Monday, 4 April 2011

On Career Change Self-Help Books

It all started with a walk and a field full of celandines...


You know how a walk can sometimes put things into perspective, well, this morning I was thinking...

Do you want to make loads of money? Sure you do, admit it. Well, here's an idea. I read recently on a career development website, that if you want to turn your passion into a paying career, you have to be able to solve a problem for people. Not just a small, inconsequential problem, but something that they're really desperately worried about.

What could be more worrying than not having a job, or being in a job, but hating so much and wanting to do something different, or feeling that years ago you should have taken a different route and wanting to go back now and try a new path.

So, all you have to do is write a book to tell these people how to change direction.

Explain first why they got into their unhappy situation in the first place (get them on side), make sure they get the point that it wasn't their fault. Tell them their parents and school teachers gave them expectations that didn't really fit with their true values. They've been living lives along paths laid down for them by other people, so it's no wonder they're not happy.

Next, tell them that if they go back to discover what they really wanted when they were young and then focus entirely on that passion, they'll find themselves wonderfully successful and deliriously happy. Now here's the essential point - you have to give them examples of people who've actually done that. Make sure you find quite a lot of examples. If you struggle  here, talk to other self-help authors, lots of them have managed to change career and make money at it.

Publish the book, promote it mercilessly in as many ways as you can, especially with your own blog and with TV interviews and voila, you'll make a fortune. In no time at all, you'll be able to add yourself to the examples of people who've applied your process and become happy and successful. You'll be able to quote yourself as an example in another author's new book.

If you want mega bucks, add a training/workshop programme to your website. Get people to sign up for and pay to join your teaching groups or to see you speak at motivational conferences.

Got the picture?

Over the last few years I've purchased quite a lot of 'you can change your life' type self-help books. A few are I accept, genuine attempts to help, written by people who really believe they have an approach that helps. However, it's becoming incredibly clear to me that there's also a huge and growing number of people out there attempting to make money out of our unhappiness.

I now have a few tests that I apply before buying a new self-helper. First, have a look at their website. If the blog starts a few weeks before the date of first publication and posts fade out after a few months, that to me is a good sign that it's not a serious solution, but a marketing tool to sell the book.

Second, if the website asks you to sign up for workshops or other session that you have to pay for, then give it a wide berth. These are just working on the basis that if you're daft enough to buy the book in the first place, they might as well milk you for a few more dollars too.

If they point you in the direction of other service providers, also be careful - these are just affiliate marketing arrangements, where they get paid if you buy from the affiliate. You can bet they'll have a reciprocal relationship. (I especially disliked an author I read recently, who told you mid-chapter to go and do an online personality test which cost $60, to get the most out of his book - it was a pure plug for an affiliate marketer - how manipulative is that, he couldn't even tackle the whole subject in his own book.)

Finally (for now - I might add some more later), read the book's reviews on Amazon with a wary mind. Check to see how soon after receiving the book, the review was written. Many of these books require weeks of exercises before you complete your transformation. If a review claims to have 'changed my life forever', one week after getting the book, allow yourself the meanest little streak of cynicism and ask yourself if perhaps they're not deluding themselves.

Read the negative reviews too - they can be very enlightening.

I really do question the morals of some self-help authors. If you want to take money off desperate people, get on the self-help bandwagon, personally however, I think there should probably be a new circle of hell reserved just for them.

Years ago when I worked in advertising, one of my clients was a bank. They were the nastiest group of people I have ever met, having a contemptuous opinion of their customers and constantly looking for more and more creative ways to keep them in debt. I'm not sure that I'd put self-serving self-help authors in quite the same category - yet, but we'll see, time will tell.

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