Review: #ENTRYLEVELBOSS by Alexa Shoen

10 February 2021

Scribe Publications, 2021
ISBN: 9781925849424, $24.99, 256pp


This particular book comes to me at a really interesting time in my career track, namely that I don’t have one. Given that I’m slated to graduate mid-year, this complete lack of long-term gainful employment has been the cause of mild concern for my family and of real existential dread for me. 

As such, this review lined up perfectly in what Shoen would call a “magic spark” moment—Alexa Shoen’s #ENTRYLEVELBOSS (Scribe Publications) seemed like it would give me all the helpful tips I’d very soon need to go out, join the workforce, and contribute something (supposedly) to our ever-present capitalist hellscape. Perfect timing! 

There’s only nine chapters—called steps—neatly organised to make for a quick and digestible guidebook. Think the Lonely Planet, but for the jobscape as opposed to countries we’re no longer allowed to visit. It’s even a relatively easy read: the book has a clear, conversational style which is friendly but not overly casual, and the tips and “steps” are usually bullet pointed for readability. It’s a lot of simple, understandable advice. 

What I was not expecting from this book was (to borrow the book’s listicle format): 

  1. The optimism. I know self help books are optimistic by their very nature—they are designed to give you the impression you can, in fact, help yourself—but a lot of Shoen’s optimism felt a bit trite in the wake of the pandemic. In her defence, she could not have predicted any part of the dumpster fire that was 2020 when she submitted her manuscript. All the same, being blasted with this much unfettered spirit against the background of a major recession that saw almost a million people lose their jobs in Australia alone was a bit… much. 
  2. Shoen’s assumption that readers has the time and means to devote themselves to the “steps” and shouldn’t settle for mediocre jobs. I mean, logically this is more about encouraging the audience to aim high rather than anything else, but the initial segment of the book requires the reader to devote themselves so completely to the job hunt that it largely ignores the simple reality that living is expensive, every day of the week. 
  3. To be called out within an inch of my life—from the actual relevance of my degree, my expectations to my job application habits, even the way I’ve structured my CV. Frankly, it was a little confronting, and kind of hurtful—like when you go to the dentist and they force you to examine all your life choices as they’re stabbing you with metal implements. Like, yes, I know I eat too much sugar, yes, I know I have to floss, yes, I know I’m supposed to personalise my CV for each job application, but could we talk about that after you stop prodding me? 

All that said, Shoen’s “fitness plan” for your job search does have appeal—in part because you don’t actually have to apply all of it at once. You can treat it like an actual fitness plan, in that you follow the bits that work for you, discard the bits that you don’t currently have the time or resources for (though the book does subtly discourage you from doing that), and just keep doing the best you can. Shoen is honest in acknowledging the weirdness of networking and the uselessness of cover letters; but she also is adamant that you are, more often than not, far more capable of the job you want (or want to try) than you think. 

Hopefully, when the semester ends, I’ll be able to report back on the effectiveness of her techniques. For now, I’m cautiously positive about the job search to come. 

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