Work."

Let’s begin with this question: If you feel that your education has prepared you adequately for the realities of the working world — getting a job, doing well and advancing — please raise your hands.

Hmmm, I don’t see many, so let me try a different approach.

Do you sense a gap — a real insecurity — about approaching the world of employment after getting your degree? Do you wonder if there is something out there, like a practical guidebook, that addresses the many obstacles you will face and which provides workable, researched-based answers for this next stage of your life?

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Let me tell you, when I was in college, if I had something like Bring Your Brain to Work: Using Cognitive Science to Get a Job, Do it Well, and Advance Your Career, by psychologist Dr. Art Markman, it would have even helped prevent a guy like me from putting my foot in my mouth too often.

Answers to Students’ Questions

Over his many years of teaching psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, professor Markman was repeatedly asked those very questions by students who wanted help navigating the challenges of life after school. This led him to develop what amounts to a handbook backed by psychological research that transforms science into practical advice on dealing with life’s problems related to employment.

Markman is one of the highest rated teachers at his school, and after reading Bring Your Brain to Work, it is easy to see why his students describe him as Awesome! I give his book a 5 out of 5 Awesome rating, and here are examples of why you might feel the same.

Forget That Find-Your-Passion Nonsense

How often have you been told, “Just find your passion and the rest is easy?”

“That’s easy for you to say,” you probably thought, then wondered, “How do I go about finding my passion?”

“When we hear, ‘Find Your Passion,’ this assumes that there is one, and only one, right job out there for us,” Markman observes. “But research shows that we can learn to love almost any job, finding elements of the things that we appreciate.

“It is common to find recent graduates who think, ‘If I’m not excited about my job on Day 1 there is something wrong and I’ve got to get out now, and find one that makes me fulfilled.’

“But research proves that, if your values and those of your employer are on the same page, in time, you will learn to love your job. Where you don’t has less to do with the particular tasks you are doing, but your values and those of the organization.”

To help determine whether an organization aligns with your particular goals and outlook on life, Markman suggests that people ask themselves what they value in life:

  • Achievement?
  • Doing good for others?
  • Tradition?

Then do thorough research about the places to which you are applying. Compare your own priorities with the organizations’ goals to see if they might be a match.

“Learn about their goals, values and, critically important, their culture, expectations, even down to appearance/clothing issues. Do they blend in well with yours?”

‘You Are Doing This All Wrong’ – Shooting Your Mouth Off Too Soon

Most of us get a flu shot so that we don’t get the flu. On just two pages — which are a true gift to readers — Markman provides a job-saving inoculation, which I label: “Here’s why it’s not a good idea to be Mr. Know-It-All.”

We have all known, and some of us have been, a Mr. Know-It-All who, within a few days on a new job, discovered that management was all wet, doing thing completely wrong. Wanting to improve things, Mr. Know-It-All shoots his mouth off.

“This is common among workers who lack real-world experience,” Markman says. They announce that they know better how to run the place, are constantly complaining and wonder why they haven’t been promoted six months after getting the job. All the time they have been unaware that their own performance is sadly lacking.

“Research shows that the least-skilled performers are the ones who are most overconfident in their own abilities,” Markman says. “So the danger early on is that, because you think you know how to run the place, you go shooting your mouth off. But you are really demonstrating your own ignorance about the challenges involved.”

Markman is an up-tempo guy. He just makes you feel good. And all of my interviews with him have been as delightful as this was. You don’t have to be out looking for a job to really enjoy Bring Your Brain to Work. It is filled with answers to so many of the questions we have asked ourselves, or will one day.


This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

H. Dennis Beaver, Esq.
Attorney at Law, Author of "You and the Law"

After attending Loyola University School of Law, H. Dennis Beaver joined California's Kern County District Attorney's Office, where he established a Consumer Fraud section. He is in the general practice of law and writes a syndicated newspaper column, "You and the Law." Through his column he offers readers in need of down-to-earth advice his help free of charge. "I know it sounds corny, but I just love to be able to use my education and experience to help, simply to help. When a reader contacts me, it is a gift."