Archives for June 2013

Review of A Career in Your Suitcase by Jo Parfitt and Colleen Reichrath-Smith

I approached this book, which comes in paperback and kindle format, with a degree of trepidation and a touch of cynicism. This is a topic I know a lot about, not only through doing it (I am in my 20th year of living in Italy and have created a variety of careers in that time) but also through having read widely online and off about career change and finding your calling.

First off, it's a substantial book both in terms of pages – there are 380 – and in content. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of sculpting a life you love around a portable career that makes your heart sing then you will get a lot out of this book.

CO-AUTHORS – TWICE THE VALUE

I enjoyed the co-authors life stories and backgrounds, I think we all love to get the low down on how people tick and how they have come to be where they are. Jo is a seasoned veteran of international living, having begun her globetrotting in 1987 in Dubai. After a dazzling array of make-your-own-luck work opportunities from cookery to journalism, she formed her own publishing company in 1998. This is the fourth edition of the book she first published back then.

Colleen is a self-employed career consultant. Originally from Canada and now living in the Netherlands, she has a magic toolbox of techniques and tips, some of which will be new to even the most well-read career quester.

The only down side of this talented partnership is the clunky way that the relevant person's name has to be put in brackets in every personal anecdote, for example “How I (Jo) Found My Passions”. I found this small quirk annoying and surely there must be a way round it. But it says a lot about the book that it is the only thing I can find to criticise!

STEP-BY-STEP TO PORTABLE CAREER NIRVANA

The book takes you systematically through every stage of the process of creating your dream job. First of all there is the tricky job of finding your passion and earning money by doing it.

It may sound simple, but discovering what you truly love to do can be surprisingly difficult, particularly if you are drawn to more than one area or if they have been crushed at an early age. Jo and Colleen get you to list key skills and values and uncover the things that really make your heart beat faster through a series of exercises and evaluation tools, some of which I haven't seen before – and I thought I had read every “find your passion” book going!

Once your elusive passions have been captured, your skills pinned down and new, useful ones suggested, the book analyses which portable careers are best suited to your unique set of talents. They suggest a lot, from predictable EFL teaching to less mainstream online trading. There are myriad resources to back up their suggestions, one of the book's great strengths.

BUT GET CHAOTIC TOO!

I loved the link between career development and chaos theory and the idea that you shouldn't get too linear and left-brained about it all. The inclusion of something like this hints at the authors' deeper philosophy and spiritual side, something that really appealed to me about their book. Sometimes synchronicity – or synchrodestiny as Deepak Chopra calls it – takes over, the key is to get to a place where this can happen. Being too rigid and organised doesn't cut it.

 GETTING PRACTICAL

The section of the book on actually creating the career you want is full of gems, a synthesis of common sense – like managing your expectations – and more profound analysis like examining your beliefs about work.

The book once again surprised me by including yet another of my all-time favourite things – mind mapping. It was like the authors had stepped into my brain at times- quite spooky! They suggest mind mapping to brainstorm career ideas as well as an innovative grid system to combine skills and passions.

 They discuss all kinds of ways of working from temping to telecommuting, the purpose being to make this new career of yours the best fit possible for your lifestyle and dreams. I loved the powerful visual of the route map with the star at the top of the stairs and the more organic looking synchronistic star diagram.

NETWORKING

Living in Italy I know it almost always more important who you know than what you do. Personal contacts are everything and the book writes about this at length including everything from LinkedIn and Twitter to breakfast clubs.

Valuable skills like public speaking and presentation are covered too as you never know when you might have to speak at a conference or a workshop. They even cover the elevator pitch, which is one of my personal favourites. (Yes, another one, told you they had got into my head!)

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

This is, above all, a practical book. The authors expect you to act on their suggestions, because if things stay as ideas in your head you may as well not have even thought of them in the first place.

Therefore there are a vast number of tips and suggestions for how and where to find work. They include everything here. You're bound to find some you hadn't considered before.

I loved the part about creating your own opportunities and your own personal brand. This is so important. Jo and Colleen follow through with solid marketing advice covering everything from creating your own website to writing the most brilliant targeted CV in the world!

The book has a rich section on entrepreneurship and working for yourself and again, they have over delivered in every way. Everyone even considering starting a business will benefit from reading this, I know I did.

ALL CHANGE

The final section of this magical compendium covers change – leaving, travelling, starting again. They discuss what they call the “challenge of change” and it is here you can really see their personal experience of global travel come to the fore. They discuss culture shock and language learning, work-life balance and spirituality. No stone, personal or professional, is left unturned.

WHO SHOULD BUY THIS BOOK?

Anyone who is thinking of living abroad, currently lives abroad or even just knows how to spell the word “abroad” should read this, it's just brilliant. Even if you are staying put in your own country or relocating within your own borders, you will learn a lot. It's a wonderful book and the one I wish I had written!