Job Strategies: Books for college graduates

Hey, college seniors, I bet I know what you want for graduation: more books to read! Hope so, because there’s a really good chance that’s what you’re going to get. So hand this column over to your folks and I’ll tell them about four possibilities to consider.

"From B.A. to Payday: Launching your career after college," D.A. Hayden and Michael Wilder, Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2008, $15.95.

This is one of my favorite books in this category, and I have reviewed it before in my column. I like the fact that the authors wrote from their background as founders of a career consultancy focused solely on first-time job seekers. There’s nothing like hands-on expertise to give the ring of truth.

Perhaps because of the writers’ background, the tone of their writing is direct, instructive and yet not blaming. They have high expectations of graduating seniors, tempered by empathy for the difficult process of a first job search.

Particularly useful sections include advice for the offspring of helicopter parents, excellent interview and job search tips, and the 10 Commandments for Moving Back Home.

"Getting from College to Career: 90 things to do before you join the real world," Lindsey Pollak, Collins, 2007, $13.95.

Like the authors mentioned above, Pollak drew from her experience guiding young professionals when writing her book. Her organizing gimmick is a list of 90 tasks for seniors and graduates, ranging from “Email like a professional” to “Buy a dark suit.” Unlike other books using this shtick, however, she goes in depth with her topics, providing some of the clearest instruction I’ve seen.

For example, in the email section, she moves past the obvious (dump the cute-sounding email address) into tips for signature lines, subject lines and content. Those of us who have been sending work-related emails for a decade can easily forget that young people need someone to spell things out when it comes to the basics of business communication -- just as we did when first starting our careers.

"Life after College: The complete guide to getting what you want," Jenny Blake, Running Press, 2011, $17.

This is another book providing more than job-search advice for new graduates. In fact, the actual hunt for work is covered rather briefly. Instead, Blake concentrates her attention on lifestyle issues ranging from work-life balance to managing friendships as a young adult.

Two features of this book stand out for me and qualify it for recommendation as a gift to graduates. First, Blake has included one of the better discussions on goal-setting and big-picture thinking that I have seen. To my mind, this concept is not covered very well in most careers books, which I can’t understand. What’s the point of getting a job if you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish in your life?

And second, I like the exercises and worksheets. These are nothing fancy, but Blake has a good instinct for summarizing the points a reader would need to explore in order to develop an action plan on each topic.

"Navigating through ‘Now What?' The various career crossroads in our lives," Karen Kodzik, Expert Publishing, 2011, $12.95.

If you are feeling sympathy for your graduate’s tired eyes and heavy reading load, you might consider this thin volume on the subject of career transitions. While not writing specifically for college graduates, Twin Cities author and counselor Kodzik has provided a handy guide for the process of exploring careers at any age.

A little more than half of this book is devoted to vignettes of various people -- midlife workers, parents returning to the workforce, new graduates, military veterans, near-retirees -- who find themselves at a crossroads related to career choices. In the second half, Kodzik explains in the broadest terms the steps one takes to make career decisions and proceed to the next stage.

Being such a quick read, this book may be a good choice for graduates whose parents want to share the book and initiate discussions on the key points.

"What Color is Your Parachute," Richard Bolles, Ten Speed Press, 2011, $18.99.

OK, so I said four books and this is No. 5. But who could leave it off the list? If you’ve got a copy of this 30-year-old classic (updated annually), you already know that "Parachute" can be dense and difficult to navigate. Even so, the wealth of ideas and information between the covers make this the perfect choice as a lifetime reference for a new entrant to the world of work.

Amy Lindgren owns Prototype Career Service, a career consulting firm in St. Paul, Minn. She can be reached at or at 626 Armstrong Ave., St. Paul, MN 55102.