Book Review: “Get A Life, Not A Job”

Recently I read Dr. Paula Caligiuri’s “Get A Life, Not A Job: Do What You Love and Let Your Talents Work For You.” Dr. Caligiuri is a work psychologist, CNN career expert, professor in human resource management at Rutgers University, and career counselor. Here are my favorite parts about this book:

Dr. Caligiuri provides evidence that the old “psychological contract” between organizations and employees is gone forever. Companies now show very little or no loyalty toward employees, which means employees are on their own to create any type of employment security.

Because job security has become something that workers have to build themselves rather than expect if from employers, Dr. Caligiuri views it as extremely risky to put all your employment eggs in one basket by putting all your energy into one job. For instance, she notes that 80% of the recently unemployed received less than three weeks advance warning, and among them, 60% received no advance warning that they were about to be unemployed. Rather than have faith in ongoing employment from one organization, she recommends instead multiple “career acts,” income producing activities chosen based on activities that you enjoy.

Dr. Caligiuri says that great careers share five fundamental elements: (1) Self-awareness of talents, interests, hobbies, needs, motivators, and how you like to work, (2) Continuous self-development of knowledge, skills, and abilities, (3) Unique and critical roles to increase your value to employers, clients, or customers, (4) Well-managed time, money, and human resources, and (5) Harmony among work, family, and personal life. She believes you are more likely to attain these elements if you pursue several career acts rather than one.

She gives several suggestions for how to choose and build career acts: (1) Leverage existing expertise or talents; (2) Expand a hobby, interest, or passion; (3) Pursue an occupation (but preferably not focusing solely on this); and/or (4) Generate sources of passive income such as royalties, affiliate marketing, and rent.

I like her inclusion of a discussion of career anchors: Values or drivers that motivate people to seek and ultimately find satisfaction with work. She uses the model developed by Dr. Edgar Schein. The eight career anchors are: (1) Technical or Functional Expertise, (2) Leadership / Management of People, (3) Autonomy / Independence, (4) Security / Job Stability, (5) Entrepreneurial Creativity, (6) Service / Dedication To A Cause (7) Competitive Challenge, and (8) Work/Life Balance. Align your work with your most important career anchors and career satisfaction is more likely to occur.

If you are going to take the gamble of limiting yourself to one job, Dr. Caligiuri says, “Please be amazing, make it a career you love, and have a safety net.” The safety net is your uniqueness to your business and your centrality to your employer, customers, or clients.

Some additional thoughts about the book:

“Get a life” is sometimes used as a phrase to demean someone. If a person is feeling emotionally fragile because of difficult employment circumstances, this title might cause them to pass up this otherwise excellent book.

While Dr. Caligiuri cautions against over-working because of multiple career acts, anyone who keeps a full-time job while creating a side gig or who is juggling several part-time jobs will tell you that doing this can be exhausting. Multitasking is not the preferred state for most human brains. Other than mentioning sufficient sleep, exercise, good nutrition, and vacation time, I wish the book had expanded on more practical strategies to maintain psychological and physical health while simultaneously achieving across more than one domain. I plan to interview Dr. Caligiuri to find out more of her ideas about this.

Many of the ideas in this book require an entrepreneurial mindset and business savvy to succeed. However, a majority of families not only fail to teach entrepreneurship, they actively discourage it because they are stuck in old school thinking that the only “good” career is a linear one where you study something in school that directly leads to a practical job. Think engineering, accounting, and medicine. For people interested in something different, family and educational systems have a long way to go to teach the necessary functional skills and the psychological perspective needed to succeed.

As unemployment rates are high and job stability is low, creative approaches such as those offered by Dr. Caligiuri are useful. Overall, I think this book is well-worth the small investment of purchase as it will likely spark ideas and for many readers, help them to weather economic storms. Check it out and see if you could be one of the people it helps.

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