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The #PACE Process for Early Career Success by Mark Zides - A Review

The early phase of my own career transpired about 50 years ago, and while some of the basics of success remain the same, the emergence of things like search engines, social media, and the hybrid office have altered the landscape. The #PACE Process for Early Career Success by Mark Zides is up to date with the latest, including the new post-COVID workplace and the implications of the Great Resignation. Companies aren’t seeking employees who can fish out a handy pocket guide whenever a crucial decision must be made – they want people whose instincts lead them to a reserve of accumulated knowledge with which they can move confidently forward. This book begins by making it refreshingly clear it is not just another checklist for success by someone who has “been there, done that” – the focus is on thinking outside the book to cultivate a mindset for success.

The PACE acronym is an effective roadmap for the basic elements of Mark’s advice (Prepare, Apply, Commit, Evaluate), and the book is organized along these topics. Each of us is unique, and the modern workplace is a labyrinth of vastly different situations. The value of #PACE is built on cultivating the right frame of mind to deal with whatever circumstance may present itself.

The average corporate job today attracts 250 applicants - standing out in this crowd is challenging, especially in a world where AI and automated resume screening are using seemingly opaque algorithms to reject people. In the first three chapters, the author lays out a plan to prepare for this first phase of the job-hunting battle. The job market is no place for snowflakes (i.e., entitled, oversensitive people) and it is crucial to remain open-minded and willing to grow. Your own unique assets can be leveraged with new connections built from scratch, but it takes time and experience to develop this skill. Part of developing the proper mindset for this difficult and frustrating career phase is to start with some soul-searching on what really motivates you.

As many as 80% of job openings are never posted and of those that are, some are only there to satisfy an internal company policy. All of this further emphasizes what we should have already known; networking is essential to getting a job. At this point, Mark addresses the elephant in the room – those who are socially awkward or introverted. He offers encouragement with advice to practice a script, train your body language, and build an overall approach and mindset that will foster networking.

The following three chapters are devoted to “Apply”- the process of building and marketing “The Brand of You.” Job postings these days are a lot more detailed than when I started my first professional career search, and the more boxes an applicant checks, the better their chances of getting hired. Trying to game that resume screening system could look obvious and get you disqualified. As always, companies don’t care much about your personal goals and aspirations but are more concerned with what you can do for them and how quickly you can do it. In the post-COVID hybrid workplace, companies focus on individuals who are self-motivated and exhibit excellent communications skills.

Most of the book’s interviewing advice is fairly standard. Mark does provide some unique interview questions (I’ll probably use some of these the next time I interview a candidate). Companies were already trying to reduce travel expenses prior to the COVID pandemic, and online interviews are now common. A good tip here was to locate the little window with your interviewer as near as possible to your camera, so it will appear that you are making eye contact with them and not staring off into space.

Interviews are difficult enough to come by, and it’s easy to become convinced that your performance over a few hours will determine your entire future success or failure. The author is clearly successful and self-confident, and he offers some solid counseling for those whose positive mindset is not yet fully developed. This quote from Winston Churchill summarizes it best - “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” Whether or not you are hired, there are always lessons to be learned and opportunities to be found in failure.

The third element of #PACE, “Commit”, contains some good advice for after you’ve landed that job offer. Beyond the etiquette of rejecting and accepting offers, there is one excellent piece of advice that many of us overlook – “Read the contract.” Resist the temptation to trade off present experiences for future opportunity. More companies are tempting employees with unlimited vacation, but it’s interesting to note that people tend to work more rather than less in this situation.

It's easy to fall into the trap of letting jobs control your career. Life is in session, and a steady income with benefits will always be compelling. In the final group of chapters, Mark shares some enlightening stories from his own career. It may take a while to figure out what really motivates you and makes you happy, and the road to success will surely have many cross-roads. While we tend to pick the devil we know over the one we don’t, it’s important to keep your overall career goals in sight. If you do decide to leave, how gracefully you do so will influence your brand.

The “Evaluate” element of #PACE is all about self-reflection on your true passions, both for choosing the best career path and staying motivated to get there, i.e., “keeping PACE.” Jumping on the entrepreneur train is always a major draw, and Mark furnishes the reader with a nice checklist to help decide if this is really the right move. As in every step of #PACE, it’s critical, though not always easy, to be honest with yourself.

While the title targets those in the early phase of their career, PACE will benefit anyone, regardless of experience. My fifty years in the workplace have taught me many of the things that the author organizes and clearly explains. As for the things that have changed since my own early job searches, Mark’s ideas are current and well presented. The PACE steps at the end of each chapter are a handy reference – they should be on sticky notes on your desk if you are beginning a career. The book acknowledges that some folks are shy, unconfident or easily discouraged, and provides tips for slowly crafting a confident mindset. Ultimately, PACE is not a checklist to be followed, but a change in how you think and live that will set you up for success; the earlier, the better.

Author Profile - Paul W. Smith - leader, educator, technologist, writer - has a lifelong interest in the countless ways that technology changes the course of our journey through life. In addition to being a regular contributor to NetworkDataPedia, he maintains the website Technology for the Journey and occasionally writes for Blogcritics. Paul has over 40 years of experience in research and advanced development for companies ranging from small startups to industry leaders. His other passion is teaching - he is a former Adjunct Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines. Paul holds a doctorate in Applied Mechanics from the California Institute of Technology, as well as Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara.


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