Experience, Opportunity, and Developing Your Career: A Book Review by Bob Morris

Experience, Opportunity, and Developing Your Career
Various Contributors
Harvard Business Review Press (May 2024)

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Thomas A. Edison

This is one of the volumes in the HBR Work Smart Series, offering insights from cutting-edge thinkers who share their thoughts about how to accelerate your personal growth and professional development.

The Series editors ask, “‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ This questioncan make even the mostbambitious of us feel a little nauseius. Startout in the working qorld is hard enough, but thinking long-term about our careers — and whether we even [begin italics] want [end italics] a capital-C ‘Career’ — can be daunting. Luckily, there are steps we can take to build career that fit our individual interests, needs, and skills.”

This series features the topics that matter most to those now preparing for or are early in their business career, topics “including being yourself at work, collaborating with (sometimes difficult) colleagues and bosses, managing your mental health, and weighing major job decisions. Each title includes chapter recaps as well as links to video, The HBR Work Smart Series books are your practical guides to stepping into your professional life and moving forward with confidence.”

I presume to add that most of the material in these books will also be of substantial value to supervisors who have direct reports entrusted to their care.

The 18 articles were originally published in HBR and if all were purchased separately as reprints, the total cost would be at least $215. Amazon now sells a paperbound volume for only $17. That’s not a bargain; that’s a steal.

Mimi Aboubaker provides a superb Introduction to Experience, Opportunity, and Developing Your Career. Here is a brief excerpt:

“Your internal foundation is an amalgamation of who you really are as a person, the goals you have for yourself, and the habits and skills you choose to foster. Building one is all about self-discovery. What do you really want out of your career? What patterns in your behavior are holding you back? What are your nonnegotiables? The first chapter in this book, ‘Values, Passion, and Purpose,” by Irina Cozma, can help you get started on answering these questions. This foundation is what will guide you on your path and help you make confident decisions throughout your career.”

These are among the articles of greatest interest and value to me.

o  “Values, Passion, and Purpose: Which one should drive your career?,” Irina Cozma (Pages 3-12)

o  “Five Questions to Ask During an Informational Interview: The discussion could help you land your next role,”  Sean O’Keefe (75-81)

o  “How to Talk to Your Boss About Your Career Development: Don’t leave your professional growth to chance.” (91-100

o  “The Right Way to Make Better Decisions About Your Career: Think  about the why, the what, and the when,”  Utkarsh Amitabh (111-121)

o  “The Case for Making Terrible Career Choices: Learning what you don’t want can bring you closer to what you do,” Ruchika Tulshyan (165-172)

Once you set or revise your goals, you will be well-prepared to achieve them by effectively applying the relevant knowledge and wisdom that are provided in this book. However, you will also need help from associates and probably some luck such as “being in the right place at the right time.” You also need to know when an opportunity is “knocking on your door,” and be prepared to take full advantage of it. (Sometimers it whispers rather than knocks.) You can also benefit from having role models.  There is a great deal of value to learn from others’ successes and, especially from their [begin italics] failures [end italics]. However, to repeat, your success (however defined) ultimately depends on you.

* * *

Here are two other suggestions while you are reading Experience, Opportunity, and Developing Your Career: First, highlight key passages. Also,  perhaps in a lined notebook kept near-at- hand, record your comments, questions, action steps (preferably with deadlines), page references, and lessons you have learned as well as your responses to key points posed within the narrative. Also record your responses to specific or major issues or questions addressed, especially at the conclusion of chapters.

These two simple tactics — highlighting and documenting — will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent reviews of key material later.

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