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Career Books Reviewed18 May 2011 09:58 pm

Diana Gialo, Angela Holodick, Julia Nollen,

diana-gialo.jpgang.JPGnollen.jpg and hayman.jpgEvelyn Hayman are CareerDiva’s book reviewers. They’ll be reviewing the endless pile of books I receive to help you all decide if it’s one you should be reading or not.

If you have a book you want us to review please email me at CareerDiva@verizon.net.



high-octane.jpgHigh Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout By Dr. Sherrie Bourg Carter

By Evelyn Hayman

Today’s woman has forces pulling her in all directions – family, work, relationships, and more. For those super-achieving women who accept nothing less than perfect from themselves, this leads to an extraordinary amount of stress. These women want to go above and beyond in all aspects of their lives. Unfortunately, as Dr. Sherrie Bourg Carter explains, for many women this super-achieving nature leads to burnout. This occurs when a super-achieving woman becomes so mentally and physically exhausted from stress that she no longer finds happiness and fulfillment in the work she used to love. Dr. Carter defines burnout as having three aspects: “physical and emotional exhaustion, feelings of cynicism and detachment, and a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.”

The purpose of Dr. Carter’s book is to help women identify the stressors in their lives and make an effort to prevent a devastating burnout. Dr. Carter’s book serves as a checklist for women to look at their stress level and see how close they are to burnout. She discusses the physical signs of stress including fatigue and headaches, the behavioral signs including isolating and poor concentration, and the physiological signs including depression and anxiety.

As far as solutions for women who are already burned out, Dr. Carter offers three categories: basic maintenance, regular unleaded, and high-octane. Basic maintenance includes eating, sleeping, and drinking; three things essential to life that are often first to be put aside when there is a deadline. High-octane de-stressors are such activities as extreme sports and extreme vacations.

Dr. Carter maintains a helpful metaphor throughout her book, equating the modern-day super-achieving woman with a high performance car on the road. Women face many bumps, curves, and debris on the road to success. Dr. Carter spends the first third of her book describing the different stressors in a super-achiever’s life: workplace, societal, technological, and individual. An example of a stressor in each of these areas is reduced resources, the motherhood vs. career dilemma, constant connectivity, and over-commitment, respectively.

A workplace stressor that Dr. Carter spends a lot of time discussing is the double bind. A double bind is essentially being stuck between a rock and a hard place; no matter which way she decides to go there will be a roadblock. A double bind in the workplace relates to communication. Society expects women to be polite and passive in their communication, but this makes them seem like poor leaders. On the other hand, if they communicate how society expects a male to communicate, strong and assertive, then they will be viewed as mean and unlikable. So for women, the choice is to be a good leader and unlikable, or a poor leader and polite. This is just one of the many, many stressors women face every day in the workplace.

The double bind overlaps into other areas as well. A woman faces the choice between being career- or family-oriented, being always connected to her phone or spending time with her family, and never saying no when someone needs help or having free time. When all these opposing forces become too much, burnout is inevitable.

Dr. Carter ends her book with suggestions for businesses to help prevent burnout in their workers. If businesses as well as individuals made changes, it would lead to all-around increased productivity and a much more enjoyable working environment. She recommends flexible work schedules as a good option to decrease worker stress.

As a super-achieving woman about to enter the workforce, I found “High Octane Women” to be very useful. Now that I know what roadblocks I might face, and also how to overcome them, I can plan for an easy drive down the road to career (and life) success.


good-boss.jpgGood Boss, Bad Boss By Robert I. Sutton

By Neil Cornish

It’s been said that a fine line separates clever and stupid. The line between good bosses and their evil twin is far more complex, as spelled out in Robert I. Sutton‚ “Good Boss, Bad Boss.”

Sutton, author of “The No Asshole Rule,” describes scenarios that will be familiar to anyone in the workplace, be it the corporate area, academia or even sports. Sutton keeps the anecdotes lively while using them to support his rules for becoming the boss of your dreams. To his credit, he advises readers that there are no quick fixes — in fact, the biggest challenge to being an effective leader is the ability to recognize one’s own faults and, doing so, accepting that the struggle requires ongoing vigilance.

“Good Boss, Bad Boss” is helpful regardless of the readers’ station, be they fledging managers or high-ranking executives. Sutton extolls the benefits of listening to others in the workplace while also showing compassion. Lest hard-charging, type-A’s feel the book is too touchy feely, Sutton backs up his points with research data showing how bad bosses hurt the bottom line. Moreover, some chapters end with explicit action points to be put into practice, ranging from tips on squelching your inner jerk to tricks for taking charge.

Sutton avoids coming off as pedantic by keeping the tone light (the “No Asshole” author reprises the word often, which might be a turnoff for some). “Good Boss” is a quick read, and could well become a reference tool for managers to use time and time again. And that is the central point Sutton seeks to make: Becoming a good boss is hard work, it’s occasionally messy and sometimes requires trial and error. But if you want to be the best boss you can be, you must be willing to make the sacrifice while constantly looking in the mirror and challenging your perceptions of your work and actions and how you’re perceived by staff, peers and supervisors alike. Because in the end, the faults that can make anyone of us a bad boss lie not in the stars, but in ourselves.



happy.jpgThe Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work , by Shawn Achor

By Julia Nollen

To author Shawn Achor, happiness is the precursor to success, not just the result of it. His newest book, The Happiness Advantage, shows us how to gain a competitive edge in the workplace by training our brains to be more positive.

The Happiness Advantage introduces seven key principles proven to increase a person’s positivity and productivity, including:

• The Tetris Effect: When we get stuck in a pattern that focuses on stress and negativity, we set ourselves up to fail. Re-train your brain to seek out positivity and opportunity by writing down 3 things you are grateful for, for 21 days.

• Social Investment: When stressors seem to pile up, our brains’ focus can become overwhelmed with emotion. Channel your energy into your social support network by writing a short email to a friend or family member. Your productivity will increase by 31%.

• The 20-Second Rule: When human willpower fades, we often revert back to bad habits. Pack a healthy lunch the night before. Put your report on your desk, and your brain will do the rest.

Grounded in the largest positive psychology study at Harvard and decades of work with Fortune 500 companies, Achor bookends each strategy with empirical evidence and examples. And most importantly, his advice is written in a non-Pollyanna manner that left-brained skeptics can get on board with.

One of the more memorable (and unsettling) studies in this book reveals how dramatically one’s mindset can affect actual circumstances. During a study in Japan, researchers blindfolded and told a group of students that they were going to rub poison ivy on each of the kids’ right arms. As a result, all 13 students showed symptoms of poison ivy.

This isn’t surprising–until you find out that the plant rubbed against the students’ skin wasn’t poison ivy at all. It was a harmless shrub.

Additionally, the researchers rubbed actual poison ivy on the left arm of every student and only 2 of the 13 students showed symptoms. What this example demonstrates is that our mindsets can actually change our physical wellbeing.

Another study recorded a group of housemaids’ total number of calories lost over a span of seven work days. Before the experiment began, researchers told the women that their daily routine on the job would burn a significant amount of calories. When the women’s total calorie loss was recorded at the end of the week, results showed that these women had, in fact, burned a significantly larger number of calories than another group of hotel maids who weren’t primed with a positive mindset for work.

With increased stress and workloads at work these days, Achor’s book couldn’t come at a better time. For an instant mood boost, take advantage of these quick tips:

1. Meditate. This doesn’t mean spending “years in a sequestered, celibate silence.” Take five minutes to focus your thoughts.
2. Find something to look forward to. Even if it’s looking forward to when your annoying co-worker goes on vacation, anticipating something fun raises endorphin levels by 27%.
3. Play to your strengths. Revisit a talent you haven’t used in a while. If you’re unsure of your strengths, Achor recommends taking this survey: www.viasurvey.org.

Workplace happiness is at an all-time low since researchers began tracking it back in the 80s, according to the Associated Press (http://www.usatoday.com/money/workplace/2010-01-05-job-satisfaction-use_N.htm). So, maybe it is time we focused more on optimism than output at work. Achor’s The Happiness Advantage is a great starting point.

Clearly, the age-old adage has gone stale. You really can buy happiness… for the modest price of $25.


war-photo-cover.jpegThe Art of War for Women, By Chin-Ning Chu

By Diana Gialo

Are women in the workplace fighting some sort of inter-office war? Whether it is man versus woman, woman versus woman, or woman versus herself, late author, Chin-ning Chu addresses this very idea: women are at odds with something, the question is, with what?

This book takes two stereotypically divergent entities, war and women, and juxtaposes them in an innovative way. Chin-ning Chu advises women through the teachings of Asian war philosopher, Sun Tzu. She applies Sun Tzu’s principles, teachings, and beliefs to the trials and tribulations of the everyday working woman.

Now, the overarching question: does Chu deliver a business how-to for the career woman successfully?

There are sections of this book that are successful. So successful that I found myself nodding my head in agreement while reading on the train, to and from work. The concept is new — analyzing women according to the teachings of an Asian male philosopher of war.

But there is one component of this book that failed, rather miserably actually.

At the beginning of each chapter, Chu takes a specific line or teaching from Sun Tzu’s philosophy of war and relates it back to the business world. She analyzes Sun Tzu’s text and then applies it to commonly controversial issues in the workplace — dress code, politics, sexual harassment, to name a few. The open-ended questions and lists supplied at the end of each chapter make this text more of a workbook than a business strategy book. It detracts from the overall reading experience.

I did actively participate. I used my purple pen to complete each and every interactive exercise in this book. Activity number one, “Turning Your Liabilities into Assets.” Okay, this may be constructive. Though I was dubious, I pushed on. “Before you go any further, take some time to jot down and think about your unique qualities.” At this point, countless adjectives came to mind and modest clearly being one of them, I filled out the list to completion. What did this do for me? Not much. To be honest, some of the exercises even left me confused, like this one: “Do you share any of the traits of the women from Mars, Venus and the Moon? What steps might you take to become a more balanced Earth woman?” Need I say more?

The activities made this interesting, well put-together book, less interesting and actually more irritating. When authors include exercises like Chu’s end of chapter activities, it can feel more like trying to diagnose an issue, than just provide advice or an educated point of view that the reader can choose to agree or disagree with.

However, I do agree with much of what Chu writes in this book, specifically the sections that discuss inter-office ‘politics.’ Chu discloses techniques and strategies on what to do when the backstabbing and name calling ensues; she explains how to deal with manipulative and self-interest driven co-workers; and she sites examples that are often very relatable. Chu walks us through real-world examples and scenarios providing constructive advice along the way. They are situations that almost everyone will encounter and it helps to consider Sun Tzu’s philosophical point of view to objectively judge the situation at hand.

Looking back at my purple-pen annotations, “That’s True!” popped up quite often. Chu is honest; she’s straightforward; and though the end of chapter exercises are cheesy, let’s just blame her editor for that. If you’re looking for an honest, innovative approach to analyzing how women can function more effectively in the workplace, I’d give this one a try.


moretimeforyou.jpgMore Time For You: A Powerful System to Organize Your Work and Get Things Done, by Rosemary Tator and Alesia Latson

By Julia Nollen

In “More Time for You,” authors Rosemary Tator and Aleisia Latson’s recipe for success is equal parts education, recognition, inspiration, and action. Tailored for the everyday working woman (or man), this book helps you identify your ideal productivity and compare it with how you actually spend your time. As you may have guessed, the results can be frightening.

While each chapter’s inspirational quotes and charming metaphors make for a poignant read, the book’s ability to identify, explain, and appropriate common stressors and coping mechanisms proves most valuable. Procrastinators beware: your cover is blown as early as Chapter 2.

Filled with exercises, self-assessments, and personal anecdotes, “More Time For You” focuses on how to make decisions that are in synch with your priorities. Don’t have enough time to tackle your ever-expanding email inbox? Tator and Latson provide a simple solution: filter every incoming email into one of your newly organized “Do It Now,” “Respond Today,” or “Respond Someday” folders.

Multiple chapters are devoted to “triaging” email and social media. You can rest assured that this book will help you get ahead of today’s technological current (for the time being, at least).

My only problem with this book is the authors’ suggestion to have an event scheduled for every fifteen minutes of every day. Estimating precisely how long it takes for me to finish my homework, surf the web and answer emails seems like a daunting (if not ironically time-consuming) task. But to be fair, I was undoubtedly more efficient for the entire day I stuck to it.

As Chapter 8 so eloquently states, “In today’s hyper-busy world, we often get so caught up catching up that we fail to take the time to live our lives.” I’d probably prefer to spend less of my life with my nose in a planner than what this book prescribes, but that’s just me.

Inspirational aphorisms aside, “More Time for You” is a practical guide that gives readers a clear list of rules for increased efficiency, including:

* Set up a calendar management and reminder system to lose that nagging feeling that you’re forgetting something
* Focus on completing one task at a time. Though multitasking may make you feel like you’re being more productive, doing so decreases the quality of work completed exponentially.
* By scheduling time once a week to go over your recent activities, you can better track your status, alleviate stress, and focus your mind on accomplishing future goals.

What it boils down to is this: if finding more time for yourself is a top priority for you, file the purchase of this book in your “Do It Now” folder.



confess.jpgConfessions of a Public Speaker, by Scott Berkun

By Angela Holodick

With a rather disastrous personal history of public performances — throwing up on my 4th grade music teacher during a Christmas concert; and later as a teacher repeatedly saying the word cinnamon when trying to teach about “synonyms” — I was hoping Scott Berkun’s book, “Confessions of a Public Speaker,” would provide real world help for me in dealing with necessary future public speaking.

I can honestly say that I found what I was looking for in Berkun’s book. He immediately garnered a bit of my respect when he expressed sentiments similar to mine regarding the whole “picture the audience in their underwear” advice. I could never figure out why people tell you to do this. For me, doing so just makes everything that much more uncomfortable and creepy. I personally prefer to picture people in their underwear when not everyone is staring at me…and only then if it’s a hot guy.

Berkun continued to gain points by systematically contradicting many public speaking fears with common sense. By pointing out that the fear of public speaking is instinctual, he helps us understand why we react so poorly. Turns out we’re supposed to be afraid of being alone in an open area with a bunch of eyes on us. Our bodies are just trying to protect us from the dangers faced in less civilized times (and some areas of our cities today). Now that that connection has been made, I can better control it. Or, if not, at least I know that it’s not just my hang-up.

Even practiced public speakers who are experts in their field, he writes, get pretty bad cases of the nerves prior to speaking engagements. To verify this, I spoke to two people in my family who do a great deal of public speaking yet seem extremely comfortable in the spotlight - my brother-in-law who spends a great deal of time traveling place to place doing seminars, keynotes, and workshops related to physical fitness education, and my husband, a school district superintendent who speaks to assorted large groups on a regular basis. I have always admired how amazingly comfortable he is in his own skin when doing public speaking.

Turns out, they both get a bit of stage fright.

Berkun offers an easy to follow format in preparing a presentation, and he advises people to practice before giving any talk. He also recommends ways to bone up on your storytelling skills. “True disasters always make for great stories you can share with other people,” he contends.

Giving the talk a catchy title can also be helpful, he writes. One of his presentations was called: “How eating cheese will save your life.”

With all it’s practical advice, empathy, and humor, Berkun’s book was a hit for me. In my opinion what makes it superior to others on the same subject is that his voice is so strong. By the end of the book, you feel like a personal friend of his. Quite frankly, when all was said and done, I found myself wanting to invite him to a local haunt for a pint of Guiness.

One of his funny insights we might toast to:

“If the pace of your presentation is unclear, or you’re not sure what direction you are going in, you are a turtle on crack.”

If only I would’ve read this years ago.


get-seen.jpgGet Seen, by Steve Garfield

By Diana Gialo

YouTube isn’t just a place for funny clips and videos of talented children singing. Rather, it’s become a cyber stomping ground for ALL video creators, and everyone’s invited to share. Even you!

The return of the camcorder is here, and man is it refreshing. Dust off the old videocamera once dedicated to family vacations and ballet recitals and redirect those recording efforts to well, anything! These days video is popping up everywhere. Major newsy websites like CNN and Time are littered with live feeds, reporter clips, and news shorts; but this fad is not only meant for these mighty companies. No, no, video has become so accessible that anyone can and is doing it and you can too.

Along with the social media and blogging buzz, video has earned it’s place in the everyday lives of many Americans. But why? You may ask. Great question! Because video provides so much that paper simply cannot. Paper resumes become 3 minute application videos; feature stories become recorded and edited video reports; and with the help of the internet, us average folk are given opportunities to become visible (through video) on a grander scale than ever.

You don’t know how to edit/shoot/record video? So what? It’s a lot easier than you may think.

“Get Seen” by Steve Garfield is a 310-page “how-to” for all you beginner filmmakers out there. From the very beginning of this “video-blogging how-to,” it’s clear that Garfield knows his stuff.

What does this book do? It shows amateur digital filmmakers, how to jumpstart their video-making careers. This book is broken up into sections: Uploading, Editing, Lighting and Sound to name a few, all take the reader through processes step-by-step. Downside: For those of us who may already be familiar with programs such as iMovie and Final Cut Pro, information can get a bit tedious; however, the structure of this book makes is extremely accessible to simply move on to the next topic of choice.

In reading the “Choosing a Camera” section, I found myself trailing off, zoning out have you, but in simply moving on to the next section, “Lighting and Sound,” I learned many new and clever tricks to improvising and enhancing video.

Tips such as wearing headphones to monitor sound and using simple back lights for shots, can make a normally, well, normal scene, appear enhanced without having a fancy camera. I own a Canon Powershot. There is an entire section dedicated to Camera Choice, where Garfield goes through affordability, maintenance, picture clarity, and usability for individual camera brands and models. This is exceptionally helpful for those of us aimed as resourcefulness; without fancy devices and equipment. This is what makes this book worth reading.

Windows users BEWARE! This book is tailored to the Mac owner. Sorry guys. Also, the black and white screen shots and pictures throughout, do make the reference images difficult to decipher, which detracts from their overall effectiveness. In essence functioning as well, wasted ink.

This book really is of the current time. While ‘being current’ is what Twitter tells us is crucial today, online technology is constantly changing and progressing. Garfield’s attention to current blogging sites such as Tumblr and Wordpress or iMovie software, are not exactly timeless procedures.

The DOWNSIDE: With these ever-changing sites and software, this book will be dated as soon as the next, newer versions are released. I’m hoping, for Garfield’s sake, that it’s later rather than sooner, but realistically, that probably will not be the case.

But in all, this can very well function as a beginner’s bible to video editing (for today at least), and I would recommend for those of you who want to ride the new wave of video anything!: go out and get it! Garfield knows his stuff and Get Seen is certainly tangible proof of that. From the everyday blogger to the high-ranking news network it’s a great way to promote oneself and in essence Get Seen.


rework.jpgRework, by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

By DIANA GIALO

What is it about this unconventional business how-to book that attracts me, the reader and reviewer? The unconventionality of course! Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, authors of the book Rework, push the limits of business practices in the USA. They take everything that we think we know about successful business practices and completely turn it upside-down.

And my praises don’t end with the innovative business statements Rework makes. No, no, this book just gets better and better with each passing page (bold statement, I know).

To start, the introduction is spot on. This has been my complaint with the other books. We’re talking career genre here, the roots of business, appealing to the everyday worker. If you pride yourself on business expertise, enough so to write a book, well you better believe your marketing efforts should work! Now these two guys market and they do it very well.

The intro is constructed like a pitch. Using lines in reference to businesses experts today like, “They say a lot of things. We say they’re wrong,” and ending the intro with, “now let’s get on with it.” These guys grab our attention and run with it.

Also, all through the text there is a certain “stick it to the man” attitude that almost empowers you as a reader—instilling a sense of rebellion and anti-convention. Forget conventional business practices, with chapters like Drug Dealers Get it Right and Forget About Formal Education, these guys seem to shock and say the very opposite of most other business books out there.

What I liked most about this read is the easy organization. Each section is no longer than two pages and navigating the topics of interest is very simple. Each section accompanied by cartoons and illustrations, this book is geared towards the creator, the artist in the business place, the person who isn’t afraid to push the limits and essentially avoid business standards altogether.

REALISTS BEWARE! These guys aren’t afraid to tell it like it is, so be prepared to read things that aren’t exactly textbook business tips. This book is meant for liberal business people that are open to risk and potential failure, basically those business people who aren’t holding back.

Look, a book that has a section entitled Hire Great Writers, highlighting writing as the very base and structure of a good business; well, I may be biased but a book with statements like that is A-okay with me!


end-of-work.jpgThe End Of Work As You Know It: 8 Strategies to redefine work on your own terms, by Milo Sindell and Thuy Sindell PhD

By DIANA GIALO

I just opened another career book. This one entitled, “The End of Work as You Know It.” Yeah, I thought it sounded like a nice idea too.

This book does everything right at first glance. Bright red book cover to get reader’s attention; a brief description of what exactly the book is about, “8 strategies to redefine work on your own terms;” and an author with a PhD (this chick knows her stuff!); but what this book lacks is an authorial voice that keeps readers reading!

If authors are writing statements such as, “There’s no need to drag yourself out of bed every morning to face another day filled with stress and frustrating colleagues,” you better believe readers will be skeptical. Of course there is a need to drag yourself through the monotony of the workday: kids, bills, responsibility to name a few, and I don’t even have my degree yet (or my own family!).

If you’re writing to an audience who is seeking advice on how to get through the workday, statements like that are a no-no; however, my initial harshness toward the Sindell team does not carry-on for much longer. Though the content lacks an exciting authorial voice, the content throughout is actually very insightful.

It has a clear target audience—everyday professionals and the everyday worker who are analytical, procedural thinkers. I say this because once you start reading it looks, feels and reads like a textbook. Each chapter focuses on a different strategy. For example Chapter 2, entitled Initiate Change begins with a case study relevant to the info covered in this section and then goes into an explanation of what this technique is and how it will help mold your attitude towards your job.

Each chapter is structured in this way, which makes it easy for readers to follow the format of the book and find subject matter of interest quickly; bypassing all that stuff the reader may not want to read.

However! The analytical, strictly informative feel of this book doesn’t exactly make it a pleasure reading book.

I believe this book is worth reading for those in search of enlightenment and a confidence boost in the workplace; however if you’re looking for an interesting narrative, you may be better off reading Tranquilista, at least that book is funny.


tranquilista.jpgTRANQUILISTA: Mastering the Art of Enlightened Work and Mindful Play, by Kimberly Wilson

By DIANA GIALO

Workplace bible or crock of bull? This intern’s not convinced either way…

So what exactly is a Tranquilista, you may ask. To be honest, I have no idea. After reading, Kimberly Wilson’s Tranquilista: Mastering the Art of Enlightened Work and Mindful Play, I still have no idea what exactly defines a Tranquilista.

Don’t get me wrong, I did give the book a chance. I actually really enjoyed the first chapter. Dedicated to what Wilson calls, Sassy Spirituality, this chapter highlights the importance of balancing work and spirituality. Recommending yoga, meditation and other tranquil pursuits, Wilson successfully wins over the reader. But why not continue on this path? Rather, she turns to other topics like Sustainable Style and Chic Creativity.

The problem that becomes clear in every subsequent chapter is Wilson’s tendency to jump from one point to the next without any transition or flow. The construction of the book actually makes the content almost confusing. In Chapter 2 for example, Wilson manages to jump from starting a nonprofit business to tea brewing within 4 short pages. She’s all over the place! The content resembles a sort of disjointed stream of consciousness.

The question that haunts me after reading this ‘how-to’ for the working woman is: do we need this type of book? Do women need these self-help books in order to be successful? At first glance this book really just annoys me; the idea that women need to search out resources on how-to be a more ‘this or that’ type of person. In my mind, it’s just unnecessary. Do men have these sorts of books? Perhaps a self-help book entitled, “How to be More Macho.” I say, just be yourself.

Now, if Wilson, yoga genius and owner of top-rated yoga studio “Tranquil Space,” writes a book simply on Yoga and meditation and how to successfully channel stresses from the everyday workplace into these productive pursuits, well then that is a book I am willing to read.

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