James Lehman has had an interesting career to say the least. Early in Maneuvering Your Career, he shares with us his diverse work history and the job instability and difficulties he has experienced throughout his years of employment:
"As I have had to maneuver my career, I have been fired multiple times, had my position eliminated multiple times, have quit before getting another job more than once, and had my employer be acquired, merged, closed, and go bankrupt. I have worked for the same employer three different times. And I have been self-employed. My shortest job has been eight days (not including the weekend). My longest tenure has been just shy of five years. Along the way, I have collected severance and unemployment. I have filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claim, and I have won an appeal of an unemployment decision. Although not my plan, I even collected severance from two different companies while working for another."
While most of us may not have experienced so many job changes in our careers, I doubt there is a reader out there who has not known the worries of losing a job, finding a better job (or any job), or at the very least, having to deal with a crazy boss. There is no job security anymore, and for that reason, James Lehman has written Maneuvering Your Career to teach readers how to survive career transitions and all other manner of office politics, disgruntled coworkers, and micromanaging bosses who have no business managing anyone.
Using a river metaphor throughout, Lehman teaches us how to maneuver the river of our careers, avoiding obstacles along the way and learning when to go with the flow. Each chapter is dedicated to one of the twenty strategies he offers, and these chapters are grouped into three sections on Taking Control, Owning Your Job, and Taking Care of Yourself. The bottom line is that no one is going to look out for you in the workplace so you need to take care of yourself. Occasionally, you can forge a strong alliance with a boss or coworker to give you some leverage in moving your career forward, but for the most part, you need to work hard and smart, have common sense, and not settle for being stuck in a bad situation. Some of the strategies Lehman offers include: Breaking the Rules, Visualizing the Future, Working Smart, Knowing Your Rights, and Getting the Payback.
Lehman illustrates all his points with personal stories from his own career, many of which are both surprising and even hilarious (though I'm sure they weren't at the time). In each story, he shows how he dealt with a difficult situation and what he learned from it. In some cases, he admits his own personal failings and what he learned from an experience; at other times, he shows humor and wisdom in dealing with situations beyond his control such as a difficult boss's personality or a job interview gone wrong.
I can't resist sharing just one of Lehman's many stories of crazy people he has worked with. In this case, he was stuck trying to please two crazy bosses who worked in different offices. Lehman decided to take advantage of this situation to maintain his sanity, as he explains:
"I could split my time as to where I was working, and the other one would always think I was at the other office. When things got too crazy, a walk around the lake at the nearby city park during lunchtime was always a great escape. The funniest thing was when I was over at office B, I eventually would get a message from the crazy at office A-"James, where are you this morning?" Then I knew it was driving him crazy that he couldn't see me, so he couldn't control me, and he was paranoid about what I might be doing that would damage him. I would reply that I had a meeting at office B, and that I would be over as soon as I could, which in some cases would be the next day. It was really bad for my team members because they would call to tell me (half-laughing) that Crazy was looking for me."
In the end, Lehman makes it clear that we can't let anyone else control or dictate our careers for us, and we can't rely on any company to be loyal to us. Instead, we need to own our jobs, and that doesn't mean just doing a good job, but working for ourselves-either literally being self-employed, or doing what is best for us rather than solely what is best for the company or the boss. Lehman doesn't make any lofty or false promises, but rather, he offers a realistic look at the shifting workplace today and a message of hope, independence, and security for those willing to stand up for themselves and what they believe in. At times, that may mean paddling against the current everyone else is blindly following, but in the end, it will lead to greater career satisfaction, career advancement, and the feeling of a job well-done at the end of the day. If you want not only to survive but to flourish in the workplace, pick up a copy of Maneuvering Your Career.