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Book review: ‘Dig This Gig’

You suppose you should be happy.

At a time when unemployment flirts with double digits, you have a job, though it’s not the job you wanted, dreamed about having or even expected. It’s just a job. It pays the bills, and that’s about it.

You often wonder if this is as good as it gets.

So why be unhappy for 40 hours a week? Why not find — or create — the kind of work you always wanted?  Author Laura Dodd interviewed dozens of people who did exactly that, and in “Dig This Gig” (Citadel Press, $14.95) she explains how you might do it, too.

Shortly after college, while working dead-end jobs to pay the rent on a Sydney hovel, Dodd noticed something: People of all ages — new grads, in particular — struggled with the “What should I do with my life?” conundrum. Everybody seemed to want to be part of something bigger but without the daily grind.

Intrigued, Dodd sent out emails to people she knew, asking how they landed the jobs everyone covets. Her original email was forwarded and circulated, and Dodd soon had several thousand stories from which to choose.

Many of the respondents told Dodd that their college majors led them away from the obvious and to careers that turned out to be offshoots from the major itself, as one frustrated nurse learned when she was advised to look into something more akin to social work.  In some cases, becoming familiar with a job’s day-to-day workload can suddenly make it appealing, as one young geneticist discovered.

A screenwriter in Los Angeles told Dodd that there are times when looking backward is forward-thinking. Several people reminded her that government jobs are “cool” again.

Develop a thick skin, said many of Dodd’s respondents. Print up business cards — even if you think you won’t need them — and network like crazy.  Project confidence, especially when you’re not feeling it. Be nice to everyone along the chain of command.

And if all else fails, become an entrepreneur. If you’re working at a job you’ve created yourself, what’s not to love?

Though it may seem that this book is primarily for twentysomethings — and, indeed, that was Dodd’s intended target — I thought “Dig This Gig” is good for just about any worker who’s brave enough and ready enough to switch careers.

There’s just one caveat.

Dodd’s minibios are empowering, but the advice you’ll get from them is not exactly overt. As someone who created my own job, I was eager to read about the various experiences that constitute this book, but I found them to be more personal and individual than not.

It does help that Dodd includes sidebars of information as well as the guidance of several industry mentors to help readers work through each respondent’s story. Just be ready to do some between-the-lines reading, that’s all.

Overall, I think that if you’re considering a career switch and need some inspiration, this book could be a decent place to start. For you, “Dig This Gig” could be big.

The Bookworm, Terri Schlichenmeyer, is a Wisconsin-based book reviewer.

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