Book Review: Reviews of Three Career Change Books
From time-to-time, as we receive career-related and job-hunting books and other resources from publishers, the staff of Quintessential Careers will review them to help you make better decisions about the best books to use in your career and job search.
Reviewed by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
Career Change: Everything You Need to Know to Meet New Challenges and Take Control of Your Career, by David P. Helfand, Ed.D., LCPC, NCCC, $14.95, Paperback, 400 pages, 1999, VGM Career Horizons; ISBN: 0844242691.
Change Your Job, Change Your Life: Careering and Re-Careering in the New Boom/Bust Economy, by Ron Krannich, Ph.D, $17.95, Paperback, 336 pages, 2002, Impact Publications; ISBN: 157023194X.
Do What You Love for the Rest of Your Life: A Practical Guide to Career Change and Personal Renewal, by Bob Griffiths, $24.95, Hardback, 308 pages, 2001, Ballantine Books; ISBN: 0345440439.
The subject of career change is an important one. Studies show that most job-seekers will change careers — not just jobs — several times through their lifetimes. Some career changes will be minor, while others will be major shifts. Some career changes will require additional education and training, while others will not. Some career changes will be caused by corporate downsizing, while others will be voluntary. Some career changes will be long struggles, while others will be simple. Most importantly, career change can be the difference between sleepless Sunday nights dreading the beginning of another meaningless work week to leading a life of personal fulfillment and career success. Career change — the whens, the whys, and the hows — is the focus of these three books. David Helfand uses his more than 20 years of experience as a professional career counselor to write an impressive and comprehensive book about career change. If you are considering a career change, this book is the best of the bunch. Helfand’s book is extremely thorough, including numerous exercises and examples, and with an extensive collection of Web-based and print resources. He talks you through all the major stages of career change and provides you with a review of the key aspects of job-hunting.
Helfand’s expertise in helping job-seekers through career change is evident throughout the book. Readers will find numerous useful features, including work values satisfaction assessment to help you determine if it’s time to make a career change; an entrepreneurial assessment to give insight to your potential for starting a business; strategies for overcoming your fears of change, failure — and success, as well as perfectionism and procrastination; ideas for dealing with the practical challenges of career change; and a detailed collection of books and Websites related to all the major decisions surrounding career change.
The book is divided into three sections. In part one, career changers deal with self- and career-awareness, focusing on the causes of career change and preparing for a career change. In part two, career changers are given strategies for dealing with the challenges they’ll likely face, such as financial crises, time crunches, and getting the necessary education, training, and experience. In part three, strategies for career changers with special challenges are discussed, focusing on women, minorities, older workers, people with disabilities, and other groups.
Since many of us change careers after we’ve become well-established, often with families and numerous other personal and financial obligations, Helfand spends some time defusing the fears, concerns, and value conflicts that can erupt when one faces a career change, whether planned or forced. He also spends some time on the issue of adult developmental stages, and where career changes fit within the broader context of personal growth and fulfillment.
One of the intriguing pieces discussed in Career Change is the idea of developing composite careers, an idea echoed by numerous other career-change experts. Rather than focusing on trying to move on to one new career, a person might instead try to develop multiple income streams from several new career initiatives, such as several small businesses. Another section of the book focuses on making a career change within your current employer.
There is no question that if you are going to use just one book in making the decision to change careers and to find the practical and empowering information and resources you need to do so, then Helfand’s Career Change is the book to use. The book is thorough without being overwhelming, provides excellent and empowering examples, and includes an impressive collection of books, Websites, and other resources. The book provides direction for all aspects of career change, and (appropriately) leaves the basic job-search material to other books.
But Change Your Job, Change Your Life, while an inspiring and empowering book, is less of a career-change book then it is a “take charge of your career, learn more about yourself, and find the best job for you” kind of book. In fact, Krannich even states early in the book, “Above all, this is a book about empowerment — taking charge of your own career destiny… empower yourself to make things happen your way rather than in response to the wishes and whims of others as well as the boom and bust cycles of the economy.”
This book is about helping job-seekers come to accept the changing dynamics in the modern era of job-hunting and the idea that the average person will have 15 different jobs spanning five different careers over the course of his or her lifetime. This book is about helping you prepare for your next job, your next career.
Krannich divides the book into four parts. In part one, the focus is on understanding and preparing for the trends that will impact careers and jobs in the future. In part two, the emphasis is on developing key career and job-search skills, such as understanding and specifying your career interests and values, developing effective resumes and cover letters, and learning how to network, interview, and negotiate salary and benefits. In part three, the spotlight is on creating your own opportunities, including strategies for advancement within your current employer, relocating, and starting your own business. Part four focus on implementing your goals and plans and developing realistic action plans.
Within the four parts, you’ll find information and guidelines for surviving in your current job, acquiring additional training, networking, writing cover letters and resumes, succeeding in job interviews, negotiating your salary, starting your own business, and much more.
Change Your Job, Change Your Life is a great book for those seeking help in all phases of career change and the search for a new job. While it really tries to do too much in one small volume, the book is full of expert advice and information. However, the much needed additional resources are thin, and the emphasis is too much on job change and not enough on the dynamics and special needs related to career change.
If you’re looking for a solid career management and planning guide, this book is for you.
Bob Griffiths, the author of Do What You Love for the Rest of Your Life, is a former Wall Street executive who discovered that he was trapped in a career path that offered him no personal fulfillment. He had all the trappings of success, including a high income, beautiful house, but also loads of debt and little personal satisfaction. The book follows his journey, along with others in similar situations, traveling from unfulfilling jobs through periods of uncertainty and downsizing of aspirations and possessions to finally finding personal fulfillment in identifying careers that match their true callings and passions.
The book’s strength is supposed to be the motivational quotes sprinkled throughout the book from this collection of people who have reinvented their lives, but I found the advice simplistic and uninspiring. If you feel you need a cheerleader to guide you through your career change, perhaps this book is for you. If you are addicted to “self-help” books, perhaps this book is for you. If you feel helpless and powerless to make a change in your life, perhaps this book is for you. However, if you have already made the decision to make a career change, certainly one of the other books in this review will be a much better choice for you.
Besides the numerous quotes, there are insipid comments such as this one: “Our experience proves that those seeming obstacles are only challenges, and that challenges are merely opportunities in camouflage.”
One other so-called strength of the book is the foundation of the process of career change within a spiritual and faith-based framework. The author mentions numerous times throughout the book the need to have faith in the process, faith that you will survive and thrive your change in careers — no matter how glum or uncertain the present seems. While the power of faith and positive thinking are always valuable, especially to career changers, there really should be more of a focus on always moving forward, always working toward career change.
The one true strength of the book is the encouragement of career changers to find their true callings in life, to allow themselves to truly follow their dreams… to truly reinvent their lives by following their passions. More than 15 years ago, I discovered that my true calling was helping people. That calling led me away from a rapidly progressing marketing career and Yuppie lifestyle to a doctoral program and downsized lifestyle for several years. My wife supported that decision in numerous ways, and after a few bumpy points (including bill collectors calling everyday), we have never looked back. And that calling has now manifested itself through teaching at the college level and the development of numerous books, articles, columns, and Websites (The Quintessential Careers Network of Career Sites) — as well as consulting — on the various issues related to job-hunting and careers.
The second half of the book is perhaps the weakest, because it tries to squeeze all the important aspects of job-hunting — resume preparation, cover letter writing, networking, interviewing — into a few short chapters. And while Griffiths does include a references and resources section, even this section is too limited in its offerings. Griffiths is not a career or job-hunting expert, and this section of the book really reinforces that issue.
Check out all our book reviews in Quintessential Reading: Career and Job Book Reviews.