“Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” Oscar Wilde
This is an expanded and updated edition of a book first published a year ago. I agree with Marcus Buckingham’s observation in the Foreword that “the most critical skill that anyone can have is awareness of his or her unique, transferable strengths [and] top performers are those who focus on their strengths a majority [not all] of the time.” That said, it is important to stress also the importance of continuous improvement of those strengths as well as increasing the nature and extent of how they can be applied.
Dan Schawbel’s primary focus is on those who comprise Generation Y (i.e. Millennials), born — as suggested by William Strauss and Neil Howe — between 1982 and 2004. Today, their ages would thus range from ten to 32. The material he provides will be of substantial value to them, of course, but also to those who are directly or indirectly involved with their personal growth and professional development. Moreover, in my opinion, many of Schawbel’s insights and much of his counsel will be of substantial value to others who also now struggle to respond effectively to challenges such as these:
o Determining what they were meant to do
o Identifying their greatest strengths
o Strengthening their soft and hard skills that success requires
o Increasing and enhancing their visibility
o Understanding what the decisive factors are re hiring, promotions, compensation, etc.
o Expanding and strengthening networks o0f contacts within and beyond the workplace
o Leveraging passions and strengths to create opportunities that did not exist previously
o Becoming independent and entrepreneurial while employed
o Determining which way to move: Up, Across, and Out
o Making effective use of social media to expedite career advancement
My guess (only a guess) is that very few of those now enrolled in schools and colleges give much (if any) thought to formulating even a simple game plan for maximizing the practical value of their formal education once it ends. At some point, all of them will be asked, “What can you do?” If what they do best is what they love most, chances are they will find a suitable position. For many school and college graduates, the jobs for which they prepared no longer exist. Schawbel offers some valuable information about the new workplace and new rules in the Introduction (Pages 7-12). Here’s a list of the major changes he discusses:
1. Your job description is just the beginning.
2. Your job is temporary.
3. You’re going to need a lot of skills you probably don’t have right now.
4. Your reputation is the single greatest asset you have.
5. Your personal life is now public.
6.You need to build a positive presence.
7. You’ll need to work with people from different generations.
8. Your boss’s career comes first.
9. The one with the most [and best] connections wins.
10. Remember the rule of one [i.e. the one person who can change your life for the better].
11. You are the future.
12. Entrepreneurship is for everyone, not just business owners.
13. Hours are out, accomplishments are in.
14. Your career is in your hands, not your employer’s.
I wish Schawbel’s most important points re coping with the aforementioned challenges could be published in a booklet and given to every school and college student. Also, I wish every school and college counselor would read and then re-read this book.
Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine can possibly do full justice to the scope and depth of Dan Schawbel’s coverage but I hope that I have at least indicated why I think so highly of his book. I presume to add one final point: Just as successful football teams “move the chains,” successful people know how to take at least one step forward to self-improvement each day. For example, this book has twelve chapters. Read one every other a day; in between, call or email a person with whom you’ve lost contact to tell them you were thinking about them and hope they are doling well. That’s 24 days of small but potentially productive steps.
Your future awaits. Most human limits are self-imposed. What are you waiting for?
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Here are three other sources that offer valuable perspectives on many of the same issues:
Success Mapping (2nd Edition): Achieve What You Want…Right Now!
Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered