As anybody reading this space with any frequency knows, I spend a vast amount of time "mining Twitter" for job leads, contacts, and those links that I share with readers on Fridays. Ever since I started to pass along my book reviews here, I've been getting a bit of a "buzz" on Twitter, with folks seeing my book review blog as a way to getting word out on their publications. However, this week's book, How to Self-Destruct: Making the Least of What's Left of Your Career, didn't come to me via the author, Jason Seiden (@seiden on Twitter), directly, but via another job-search blogger who had obtained a number of copies of the book (see my review for all the details) that she was sharing with her readers.
As one can guess from its title, How to Self-Destruct is not your typical career-management book, focusing its "advice" on ways to make a total mess of your career, your relationships, and your life (with counter-examples just in case self-destructing is not your primary aim).
I just got done reading this (my review went up on Friday night), and I was very pleased that Mr. Seiden was able to respond to my interview request as quickly as he did ... his answers to my questions follow the break:
Q: Briefly, what's your background?
A: North Shore kid who went to a good school, worked all the while, then spent 6 years "dot-comming" it and another 10 training corporate leaders and managers how to communicate. My writing and speaking is a distillation of what I've learned and seen.
Q: Have you had notable job-transition experiences?
A: I worked for my father-in-law for a number of years. I wanted to grow the firm, he wanted to maintain a lifestyle business. We had the typical challenges that situation creates, but in our attempts to protect our relationships with my wife/his daughter, we actively avoided having the one conversation we really needed to have; we didn't have faith in ourselves to make the conversation end well. As a result, we created a number of problems for ourselves Looking back, I can see it was a perfect example of the cobbler's kids having no shoes. Fortunately, our break up freed us to have that pent-up conversation about values and goals, and once we cleared the air, our relationship got very good very quickly. Imagine that. Plus, importantly, I am still happily married.
So when people ask me what authority I have to write a book on failure, I can point a long finger in my own direction and say, "Exhibit A!"
Q: Why did you decide to write a career management book?
A: The "appropriate" answer is that I knew I wanted to write a book, and after too many visits to the management section at Barnes & Noble, I realized that what keeps people from succeeding isn't a lack of knowledge, it's a lack of faith in our knowledge--our hearts don't believe what our heads say to do. Instead, we like to believe that we are each exceptions to the rule. This quirk of human nature creates so many humorous examples of failure, I just couldn't pass up the chance to catalog them.
Of course, that's the "hindsight reason." The actual answer is that I woke up at 2:52 in the morning frustrated about a client and typed a scathing, sarcastic, and apparently funny email to a friend. He texted me back a day later saying he had shared my note with the back row of his Kellogg class, and they had loved it and wanted more. That's when the book was born.
Q: How do you see the job market in the next 3-6 months?
A: Not good. There is too much pent up unhappiness. The Conference Board pegs job dissatisfaction at 45%. I think as the market starts to recover, floods of resumes are going to hit the street. This will create a game of musical chairs in the corporate world and companies will suffer from the turnover. When everyone settles into their new positions, nothing will have changed... but it's a process I think is inevitable. Boo.
Q: If you had just ONE piece of advice for today's job searcher, what would that be?
A: Screw your career path. Live your STORY!
Career paths are an accommodation to the average employee -- an attempt to apply structure to an inherently organic and messy process. Problem is, they are fictions. The people creating those career paths have no more idea about what's good for you than you do. Imagine a story where the main character just does whatever he is told to do. BOR-ING! If you want a rich, fulfilling career, you need to clip that guide wire and decide for yourself who you are, where you're going, and what you want. Then you have to tell people about it and negotiate for a job that moves you in the direction you want to go.
Q: What do you feel makes your book unique?
A: Lots of books appeal to your head. Mine appeals to your head and your heart. It connect you to successful habits in a way other books just don't. My book isn't just a how-to, it's art, too. I call the blend "expertainment," and it works.
Q: Aside from your book, what resources do you recommend?
A: I have a list of books and a list of movies on my website that I think are musts for aspiring leaders. Both are findable at http://jasonseiden.com/category/resources/ Plus, I have a blogroll of great online resources at http://jasonseiden.com/blogroll.
Q: Any additional words of wisdom?
A: The alternative to investing in the fire in your belly is a lifetime of having others light fires under your butt. Get moving.