The Book

Dilbert Escapes from Corporate America

January 26th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

Poor Dilbert.  He got fired for using company resources to start his company. Now he’s out of work and his company owns his business  and his name. Remember to read the fine print in your employee manual, people!

Thanks to Jon for the heads up about Dilbert’s escape. I am a huge fan of Dilbert and of Scott Adams, who is one of the funniest humans ever.  And I was honored to have the opportunity to interview Scott for Escape from Corporate America.

He offered a lot of great advice based on his own experiences escaping from Corporate America to live a life of fame and fortune. One of his recommendations (which was echoed by many other successful career changers) was to start working on your new career on the side before you quit your day job. Scott didn’t quit his corporate job until well after he had landed a syndication deal for Dilbert. Then again, he is also probably the only successful cartoonist who is also an MBA (I haven’t done a lot of research here, so it’s always possible that Cathy Guisewite went to Wharton).

Unfortunately, Dilbert’s escape isn’t going so well. Or fortunately, really, because it wouldn’t be nearly as funny if Dilbert wasn’t suffering.

Revolutionary Road — Corporate Desperation, 1950’s Style

January 22nd, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

leonardodicaprio1The 2009 Academy Award nominations were announced today and it looks like Revolutionary Road will not be taking home any Oscars despite lots of critical praise and Golden Globe love.

I haven’t seen the film yet. I love Leo and Kate, but my love for Richard Yates’ novel is even stronger and I’m not sure any movie can do it justice.

Revolutionary Road is about two people trapped in an American dream they never wanted. Frank Wheeler has a good corporate job that he hates. April is trying not to go mad with boredom as a suburban housewife and mother. Frank and April always dreamed of greatness, expected greatness. Instead they are stuck in mediocrity that is just too comfortable to escape from.

Anyone who has felt stifled in Corporate America will identify with Yates’ descriptions of Frank’s office purgatory:

“At first glance, all the upper floors of the Knox Building looked alike. Each was a big open room, ablaze with fluorescent ceiling lights, that had been divided into a maze of aisles and cubicles by shoulder-high partitions. The upper panels of these dividers, waist to shoulder, were made of thick unframed plate glass that was slightly corrugated to achieve a blue-white semi-transparency; and the overall effect of this, to a man getting off the elevator and looking out across the room, was that of a wide indoor lake in which swimmers far and near were moving, some making steady headway, some treading water, others seen in the act of breaking to the surface or going under, and many submerged, their faces loosened into wavering pink blurs as they drowned at their desks.” read more…

Do You Believe in Miracles?

January 16th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

pilotsullenbergerA US Airways jet crash landed into the Hudson River just off of Manhattan yesterday in 20-degree weather and everyone survived. Pilot Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger, III was the first pilot in 45 years to manage a crash water landing with no fatalities, according to The Daily News. Talk about a guy who is good at his job.

I was among the many New Yorkers who was terrified after hearing  the first reports about a commercial jet crashing into the Hudson. These stories rarely have happy endings. But thanks to Mr. Sullenberger and the rescuers who braved icy cold water and freezing temperatures, all 155 passengers are safe and sound today.

The Daily News is lauding Sullenberger as “the hero of the Hudson” on today’s cover. Interestingly, Sullenberger is not just a pilot, he is also an entrepreneur. I suspect that his consulting firm, Safety Reliability Methods, will benefit from the publicity surrounding his heroics.   Plus, I think I can safely predict a TV movie starring Jon Voight as Sullenberger in the very near future.

It’s nice to know that miracles really can happen. So keep that in mind the next time you’re feeling low.

On a totally unrelated note…
I have to mention that my podcast interview with Peter Clayton at Total Picture Radio was posted yesterday. If you’ve ever listened to Peter’s interviews, you know he has a knack for asking interesting questions. We chatted about the end of the age of the employee, what to do when you’re blindsided by a layoff, advice on finding a job or starting a business in this economy, and much more.  Check it out.

7 Holiday Gifts for the Downsized and Disgruntled

December 3rd, 2008

Written by Pamela Skillings

As you’re making that list and checking it twice, you’ll probably notice that some of your nearest and dearest are among the downsized (recently laid off) or disgruntled (stuck in miserable or stressful jobs for purely paycheck reasons) this year.

These are the friends and family members who deserve an extra special gift this year. They’re dealing with increased stress and financial uncertainty and could use a bit of extra good cheer. And you don’t have to bust your budget to give a thoughtful present. After all, this is a year of reduced gift budgets for everybody.

A great present for your downsized, laid off, or job-loathing loved one will accomplish one (or more) of the following goals: 1) Assist with their job hunt or career change; 2) Offer some distraction or escapism from their work or no-work stresses; or 3) Provide a little bit of luxury or pampering that they may feel guilty about spending money on right now. Here are some gift ideas to consider:

1) A Great Book — Books are perfect gifts because they are always affordable and always personal. Show how much you care by taking the time to pick out just the right book. You can opt for a title that will support your pal’s current career transition — like the always-appreciated Escape from Corporate America: A Practical Guide to Creating the Career of Your Dreams. Naturally, I am biased and think my own book is the perfect gift for the downsized or disgruntled. In fact, I was inspired to put together this list after hearing from several readers who had purchased extra copies for holiday gifts. Another good career-related book is Smart Networking, which has valuable advice on using online and in-person networking strategies to make career-boosting connections.

Then again, it might be more fun to give a fantastic novel or engrossing nonfiction work that is totally unrelated to the job hunt. Or a book of hilarious essays like David Sedaris’ When You Are Engulfed in Flames or Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking.

2) A Resume Revamp — A strong resume is the key to booking that career-changing interview. And sometimes, a little bit of professional, unbiased input can turn a dull resume into a brilliant marketing document. Buy your buddy a gift certificate for a professional resume edit or rewrite. Find a certified professional resume writer in your area through the Professional Association of Resume Writers. Most resume writers offer a range of services at different price points — from a quick edit of an existing resume to a full rewrite.

3) Network Building — Another way to help with the job hunt is by giving the gift of networking. Pay to upgrade your friend to a premium LinkedIn account for a few months. The Business ($19.95 per month) and Business Plus ($50 per month) accounts include more powerful search capabilities and the ability to connect with more people outside your immediate network.

4) A Night at the Movies — Everybody loves the movies. Give Fandango Bucks and your best buds can enjoy some end-of-the-year Oscar bait or a fun holiday popcorn flick (throw in a few bucks extra for Twizzlers or Junior Mints). They can even enjoy one of the perks of unemployment and play hooky at the movies in the middle of a weekday while you’re slaving away in your cube. Another option is to pick up a great DVD for a cozy movie night at home (popcorn from Orville Redenbacher is much cheaper). Good DVD choices for the downsized and disgruntled include Office Space and Jerry Maguire.

5) A Spa Indulgence — Just when your best buddy could most use a massage or a bit of pampering, she probably feels guilty about spending the bucks on something “impractical.” Treat her to a well-deserved rubdown or give a gift certificate to put toward a day of relaxation. SpaFinder can help you find top-rated spas and purchase gift certificates online. Or you can treat her to a little at-home pampering for around $20 with a Spa-In-A-Basket With Comfy Slippers And Massage Tool or Dr. Scholl’s Foot Spa with Bubbles and Massage

6) Overpriced Coffee — Overpriced luxuries are the first things that get cut from most downsized budgets. For your favorite Starbucks fanatics, it’s probably painful to give up those lattes and mochas and espressos for cheaper home brews. So why not perk up their lives with Starbucks gift cards? They get to enjoy some extra caffeinated treats during the holiday season without feeling guilty about frivolous spending. And for those coffee fans who are fed up with the job hunt and searching for a Plan B? Buy a copy of How Starbucks Saved My Life so your pal can learn more about the joys of barista-ing (health insurance, free coffee, and valuable life lessons!).

7) Lots of Love and a Juicy Job Lead — But what if there’s no room in your gift budget for your favorite unemployed or unhappily employed friend? Believe me, he will understand if your wallet is a little light this year. You can always show your love with a holiday card with a personal message or a batch of home-baked holiday treats. Even better, think about whether there’s a favor you can do to help out. Can you think of a job lead to pass on or a potentially valuable introduction that you could make? Could you offer to help punch up that resume or brainstorm career ideas? These are gifts that don’t cost you a dime but can be worth a lot to a friend who’s feeling stuck in a job-hunt rut.

Escape from Corporate America Debuts!

May 13th, 2008

Written by Pamela Skillings

escape from corporate america debutsThe big day has finally arrived. Escape from Corporate America: A Practical Guide to Creating the Career of Your Dreams is in stores today. What are you waiting for? : )

Thank you to everyone who has been part of the adventure so far and has offered expertise, support, and/or feedback during the process. The writing and researching of Escape from Corporate America was a labor of love and the focus of my life for more than three years. For years before that, Escape from Corporate America was the name of my own secret career plan that kept me sane while I did time in cubicles and conference rooms. So today has definitely been a long time coming.

I think the book is a great resource for anyone who feels stuck in an uninspiring career. It’s not just for people who are itching to escape…Escape from Corporate America also has lots of advice on finding a more satisfying career within Corporate America.

Want some unbiased opinions? Here are some of the cool things that other people have been saying about the book:

"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….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."
–- Publishers Weekly

“Escape from Corporate America isn’t just the best book ever written on creating the career of your dreams — it is the most stirring and useful book on careers that I’ve ever read. Pam Skillings inspired me first with her own story and then with stories who successfully escaped dreary, heartless, and sometimes nasty workplaces. This masterpiece will give you the skills to make the leap from a mind-numbing job to a great career and the courage to follow your heart.” – Robert Sutton, Stanford Professor and author of The No Asshole Rule

“This book might just change your life!” – Barbara Sher, best-selling author

“Pamela Skillings gives you the tools you need to take control of your career and have a more fulfilling life.” – Beth Schoenfeldt, founder of Ladies Who Launch

Read more reviews of Escape from Corporate America

First Review of Escape from Corporate America

March 25th, 2008

Written by Pamela Skillings

I am very excited to report that Publishers Weekly has reviewed Escape from Corporate America: A Practical Guide to Creating the Career of Your Dreams (which will be published on May 13).

If you click through, you’ll see that my write-up comes right after reviews for two other very interesting-sounding May titles — Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever by Joel Derfner and Sex: How to Do Everything by Em & Lo. It’s hard to compete for attention with titles like those, but here’s what PW had to say about Escape from Corporate America:

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Escape from Corporate America: A Practical Guide to Creating the Career of Your Dreams
Pamela Skillings. Ballantine

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)