James Lehman has had an interesting career to say the least. Early in Maneuvering Your Career, he shares with us his diverse work history and the job instability and difficulties he has experienced throughout his years of employment:
“As I have had to maneuver my career, I have been fired multiple times, had my position eliminated multiple times, have quit before getting another job more than once, and had my employer be acquired, merged, closed, and go bankrupt. I have worked for the same employer three different times. And I have been self-employed. My shortest job has been eight days (not including the weekend). My longest tenure has been just shy of five years. Along the way, I have collected severance and unemployment. I have filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claim, and I have won an appeal of an unemployment decision. Although not my plan, I even collected severance from two different companies while working for another.”
While most of us may not have experienced so many job changes in our careers, I doubt there is a reader out there who has not known the worries of losing a job, finding a better job (or any job), or at the very least, having to deal with a crazy boss. There is no job security anymore, and for that reason, James Lehman has written Maneuvering Your Career to teach readers how to survive career transitions and all other manner of office politics, disgruntled coworkers, and micromanaging bosses who have no business managing anyone.
Using a river metaphor throughout, Lehman teaches us how to maneuver the river of our careers, avoiding obstacles along the way and learning when to go with the flow. Each chapter is dedicated to one of the twenty strategies he offers, and these chapters are grouped into three sections on Taking Control, Owning Your Job, and Taking Care of Yourself. The bottom line is that no one is going to look out for you in the workplace so you need to take care of yourself. Occasionally, you can forge a strong alliance with a boss or coworker to give you some leverage in moving your career forward, but for the most part, you need to work hard and smart, have common sense, and not settle for being stuck in a bad situation. Some of the strategies Lehman offers include: Breaking the Rules, Visualizing the Future, Working Smart, Knowing Your Rights, and Getting the Payback.
Lehman illustrates all his points with personal stories from his own career, many of which are both surprising and even hilarious (though I’m sure they weren’t at the time). In each story, he shows how he dealt with a difficult situation and what he learned from it. In some cases, he admits his own personal failings and what he learned from an experience; at other times, he shows humor and wisdom in dealing with situations beyond his control such as a difficult boss’s personality or a job interview gone wrong.