The Critical Fourteen Years of Your Professional Life (Birch Lane Press Books) does not try to justify the superficial and vicious corporate workplace it describes. Instead, it celebrates it as a system to be mastered.
The book provides a wide variety of helpful clarifications and suggestions from a seasoned professional with a quality seemingly absent in the world he describes – honesty.
These insights come from Robert L. Dilenschneider, former CEO of Hill & Knowleton and founder of the Dilenschneider Group, a corporate strategic counseling and public relations firm. Mary Jane Genova, an international business writer, assisted him with the book.
Dilenschneider’s ideological position is clear from its introduction. “Success in the workplace today . depends on one thing: learning the ropes about how the work world operates.” Dilenschneider places little stock in intelligence, talent, drive and ambition. He isn’t concerned with the college one attended or a person’s major.
He asserts, “The number one reason we work is for the paycheck, not self-fulfillment.”
Later he describes the concept of the “perfect job” as “a very self-destructive fantasy.” Always the pragmatic businessman, Dilenschneider writes, “I don’t believe that education for the sake of education is a good thing.”
Regardless of disagreements one may have with Dilenschneider’s philosophical bent, one can appreciate his straightforwardness. He is fond of Generation X – though his fondness seems to originate from deep contempt for the 1960s and the baby boomers.
But he substitutes pleasant optimism for the future for the bitter nostalgia one might expect from a prominent member of the “silent generation,” a distinction he often calls up.
Dilenschneider explains different aspects of “learning the ropes” so simply and carefully the book would be too tedious to read if it weren’t for his propensity toward the anecdote; he often alternates paragraphs of explanation and example.
Chapter titles range from “School” and “Your Work and Your Professional Life,” to “Image” and “Making Allies of the Baby Boomers.” The book is designed for young business people. He believes the first 14 years of a corporate career bring with them mistakes. This period of assimilation is the time to jockey for position, according to Dilenschneider.
He suggests the book is “the paper version of a mentor,” and “contains all the lessons you need to know about functioning at work.” And if you’ve never been there, it may be a good idea to take his word for it.