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Saturday, July 27, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Bernard Haldane was career-counseling pioneer

Seattle Times staff reporter

Bernard Haldane helped hundreds of veterans find jobs after World War II, earned praise for getting laid-off Boeing workers back in the job market and advised thousands more on how to prepare for the job interview.

And when a curious passer-by asked Mr. Haldane where he had learned about career counseling, the London-born gentleman remarked, "I invented it."

As cocky as that might appear, many top executives, job hunters and business professors said the Seattle resident did just that, creating the field of career counseling that has become part of every school and human-resource department.

Mr. Haldane, who spent the past three decades in Seattle, died last Sunday of congestive heart failure. He was 91.

Founder of a national career-consulting firm, Bernard Haldane Associates, he has been called the "founding icon of modern career advising."

He wrote more than a dozen books, including "Career Satisfaction and Success" and "Job Power Now!"

Born in 1911, Mr. Haldane moved to New York City in 1946 to be a doctor, only to be told his British medical credentials were unacceptable and he would have to start over.

Mr. Haldane said he didn't have time and became an editor at the New York Journal of Commerce and a member of the Society for Advancement of Management.

The business organization directed him to help World War II veterans find jobs. He picked the brains of executives and followed job candidates and realized many didn't know how to market their potential.

So Mr. Haldane asked veterans about what they did well, wrote synopses of their strengths and tailored their sales pitch, calling the concept "dependable strengths."

One approach he taught was to go into an interview and, before any questions could be asked, list four strengths and ask, "Which one do you prefer I tell you about?"

Prominent business consultant Peter Drucker called him a "pathfinder in finding human strength and making it productive."

Through word of mouth, hundreds sought his advice, and he opened Bernard Haldane Associates in New York.

Before a conference one day, Mr. Haldane received a telegram that read, "Progress in helping people use their highest skills not only helps the individual worker, it also helps our entire country." It was signed by President Kennedy.

In the 1960s, Mr. Haldane became well-known nationwide, earning praise from Harvard Business School and in corporate boardrooms. President Lyndon Johnson wrote him a note in 1964, praising his work.

In 1966, through a mutual friend, Mr. Haldane met Jean Margaret Kind over tea at the Museum of Modern Art. The couple married a year later and moved to Washington, D.C.

By 1977, he had moved to Seattle and sold Bernard Haldane Associates, which today has nearly 100 offices worldwide. The company still bears his name, though he had no connection to it.

In Seattle, he advised hundreds of churches, businesses, social-services agencies and colleges. He also helped laid-off Boeing employees with career counseling during the 1980s and early 1990s.

He evolved his idea of marketing one's strengths in everyday life, believing it would help children and the poor with their self-esteem.

It was a different audience but the idea was the same, Jean Haldane said. He would "help people look at their experiences" and find "things you do well and things you enjoy doing and feel proud of," she said.

Through the University of Washington College of Education, Mr. Haldane created the Dependable Strengths Project, which trains school counselors, teachers and social workers.

"He was always thinking, reading and jotting down notes," said his wife. "The house is full of notes."

In recent years, he helped start a foundation in South Africa to work with the needy on their job skills and confidence. He worked until his death.

Always the optimist who radiated confidence, he was amazed that people are hesitant to talk about their success.

He once asked members of a civic group if they made any mistakes. All raised their hands. But when he asked if they had a success, the crowd hesitated.

"It's a lot easier to admit a mistake than to succeed," he told The Seattle Times in 1986. "People laugh at their mistakes, but when it comes to success, there's dead silence."

Mr. Haldane is survived by his wife.

A memorial service will be held Aug. 8 at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, 4805 N.E. 45th St. Contributions may be made to Dependable Strengths Project, University of Washington, College of Education, Box 353600, Seattle, WA. 98195.

Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or tvinh@seattletimes.com.

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