Book Review: The 3 Simple Secrets of Success After the Diploma: Integrity, Persistence, and Discipline
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.
The 3 Simple Secrets of Success After the Diploma: Integrity, Persistence, and Discipline, by Janis Dietz, Ph.D., $12.95. Paperback. 95 pages. iUniverse, Inc. ISBN-10: 0595469264
Reviewed by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.
When I first learned of this book, I heard only the first part of the title, The 3 Simple Secrets of Success After the Diploma, and thought the book was probably a guide to getting a job after graduation. I discovered that the book is so much more — heartfelt advice on the aspects of a new grad’s character that result in career success. Janis Dietz, whom I had the pleasure of meeting during a visit to the University of La Verne, where she teaches, has written 20 pithy chapters based on her 24 years of sales, sales-management, and sales-training experience with Fortune 500 companies. As an outspoken proponent of storytelling, I loved the many stories Dietz incorporated into her book to richly illustrate her points. These wonderful tales come both from her own background and the experiences of well-known and less-well-known people in business.
Here are the top 10 things I learned from Dietz’s book:
1. Among the most memorable and valued experiences that students have in college and grad school are those spent working in groups and teams. Dietz’s PhD research 248 graduates from executive MBA programs bore this notion out. The ability to function effectively as a member of a team is highly valued by employers, so students should make the most of every opportunity in school to excel in teamwork. At the business school at which I most recently taught, small classes enabled the average business student to participate in at least 35 group projects during their four years in college. Graduates consistently cited this emphasis on group projects as preparation that set them apart from their peers after graduation. Dietz also cautions students about losing those valuable team experiences if they participate in online and distance learning. With the growing importance of virtual collaboration, however, schools that enable their students to participate in group projects despite being in different locations will be ahead of the curve.
2. Dietz’s exhortation to students to do more than they are paid to do might produce groans from some corners, but it will pay off in career advancement. Employers are not very interested in employees who fulfill the basic responsibilities in their job descriptions — and nothing more. They want workers who go above and beyond, who show initiative, and who can cite special accomplishments and achievements on the job.
3. The top deficiencies that employers cite about new graduates, according to Dietz’s research, are work ethic, flexibility, and expecting to always be able to leave at five. Dietz writes, “My conclusion is that young college graduates who give their best to their employers and show initiative have wonderful career opportunities, regardless of their college major.”
4. I could not agree more with Dietz’s assertion that “college teaches you to learn and to know where there is information,” especially in our information-rich era. College students should take advantage of every opportunity to learn how to learn and conduct research. It’s clear that these skills are invaluable in grad school, but students don’t always realize how crucial they are in the process of lifelong learning we call a career.
5. Look for a good culture and value fit with your employer. Dietz uses the example of one of her early employers, Johnson & Johnson, and the culture that is built around its Credo — the same Credo that inspired the firm to do the right thing during the Tylenol tampering scare in 1979. Companies like J&J safeguard their cultures, Dietz notes, by hiring people who fit. You’ll be happier with the job, and the employer will be happier with you if you can find that fit. (You may want to check out our article, Uncovering a Company’s Corporate Culture is a Critical Task for Job-Seekers and our Workplace Values Assessment.)
6. Dietz posits the interesting proposition that “no matter who signs your paycheck, you are self-employed.” She explains that “you are self-employed because you are responsible for what you earn and how long you earn it.” In other words, success is about taking personal responsibility. “Other people do not control your future,” Dietz writes. “You do.”
7. I’ve often said that whether or not you send a thank-you note after a job interview probably won’t make or break your selection as the successful candidate — but I’ve seen instances where a thank-you note does make a difference, and Dietz provides yet another example. She tells the story of competing with 19 men for a national sales job and being hired, she was told, because she sent a thank you.
8. Students should be grateful to their professors who had tough grading policies that simulated workplace realities. Dietz’s students have appreciated the accountability she has instilled in them with policies such as not accepting late assignments and expecting high writing standards. With my own students, I try to draw the same parallels between the classroom and the workplace. When they ask for an extension on turning in an assignment, I inquire whether they would ask their boss for an extension for an important report. When they question a lower grade because their assignment was filled with run-on sentences, I ask if they’d turn in a sloppy, poorly written proposal to their boss. Even when they ask me if I have a stapler to fasten the pages of their assignments together, I have to wonder if they would ask their boss for a stapler.
9. If you write down your goals, you’ll be more likely to accomplish them, Dietz asserts. She has even encouraged people to keep scrapbooks of their goals.
10. One of Dietz’s earliest chapters may be the most important; she encourages students to pursue careers they’re passionate about. She illustrates the chapter with stories of numerous folks who enjoyed great success by following their passions. The best example may be Dietz herself, whose exuberance for sales and marketing permeates every chapter of the book. Because I have seen too many students who felt the pressure of looming graduation and accepted jobs that were not right for them, I fully endorse Dietz’s emphasis on doing what you really love. (You may want to read our Career Passion Tutorial and article, Finding Your Career Passion.)
At 95 pages, Dietz’s book is a quick read made highly enjoyable through her many anecdotes and glimpses into her own experience. My only quibble comes not with the paperback version of the book, but with the e-book version. I didn’t realize until after I downloaded it that it needed a special kind of reader software — which I had no success in downloading/installing. But college students (and parents), whichever version you read, you will be giving yourself an exceptionally valuable graduation present.
Check out all our book reviews in Quintessential Reading: Career and Job Book Reviews.