New-age workers

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With unemployment at 10 percent, it seems that Stephen R. Covey’s timing couldn’t be better.

Mr. Covey, whose “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” has sold more than a million copies, last week began sales of “Great Work, Great Career,” a self-published book on finding not just a job, but one’s place in the world.

“It seemed the time to take an approach that reflects the ‘knowledge worker’ age, not the industrial age,” Mr. Covey said in an interview. Job seekers need to “become a solution instead of another problem to be dealt with.”

Mr. Covey, and co-author Jennifer Colosimo, chief learning officer of FranklinCovey Co., assert that those who apply what they call an “industrial age” attitude to work - of a job to be found through a resume sent to the human resources department - may find themselves out of work for a long time.

“I think you have to have a new mind-set, and then a new skill set that goes with that mind-set, and that’s what this book tends to address,” Mr. Covey said.

In the book, he added, “we move literally from an industrial age approach, sending out resume and a nice letter, learning interviewing skills and networking. With the ‘knowledge worker’ approach, when you find organizations that are in pain, they have tremendous needs and opportunities.”

A reader needs to “research companies to address those needs and problems and that kind of pain - it becomes a happy marriage,” Mr. Covey said.

Not doing your homework is a key to disaster, Ms. Colosimo asserted: “I hire in our organization, and I have been so surprised … how many hadn’t looked at us on the Web. They hadn’t Googled us. They didn’t know who I was, what we did, our challenges, didn’t look at our financials, which are available since [FranklinCovey is] a public company.”

Mr. Covey, who said he tries to practice before he preaches, illustrated the reverse with a family example.

“I have two nephews who just finished their MBAs and are looking for jobs, and it threw them,” Mr. Covey said. “I told them they have to research the company [where they want to apply], interview people who are associates in the company, research suppliers, customers - particularly their customers - and as much as possible, learn. When they go in to a meeting with a real sense of cause and contribution, the interviewers are blown away.”

Mr. Covey said the nephews ended up “with the jobs they wanted, in the place they wanted” after following his advice.

He said the new book draws on his earlier teachings of empathetic listening, starting with a goal in mind, and sharing what you learn with others.

Responding to critics such as author Barbara Ehrenreich - whose recent book “Bright-Sided” (Metropolitan Books/ Henry Holt) commends the “inescapable pseudoscientific flapdoodle” of “life coaches who take your money in exchange for affirmations” - Mr. Covey said that “Great Work, Great Career” isn’t the print equivalent of warm milk and cookies.

“This is a problem-solving approach. It isn’t about just having a positive mental attitude,” Mr. Covey said. “You’re dealing with the realities that people are facing, plus the opportunities that other people are facing as well. If you are thinking creatively and are synergistic, so you can produce ‘third alternative’ solutions and become a catalyst … you can produce those results.”

But a great career isn’t necessarily tied to the kind of salaries that invite congressional scrutiny: The authors redefine the meaning of a great career by stressing how an employee’s significant contribution to an employer can be the difference between a “dream career” and a dead-end job. It isn’t money that’s the measure, Ms. Colosimo said.

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