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Holiday Book List!

by Brian on December 17, 2014 · 0 comments

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 Required Reading for Student Affairs Professionals

UnknownReal World

By Aaron W. Hughey

As the nature of work continues to evolve, the potential repercussions for higher education are becoming more manifest with each passing semester. In order for student affairs professionals to remain at the forefront of, and in tune with, these escalating changes, it is imperative that we become more astute in our understanding of how this transformation is affecting the lives and future careers of the college student we serve.

Toward that end, I recommend the following books as a starting point for staying informed about the challenges that lie just around the corner for all of us – and especially those who are about to begin their professional careers. As an aside, these were required texts in my Developmental Career Counseling and my Advanced Career Counseling and Services Administration courses this past Summer Session.

“Practices for Engaging the 21st Century Workforce: Challenges of Talent Management in a Changing Work-place” by William G. Castellano. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Education, 2014. 320 pages, $35.59.

“You truly live in interesting times,” William Castellano notes at the beginning of “Practices for Engaging the 21st Century Workforce: Challenges of Talent Management in a Changing Workplace,” his new book on the shifting nature of work. “Change has been a constant in your life for some time now, and the pace of change is increasing at a dizzying rate. You are entering a new and challenging way of working as a result of unprecedented technological, global, economic and demographic trends. Unlike previous tumultuous business cycles, you can now witness structural shifts in labor markets and the economy that are fundamentally reshaping the world of work. Many economists, business leaders and commentators are describing this trend as the new normal.”

One of the courses I teach on an annual basis is advanced career counseling and services administration, a graduate-level exploration of how we can best prepare individuals to meet the enormous challenges facing anyone who hopes to be gainfully employed throughout their lives. I ran across this volume as I was searching for a resource that would help my students better understand the changing nature of work in an increasingly interconnected, technologically driven global community. After I had finished the first few chapters, it was obvious “Engaging the 21st Century Workforce” fits the bill. In order to equip future generations with the knowledge and skills they will no doubt need in order to successfully negotiate the turbulent times ahead, we must first have an accurate and thorough understanding of how the employment climate is currently evolving. This is precisely what Castellano provides.

“Practices for Engaging the 21st Century Workforce” is extensively researched, with 25 pages of references at the conclusion of the eight chapters that form the main text. Although he is careful to document the sources of much of the narrative, it is apparent on almost every page that he draws from his extensive real-world experience as he lays out what the world of work will probably look like in the coming decades. Indeed, the book serves as a wake-up call for anyone who is truly concerned about the economy, job creation, unemployment, growing social programs and the respective roles of the private sector and government in addressing these issues. For the most part, he tries to stay objective as he provides a roadmap that can be used by both employers as well as job seekers. His primary take-away revolves around the rather straightforward notion we are not in Kansas anymore, and the sooner we recognize and accept this undeniable reality, the better off we will all be. Certainly, he believes those who embrace the changes he is describing, and learn to factor them into their decision-making, will have a distinct advantage over their less enlightened counterparts.

One of the aspects of Castellano’s writing I appreciate is his honesty. Witness the following from “Challenges of Talent Management in the New Normal,” the third chapter: “There will also be the potential for more prejudice and bias that can negatively impact employees’ perceptions of fairness and hurt morale resulting in lost customers and costly litigation. One growing concern is the attitudes toward and treatment of older workers. With the youngest of the baby boomers already beyond 40 years of age, there is concern that some organizations view older workers with negative stereotypes based on ageism.” As someone who has been in this category for quite a while, I see exactly what he is referring to on a daily basis.

Another emerging trend Castellano addresses in some detail is the growing emphasis on employee wellness. Whereas some dismiss this trend as outside the scope of an employer’s responsibility, it is clear that companies promoting this dimension of their workers’ lives are already beginning to derive significant gains from these initiatives.

“A growing number of active younger workers are attracted to companies that offer such benefits as onsite workout facilities and programs promoting healthy lifestyles,” the author explains in “Practices to Create Employee Engagement in the New Normal,” the seventh chapter. “The benefits of effective corporate wellness programs go beyond increasing employees’ perceptions of organizational support and levels of engagement, or reducing companies’ increasing health care costs. Increasing the health of all workers complements national initiatives to curtail out-of-control health care expenditures.”

Castellano serves as executive director of the Center for Management Development as well as director of the Strategic Human Resource Leadership Council at Rutgers University, where he is also a clinical associate professor in the School of Management and Labor Relations. He has a doctorate in industrial relations and human resources as well as a master’s degree in human resource management from Rutgers; he earned his bachelor’s degree in management from Pace University. He is an active member of the Academy of Management and the Society of Human Resource Management. His 30 years of experience working in the private sector include stints with Merrill Lynch and Manufacturers Hanover. This is his first book; he can be reached at castellano@smlr.rutgers.edu.

“We seem to be living at the edge of chaos in which governments, organizations and individuals need a solid foundation by developing the right competencies and capabilities to interpret and respond to the multitude of challenges facing society, while simultaneously becoming adaptable,” Castellano writes near the end of the book. I could not agree more. I encourage everyone reading this review to pick up a copy of “Practices for Engaging the 21st Century Workforce.” And when you’re finished, pass it along to your sons and daughters.

“Welcome to the Real World: Finding Your Place, Perfecting Your Work, and Turning Your Job into Your Dream Career” by Lauren Berger. New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2014, 210 pages, $16.99.

“Here I get the opportunity to tell you what no one told me,” Lauren Berger explains near the beginning of “Welcome to the Real World: Finding Your Place, Perfecting Your Work, and Turning Your Job into Your Dream Career,” her recently published roadmap for finding and keeping a job in the ever-evolving global marketplace. “I get to tell you how bad it can be but also how good it can get. By the time I finally realized things needed to change in my work life, it was too late. The opportunity to be promoted and to move to another department within the company had already passed me by. I had gotten to the point where I was stuck.”

In those few sentences, Berger reveals her motivation for writing this book – and it is obvious she is a woman-on-fire when it comes to dispensing cautionary tales and identifying red flags. Anyone looking for solid recommendations on what to do, and more importantly what not to do, in order to succeed as an entry-level professional in the 21st Century would do well to read this book. Even though my entry-level days are well behind me, I still found much of what she has to say about the modern workplace to be applicable and relevant to my own career.

“The point of this book isn’t to teach you how to play games, be nice to certain people, be catty in the office, and participate in POP (petty office politics), she writes in “Relationships and Schmoozing,” the fifth chapter and one of my personal favorites. “I don’t want you to leave this book ready to backstab, lie, or mislead people to get ahead. At the same time, you can’t be blind to office politics. They exist – in almost every company of every size.”

The author then goes on to explain what to look for when co-workers seem engaged in this kind of nonproductive nonsense as well as some carefully considered strategies for minimizing the effect that these shenanigans can have on your life, career, relationships and personal happiness.

“Welcome to the Real World” consists of ten relatively straight-forward chapters that can easily be digested in a couple of sittings. Although the book is not extensively researched in the traditional academic sense, I did find it to be chock full of invaluable wisdom for anyone looking to make it in today’s fast-paced, customer-oriented business environment. It is obvious Berger knows what she is talking about; her in-the-trenches perspective comes through as insightful and brazenly honest.

See if you can relate to this truism from “My Rules for the Workplace,” the inaugural chapter: “Learning how to not take things personally is one of the most difficult concepts to wrap your head around as you grow in your environment. It’s human nature to want people to love you, respect you, and go out of their way for you. And when they don’t, it’s hard not to be offended. You have to learn to separate your work life from your personal life. At work, rejection isn’t personal. Don’t take it personally – you will just overthink it.

Although I found the entire book to be interesting and worthwhile, the chapter I found most enlightening was “Your Money, Your Finances, Your Life,” the next-to-last installment. Here, Berger offers some sage advice on how to survive on a very limited budget – something that most of us have had to do at least once in our lives.

“The quickest way to go into debt is from late fees and shut-off fees,” Berger notes. “Make sure you track all of the due dates for your bills. Pay them a week ahead of time if possible. Make sure you are aware of which day of the month that company will be taking money out of your account and mark it on your calendar. You want to give yourself a day or so to make sure you have the available funds.”

Those of us who have been around the block more than once will no doubt see many of the things Berger relates as falling into the ‘common sense’ category.  But remember, most of what we now consider to be ‘common sense’ often came at the expense of painful lessons we learned from making questionable decisions. What the author is trying to do is to give younger, less knowledgeable individuals the benefit of her experience. For the most part, I found the vast majority of her suggestions to be on-target and worth heeding. The key is to take what she has to say seriously and incorporate it into your conscious awareness and habits.

Berger is CEO and founder of InternQueen.com, a website devoted to matching employers with prospective employees who are looking to get on-the-job experience in a real-world business setting. She has been featured on The Today Show, Fox & Friends, The New York Times, The New York Post, Teen Vogue, Bloomberg, and LA Weekly, and she contributes regularly to AOL Jobs, USA Today, Huffington Post, Seventeen.com, and Justine Magazine. Her previous book was “All Work and No Play: Finding An Internship, Building Your Resume, Making Connections, and Gaining Job Experience,” a National Campus Best-Seller. She is in demand as a speaker, particularly with companies interested in attracting millennials.

After reading “Welcome to the Real World,” I can see why Berger is in such demand. I would love to have her speak to my career counseling class at WKU. An hour with her would probably be worth more than several class periods spent sifting through over-priced textbooks written by academics whose last exposure to the “real world” was decades ago. I recommend this book without reservation for anyone who is serious about his or her career — or life in general. We all want to be successful; there is something to be said for listening to someone who is.

Editor’s Note: Aaron W. Hughey is a professor and program coordinator in the Department of Counseling and Student Affairs, where he oversees the master’s degree program in student affairs in higher education as well as graduate certificate programs in career services and international student services. He can be reached at Aaron.Hughey@wku.edu.

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