Featured Finalists 2020-2021

The Featured Finalist book review for November is of the 2021 awarded book How to get a job you love by John Lees. It’s an international book that has significant presence in Australia, and helps Australians ‘manage career and work life’ in our challenging circumstances. The review is by Warren Frehse of the University of Melbourne.

Some career books are written to inspire others towards living their dream.  There’s nothing wrong with that of course, but when a book is able to do that as well as provide the practical exercises and roadmap on how to get to as close to that as possible, it’s worth a deep dive.

Author John Lees is no stranger to those in the career development game.  He has published fifteen books, and his latest How to Get a Job You Love is in its 11th edition with COVID and its subsequent impact on the changing world of work making its most untimely debut.

As well as being mentored by Richard Nelson Bowles of What Colour Is Your Parachute? fame, the author states boldly on his website that “all work is a deal, a compromise between what you want out of life and what an employer wants to get out of you.”

That sets the scene for the content of this book.  Steeped in realism about the fragility of work, it is more about helping people work in something perhaps more stimulating and enjoyable than what they may be currently doing.  The clear message is to actually ‘do something’ rather than contemplate excessively what might be.

Filled with evidence-based exercises, the author allows the reader to choose what to include on their own action plan by providing a ‘must do’ list at the conclusion of each chapter. Its clear and ‘no nonsense’ approach gives compelling reasons for the reader to hit the ground running.

Each of the topics come complete with a comprehensive reference list and index that makes it easy for the reader to pick up and refer to long after the initial immersion. This would work even better if the book could be a compact pocket size to carry in a bag for quick reference.

One particular chapter “The 4-hour Job Search Programme” could have been a catchy book title in itself, so for the impatient job seeker, this has all the ingredients and necessary tips to avoid doing things that can make a job search go longer than it absolutely needs to.

This is particularly important for a job seeker in transition where time spent in between jobs means loss of income and confidence.

The author nicely weaves the language of recruiters and employers into the text. He gives job candidates clues on what they mean by “market readiness” which he defines as “a state of preparedness that means you’re ready to make the most of opportunities and you can safely be put in front of decision-makers.”

Feeling safe to face a decision maker is something that every job seeker would need in large quantities, especially in challenging times.

This title provides the know-how to do that by providing job seekers with much needed consolation and confidence to find a job “worth getting up for on a cold Monday morning.”


The Final Featured Finalist for 2021 is Dr Cremen Suzanne: book review by Kaye Nolan

Dr Suzanne Cremen is a psychologist who wrote this book before COVID annexed the world, but seems to have had the jump-start on an explosive reality. This book review by Kaye Nolan, also a psychologist, brings the depth ‘to the surface’ so we readers can see why this book is so important for us in dealing decisively with darkness.

Cremen, Suzanne. 2020. From Career to Calling: A Depth Psychology Guide to Soul-Making Work in Darkening Times. Routledge. Milton Park. Oxon.

It’s always heartening for career seekers to discover that someone whose career has taken them through multiple occupations has eventually been able to find their life’s work. In this book Suzanne Cremen generously shares the highs and lows of her personal quest: a journey which finally leads her to a PhD in Depth Psychology – a psychodynamic approach to understanding human behaviour focusing on the role of the subconscious. Stemming from these studies this book demonstrates how, by tapping into that of which we are so often unaware, we can find a career that that gives expression to our authentic selves and in doing so align with the universal greater good.

Drawing upon concepts such as metaphor, symbols, imagination, dreams, and mythology, the author invites us to access our unconscious drives and unresolved conflicts to explore our deepest desires and investigate how they might translate into meaningful and useful work. The approach is from a psychospiritual perspective using the unconscious as a source of wisdom and guidance to create our careers and “lifework”, so that critical question might be not “What do I want to do?” but rather “What is in me that is seeking expression?”

Underpinned by the theories of Jung, we journey from conscious to unconscious to gain new personal insights. We explore our shadow side and our archetypes (a chapter is devoted to the MBTI and its use in vocational counselling).  We are challenged to consider our complexes, the echoes of the vocational patterns of our ancestors, the “unfinished business” that can play out later in life. But the book is also not afraid to address more realistic considerations devoting a chapter to the awkward question of money.

Extensively researched and supported by a lengthy bibliography, the book contains powerful quotes and anecdotes of both hers and her research participants’ deliberations and epiphanies. These provide the reader easy entry points to a meaty academic text.

The title of the book “Soul Making Work in Darkening Times” refers to current environmental challenges (and now a global pandemic) the world is facing. And, although it is often not until we face a significant personal crisis and our world falls apart that “soul making happens”, the planet is now facing its own climate crisis. Such situations call for the carrying out of “soulmaking work”: work that is ecologically and spiritually harmonious in order save the planet and life on it from extinction. In this way the book is timely, captures the zeitgeist of a current generation of disillusioned young activists, and begins to provide answers.

At the end of most of its twelve chapters there is an invitation to reflect through activities such as journaling, poetry writing, keeping a dream journal, and suggestions for further research. While these exercises can be completed alone, they provide a rich basis for further exploration and translations into action in discussions with a career development practitioner.

The theories in the book complement the more evidence based cognitive behavioural approaches related to career motivation, vocational assessments, and reality-based career choices – not all work can be totally fulfilling and Dr Cremen recognises this. They do however emphasize the importance of truly ‘becoming ourselves’ in some way through our life work – even if that be through volunteering, pursuing a hobby or other areas of our lives.

While the role of vocation has always been front of mind for career development practitioners, the strong numinous focus of this book provides a creative and challenging addition to the fundamental toolkit of skills, interests, attitudes and values identification. Its refreshing emphasis on the role of imagination and innovation for new career perspectives makes it an essential addition to any careers library.

Kaye Nolan
Psychologist and Career Development Practitioner


The Featured Finalist for March 2021 is Leah Mether: book review by June Smith

Soft is the New Hard: how to communicate effectively under pressure
by Leah Mether, and published by Methmac Communications 2019

Book review by June Smith

Soft is the New Hard: how to communicate effectively under pressure is a very practical guide through the hazards of difficult communication providing ‘foundations that underpin the way you communicate and relate to people’.

I am sure we all know that we could do better with communication. On the positive side that can include keeping employees up to date, expressing gratitude, letting people know they’ve done a great job. On the negative side, you may need to counsel someone about performance, or, in your personal life, you might have to explain why someone didn’t get an invitation to the wedding.

The book’s content is largely based on Leah’s personal experience and what she has gleaned from reading and running training programmes. This is not to diminish its worth. It is chock full of strategies and tools that can be applied for more effective communication. Diagrams, exercises and schemes are used effectively to clarify and define. The style is easy to read and conversational and the anecdotes relevant and illustrative.

Leah structures the book around the five C’s, choice, control, consideration, courage and communicate, explaining that it is necessary to prepare and lay the foundation before communicating.

While the book targets potential leaders and managers, the messages can be applied to communication generally within the workplace and even in life. Strategies she suggests for responding when someone is behaving like a 2 year old at work can be applied equally effectively dealing with a 2 year old. Communicating with a sullen uncooperative person at work might require the same skills as for a teenager.

An excellent piece of advice regarding communication was given to me by a group that worked with very difficult, challenging teenagers. They said if someone raises their voice then you should respond in a lower volume, keep the message clear and simple, without embellishment or lengthy justification. Wisely, Leah addresses not only when and how to communicate but also when to stop talking, a powerful and effective approach for certain situations.

Soft is the New Hard would be useful as a reference to prepare yourself for a difficult communication situation, offering strategies and tools you can utilise. But of course, good effective communication is not just for work; it can be applied often in everyday life. Have this book within easy reach to dip into from time to time, to reflect on your own communication and remind you of good practice.

While some of the tools seem deceptively simple, with continued practice they can make a real difference in the workplace and in life generally. As Leah says, ‘The model is simple, but don’t confuse simple with easy: living this model will be one of the most difficult challenges you’ll face in your entire life. But it is a game changer.’


The Featured Finalist for February 2021 is Hunter Leonard: book review by Sandy Hutchinson

The Experience Equation
Author – Hunter Leonard
Review Author – Sandy Hutchison

Bernard Salt stated in his Rethinking Retirement, that we are well into a “Baby Bust, which happens 70 years after a Baby Boom, meaning more workers are exiting the workforce at age 65 than joining at age 15. This means we will be facing talent shortages in the coming years and a smaller tax base to fund retirees. This is further compounded by the impact of Covid on reduced levels of skilled immigration, which all suggests that we really need our older workers to stay in the workforce longer.  So, what’s stopping them?

Hunter Leonard’s new book, The Experience Equation takes this question head on, and sadly the answer for many older workers is age discrimination.  Hunter presents anecdotes from all walks of life about how challenging it is for older workers, and by this he means late 40’s early 50’s not even pre-retirees, who are unable to find a new role post redundancy.  Although they have recent experience, skills and networks, their job searches are coming up empty, leaving many feeling frustrated and undervalued.

This book draws on the collective experiences of many people who have faced these challenges and realised that the best and often the only way forward is to build your own income stream but creating a business rather than finding work the traditional way.

The Experience Equation provides the reader with a set of practical tools, frameworks and thought starters to understand themselves, their passions, and strengths as well as their blind spots and to use this to develop their business idea.  This approach provides a well-structured pathway for those looking for direction on how to move from a “find a job” mindset to “build an income stream” mindset.   It also relies on sharing success stories of others who have made this transition, making the concept of change, both realistic and attainable for people.

This book is a great read for anyone who is facing the challenges of finding work later in life, but equally I would suggest this book to Recruiters, Talent, and Diversity Leaders to understand the impact of age discrimination policies and practices, conscious or unconscious in their recruiting process that can drive these negative outcomes for many talented capable older workers.

The Featured Finalist for January 2021 is Annie Stewart: book review by Kathryn Jackson FRSA

At the risk of stating the obvious I think it’s fair to say that there are many people in the region and the world who are likely to have experienced significant upheaval in 2020, and who might find inspiration from the contents of this book.

As an experienced career professional who has spent the last fourteen years working in Christchurch, New Zealand I have witnessed my fair share of post traumatic growth leading to career callings.

Our world has been shaken several times by events that have forced residents to look very hard at who they are, who they want to be and how they want to journey their career.

The senior government official who allowed himself to contemplate a life outside of officialdom – finally making a personal difference within the community that he holds dear.  A regional team leader who realized that she had been neglecting her artistic spirit and found herself called to write songs…just two examples of significant career changes that have eventuated from our turmoil.

During this time, I have been surrounded by determined souls who have listened to their hearts and tuned into the clues that called them to design and craft a more meaningful career.

But exploring the route to a calling is complicated and takes significant effort and courage.

This is a book that will support its readers on their journey.

From an early introduction to the historical significance of callings and a comparison of the concept across a variety of global faiths through to the hugely practical exercises and resources, this is a book that has something for everybody.

If you’ve had a niggle, a feeling, a hunch that there could be something more you’d like to achieve from your work then this book will help you to tune into that sensation beyond the usual, traditional methods.

You will be encouraged to embrace patience, nurture longing, and go beyond the typical hands-on practical resources employed by most career focused books about career transition.

You will be introduced to the Aboriginal art of “Dadirri”, or Deep Listening as a way to hear the wisdom within silence. You will be gently guided through a multitude of ideas to help you unpack and explore who you are, and you will create your own personalized Callings Dossier.

Some readers will find that they need additional support from a career professional to truly embrace and understand the multitude of exercises and coaching activities that have been designed into this comprehensive book.

Crafting a more meaningful and self-directed career has been very strongly correlated to building resilience at work.  When we have learned to tune into what we enjoy and subsequently move from the passenger seat to the driving seat, then we are likely to feel that we truly matter and make a difference in this world.

What is your heart whispering to you, and how might you tune into and then heed its call?

If you want to answer this question, then choose to read Career to Calling by Annie Stewart, and begin your journey today.


The Featured Finalist for December is Caroline Sandford: review by Lawrence Arnold FRSA

Love your career book cover

Caroline Sandford has spent over 20 years working as a professional career specialist. She is a regular contributor to newspaper articles on career advice, and an experienced speaker and lecturer across New Zealand.

Love your career from the start: making decisions for the future – a guide for young adults. by Caroline Sandford, published by Calico Publishing NZ 

If you’re looking for a colourful career guide, and one that gets 100% for engaging exercises then this is the one for you! It’s a real joy to pick up, hold, and read. If ‘the medium is the message’ then a book that lures readers away from social media to complete targeted career exercises is a message medium itself.

The book revolves around four quadrants – Create your future, Know who you are, Explore your options, and Plan your action. Each of these quadrants expands into the serious content that lies behind the colourfest of each chapter. This takes readers on the career journey with targeted exercises along the way. For example, the traditional SWOT (STRENGTHS, WEAKNESSES, OPPORTUNITIES, THREATS) exercise has  its own chapter to brainstorm the key points for each career option the reader is considering. It points out that strengths and weaknesses are internal to the person, and that the opportunities and threats are those that the reader notices and investigates in the external environments of work and study – points often overlooked in many career books that use this exercise.

The well-known RIASEC system (REALISTIC, INVESTIGATIVE, ARTISTIC, SOCIAL, ENTERPRISING, CONVENTIONAL) is used to uncover interests, and elements of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) are used to frame personality type. Readers choose their personality type using the 16 type descriptions, and representative occupations, but there’s a wise word of caution:

When you read the description of your personality type, do you agree? You may still be deciding between preferences – that is okay. You can find lots of information online: just put the four-letter code into your search engine and you will get lots of material to read. The more you read, the clearer it might become. If not, you can either complete an online profile, or find a qualified MBTI practitioner to help you understand your personality type. (p 79)

Finding a qualified professional is sound advice indeed, as getting the wrong personality profile can cause serious problems for young people that may last for years, and lead to inappropriate career decisions. An MBTI-accredited career coach can administer and score the assessment, and also interpret the ‘adult’ thinking so young people can understand this highly-regarded assessment.

Reader skills assessment is based on the seven skills for New Zealand outlined at www.youthguarantee.net.nz . While there is some overlap for Australian readers, there is a different emphasis in the ten skills deployed in The Core Skills for Work Developmental Framework, developed by the Australian Government and the Business Council of Australia in 2013. Love your Career is available in NZ and Australia.

I hope the colouring-in fad for adults is still a thing, and they still have their high-quality Derwents for these high-quality exercises. Enjoy the high-quality medium – and get the message.


Featured Finalist November

Book Review
Miki, Megumi. Quietly Powerful: How Your Quiet Nature is Your Hidden Leadership Strength

By Warren Frehse

Any organisation is only as good as the quality of its people.  This is particularly so when the leaders can create a culture that potentially allows it to perform at its best.

Quietly Powerful, book coverUnfortunately, there have been many examples lately that have led to questionable practices from leaders who have convinced others of their somewhat shallow ‘authenticity’ through ego-driven charm and self-interest.

It’s sad that these leaders have become role models for aspiring future leaders who are confused about what it really means to become a leader.  They then perhaps decide not to step-up.

Megumi Miki has addressed this issue head-on in her aptly-titled book ‘Quietly Powerful: How Your Quiet Nature is Your Hidden Leadership Strength’.

The five-part book firstly tackles the issue of the ‘hidden waste’ of talent whereby ‘quietness is seen as a weakness’.  “How can one be quiet and powerful?” the author asks upfront.

The book weaves ample evidence to suggest that the two can in fact cohabitate, and builds a convincing argument that it is indeed essential for a productive organisation to harness this combination.

The Australian Career Book AwardThe author weaves her own story and experiences of being able to adapt and even thrive in a large consulting firm, and was an integral team member in ANZ Bank’s ‘Breakout’ cultural transformation program.

So, with insider experience of having to influence sceptical and hard-nosed senior managers, the author has demonstrated that a ‘quietly powerful’ approach can bring real, measurable positive results in challenging, complex environments.

When organisations are hungry for the right combination of unique leadership talents to enhance diversity and harness the potential in their workforces, the author outlines the ideal attributes of the ‘quietly powerful’ leader to both build the necessary trust, and to get results.

Faking it until you make it used to be the leadership mantra in times gone by.  This book challenges that by allowing future and current leaders to shine by bringing forth their quiet nature as a strength, not an impediment to success.

This book has deservedly been the awarded career book for 2020 as it will resonate with career practitioners who have a major role to play in assisting their clients make decisions about whether leadership is a viable career option.

The book has a resounding positive message for future leaders who doubt their own abilities to make a difference.  It’s very clear.  The quietly powerful can make an immense difference.  This is so important in an age where human skills are paramount.