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Career GPS Book Cover

Title: Career GPS: Strategies for Women Navigating the New Corporate Landscape

Author: Ella L. J. Edmondson Bell, Ph.D.

No. of Pages: 234

First Released: February 2010

Synopsis (Courtesy of Joseph-Beth Booksellers): “The workplace is constantly in flux, and even now there are new opportunities open to women. But to take advantage of these possibilities, it’s essential to know the current rules for corporate success. This isn’t your father’s or your mother’s workplace anymore!
Whether it’s the CEO seat, an executive manager slot, or a more intrapreneurial position, women who follow “Career GPS” will have what it takes to gain their professional goals.

Dr. Ella L. J. Edmondson Bell, Ph.D., an authority on career development, has worked with women across a variety of fields and in different kinds of corporations, from Fortune 500s to start-ups. Here she offers guidelines to help women forge their own pathways to professional ascent, providing tips for maximizing a review, networking in a relevant way, and much more. According to Dr. Bell:
Think working hard is enough to be recognized? It’s not enough to assume your effort will speak for itself. You have to “socialize with the decision makers.” It might not mean you have to pick up the golf clubs, but you do have to figure out what works in your own organization.

“Parlez-vous FranCis?” Learning Mandarin? If you work for a global company and aspire to an extreme job or higher, make it known that you would take an “overseas assignment” to advance your career.

Nowhere to go right now? Even in hard times there are options. “Learn a lateral skill”–such as accounting–so when the company is firing on all engines again, you will impress through the breadth of your knowledge.

Drawing from her work as a consultant to some of the country’s most prestigious Fortune 100 companies, Dr. Bell helps readers succeed at every level in a dynamic corporate marketplace. “Career GPS” combines Dr. Bell’s academic knowledge and expertise with dozens of heartfelt first-person stories from smart women who rose through the ranks. Here is a book that will guide women of all cultures, ages, and levels of experience to their career goals.”

Comments and Critique: Since 2009 was a year of growth and discovery for me, I really did not want to lose that momentum. When offered the chance to review Career GPS, I jumped at the chance, not only to continue learning and growing professionally, but I do hope that others get the privilege to experience the self-awareness and growth I have.

Career GPS definitely helps point women in the right direction to do so, although it turned out to be more a self-help guide to navigating the corporate landscape than anything else. Dr. Bell offers some great advice about what it truly takes to make it up the corporate ladder. The exercises she includes are designed to help readers determine their path up that ladder, which I personally find extremely helpful. Not everyone is cut out for the executive suite, and Dr. Bell makes sure to stress that point.

Dr. Bell’s advice revolves around hard work, perserverence and sacrifice. She emphasizes the fact that women can succeed but have to understand just what it will take to achieve that success. As women, we can have it all, but to her point, we cannot have it all at the same time. There will be periods in our life where we have to put our career plans on hold to make family a priority. There will be other periods when the career becomes priority and when we can devote the extra hours, energy, and effort to achieving our goals. Personally, I found this a tough message to accept because it seemingly opposes everything towards which I have been working over the past five years. I will admit that the idea that I cannot have it all, at the same time, did cause me to pause and question why I have worked so hard for so long to earn my MBA, to become a CMA, and so forth. I have not yet considered the answer, and it will be a topic on which I will be reflecting for a long time to come.

Another area of focus is the idea of work/life balance. This remains an extremely popular area for employees and employers alike, and often, companies are rated on how they best provide their employees with opportunities for work/life balance. Dr. Bell’s perspective on this phenomenon is a bit contradictory, my only major criticism in the book. On the one hand, Dr. Bell points out the fact that work is life and life is work. According to her, there is no such thing as work/life balance because technology and our 24/7 lifestyle have blurred the lines so much that we cannot separate the two. However, even though we are always on call and available, everyone must take care of themselves. Work/life balance is not so much about balancing time at work with time at home as it is about finding time to get the rest, nutrition, mental breaks, and exercise that every human needs to thrive. Again, it is an interesting viewpoint on a very popular topic.

While I found this an interesting and helpful book, I can see that some readers may be scared off by its message. According to Dr. Bell, hard work and relationships are the two main ways women will get ahead in the business world. For those of us with families requiring time and effort, the hard work we want to put forth may not be possible. Also, for those of us who are painfully shy and awkward in business social settings, building relationships with management at all levels requires stepping outside of our comfort zone. Ultimately, it is up to each reader to determine if it is worth it and what he or she truly wants to achieve. Thankfully, Dr. Bell does provide the exercises necessary to help each of us determine that.

In all, this was an interesting read. Unfortunately, much of the information presented was not new to me, but I have found that repetition is essential to learning business lessons and ways to manuever up the corporate ladder. For those who are not familiar with these lessons, Career GPS offers some great advice and avenues for further development.

Thank you to Caitlin Price at FSB Associates for this review copy! This book counts towards my 100+ Reading Challenge, my Read ‘n Review Challenge, and the non-fiction portion of the Women Unbound Challenge.

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