BOOK REVIEW: 'The Critical First Years of Your Professional Life': Comprehensive, Readable Book for College Graduates Seeking Their First Job

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
BOOK REVIEW: 'The Critical First Years of Your Professional Life': Comprehensive, Readable Book for College Graduates Seeking Their First Job

"Ooh, baby, baby, it's a wild world. It's hard to get by just upon a smile..." -- Cat Stevens, 1971

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Cat Stevens' hit song from 1971 aptly describes the 2014 job market for today's college graduates, making "The Critical First Years of Your Professional Life by Robert L. Dilenschneider, with Mary Jane Genova (Citadel Press/Kensington Publishing Corp., introduction by Maria Bartiromo, 223 pages, trade paperback, $15.00,  also available in a Kindle ebook) even more valuable today than when it was first published in 1997.

Faced with an unstable economy, recent college grads need more expert guidance than ever to land that dream job and make it rewarding and meaningful. Dilenschneider has written several self-help guides to negotiating the workplace, a confusing maze that is far different from past years like the 1960s when Dilenschneider got his start -- and when I did so, too.

I wish I had this very readable book in hand in 1961 when I graduated from college with a B.A. degree in English and went to work as an insurance claims adjuster in Chicago. It would have cleared the underbrush of the business world for me. As the author points out, your first job today is not going to be your final one; the rules have changed radically.

This invaluable guide—revised to meet the specific challenges of today’s fast-evolving job market—shows how you can use your talent, originality, and initiative to sharpen your competitive edge.

Dilenschneider graduated with a master's degree in communication and ended up in public relations, with a large firm and later starting his own company, the Dilenschneider Group, a New York City based corporate strategic counseling and public relations firm.  By 1966, with a variety of positions behind me, I finally found my niche: Journalism. I think I benefited by working in fields other than journalism before taking that reporter trainee position in Hammond, Indiana in January 1966.

The first years of your professional life are critical to long-term success in any field. The skills you acquire, the contacts you make, and the lessons you learn will help you remain involved, adaptable, and always ahead of the curve.

 I like the interviews the author conducts with experts in a variety of fields, including the one from his 1997 edition with his his first mentor, Ohio State University professor Walter Seifert, now deceased. Be sure to read and absorb that interview on pages 185-188.  It's marvelous! Seifert sounds like the kind of guy I could have depended on to learn the ropes, a professor who worked as a newsman in Cleveland. I was fortunate at my first newspaper job to have a similar mentor in a co-worker who was a seasoned reporter. In subsequent jobs, I relied on advice from other reporters and editors, and eventually ended up mentoring others.

Mentoring, negotiating the grapevine, how to conduct yourself in an increasingly uncivil world: Dilenschneider wants you to be polite and respectful of others, following the Golden Rule; this is outstanding advice that more people should absorb and practice in a world crammed to the rafters with boors.

Learning what to do -- and what not to do -- in the workplace are among the many topics covered in this book, which I recommend as an immediate gift to someone who is about to graduate from college.Now a seasoned veteran of the workplace shares his insights, tips, and experiences in a thoroughly updated edition of a career-planning classic.

Another excellent section discusses the differences between the generations, many of whom the young man or woman in the workplace for the first time will encounter. He's a member of the pre-Baby Boomer generation who writes that he thinks like the Boomers born from 1946 to 1964. I'm from this population cohort and feel like that, too. We did everything the Boomers did, but we didn't have that Rolling Stone or Time magazine cover!

Praise for Robert L. Dilenschneider and The Critical First Years of Your Professional Life


“Offers practical advice on how young people can take charge of their careers and develop independently both the skills required to excel in any environment and the savvy to know when to move on.” —Norman R. Augustine, former Chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corporation


“An insightful, idea laden, practical guide that will be valuable to young professionals seeking to advance their on the job lives.” —Stephen A. Greyser, Richard P. Chapman, Professor of Business Administration Emeritus, Harvard Business School


“Bob Dilenschneider has the right recipe for coping in an era of stunningly rapid change.” —Allan Goodman, President, Institute of International Education

About Robert L. Dilenschneider

Robert L. Dilenschneider has hired more than 3,000 successful professionals, and advised thousands more. He is founder of the Dilenschneider Group, a corporate strategic counseling and public relations firm based in New York City. Formerly president and CEO of Hill & Knowton, he is the author of the bestselling books "Power and Influence, A Briefing for Leaders" and "On Power".

About Mary Jane Genova

Mary Jane Genova, an international business writer, has been published in The New York Times, Washington Post, Newsday, Newsweek, Ad Age, American Banker, and Harvard Business Review.


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