BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

A narrow focus ...

This was a book that I actually got queried about from the good folks at Wiley … since it was evidently a “job search” book, I said “yes”, figuring that it would be good for my The Job Stalker blog over on the Tribune's “ChicagoNow” site. However, Gayle Laakmann McDowell's The Google Resume: How to Prepare for a Career and Land a Job at Apple, Microsoft, Google, or any Top Tech Company has an awfully narrow focus, being primarily targeted at recent college (engineering and computer science) grads looking to get hired by the “big boys” of the tech community. I suppose I could have “gotten that” from the sub-title, but I was really expecting something more general. Of course, if you are a recent graduate hoping to “land a Job at Apple, Microsoft, Google, or any Top Tech Company”, this is the book for you!

The author is a third-generation female engineer who added a Wharton MBA to her Computer Science degrees while working at Microsoft, Apple (although these were internships), and Google. Considering that she's (triangulating from her resume) not quite 30, that's a lot of experience, and this is her second book. She's since left “the big boys” and forged off on her own ... interestingly not being a software engineer, but doing career consulting for college grads who want to get hired by those “Top Tech Companies”.

One of the things that stood out to me in this book is the assumption (or even encouragement) that people won't stay in a job more than four years. This very brief time-line keeps cropping up, and it's mind-boggling to me (having had two positions I was in for over a decade, and another I'd have been happy to have run out that long). This is frustrating to me (being in a seemingly unending job search, myself) as I keep hearing that companies are hesitant to hire older “more experienced” workers to mid-level positions because they're afraid that we'll bolt to a better gig after a while … if the “new model” is only staying in a job 2-3 years for the kids, what the heck are they worried about with us geezers?!

This passage stood out as an example of how “planned” careers seem to be these days:
      No matter how happy you are in your current job, with any luck, this role will end up as a stepping stone to a new position or to a new company. Suddenly, all your years of work get mashed into a tiny five-bullet box on your resume and you picture yourself with a T-shirt saying, “I slaved away for five years and all I got were these lousy bullets.”
      Your five-bullet box should be planned while you're working, not after you leave. Seek out measurable, tangible accomplishments. Build something, create something, lead something. If you've tackled a major issue for your company, can you qualify its impact in terms of dollars, hours, or reduced sales calls? Seek out this information when it happens to ensure that you can get the most precise, accurate data.
So, let me get this straight, one should be constantly angling for quantifiable projects, for the benefit of one's resume, rather than what your company needs to have done? No wonder I can't quantify anything on my resume … there were never any debriefings that let me know if the client moved X more cases of product in Y market where we'd done a program … we figured if they re-upped the contract they were happy, and I doubt that they would have shared the details with us anyway!

Given these caveats, The Google Resume is pretty much a soup-to-nuts overview of what it (presently) takes to get a job at one of the big tech companies. McDowell talks about what colleges are the best bets, what activities in college will help most, and how to find those internships (and she certainly has experience in that aspect). She goes over resumes, cover letters, references, and a whole bunch of interview particulars (since tech interviews are a different beast than most). She goes into balancing offers from different companies, and talks about how to best manage the on-the-job aspects of one's career (for instance, showing one case where a gal was in a job she loved at Amazon, but “gained nothing” from staying there five years instead of jumping ship after two!).

One of the more interesting parts of the book is where she presents questions she's been asked by various job seekers, at the end of each chapter. Their situations, and her answers, put a somewhat more concrete focus on the subject matter … although, generally speaking, it's in a “cold, calculating – me, me, me!” light most of the time.

Overall, I found The Google Resume a bit of a slog to get through, but this is largely due to it being targeted to a very different person than myself, and my being somewhat aghast at the tone of the book. However, if one is in the intended audience for this (and I'm considering passing it along to my highschool-aged daughter who wants to be an engineer for the general guidance of what sort of notches to get in one's belt), this is probably a great resource. I'd definitely recommend it as a gift to the appropriate college students, but I get a sense that if you're over 25 and not a computer science grad, there's not that much you'll get from this.

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Tags: book review
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