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Escape from Corporate America: A Practical Guide to Creating the Career of Your Dreams Paperback – May 13, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Journalist Skillings aims to rescue Americans from corporate tedium in this entertaining and informative guide to walking away from an established—albeit stultifying—job and forging a more rewarding career. With insight and humor, Skillings enumerates the stages of Corporate Disillusionment and the features of the toxic workplace—the bullying bosses, moronic co-workers, terminal boredom and rampant racism and sexism. A multitude of questionnaires, exercises and worksheets helps readers determine their dream job, assess expenses and assets, and plot an escape plan to break free of corporate life without going bankrupt. Skillings also provides pointers to those readers who simply want to be happier in their current jobs—including negotiating for more flexible hours, telecommuting and taking sabbaticals. Vignettes of successful fugitives from the corporate world populate the book and an extremely useful Escape Tool Kit supplies information on where and how to find career coaches, health insurance, job listings and a wealth of other much needed resources when embarking on career change. Comprehensive, informative and witty, this book will be indispensable to those looking to start new careers with concrete plans and well-defined goals. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


This Is Not Your Father’s Job Market

If you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work.
—Kahlil Gibran

So I was sitting in my cubicle today, and I realized, ever since I started working, every single day of my life has been worse than the day before it. So that means that every single day that you see me, that’s on the worst day of my life.
—Ron Livingston as Peter Gibbons in Office Space

Some of the most seemingly successful corporate movers and shakers have a dirty little secret. They hate their jobs.

Bob in Accounting is burned out and on the verge of going postal—better stay away from the mailroom. Diane the VP of sales just got downsized for the second time in two years, and Ted the new marketing guy is counting the milliseconds until five o’clock.

The corporate career path can be exciting, well paid, and highly prestigious. On the flip side, Corporate America can also feel like a creativity-destroying, soul-deadening maze of politics and bureaucracy.

While some thrive in the rat race, others feel trapped. If you’re sick of trying to conform to the corporate dress code, the corporate mind-set, and the corporate “culture,” you’re not alone.

If you picked up this book, it’s because there’s a part of you that dreams of a career more fulfilling than your current nine-to-five rut. A little voice inside has been telling you that something has to change.

So why haven’t you made a break for it? Wiggling free from the golden handcuffs of a “good job” that’s making you miserable isn’t easy. The idea of walking away from a steady paycheck and health benefits can be terrifying—especially if you’re not 100 percent sure what you really want to do with your life.

That’s how millions get stuck in lives of quiet corporate desperation. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to choose between cubicle slavery and abject poverty.

Today there are plenty of job options beyond the corporate ladder. And there are plenty of ways—both practical and radical—to make the leap from a life of daily distress to a career that inspires you.

I Hate My Job

Recent surveys show that a record 50 percent of American workers are dissatisfied with their jobs and 80 percent fantasize about leaving their current gigs. Surprisingly, despite higher salaries and better benefits, corporate workers are more miserable than those in other types of jobs.

Studies have revealed that employees of small companies are more than twice as satisfied as employees of large corporations. Meanwhile, free agents and entrepreneurs are even happier, with 87 percent reporting they are satisfied with their jobs.

“Corporate America is not aligned with the needs and requirements of its increasingly diverse workforce, and radical changes in attitude mean that a growing number of young Americans are dissatisfied, disengaged, and unproductive,” according to a report by researchers from The Concours Group, who conducted a survey of more than seven thousand U.S. workers.

“Sometimes I fantasize about getting hit by a car,” confides Dina P., a midlevel manager for a large financial services corporation. “Nothing too serious. Just bad enough that I have to miss work for a while.”

Of course, millions of people in other professions experience similar issues, but corporate types face unique challenges. After years of ascending the corporate ladder, most have attained a certain salary level and a certain degree of career success. Feelings of identity, self-worth, and belonging are all tied up in their job titles. They feel like they have a lot to lose by walking away.

Suck It Up, Cry-Baby

So what’s wrong with these people? They’re not ditch diggers or sweatshop laborers. Dina and David have cushy office jobs, make good money, and enjoy generous 401(k) plans. They should be happy, right?

Your grandparents would have scoffed at the concept of job fulfillment. Previous generations mostly saw work as a necessary evil—you weren’t supposed to like it. They felt lucky just to earn enough money to feed their families and pay the rent. After all, does anybody really like his job?

The answer today is a resounding yes. There is a fortunate segment of the population made up of people who love what they do for a living. Their eyes light up when they talk about their work, and they’re proud of the contributions they make.

“I was always in a sour mood on Sunday nights because I had to wake up the next day and live a bad, bad nightmare all over again,” says David R., a corporate attorney. “I felt like I was trapped in the movie Groundhog Day.”

Today work is more personal than ever before. Who you are is what you do. Sure, it’s important to maintain perspective and not take opportunities for granted. With so much poverty and suffering in the world, the ability to choose a career that brings joy and fulfillment is a privilege. But for those who have the option, why waste the majority of your waking hours in a job that makes you miserable?

The average American spends more than one hundred thousand hours at work over the course of a lifetime. And that’s a very conservative estimate, given ever-increasing workloads and later retirement ages. If you truly believe that work shouldn’t be fulfilling or interesting, that it’s just a means to a paycheck, then you’re missing a lot.

Realistic Expectations

No job is all fun and free beer. That’s why they call it work. Let’s face it, even the most tedious corporate job beats cleaning toilets at the bus station or running the deep-fryer at Mickey D’s.

And not every corporate job is a pit of Dilbertian despair. Some corporate executives love their work. They believe in their products and services and get a charge out of helping their companies succeed.

All jobs have both positives and negatives—and the negatives are different for every individual. One person might find number-crunching financial reports tedious while another thrives on the challenge. One employee may love the excitement of a demanding, competitive work environment while another gets ulcers just thinking about it.

Executives with seemingly great jobs can be just as unhappy as anyone else if their work lacks the elements that they value. For those looking primarily for financial gain or prestige, high-level corporate gigs can be very rewarding. For others who prioritize flexibility or exercising their creativity, corporate life can be hell.

It’s not just about the money. A recent survey by The Conference Board found that 17 percent of those making $15,000 a year say they are satisfied with their jobs, compared with just 14 percent of those who make more than $50,000.

Marcus Buckingham, the author of The One Thing You Need to Know and an expert on employee satisfaction, told USA Today that some of the most disengaged people he’s encountered were senior executives running empires and earning millions of dollars.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (May 13, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345499743
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345499745
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #474,408 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I think the title is misleading. Almost all of the examples in the book are from people with previous jobs titles such as, "Investment banker", "Management consultant", "PR and marketing executive", and on and on.

As the "average person" I found it hard to relate. I mean come on, an investment banker making a career change? That's more like, "I made so much fr*ggin money messing up the markets and screwing everyone else I don't need any more and now I want to do something fun".

Good for you.

As for the rest of us? The book has the usual set goals, create a budget, do something you like, yadda, yadda, yadda. I give the book one star for the valid points the author puts forward about the transition out of the workplace and into your new career. That was well summarized. But nothing you couldn't glean from a 5 minute peruse in the book store or some internet research. So nothing new here for me.
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Format: Paperback
I'm fortunate... I love my job. That doesn't mean there aren't some days where I'd gladly trade it in for a new model, but that's true for anything you do. However, I'm constantly amazed by how many people truly *hate* what they do, and only continue working because they can't afford not to. Pamela Skillings looks at people in that predicament and offers them a way out in her book Escape from Corporate America: A Practical Guide to Creating the Career of Your Dreams. It's a well-written book that should give you all the help you need to start making choices and decisions to change your current situation.

Quiz: Are You A Corporate Casualty?
Part 1: Plan Your Escape
1. This Is Not Your Father's Job Market
2. The Trouble with the Rat Race
3. True Callings and Wrong Numbers
4. Let's Get Practical
Part 2: Exploring Escape Routes
5. Corporate Jobs That Don't Suck
6. Take A Break
7. Swim in a Smaller Pond
8. Go Solo
9. Build a Business
10. Follow Your Creative Dreams
11. Make A Difference
Part 3: Going Over the Wall
12. Going Over the Wall
Have a Nice Escape
The Escape Tool Kit
Meet the Corporate Escape Artists

The thing I like most about this book is that it doesn't try to fit everyone into a "one size fits all" mold. In the job world, "one size fits almost nobody". Skillings lays out the reasons why you may not be satisfied with your corporate existence. Sometimes it's due to burnout, sometimes to disillusionment, or even due to reorganizations that have relegated you to working for the boss from hell. Whatever the case, getting to the core of your dissatisfaction is key to figuring out how to correct it.
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Format: Paperback
Have you ever watched The Office only to realize the skewering social satire is not that far off the reality of your mundane day-to-day life at work? I knew I wanted to read this book the moment I saw the title, and I was fortunate to receive an advance copy from the author's husband. Truly leading by example, Pamela Skillings has written such an entertaining tome on seeking career fulfillment that it stands among the most insightful in an increasingly crowded field. It's a thorough start-to-finish treatise that resonates from Skillings' own story as an aspiring journalist who ended up working in corporate America for twelve years earning a six-figure salary only to realize she was never really satisfied. For most of us, such a revelation, if it ever reaches the level of our consciousness, comes with a wave of dread that crystallizes into a paralyzing fear over an unknown future. With a fluctuating economy that produces constant employment uncertainty, the clarity that comes with living a life of predictable mediocrity may hold a certain appeal to those unwilling to incur a risk by taking a deep-dive journey into themselves.

Unbeknownst to them, this book needs to become a must-read because Skillings does an adept job in convincing us to embrace change and not waste most of our days in "toxic workplaces" full of boredom, political plays and even worse. She begins appropriately with a quiz as to your readiness to leave corporate America. Once you know where you are in terms of satisfaction, then she makes clear how you need to plan your escape.
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The bookshelves groan with the weight of self-help books, some invaluable, and some ordinary common sense made marketable by astute `guides'. Though this remarkably readable new book by Pamela Skillings is subtitled `A Practical Guide to Creating the Career of your Dreams', suggesting yet another of the self help series genre, what this carefully detailed, wise, and immensely user friendly book offers is a call to the reader savvy enough to buy this guide to address not only employment and how to make meaningful, plausible changes in job situations, but also how to essentially take charge of your life in every facet of living.

Skillings uses a conversational style of writing, full of wit, insight into the unspeakable issues that crowd many of our professional lives, and practical approaches to what other authors have created as `formulas', and in doing so she manages to supportively take the reader by the hand and lead the way down the dark hall of indecision or stifling boredom to the possibility of light at the end of the tunnel of change. `You don't have to settle' is a term she frequently inserts into this fact-filled examination of the good and the bad side of Corporate existence. The signs and symptoms of corporate burnout are detailed in lists of levels of `disease' states that provide a lot of truth as well as significant humor (monotony, control issues, workplace drama, cubiclitis, etc.). But Skillings has the wisdom to refuse to push her readers into leaving the womb of corporate security. Instead, she offers skilled advice on how to evaluate job and life goals, and follows this with detailed methods of how to approach dreams of finding the perfect job - along with a healthy list of the possible temporary setbacks and side effects of making change.
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