So far I’ve found two career books to recommend: Working Identity (Herminia Ibarra) and Finding Your Own North Star (Martha Beck). Now I’m adding this one to the list. Beck focuses mostly on choosing what you want; Ibarra talks about the search process. Now I recommend The 10 Laws of Career Reinvention by Pamela Mitchell.
Mitchell doesn’t have a lot of soul-searching exercises, like “What should be on my tombstone.” She invites readers to heed their intuition. Like Martha Beck, she believes the body knows more than the mind: if you find yourself feeling ill when you contemplate a type of work, it’s time for a move.
Nor does she spend a lot of time on the trappings of a career search, such as resumes. If you need to writea resume, she invites you to download samples from her company’s website.
Some useful points:
Career reinvention takes chronological time. She points out that many career-changers think “six weeks” when they should be thinking “six months.” I would agree more with Ibarra in Working Identity, who says three years is not unusual.
Besides chronological time, you need time during your week. One of my own clients said she could talk to me on Sunday evenings at 6 PM Eastern. Her weekdays were completely taken. She was too busy to change careers; she needed to take an interim job that would free up her hours.
Functional fear versus dysfunctional fear. Functional fear is based on realistic situations that you have to deal with.
Real qualifications versus negotiable qualifications. To be a doctor, you need an MD. For other careers, you may be able to substitute experience for academics.
My only quibble is that Mitchell can be a little too firm on some points. The term “laws” in the title sets the tone. For instance, on page 27, Mitchell suggests that “Patty” who dislikes a marketing job will not find happiness by moving to Google, which is after all an onlne advertising company. Yet in fact the culture of a high-tech company will be so different that a job with the same title might be transformed. I’ve seen people change their whole attitude to a career when they switched companies or even moved to a new geographic location. It’s not always easy to pinpoint the source of discomfort.
Similarly, researchers find that serendipity plays a key role in both career change and career success. By staying active and following the steps Mitchell lays out, you are more likely to experience the kind of serendipity that propels you forward. But I’ve met few people who logically chose a career and then took a linear path to get a job in that field. Mitchell undoubtedly understands the zig-zag pattern of career change, but she doesn’t highlight it the way Herminia Ibarra does in Working Identity.
Still, this book is one of the best career books I’ve seen in a long time. I’m surprised it hasn’t gotten more publicity. The long, awkward name and bland cover might have something to do with it. The blurbs on the back cover don’t really convey excitement and the subtitle is a yawn that doesn’t even describe the book.