On a New York commuter train last week the two strangers sitting across from me became engaged in a career discussion.  The gentleman, casually dressed, older, appeared close to retirement age; the woman also casually dressed, appeared to be in her early 30’s.
It was just simple commuter banter – small talk.  The man was asking the woman a lot of questions about what she did for work (esthetician – makeup & hair); how she got her job (a placement specialist at the career college where she got her training); and how long she had been on the job (just a few months – a recent graduate).  He then asked why she got into this particular field (because she could no longer tolerate doing retail sales and wanted a different kind of job.
The gentleman monopolized the conversation somewhat by asking specific questions of her.  He seemed interested enough in her development to continually offer suggestions and advice of how she could grow her career.  The woman – not asking any questions of her own – seemed content to listen and accept the information being offered by the man without any indication of his qualifications to provide relevant career advice.
After telling her that she should try to find clients independent of the salon where she worked; that she should try to build relationships with film, tv, and video production companies; and try to hook up with high-end day spas and other venues of pampering, she finally got around to asking the guy what he did for a living.
There was a blatantly surprised look on her face when the man said he was a security guard at a nightclub, and had been performing this kind of work for over 30 years.  He said he had worked corporate security for a while but preferred working in clubs for their mostly casual environments, and because the people were more interesting and diverse.
But how did this qualify him to give her career advice?
I was quiet until this point, but ready to interject into their conversation to ask the man how he knew so much about her field.  Luckily, she beat me to the punch and she finally asked him how he knew so much about her line of work.
He said he had been married twice and both of his ex wives had been estheticians!  He told his commuter companion that his first wife had been working for a small salon with an elite clientele.  He said one of the salon’s patrons was an actress who lured away his wife to do her hair and makeup for a particular movie and then asked his wife to become her personal hairdresser/makeup artist, and to relocate to the left coast. His wife never looked back.  He went on to say that his second wife gave up a long-term position helping seniors do their hair and makeup, to work with a younger population and got a job at a high-end boutique spa and started earning beaucoup bucks and left him for the spa owner.
Never mind the soap opera details of why the man’s wives left him … he did have a legitimate perspective on his seatmate’s career choice.  And while he wasn’t a career counselor or job search specialist, he did offer her reasonably accurate information and advice.  Of course, if the woman had thoroughly researched her career choice, she may have already recognized the options offered by the gentleman.  She also likely got similar information from her school’s placement specialist!
When the man asked a lot of detailed personal questions, she could have been turned off by her seatmate’s noseyness.  But instead, she chose to become engaged in a conversation.  By being open she was able to receive reasonably accurate and  useful information that could potentially aid her career and choices down the road.  It just goes to show, ya just never know!
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By Hank

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