Friday, October 9, 2009

Book Review: Career and Corporate Cool

Tries Too Hard To Be "Cool":
A Review of Career and Corporate Cool (TM): How to Look, Dress and Act the Part--at Every Stage of Your Careerby Rachel C. Weingarten

I'll give this book credit for marketing. It really attracts attention and looks like the total package, complete with pink letters on the cover! But inside, it reads like a bunch of articles in Seventeen Magazine. (It even has cutesy chapter titles like "Career-o-rama," and cartoon cutout-like drawings of fashionably dressed women at work). Instead of advising you on what to do on your first date, it tells you how to be cool and sophisticated at work. Because the writing is anything but sophisticated, I didn't find it very convincing. It was really hard for me to take a book seriously that is supposed to be about a professional, mature career image but projects the image of a 16-year-old.

The sub-title of the book is deceptive, because this book does't talk at all about "every stage of your career." Instead, it seems to assume that everyone has a glamourous job but still somehow needs to figure out how to fit in. Much of the advice contained in the book is just plain common sense. The description in the inside jacket (which I should have read before the rest of the book, and then maybe I wouldn't have bought it) states, "While an off-color joke generally won't play in a cubicle environment, it can be a job requirement for a professional comedian. Fortune 500 companies tend to frown on perceived sexual harassment in the workplace while massage therapists touch naked strangers on a daily basis." Oh really, Rachel, you don't say?

Speaking of the dear author Rachel, she writes the entire book with a super chatty tone, like a thirteen year old, I guess in an attempt to relate to the reader (who is supposed to be caring about their professional career). But I found it condescending at some points, and downright annoying at others. She touts her own horn to no end. On page 169 of the book, she is still reminding us how "cool" she is: "I'm not a doctor (thought I'm known as a heck of a spin doctor and freuquently revive brands that are on death's door), and I'm certainly not a nurse (though I regularly nurse clients' and colleagues' bruised egos, and nurture projects from concept to fruition.) I am a marketing strategist and consultant who works on
high-profile projects and glamourous launches and events." I don't know about most readers, but I certainly do not care how many times Rachel wants to remind me of what she does and how important her work is. What I want to know are tips to succeed in my own career.

And that's where her book falls completely flat, in my opinion. My biggest objection is that it's all fluff and no substance. It also seems to jump from one topic to the next unrelated topic and back again. For example, Chapter 3 is called "Culture Club" and the index at the front states that it will teach you how to "understand and adapt to your firm's unique corporate culture without becoming just another clog." But Chapter 3 has one section called "Follow your bliss," which belongs more in a section about choosing a job or profession, another section which advises you to "be yourself" (gee, thanks for the tip) and the last and longest section is about email etiquette.

Finally, Career and Corporate Cool (TM)just seems out of touch with reality. It doesn't contain many practical tips for the typical career girl. Instead, it seems to think we all live in Hollywood and have jobs that involve throwing elaborate parties for famous people. Under a section called "publicity," Rachel writes, "If your event is newsworthy, then promote it--but first create an outstanding and newsworthy story. Court and invte key media and create individual pitches and stories for their particular publications. Follow up with details that make the story juicy, fun, or relevant. For instance, yet another party on Oscar night might not be newsworthy, but an event that boasts 12 celebrity chefs, with 12 major designers creating the table decor, and boasts such an ubercool guest list that Jamie Foxx, the night's winner in the best actor category, gets turned away at the door along with throwns of celebrites--well, that's a great party story! The extremely pricy launch party for another luxury building in Manhattan? Not a thrill. The launch party for another luxury building in Manhattan, at which one attendee wins a multimillion-dollar penthouse apartment? Now that's a great story." (No, I did not make this paragraph up. That is seriously a paragraph taken from this so-called "career guide." Now you see why I had so many problems with it.) The book also includes a strange chapter on how to dress your guy for your successful events, which includes having his eyebrows waxed and teaching him how not to be afraid to go to the spa to get a facial. At that point, I would think even a teenage reader would be thinking, WTF?!

The only parts of this book that I didn't totally hate were the small splatterings of advice on organization and productivity. And the "what to wear to work" section was okay. But you can get much better advice on the former topics in Women for Hire's Get-Ahead Guide to Career Success (which I will review soon, because it is a much better career guide than Career and Corporate Cool (TM)!), and much better "fashion for work" advice in Dress Smart for Women. There is nothing in Career and Corporate Cool that isn't in any other career book. And there is a lot of annoying stuff that isn't in those other books. So my advice is to skip this book unless you happen to be buying it for a 17 year old who has the means to organize a launch party complete with a multimillion-dollar door prize.

My rating: 1.5 stars (out of 5) - I pretty much hated it.

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