Summer Book Review #4: Back on the Career Track

It’s funny how obscure comments stick in your mind ready to be instantly recalled with a connection – however remote that connection maybe.   I remember standing in my pediatrician’s office when my daughter, who is turning eight next week, was about ten weeks old.   I was talking with my newest friend, the nurse practitioner, who had seen us regularly over the past two months.  We were talking about my upcoming return to work which by the way I was looking forward to.  She made a pithy comment that jumped into my mind this week as I read, Back on the Career Track: A Guide for Stay-at-home Moms Who Want to Return to Work, by Carol Fishman Cohen and Vivian Steir Rabin.   Bernie Lane, the nurse practitioner said, “a happy mother is a happy baby.”  Truth be told I got more out of my conversation with Bernie than from my read of “Back on the Career Track.”

From my perspective Fishman Cohen and Steir Rabin attempted to achieve two objectives in this book:  to provide a broad overview for women relaunching their careers following a lengthy period out of the workforce due to parenting responsibilities; and to offer a practical “check-list” for those ready to step off the cliff.  Unfortunately they went a mile wide and a quarter-inch deep on topics that were beautifully covered in the prior 3 books this summer (Glass Ceilings & 100 Hour Couples; Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes; and The Art of Possibility).

Here is where I struggled with this book.  First, it tries to cover a lot of ground too quickly.  The authors conducted primary research in support of their book’s development.  However, the vignettes drawn from the research are too shallow in that they lack detail.  As a result the vignettes fail to add credibility to the author’s points.  Second, the book relies on in-depth case studies that are very dated.  While interesting the majority feature women whose relaunch was close to thirty years ago.   At that time a woman’s sheer presence in the workplace was still an anomaly.

Did I ever mention that I went to twelve years of parochial school?  The nuns taught us to always look for the good.  So here goes.

There were two topics discussed in the book that I found both valuable and universal to all women’s transitions.  First, they introduced a need to develop a personal elevator pitch (EP). (Back on the Career Track, pg 79)   As an entrepreneur I am very familiar with the power of an elevator pitch; to use only a few sentences to crystallize in someone’s mind what you are up to.  The book offers a four step approach to developing the EP.   Let’s face it – it is useful to have an EP no matter what your situation.  Our impatient society has no time to listen beyond a few sentences….

Second, I found useful the book’s practical approach to leveraging our personal networks.  The authors termed this “contact pools” and challenged readers to map relationships from past, present and future.  (Back on the Career Track, pg 110)  Their approach cast a wide net, including the butcher, the baker and the candlestick makers’ wife who has her own business and could be useful to your career “explorations.”

This book sped by issues faced by women in transition regardless of the specifics.  Their buffet included:

  • blows to confidence and the need to regain it;
  • the non-negotiable  of flexibility in the workplace when navigating the worlds of parenting or caring for others;
  • the isolation and its deleterious effects; and
  • the struggle to maintain your ballast when you’re pulled between two worlds.

I’m sure that there are others.  What did the authors miss?

Whether you are a mother seeking a career re-launch or a person driving through a transition of another sort, my guess is that you’d be better served by any of the three prior books reviewed by Novofemina this summer versus this one.  Happy 4th!

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One response to “Summer Book Review #4: Back on the Career Track

  1. Pingback: Voices of Transition #2: An ode to networking | NovoFemina

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