Book Review: James M. Citrin’s The Career Playbook

Title: The Career Playbook: Essential Advice for Today’s Aspiring Young Professional
James M. Citrin
Publisher: Crown Business
Publication Date: April 21, 2015
Format: Trade Paperback
Genre: Non-fiction, Business & Economics
Page Count: 256


Figuring out a career and getting a great job has never been more difficult. On top of that, today’s graduates are looking for not only good jobs but positions that will help them launch careers in which they can grow and prosper. But knowing what to look for and how to actually land a great job is exceptionally challenging when you’re trying to get an interview, make enough money, and position yourself for advancement.

Packed with first-person advice from graduates and young professionals themselves, as well as the perspectives of seasoned CEOs, entrepreneurs, leaders, and experts, such as Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Third Point Advisors’ Daniel Loeb, author Malcolm Gladwell, and US Navy SEALs’ Admiral Eric Olson, The Career Playbook is an essential resource for landing, launching, and thriving in your career.



Let me start off by saying that I don’t usually read a ton of non-fiction, particularly self-help books, unless they really call to me or have reached critical acclaim. And The Career Playbook just reinforced why I don’t bother with them: they’re boring, and, particularly in this case, generic and uninspired.

Keep in mind that this review is coming from someone who is actively building her strengths so as to get that dream job, so this book is marketed specifically towards me and my demographic. It just fails.

The book is broken down into three parts. The first part is called “How Careers Really Work,” and is mostly comprised of common-sense information. I did not read anything I haven’t read before. I’m talking “Phases of Your Career,” “Compensation vs. Lifestyle vs. Job Satisfaction,” and “The Power of Networks.” There are three pages worth of nothing but statistics on how hard it is to get a job in today’s economic climate. You don’t need to convince me with numbers—  I already know, I’m living it.

I was also very turned off by an example given right at the very beginning. Citrin describes the plight of a Harvard grad/MIT student; he’s torn between accepting a job at Google or getting involved with a tech start-up. Um, I have ZERO sympathy for this poor little rich boy. This is a 1% issue, and people in the 1% aren’t reading this book—they don’t need to! The author, James M. Citrin, obviously doesn’t have a very good understanding of his audience and their needs (or their level of tolerance).

The best part of this book is the second part, specifically the “Art of the Interview” chapter, which breaks down potential job interview questions and gives advice on how to answer them. This section provides example answers to the “Do you have any questions for me?” trap, explains how to tell a narrative as opposed to simply answering questions, and shows you how to compete with other potential hires when you’re at a disadvantage. This is the kind of gold I was hoping The Career Playbook would  strike; however, this section is very brief in comparison to the rest of the book.

The third and final part of the book gives advice on how to thrive in your job once you get it, but again, you get very general and common bits of advice like “form a bond with your boss,” “play your strengths,” and “learn everything you can.” Admittedly, I skimmed over a majority of the third section, because at that point, I was tired of the overplayed career advice tropes.

The Career Playbook sorely lacks the specificity I was looking for in a book about career advice. I understand the idea of keeping things generic so as to benefit a wide range of businesses and fields, but I was hoping for more than the standard gems like “be assertive and confident,” “create a LinkedIn profile,” and “don’t give up.”  You won’t find anything in this book that can’t be found with a simple search on the internet. I don’t recommend it for people who are struggling to get a foot in the door, but maybe for people who live very blessed lives and already have a network in place.
Rating: 2/5 Stars

“Certainty exists only in hindsight, when you’re looking back on the decisions and actions you took that eventually led to career success.”   

FTC Disclaimer:
I received a free physical copy of this title via Blogging for Books and Crown Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

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