10 Make-or-Break Career Moments

I came across Casey Hawley’s 10 Make-or-Break Career Moments the other day. I’ve never had a career mentor to help me navigate the sometimes treacherous straits of earning, and this book promised to take up the slack.

It’s divided into ten chapters, each of which refers to one of the titular make-or-break moments, plus a conclusion which offers up a game plan for real life communication with six models for your future success.

The opening chapters are about how to make the most of the first time you meet a business contact or job interviewer. These can be boiled down to: be your best, most professional, outgoing self.

Next, Hawley focuses on what to do when you are offered a job, basically to respond with enthusiasm while simultaneously asking for a day or two to review the offer before formally committing.

The chapter on how to make the most of a performance review includes advice on how to ask for a raise.

I like the encouragement about when you meet your new colleagues: “Every person, group, or company you ever join gives you a clean slate – a wonderful opportunity to improve yourself over your past performance.”

There is a chapter devoted to a subject not everyone will have to deal with: what to do when you are fired.  Hawley recommends resisting the urge to burn bridges and instead to make sure you leave on good terms, including leaving things in good shape for your successor.  Also important is to get answers to nuts-and-bolts questions like when your health insurance coverage ends, and whether you are eligible to be rehired.  Hawley echoes this advice in the chapter on resigning.

In the chapter on ethics, Hawley writes, “One of the most challenging and defining moments in a career arises when you are asked to do something that is not strictly aligned with company policy – or even with your own code of conduct.”  She goes on to discuss the dicy balancing act of maintaining loyalty at your current job while looking for a new one.

When it comes to dealing with conflict, Hawley suggests responding according to the personality type of the person you are dealing with, and she provides a handy chart to help delineate the pros and cons of four types of people: the straight arrow, the emotionally open, the analytical, and the creative idea person.

The chapter on being recognized for excellence highlighted one of my own personal shortcomings as a worker: being good at touting your contributions to your workplace.  Unfortunately the chapter presupposes that the reader is adept at this skill, and offers advice on how to deal with people who are less so when they are overlooked at work.

In the conclusion, Hawley spotlights six successful people as models of professionals who have made it. She includes the founders of Twitter and of Spanx, as well as President Barack Obama, and she relates their strengths to behaviors she advocates in the previous ten chapters.  I love a success story, so I found this part to be the most fun, even if I’m always a little skeptical of stories like these.

Because while, according to Hawley’s personality grid,  I am a creative idea person, (positive feature: innovative; potential problem: easily bores) I am also analytical (positive feature: trustworthy; potential problem: caught up in details instead of main points).


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