BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

What should I be when I grow up?

As those of you who are following along with my main journal know, I am presently, in the charming euphemism, "between jobs", and am spending the bulk of my time trying to find the "next opportunity" out there (lovely economy for it). So, I have been dusting off some job search books that I had lying around from my last time through the ranks of the painfully unemployed, and Carol Eikleberry's The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People is one of these.

As one would deduce from the title, this is a book primarily aimed at "Artistic" folks, as defined by John Holland's theory of personality types. The first part of the book deals with finding one's "Holland code" and defining that. When I first picked up this a couple of years back, that's as far as I'd gotten, and used Eikleberry's rough estimation quiz to determine my code. This time I went off to the government's "O*Net" site which offers all the "official" tools and took both the "Interest Profiler" and inter-related "Work Importance Locator". The former determines your scores in terms of the categories "Realistic", "Investigative", "Artistic", "Social", "Enterprising", and "Conventional", while the latter ranks what you want to get out of work in terms of "Achievement", "Independence", "Recognition", "Working Conditions", "Relationships", and "Support". Eikleberry only deals with the former here, and, while from her quizzes I looked like an "AIR" (Artistic, Investigative, Realistic ... which pretty much leaves you with "Architect"), the O*Net tests put me pretty solidly as just an IA, scoring a 25/30 for "Investigative", 18/30 for "Artistic", with the next highest being just a 3 (and with 2 categories at zero). Now, lest one think that I was running off and getting "external feedback", the author encourages readers to use these services, and has many recommended on her web site as well.

Once the reader has determined their "Holland Code", the book spends a while putting the "Artistic" personality into context, discussing how creativity can be expressed in various areas, discussing historical cases (such as Wallace Stevens and T.S. Elliot who both had "suit" jobs by day but produced significant literature in their free time), and the challenges and opportunities of having this sort of mind-set.

The middle section of the book deals with practicalities of searching out one's career path, from various general options ("run a small business", "teach in your field", etc.) to a whole collection of functional behaviors ("create a career notebook", "develop a relationship with a mentor", "resist perfectionism", "give yourself time", etc.)

The last third of the book is the weakest, however, as it's simply a long list of possible occupations, grouped into the authors' broad "Career Trails" of "Ideas", "Ideas and People", and "Ideas and Thing", which are then subdivided into categories such as "Writers", "Negotiators", "Performers", "Finishers", etc. Each of the hundreds of individual careers briefly sketched out under these is given a 3-letter "Holland Code", but because the list is sorted from the "broad strokes" down, there's no way (short of going through each) to search out one's specific code matches (note: if one does the O*Net instruments, the results in their analysis tools are sorted by code, making it much easier to get a sense of "where one fits").

I was amused to find that nearly everything that I've ever done professionally, and most of the things that I had planned and/or considered doing, were right in my profile categories. Admittedly, this time around, my score being Investigative/Artistic/??? left things a bit open-ended, as the third factor was pretty much not a factor.

Overall, however, The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People was a bit of a disappointment from my perspective. This could well be useful for somebody in highschool, wondering what to do with their life, or in college, trying to figure out a career that wouldn't "crush their soul", but there was little in here which spoke to me at my stage of life (unless I was suddenly able to "Get A Grant Or Find A Patron"), as I've already been down many of the roads suggested. I would certainly recommend that anybody picking this up follow the authors suggestions of using some of the other tools presented (such as the resources on the O*Net site), which gives a depth to the assessments not possible with just what's in these pages.

This 3rd Edition of the book is still in print, which will set you back $10-15.00 ... but previous versions are also available through the new/used vendors at Amazon, with "very good" copies going for as little as a penny and "new" copies at just shy of five bucks. Again, this is one of those books where "it depends" on where you are in life to how useful it would be to you. If you're looking at making a major change into an "Artistic" (or, generally "Creative") career path, there might be some very useful things in here for you, but if you've spent a quarter century doing stuff that's already in the book, not so much.

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Tags: book review

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