The Five Patterns of Extraordinary Careers: The Guide for Achieving Success and Satisfaction
by James M. Citrin and Richard Smith
Three Rivers Press, 288 pages, $10.17

With competition for jobs stiffening, job seekers need success stories they can aspire to. The Five Patterns of Extraordinary Careers proves encouraging because it maintains that ordinary people can achieve the extraordinary. Often job seekers feel that if they only had a chance to prove themselves, they could impress potential employers. This book shows you how to get that chance and take advantage of the opportunity to prove yourself. It empowers employed professionals to look beyond their confinements and strive higher. Critin and Smith dissect the patterns, or behaviors, of successful professionals who come out of nowhere to defy the odds and succeed. If you're looking for a kickstart, this book is just the prescription for you.

The basic thesis is that it's possible to push beyond your defined job and make an unexpected impact. Every day we are given opportunities to practice the patterns of extraordinary professionals. These five patterns are:

  1. Understanding one's worth and value in business
  2. Practicing benevolent leadership with one's subordinates
  3. Overcoming the permission paradox or overt restrictions set forth by the organization
  4. Differentiating oneself using the "20/80 principle of performance"
  5. Finding the right long-term fit, in terms of one's career strengths, passion, and cultural affinities

The most interesting of these patterns is overcoming the permission paradox. Critin and Smith differentiate between direct permission and implied permission, which means that you can do something because no one said you can't. The advice they give is relevant for people at different career stages or in the process of changing jobs because every professional has felt stilted by governing forces that don't seem to grant permission. The Five Patterns of Extraordinary Careers shows you methods to navigate around this.

The book is at its best when it describes real life scenarios and derives lessons from them. For instance, from bike racer Lance Armstrong, readers discover the importance of learning about the dynamics governing your profession and defining your place in relation to others. Only then can you begin to understand your true value in an organization. Anyone looking to "crack the career code" and invigorate their professional life will appreciate this book's extensive research and straightforward approach.