An interview with a friend regarding the release of my first book, Hello, Old Friend:
MP: How did this book come about?
The book wasn’t a bucket-list item. It actually wasn’t my idea. I was in the throes of networking in 2008, experiencing a deluge of individuals affected by corporate layoffs. One of my business partners, Lisa, offered an interesting insight. She said “You’re really good at telling stories, getting to the heart of the situation, and providing very credible advice and counsel. You need to write a book.” I was taken aback by this suggestion. I couldn’t imagine writing a book. She went on to add, “Yes, write a book. What you are doing matters, but you can’t scale. You spend two hours with individuals one-on-one. That will not reach the wider audience.” So I began writing in 2010 and nearly four years later, it’s complete.
MP: Who is the book’s intended audience?
I see four distinct groups who will benefit from this book: the new college graduate that is unsure how to proceed and launch his or her career. Then there is the person who took a voluntary sabbatical and went home to start a family or return to school for more learning and that wishes to return to the workforce. A third group is composed of those who took an “involuntary” sabbatical. They suddenly lost their jobs and are shocked, are hurting and wish to quickly return to the workforce. The final group, and I think it’s a fairly large group, are those who are not happy in their current role and they’re not sure the reason. There is something in my book for each segment.
MP: And the title? What is its meaning?
“Hello, Old Friend,” is a journey of self-discovery – you reclaiming an identity with yourself. My initial visual for the book’s cover was someone looking at his reflection in the mirror. I feel strongly that over the course of our career we lose our identity – the deep roots of our beginning. I describe it as masks and war-paint that disguise our true self, and that we need to shed or erase that veneer and return to our true self – or at least better understand our true self.
MP: What about the crossroads depicted on the cover?
One of my early chapters is titled, “Life is a series of intersections,” where I suggest that meeting with people isn’t random and coincidence. I sincerely believe that if we avail ourselves we are both teachers and students each and every day. We must never stop learning and we must pass along our wisdom and experience to those coming along after us. Intersections are magical moments.
MP: Is there anything to the length of the person’s shadow?
That is a very observant and symbolic call-out. To me, the length describes the long history, the trove of life experiences of the reader.
MP: Is it true that the Framework, The Career Planning Model, was a late discovery
Amazingly, yes. People find it hard to believe when they read the book that the framework wasn’t the centerpiece, if you will, from the beginning. It came about late in the book’s development. I was urged by a good friend and journeyer to find it. Like a wise and experienced teacher, he said to me, “You refer to a framework, and you do everything but detail it to the reader. I challenge you to find it.” A great life intersection, I might add. So, I dug down deep for a couple of weeks and did discover it. It was both euphoric and enlightening. But at the same time it required me to rethink and reshuffle the chapters, which to that point were laid out in a novel, storytelling fashion. That scared me. To accept a major change to the flow of the book was disconcerting. But looking back on it, it was the seminal moment of the book’s growth. It really flourished with that change.
MP: Would you describe your framework?
It’s really quite simple, yet is rarely followed. It is a continuous cycle that begins with Reflection. When individuals lose their job, what’s the first thing they think of? I need to get another job. I urge the reader to fight that urge and intensely reflect. There are a number of chapters that assist the reader at better aligning their next role with what’s important to them. And I must confess – this is hard work, if done correctly. You actually may need to go through this section more than once.
Once you feel you’ve successfully reflected, you move to Preparation. It is here you build your personal marketing plan, you begin to better understand the power of networking, and you understand the need for relentless practice. You begin to truly believe in yourself. You will also learn a good deal to strengthen your resume.
The last leg of the first pass through the cycle is Execution. This is where you put all you’ve learned into action. The essence of this section is delivering a powerful and commanding interview.
I suggest and posit that if done properly you will spend 70% of your time in Reflection, 20% in Preparation and 10% in Execution.
Now you can see the fallacy in jumping straight into Execution from a job loss.
And finally, I suggest that when you arrive at that next career station, that you occasionally reflect to ensure you remain aligned to your values and priorities, that you know what you are willing to sacrifice and what is non-negotiable.
MP: How has the book been received?
Let me start by saying that the book was read by more than 100 individuals prior to its release. I was able to see firsthand how people applied it, where they found value and where work remained. I was blessed to have several committed readers that pushed me to make this a stronger product. And thanks to them, I think we did that.
I was also comforted that individuals found varying parts of the book to be their favorite. People would call to tell me how much they enjoyed the Recommended Reading section. Others felt they gained a good deal from the interviewing techniques I laid out, while some even used my sample interview questions in their own hiring interviews. Perhaps the two largest responses were how the book, particularly Reflection, was more than about career development. It was about life and how to live it more fully and self-aware. The second big response was that the book was in my voice, which I took as a huge compliment. People felt as though I wrote as I speak, which I purposefully tried to do. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t call out Marilyn Anderson, my editor. She worked diligently to ensure the book was correct in its grammar, structure and usage. My only instruction to her was to retain my voice. I think we did that.
MP: I understand there were some “unintended consequences” that you discovered while writing. Can you elaborate on a few?
As I was writing the Reflection section I found myself pausing frequently to consider the power of the lesson. I truly became a student to my own teachings.
As I said earlier, the Framework was an unintended consequence, but one I can’t imagine the book being without.
Another would have to be my opening chapter, “Who am I?” it was never my intent to include that chapter, but at the urging and behest of several of my proofreaders, I relented and provided a small personal glimpse of my growth and development.
And lastly there is this sense of a living legacy. I never considered that this book would outlive me. That future generations of those in need and certainly my own family might find some solace and relief from this work.
MP: One last question; is there another book inside of you?
As a matter of fact there is. Titled “It’s Lonely at The Top: Lessons in Leadership and Life,” it will extend my Reflection section and tell more stories of effective leadership.