Book Review: The Bigs: The Secrets Nobody Tells Students and Young Professionals About How to Choose a Career, Find a Great Job, Do a Great Job, Be a Leader, Start a Business, Manage Your Money, Stay Out of Trouble, and Live a Happy Life
From time-to-time, as we receive career-related and job-hunting books 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 Bigs: The Secrets Nobody Tells Students and Young Professionals About How to Choose a Career, Find a Great Job, Do a Great Job, Be a Leader, Start a Business, Manage Your Money, Stay Out of Trouble, and Live a Happy Life, by Ben Carpenter. $25.00. 288 pages. Publisher: Wiley. Pub. Date: April 2014.
Reviewed by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
The Bigs uses a sports analogy to help job-seekers realize what it takes to succeed in job-hunting — to get promoted from the minor league (new college grads, career-changers) to the major league.
To use that same analogy, rather than a home-run, this book is more like a single up the middle.
Readers will find some great nuggets of advice from the author’s many years of experience working on Wall Street, but the first half of the book reads more like a memoir and the second half offers a mix of good and misguided advice.
The author does lend an aura of authority as he was an executive and hiring manager for many years, but he is not a career expert, and that difference shows in some of the advice he offers readers.
To help you decide whether this book is right for you, I’ve developed a list of pros and cons… hits and errors.
- The book was inspired by advice he wanted to provide his daughter, so there is a warmth and fatherly tone to the guidance he offers readers.
- Tells the story of his career successes — along with mistakes he made along the way — providing insights into how and why things work in business.
- Stresses the importance of connecting with your college’s career services office… the earlier, the better.
- Makes a case for the power of internships for today’s students — in gaining experience, in better understanding a career field, and for building network contacts. The internship discussion is the best section of the book.
- Pinpoints — and explains — the value, importance, and use of networking to help you uncover job leads and provide insights for job interviews. Shows you how to find people to add to your network.
- Champions the use of informational interviews to help you learn more about career fields, gather insider information, and build your network of contacts.
- Includes information and advice on unexpected topics, including how to be a leader, how to be a good worker, and how to manage your finances.
- Emphasizes that your job-search will typically be a long and challenging one that requires much effort on your part.
- Stresses the importance of conducting research on the employer prior to job interviews — and then demonstrating that knowledge in the interview.
- Showcases the value — and provides samples — of networking and thank-you emails.
- Discusses the importance of anticipating interview questions and preparing vignettes that sell yourself to the hiring manager.
- While I know it’s a marketing hook, the tips shared in this book are NOT secrets. Many career experts, career Websites and blogs, as well as college career center professionals KNOW and share all these so-called secrets to any student willing to listen and learn.
- Way too many stories — long stories — about his career. While interesting — and some lessons within — simply just too self-serving and can’t imagine anyone reading them all.
- Doesn’t cater to the reading style of today’s college students.
- Tries to be an all-encompassing college student career book, job-search guide, and workplace success manual… which is simply too large a goal for one book. Just one look at the sub-title explains everything.
- Because of his Wall Street career, his advice is a bit narrow.
- Downplays importance of conducting research and self-assessments in helping you uncover ideal career path, suggesting that many graduating students will only learn through trial and error.
- Downplays the importance of following your passions toward a career choice, but does stress that you need to be passionate about whatever career you do choose.
- Blurs the line a bit too much between job interviews and informational interviews — which are quite different.
- Suggests a too aggressive style of asking for a job and/or an interview with human resources when in an informational interview — which are designed to help you learn about careers and expand your network of contacts.
- Fails to suggest the value of mock interviewing prior to looking for your first job.
- Misses the chance to advise job-seekers to be more proactive in their post-interview thank-you emails by not suggesting you follow-up with the hiring manager.
- Seems to ignore the importance of showcasing your accomplishments in job interviews, focusing instead on only addressing your strengths.
- While discussing importance of having a network contact shepherd your resume when applying for a job, totally ignores the bigger issue of applicant tracking systems.
Final Thoughts on The Bigs
While this book could have used some serious editing and restyling to today’s readers, I do applaud Ben Carpenter’s efforts — not just in deciding to share his advice with his own children, but with all college students and recent college grads. If you stick with it and skim through the war stories, you will find valuable pieces of advice to help your job-search succed.
If the tips Carpenter provides are secrets to you, however, than you have not been paying enough attention.
Check out all our book reviews in Quintessential Reading: Career and Job Book Reviews.