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Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 31 July 2003
If you itch to change careers but have made little or no progress, chances are this book will help you understand why .. and what you can do about it.
With it's core "just get out and experiment" message it's a very useful antidote to conventional career advice which holds that the key to making a sucessful change lies in first knowing with as much clarity and certainty what we want to do and then using that knowledge to implement a sound strategy.
It's a powerful message although whether it needed such a long book to present it is debateable. That said, the stories it tells of other career changers are more than just padding - they are illuminating and interesting if a little narrowly focused on professionals.
There is not much in the way of specific tips and advice, but then that is perhaps unsurprising given that the author advises that you go out and find what works for you.
Overall, a very good read for those caught up in the agony of self-analysis that precedes many attempts to change careers.
NB This is a book for career changers rather than job changers.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 3 January 2010
"Working Identity" is a book about making a drastic career change - that is, leaving your unsatisfying profession behind and beginning to do something that's really fulfilling for you.

There must be lots of people who feel vague dissatisfaction with their current lives but can't figure out what's wrong. There are countless books on that subject that tell you to sit down and ponder over what kind of stuff you would like to do, and write it down in minutest detail. I have filled out dozens of slightly different questionnaires over all these years, done all kinds of exercises trying to uncover that knowing that was supposed to be buried somewhere deep inside of me, and ended up none the wiser. In my late thirties, I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

"Working Identity" is the first book I've seen that clearly spells out what my long-time first-hand experience has so clearly demonstrated to be true - that you can't find your true calling by self-reflection. On the contrary - you can only find out what would make you happy by trying stuff out and seeing what you enjoy and what you don't.

Well, then, what help does this book offer? The short answer is: apart from moral support, nothing.
I did find it very comforting to learn that I wasn't some kind of a freak unable to achieve ultimate happiness by fast and simple methods everyone else seemingly uses. But other than that, the book contains just anecdotes about people who experimented around and eventually found something they wanted to spend their lives doing. I didn't even read them all.

Of course, it's clear to me that one can't expect to get things from a book that can only be learned by doing. Still, the book could have been much better. In particular, I disliked three things:
1. Too many times, the author seems to have put random English words one after another just to fill pages.
2. Lots of profound-sounding but actually empty phrases, which are probably meant to make this book appear more serious or something. Just look at that utterly meaningless diagram on page 12.
3. Repeated stressing of how it's all going to be so difficult and confusing and depressing, and how it's supposed to be that way, and how it's inevitable, and how you can never expect to change your life in a smooth and easy way.

That said, it's quite possible that reading a five-page article (to which the essential content of this book could be summed up to) wouldn't have gotten the message through to me. Sometimes you need a book just to shake you up, to tell you that you've been on the wrong track. In that sense, the book served its purpose and deserves 3 stars.
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on 11 September 2014
This book is very good if you interested in developing your managerial career in a different direction, and want to hear the wisdom of someone with both relevant experience and academic credentials. It can also be useful if you are line managing and developing staff through their careers.

Most of the examples refer to business executives that may have changed managerial roles or set up a new business, so I think it will have most direct relevance for this context. This book may not be for you if you are plunged into change and need to keep money coming in somehow. Nor is it for you if you are after a quick fix and some magical formula that will spout out your ideal career. Indeed, the whole concept behind this book is that successful change takes time and occurs through small iterative steps. She maintains that sitting in a room reflecting on past successes and experiences, or doing personality profiles, will only get you so far: ultimately you have to take a plunge, however small, and try things out so that you feel and experience which doors are right for you to open.

Do you need a book to tell you this? Maybe not but why are you even reading this? Change is a strange thing, and it is easy to get caught up in day-to-day work and not look at the broader picture, no matter how organised or ambitious one is.

I am very cynical about so called "self-help" books: I am sure the answer is never in a book but some might help illuminate paths forward if they are on your wavelength. I specifically searched for a reputable publisher (Harvard University Press) and author (from a good business school) to avoid the risk of evangelical preaching about one can really be a bullfighter or filmstar or whatever, just by reflecting on what you're good at and being brave.

Life is not like that, and neither is this book. The author takes a calm and measured approach and gives case examples of how experimenting with change can be done in any setting in order to find out what really makes you happy. The answer is your answer and there are probably many.

The book assumes you have time to experiment and being proactive in seeking change. It is not about reacting to change, unless you have time and money rolling in to carefully consider you next step. It is written well and authoritatively.

You might also want to consider Timothy Butler's book "Getting unstuck". Similarly written by academic career psychologists, it takes you through a process of gradually arriving at options.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 16 September 2009
"Find a job you enjoy and never work a day in your life"

This book shows how other people have made the transition to working at what they enjoy and becoming successful in the terms that satisfy them. If you are looking for direction in your working life, this is a great place to start. It will help you think about what it is that you really want to do and inspire you to realise that doing what you really want to do is the truest and most satisfying way to succeed in your own terms.

If success really is a journey rather than a destination, this book shows you how to choose a journey that you will actually enjoy. (If you can see light at the end of the tunnel, you really need to ask yourself what you are doing in the tunnel in the first place.)

This is an excellent book on this subject and it really helped me gather my direction in working life. Being such a good book, I ended up lending it to a friend so my next move will be to acquire another copy!
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on 24 January 2014
The central idea is that a change of this magnitude is a heuristic process. You must act before you are fully ready through a process of small experiments. Only through trying out new modes of behaviour do you come to see which routes will work most effectively for you. The book is an antidote to those processes and gurus who advocate deep internal self-reflection and then decisive and single-minded action.

In line with Ibarra's background, the tone is considered and academic rather than breathless and strident like so many business and self-help books. This is refreshing and engaging and made the book so much easier to absorb.

As other reviewers have noted, the book is short on prescriptive actions. The real benefit of the book is going on the journey with the characters she brings out in the case studies. Nevertheless, for those of you who like the key messages bullet point-style, they are teased out at the end in nine "Unconventional Strategies".

If you are a career counsellor or just wondering how to make sense of a mid-career change, I'd definitely recommend this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 26 February 2014
Very sensible and pragmatic advice on how to plan and execute a change of career, though probably of limited usefulness for anyone forced into a rapid change due to redundancy or other life events -- as the author points out, the most potentially effective way of changing career is gradually and over time, which is a luxury not everyone will enjoy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 19 May 2013
This book raises a lot of good points (making iterative rather than wholesale change, getting the right support network etc) but the cases studies are mostly office based CEO levels & accademia. if you're looking for an escape from office based work, this is probably not the book for you.
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on 6 October 2011
The main concept I took from this book is that when you are thinking about exploring a new career path, the best way to see if it fits is to start taking steps toward the goal; test the waters; for example, by volunteering, taking courses or working part time at it. Really good case studies illustrate this well. Helped me make a good career move.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 19 December 2004
Easy to read, it uses case studies to explain the way to change your career.
The book gives a very practical approach and recommends action rather than reflection as being the bext way forward.
If you're struggling with your current job, then read this book. It may lead you to a new career that's just what you need.
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on 31 July 2014
As a coach and having changed careers several times, I totally recommend this book as it provides a wide range of mini-bios outlining the rarely-mentioned but natural psychological and practical difficulties associated with major career and life change, as well as advice in tackling them.
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