Summer Book Review #12: Women in Career & Life Transitions

Do you remember the sock puppet commercial from the early 2000’s?   I think it was for pets.com or some other internet start-up.   A sock puppet with scraggly hair and button eyes would respond with the phrase, “the horror,” to many missives tossed at it.   It was silly and cavalier and – most of the time – just perfect.

The sock puppet’s “horror” voice was in my ear in the early spring.  I was tasked with filling out an alumni survey prior to my 20th reunion for HBS.  The survey simply wanted the user to self-identify the job role and industry of his/her vocation.  The responses would allow the school to cut the data and report wonderful statistics about the pursuits – en masse – of my class.  I’ve never liked such lists because I rarely find the line that corresponds to my choices.     

I was thrown back into my list aversion vortex with Sandy Anderson’s Women in Career & Life Transitions.   According to Ms. Anderson Career is “all work life pursuits.”  It can mean paid or unpaid employment; participating in volunteer work;  or raising a family.  (Women in Career & Life Transitions pg 14)   Written in 2000  the book was a dud  except for one stupendous chapter.  

In the book Ms. Anderson tasks readers with a series of checklists and a heavy dose of journaling exercises.  For example, she asks readers to  assess time commitments;  take a financial health test; work through Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; do a career visualization exercise;  and take a passion test — all before page 20!   Only a decade old, the book seems dated and best targeted for a woman who is trolling for career direction for the 1st time.   There are resume writing tips and career inventories that seem quaint and thoroughly useless in our internet omnipresent age.   What a difference a decade makes!

One phenomenal chapter, Chapter 5, caught women and transition issues better than most I’ve read over the past 3 months.  Here are some thought-provoking tidbits:

  • Success is not static.  It is a continuing process of discovering more and more of your potential.  It breeds momentum and enthusiasm to keep you going.  (Women in Career & Life Transitions pg 92)
  • Happiness is 1 step out of your comfort zone.  (There) you’ll open up new directions that you never thought possible.  (Women in Career & Life Transitions pg 92)
  • We tend to swallow up into ourselves in challenging times – missing opportunities to leverage friends, family, networks, etc.   (Women in Career & Life Transitions pg 95)
  • Her observation is that women tend to avoid new beginnings because of our busy-ness.  (Women in Career & Life Transitions pg 193+)  She often alludes to our Summer Book Review #2 Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges.  Even though she references it she doesn’t cover Bridges’ critical transition step of ‘endings’ at all in her book on transitions. 

Anderson makes reference to identifying your Key Success Factors  (KSFs) in chapter 5.   (Women in Career & Life Transitions pg 90)     From her perspective these are the activities you must do well to be successful.   Interesting.  Can you name your KSFs?  

While I can’t name my KSFs right now — I’ll deem it a ‘horror’ if I can’t by year’s end.  If you try this book, I’d start with chapter 5 then tackle the remaining chapters whose titles and activities still appear relevant for  you. 

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8 responses to “Summer Book Review #12: Women in Career & Life Transitions

  1. Thanks for doing what sounds like the hard lifting of reading the whole book to give us the insights of Chapter 5. All hit home for me – especially the swallowing up into myself when things feel challenging instead of leveraging the wisdom and support of the wonderful people in my life. I also like the reminder to stretch outside of my comfort zone. Great timing on this for me – thanks Linda!

  2. When I had my first transition almost 10 years ago- laid off from a job I loved and expecting my first child – I read this book.I enjoyed the review and you nailed it – so much and so dated. One thing that stayed with me is tracking how you spend your time. Later, when I read 7 habits, I realized this idea of using your hours on what matters most to, is really important. Bang for buck rather than busy-ness. I struggle with that – especially during the first few weeks of school! Thanks for the review.

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  4. You’ve really captured all the essteinlas in this subject area, haven’t you?

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