Body of Work: Finding the Thread That Ties Your Story Together by Pamela Slim, Portfolio, 240 pages, $16.00, Paperback, January 2014, ISBN 9781591846192
I recall an old employer of mine discussing candidates for a position, complaining “They jump around too much, one year here, another there,” inferring that these nuggets of experience wouldn’t add up to what we needed. I wondered how many other hiring managers felt the same way, and felt sorry for the candidates who had the challenge of telling their story. Nowadays, it’s likely that most people are in this camp to some degree. With shifts in the economy, loss of jobs, and other difficulties in modern career navigation, a patchy work history is something many of us have likely considered how to spin to our advantage. But is that the best story? Will it hold up in the stress of the job interview? Are we equipped to truly explain the value of all of our experiences in a way that takes us from being simply well rounded to having unique expertise that can benefit an organization in new and innovative ways?
Luckily, Pam Slim’s Body of Work exists. It tells you exactly how to tell that story, how to think about your experiences, build your reputation, highlight your accomplishments, and show the ambition to take on a new challenge—for however long it may last. Ms. Slim spent many years consulting large corporations. Then, she encouraged entrepreneurs to leave those corporations to start their own companies, and wrote a brilliant book, Escape From Cubicle Nation, as a guide. Now, she is helping the mass of talented workers still struggling in an environment of high unemployment—from recent graduates to corporate veterans looking for a change—tell their stories in ways that will get them hired. Through various interviews, a lot of research, and her own insight, and using a variety of questions and forms, Body of Work resembles one’s own personal workbook—not a book that simply tells you what to do, but one that helps you organize your own skills, thoughts, and value to help you better communicate what you can contribute to the project or organization of your choice. It will help you discover things about yourself, and also act as a reminder that the world has changed, and the career paths now need a different type of navigation.
Viewing your career as a body of work will give you more choice, financial security, and creative freedom. The world is not going to serve up neat career tracks anymore. You cannot guarantee that your business or nonprofit will survive in a constantly changing economic landscape. But you can choose the kinds of projects that are worth completing and the type of life that is worth living.
It’s not an easy situation, but after reading this book, you’ll have a big advantage.