Most helpful critical review
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
The message is clear but did I really need to buy a book for that?
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.