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Book Reviews and Recommendations

In "Kate & Dale Talk Jobs," we give a brief solution to career problems and often recommend resources for further reading. Here are some of my favorites...

The Best Business/Career Books

Note: these books can be ordered from Amazon.com.

For those who want to be more creative in their job searches...

If you think that mailing out a hundred resumes is "working hard at getting work," then you need to read 303 Off-the-Wall Ways to Get a Job by Brandon Toropov (Career Press). It will boot you out of the job-hunter's rut. For instance, it suggests that if you've just been part of a big lay-off, to call and volunteer to do "victim" interviews with the media, and once on-the-air, to promote your job search. If nothing else, it will convince you to stop looking only at big bureaucratic companies and start seeking out the smaller firms where the real growth (personal and corporate) usually happens.

For an off-beat look at some off-the-beaten-path jobs, try Sunshine Jobs by Tom Stienstra (Live Oak Publications -- 303-477-1087 if the book isn't available elsewhere). The book reviews jobs from bush pilot to park ranger to owning a lodge.

For rethinking just what you want to do in life...

The classic What Color is Your Parachute? (Ten Speed Press) by Richard Bolles is still the best overall resource for career examination. And if you want to do some deep rethinking, then the CD-ROM version of Parachute (From Bumblebee Technologies) is worth the extra cost (and comes packed with the latest version of the book). It has dozens of video clips of Bolles, who uses his soothing manner (befitting a former Episcopal priest) to bring alive the career-exploration exercises.

For people who don't know what they want to do when they grow up...

I meet so many people who "don't know what they want to do when they grow up" that I wrote a book for them: The Max Strategy (William Morrow/ Quill Books). It argues that you don't need to be obsessive about planning and goal-setting, that success is usually an accident and that finding it requires a willingness to experiment.

The Max Strategy is available at bookstores or order now at Amazon.com. Want your book signed or inscribed? Order now with our Express Service by Phone! Just call Kym Smith at 1-602-755-2313 and we'll do the rest.

If you want to get philosophical -- so philosophical that you're consulting your childhood for evidence of the "daimon" or "spirit" that is inhabiting your body -- then read James Hillman's The Soul's Code (Random House).

To prepare for job interviews

Do practice interviews and use this book as a resource: The Manager's Book of Questions -- 751 Great Interview Questions by John Kador (McGraw-Hill).

If you're going to work with a "headhunter"...

A book that won me over was Secrets From the Search Firm Files by John Rau (McGraw-Hill, $24.95). It's meant for individuals in a position to work with "headhunters," and offers an inside look at how such firms work. For example, Rau explains that trendy job titles (my favorite is "Prime Minister of Morale"), can hinder your opportunities because headhunters generate prospect lists using computer databases, and the search is based on titles. As Rau says, The computer kicks your name into the 'reject' bucket because it can't figure out what your nontraditional title means."

If the company where you work is about to be taken over...

The most infamous of corporate downsizers, Al "Chainsaw" Dunlap, wrote a book called Mean Business (Fireside), which will provide you with an inside look at what will happen to the company.

And when you grow tired of taking your career so seriously...

There's Who Packed Your Parachute? (Bad Dog Press -- 800-270-5863 if not available elsewhere). Some sample advice:

  • Most prospective employers consider dotting your i's with smiley faces 'unprofessional.'
  • Don't use hotel stationery, not even if you're still using the alias 'Howard Johnson.'
  • And, "Did you know that donating plasma is not really work experience?"

The Golden Play Button Award

Each year I select the best and worst business-oriented audiobook of the year. Here is the column where I announced the 1997 winner and loser.

"Play" or "Eject" -- The Best and Worst Audiobooks of the Year

by Dale Dauten

"Lotta self-help tapes out there. Got one called 'How to Handle Disappointment.' I got home and the box was empty."

-- Jonathan Droll

I know how Mr. Droll feels. Nearly all self-help audios are just empty boxes, even when the tape is in there... Cocoa Puffs for the soul. In fact, as you come to understand "motivational" tapes, you realize that their primary market is not individuals but businesses wanting to squeeze more effort out of employees, especially sales people. It's a lot cheaper to pass out motivational tapes than to come up with a superior product.

And so corporate employees are given yet more stories of people who were turned down a thousand times and yet they carried on. Some of these stories are almost spooky in their tales of compulsive relentlessness. The companies who rely heavily on motivational tapes might be better off to just hire obsessive personalities, maybe set up a job fair at Stalkers Anonymous.

What got me thinking about all this was listening to candidates for my annual audiobook awards. This is my fourth year of picking the best and worst business-oriented audiobooks. And it was a surprise to me that this year's big winner is one with the awful title, 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself. But, before I tell you about the best tape, let me get the worst one out of the way. It's David Brinkley's Everyone is Entitled to My Opinion (Random House Audio, $14). I heard he was sued over the title (already copyrighted by someone else). Someone should sue him over the content.

Regular readers might remember that Brinkley's autobiography, David Brinkley: A Memoir, (I think he's safe with that title) was my pick last year as the best audiobook. I love Brinkley's work, but My Opinion is a collection of little commentaries from the television show. These are cute... or would be, one at a time. Listening to dozens of them, one hard upon the last, is like sitting next to a big sweaty guy who tells jokes and then slaps you on the shoulder. One is charming. Twenty is justifiable homocide. So Brinkley gets my Eject Button of the Year.

Now, back to 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself (HighBridge Audio, $11). It's the audio version of the book by the same name, both by Steve Chandler. I asked him about the book's title. He said that he wanted to call the book You Have No Personality. This is a reference to his contention that we each have the option of choosing our personality. In fact, he contends that our existing personalities weren't formed at birth or in infancy, but in high school. That's when we learn about embarrassment, and spend the rest of our lives trying to avoid it.

Chandler doesn't give you a pep-talk or a gut-check. No, he explains the nature of achievement. He doesn't merely give you encouragement, he gives you options. An example of the difference between encouragement and options is Chandler's response to a man who came up to him at a seminar and said, "My problem is that I never seem to finish anything. I'm always off on something else before anything is completed." The man wanted Chandler to give him some "affirmations" to alter his "belief system." Chandler responded, "Do you think affirmations are what you need? If you had to learn how to use a computer, could you do it by sitting on the couch and repeating, 'I know how to use a computer. I am great at using a computer. I am a wizard at using a computer'?"

Chandler then said, "The way to change your belief system is to change the truth about you." And Chandler had the guy keep a notebook is which he recorded his victories under the heading, "Things I Finished."

Well, I finished Chandler's audiobook... twice. It wins my Golden Play Button, the best business audiobook of the past year.

Links/Phone Numbers for Great, Free Career-Related Stuff

In addition to books and audiobooks, we try to suggest other sources of career materials. Here are a few phone numbers and websites you might find useful....

If you're an employee who's thinking of adopting a child...

The Dave Thomas Foundation (created by Wendy's founder Dave Thomas, who was himself adopted) offers "The Beginner's Guide to Adoption," for individuals interested in adopting, and the Model Adoption Program for companies exploring adoption benefits. They also have a survey of companies that offer adoption benefits. All the materials are free by calling 614-764-3009 or writing the Dave Thomas Foundation at PO Box 7164, Dublin, OH 43017.

If you're about to relocate for a new job...

If you use the Internet, you've probably seen www.homefair.com and their sophisticated salary calculator and "Moving Wizard," which prints out a long list of things you need to do before you move. But the same company has a lesser known service: You can call 800-522-1052 and get a "relocation coach." It's particularly useful to people changing companies, and who need advice on pension rollovers or health insurance "gaps." It's a great source of information on what to negotiate -- temporary housing, or maybe a "lump-sum" payment for moving. And it's all free. Just like the website, the company make their money by offering referrals to real estate companies and van lines and so on. But you don't get referred unless you request it.

If you're dreaming of a career as a corporate trainer...

Perhaps you're a teacher who wants a new type of classroom. The first step is to become familiar with business concepts and jargon. A good place to start is by attending meetings of the ASTD (American Society for Training and Development). Call 703-683-8100 for information.

If you've ever wondered about a career as a court reporter...

Court reporters have an average income of $54,000, and, as they put it at the National Court Reporters Association, a "ticket for the front row at the next trial of the century." You can call for information at 800-272-6272.

If you're thinking of getting an MBA...

The MBA Explorer (at www.gmat.org) has statistics on nearly 500 graduate business schools -- costs, admission test scores, student composition, and so on -- and for the majority of schools there are "links" where you can jump directly to their websites. You can tour the MBA world in an hour or two.

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