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‘Dear Abby’ of career advice fondly remembered

ENCINITAS — America’s first nationally syndicated careers columnist, longtime North County resident, and bestselling author Joyce Lain Kennedy passed away on Aug. 27, leaving behind many lifetimes’ worth of career advice. She was 85 and last lived in Encinitas.

Since launching her “Careers Now” column in 1968, Kennedy estimated that she answered in print to more than 5,600 reader queries.

She was the sole author or co-author of eight career and job-related books (plus their subsequent editions), including “Resumes for Dummies” and “Electronic Job Search Revolution.” Kennedy continued working up until May, a few months before she died.

Her career columns were terse yet often infused with humor.

To one reader in his late 50s who groused about his 26-year-old manager, Kennedy wrote, “Over the years I’ve developed a personal theory about multigenerational conflict: When you’re younger, the risk is you’ll make mistakes because you know too little; when you’re older, the risk is you’ll make mistakes because you think you know it all. … You’ve probably heard this ancient idiom: ‘Grin and bear it.’”

Muriel Turner, who worked for Kennedy for about 30 years, said, “Joyce was a task master but a kind person.” Turner laughed, noting that Kennedy often wanted to know where they should have lunch together, as it was a top priority of any day. “I mostly did secretarial work, but Joyce would introduce me as her associate, or tell me to say that I was her editorial assistant.”

Kennedy’s friends and colleagues describe her as a diligent and thorough researcher.

They also say she was generous to a fault. Turner explained how Kennedy would talk to a cashier at Vons, for instance, who was looking for a new job, and would drop everything to help him write a resume.

She never charged for services of that kind and tended to put others first, as her friend and realtor Chitra Saxena saw it. Saxena considered Kennedy to be “the Dear Abby of career counseling” who was “very charming and vivacious.”

Politics and pets were other passions. Kennedy actively campaigned on behalf of Pam Slater-Price, for example, who became a longtime San Diego County supervisor.

Kennedy had photos all over her house of her cats and dogs and was particularly fond of her last pet, a Chihuahua named Charlie that she left in the care of an employee.

Her husband, William (Bill) Kennedy, was the president of Sun Features Inc., which distributed features, including his wife’s, to daily newspapers. He died in 1994 while on vacation in Ireland — shortly after kissing the Blarney Stone, according to Turner, who also worked for him. It was a trip he’d always wanted to take, she said.

The Kennedys did not have children, nor did the columnist have siblings. She lived in Carlsbad and Encinitas for many years, but she grew up in St. Louis and also once lived in New York and Washington, D.C.

In her last wishes, Kennedy asked to be cremated and to have her ashes scattered over the Pacific Ocean, a request that will be carried out during a private ceremony. Saxena also plans on throwing a party on her friend’s behalf because Kennedy “loved parties.”

Anonymous comments about Kennedy’s legacy that were forwarded to The Coast News included: “Many people have better careers because of her insights.”

“Please show your family pets some extra love tonight in memory of Joyce Lain Kennedy. She’d like that.”

“Joyce Lain Kennedy was an extremely talented writer and a very devoted friend.”


Bonnie Bekken September 19, 2018 at 11:59 am

I worked with, and was mentored by JLK, as she was affectionately known to those of us who worked with Career World Magazine, an educational publication for high school student that Joyce created with Publisher Bernie Berkin back in the 70s. We shared instructive—and hilarious times in DC, and I was fortunate to keep up our friendship as both Joyce and I moved, eventually, to San Diego. Her physical loss is painful, but my memories of this powerhouse woman with the biggest heart ever lives on.

Priscilla September 8, 2018 at 12:45 pm

Very nice. I did not know she was so active in her earlier yes. She also advised me to charge for my volunteer hours at the Flower Fields in Carlsbad!

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