Dear Habermas Logo and Site Index Link A Jeanne Site

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: October 27, 1999, 1999
E-mail Faculty on the Site.

Theory, Policy, Practice of a Career

by Susan R. Takata and Jeanne Curran
Revision of Text from 1993
Copyright on Revised Text: Summer 1999. "Fair Use" encouraged.

To Hans Mauksch, who shared the magic, and whose magic we miss.
And to our students, who summoned forth the magic.



Chapter 1: What's It All About?

Chapter 2: How Do You Know What You Know?

Chapter 3: What's It Look Like Out There?

Chapter 4: What Is the Problem?

Chapter 5: Where Does the Work Get Done?

Chapter 6: Who's On Top?

Chapter 7: Is Everyone Equal? Or Are Some More Equal Than Others?

Chapter 8: Who's On the Inside? Who's On the Outside?

Chapter 9: Where Do I Fit In?

Chapter 10: What's Taken For Granted?

Chapter 11: How Do I Create an Image?

Chapter 12: Now, Who Am I?

Now What?

PREFACE to new edition

Let me explain how and why Theory, Policy Practice of a Career came to be. I was tired. We all were tired -- trying to deal with our colleagues, constantly updating our courses to address the needs and demands of our students, juggling kids, husbands and dogs all summer long, and just keeping pace. It is not like we goofed off all summer long. We were working hard. We did accommplish much. We tinkered with the "Dear Habermas" site (, fine tuning it all summer long. It looks pretty, and now our students are back to help us to find the glitches.

During the summer, while I was planning out my "Introduction to Sociological Theory" course, I noticed that "Using Sociology to Understand Your Life" was old and outdated. Goes to show you how long it's been since I last taught theory. I like using it but didn't have the energy or time to update it, find a publisher, get it printed in time. I looked at two or three comparable textbooks, mainly career development handbooks, but they did not have the sociological linkages of theories, concepts and methods. I was resigned to using one of the handbooks, but I was not comfortable with the fit. It just didn't fit. Then, one day, I was talking to Jeanne and she asked, "Why not put it up on "Dear Habermas" and edit it online?" Good idea. Why didn't I think of that? (After all, we have put up our other textbooks and teaching resources up on "Dear Habermas"). So. I searched "high and low" for the diskcopies of the old textbook. I loaded it in a file on "Dear Habermas" where Jeanne could find it. Within hours, Jeanne had put some of our old careers textbook on "Dear Habermas." I had been meaning to get to it. Really. Jeanne started to edit it. But. . .

. . .like the harried rabbit in "Alice in Wonderland" -- Where did the summer go? We were planning to get so much more done. And now, we're late. We're late for a very important date -- meeting our new students in the beginning of a new (academic) year" (actually, we're into our second or third week of the fall semester). Yes, the old careers book is here for all of our students to access, but it is not as updated as we would like. We will try to update and edit little by little all semester long.


Using Sociology to Understand Your Life is organized to reflect the main divisions of macro and micro sociology. We open with a macro approach to give a broad overview of the job market and to give primacy to the importance of macrosociology, since it has received less media attention and, hence, less acceptance in general lay knowledge. By contrast, most students already have some minimal acquaintance with the basic theories of microsociology through such popularizations as "Psychology Today," "Self," "New Woman," etc.

Though popularization of academic knowledge is, at best, a mixed blessing, it does carry certain undeniable benefits. Primarily, popularization affords public awareness and often sparks the curiosity of students to learn more. It is important to note that sociology has been particularly remiss in failing to encourage such popular awareness. The average layman discourses far more readily on psychological concepts, and consequently seeks out, more knowledgeably, psychology courses, even though much of the actual subject matter falls within sociology. In this sense, popularization serves as an important marketing strategy.

We hope thatUsing Sociology to Understand Your Life will serve to alert students to the important role of sociology in matters they have heretofore considered exclusively psychological. In addition, we hope that the initial chapters will afford strong identification with those macrosociology data which are offered continuously in the media to substantiate, however accurately or inaccurately, the contention of our public figures.

The organization of the book thus reflects our goal to acquaint new students with some of the advantages of sociological knowledge they will hopefully pursue through the formal sociology curriculum. This goal also accounts for the fact that all sociology terms are defined as they occur. No assumption is made that students using Using Sociology to Understand Your Life have had any prior sociology courses.

Because we hope that Using Sociology to Understand Your Life will appeal to students across many disciplines, we have not limited job market considerations to the presumed interests of sociology majors. Most research with which we are acquainted shows sociology majors to be as diverse in their choice of jobs as in their shoe size, hair style, choice of spouse, etc. The assumption that the majority of sociology majors want to enter a human service related occupation or a research occupation has proven unfounded in our experience. One recent sociology graduate (seeking the expected social service job) reported after a discussion with a banker, "I never knew bankers were like that. I think I'd like to do what she's doing. I'm going to have to look around now at other professions." Our experience shows that students usually select their careers from the vantage point of ignorance and through the economy of scarcity. They don't know what's out there. We hope that Using Sociology to Understand Your Lifewill afford all students an opportunity to reexamine the job market from the vantage point of sound sociological data and through the economy of abundance. There are jobs out there, if you have the methodological skills to locate them.

Using Sociology to Understand Your Life is designed as a supplement to traditional sociology texts. It is particularly designed to provide an effective interface between traditional sociology and what students call "relevance." We have chosen to address the interface between traditional and applied sociology in writing Using Sociology to Understand Your Life because of our concern with the problem of maintaining the integrity of the traditional academic curriculum while meeting the current very real demand for applied knowledge by social decision makers and students. This book is designed to give students a taste of the traditional sociological curriculum, demonstrating throughout the practical application of such knowledge to "a job." One aim of the book is to whet the student's appetite for more sociological knowledge. We hope that Using Sociology to Understand Your Life will attract students of many disciplines, who will go on to study more sociology, with a clearer understanding of the value of sociological knowledge to their pursuits.

The practical advice on career strategy is, in fact, the least important component of the book, as we emphasize repeatedly in our classes. No career advice will hold up through the wide diversity of social and political situations daily encountered in the world of work. What will hold up is the sociological theory on which the advice was founded, and the sociological methods of acquiring and validating knowledge. We believe that it is the responsibility of the discipline to ensure that its students learn what a sociologist does and what can be done with sociology. This includes making sure that students understand that sociology is a body of knowledge, and a method of inquiry, and rarely a career in and of itself.

In conclusion, we do not offer specific advice on "how to" become a member of any occupation. What we do offer is an overview of the process of assessing the labor market, choosing an appropriate place in it, and developing an appropriate career strategy for the choice.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT to new edition

First and foremost, we recognize our students. Through the years, our students have helped with this textbook by telling us what works and what doesn't. That makes our teaching easier as we listen to the voices of our students in an attempt to improve the teaching/learning process for all.

Next, "kids, dogs and husbands" -- we thank them for their continued patience. We've been co-authoring long distance for over 25 years. They have gotten used to the telephone calls in the middle of dinner (different time zones do that to us) or the emailing back and forth, which jams our phone lines. Or, that one summer day when Jeanne was teaching me how to do web page construction via long distance, (she never complained about that particular long distance call. Hate to see her phone bill for that month!). Yes, "kids, dogs, and husbands" still manage to put up with us.


With the finishing touches completed on this book, it is now time to look back to acknowledge all those who made this book possible. In a state of exhaustion (and relief), where does one begin? First, we would like to thank those who have contributed pieces directly to the book -- Barbara Entringer for her section on the differently abled in Chapter 8 and Carol Telesky for her ideas which have evolved from the earlier books that she co-authored with us in Up the Job Market and Controlling the Ascent through Sociology. We thank Hans Mauksch for his gentle caring, creative support he has offered us over the years. Despite pressing time commitments and prohibitive geographical distances, he never failed to provide the encouragement we needed in those moments when we inevitably questioned the worth of such an undertaking. Without his wisdom and touching gestures of support, we should have given up long ago.

We would like to acknowledge Dr. Robert West of Mellen Research University Press. As we look in our Mellen file, we noticed that the initial idea began some three years ago. We thank him for his extraordinary patience.

I would like to thank the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin, Parkside for granting me a sabbatical during 1992-1993 so that I could write a whole new textbook (with all the new ideas that I hadn't had the time or energy to do while teaching, advising students, and so on). I must confess some of my colleagues understand a sabbatical to mean a time of "rest." I'm not sure where that perception comes from (or am I missing something?) "I've never worked so hard!" I told one of my colleagues the other day. It's been constant tiredness from trying to do all the things that I've never had time to do; not to mention seven years of "catching up," in just one academic year.

To all of our students who through the years have read and continue to use our book as a resource to help their careers develop all along the way, we appreciate the "magic" you have shared with us through the years.

Very special thanks goes to Ryan Budzinski. Without his help, we'd still be trying to find a bunch of citations or fiddling with the computer to get it to give us the kind of camera-ready copy the publisher wanted. He also gave us a student perspective on the earlier chapters in this text. He found mistakes we were too tired to see, (it's hard to find them when you can't see straight). If the book looks nice, it's only because of Ryan's perfectionism. He's one of the hardest working and efficient students, we've ever met!!!!! Thank you, Ryan!!!!!

It's funny how we always save the best for last, isn't it? No book is ever without sacrifices from the authors' families. Last but not least, we acknowledge "kids, dogs and husbands," (not necessarily in that order). We thank them for their patience. Our husbands who waited patiently as long-distance telephone calls came at all hours because we forgot all about the different time zones. (Ideas don't wait for time, especially if they are good ones!). We don't dare mention our telephone bills. It is not easy to co-author a book when we're two time zones apart. With the busy-ness in our respective lives, we have managed somehow. Thanks to my husband who has tremendous patience, especially the times: When I thought the frozen dinner was cooking in the oven but all the while the oven wasn't turned on. Or when I had to rush to campus to get the manuscript sent and our schedules had to be re-juggled. Or when our daughter was passed from one parent to the other like a baton in a relay race (Oh, the life and times of the dual-career family!). Our husbands would ask, "Is it done, yet?" [meaning the book, of course!].

I especially appreciated all the times when my little daughter understood when I'd softly, but firmly explain, "If Mommy doesn't get this book done, she's going to be in BIG TROUBLE!!!" She learned to entertain herself with her books, videos, and toys. I can't help but give special thanks to my little girl. I'll never forget the countless nights, when she was all tucked in bed, she would hear my computer still humming in the room next door. She would crawl out of bed. Walk into the room to demand, "Mommy, turn off your computer." I would protest!! (I really could've put in another hour of work at least, and got done a lot earlier). If I didn't, she would insist more forcefully until I finally gave in. But if it weren't for her persistence, I would be a "wreck" by now. Thank you, dear for reminding Mommy to rest (there is a time to work and a time to rest!). My daughter now considers herself a computer operator because she knows how to turn the computer off (both switches, even). Is she thinking of going into a computer related career path??? Who knows?

Yes, dear, the book is finished.

Susan R. Takata
Kenosha, Wisconsin
February 1993