Bait and Switch: The Futile Pursuit of the Corporate Dream
• Barbara Ehrenreich
• Allen & Unwin
• $29.99

Barbara Ehrenreich is probably best known for her best seller Nickel and Dimed – On (Not) Getting by in America. In that witty and fast-paced book she took on low wage, blue collar jobs (under cover) and reported on her experience as solo worker in the tough world of back breaking, hourly waged work. In Bait and Switch she once again takes on an undercover role, but this time as middle-aged woman undertaking job search in the America of today, post the economic slump of 2001, where many white collar workers have experienced ‘downsizing’, ‘right sizing’, ‘smart sizing’ and ‘restructuring’.
She sets off with ‘fake’ CV and almost immediately taps into the vast range of ‘coaches’ and support for people in job search mode. With wit and humour, she describes her adventures with range of predators and odd balls who take her money and offer very little in return – hence the title of the book. However, you have to question why an intelligent woman would choose these people if she was in serious job search mode. She covers all the key ingredients of the job seeker – reflection, psychometrics, CV writing, networking, interviews and working with coach – but she’s without support structure and network – things genuine job seeker would have and use.
As she has never worked in the corporate world there are parts of the book that do not ring true. It is therefore not surprising that she only gets interviews for sales roles that are probably pyramid schemes in disguise. She is rejected over and over again, but she would have been competing with people who had researched, networked, had real experience to sell, and had not spent lot of time with the career ‘cranks’ Ehrenreich entertains us with. But after all, it was book she was writing, not guide to getting job.
The best bits of the book are the research and statistics she presents, the interviews she reports on with failed job seekers, and the information she provides on this tough topic. The last two chapters are grim look at demanding system where people who have done everything right still find themselves without job, and where the longer you are unemployed the tougher it gets.
It’s not book to give to your 40+ friend whose position has just been made redundant, but there will be many job seekers who will agree with lot of what she has to say. It certainly makes very strong case for robust CV, strong networks, and to be very careful about who you engage to help you in your job search. AS

The Executive’s Almanac
• Milton Moskowitz
• Quirk
• $34.95

Don’t buy this for yourself. It is too simplistic take on your world at the top of the executive ladder. We gleaned few new snippets from the book’s “surprising facts, lists, anecdotes and histories”: such as Soichiro Honda’s declaration that he quit the company that bears his name because he lost his sexual potency. We didn’t learn much else.
Do, however, consider buying this pocket-sized book if you’re trying to tempt, trick or tease younger member of the family into the heady excitements of life in the executive lane. In that case, it could be worth your while leaving this book on strategic table at home for young eyes to spot. Be prepared for discussions on sexual potency and why you left your last job. RLP

speed @ work
love @ work
dna @ work
• Carolyn Barker & Alexandra Payne
• John Wiley & Sons
• $36.95

Check out these books for series of imaginative perspectives on leadership, self and the art of management. The Australian Institute of Management (AIM) has been plugging away for some time now to collate mini-essays from broad range of thinkers for this, its Management @ Work Series. The purpose, it says, is to explore the world of work through down-to-earth, real-life examples, passionate opinions and practical guidelines.
speed @ work covers new trends and rapid growth in business. The oddly named love @ work probes the corporate heart, love-filled leadership and office romances. dna @ work explores the glue that holds people and structures together. RLP

Being Indian: Inside the Real India
• Pavan K Varma
• Arrow Books
• $29.99

The India they taught about when I did an Asian Studies degree in the 1960s was dominated with texts and essays devoted to the sociology of village life. Economics was not big part of the course, although Tata steel mills did get mention.
In the 21st century one in every sixth person in the world is Indian. The Indian economy is in the top 10 in overall gross national product. The country is the world’s second largest consumer market, with half billion strong middle-class discovering the pleasures of discretionary income. India is also leader in information technology, with software exports set to top US$50 billion in few years time.
Consequently, there has been growing interest in India as it has begun to flex its prodigious economic muscles. However, real understanding has been hampered by some deeply-engrained myths and clichés about the country. These myths, as Pavan Varma points out, are not simply western inventions, but elements of an image fostered by India’s leaders and educated elite.
Varma, distinguished diplomat and public servant, is particularly acute observer of the differences between myth and reality. He writes: “The image has been created by quantum leap of logic… India has been parliamentary democracy since Independence in 1947; therefore, Indians are undeniably democratic by temperament. Several important religions were born and flourish in India; therefore, Indians are essentially spiritual in their outlook. People of different faiths have found home in India; therefore, Indians are basically tolerant by nature. Mahatma Gandhi defeated the British by relying on ahimsa; therefore, Indians are peaceful and non-violent in temperament. Hindu philosophy considers the real world as transient and ephemeral; therefore, Hindus are ‘other-worldly’ and un-materialistic in their thinking.”
All largely untrue, says Varma, who shows convincingly in short and ele-gantly written book that Indians are not democratic by temperament; the material world, and success by almost any means, is far more important than the spiritual; there is high level of intolerance; Gandhi’s brand of non-violence has little popular appeal.
As Varma says of his fellow Indians: “They are pragmatic people, naturally amoral in their outlook. There is no notion of ultimate sin in Hinduism… Corruption has grown endemically because it is not really considered wrong, so long as it yields the desired result.”
India is going to be increasingly important to New Zealand; Being Indian shows clearly and concisely what we’ll be dealing with. IFG

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