Thanks for the kind words on the first review!
As promised in my previous post, this time I’ll do a review on a business book. While last time I did something with a New York Times bestseller, my next choice rests on something more modest. It’s not (yet) as evergreen as The 7 Habits, nor is it as recent as Thinking Fast and Slow. Nonetheless, the book speaks deeply to me for its relevance.
The title suggests something for a first-runger, or in more popular terms, an entry-level employee. The book is as relevant to me now as it was when I started my first corporate job almost 4 years ago. As I’m starting a clean slate in an entirely different career course, rereading the book was the first thing I did when I returned home for holiday. Turned out it was time well-spent. If my memory serves me well, I had this book as a gift to myself just before I actually applied for that corporate job. Talk about a worthy early investment 😉
I haven’t heard much of the author, Hugh Karseras, except for the fact that….he wrote this book. According to the About the Author page in the book, he is an investment bank executive with degrees from Princeton and Harvard Business School. He had also spent time working for consulting giant McKinsey & Company.
- Title: From New Recruit to High Flyer: No-nonsense advice on how to fast track your career
- Author: Hugh Karseras
- Category: Career development, Executive ability, promotion
The book is reviewed in its entirety.
Three big parts make up this book. One part usually consists of a few chapters, and each chapter ends with a summary of what has been explained. I particularly like the fact that for every point he makes, Karseras includes endorsements from executives that vouch for his argument. You can find insights from a few hundred executives from esteemed organisations across the globe.
The first and shortest part speaks of having the right attitude. Karseras construes that your career is first and foremost built upon your attitude. You need to be – among other things – in possession of a relentless work ethic, proactive and can-do approach, flexibility, humility, and respect for others.
Karseras then moves on to the second part, in which he teaches you how to master the fundamentals of your job as a first runger. He suggests you adopt a systematic approach in working (e.g. filing your work meticulously, prioritise your tasks, start your day early, and take full advantage of training programs) and get acquainted with basic quantitative calculation and essential Excel functions (which are nicely compressed into a four-page Appendix). Karseras also places emphasis on developing stellar communication skills by learning how write and speak effectively. A bunch of dos and don’ts of writing and speaking are parceled out here, such as:
- Do listen actively – but don’t remain silent.
- Do express a point of view – but don’t argue.
- Do be fact-based – but don’t be too detailed.
- Do be to the point – but don’t be blunt.
- Do use corporate language – but don’t overuse management jargon.
Finally, he expects that first-rungers will most likely be given the responsibility to manage a project, so he closes the second part by giving tips on how to become a good project and people manager.
The third and final part is built around the idea that organisations will always have politics running in it, however small it could be. Karseras acknowledges this and the fact that most first-rungers will have a tough time navigating through it without any guidance. He first advises the newbies to build their network – both deep and broad ones – by for instance delivering professionally, being helpful, and maintaining meaningful contact. He also believes that for first-rungers to succeed, the presence of a mentor is nonnegotiable. Karseras believes mentors are important to provide them support and advice on different issues. Eventually, first-rungers need to be politically savvy by understanding the organisation’s culture, ensuring that they don’t make enemies early in their career, and remembering that first-rungers are always on show.
BONUS: A disciplined approach to avoid typos (from Chapter 4 Learn Business Communication Skills 1: Speaking and Writing Effectively):
- Set aside time to proof properly.
- Print out hard copies of your work and never proof on your computer screen.
- Clearly mark corrections on the hard copy and wait to make changes on-screen until you are done with the entire hard copy.
- Transfer the changes to the electronic copy.
- Print out the correct electronic version.
- Repeat the process until you find no markings.
- When proofing important documents, find a quiet environment, read and reread the printed document out loud word for word to ensure a clean document.
You cannot help but notice that Karseras wrote the book with his career path in mind. Having started as an investment banking analyst, he has included a chock-full of basic quantitative analysis skills which naturally he deems important for first-runger. Don’t get me wrong, it’s just that if you want to thrive as a brand strategist, associate pastor, or a SOC (Security Operations Center) analyst level 1, there could be more relevant books for you out there. The fact that the book was written ten years ago when some jobs we know strive for did not exist yet, is perhaps the most plausible reason of this slight obsolescence. However, if you do want to follow in his footsteps or in any other business-related roles (such as a growth hacker), keep this book on your desk. You’ll find yourself wanting to return to this book for practical advice every now and then. The parts on attitude and wading through office politics are in my opinion, universally relevant. Karseras also did a great job avoiding the risk of making his book culturally biased by including executives from different parts of the world (although 58% of them work for American organisations as the Appendix states).
The book’s subtitle really lives up to its promise: no-nonsense advice was given.
The next business book review will be on productivity.
How did I do? As usual, please leverage the comments feature to ask questions or hand in suggestions!
Outlook: The next review (#3) will be on relationships.