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Shuffle the book tiles for career mah jong

Fellowship news

  • Picture of Lawrence Arnold FRSA
    Lawrence Arnold FRSA
    The Australian Career Book Award Convenor
  • Picture of Philipa Duthie
    Philipa Duthie
    RSA Oceania Director

Introducing the 2021 Finalist books in The Australian Career Book Award – hosted by RSA Oceania.

From the start of our working lives, we are conditioned to think of our careers as a journey – an upward trajectory of growth, building toward a golden retirement. The reality is more like a game of mah jong. To navigate the random deals of our time requires a combination of skills, strategy, and luck. Career books can provide jobseekers with support and skills to negotiate the increasingly insecure world of work, and challenge them to rethink their career ambitions.

The RSA has long been a player in the world of work: in the 19th century, the RSA initiated the first vocational education system in the UK, and continued to be a course accreditation authority well into the 20th. In 2018, the RSA established the Future Work Centre, to bring together research and policy perspectives in a socially responsible approach to work change realities. RSA Oceania is proud to contribute to this cultural legacy and ongoing field of research with The Australian Career Book Award.

Now in its fourth year, The Australian Career Book Award recognises high-quality career books published in the calendar year prior and tracks emerging work issues by developing a research base of current career book content. The 2021 Award Cycle highlights the continuing need for practical career support to help jobseekers achieve their work aspirations.

The list of Award finalists features a number of career book genres, all of which aim to empower jobseekers to manage career and work life.

  • How-to books assist readers to achieve their career goals by breaking down the path to success. Continuing the mah jong analogy, how-to books help jobseekers read the game more accurately, scrutinize the tiles in the hand, replace low-ranking tiles with better options, or throw in early and hope for a better deal next time. They often contain advice on how to build a set of essential ‘soft’ skills to deploy in the appropriate context. The Award finalists who fit into this category are: How to get a job you loveGet the job you really wantNavigating career crossroadsWork-a-holosticHow to get a good job after 50; and Land that job.
  • Life-skills books move beyond practical career strategies, and explore career success within the wider context of life management. Often, these books take a more holistic approach, asking readers to consider their purpose and passion in life, and offer tools to help jobseekers to realise their personal and professional ambitions. The life-skills books in the 2021 finalist cohort are: Beating the oddsNo sex at work; and Further faster.
  • Thought leadership books are harder to define, as they may start with a technical base but move beyond the practical to the prophetic. They usually build a towering visionary pyramid on a strong theoretical and research base, as demonstrated in the following 2021 Finalist books: Reimagine change; and The loudest guest.
  • Lastly, the sector books dealing with managing career and work-life issues in the university sector are: Beating the odds; and The GradGate.

How-to books are the quiet achievers of the career sector and, unsurprisingly, are the majority of the titles published. While a glimpse of the contents page may indicate that the books cover similar territory, they differ significantly in terms of their audience and approach. Take the curriculum vitae or resume, for example. In How to get a good job after 50, Rupert French meticulously works through all elements of the job application process, from CV to the selection criteria, and follows up with over twenty pages of example job applications. Other writers use different methods to educate their readers on the same topic. Amalia Chilianis in Work-a-holistic takes an applied linguistics approach to coach the reader on CV/resume strategy. The template presented encourages readers to think about their skills and previous professional outcomes and enter the information into the template provided. Both are good approaches, and readers (standing masked and socially distanced in book shops) will decide which is useful for them in their specific career situations.

There are also some outstanding examples of employers using our Finalist books to further the long-term work prospects of their employees. Shortly after the 2021 Finalist books were announced, Jane Jackson contacted us seeking the finalist roundel for an emergency printing of 1000 copies of Navigating career crossroads for the New South Wales Police to distribute to their incoming cohort. I look forward to seeing a career book sticking out of officers’ security vest pockets during the next NSW speeding crack-down.

Ultimately, the Finalist books have been selected because they provide up-to-date practical advice in the current social context. In mah jong, players have to work with the deal they get, and in work life people draw on their own resources and inspiration from outside for a new deal that works for them.

Lawrence Arnold FRSA is a Melbourne CBD career coach and executive coach, and is the Award Convenor of The Australian Career Book Award, hosted by RSA Oceania.