Saturday, May 24, 2008

Be Your Own Mentor

Next in line in my reviews of Success Literature, I present Be Your Own Mentor, by Sheila Wellington and Catalyst.

I've been aware of the work of Catalyst for a long while now, and I found this book by browsing the list of Resources listed on their webpage. For those of you not familiar with their work, Catalyst is a group that collects data relevant to women's advancement in the workplace. This includes reports on women-friendly places to work, trends for women in executive positions, and much more.

Be Your Own Mentor is a wonderful book that discusses all angles of the professional obstacles that women face. It opens with a general description of women in the workplace, such as the statistics of women in the workforce, and common myths and misconceptions held by women and by men about women in the workplace. From there, it moves on to cover strategic career planning, work style, work and life issues, networking, and the pros and cons of line vs. staff jobs.

What makes this book particularly useful is the input added to each topic by working women, CEOs, and a group of workforce women pioneers. These verbatim quotes come from focus groups and surveys by Catalyst, and are more specific that the average Success Lit advice. Additionally, there is the added bonus of facts and figures also from Catalyst's research archives.

The contributions from the Pioneers are particularly helpful, and these women span industries as diverse as law, publishing, jewelry design, energy management and academia. They share personal victories and discuss their tackling of particular challenges. And in the last chapter, they each impart what they consider to be their most crucial advice for any women looking to move ahead. They openly discuss how they asked for advancement, managed their family life, and what changes they helped to make for those who came after them.

One downside to this book is the fact that it is now seven years old, and the facts and figures are perhaps out of date (I certainly hope there are more women in the Fortune 500 now). The advice in the book has held up better than some of the pioneers; certainly Carly Fiorina's career has taken a downturn since 2001.

The audience for this book is a little more experienced than those imagined for New Girl on the Job. It does not address much in the way of searching for a job, or selecting a career, and is not directed toward the recent graduate. On the other hand, it assumes that you can be successful with or without an MBA, or other graduate degree, and gives an excellent roadmap for establishing a long term career.

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