Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Career Books I Recommend - Personality and Aptitude Matching

On Amazon, and at bookstores, you will see many different books on career topic and vast numbers on another.  The first might be called personality career assessment – efforts in this area seek to connect the sort of person you are with a line of work.  What are you good at?  What do you like to do for fun?  What tasks do you scoop up without real difficulty, and which do you avoid like the clichéd plague?  The second subject is the tactics of job-seeking; where should you look, how should you act, how should you care for and feed hiring managers, and of course a “76 trombones” (or is it 76,000,000) cacophony of opinions on interviews and resumes. 
Personality-to-career matching books are excellent at getting you to learn things about yourself.  They offer thinking exercises, list-making projects, of course questionnaire after questionnaire, and much more, and the things are generally quite informative.  What they will NOT do, unfortunately, is tell you what careers are viable.  Perhaps my skills and disposition say I should be a neurosurgeon, but at 55 with no medical training beyond Red Cross CPR it just plain isn’t going to happen.  Some careers have more people trying to get in them than others, and that can change between writing and publishing, let alone between writing, publishing, and going out of print.  Such books are not in the business either of showing what jobs will and won’t be in demand in a few years, let alone the decade-plus most people have in mind when considering a line of work.  You do not want to be spending time and money training for something on the way out, whether it’s your dream job or not.
For personality work, I recommend The Pathfinder:  How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success, by Nicholas Lore (Touchstone Books).  This multi-edition classic has the right idea on thinking about yourself and what would work for you. 
Also for personality assessment, the venerable but often updated What Color Is Your Parachute?:  A Practical Manual for Job-hunters and Career-Changers, by Richard N. Bolles (Ten Speed Press).  I recommend this classic for determining careers to fit your disposition and interests, and for insights on how employers actually fill jobs, but warn against it for the tactical part.  Much of the material on the latter changed little from 1982 to 2012, when applicants actually could sneak onto the payroll with “information interviews” (in which jobseekers purport to be only interested in the nature of a job or company) and people could impress hiring managers by dressing well, acting smart, and seeming to have transferrable aptitudes for more advanced positions.  It’s been many decades since those looking for work had the best of the overall market, and employers are tougher than that these days – they’ve seen it all before.  Without experience pertaining to the exact position – for example, if a bill-paying company wants an project manager who uses Primavera and has worked in that industry, a telecommunications PM expert at MS Project won’t cut it – you’ll need a lot of luck, no matter how smart or skilled you are. 
A third good volume on self-assessment for work is I Could Do Anything if I Only Knew What It Was:  How to Discover What You Really Want and How to Get It, by Barbara Sher (Delacorte Press).  This one is ancient by the standards of career books – copyright 1994 – but most of the material is timeless, and you can get a used copy for almost nothing (plus shipping) at Amazon. 
Next week:  Books on job-searching tactics.

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