Book Review: They Don’t Teach Corporate In College
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.
They Don’t Teach Corporate in College: A Twenty-Something’s Guide to the Business World, by Alexandra Levit. Paperback,’256 pp.ISBN: 1564147657. Publisher: Career Press. Pub. Date: September 2004.
Reviewed by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
Let me start with some disclosure. There are three reasons why I was predisposed to giving a positive review to this book. First, the audience for this book — college students and recent grads inexperienced in job-hunting — is one of my favorite job-seeker groups. Second, the author’s background is in marketing and public relations, and I knew she would incorporate some of those skills in her book — just as I do in my writings. Third, the author and I have had numerous email conversations, and I found her style charming and her persistence pleasing.
On the flip side, I had some serious doubts about this whole quarterlife crisis concept — and that anyone in their 20s could really be facing a career crisis… however, if students are graduating unprepared for the “real world” and accepting jobs for the sake of having a job, then perhaps they do in fact have some serious career and job issues.
Given these disclosures, I have to say that this book is a solid roadmap for younger job-seekers who are just learning the ropes of working and need some guidance. The book is well organized, written with a breezy style, and packed with some great advice. I also love the many vignettes from younger job-seekers who have faced the many challenges Levit highlights in the book.
The 10 chapters in this book — which can easily be read in an afternoon — cover every aspect of concern to a younger job-seeker, from how to get a job to how to get your next job and resign with class. But it’s not so much a book about job-seeking as a book on personal and career management for folks in their 20s.
And from my experience teaching a wide variety of college students, while the book would be helpful to just about all of them, it is especially a must-read for students who do not graduate with a business degree. As Levit says so well, the corporate world is nothing like academia. “You come up against rules no one ever told us about.”
Let me take you through what I think are the strengths of each of the 10 chapters.
Chapter 1: Find Yourself. Find a Paycheck. Don’t apply to all jobs, and don’t just accept the first job offer you receive after college. Be discriminating. Have a focus. Levit does a wonderful job of giving readers advice on how to conduct a self-assessment and find occupations that match your skills and interests. As a fan of college career centers — and the professionals who run them — I was also pleased with her strong endorsement of them.
The rest of the chapter reads like a basic job-search 101 tutorial, but one piece of advice is golden. When interviewing, besides researching the company, try and research the person(s) who is interviewing you so that you have insight into the person and the company.
Chapter 2: Congratulations. You’re Hired. Become a student of the organization. During those first few weeks, learn as much as you can about the organization, the people, and the culture. Impression management is key.
Other good tidbits in this chapter deal with understanding and using the benefits provided by the employer, such as time off, healthcare programs, and financial benefits.
Chapter 3: Working the Crowd. This chapter is all about forming relationships on the job and dealing with issues such as office politics and socializing outside of work.
My favorite part of this chapter deals with the importance — especially for younger job-seekers — of recruiting a more senior employee to serve as a mentor. Levit includes some great tips on finding and enlisting a mentor.
Chapter 4: Be the Master of Your Plan. Deals with how to make the most of a first job, focusing on goal-setting and showcasing your accomplishments. “Your promotability depends not on what you do, but on who knows what you do.”
Chapter 5: The Purposeful Workday. This chapter discusses how to manage work rather than letting the work manage you. And there is great stuff in his chapter about the importance of good communications — both sending and receiving.
My favorite part of the chapter is her smart email communications tips. As someone who has been burned by people forwarding an email I thought was private, Levit’s comments were both on target — and a little too close to home for me.
Chapter 6: Check Your Attitude at the Door. Because Levit says that 20-year-olds make up the majority of disgruntled workers, she devotes an entire chapter to combating negativism and staying motivated. Some of the advice is a bit too New Age for me, but she offers solid suggestions on managing anger, worry, and stress.
Chapter 7: People Management. A chapter about the importance of getting along with coworkers. Includes sections on calming an angry co-worker and how to handle criticism with class.
Best quote: “You need other people to get ahead, and each interpersonal relationship you create has the potential to do more for your career than reading 100 books about your trade.”
Chapter 8: Moving Up in the World. All about the importance of scheduling and maximizing performance reviews — so you can get promoted. Levit suggests following some of the same strategies used in employment interviews for performance evaluations — focus on accomplishments and the value your work adds to the department, division, or corporation.
Chapter 9: You’re the Boss Now! A one-chapter tutorial on how to be a good manager, including setting clear expectations, letting go and delegating, and learning how to provide constructive criticism.
Best part of the chapter is Levit’s list of do’s and don’ts for managing effective meetings. How silly is it when a manager calls a pre-meeting to discuss the agenda for the real meeting?
Chapter 10: Exit Stage Left. Because the likelihood that any employee will stay employed with the same company for his or her entire career — like many did a generation (or two) ago, Levit offers tips for how to leave your current employer without burning any bridges.
Other sage advice Levit sprinkles throughout the book:
- Developing — and then maintaining — a corporate persona, a mature and professional image within the organization.
- Becoming your own public-relations machine — both when job-hunting and on the job — otherwise no one will know how valuable you are.
- Learning the real meaning behind corporate lingo.
- Tips for folks whose job involves lots of travel.
- Knowing the difference between real friends and work friends.
- List of conversation taboos.
- Problem-solving guidelines.
- Motivational arguments for battling procrastination.
- Understanding the value of public speaking to help better your communications skills.
- Dealing with corporate reorganizations and reshufflings.
Check out all our book reviews in Quintessential Reading: Career and Job Book Reviews.