Book Review: Reviews of Two Job-Search Basics 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.
Here, we offer reviews of two books on job-search basics.
Kick Off Your Career, by Kate Wendleton, $13.99, Paperback, 227 pages, Career Press; ISBN: 156414643X.
Your Job Search Partner: A 10 Day, Step-by-Step, Opportunity Producing Job Search Guide, by Cheryl A. Cage, $16.95, Paperback, 140 pages, Cage Consulting, Inc.; ISBN: 0971426600.
These two books are both good primers for the inexperienced job-seeker. We’re always a little wary about books that try to cover the entire gamut of job-seeking; sometimes it’s better to study each job-seeking topic in depth, obtaining individual books on resumes, cover letters, interviewing, salary negotiation, and all the other aspects of the job-search. But for the beginning job-seeker, or someone who has been away from the job market for awhile, these books provide useful guidelines for getting your feet wet.
One of the best ways to find a great job is the targeted job search, and Kate Wendleton, founder of the Five O’Clock Club, touted as “America’s Premier Career Coaching Network,” has proven the effectiveness of the targeted method with countless Five O’Clock Club members over the years.
The targeted job search employs elements of four techniques for getting interviews — using search firms, responding to online and print want ads, networking, and contacting companies directly. The Five O’Clock Club espouses that the job-seeker must target at least 200 positions that are appropriate for him or her for the search to bear fruit in a reasonable time period. Wendleton notes that you’ve selected a target if “you can clearly state the industry or organization size in which you’d be interested, your position within each industry, and some guidelines regarding geographic location.” A major theme of Kick Off Your Career is how to identify those 200 positions to target, and Part III of the book details the nitty-gritty of how to develop job targets. The section includes solid information on the lost art of cold-contacting employers directly for jobs, which can be a surprisingly effective technique.
One of the centerpieces of Wendleton’s book and the Five O’Clock Club program is the Seven Stories Exercise, a way of analyzing accomplishments. It’s an excellent tool for identifying accomplishments that can steer your career, build your resume, and enhance your job interviews. While the exercise was once available on the Five O’Clock Club’s Web site, it no longer seems to be. The book provides another Five O’Clock centerpiece, the Forty-Year Vision, which you can read more about at the organization’s Web site.
Wendleton offers some good advice on resumes and interviewing techniques, as well as some nice cover-letter samples, though more comprehensive books on the topics are, of course, available. On the other hand, her section on researching companies is quite thorough.
Wendleton’s wise interviewing advice includes the idea of preparing a 3 x 5 card for each company with which you interview so you can review the information turned up in your company research. She also lists questions the job-seeker can ask to help size up the competition and find out more about the organization’s planned hiring process (“When do you think you’ll make an offer to someone?”).
The two-column layout of Kick Off Your Career is highly reader-friendly given that the human eye has difficulty reading lines of type that run all the way across a page. The volume is packed with appropriate inspirational quotations, as well as sidebars, case studies, samples, and worksheets. The book’s design is a real high point.
Cage uses one bit of terminology that makes me shudder the way fingernails on a chalkboard do. She refers to resumes and cover letters as “paperwork.” Resumes and cover letters should be thought of as career marketing correspondence. Any job-seeker who thinks of them as mere paperwork will surely not give these documents the care they need to get the job done. And her discussion of resumes is shockingly lacking in information on the importance of electronic resumes in today’s job search.
Cage’s checklists, worksheets, and sample letters are the strongest parts of her book.
The writing in Your Job Search Partner is by no means bad, and it’s made especially accessible with personal examples from Cage’s own experience. But, as in the case of many self-published books, the volume would have benefited from a little more editing to sharpen the writing and eliminate some small errors.
I always like to note aspects of job-hunting books that aren’t run-of-the-mill, and each of these books has a good chapter on the emotional aspects of job-hunting. Wendleton’s is entitled, “When You’ve Lost the Spirit to Job-Hunt,” while Cage’s is “Your Attitude.” Both are especially appropriate to gloomy job-seeking times. Wendleton offers a nifty chapter on targeting the jobs of the future — doing the research that enables the reader to see and even speculate on what career fields will expand in the years ahead. She offers an overview of numerous industries and characterizes the quality and quantity of future opportunities in each. She even includes a section on the impact of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Another great section tells how to turn an internship into a job offer. One chapter helps the job-seeker evaluate the effectiveness of his or her job-search campaign, while others tell how to handle rejection letters, how to follow up when there is no immediate job, and how to handle problematic interview questions (“Why didn’t you finish college?”). Cage provides excellent sample Daily Plans of Action for job-hunting for both employed and unemployed job-seekers. She also explains in her interviewing chapter the rationale for why interviewers ask some of the questions they do.
The career-changer section of Kick Off Your Career contains a gem of a small list entitled, “How You As a Career Changer Can Prove Your Interest and Capability,” along with four detailed career makeovers of people who succeeded in changing their careers.
Which brings me to an aspect of Wendleton’s book that I find to be a little questionable, though I can’t decide whether the approach is brilliant or ill-conceived. It’s unclear what audience she is really targeting with this book. Ironically for someone who so strongly supports a targeted job search, Wendleton seems to want to target several audiences, as she makes clear in her table of contents. Part One tells the reader to “Start here if you are just beginning your job hunt.” Part Two, which helps readers decide what kind of career they want, directs those who are already in a field they love to skip to Part Four. So, if you’re not a beginner and are very sure of your career direction, the first 77 pages of the book, it turns out, are a wasted investment. Why not just write one book for beginners and one for career-changers? The resume, interviewing, salary negotiation, and other examples in the rest of the book encompass both entry-level/new-grad job-seekers and career-changers, but either of these audiences might be better able to relate to examples focusing solely on their specific situations.
On the other hand, Cage’s book is clearly targeted at inexperienced job-seekers but doesn’t seem to be slanted at new grads at all. Despite the mixed messages, new grads would be better off with Wendleton’s book. And if you’re an inexperienced job-seeker of any persuasion and can choose only one of these books, I’d recommend Wendleton’s because it is a better value, packing much more material than Cage’s book does into more pages for a lower price than Cage’s.
Check out all our book reviews in Quintessential Reading: Career and Job Book Reviews.
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