Career Advice in a Free Book

Thanks to a comedy of errors on a print run, I have a surplus of roughly 500 copies of The Rat, the Race, and the Cage, my book on career planning and decision making.  Don’t ya love publishers?  Anyway, I asked if they could just be sold like the rest of the inventory.  The answer was “Tom, you can do that and make more per book, because at this point the cost to you is zero per copy.  BUT, knowing your charitable side, it made sense to mention that you can also give them away to a worthy organization .”  OK, NOW I get it… and I like the idea of helping some organization out and I am going to do that.  But I also thought – why not let my network of colleagues and friends know and see if they know of a few worthy organizations as well?

The Offer:

If you know of a group (college class) or organization (career support group) that could benefit from receiving some copies that they will, in turn,  give away, then drop me a note.  Just help out with the shipping (books are heavy) and I’ll happily send them your way.  Let’s turn the printing issue into a benefit for people who could use a little career advice in the form of a free book for their career bookshelf.

About the book:

bookThe Rat, the Race, and the Cage shows readers how to make better career decisions through a little self reflection.  The book presents readers a simple model to better understand the three components of their job: the function, the industry in which they work, and the type of company for whom they work.  Analyzing these three things enables the reader to define a “personal career compass” that helps them make better career decisions about job changes.

The Rat, the Race, and the Cage is about finding direction, whether the reader is a college grad or caught in a mid-career rut.  What we do for a living can be more than just a way to pay the bills.  We can find fulfillment and personal satisfaction in our work by making better career decisions – and the book provides information that, one hopes, echoes the advice from career counselors, mentors, managers and knowledgeable friends.

Get Better, Not Bitter!

Are you sweeping and weeping or cleaning up your act?

I ask that question not to be trite but to determine in which of two camps you are sitting: Bitter about your job situation or determined to get better, be better, find a better job?

Today I visited my favorite coffee spot for a big wake-me-up (triple venti, white chocolate, non fat, easy whip) on an overcast June Saturday in Los Angeles .   While waiting for my drink I concluded once and for all that the weekday crowd had a much better attitude than the weekend crowd.  There are a couple fairly well-defined encampments.  Here’s an unscientific, over-simplified, idiosyncratic look at the two:

Weekday Crowd:

  • Searching job sites and reading job postings while asking others for opinions
  • Being greeted with positive encouragement by ‘regulars’ who offer advice
  • Dressed business casual or just casual – but in all cases neat and ready for the day

Weekend Crowd:

  • Carping and griping about employers, the economy, CEOs…
  • Avoided by ‘regulars’ who sense the bitterness emanating into the room
  • Dressed like they rolled out of bed… hang-on, they DID!

Get the picture?  While denizens of each tribe can be found any day, in the scope of my experience here in Los Angeles, the generalization stands as reasonably fair.

There is a place to gather and gripe about dissappointment, frustration and vent a little steam.  It’s called a bar.  On the other hand, the wifi-enabled coffee shot is invariably linked to working and the daily commute.  If you need to be bitter, don’t do it there.

Beyond the appropriateness of location-specific venting is a question about the depth and enduring nature of the venting.  Do you blow off steam and let it go or do you build up like a pressure cooker?  Both options are obvious to others.

Bad things happen to good people.  That’s a truth consistently validated by nearly 3,000 years of recorded human history.  When the bad comes to your career it is critical to use the energy positively and prepare yourself for the next step.  Yes that’s obvious but is bears repeating because, as the attendees of the “Its not My Fault” society at the coffee shop showed, some people heed to hear it.

Get better, be better and find that better job.

Starting now.

“A broom is drearily sweeping up the broken pieces of yesterday’s life,
Somewhere a Queen is weeping, somewhere a King has no wife.
The Wind Cries Mary – Jimi Hendrix

Do You Possess “Rational Realism?”

In the space of a few hours, I spoke to two colleagues about their next career step.  In both cases we discussed the principles found in The Rat, The Race and The Cage. But that wasn’t the exciting part of the conversations.

Both individuals expressed a willingness, dare I say eagerness, to move from Boston and Los Angeles, respectively.  Why? I tend to think it is explained in a list the individuals share in common:

  1. Educated (Bachelor degrees)
  2. Experienced in their respective fields
  3. Able to see themselves applying points 1 and 2 in new positions or new industries
  4. Willing to relocate if required – WITH full support from their spouse

These individuals know that in today’s uncertain times their next a career step simply cannot be limited by any criteria.  While both want to remain in the city where they are living today, they understand that true friends and family will remain connected thanks to nearly-free long distance calling, social networking via the Internet and cheap airfares.

I have a name for what I saw in both of them: “Rational Realism.”  Do you have it?  Or, are you hanging on to something that places an unnecessary criteria on your job search.?

There may be critical reasons to stay put in a given area – perhaps a child or spouse requires the services of a particular hospital or you are a caregiver for a family member or friend.   I am not advocating uprooting from those types of critical, and often entrenched, situations.  I AM suggesting, however, that you to be as open as possible when planning your future.

Be rational.

Be real.

A move across the state – or across the country – might be an welcome experience AND start the next phase of your career.

“Closing time, you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”
Closing Time – Semisonic

Take a Minute to Breathe

This morning I opened the L.A. times expecting another article about job losses, banks, TARP, TALF and such. These stories are the raw materials I use to connect the dots of career planning in hopes of encouraging job seekers.

Instead, I found an article that provided an apt reminder of how important it is to take in the view and relax for a moment.

I am from Los Angeles. Born out here, went to college here and work here. Lived in Connecticut and Florida for a few years while growing up due to my Dad’s job, but the Golden State was always home, specifically the san Fernando Valley. A lifelong passion for the Dodgers grew out of it and Dodger Stadium was a place that seemed to never age.

This morning in the L.A. Times, Hector Tobar wrote, “A lot of things have changed in Los Angeles since Dodger Stadium was opened in 1962. But the experience of settling into your seat for a night game after a day of suffering down in the city below is the same as it’s always been. We leave behind hot asphalt and smog for the cool air and comfort of watching a slow game unfold in a dry valley.

In a city that allows few things to grow old and familiar, twilight at Dodger Stadium is the same steady friend we’ve known since our childhoods.”

Amen, Hector.

Do you take time to breathe and take in the view where you live? In the midst of a renewed job search there is also a need to let the mind relax. Cheap seats at Dodger Stadium remain remarkably affordable and a walk up any hill to see the sunset is free.

The gruel and stress of any job is nothing compared to the concern during a job search. It’s critical to set aside the 10,000 articles on resume writing and find some balance. Make an intentional plan to take in the view and breathe…


“The leaves have fallen all around, it’s time I was on my way.
Thanks to you – I’m much obliged, such a pleasant stay.”
Ramble On – Led Zeppelin

So,… Who’s Right?

Today I read that jobless claims were up, no down, no up.


It would be silly if it wasn’t so pathetic. The popular media (a description given to journalists and their publications who tend to be unpopular) seem to think that the crafting an isolated statistic into a juicy headline will case us to feel better. And, lest we forget, a subtle tick-up in the stock market on any given day is cause for celebration and declaration that “the worst is over.

The moral: do not be deceived by headlines. We are in for a long haul.

That same attitude that should be taken when it comes to a job search. The long haul is not meant to be a discouraging description of the search for your next position, it’s about taking a long view of your career.

The current economic malaise / disaster / recession (pick one) will teach the wise one thing: from this day forward we can and must take a different attitude about our career. Today’s job, be it 5 months of happiness or 5 years of drudgery, is one part of a much larger career portrait that will be painted over time.

Today is but one day. Whether you are searching for a job, happy in a position or dying to get out of the 4th ring of Dante’s Inferno, make the most of today. Take time to reflect on what will be the longer story. While it’s composed a day at a time, you will find that all-too-quickly days become weeks and weeks become years…

If life was just a spontaneous daily headline, we’d all have the same one:

“Fine, and you?”

“Even when your hope is gone,
Move along, move along just to make it through”
Move Along – All American Rejects

Job Search or Career Recalibration Opportunity?

California just confirmed 12% of its residents are officially out of work. Highest in the nation.


It’s worse than that if you include people who are not collecting unemployment or registering in such a way that the state’s spreadsheet can count them,… “you know it, I know it and the American people know it.”

That’s Even More Troubling.

For those affected, this can be treated as an opportunity to make the career change that they have desired but couldn’t or wouldn’t. In more abundant times, if you quit your job to embark on a new direction, friends and family would milk-spit in shock and chastise you for taking an unreasonable risk.

The status quo can be soooooo comforting.

Today, however, if you make the same proclamation, friends and family offer encouragement and support. That level of community and encouragement is vital. Although, part of that may be to get some of you off the couch in their family room. You know who you are.

So what is the desire of your heart? What career change have you secretly, or not-so-secretly wanted to make? Ahem, leave “helping people” or “saving the dolphins” to super models or over-medicated actresses. Excuse the absurdity of that last comment – you get the point.

Where is your heart? Do you have a plan sitting in a drawer? A book, or a folder full of yellowed newspaper clippings and articles torn from magazines? Whatever it is, get it out, spread it out and check it out. Those are the raw materials from which you need to architect a plan.

Start with your current job and think about everything. What do you like or dislike about your function? What about the industry? Boring, exciting or going bankrupt and you are forced to find a new pasture? How about the company itself? Mom-n-pop, start-up, medium size or corporate goliath? Which of the above do you find satisfying – or even just comfortable?

In The Rat, The Race and the Cage, I help you with part of this. Give it a read and add it to what should be a backpack full of supplies for the journey.

Maybe things are not so troubling after all.

“And the men who hold high places, must be the ones who start.
To mold a new reality, closer to the heart.”
Closer to The Heart