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by William J. White

Pearson/Prentice Hall © 2006, 240 pages, $22.99 (ISBN 0-13-220686-2).

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CEO Advice to Launch An Extraordinary Career

How does a great career get started? Former CEO Bill White, an award-winning professor at NorthwesternUniversity, knows about great careers because he is having one. He understands that a great career starts with a great plan. While imparting the wisdom that can help those starting new careers or new assignments develop a plan, he offers an outline that they can use to become successful in any field.

How does White define success? Having served as the chairman and CEO of Bell & Howell for many years, and as a senior executive at Mead and other successful firms, White’s ideas about success come from the experiences gained from a life of successful leadership. He writes that real success comes from the satisfaction of knowing that your work is important, and that what you do makes a difference. He explains that success is not found in annihilating the competition, but instead comes from collaboration, cooperation and teamwork.


By interviewing the chairmen, CEOs, presidents and vice presidents of several successful companies, White has compiled the lessons that those at the tops of their organizations believe those just starting out should know, in order to get ahead. By focusing on college students, recent graduates and those in the first 5 years of their careers, White aims to shorten the time it takes for them to become highly effective members of their organizations.

First, he explains the value of both the technical and the leadership skills that people need to move up the corporate chain of command. Along with those skills, he writes, young professionals must also discover and follow their passion, “because this is what will carry you forward in your career.” He writes that once you have found what you are truly passionate about, you must then build your life’s work around it.


The best way for these new professionals to manage their careers, he adds, is to focus on the contribution they will make to their employer. He advises them to ask themselves what contribution they are making to everyone — even those who do not seem as important as those in the top jobs. Getting ahead requires a great deal of patience and delayed gratification, but he points out that making others look good and helping others to do their jobs better will get you noticed faster than tooting your own horn and falling prey to an overambitious ego. He quotes Avon chairman Andrea Jung when discussing the kind of commitment to learning that got her where she is today. She says, “I am really a big believer that you have to have a whopping dose of humility at every level, in the corner office and when you first come into an organization. It goes a long way.”

After a discussion of the importance of personal ethics and treating everyone equally, White offers many practical tidbits of educated wisdom. For example, he advises young professionals against working for companies whose ethics do not agree with their own, because life is simply too short.


In a section on finding passion, White discusses the importance of networking while offering many tips to make it more successful. Along with the benefits of having polished table manners and eating with your mouth closed, he uses several real-world scenarios to explain that successful networking is more about giving than getting, and should involve everyone you know.

In a chapter on how to find the perfect position, White describes the pros and cons of a number of industries as well as better ways to conduct job searches. After reviewing a few basic résumé and interview tips, White takes the discussion further by presenting important advice on evaluating offers, finding the right boss, choosing a corporate culture, picking a geographic location and even compensation issues. One tip he offers is this: “The only way to achieve [financial success] is to focus your energy on making a contribution to the organization instead of always looking at what’s in it for you.”

Throughout the rest of From Day One, White covers the secrets to getting started on the right foot, developing a career, managing others, building a team and creating habits for a lifetime of success. ~

Why We Like ThIs Book

The interviews and anecdotes that White has compiled in From Day One offer first-hand knowledge that can make following a dream to the perfect career easier for anyone who puts his principles into action. By discussing success and satisfaction together, White points young professionals toward the balanced life that leads to true success. ~

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