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How to Be Useful: A Beginner's Guide to Not Hating Work Hardcover – May 2, 2008
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"Very soon, despite the difficulty of job hunting in tough economic times, newly minted graduates will march into Day One of their first real jobs . . . With some luck, these neophytes might meet with someone like Megan Hustad . . . Part study of best-selling advice literature, part collection of cautionary tales from herself and her peers, the book is an engaging blend of prescription and cultural history . . . Hustad manages to make the process of identifying your professional goals and then setting out to achieve them palatable -- even hip." The Washington Post
"This smart little book is a wry new entry in the burgeoning literature of the new economy's workplace." The Chicago Tribune
"Author Megan Hustad combed through the dustiest self-help tomes for nuggets of wisdom that might actually apply to today's postcollegiates. The end result . . . has helpful career hints for associates and architect grunts alike." New York Magazine
"Most people wouldn't think that Dale Carnegie, Benjamin Disraeli and Paris Hilton belong in the same book; but they aren't Megan Hustad." The Globe and Mail
"A book that presents itself as a guide to workplace success but that is really a (frequently hilarious) meditation on the notion of ambition. " Guardian
"Hustad has done her homework, reading dozens of 'how to succeed' books, including some by such old-timers as Andrew Carnegie and Napoleon Hill sandwiched in with such relative newcomers as Stephen R. Covey and Donald Trump . . . the writing is bright [and] brassy." Booklist, ALA
"Every woman's guide to not hating work . . . full of timeless bits of mood-boosting wisdom." -Glamour
"Long story short: This is the book you'll want to travel back in time and press into the hands of your 22 year old self." - Galleycat
"A how-to guide for artsy young people with liberal arts degrees who [are] as bewildered by the realities of corporate life as [Hustad] had once been." - New York Observer
About the Author
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Post knew precisely how stodgy Old Money was, and how loath they were to welcome outsiders. And perhaps most important for New Money to understand, she knew that Old Money had its unwritten codes, and standards were high: “Once in a while—a very long while—one meets a brilliant person whose talk is a delight; or still more rarely a wit who manipulates every ordinary topic with the agility of a sleight-of-hand performer, to the ever increasing rapture of his listeners,” but this was rare. The people who think they’re amusing always outnumber the people who truly are.
... which definitely was interesting enough to keep reading.
Eventually, I got my own copy used, which pretty much means I gave myself permission to postpone reading it for a long time.
Then I got it as a Kindle daily deal, and so I read it off and on for about two years. I was at the 67 percent mark, so I thought I was 2/3rd done. Guess what? I was 97 percent done... the book concludes at the 70 percent mark. Though I kept reading because the bibliography is interesting, too:
Dreiser, Theodore. Sister Carrie. New York: Doubleday, Page and Co., 1900. One of the first American novels to paint the social and professional climber as selfish, amoral, and slutty. Although Carrie is not immoral in any kind of systematic or determined way—she’s too thoughtless. The early scenes of Carrie wandering the streets of turn-of-the-century Chicago, fresh off the train, looking for work, are the stuff of perfect costume drama.
Cawelti, John G. Apostles of the Self-Made Man. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1965. An excellent academic (but nearly as dry as the word academic might lead you to believe) survey of early American success literature.
I notice some complaints that this book is too 'snarky.' I didn't think so. And it is neither 'dry' nor 'academic,' though it is quite bookish.
Megan Hustad has written a sharp, critical survey of a genre that doesn't get much intelligent scrutiny. I plan to go back and read it from the beginning someday.
I haven't personally read it, so I can't get too specific, however, he seemed to really enjoy it. He found her writing very entertaining, as well as informative. It's not a condescending, self-help type of book. It's a playful, but still helpful, look at how to handle the politics of work.