CareerQuest Newsletter
Your Personal Obituary

June 2009
My dear friends, colleagues, clients and students:

This month we dare to give you a soulful article, How to Write Your Personal Obituary. Please read it with an open mind and reserve judgment on it, until you have finished reading it completely, and meditated on it. Your comments are always welcome.

Here is an honest-to-goodness interview question:

What would you like to see in your obituary and on your tombstone?

You may not have thought through this question, but it is a legitimate and a tough one! The employer wants to check your innermost core of values, philosophy of life and psychological profile.

Your answer to this question can be brief. Here are some examples:
  • He did his best!
  • He loved his family
  • She was a faithful friend
  • She loved America
  • He was a true patriot
  • He trusted in God
  • She was loyal to her company
We at CareerQuest love to get feedback from our readers. And we always reply to every single one of them. In some cases, we like to share this dialog with our readers. Here is an example. In the May 2009 issue, the topic was Back-to-Basics: Cover Letter, Résumé, Thank-You Note. Bea Hait of Resumes Plus, writes from Holliston, Massachusetts:
You have given wonderful advice and guidelines for writing these self-marketing documents, but I respectfully want to express a differing opinion on one of those tips: to not get the assistance of a professional writer in writing a résumé. I have found that there are quite a few people who simply cannot apply what they read in books to craft a document that will sell their skills to a potential employer. A good resume writer will take the personality and style of the candidate into consideration when writing cover letters and resumes. It is important to be aware that there are professionals who can help with writing résumés.
We thank Bea for taking the time to write to CareerQuest. Our response was:
I cannot really disagree with you. Perhaps my statement in the newsletter was too harsh! What I really meant to say is that cookie-cutter resumes from printing companies are rather ineffective. Wonderful trained résumé writers like you really meet a candidate's challenges and needs.
Our book, Career and Life Counseling From the Heart (Your Career is a Pathway to Your Soul!), has received excellent reviews from our readers. Sales are going well. It has been nicknamed as Chicken Soup for Your Career! Take a peek inside at!

Recently I was interviewed about my book by Bea Smith, whose regular feature On The Shelf, appears every week in the newspaper, the Union County Local Source, in New Jersey. We will share the excerpts of the book review with you in future newsletters.

We are currently discussing with Barnes & Noble in Springfield, NJ and the Union Township Public Library about various promotions, including a book signing and a job search seminar. We're looking forward to these exciting opportunities!

Our book is currently on display at Here's The Story bookstore in Union, NJ. Special thanks to owner/manager Joe Leo for his support.

In our desire to help as many people as we can, we have launched a new program called Career Stimulus Package. In essence, we have cut our fees for all services by 50%. You pay for one counseling hour and get the second hour FREE! This special offer has been extended to June 30, 2009, and may not be repeated again! To get your free hour of counseling, visit our Services page today!

Career Doctor Don Answers Your Questions appears as a regular feature in the International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE) - New Jersey Chapter newsletters. Visit to read more.

Until we meet again, through the magic of email.

Peace! Love! Shalom!

Don Sutaria, MS, IE (Prof.)
Founder, President & Life-Work Coach

How to Write Your Personal Obituary

When I broached the subject of writing your own obituary, some of my friends and colleagues were aghast! They thought I was off my rocker. Why would I want to write about such an unpleasant topic in a career-oriented e-newsletter? I had to gently remind them that I am not just a career coach but also a life coach. Work and life are so intertwined.
Just think, "What would I do differently, if I woke up tomorrow, and read my obituary, written by someone else?"
An exercise in writing your own personal obituary (or your epitaph), is not as morbid as it sounds. It may even help you place life's priorities into sharp focus, especially after September 11, 2001, and the 2008- 2009 financial crisis. Stephen Covey, author of the bestseller, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, calls his second habit, "the beginning with the end in mind." Just think, "What would I do differently, if I woke up tomorrow, and read my obituary, written by someone else?"

Alfred Nobel (1833-1896), the rich Swedish inventor of dynamite and the creator of the Nobel Prize, had a rude awakening. His brother had died, but the newspapers, in error, reported his death, and published his obituary, which they had prepared in advance. They stated that he was known for creating the most destructive force known to mankind, dynamite. He was portrayed as a "merchant of death." He was so shocked about what people thought about him, that he decided to change his public image and do something for humanity. He decided that he didn't want his family name remembered for destruction.

In 1866 Nobel had invented dynamite and built up companies and laboratories in more than twenty countries all over the world. Not only did he hold more than three-hundred and fifty patents, he also wrote poetry and drama and seriously considered becoming a writer.

While science had built the foundation for Nobel's own activities as a technological researcher and inventor, efforts to promote peace had always been close to his heart. As a result, he began thinking about giving away his fortune as a means to recognize those that have made significant contributions in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace. The prize for economics was added later on. The prize for peace was to be awarded to the person who "shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding of peace congresses."

In one of the bestsellers of the decade, Tuesdays with Morrie, some of the most touching chapters are when Morrie talks about death and also celebrates a living funeral.

Morrie says: "Everyone knows they are going to die but nobody believes it. If we did, we would do things differently. Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live."

On the comical side, actor and director Woody Allen says, "Death doesn't really worry me that much. I'm not frightened about it....I just don't want to be there when it happens."

But Morrie had a better idea. He chose a date. And on a cold Sunday afternoon, he was joined in his home by a small group of friends and family for a living funeral. Each of them spoke and paid tribute to the old professor. Some cried. Some laughed. Morrie cried and laughed with them. And all the heartfelt things we never get to say to those we love, Morrie said that day. His living funeral was a rousing success.
It may come as no surprise to you that many of us are confused about what we really want to achieve in life and be remembered for.
Closer to home, one of the living celebrities, former mayor of New York City, Ed Koch, has made his peace and wants to look ahead. Would you believe that Koch already has made all the arrangements for a plot and a tombstone at the non-denominational Trinity Church Cemetery in Washington Heights, Manhattan, New York City? He is 84, and still alive. To top it all off, his tombstone has already been installed and inscribed. It reads...



"My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish."
(Daniel Pearl, 2002, just before he was beheaded by a Muslim terrorist.)


He was fiercely proud of his Jewish faith. He fiercely defended the City of New York, and he fiercely loved its people.

Above all, he loved his country, the United States of America, in whose armed forces he served in World War II.

It may come as no surprise to you that many of us are confused about what we really want to achieve in life and be remembered for. Alan Epstein, Ph.D. has written a whimsical but thoughtful little book, How to be Happier Day by Day. He gives us five important tips for writing your own obituary.
  1. Think about your life as a whole, about the things you've done that make you most proud, that set you apart from everyone else.
  2. Don't worry about the order, or whether others would agree that that's really you. Just write what could be you.
  3. I promise you that if you e-mail me your obituary, I will send you mine. Guaranteed!
  4. Think how you would like to be remembered. What would you like your grandchildren and great-grandchildren to know about you? Make a list of these qualities.
  5. Compare the two lists. Is what you've done in your life consistent with how you'd like to be remembered? Or is there a gap between expectation and reality?
  6. Finally, write your obituary. Keep it updated. When you feel the old you has shifted, create a new one.
Some obituary writers also recommend that you include a recent photo as well as one of a younger you. And don't forget to leave this package in an easily accessible place.

Would you consider making a commitment to yourself to make at least a draft of your obituary, during the coming month? Perhaps you can bounce it off a significant person in your life.

You may be curious to know if I have developed my personal obituary or epitaph. The answer is, yes! I developed it prior to going in for a massive surgery in September 1995. I promise you that if you e-mail me your obituary, I will send you mine. Guaranteed!

Don Sutaria, also known a "Career Doctor Don", is Founder and President of CareerQuest. He has been quoted frequently in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, on radio and television and has taught at various colleges. He is the author of Career And Life Counseling From The Heart (Your Career is a Pathway to Your Soul!).