Tuesday, July 15, 2008

This week's biz book review

Jumping Before — Or After — Being Pushed

Two books provide ample justification and strategies for leaving the corporate life behind and working for yourself.

Published 7/14/08 in The Miami Herald

To paraphrase the philosopher Keith Richards, it's better to walk before they make you run. Unfortunately for many, their jobs end before they can make a move, begin their transition to another job or establish self-employment.

It may ultimately involve creating or selling a service or a product, but there's no time like the present to begin the process. I've had my position eliminated, was downsized, laid off and dodged one cutback to find that my job had been reconfigured and I was now required to do the work of three others (no, not Moe, Larry and Curly) before succumbing to the next round.

The lesson of the recent wave of layoffs in the newspaper biz and elsewhere reinforces the notion that the days of paternalistic (or matriarchal) employers who valued and reciprocated their workers' steadfast loyalty, sacrifices and dedicated professionalism are long gone.

Employees may need to view themselves as independent operators, as outlined several years back in Daniel Pink's prescient
Free Agent Nation. Sometimes, that involves working as an employee, sometimes as a freelancer and other times as the head of a small company. But in each case, one is ultimately working for oneself and one's family -- not an employer.

Two current books suggest ways to successfully achieve this transition and redefinition.

Escape from Corporate America: A Practical Guide to Creating the Career of Your Dreams. Pamela Skillings. Ballantine Books. 352 pages.

Skillings' book is a good overview of the contemporary work scene and the options one has in either participating in its corporate infrastructure as an active member or a part-time player. She also discusses a variety of other options and offers examples, anecdotes, checklists and other support material to make her case and help the reader figure out which path makes the most sense.

Her assumption throughout is that just about everyone will be happier and more fulfilled if they can somehow avoid becoming another cog in the machine. She could be correct, though I've seen plenty of folks who seem to thrive in that often treacherous environment but can't seem to get it together on their own

Still, this is an entertaining and intelligent look at the subject, and if you're thinking about jumping — or have already been pushed — this might be worth your time and money.

What's Stopping You? Shatter the 9 Most Common Myths Keeping You From Starting Your Own Business. Bruce R. Barringer and R. Duane Ireland. FT Press. 224 pages.

Barringer and Ireland take a similar tack but are a bit more serious and focused. Like the best sales people, they first establish their expertise and authority, then they come up with a variety of remedies for just about any objection one could concoct for not becoming a free agent or otherwise opting out of the corporate fun house.

They similarly invoke examples, utilize charts and refer readers to websites for further reading, reflection and examination. Though specifically geared toward encouraging the launching of a business, they also provide plenty of reasons and justification for evacuation from the bowels of the corporation.

Like Skillings, the pair provides an entertaining reading experience, and if one requires substantiation and inspiration, either book offers an ample supply.

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