DEAR READERS: If you're thinking about giving your favorite new college grad a memorable book as a graduation gift, I recommend the just-published "Making a Difference: Stories of Vision and Courage from America's Leaders" by Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger with Douglas Century, published by William Morrow (Harpercollins.com).
Sully is a retired airline pilot and safety expert who has become a source of inspiration and hope for millions after his successful emergency water landing of a disabled airliner on the Hudson River in 2009. All of the 155 passengers and crew aboard the aircraft survived. Sully's remarkable performance made headlines across the globe.
Sully's selection of leaders ranges from a state governor to a mutual fund founder to a major league baseball manager. Leading off the book is Admiral Thad Allen, former commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard who headed up recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Among Allen's comments:
"My favorite definition of leadership is the ability to reconcile opportunity and competency. It's kind of like: If not now, when? If not you, who?"
DEAR JOYCE: My son is a finalist for an executive position at a local company. He says company managers told him they're ready to make an offer, but there's a catch. Before making the formal offer, my son must first give them a reference from his current employer! By complying, he would, in effect, tell his current employer that he's on the job market and, as a result, probably would be fired. What's his best way to handle this problem? -- A.M.
DEAR A.M. -- You describe a tight spot for your son or anyone. Here are strategy tips from two of the wisest experts in the job search firmament.
James M. Lemke, vice president, human resources at Finca International, a global nonprofit financial services organization, suggests a bird-in-hand easy fix:
"As the applicant, I would ask the prospective employer to send an offer contingent on a positive reference from my current employer. In most cases this is acceptable. Also, the applicant should ask to discuss the offer specifics and, if the offer is acceptable, set the stage with the current employer."
Jack Chapman, a renowned national career coach based in Chicago (LucrativeCareersInc.com) agrees with Lemke, and offers additional advice:
"Hold your ground. Tell your prospective employer that you will have to relinquish your candidacy if they insist that you essentially resign before receiving a written offer. Ask yourself, if the company is this unreasonable at the start, what other unreasonable things will you need to do as an employee?"
Even if you get a written offer first, Chapman adds a cautionary note: "Remember that most states are 'employment at will' states, so when they check references later, you are in jeopardy if they don't like what they hear. After you receive the offer, ask your potential new employers to identify what they want to hear about you, and then prep your current boss by asking if he or she would describe you in this way. Make sure the new employers hear what they want to hear -- or don't supply references at all."
DEAR JOYCE: Every guide I read urges career-minded individuals to network, network, network. I know about using LinkedIn.com and other social media, but is there anything new in networking? -- W.T.W.
DEAR W.T.W. -- Yes. LunchMeet is a new digital tool for professional networking. It's a mobile app (lunchmeetapp.com) that promotes face-to-face networking wherever and whenever you are available. The tool is too new for a track record -- I welcome your feedback.
(E-mail career questions for possible use in this column to Joyce Lain Kennedy at email@example.com; use "Reader Question" for subject line. Or mail her at Box 368, Cardiff, CA 92007.)