Ambitious advice book fails to succeed


College students, especially seniors, are bombarded every day with the ever-growing pressure of the future. Scott Smith’s self-help book Find Your Perfect Job promises to eliminate all the stress and false expectations of the incumbently frantic job search.

Surface level · The book’s advice is just basic information. - Photo courtesy of Scott Smith

In 136 pages, the Ivy League-educated holder of a law degree and master’s degree in business administration attempts to condense an entire life experience — and what some might call a developmental stage — into bolded headlines and catchphrases.

Self-help books, truthfully, cannot do much to jumpstart a burgeoning career, besides take a $20 bill out of the buyer’s pocket. The very least the text can do is inspire the reader or at least share the author’s story to set a good example or warn against the pitfalls of the universe.

Find Your Perfect Job hardly does any of that. Smith instead reminisces about his own experiences and, in the end, narrows the perfect job to a career involving business, consulting or law.

At some points, he does outline truly useful advice. It’s the kind of advice, however, that the Career Planning & Placement Center e-mails to students daily. It’s the kind of advice that can be found on an Internet forum. It’s even the kind of advice, one can say, that most semi-functional students have already heard and taken to heart.

Smith advises readers to ask themselves what they excel at, what they enjoy and strongly urges them to thoroughly contemplate the decision to attend graduate school.

Really, Smith? Sure, the young and naïve can appreciate encouraging words such as “Go for it” and “Think about what you aren’t good at, and avoid those things.”

At one point, however, the reader just has to say, “Well, duh.”

Though the point of the book is to get to the heart of what inexperienced upstarts need to do to achieve their every career dream, the straightforward nature combined with the simplistic language just smacks of an elongated memo. Smith’s piece seems like something a professor would hand out as a quick required reading on the first day of a business administration class.

When reading the author’s biography, however, one has to play devil’s advocate. Smith has, according to the back cover of his work, “succeeded in multiple careers in the business, legal and academic worlds.” The biography then drops that he has worked at a major Hollywood movie studio, the United States government, Wall Street, a law firm and even a world-renowned university, citing his “perfect job” as an equity analyst in investment management.

That’s quite the career path. You have to wonder: After all that trouble, why does he sideline from his fancy financial job to write a book that’s thin enough to be in the young adult section but reads like a cheaply produced pamphlet?

Perhaps it is this book’s weakness that also serves as its greatest strength. For the purely directionless, any guidance can be good. Plus, practical lists about preparing for the interview serve as useful information.

Additionally, the introspective chapter that examines what the individual reader wants out of a specific job has the potential to be motivational and useful to someone who really hasn’t thought about his future livelihood in such a standardized and organized manner.

As the current entry-level generation tries to break into the imperfect work force picked  by societal change and a not-so-distant recession, we have to think outside the box — and outside the book.

No matter how much research or preparation you might do, no matter how clean and tight each custom-printed résumé, cover letter and business card might look, there simply aren’t enough jobs to go around.

Smith doesn’t account for that gritty reality in his cheery book, but realism and self-help books might not be the coziest of friends. This problem is bigger than Smith’s playbook; the flaw is within an entire industry that is three years too late and hopelessly behind.

It’s not that young people don’t respond to books or publishing initiatives; it’s that they’ve heard it all before. They know they should anticipate to be two steps ahead of their peers; they know what an elevator speech entails. They need guidance from someone who doesn’t have two master degrees and a wealth of academic experience to talk down to them.

This SAT score-obsessed generation raised by helicopter parents needs to just figure it out on its own.

There is no definitive outline for the post-graduate universe, which can be frightening. Perfect Job is one of the many texts that tries to help others grapple with that vague and immediate future. Its creator might have an impressive pedigree and might mean well, but his piece ends up as a glorified packet that can be found in any community college advisement office.

Well-read or not, it’s up to the individual reader to chase the real dream.

  • ILikeThisBook

    It appears Clare has spent more time writing a clever review with many catch phrases in it than actually reading this book. I HAVE read this book, and it is VERY helpful and motivating. It never talks down to its readers. Not sure what book Clare read, but this one is definitely inspiring and definitely helps readers avoid the pitfalls of the career world. Can you find all this advice sitting there for free in a pamphlet in the career office? Not a chance. For example, there are over 20 pages alone that comprise a gritty dissection of law school and the legal profession — not to be found in any career office. Don’t care about law as a career? The majority of the book is useful for any career. The book helps people clearly define their best fitting career path, whatever that may be, and then provides very helpful strategies to get your foot in the door. Of course there are things in any career book that people already know, but this book gets right to the point and amasses most of the best advice in one place. And it’s only $11 on Amazon, easily worth the price of a few Starbucks Frappuccinos, don’t you think? Congratulations to Clare for having figured her career out all on her own, but many college students aren’t as lucky as her and can desperately use an $11 career tool to give them the focus, motivation, and insider tips to achieve their career dreams, particularly in this horrible job market. Surprisingly, Clare dismisses all career/self-help books as unhelpful and tells you to “just figure it out on your own.” I can’t think of any worse advice…..

  • trite sayings

    “At some points, he does outline truly useful advice. It’s the kind of advice, however, that the Career Planning & Placement Center e-mails to students daily. It’s the kind of advice that can be found on an Internet forum. It’s even the kind of advice, one can say, that most semi-functional students have already heard and taken to heart.” -platitudes

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