Interview with the President; John T. Wetzel, PhD (Traditional)

We have featured over the last 5 months, one MCDA member from each of the 5 generations in the workplace; Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millenials, and Gen Z.

This month, I interviewed Traditionalist, John Wetzel, PhD, former Vice President of Executive Services for Right Management, a global human resources consulting firm.

John T. Wetzel, PhD

John Wetzel embodies the “encore” career sought by so many.  Following his “retirement” as Vice President of Executive Services for Right Management, a global human resources consulting firm, he moved into his current position as a full-time volunteer with the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) at the University of Minnesota (U of M) serving in the roles of Career Counselor and Faculty Adviser to the CLA Business Club.

In addition to his roles at the U of M, John serves on the boards of the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance and the Minneapolis Job Support Workshop founded by Stan Brown, and also serves as a group facilitator at the Downtown Grief Support Coalition.  

Career Path

John began his academic studies at the University of Toronto (U of T) with the idea that he would, like his cousin, focus on becoming a lawyer.  In his second year of college, however, his path took a turn in another direction. After taking a course in psychology, he was intrigued by the diversity of the field and the depth of study.  “As an undergrad,” John said, “it was neat to capture the broadness of the field of psychology.” Instead of pursuing a law degree, he switched to the 5-year Honours degree program in Psychology.

The senior year of his undergrad program, John decided to focus on the specialty area of Industrial and Organizational (I/O) Psychology.  After earning his BA in Psychology, he went on to grad school, earning his MA in Developmental Psychology from the U of T and his PhD in I/O Psychology from the U of M.  As a Teaching Assistant at the U of M, John enjoyed his interaction with students and his administrative responsibilities for the introductory psychology series, and for all teaching assistants in the department.

In March 1973, while working on his PhD dissertation, John was contacted by a U of M faculty member who was doing TV advertising for Ameriprise/IDS Financial Services, and learned that IDS was looking for a psychologist.  Yet, John had a few months to go before defending his dissertation and earning his PhD.  IDS was willing to wait; John got the job, and stayed with the company for 16 years!  His roles included Senior Market Research Analyst, Staff Psychologist, Director of Field Staffing, and Director of Educational Services working with its 10,000 field/sales staff.

One of John’s key roles in his last year with IDS was helping to create a new IDS Training facility in Chaska (now Oakridge Conference Center).  With the completion of the project in January 1990, John’s position with IDS was discontinued, and he was given the Career Transition program at Right Management.  John’s depth of experience and exemplary career at IDS, captured the attention of Right, and they offered him a position.  He began as a Career Coach for the metro area then, in 1997-98, branched into Executive Coaching.  As Right’s clientele grew to include global and international clients, John’s position evolved to Vice President of Executive Services for the states of North and South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin.  He retired in 2013 after 24 years with Right Management!


John’s strengths are combined in both leadership/administrative roles, and in one–on–one/small group counseling/coaching.

His leadership roles, John said, come from doing well academically, doing well on the job, and being the oldest of six boys!

When asked where his passion lies, John did not hesitate to say, “In coaching and helping people.  If I can help people one-on-one and individually through a group effort, that gives me the greatest satisfaction.”

John’s biggest awareness when comparing himself to other generations, is his lack of technology.  Yet, when he gets stuck, he has lots of help and it does not get in the way of living his passion.

MCDA Membership

John became a member of MCDA when he joined the CLA Career Center staff.  I asked him how MCDA’s mission and programs were helpful to him:

 â€œMCDA’s programs helped me realize how similar my role at Right Management was to my new role at the U of M–helping people understand who they are and what they are capable of doing and becoming.  Self awareness is the first step in identifying and securing a rewarding career.”

What will be important for MCDA to attract new members?

“There is no doubt,” John said, “that the pandemic has caused a number of things to change in our everyday world.  Whether people will be required to work virtually or it becomes their preference, I think the degree of social/interpersonal interaction in the workplace will be easier for some people than it will be for others.  The mechanics of networking have already changed because of COVID-19.  Can MCDA schedule events (virtual or in person) that fits people’s changing work and personal schedules?”

John has made many contributions to the fields of Psychology and Career Development in his interesting career.  How great that our students and those in career transition continue to receive the value of his experience and passion for this work! 

Donna Bennett

President MCDA 2019-2020

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