Book Review: The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People

Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People by Carol Eikleberry

My Goodreads rating: 5 of 5 stars
Buy it on Amazon.com (affiliate link)

What is your present paradigm of work? Is there any chance you see it as a duty in life, or as it ‘should’ be, rather than as all it can be?

Don’t settle for so little! This is a book which can shift your thinking, and broaden your horizons significantly, revealing the gift of your own creativity within a personal reinvention.

I stumbled across this career guide while trolling for deals in a Borders Bookstore about to close its doors, and it turned out to be a great find. That small print on the cover includes this ringing endorsement from Richard Nelson Bolles, author of What Color is Your Parachute? who also wrote the book’s foreword:

“Many books come across my reading table each year, but it has been a long time since one of them impressed me so much as this one has.”

As someone who studies the work we choose to do — and consistently advocates better, I have to agree. The author promises to focus on change and taking action, and she delivers: “You’ll find practical strategies for turning your dreams into reality and a process perspective on developing yourself through creative work.”

Author Carol Eikleberry is a psychologist and vocational counselor, and her book’s work represents substantial reading and professional curation done for the reader’s benefit: She’s deeply studied books like Bolles’, Csikszentmihalyi’s Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, and Florida’s The Rise of the Creative Class, and applied her learning to her own career practice, to then gift readers with the takeaway themes which will lead us to better success on the job hunt. She lists 55 references in her guide’s Notes section altogether, their commonality being the quest to understand how work can be more meaningful to us personally, in that it satisfies the artistic urges every human being has to some degree — in short, a directed creativity immersion in what we in Hawai‘i (and in Managing with Aloha) call Ho‘ohana.

This is the 3rd edition released since Carol Eickleberry initially published her career guide in 2007, and her website has been designed as a more detailed reference companion of exercises and Career Notebook resources. She clearly intends to have this book be her personal signature, and it’s a needed one today, as so many people are questioning conventional career choices and looking for viable alternatives. There’s no better time to discard those ‘shoulds’ others have weighed you down with in favor of exploring your innate artistic creativity, and this book can help. The good news? “Employers have more reason than ever to value your creativity.”

As her book’s title clearly states, Eikleberry wrote her career guide for “creative and unconventional people,” defining her audience of creatives via the John Holland theory:

“According to Holland’s theory, derived from the psychologist’s life’s work, there are six basic personality types in the world of work, and six corresponding work environments. You are advised to go into a work environment that most closely fits your personality.” Those who are “creative and unconventional” are just one of the six, that which Holland calls “the Artistic Type” and who are people who “prefer unstructured work environments in which there is opportunity for self-expression.”

(If you’re wondering, the other Holland types are Social, Enterprising, Investigative, Realistic and Conventional: Here’s a link to the Wikipedia page.)

We first think of painters, sculptors, photographers, crafters and others attracted to jobs in the fine arts as being in this personality type, but Eikleberry is more encouraging, and she is effective in expanding the definition to other applied fields. I would encourage an even greater readership, and will not hesitate to recommend this book to anyone wondering about possible vocations, or making a fresh shift toward more expansive or self-attuned work. There will be few readers who don’t question themselves as to the true degree of their own creativity — I certainly did! And I believe it’s healthy pushing ourselves to want more.

A list of situation statements on the author’s website asks, “Is this book for you?”

Let’s all be “creative and unconventional”

The book offers pragmatic advice on how you can better choose among your options once you have decided on the self-affirming change required. Eikleberry is straightforward and realistic with the help she offers, and in chapter 5, intended to trigger the start of the reader’s personal action plan, she does a great job in outlining the difference between “using your head” and “asking for help.”

Eikleberry’s thorough generosity in revealing more options than you’d think of on your own is probably the greatest service her book provides. The 74 pages which end her book are devoted to a Career Reference Section wherein a short paragraph describes each of 270 occupations for creative and unconventional people to broaden their choices with. As she explains, “There is a great range along the Artistic spectrum, from the person with great talent to those people who appreciate the arts but don’t believe they have any talent at all.”

I’ve read a lot of non-fiction books, and was very impressed with Eikleberry’s organization of the book as a whole, and with how much she has packed into this guide. She starts with a model for problem-solving (also used in the overall design of the book itself), solving the ‘problem’ of creative people not fitting into the average work environment. Within her options for us, she includes “eight different ways to employ your creativity, then four different paths for employment, then just two different roles [as generalist or specialist]” so we remain focused and not overwhelmed. She covers the differences between having a job, an occupation, a career, and a vocation, but only after helping us arrive at more clarity and confidence with our skills and abilities, and helping us identify our work-related values.

Be forewarned however, that The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People may still frustrate anyone hoping for a quick fix. Eikleberry’s book is not the packaging of easy answers within a step-by-step program; it’s a guide for a suggested personal quest. To reap its benefits, be prepared to do the work she outlines, with patience and perseverance your constant companions on the journey. She states it very clearly: “No one will offer you the unique career you can create for yourself, but that’s okay, because you can learn how to make it happen on your own.” What Eikleberry offers, is her substantial learning and vocational counseling experience so you can trust in the process, and take the adventure, thrilling to your own learning along the way.

As Émile Zola said so well, “The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without the work.”

“Submitting yourself to the creative process is like falling in love. You feel shaky and uncertain on the inside, especially at the beginning. Joy and transformation await, but first you must take a risk, make yourself vulnerable — and that’s scary. There is a natural desire to stay safe and secure, to not face the unknown. But if you play it safe, you miss out on the romance of your life’s own adventure. So, come on! Let yourself fall in love with something!”
— Carol Eikleberry

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Why Goodreads? They have become an App Smart choice for me in 2011 for I want to return to more book reading, and have set a goal to read at least 36 books this year (this was book 12 for me). Read more about the Goodreads mission here, and let’s connect there if you decide to try it too! You can also follow them on Twitter.

Previous review: A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami (link to Tumblr)

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