Published by St. Martin's Press on September 3rd 2013
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It’s hard to work out exactly why I don’t like Promote Yourself by Dan Schawbel. I’ve written many introductions and deleted them, all trying to find an objective reason.
I think it’s because there’s no clear audience identified.
There are many other reasons too, but they’re all subjective. The focus on millennials, the “it’s all about me” attitude, the instructions to do A and B to receive C. But these are disagreements, not reasons for it to be a bad book.
I know Dan Schawbel intends this book to be a career guide for millennials. I’m not convinced that’s who’ll get the most out of it.
I see the primary audience as early gen X and baby boomers who are struggling to relate to the younger members of their teams. The secondary is audience is millennials, but those who do well on tests, but struggle to make friends. The ones who want to be rich, famous and have an MBA, but lack an understanding of creativity or how.
Let me explain.
The first half of the book focuses on building your personal brand at work with the aim of getting promoted. Dan explains the need to network with the right people. He also explains how being a social media guru will make you indispensable, because no one older than “you” understands or can use the internet and computers. You can help them learn. But he also feels the need to explain what Twitter and Facebook are. By his reckoning, shouldn’t millennials already know that?
All through the book are to-do items. Take on an extra project, promote your wins, set up a personal website and you’ll be promoted. Sure there are caveats about over doing it and looking like a jerk, but I think the book (and its readers) would benefit from being told how and why. It’s there on a surface level, but reading this brought back memories of some jerks I’ve worked with. They knew how to tick boxes, but lacked the understanding to know which boxes should be ticked. One thing these jerks had in common was an MBA, giving them a great theoretical knowledge, but not the wisdom to apply it.
Which made me laugh at page 229: Should I Get an MBA? It’s probably the page I agreed with the most. No, an MBA isn’t mandatory, and is more useful in some companies than others. However, I’m not sure the entrepreneurs Dan used as examples of successful people without MBAs were the best to use. They each built their fortunes by making ideas happen, not by playing the game for a promotion large companies.
Promote Yourself isn’t all bad. Pointing out need to excel in your current job first is essential advice, dealing with job hopping and self-directed learning were other gems.
I’d love to give recommendations of alternative career books to read instead of this one, but it’s a sub-genre I tend not to read, so cannot. If anyone can, please add it to the comments. In the mean time, I’m sending this book to a millennial for his perspective.