"The Authentic Career"

Book Review by Sally Gelardin

Review of Craddock, M. (2004). The Authentic Career: Following the Path of Self-Discovery to Professional Fulfillment. New World Library. Novato, CA.

I review many “how to” career books, many of which I do not find enlightening. I am critical of career-related books that are too simplistic. Although I am a certified career coach, as well as a nationally certified counselor, I am also wary of coaching “authorities,” who often have very little background in theory, ethics, assessment, diversity, or other academic career and/or counseling requirements, yet who propose to offer career solutions. As I began reading the author’s “mental detective work” with a “family tree activity,” I thought to myself, what background does she have that qualifies her to discuss sensitive family and career issues?

After reviewing "The Authentic Career: Following the Path of Self-Discovery to Professional Fulfillment," my doubts disappeared about the author’s competence to discuss her subject matter. Maggie Craddock deserves my admiration, not criticism. She explains early on in the book that she recognized “the importance of understanding the way our families influence our perspective about professional success”(p. 23) when she was serving an externship at the Ackerman Institute for Couples and Family Therapy. She has been well trained in family therapy. Through illustrations of her clients’ and her own career experiences, Maggie Craddock discusses family/career issues with sensitive insight.

The book is not a simplistic “how to” reader. It is contextual; that is, the reader has an opportunity to identify both with case studies and with the author’s own career development and personal growth, which, as the author says in many ways throughout the book, cannot be separated. When I identify with an author or with her subjects, when the incident that I read about brings to mind incidents in my own life, then I know that I can learn something from the book. This book was filled with “aha’s” for me.

I identified with Maggie as her voice cracked when she was describing personal career challenges on Wall Street. I never worked on Wall Street, but I have certainly experienced the political hierarchy of organizations with which I have been employed. The author’s images are vivid; for instance, she compares Wall Street to a day in divorce court.

As the author turns to money issues, the “ahas” continue. She says, “As a coach, it’s even more vital that I understand the way the emotional dynamics surrounding money influence my clients’ decisions” (p. 25). Unafraid to dig into the related areas, Maggie explores emotional wellness as being crucial to one’s definition of success. “Some things in life,” the author says, “are expensive financially, and others are expensive emotionally” (p. 26). Many of us have destroyed our emotional health working in non-supportive environments. The book begins creeping into my intellectual living room, which is crowded enough as it is with extraneous thoughts, but I decide to continue reading.

The author says, “One of the ways we avoid the pain of examining our most familiar beliefs is by convincing ourselves that we ’should’ operate according to this belief system” (p. 36). Hold off, Maggie! I can visualize her sitting across from me as I pound out this review Saturday evening at 11:30 pm. “Sally, stop working already, she says, “Take the night off!” Ok, Maggie, I’ll close up for the evening. But I’ll be back.” I do a lot of “shoulds." But this review is not one of them. Thank you, Maggie, for inspiring me to write. Writing is my “authentic career.” When I write, I am at peace with the world.

Oh, but that sly author doesn’t let me stop at Stage I: Awareness. Stage II: Emotional Ownership is next. The author tells readers to focus their bodies as well as their mind on their professional goals. She explains how the client who is popping sedatives on Sunday night, ignores that her body is telling her she is not professionally fulfilled and that she is dreading to go back to work on Monday morning. That comment stops me in my tracks. I must take time out from writing this review to taking Maggie’s exercise: Expanding your emotional boundaries. In this activity, she instructs the reader to list in two columns: Buried Feelings and New Perspectives. I immerse myself in this stage, then proceed to Stage III: Interaction and finally Stage IV: Integration.

Before I go into self-exploration, I recall an email exchange with Marty Nemko, host of the syndicated radio program “Moving On,” directly after 9-11. Marty said, “The people that have had the healthiest responses to the terrorist attacks are those that repressed it, got busy, and spent as little time thinking about it as possible. I responded, “Marty, you’re right. We have to move on, but it can help to be self aware so that we know were we are going.” Maggie Craddock’s words of wisdom on workplace issues help us “move on” after “looking back” through self-exploration to discover how to integrate work with home. The ultimate goal of this book is to guide the reader to live a more fulfilling life. Maggie has set the stage for the reader to take action.

Sally Gelardin, Ed.D. (International and Multicultural Education), NCC, serves as an instructor at universities in the SF Bay area and co-facilitates the Career Development Facilitator Instructor training with Roberta Floyd, Master Trainer. She is a Certified Job and Career Transitions Coach (Career and Adult Development Network) and a CCE - Approved Provider of the CDF curriculum. Gelardin provides CCE-approved CEUS through her online job search strategies course, The Job Juggler. In addition, she authored The Mother-Daughter Relationship: Activities for Promoting Lifework Success (CAPS Press, 2004). Dr. Gelardin is past-president of the California Career Development Association and serves as Professional Development Chair of the National Career Development Association. She presents nationally on career issues, with a special focus on family influences on career decision-making and lifework success. Contact: lifeworks@gelardin.net or sal@jobjuggler.net.

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