Books: If a Better Future Beckons

Article excerpt

Self-awareness tests, research and a slick interview technique are this manual's route to career fulfilment. John Vincent recommends it - with a little pinch of salt.

In 1995, I was working at Procter & Gamble selling make-up to Boots.

That, it turned out, made me attractive to ladies. So I found myself dating a more beautiful girlfriend than I should have been and hanging out in her rented basement flat. I have a vivid memory of seeing a book on her shelf called What Colour is Your Parachute? My interest was piqued enough to have a flick. It was, it turned out, a posh careers guidance manual with lots of self-help and navel-gazing thrown in.

Anyway, as a result of my P&G closing sales techniques, that person subsequently became my wife. Eleven years on, her younger sister is staying with us, so there was a certain historical symmetry to seeing a 'stunningly updated' edition (that's confidence!) of What Colour is My Parachute? on her bookshelf.

The point is this: 'young people' (these days and in the olden days) spend a lot of time anxious about their future, their present and, somewhat unproductively, their past. They look at Ben, who is making a lot of money in the City. They look at Sally, who is an actress and has recently been asked to go to ... LA. They look at Clare, who is getting all those emotional rewards for making sick people better. And they get depressed.

They don't at that stage realise that Ben, Sally and Clare are equally depressed about the grass they see growing in the others' gardens.

And they just know that they need to make a better choice, and go faster.

The bonus point is this: that until now the bible of insecure over-achievers has been this Parachute book and it is a good book.

And so it was with amusement that I opened Jumpstart Your Career. It passed the first test. My wife's younger sister grabbed it and then her friend grabbed it from her. And so, here is the judgment of two perfect target readers and me.

The book covers a huge amount of ground. It takes the reader through the rollercoaster of understanding their working future and how to tackle the process of getting there. You start with a reflection of what makes you tick (although, slightly negatively, it asks you first to list 'all the things you don't want to put up with in your next job'). There are exercises telling you whether you're mainly extrovert, open, agreeable, stable or controlling; examples of careers; and case studies.

There is a drier section on trends in the workplace - a portfolio career, the increasing use of computers (!) - but once you have made up your mind, it helps you consider how to get the job, how to research the firms you might want to work for, how to get an interview, impress in the interview, and even how to make friends and influence people when you're there. …