Book review: The Career Clinic: 8 Simple Rules for Finding Work You Love

cover of "The Career Clinic" and author Maureen Anderson

I am a fan of all things that help us find, and keep, and get back on, our ways.

Mantras are good for this, as are those perfect teachers students occasionally do will into appearing at just the right time. Ditto (if less obviously) music, art, poetry, fiction and drama. And for this frequently befuddled traveler, triple-ditto for the Holy Trinity of Maps to the Self: biography, memoir and other forms of well-conceived, well-written nonfiction of a personal nature.

The solutions for everything that befuddles, the inspiration to keep slogging through the dark toward the light, these things are embedded everywhere, but never so clearly and handily as in excellent, truthfully told stories of the self.

“Hey,” we say, “this person’s self struggled with that same envy thing that has me in a headlock!”

Or “Wow, I’m not the first person to be broke/sick/lonely/scared/overwhelmed/blue/green/blah!”

The trick of it is, of course, to read the right thing at the right time, no small feat in this modern world with enough choices to choke an underfed herd of horses. But there are some good places to start the search: commonalities of situation, for starters; it would be madness to look to Ben Franklin, however wise he was, for particulars on dealing with the particular woes of a 21st-Century woman in the throes of perimenopause. (Although the founding father was mighty smart about things like thrift and focus and getting enough sleep, all of which apply in spades to our particular condition.)

One of the greatest common-denominator places to start is with work, mostly because each of us is somehow called to do it. There is rent to be paid, for one. But also, if one has more than a few brain cells to rub together after watching all that reality TV, one realizes that life is just way more interesting when one is engaged in some kind of meaningful activity (and if one doubts this, one can click to any number of examples still housed in the DVR denoting the deleterious effect of endless consumption. Cf. Real Housewives Whose Cribs Have Been Intervened On or Battle of the America’s Hoarders without Talent.)

Which brings us to a book I finished long ago and have longed to share since, but have been struggling to adequately define.

The Career Clinic: 8 Simple Rules for Finding Work You Love is a great book in search of a better title. (And possibly a more enticing cover, but I’m kind of a snob about these things.) The stories, dozens of them!, are indeed about work, and are clustered around eight different topic-categories. They are not as simple as the title might indicate, though, nor so precisely and neatly prescriptive.

What they are, the stories, and the writing around them, is wonderful. Gripping. Fascinating. Delightful. And concise, distilled down to delicious, pithy essence from what must by now be hundreds of interviews with all kinds of wonderful people on Maureen Anderson’s long-running, weekly show on terrestrial radio, “The Career Clinic.” (I’ve been a guest on the show twice as of this writing, and can attest to Maureen’s amazing interview prowess; some people are just really good at interviewing, and Maureen Anderson is one of them.)

These people run the gamut, endeavor-wise. Writers are well represented, maybe because Maureen is a writer, and writers like reading, which inevitably leads them to more writers. For starters, there’s Dave Barry, the syndicated humorist; Marshall Goldsmith, who has written extensively on leadership; and Dick Bolles, Anderson’s own guru of sorts, of What Color Is My Parachute? fame. There are interviews with Helen Gurley Brown, creatrix of the Cosmo empire; with casting director Jane Brody; with Sally Hogshead, marketing personality and best-selling author.

But the stories of the most famous personalities aren’t necessarily where the gold lies, even when they do illuminate their path to “making it” (hint: paths are almost universally easier to make out in hindsight). What is most interesting about all of these stories, from potters and cowboys, peddlers and preachers, musicians and woodworkers and triathletes and hog callers, is how work done led to the work done next, and how the sum total of it all was to lead them back to themselves somehow. I know, I know, woowoo in the extreme, but there you have it.

As I mentioned, the book is divvied up into sections with purported themes, but really, it’s this overall theme that is the main thing: we work to find ourselves, we work to make meaning of our lives. Work is the vehicle and work is the product but mostly, work is the process. Maureen’s own journey, from unhappiness and confusion to a life and work she loves (and slightly less confusion), is as illustrative as any story in the book. She steps out of the way, mostly, to let her guests tell their stories, but her guiding hand is always there, shaping and leading us back to the main point: to make the most of a life, start where you are and adjust, adjust, adjust.

I do not know if you will find the work you love by reading this book, but I know it will inspire you, reassure you, comfort you to continue on the often-hard work of the journey. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

xxx
c

Disclosure! Links to the books in the post above are Amazon affiliate links. This means if you click on them and buy something, I receive an affiliate commission. Which I hope you do: it helps keep me in books to review. More on this disclosure stuff at publisher Michael Hyatt’s excellent blog, from whence I lifted (and smooshed around a little) this boilerplate text.

12 comments

  1. I’m not familiar with Anderson’s show or her book. But your description of it reminds me of another “people talking about their jobs” book, 1972’s Working, by the great Studs Terkel. I haven’t looked at it recently but I bet it’s just as good now as it was back in those pre-everything Dark Ages.

    People talk about looking forward to retirement when they can “do absolutely nothing” — or whatever they want at a given moment, anyhow. I’m no workaholic but gad, that sounds dreadful to me. Even The Pooch at our house loves to work, although it looks like play to us: she takes it very, very seriously, and is not satisfied with doing a half-*ssed job. And of course holds us to the same high standards. :)

    1. I picked up Working a few years ago, after going to see a production of the musical based on the book. I wasn’t a fan of the show, and wanted to compare it to the source material.

      My honest assessment—from a few years ago, so you know, grain of salt/sand of time—is that it hasn’t held up all that well. I should probably read his book on the war for comparison.

      I’m guessing some people really do love retirement. But they’re either lazy (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) or they’re doing stuff, but not work stuff.

      Personally, I love what I do right now. Read, write, talk, think. I can’t imagine stopping. My trick now is how to do it for more money, so I don’t have to do the things I like less. But I’m with you: I hope I die peacefully in my sleep after a long, satisfying day of work.

  2. Wow. Very powerful and beautifully written review.

    Sounds like the kind of book that lays it all out there.

    Thanks for the recommendation!

  3. You know that feeling you have first thing in the morning–when you know something really good (or really bad) has happened, but you can’t remember what? Not for a few seconds, until you come to a little bit?

    Thank you for the smiles I’ll have upon awakening tomorrow morning!

  4. Hi, Colleen,
    This is a great review of a unique book. I, too, am a fan/occasional guest of The Career Clinic. What I like about the stories in Maureen’s book is the inclusion of so many women and men who are not successful in the financial or social sense, but are happy at being hog callers, clowns and cowboys as well as entrepreneurs and publishers.
    I refer this book to clients for whom the path has not been straight, for whom the structured world of work doesn’t offer satisfaction.
    You did your readers a favor by calling attention to this little book.

    1. That’s an excellent point about the non-“successful” people’s stories. We have such narrow definitions of success, which needlessly keep so many of us from happiness for too long.

      Thanks for bringing it up.

  5. Thank you so much for the recommendation! I used your link to buy the book from Amazon and read it in one sitting…..one long sitting ;-) I think it changed my life. I’ll get back to you on that.

    Kim

      1. Maureen! It’s you! You’re real!

        I can’t thank you enough for your book and for sharing your story. For the first time in ages I feel ok (and almost good) about where I am and where I’m going. I’ve practiced law for 18 looooong years – all the while cursing the fact that I’m semi-good at something I pretty much hate doing, but am too afraid to quit. Instead of berating myself for “wasting” that time, I now look at it as a stepping stone to whatever fabulous thing is coming next. It’s hard to describe how huge this reframe is for me. I am so much lighter….. I still don’t know what life is going to look like, but the stories in your book have taught me that I don’t really have to know right now. My take-away is that every one of us has our own path and our own definition of “success” and it’s all good.

        You’re awesome! Thank you.

        Kim

      2. Hello again Kim,

        Yes, I’m real. And you’re hilarious!

        But seriously, I’m fond of telling people “I have to resell myself on my career path daily.” And you’ve helped. A lot.

        So thanks right back! I hope you will keep us posted as your life unfolds. It would be fun to compare notes.

        Fondly,

        Maureen

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