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Saturday, January 16th, 2010

Time Event
12:31a
O.K. ...
For somebody who, until just recently, never read any "business" books, I find myself in an odd situation of being on the receiving end of numerous offers to get review copies of various job search and career management titles, due, no doubt, to my recent penning of The Job Stalker blog on the Chicago Tribune's "Chicago Now" blogging site, and my more recent inclusion of book reviews and author interviews there. The current book, Jason Seiden's How to Self-Destruct: Making the Least of What's Left of Your Career came to me through an unusually convoluted route, not being something that I bought, or got from Library Thing's "Early Reviewer" program, or even had come from the author (@seiden on Twitter), but came from another Twitter user, Melissa Cooley of The Job Quest blog (@TheJobQuest) who had obtained a number of his books and was doing a give-away of them on her blog.

Needless to say, How to Self-Destruct is not your average career-management book. Nominally targeted to those who would want to have the least amount of career success, it speaks to the voice of counter-intention within us all, and (one supposes) uses this in a "reverse psychology" subterfuge to shake up the reader on a rather reflexive level. The book has 14 main chapters broken into four general sections: Taking Down Your Career, Kicking Your Career When It's Down, Laying Waste to Your Personal Environment, and Mastering the Self-Destruction Process. Each chapter is in two parts, the main part, and pages with a red tint called "Surefire Masochistic Alternatives" for whatever style of "success seeker" is the flip side of the main chapter's focus (i.e., "for Rookie Success Seekers" in the "Falling Down On You First Job" chapter).

Frankly, I felt the book worked best in the first half, as the chapters pretty much follow along a typical career path there, and the back-and-forth between "nightmare advice" and the far more hard-nosed suggestions in the "masochistic alternatives" are in very clear parallel ... almost like a career-guide version of the old Goofus & Gallant morality plays in Highlights for Children. The second half of the book is more general "lifestyle", uh, advice, and gets a bit hazier in its good/bad mirroring, and thereby feels less effective than the parts which are essentially showing Goofus doing the wrong things for a successful career, then showing hard-working, considerate Gallant doing all the right things. Also, both sides of the "lifestyle" equation come across as a bit "naggy", lacking the "case by case" presentation of the work scenarios, and having a very "judgmental" feel (oddly in both the approaches) which serves to just make the reading uncomfortable, as opposed to ironic or instructive.

While, obviously, the book should be asked to stand or fall on its own merits, it is helped by a wander through Seiden's web site which repeatedly asks the reader to "dare to fail spectacularly". Within the context of Seiden's other material, the "fade away" of How to Self-Destruct is less dramatic, as the book sort of blends towards other things that Seiden "is on about", but it would certainly be a far stronger work had it maintained the mirroring of the early chapters. His site is, however, a rather rich source of similar material, so if the book speaks to you (my wife snagged this while I was reading it and was a good deal more enthusiastic about it than I have been), there's a lot more to dig into there.

This is currently in print, so you should be able to get it at your local brick-and-mortar book vendor, but Amazon has it at a discount, and if you combine it with some other stuff to get up to the free-shipping promised land, you'll do better than even going with the used guys. Again, this is a "whole different approach" to a career book, and it could certainly be seen to be pushing past the bounds of "ironic" into the realm of "sarcastic", but if you're in the mood for something along those lines (some time spent on Seiden's site should give you a "feel" for this), do go get yourself a copy.


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