Friday, June 03, 2011

Book Review: Career Game & Power

I have read a couple of career books before and they mostly were motivational or geared towards getting a job so I was intrigued to find some book which uses game theory ("Your Career Game") to help you advance and land a job. Unfortunately the book is written mostly for MBA students so the game theory part is surfacy at best and if you are used to at least engineering math kind of disappointing. Nevertheless they finish each chapter with interviews of real people and highlight what "career game moves" they did.

The essence of this book is basically to find a sponsor and mentor who takes you under his wing. In my career I was fortunate enough to have both when I started out at PwC after school. My boss was my mentor and he was great and put me in touch with other interesting people in the organization. Things just happened naturally without much thinking for me. I guess because the main goal was to bring in money (by billing hours or selling projects) there was no ambiguity and it was in my bosses best interest to expose me to many people to get me billing more hours up. Promoting was good again because then they could charge more for me. Needless to say the partnerships goal were pretty much aligned with my career.

When I came to the US I started working in software engineering and had a hard time finding bosses who acted as sponsors or mentors. Honestly I still thought things would just happen naturally but I guess in that case the first book ("Career Game") would recommend to do better homework if the company you are considering is "good for your career" having a reputation for great mentoring or sponsoring.

I liked the second book "Power" much more because it's lessons are far more applicable. They show research that for instance the performance rating is totally unrelated to your performance and more to how much your boss likes you. Consequently you should spend your time managing up and if you made a bad first impression just leave. Pfeffer also gives tips on building a power base (by choosing influential mentors) and cites surprising research like over-the-top flattery is not considered insincere by the recipient.

They are both pretty good books because they prompted me to some action. The first one ran in some open door with the mentoring: I totally need to increase the numbers of mentors in my life. But I think the "Power" book will be more helpful because I should probably focus more on building a "power base" and increasing my "likability".


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