In the last year or so, at least weekly, I've gotten an email or met with someone who's trying to find a job. It's usually a student or former student, a person referred by someone else, sometimes even people who hear about work I've done and just stop by, hoping I have the miracle answer.
But, being a professor, I do have books. Here are three with advice for anyone looking for work, a career or even a good life.
Two books get right to figuring out what you might want to do and how to get it.
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One book is by Daniel Pink, the guy who wrote "A Whole New Mind." Pink's "Johnny Bunko" (Riverhead Books, 2008) follows Mr. Bunko's initially hapless search for a career and happiness. Almost like Cinderella and the Fairy Godfather (go watch the Italian opera, it's a godfather, not godmother), Johnny receives nightly visits from an odd career adviser who offers six tips. They make sense for a young person starting out, and even for the rest of us:
1. There is no plan. Be open and take advantage of serendipity.
2. Think strengths, not weaknesses. What can you do to stand out?
3. It's not about you. Do something that's bigger than you.
4. Persistence trumps talent. Never give up.
5. Make excellent mistakes. Learn from them and don't make them again.
6. Leave an imprint. If you follow No. 3, you'll achieve No. 6.
A new book by Boise's own Hal Eastman gets even more specific. "Get Hired! Grow. Lead. Live" (out this month from Peregrine Images in Boise) covers four career stages: getting a job, getting promoted, moving into management and becoming a leader.
Eastman knows what he's talking about. He was in business for nearly 30 years, working at Ford and Boeing, McCaw Communications and Boise Cascade. He learned in each place, so his examples ring true.
In the section on getting a job, for example, he covers how to design your ideal job, target an industry and companies, make contacts, differentiate yourself, handle an interview and persist. If all that fails, Eastman tells you how to think about starting your own company.
Once you get in an employer's door, Eastman shows how to climb the ladder, become a leader, and finally how to have a good life.
And speaking of having a good life, here's one more book. Over the holidays, I read this one and am now giving it away: Clayton M. Christensen's "How Will You Measure Your Life?" (Harper Collins, 2012).
Christensen is a long-admired Harvard Business School professor who, on the last day of his MBA class on strategy, answers that question. The book applies to life the theories he and his students study during a semester. He considers what motivates us, how to balance serendipity and calculation in finding and pursuing a career, and how to find happiness in work and in life. His advice works for any age.
So, check these out. They are motivators and could help you change your approach to work.