Your Career and You: "Dodging the ‘Dumb’ Question"

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I’ve been thinking lately about meetings I’ve attended over the years and how, in nearly every one of them, the speaker(s) would say, “There’s no such thing as a ‘dumb question.’”
And then some poor soul in the audience would open his or her mouth and out it would come.
Friends, there truly are dumb questions, and they usually are a reflection of the asker’s not having a clue why he or she is actually at this particular meeting.
I’m not a big question-asker personally (professionally’s a different story). Never have been. Why? Because I’ve always tried to make myself at least reasonably knowledgeable about the topic of the meeting I was attending before going to the meeting.
So that, in the meeting, I would be able to fill in the blanks…flesh out the details on the subject and be better able to fit it into my daily work/life routine…myself.
How does this apply to careers…job searches…and your success?
As I constantly remind my students both at Curry College, where I oversee the undergraduate Public Relations concentration and teach most of the PR courses, and at Regis College, where I teach in the graduate Organizational and Professional Communications area, research (fact finding as well as fact checking) is a key element in any public relations plan. That’s where all program planning should start…and end (as “evaluation,” another form of research).
Any career development initiative should have a fact-finding element. What does a company or a potential job position offer? What skills and abilities do you currently have that would interest that company in you and/or qualify you for that position?
And fact-checking. What’s the company’s reputation? How about others who have held this position? Where are they now? Why (a little trickier to find out but incredibly valuable information) did they leave?
Now…back to the “dumb question.”
The truly dumb question is the one you don’t ask. The “why” question…the “what’s next” question.
Odds are, there’s someone else in the audience thinking the same thing as you. And, the sad thing is, both of you are going to walk out without the answer…leaving you just as uninformed as when you walked in.
Same holds true with job interviews, and I fit nicely into the “been there; done that” category here.
Did that with a previous job. Didn’t do my research before accepting the position. Blew it big time. Wound up getting fired because the fellow who hired me held totally different views about the role that I was to fill from what I thought I was going to contribute to the organization. I didn’t dig deep enough. I didn’t ask enough questions.
The good news is that I went on to better, more rewarding, opportunities afterwards. But the question will always be there…What if…?”
So what we have learned here, as my friends on South Park like to say at the end, is that the truly dumb question is the unasked question.
“It appears to me that…difficulties and disagreements, of which history is full, are mainly due to a very simple cause: namely to the attempt to answer questions, without first discovering precisely what question it is which you desire to answer.”– George Edward Moore, Principia Ethica [1903], preface

About kirkhazlett

35+ years' federal government and nonprofit organization PR experience followed by more than 20 years' undergraduate and graduate college teaching experience. Community and media relations expertise, as well as a fanaticism for quality service and customer satisfaction. PR for healthcare and member services organizations ranging from Blood Bank of Hawaii to Medical Area Service Corporation to Boston Harborfest. Consulting services for Manila and Singapore Red Cross.
This entry was posted in Communication, Curry College, internships, job hunting, job search, networking, public relations, Regis College, Undergraduate Communication. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Your Career and You: "Dodging the ‘Dumb’ Question"

  1. Kirk, great article. Thanks for sharing. You mentioned that at your last job that the person who hired you had completely different expectations then you did regarding what you would be doing. If you could do it over, what questions would you have asked?In my experience after Curry I've found that the actual results are really not as important as meeting or exceeding expectations. Asking questions is a great way to define them from the start.


  2. Hi Luke! Thanks very much for reading and asking a very important question.Looking back on it, I should have done two things.First, I should have gotten in touch with this person's former place of employment to ask folks who worked for him there what he was like and what was their impression of him as a boss.Second, I should have pushed harder in asking him what he saw as my role in the organization. I applied for the position based on what I perceived as quite exciting and professionally challenging opportunities to apply my current skills and abilities and to build/improve on some areas in which I had not had a tremendous amount of experience.Had I taken these actions and asked these questions, I probably would not have taken the job.But…you can't change history…you can only learn from it. And I definitely learned!!


  3. Thanks for your answer!


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