My Summer Mission

We all need a little help and now I’m asking for yours. My goal for a while has been to complete a book on holistic career management. I feel strongly about the subject and do a lot of coaching. This blog is in part an effort to get more disciplined about getting ideas out of my head and into print.

Well, I’ve been blogging for awhile now and that’s been great. But it’s also given me an excuse to put off working on the actual book. I can always tell my self, “well you may not have an outline yet, or have started pulling anything together, but heck – you’ve written >70,000 words on the blog”. (I have by the way).

Now is the summer to get serious and I’m going to be asking for some help along the way as I need some crowd-sourced inspiration and wisdom. The goal is to get to a “working first draft” by September 6th (when school starts).

I’ll be posting occasional updates on my progress – probably with some material for feedback. I’ll need both support and friendly abuse based on my progress (or lack of).

Thanks for your support and encouragement!

Request 1 – Tell me what you are looking for in a book about career. What haven’t you gotten from existing materials and sources?

4 thoughts on “My Summer Mission

  1. Hi Phil,

    How exciting to see you embark on this project. A few thoughts:

    – A collection of stories or standalone chapters seems best. I think it would be harder to draw busy professionals to a full blown book.

    – Personal examples are always memorable and compelling. Without breaching confidentiality, the more specific, the better.

    – Where my own career planning falls apart is in the execution.I think I have a solid grasp of concepts, vision, direction. This is partly due to your wisdom throughout the years, but I also think there are existing resources. There are plenty of guides that explore careers or industries and plenty of strength finder type of exercises that match personality with careers. I think you have to figure out what you love on your own, but we could all use a bit of help in how to get from point A to B. Maybe it’s my inexperience at this stage, but I’m interested in how to react to difficult situations, negotiate for what I want, deal with politics, etc.

    Just my two cents. I whole heartedly support you on this endeavor and look forward to reading it!

    Mary

    • Mary – Thanks for the thoughtful input. I completely agree on the “execution” aspect of your feedback. Where the rubber meets the road is where I see many professionals fall apart. To your point, “I did strengths finder…so what?” It only matters if you can do something with it.

      My goal is to hit on assessments etc. only to point you to them. The book is intended to be an overarching guide that can remain useful throughout your career. I’d like each chapter to “stand-alone” as you put it, but for each one to be useful. I’d love it if people dog-eared sections and came back over time.

      Thanks again!

  2. If the Business Book Genie would grant me one wish, I would ask that business books take less of a how-to approach and focus more on artful storytelling. Many business books can be (and often are) summarized into one or two HBR articles. While these books certainly have their place, I read book-length prose because there can be extraordinary value hidden in how the author unfolds a story, paces the reader, and makes connections throughout the entire work that simply cannot be captured in a distilled version of the original.

    From a content organization perspective, I have always wanted to see something like a “Letters to a Young…” for business professionals; the format allows content to dictate form. This narrative structure is a different and interesting way to trace the arc of a career through stories. It also enables the reader to clearly see how the nature and focus of a young professional’s questions change as his or her career progresses. Positioning the reader as looking in on a student-mentor relationship from afar creates a degree of separation that makes lessons less preachy and more about indirect teaching through examples. Two exceptional examples of this format are Ian Stewart’s “Letters to a Young Mathematician” and Richard Selzer’s “Letters to a Young Doctor.”

    I really like books that deconstruct commonplace experiences and complicate my understanding of them. Much of our day is spent on getting through routines, and so it is easy just to get caught up in the “everydayness” of our existence. Sometimes it seems as if there is an inverse relationship between the frequency of the event and the time we dedicate to thinking about it. Why does a near-death experience prompt a complete reassessment of one’s values but everyday bad habits do not? The underlying reality of everyday situations can be extremely complex, but it can be difficult to take the time to trace out their patterns and ascribe broader meaning to these experiences. I am reminded of a discussion you and I had regarding the danger of not having one’s antenna up so one can pick up on clues during times of organizational change. Paco Underhill (“Why We Buy”) and Atul Gawande (“Complications”) do an excellent job of deconstructing everyday events and practices, finding common threads in their “stand-alone” stories, and drawing out these connections to weave an entire narrative.

    Looking forward to updates on your progress via the blog…happy writing!

    • Christina – I really struggle with the form more than the content (I think). I know my opinion about most of the parts of what I envision writing. What I don’t know is how to convey it usefully to others. Thanks for your insight and ideas.

      I like the “letters to a…” construct. I don’t know if I’ll use it for this version, but it’s a great idea to play with. I am particularly looking for narrative coherence…and am struggling with it.

      Thanks for the encouragement!

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