Tuesday, March 18, 2008

How to pick a career book

Because I work in a library with a specialized collection--career advising and counselling, a subsection of business and organizational management--I can tell you a little bit about the career books genre. There are four different types of book in this genre: profiles, samples, advice/coaching and instruction.
  • Profiles: are books that describe a potential career and give a day-in-the-life snapshot, as well as a "how do I get this job" map. Profiles are the most useful if you don't know what a person in specific career path does, such as you want to be a proof reader, but is that as cool as a copy writer? Profile series include books from McGraw Hill, such as the Careers for or the Opportunities in series. The best examples of occupational profile books are in the series Career Opportunities in from Facts on File. You can also look at occupational profiles from NOC (Canada) or ONET (US) , but these are far more general than the industry or sector information found in the print resources. JIST makes a good series on Top Careers based on the data from BLS.
  • Samples: are just that, lists or samples of types of information. Most often you are looking for resume samples, or lists of interview questions, just so you can have some minimal guidance. Samples are most useful if you just need a clue. Many sample books, such as Best Canadian Resumes, will also include some instruction as well as the samples.
  • Advice and coaching: You're a comeback mom who wants to return to work, or you want to be self employed and need some intrepid, peppy heroism, or you are a new grad who keeps falling asleep at your desk at 3 o'clock like an overclocked kindergartener since your employer cruelly makes you stay awake until 5pm. You need an advice or coaching book. Advice and coaching books include information on career management within a holistic, life context. What Color is Your Parachute is an advice or coaching book, and Brazen Careerist is an advice/coaching blog.
  • Instruction: can't network, your public speaking technique is sweating silence or you need to interview like a top MBA? You are looking for an instruction book, a coupling of advice and samples that avoids telling you what to do with your eggs.
If you're a librarian recommending a career book, it isn't enough that career is in the title. Ask: do they need advice or do they need a sample? Some career books have agendas, religious or political, that your reader may not have on his agenda. The popular books are also usually written by middle class white people who know a lot about middle class, college educated whiteness and not a lot about the culture of the person who you are recommending the book to. Some of these writers love being your Aunty Agony (read about the egg thing if you don't believe me). So suggest with caution and ask yourself what you need before you buy: instruction, direction or advice?

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