When I first received Emily Bennington and Skip Lineberg's Effective Immediately: How to Fit In, Stand Out, and Move Up at Your First Real Job, I figured "what could there be in here for me?" ... after all I'm a seasoned professional, right? I even joked that I'd be getting some funny looks reading it on the El. However, I was very pleased to find that this is far more than a primer on the business world for kids right out of school, being a "business basics and beyond" guide book that touches on a wide spectrum of very useful information, condensing some very difficult topics into easy-to-understand overviews. In fact, there were several things in here that I found myself wishing that I'd had in this form back when I was starting my old publishing company!
Sure, this isn't about getting a job, but it is a very good look at what a professional job means, and that's a message that goes beyond the newly-minted worker. Effective Immediately is witty, direct, and very informative, and something's wrong with the world if this doesn't end up being given to whole hosts of graduates over the next couple of months.
Not only was the book co-authored by a mentor/protégée team, they opted to tag-team through the e-mail interview questions, so this exchange has a bit of a different feel than most of our author features (continues after the break):
Q: Briefly, what's your background?
A: From Emily: When I graduated from college, I didn't know anything about how to be a professional. As a result, I made a lot of rookie mistakes. Nothing major ... I was just completely unpolished. I would arrive at work with wet hair and no make-up, my desk was usually a mess, I preferred to operate as a "Lone Ranger" rather than excel in a team, etc. Then, I met Skip and everything sort of changed for me. He really took me under his wing and, after that, I started to make significant leaps in my career. The best lessons I learned from Skip were in the subtle art of interpersonal skills - sending handwritten thank you notes, praising in public and criticizing in private - and it really resonated with me. Eventually, I started to keep a notebook of what I was learning and I began to collect stories from other new professionals who were going through the same experiences. That notebook eventually evolved into our book, Effective Immediately.
Q: Have you had notable job-transition experiences?
A: From Emily: Yes. After about 2-3 years of working with Skip, and really benefiting from the rich mentor/protégé relationship we had developed, my husband got transferred and we moved to another state. I took a job at another marketing agency, assuming that I would have the same relationship Skip and I had with my new boss. Not so. It was a completely different experience and not exactly a positive one. The new agency was very much a sink-or-swim environment with very little focus on coaching new staff to get them up-to-speed. I had to basically train myself which, I've since discovered is more the norm than having a great mentor sadly.
Q: Why did you decide to write a book about entering the business world?
A: From Skip: Emily approached me with the idea to write this book. This was in the middle of 2003. I had written an article, "Understanding Young Professionals," around this same time for a statewide business magazine. Based on the volume of feedback I had received, the article really seemed to strike a chord. My article was written for the Baby-Boomer generation, an attempt to share some insights with them on dealing with Gen-Y. Emily had the idea to write the book for young professionals, sort of a corollary to the article I had written. She sent me an email with the idea for the book. I'll never forget the subject line: the game changer idea that will put your kids through college. With a few grains of skepticism, I was on board -- ready to write a book.
Q: Do you have any insights from your perspective on the job market, both current and over the next six months or so?
A: From Emily: Just today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate for those with college degrees fell from 4.9% in April to 4.7% in May. While that's not a cause for collective exhale just yet, it is a sign that things are improving somewhat.
Q: If you had just ONE piece of advice for today's job searcher, what would that be?
A: From Emily: Be proactive. The absolute worst thing you can do is sit at home and monitor job boards all day. First of all, it's depressing. Second, it's true that the best jobs aren't always advertised. Personally, I believe that regardless of the economy there will always be a market for talent. Job seekers today just have to be a bit savvier than usual. For example, I tell my students to create a "target list" of 20+ companies they'd like to work for and really hone in on those - engage with them on social media sites, find out who hires and call them up with an elevator pitch ready, find out where their employees volunteer and join so they can see you in action. You never know what's going to lead to a new opportunity.
Q: What do you feel makes your book unique?
A: From Skip: The book is unique in its content, its format and its writing style. With regard to the content, our book is 100% about practical, actionable lessons. It is not filled with useless puffery. Theory is fine in some situations -- but our book is not theoretical. It is a how-to book. Younger readers, Gen-Y in particular, are telling us that they love the shorter, bite-size chapters. That format, combined with our irreverent, tell-it-like-it-is writing style, really resonates with our audience.
Q: Aside from your book, what resources do you recommend?
A: From Emily: Our blog, ProfessionalStudio365.com is a great resource for learning how to successfully transition from college to career. For job seekers, Job-Hunt.org is one of the best sites on the web.
Q: Any additional words of wisdom?
A: From Skip: In my career, I have learned that anything is possible - even the largest dream - when you have a vision, set a goal, and work toward that goal. Believing in yourself is the most important aspect. Also, I recommend that every professional find a good mentor. My mentors have had a huge impact in shaping my success in the work world - but they've also helped me to grow and mature as a human being.
As always, more details on the book are over in my review ... do click through and check that out!