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Sunday, June 6th, 2010

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12:36a
A beginner's manual for the business world ...
A month or so back, I was surprised to receive a package containing review copies of couple of “job search” book from Ten Speed Press (oooh, call the FTC ... they're sending him free books!). I was somewhat surprised by this, as I'd previously either been queried as to my interest in reviewing new titles, or had to reach out to the publishers myself on books I thought would be good to cover in my The Job Stalker blog over on the Chicago Tribune's “Chicago Now” blogging site. As I noted last week, these ended up being a pleasant surprise (having much more in them of value to me than I had anticipated at first glance), and were certainly on-target for the blog.

Needless to say, the odds of my “free range” picking up Effective Immediately: How to Fit In, Stand Out, and Move Up at Your First Real Job by Emily Bennington and Skip Lineberg would have been rather low, given this being sub-titularly targeted for those going into their “first REAL JOB”. I had even joked to the PR rep at the publisher who'd sent these that it was going to feel funny reading this on the El and buses (where I get most of my reading done), with having folks checking out the cover, and then wondering what a grey-beard like me was doing reading that! So, I was very pleased to find what an informative and witty read this ended up being. One of the “best things” about this is that it is broken up into about 100 quarter-page to 9-page “chapters” (along with assorted “newbie to newbie” features where now-successful professionals warn the reader about career mis-steps they'd made in their younger years), spread out across five “Parts” which take the reader from the first day in a “real job” on through becoming a leader and a mentor. This format ensures that the authors never stay “too long” on a point, while going long when necessary (there are several sections here which are brilliant condensations of what's involved in writing articles, creating work plans, making budgets, conducting project management, etc.).

This brings me to my main take-away from the book: while I'm sure this would be super for the newly-hired kid fresh out of school, it is also extremely useful for anybody out there who's a “school of hard knocks” professional, who, while broadly educated (like yours truly), never took a “business class” in their life, yet had spent a whole career doing many of these basic business functions “by the seat of their pants”. In the middle section where many of these were covered, I found myself thinking “Gee, wish I'd had this when I started my publishing company!” … although I realize that it's a wholly different “franchise”, but this book reads more like a “Basic Business for Dummies” than a book exclusively for new workers.

Again, the staccato-fire format here is handy as it allows for a lot variation in the material, a section about what to wear to work (and why) can be quickly followed with “coaching” about how one's arrival in the office mix is likely to be largely ignored (except for being subjected to “brain dumps” of details), a list of key business books (to both be read and left out where they can be noticed at your desk) to obtain, organizations one should join, etc. Not to get into cross-generational “attention” sniping, this certainly allows the authors to “build up a picture” of what the new hire can expect without going into 50-page dissertations on “what you can expect on your first day at work”. Also valuable are the little “psychological” points dropped in here which help defuse the stress one might expect to feel around assorted meetings, etc., and look at what your boss and other associates want out of various exchanges, and how best address those factors rather than simply the surface-level structures.

Needless to say, I found Bennington & Lineberg's Effective Immediately a remarkably refreshing and (for somebody with 30 years of business experience) useful read. I really hope this finds a wider audience than just the starting worker (although this would make a very nice graduation gift!), as the material it presents is likely to be beneficial to everybody other than know-it-all MBAs (who you can't tell anything to anyway). Being a brand new release, this is no doubt available via your local bookstore, although Amazon has it for about 1/3rd off the already very reasonable cover price, making that option even cheaper than the used vendors, with shipping. Again, while this is very much an ideal book for its targeted audience, many others out there will find it both an entertaining and helpful read.


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