Find Your Inner Ugly Betty is a new book by Tanner Stransky, a young man who appears to have held a job like the one held by television’s Ugly Betty.
Clever title, but the book really should be called, “25 Simple Tactics for Entry Level Somethings.” Author Stransky does draw analogies to episodes from Ugly Betty, Mary Richards, and a few other shows. But the lessons come from the Stransky’s own experience.
As a career consultant, my experience has focused on mid-life professionals. So when I read about an entry level challenge, I look ahead to ask, “How will this situation impact their future?”
Some of Stransky’s advice will be important at any career stage. I like
- his warnings about socializing and getting too personal
- his advice on keeping a game face
- his emphasis on acting confident and “fake it till you make it”
When your boss asks you to do something, says Stransky, you don’t say, “I don’t know.” You figure it out.
In general, that’s a good idea. But I suspect some bosses would rather you asked for direction so you wouldn’t waste a lot of time.
And that’ s the main quibble I have with this book. Stransky delivers absolutes in situations that should be defined as “it depends.” For instance, let’s say you’re asked to make 500 copies. Stransky says you’re paying dues. I’d say investigate the culture. Do others at your level also pay dues? Do they get rewarded?
I’d be careful about asking for extra challenges or taking initiative. In some cultures, these efforts will backfire. In my own days as a certified corporate maverick, I was always hearing, “Maybe we don’t need a strong achiever around here.” Only my self-appointed guide would substitute various pejoratives for “strong achiever.”
I encourage my own clients to keep asking themselves, “Is this job making me more marketable?” In Devil Wears Prada (the book, not the movie) the heroine never makes progress with the magazine. But simply by serving time at this publication, she became a hot property on the job market.
The same principle holds in Double Billing: A Young Lawyer’s Tale of Greed, Sex, Lies, and the Pursuit of a Swivel Chair. A young lawyer discovers that his track record at a top law firm will become his admission ticket to a corporate job. Without slaving away at some dreary tasks, he wouldn’t be considered for this opportunity.
Generally, Stransky faces a common challenge among career writers. It’s hard to simplify a complex situation into a sound bite. And readers today (especially, I suspect, the generation he targets) want the quick fix. Still, if you’ve got a niece or nephew graduating from college and heading for a first job, you could send them this book as a good luck gift.