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What I’m Reading

What I'm readingHere’s a look at what’s on my Kindle at the moment. These are the books that have been accompanying me on my commute recently.

Book Review: Your Dreams, Your Team, Yourself

is subtitled: 25 Secrets to Help You Crush Your Starting Career. Written by Reuben King Jr, Andrew Cramp and Nate Horgan, Your Dreams, Your Team, Yourself is really short and a very quick read.

There is a section for each of the topics: your dreams, your team and yourself. Sub-topics include things like break down your goals, stay focused, network, showcase your talents and continue to learn. Each of the three sections ends with a question and answer part relating to each of the sub-topics. Motivational quotes are dotted throughout.

I didn’t think there was anything particularly different or new about this book, but then I’m not really the target audience. It is aimed at young professionals and might make a good gift for a graduate, especially one who likes sports. Given the authors’ sports background, there are lots of sports analogies and references to the NFL. I didn’t like that as it doesn’t speak to me, but goal setting and team work do relate really well to sports. I can understand why it works for the intended audience.

Book Review: Career Killers/Career Builders

by John Crossman is another book aimed at young professionals and possibly students. It’s full of solid career advice including things like:

  • Work parties are work, not a real party
  • Don’t drink and do drugs
  • Network

And other stuff that won’t come as much surprise to anyone who has been working for any length of time. However, the college audience who should be reading this book will find it accessible and interesting. It is the stories that make it. There are a lot of them, and they serve to highlight the tips in a way that makes them memorable.

The book lists things that will kill your career and then covers things that will boost your career. I found it an interesting way of laying out a career guide that (in essence) shares very standard tips and information about succeeding in the workplace and acting professionally.

The final section talks about understanding your passion, which is helpful for everyone who hasn’t quite worked out what it is they want to do for a career.

Book Review: Stand and Deliver

, written by expert speaking coach Ian Nichol, was a fun read. Be warned: it’s long. It’s the quote that make it longer than perhaps it needs to be, but they are there to illustrate good practice when it comes to giving speeches.

The book sets out simple steps to successful public speaking. It starts with key principles like getting your attitude right, then moves into what you need to do to adequately prepare. Finally, it talks about key techniques which is a section on tricks of the trade.

The book is written in a conversational style that makes it easy to read. There are a lot of examples, including from the author’s own many presentations – some more successful than others. It’s incredibly practical and the main message for me was that Nichol is trying to increase your confidence at public speaking.

For me, I often speak to an audience of experts, and Nichol has useful advice on that. He writes:

What happens if you are speaking to an audience that knows the subject better than you? In this situation, it can be easy to lose all your confidence and give a woeful performance. The key is to treat your talk as a team effort and work with the experts in the room, rather than see them as a challenge to your ego. The presence of a specialist, knowledgeable audience gives you the chance to lead a debate of high quality and so create a thoroughly compelling session.

He gives some more tips on how to speak to an audience of experts:

  • Treat them as very knowledgeable.
  • Be prepared to compliment and indulge them where appropriate, so long as you don’t belittle your own skills in the process.
  • Actively invite their comments (and even their corrections), their experiences and their examples on the subject.
  • Never try to wing it
  • Never pretend that your knowledge is greater than it is.

Other tips I took away from this book:

  • Sacrifice all unnecessary detail: you cannot convey more than a handful of points so make them the primary message
  • Don’t overestimate what the audience already knows (although this conflicts somewhat with the point about speaking to experts above. I suppose the key is knowing your audience)
  • Use plenty of examples

And my favourite tip, which I will let the author tell you in his own words:

Ensure that embarrassing personal material does not intrude on your presentation. Computers have their individual concerns and interests that do not necessarily align happily with those of the presenter. An executive was doing a PowerPoint presentation to his management committee. Microsoft Outlook was still open. In the middle of the talk, a window came up informing him of a new message. The heading for all to read was: ‘RE: job application for the post of Marketing Manager’. Sadly, it was not for an internal appointment within the company. Try to avoid that sort of thing.

Looking for other suggestions of things to read? Here are 60 books project managers are reading.

New Female Tribes

New Female Tribes: Shattering Female Stereotypes and Redefining Women Today, by Rachel Pashley, is a book based on a survey carried out by the author’s firm. It was a substantial survey, revealing the dreams and goals of over 8,000 women from 19 countries.

The outcome of this ambitious survey was a variety of ‘cohorts’, or as Pashley prefers to call them: tribes.

The tribes identified are presented as an alternative to the traditional female stereotypes, countering the received wisdom of what life should look like for women generally and women in particular countries.

Pashley and the research team identified and categorised a broad range of tribes including those who preferred to be seen as home-makers (they do still exist) through to anti-alphas (women struggling to find their place and dealing with emotional or financial insecurity). Interestingly, age is a defining characteristic for many of the tribes, as was a hostile work environment.

There are enlightening examples of bias at work including this anecdote which I found particularly memorable: a company was struggling to make their cake boxes easier to open. The male packaging designers came up with a number of designs, none of which was very good. A female colleague found out that they were having this issue, and showed them how she had been opening cake boxes for years without damaging the contents inside, as she imagined many women did. This is how the incident concludes in the book:

[They] realised I was onto something: the design was duly prototyped and patented. Had I been smarter, I would have quit right then and there, taken my design to the patent office and laughed all the way to the bank. But my respect for duty and compliance and a relative lack of arrogance –perhaps because of my gender –meant that I wouldn’t have dreamed of taking credit for the idea. The point is that neither of those male engineers had ever opened a cake carton as part of their domestic lives and, putting gender stereotypes and household division of labour issues to one side, the bigger problem was that they had never thought to ask someone, most likely a woman, how she opened a cake carton: so, what could have taken ten minutes took two years.

The book is particularly aimed at brands who are designing products for women, but it’s illuminating and sad at the same time. Reading it was the first time my assumptions about ‘female’ products had really been challenged. The book points out that many products are designed for men and adapted for women. Could a product be truly designed through a female lens e.g. finance products aimed at women who live longer but earn less so a different investment model is required.

Depressingly, the survey concludes by reminding us just how far we have to go. More than 40% of women anywhere in the world felt that their gender was holding them back from their career goals. Pashley writes:

[It] was also very clear through the data that women wanted much greater recognition for who they were, beyond society’s limited expectations or outdated ideals, and to see their achievements and significance within the world reflected back to them. In short, they wanted to feel visible and included in the cultural narrative: there is very clear evidence that up to this point they felt that they had been excluded or airbrushed out…

Let me just leave that thought there.

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About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth HarrinElizabeth Harrin FAPM is a professional project manager and award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management. She's passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She's also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.
Elizabeth lives in the UK with her family. She uses her organisation and project management skills at home, and also to help other bloggers at Totally Organised Blogging.

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