Book Review: Get Smart! About Modern Career Development
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.
Get Smart! About Modern Career Development, by Michelle L. Casto, $15.95, Paperback, 250 pages, Get Smart! Publishing; ISBN: 0967470455.
Reviewed by Katharine Hansen
I am always a little skeptical about any book with the word “modern” in the title. It’s almost as though using “modern” somehow makes the book seem the opposite of modern. And then I really cringe when I read a line like this author’s that goes, “We are now in a new century, the Age of Aquarius.” It’s kind of like your mom or grandfather trying to use the lingo of your generation to seem hip, but failing miserably because the seemingly hip jargon is already outdated. But Casto redeems herself by paraphrasing one of my favorite quotes: “Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try,” spoken by everyone’s favorite feisty, diminutive Jedi Master, Yoda.
My “modern” and “Age of Aquarius” complaints are small quibbles about a book that is quite worthwhile. Get Smart! About Modern Career Development addresses a topic that is sometimes neglected in the world of career books — coming up with and honing a long-term career plan that is in balance with the rest of one’s life. Indeed, the last page of Casto’s book notes that she wrote the volume “when she discovered that there was not much practical, proactive advice on how to integrate the various life dimensions.”
Casto, who describes the book as “an interactive LearningBook,” espouses using a journaling technique to facilitate personal career development, and she intersperses 24 journal assignments throughout the book. I was amused at her very first journal assignment, aimed at helping one enhance one’s intuitive nature. She suggests using intuition to choose the quickest grocery line. I consider myself a highly intuitive person, and numerous assessments have affirmed my intuition, but it will never be any help to me in choosing a grocery line because I’ve determined that I simply have the world’s worst line karma.
Casto’s first several chapters provide the tools for the career decision-making process that forms the framework of the book. In discussing the oft-cited fact that people usually have multiple careers — not just jobs — throughout their lifetimes, she offers an apt observation: “My own concept of career is like a wardrobe, where you ‘try on’ different outfits throughout your lifetime, and continue to check the mirror to see if it still fits and matches your current style and taste.” Casto then discusses trends in 21st century work. An article she wrote for Quintessential Careers, What Will 21st Century Career Success Look Like? provides a good taste of Casto’s 21st century work chapter. She devotes a chapter to entrepreneurship and one on “Career Killers,” such as the wrong attitude and negative work behaviors.
Casto goes off on a rather long tangent, a 53-page chapter, on self-marketing tools, such as resumes, cover letters, and interview skills. The information presented in this chapter is basically sound, but I would have liked the book better if Casto had kept her focus on career development and not veered off into the nitty-gritty of job-hunting. Job-seekers would likely be better served by specific books on the various aspects of self-marketing than by trying to learn everything about career development and job-search techniques all crammed into one 250-page book.
The real centerpieces of Casto’s book are the last chapters in which she discusses the stages of career development (assessment, investigation, preparation, commitment, retention, and transition). She also includes a chapter on lifelong learning (another neglected area that Casto give well-deserved attention to), resources for entrepreneurs, and a small selection of Web resources.
Like many books directed at a reading public with an increasingly short attention span, Casto’s book includes lots of lists, tips, case studies, and quizzes. Among these little reader-friendly features that I found especially useful: a checklist that enables the reader (or a friend) to rate his or her resume and the worksheet in the back of the book that helps the reader document his or her life’s work.
One list, Top Ten Mistakes Job Seekers Make, hit a nerve with its pronouncement that paying a resume service to write a resume for you is a mistake. As a resume writer, I don’t disagree with Casto’s premise that you’ll never learn to write a resume yourself if you hire someone to do it, but I’m convinced there’s nothing wrong with trying your hand at your resume and then enlisting a resume writer to ensure the document is the best it can be.
The many job-seekers out there who are confused and adrift about where they’re going in their careers, those unhappy in their current careers, and those who feel the need to devise a long-term plan will find much of value in Get Smart! About Modern Career Development.
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