Artist and writer Rebecca LaMarre reviews John Lees' best-selling book How To Get A Job You’ll Love. For more on this subject, come to our event tonight on how to create your perfect job, or if you can't make it, look out for the video of the event online soon. There's also some great job-hunting advice specifically for art and design students in our recent interview with John.
Written by John Lees, one of the UK’s best known career strategists, How To Get A Job You'll Love aims to give its readers tools to do exactly as the title suggests. The focus of these tools, rather than being strategies for securing the job, are instead discovering precisely what your interests and skills are and how they might be marketable. Even if you think you know what kind of job you want, the book will help you identify adjacent areas to pursue, widening your possibilities for achieving the desired result which is, as the title suggests, meaningful employment.
The book is written very simply, with inspirational quotes, additional websites and resources interspersed throughout. Its aim is to help you make connections between your natural creativity and the way you plan your life’s work. It includes a list of resources in the appendix. The first web address I tried brought me to a page with a broken link. If the link had worked I would have been charged £25 to complete an ‘aptitude’ questionnaire.
Much of the book is dedicated to career change, but I focused specifically on the areas for students leaving college or university: chapters 3, 9 and 10. I found myself frequently frustrated by the author encouraging recent graduates to take unpaid internships and volunteer. This is only good advice if you already have a way of paying for living decently in London, which I assume many recent graduates do not. Students don't need any more encouragement to work for free – they need to figure out ways to make money using the skills they can now identify, having read the book. There is also an odd Christian subtext, with a section talking about how enthusiasm is related to a relationship with God and that skills should be considered ‘gifts’ from a divine source that we have a responsibility to use.
The chapters are fairly self-explanatory and more or less deliver what is promised. Chapter 11 is called Creative Job Search Strategies, for example. The book also includes a chapter on ‘how to love the job you’ve got’, if you happen to have a job in what Lees calls the ‘post-recession’. Perhaps in 2010 there was an end in sight.
The author’s blinding enthusiasm is infectious, however, and there are all sorts of strategies for identifying personal skills and areas of intelligence. He highly recommends asking yourself, “If you won a million pounds tomorrow, what would I do?”, and then going ahead and pursuing the activity you’ve identified; the idea is to turn areas of interest into what he calls ‘sectors for investigation.’ He points out that before Freud, there wasn’t a sector called psychoanalysis.
An interesting point he makes is that when looking for work most people do not know the territory, and operate based on false, uninvestigated assumptions. He uses the example of Johnny Briggs, the actor who plays Mike Baldwin, a factory owner in Coronation Street. Apparently Briggs still receives CVs and requests for employment on a weekly basis.
Most of the activities seem quite useful, but they are of the list-making variety. That strategy happens to appeal a great deal to me personally, but I know that’s not the case with everyone. My favourite one was called an exercise in "discontinuous thinking", which is a way of generating unlikely connections that might provide insight for money making or career opportunities. The key is to be nonsensical, thinking of a sector or activity that is combined with an impossible activity. The example he uses is "a sector which involves persuasion and influence, but avoids people", which can be extrapolated into something like a marketing job on the web. Another example would be "building houses that nobody will live in", which could take the form a job building shelters for animals, or designing online forums, and so on.
The main thrust of this book is to assert we are no longer in a social landscape where one person can hold the same career for their entire life. Instead, it tries to teach its readers how to identify their strengths and new strategies for discovering a multiplicity of options. It is a book that teaches you how to brainstorm and operates on the premise that by writing something down you are much more likely to make it happen. It provides tips for CV writing and interviews, and emphasises the importance of either finding a mentor or asking people whose approach to work you respect for advice, repeating the adage that experience is the best teacher.