Land on the Right Side


Most job search advice books are serious, well-meaning and bland. I read so many that when I find one that’s funny and profane, in equal parts, I can’t help but share the advice with you. Michael Laskoff is the author of a “survival guide for the recently unemployed” called Landing on the Right Side of Your A**. (Title redacted; this is a family friendly blog, after all.) His often hilarious advice is based on his own checkered career. He’s a graduate of Harvard Business School and has held several high profile jobs for companies like McKinsey & Company. He also writes an employment column for Business Week Online.

His account of the early days of his career is laugh-out-loud funny, but his advice is serious. He cuts right to the chase in the first few chapters: you got dumped, it hurts, and you may have – maybe – contributed just a bit to your eventual dumping through your own actions. He should know – he’s been fired several times, particularly early in his career, and he gives hard-hitting advice about how to deal with it. He advises, for example, to go through a “binge and purge” stage of anger – yell, stomp and cry, if you must, to get the anger out of your system. Yes, he recommends it for guys too. Once you’ve gone through that stage, though, his advice turns to how to manage the next phase of your unemployment without alienating all your friends and family.

He tells the story of a friend and co-worker he calls Slide Rule (all his subjects have similar pseudonyms) who took a great job at a startup, only to have the (inept) management fire him when the business did not take off the way they thought it should. Because Laskoff agreed that Slide Rule had gotten a bad deal, he kept in touch with him after he’d been let go. For as long as Laskoff could tolerate it, that is. He writes, “For the first weeks…I called him at least a couple of times a week. And of course, he relentlessly attacked the organization that was keeping me in bread, circus, and employment. Conceptually, he was urinating into the waters in which I was still swimming. Does that sound pleasant?”

Laskoff did what he calls “going cold;” he started avoiding Slide Rule. Slide Rule was taking hours and hours of Laskoff’s time and nearly all of his psychic energy. “The amount of time that it took to attempt, and fail, to cheer him up started to feel like an immense weight on my shoulders…I had run through my whole list of condolences and “look at the bright side” speeches. There just wasn’t anything left to say.”

The story has a happy ending; Slide Rule eventually recovers and begins to look for employment. The whole point of Laskoff’s book is that you’ll eventually find a better job than the one you left, if you can through the phases of pain and anger. Irreverent style aside, Laskoff has a serious point to make. Many jobseekers have a tough time getting over their sense of injustice and anger, and it makes it hard for anyone to help them. Friends and advisors can feel the anger radiating off a wronged worker, and eventually, they will have to “go cold” to preserve their own wellbeing.

Laskoff asks jobseekers to ask themselves some tough questions: Are you wearing out your welcome with friends and family? Are you stuck in a loop of telling the same stories over and over (the ones that prove you were wronged and your boss was a jerk?) Is it time to move on? He’s not unsympathetic – he’s been there himself – but he knows that you have to get over it to get your next job. He spends the next few chapters giving advice on how to feel better and get started on the path to a better job. If you’ve been fired or laid off, this book is like a refreshing dash of cold water to the face. Surprising, shocking, and ultimately, a wakeup call. If you’re in the mood for career advice of a different color, his book will make you laugh.

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