Intern Book Review! Thumbs Up for College-to-Career Guide

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Last summer, I was asked to talk about my job to a roomful of Time Inc. interns. This is just about my favorite thing to do: I love to tell doe-eyed young journalists about all the crappy moves I’ve made so they won’t have to repeat ‘em. Not that they’ll listen. Smart, experienced journalists gave me good advice, too, such as: don’t be so eager to dump your first job; find an area of expertise early on; never take a journalism job for the money. Yes, today I’ve got what people tell me is one of the neater jobs in journalism. But my route here would have been a lot prettier had I heeded their sage words.

Anyway, one thing I emphasized to these fresh new interns was that they must at all costs make connections to people during their stint here. They were smart and resourceful enough to land these prestigious internships; now what they needed in order to land jobs were personal contacts. I handed out a stack of business cards and told the crowd that though I wasn’t a hiring manager, I’ve worked in this building for 10 years and would be very happy to help them try to carve out a spot here.

My message, I felt, was all the more urgent because many of the kids there were part of a program targeted to racial and ethnic minorities. In my field, minorities are sorely underrepresented; it’s particularly dire at my brand. That summer internship could be their foot into this world.

Only a few ever called. One, a young lady named Melissa Kong, stood out. She nabbed me for lunch, then proceeded to drop me e-mails over the school year, even during a research stint in Fiji. She told me all about her grand plans, her concerns about the financial feasibility of a career in journalism, the progress of a research project involving women and self-help. I know a lot more about her than I could from an e-mailed resumé, and, moreover, am far more motivated to help her (on that last point: take a look, recruiters, at her final line).

In College to Career, author Lindsey Pollak gives advice along these lines to job-seeking grads. I asked Melissa to review it for WiP from the perspective of the target reader. Here’s what she wrote.

College to Career
90 Things to Do Before You Join the Real World

By Lindsey Pollak

Reviewed by Melissa Kong

“Take action!” That’s the tip Lindsey Pollak emphasizes in the very beginning of College to Career, and the message resonates throughout the book. That message is a great one, but this book isn’t without a few minor kinks.

Pollak’s one instruction for applying her advice in this book is that readers should use whichever tips they feel apply to them the most. It’s not supposed to be a “step-by-step, all inclusive guide to getting a job.” Well, that puts a damper on things pretty quickly; isn’t that what people want? A step-by-step, all-inclusive guide? Maybe it’s because I’m a control-seeking millennial, but 90 “things to do” seems daunting, especially when these tips are listed in no real order of importance.

Pollak loses her credibility a bit in the beginning with her overly youthful tone, using lines such as “When in doubt, ask someone outside of your family whether parental involvement would be kosher or not,” and, when describing her feelings about the job hunt after studying abroad in college she writes, “In a nutshell, my scientific diagnosis of my post-Australia situation is that it totally sucked.” If you want me to take your book about professionalism seriously, you need to write like someone I’d aspire to be, not a college buddy that I’d tell all my secrets to.

And of course, the book is infused with inspirational tidbits like, “There are no stupid ways to gain experience and look for a job. The only stupid thing you can do is nothing at all.” Well, actually I can think of a few pretty stupid things that might really hurt your chances of finding a job. But I suppose the advice works if you aren’t taking Pollak too literally.

In her defense, Pollak regains her composure as the book progresses by offering serious and creative tips for getting ahead. Her checklists at the end of each chapter are helpful when it comes to taking action, and she proves that success really starts with the little things.

For instance, one tip that might separate the classy from the mediocre college students and graduates is to have personal business cards made for networking purposes. Most twentysomethings would probably never think to do this, especially if they don’t have a full-time job yet. But Pollak explains how and why it should be done.

Advice about how to write a proper networking letter and creating a “brag book” for job interviews–that’s valuable information that indeed many people would never think of or know about. These tips are more likely to help you get your foot in the door and maybe one step closer to a corner office with a sweet panoramic view.

These little action-oriented tips ultimately make this book better than most of the typical career self-help books out there. Pollak keeps it real and honest; as a result, College to Career is more likely to produce results for readers than to induce in them a temporary motivational jolt with cliché phrases, such as “You gotta want it!” and “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.” And while those classic career book sayings may be true and inspiring, I know that if I said something to my boss regarding fighting and dogs, she’d probably take me less seriously…or be scared of me, in a non-promotion sort of way. All in all, I’m much more likely to recommend this book–as opposed to many of the overly optimistic and unrealistic career books out there–to my fellow scared almost-graduate friends.

And to all of the prospective employers out there: May I give you my business card?

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