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Blind Spots: A Review of Alexandra Levit’s New Book

November 6, 2011

Disclosure: Alexandra is one of my LinkedIn contacts. When I learned of her new book, I sent her a note offering to write a blog post about it. The subject matter is of particular interest to me, given the three decades I worked in human capital development, labor market information and leadership development. Alexandra was receptive to my inquiry and mailed me a copy of her book. Typically, I either purchase or borrow a book from my public library when I write a review or integrate a book’s content within a post. I disclose this to be transparent. Alexandra will see this post for the first time when it goes live. Those of you who have followed my writings know that I’m a straight shooter. I hope not to disappoint you with this post. JT

I like how-to books that get to the point, are clearly written with great content and are compact.

Alexandra Levit’s new book Blind Spots: The 10 Business Myths You Can’t Afford to Believe on Your New Path to Success delivers on all fronts.

I’ve read a ton of non-fiction books over 35 years, many of which are in the business sphere. And as a subset of this, I’ve read, researched and written a lot on labor market and career trends.

Alexandra has written a very useful book that speaks to both new and experienced workers, whether in management or not, whether private sector or government. Each of her 10 myths are supported by relevant anecdotes, including what’s happening currently in the workplace.

My first reaction to the book was that I liked the title, something with a new spin to grab people’s attention. This led me to wonder whether if it would have been more effective to talk about 10 “blind spots” instead of “myths.” The literature is already replete with articles and books talking about myths on whatever subject. Of course, this would mean reworking the sub-title, which is in my view a tad long. This is a minor point, of course, but one for Alexandra’s future consideration.

I have a story to share before I delve into Alexandra’s 10 myths.

In her opening Alexandra talks about Trader Joe’s, a hugely popular regional grocery chain. In May 2008, my wife and I took an Amtrak trip from Ottawa, Canada to California and back across the Midwest. While visiting an aunt in San Diego, we checked out a Trader Joe’s. Wow! I relate to what Alexandra says. When we got home from our long trip I emailed the company to inquire if they had any expansion plans north of the border (read Canada). Unfortunately not. As Alexandra states, Trader Joe’s wants to retain that “…homey, mom and pop feel.” Organizations and people are seeking to return to more traditional values, such as honesty, trust and openness.

So what are the 10 myths?

Myth #1: Overnight Success is Possible

Myth #2: Controversy Will Propel Your Caree

Myth #3: Employers Want You to be Yourself

Myth #4: Being Good at Your Job Trumps Everything

Myth #5: It’s Best to Climb the Ladder as Fast as Possible

Myth #6: You’ll Get More Money Because You Earned It

Myth #7: The Problem Isn’t You. It’s the Organization

Myth #8: You Won’t Get Laid Off; You’re Too Essential

Myth #9: If Only You Could Have Corporate America, Everything Would be Perfect

Myth #10: Do What You Love, and the Money will Follow

Some readers may take affront at some of the myths, such as #10. We often hear pseudo experts espousing that if you follow your dream, the bucks will follow. Sorry, that’s not how it works.

I highly recommend CBC’s Dragon’s Den (of which I’m a long-time fan) and the U.S. version Shark Tank. While they both have a strong entertainment element, the two shows are excellent training for entrepreneurs who are seeking funding. The “Do What You Love…” myth quickly gets dismantled by the Dragons and the Sharks. Have a solid business plan and know your numbers – and have both feet planted firmly on the ground!

In an age of instant gratification and super-hyped reality TV, combined with how young people have been raised by we aging Baby Boomers, it’s no wonder that some people may believe that Myth #1 is in fact reality. Nope. Alexandra tells the story of Scottish singer Susan Boyle, who blew away North American audiences after being on Great Britain’s Got Talent. As Alexandra aptly notes, Boyle’s journey took 48 years.

The critical importance of self-awareness (knowing oneself) permeates the book, something that I strongly believe is vital to functioning effectively in today’s turbulent labor market. As I read through Blind Spots, I was looking for Emotional Intelligence (or Emotional Quotient, EQ). I finally found it on page 169. I only wish this had been introduced earlier. Again, that’s a personal preference. Laying out earlier on Daniel Goleman’s background and the main elements of EQ would have given the reader a good framework for the theme of self-awareness. However, I’m glad that Alexandra devoted time to discussing this immensely important subject.

Blind Spots is interwoven with questions for reflection and action. This makes the book all that more of a working tool and relevant to job seekers and career changers. For example, Myth #2 talks about ethical issues, providing some short examples and questions for the reader to reflect upon.

What struck me as I was midway through the book was the thought that this is so much about personal branding in a contemporary sense. As an aging Boomer who retired from the Canadian public service last year and who’s done some consulting gigs and been actively blogging for three years, it’s about reinventing yourself. It’s about lifelong learning. Okay, the lifelong learning thing has been thoroughly beaten to death. But I hope you get my point.

Alexandra gets it. Perhaps she could have devoted a little more time to emphasizing the need for each of us – young and old – to understand the need to keep reinventing ourselves continuously and to hone our personal brand. She explains well the context in which workers must function. Lifelong learning and personal branding are vital cornerstones.

Of course, building a personal brand on the Internet means careful consideration of what you wish to convey. Alexandra takes no prisoners when she speaks on a variety of essential points relating to the ethics and integrity of workers and job seekers. We’ve all heard enough horror stories of workplace stunts that led to people getting fired. Common sense seems to be in short supply.

This is one of Blind Spots major strengths: telling it like it is when it comes to how you dress appropriately in the office, how you behave, how you seek promotions and raises, how you deal with getting fired, and how you deal with conflict. And to put this in a reader-friendly format, Alexandra uses a wide variety of anecdotes to illustrate her messages. The medicine goes down that much easier.

Read Blind Spots. It’s a solid, well-researched and written book. Because it’s a compact soft cover, it’s easily taken on business trips, commuting on the bus or train, or to the park or coffee shop for some quiet reflection time.

Be sure to check out Alexandra’s website and blog.

And please leave a comment on my blog or on Alexandra’s.

The reality is that you can be the most talented employee your company has ever hired, but if your contributions aren’t visible and people don’t value what you do, it simply won’t matter.

Blind Spots, Myth #4

Click here to download my complimentary e-book Creating Order and Meaning during Organizational Chaos: The Fall & Rise of the Learning Organization.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 13, 2011 3:12 pm

    Great review. I’ve put it on my wish list.

  2. November 7, 2011 1:33 am

    Indeed, Susan. And it’s why I liked Alexandra’s book – it’s realistic and current with what’s happening in the labor market and the workplace.

  3. November 7, 2011 1:29 am

    Excellent summary and review of the book, Jim. Those 10 myths are a cynical but accurate view of most organizations today, all the more reason to be self-employed.

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