Ullrich, Kathryn. Getting to the Top: Strategies for Career Success. Silicon Valley Press, 2010.
While seated and waiting for a keynote speech at the 2010 NCDA Career Development Conference in San Francisco, I introduced myself to the lady sitting beside me. We talked about our careers – past, present and future. It was clear to me that this woman, Kathryn Ullrich, was a bright lady with a strong background in executive recruiting and career development. She had recently written a book, Getting to the Top: Strategies for Career Success. I suggested she get the book reviewed by NCDA. She gave me a copy, subsequently followed up with NCDA, and I got the request from NCDA to actually write the review.
As a career counselor with over 25 years of experience, I’ve read many, many books covering a myriad of career development topics. That said, I have never read a book like, Getting to the Top. It truly fills a necessary niche. Kathryn Ullrich shares experiences and lessons learned as an executive recruiter and from conducting countless interviews with senior executives, mostly with high tech companies in Silicon Valley. Unlike other books on this subject, she has identified and analyzed career path strategies and categories. She achieved this with personal stories and interesting case studies of people in marketing, sales, product and brand management, corporate communications, strategic alliances, business development and CEOs.
The book is organized into five sections:
Section 1: What does success mean to you? Are you engaged enough to take responsibility for your success? If the answer is yes, how should you start? One strong recommendation is to develop a career strategy. If you are unclear or struggling with your strategy, Ullrich offers a variety of resources to help you become clearer. The primary suggestion is that the career strategy needs to be at the forefront of your mind. This enables you to effectively analyze career paths and make good decisions along the way as you move toward the realization of your ultimate goal.
Section 2: Being bright, ambitious and hard-working may get you to middle management. But how do you move to the next level? In this chapter, Ullrich offers proactive ways to work on advancing your career. Analogous to growing a business or launching a product, Ullrich suggests developing a career plan. It helps to think about your career for the long-term. She also offers an explanation of career paths and sample resumes of various executives in different functional areas, such as marketing, product and brand management, public relations and corporate communications, channels and strategic alliances, sales, and business and corporate development. Reading the entirety of this section will provide a strong overview of career paths. Still, you may not be intrigued or even understand each example. If so, it is easy to distill personally relevant information and skip the rest.
Section 3: Here you will find sound advice from CEOs describing different paths to the top. Reading this section is like having a variety of mentors talking about corporate realities. It would be extremely difficult to get this kind of insight without having a large number of personal mentors.
Section 4: This section outlines skills that 60 executives say are integral to career advancement. They are broken down into strategic visioning, customer perspective, communications, team leadership, and distinguishing skills, e.g. measuring results, innovating, driving sales, negotiating, and establishing culture. Reading through lessons learned and mistakes made by successful executives can help readers more fully understand their personal strengths and areas of improvement on which to focus.
Section 5 provides concrete suggestions for taking action and moving toward successful change. This section offers a variety of examples to help understand the behavior or skill you want to change and/or develop and the requisite motivation to do so. Ullrich comes full circle in this section, saying that, “The key is to pro-actively take action toward your career goals.”
Getting to the Top: Strategies for Career Success offers a wealth of information not readily available elsewhere. Best suited for a professional with at least a few years of experience, it could make a huge difference in readers’ overall understanding and perspective regarding how to advance in their chosen career.
Judy Kaplan Baron, Ph.D. is a Master Career Counselor, Registered Professional Career Counselor, and Nationally Certified Career Counselor. In private practice in San Diego, CA. for over 25 years, she is also former Assistant Director of the America Online Career Center and taught for a number of years at the University of California, San Diego Extension in their Career Development Certificate Program. She is also a frequent speaker at Conferences. Judy is the author of four books including, Terrific Training Techniques for Career Development Practitioners: Over 50 Exercises, Games and Activities. She can be reached at CAREERGYDE@aol.com.