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Body of Work: Finding the Thread That Ties Your Story Together

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These days it's increasingly rare to have a stable career in any field. More and more of us are blending big company jobs, startup gigs, freelance work, and volunteer side projects. We take chances to expand our knowledge, capabilities, and experience. But how do we make sense of that kind of career - and explain it? Pamela Slim, the acclaimed author of Escape from Cubicle Nation, gives us the tools to have meaningful careers in this new world of work. She shows how to find the connections among diverse accomplishments, sell your story, and continually reinvent and relaunch your brand.

256 pages, Paperback

First published December 31, 2013

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About the author

Pamela Slim

9 books71 followers
Pamela Slim is an author, community builder, consultant and former corporate director of training and development at Barclays Global Investors. She focused her first decade in business on creating and delivering training programs for large companies such as HP, Charles Schwab, 3Com, Chevron and Cisco Systems.

Since 2005, Pam has advised thousands of entrepreneurs as well as companies serving the small business market such as Infusionsoft, Progressive Insurance, Constant Contact and Prezi. Pam partnered with author Susan Cain to build and launch the Quiet Revolution and the Quiet Leadership Institute.

Pam is best known for her book Escape from Cubicle Nation (named Best Small Business and Entrepreneur book of 2009 from 800 CEO Read) along with her follow up book Body of Work. Both were published by Penguin/Portfolio.

In 2016, Pam launched the Main Street Learning Lab in Mesa, Arizona, a grassroots, community-based think tank for small business economic acceleration. http://pamelaslim.com/ke

She is frequently quoted as a business expert in press such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Information Week, Money Magazine and Psychology Today.

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5 stars
259 (30%)
4 stars
289 (34%)
3 stars
221 (26%)
2 stars
57 (6%)
1 star
10 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 92 reviews
Profile Image for Jenny.
Author 10 books409 followers
January 3, 2014
Pamela Slim's Body of Work is the perfect companion for anyone looking to find the common threads in their career and weave them into a unifying platform for the future, in an economy that increasingly values agility, creativity and innovation. Her book is jam-packed with the perfect blend of anecdotes and insanely helpful exercises -- each chapter could be an entire book unto itself!

Pam's recommendations are compelling, clear, and road-tested with hundreds (if not thousands) of entrepreneurs and corporate employees that she has worked with. I appreciate that she doesn't try to force a one-size fits all set of next steps or "shoulds," but rather guides the reader through the meta-level of career planning by finding common themes, building healthy habits, navigating fear, forming a meaningful support network, and effectively sharing your message with the world.

For those who find chapter outlines helpful, the Body of Work methodology can be summed up as follows:
-Define Your Roots
-Name Your Ingredients
-Choose Your Work Mode
-Create and Innovate
-Surf the Fear
-Your Definition of Success
-Share Your Story

Making a major career transition is not a one-time checkbox that we get to simply mark complete and move on from. It's an ongoing evolution, and Pamela Slim has written THE handbook you need to navigate each one with greater ease and aplomb.
Profile Image for Annie.
822 reviews835 followers
November 21, 2018
I give this book 3.5 stars. The stories are good as examples of how other people found meaningful work and built their body of work through different means, such as employment, side gig, volunteerism, and personal relationships. However, the guidance wasn't inspiring. The author used the analogy of ingredients and recipes. Skills, strengths, experience, and jobs are the ingredients. The recipes are how you produce your body of work, such as results at work, planning an event, organizing your family activities, helping a charity, and writing a book. The analogy just didn't work.
Profile Image for Susan.
9 reviews7 followers
January 2, 2014
A wonderful, insightful book that has something to teach everyone about the value of a multifaceted career. A joy to read, and a reassuring, important and practical message in today's fractured world of work. Lots of specific guidance for understanding your own body of work, using it to craft a resilient career, and sharing your unique skills with the world. Loved it!
Profile Image for Robin.
488 reviews99 followers
October 15, 2017
I read this book twice this year. Once at the beginning of the year, but then I forgot to review it and thought I had forgotten everything about it. Then I re-read it this month and discovered that I had been applying concepts from it all year, so it had seeped in after all. On my second pass through, I dog-eared all the pages that I found especially useful, and now that corner of the book looks like I dropped it in water.

Supremely useful ideas:

Framework for building your body of work (p.12): Define your roots, name your ingredients, choose your work mode, create and innovate, surf the fear, form your team, define success, sell your story. This framework defines the organization of the book, to the extent that it is organized (see minor quibbles, below) and helps you find the information you might be looking for.

How do you determine your ingredients (p.39) and how to handle "unattractive" ingredients (p.42): These guiding questions are useful as an exercise for anyone, at any stage of career. I use them especially when coaching and mentoring others who need help articulating their strengths and rephrasing what they see as "bad things" into learning experiences and new opportunities for growth.

The loathing scale (p.59): A handy framework for assessing your current work situation and whether it is time to move on. Unfortunately it is stuck awkwardly into a chapter about work modes, but that is not how I would personally apply it. You might need to move on without changing your work mode.

Deal with procrastination and distress (p.118-124): This starts with an anecdote but then lays out a very good list of tips for reacting to the symptoms of procrastination and addressing its root causes. Only 50% of the list is practical, the other 50% is unhelpful (to me) pep talk. Still useful overall.

Eight magic questions to ask when setting out on a big goal you have no idea how to accomplish (p.148): Again, this is placed a bit awkwardly in the chapter about collaborating (form your team), and it does make sense there given the content, but the list also stands alone quite well. Applies particularly well if you are starting a business or otherwise striking out on a new venture, rather than operating in a more standard corporate environment.

How to manage a growing network (p.153): The brass-tacks approach to genuine network building here strikes chords with me. People have all these anxieties, and the author dispels them firmly and effectively.

Common bad career advice and common self-limiting beliefs (p.164): Useful reminders. When stated clearly, they seem obviously absurd, but they are pervasive.

Success framework (p.167 - 175): A series of questions and examples to help you define your own meaning of success, rather than falling victim to success dysmorphia.

Anecdote: making your resume tell your story (p.184-185): This book tends to start its lessons with anecdotes, and this one was particularly helpful for me to return to.

Crafting the story you tell yourself and the story you tell others (p.188-190): Excellent framework for getting yourself into a better mindset about your experience and preparing your answers to interview questions.

The persuasive story pattern (p.190-193): How to give an excellent persuasive presentation, in brief.

Creating a content map to describe your body of work (p.197-199): Applies particularly well if creating a product, starting a business, or making something creative, but still useful otherwise too.

Assorted tips for clear communication (p.200-201): Good advice: use clear language, focus your topic, mix words and graphics.

Quote from Brenda Ueland's If You Want to Write (p.202): "Inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes to us slowly and quietly all the time, though we must regularly and every day give it a chance to start flowing, and prime it with a little solitude and idleness. I learned that when writing you should feel not like Lord Byron on a mountaintop but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten--happy, absorbed, and quietly putting one bead in front of another."

What your audience needs to know to trust what you say (p.209-213): Useful advice when writing a bio or determining how much to say about your background when introducing yourself and your background when presenting to a new audience.

Craft specific versions of your story for specific situations (p.214-216): questions to ask yourself to craft three different stories: 1) your high-level story for bios, 2) the interview or client story for cover letters and self-presentation out loud, 3) the networking story, or elevator pitch/one-liner self-intro.

Minor quibbles:

Personal pet peeve: I get twitchy when the author starts a new paragraph for nearly every sentence. Some chapters were worse than others, but that makes it read like a young adult novel and I take it less seriously.

The book deals with multipotentialites only within the chapter about work modes, and I felt the need for more treatment of this idea in other chapters, where the author is more likely to assume you have a single audience and modality of service that you've decided to focus on.

The book has an index, thank goodness, so you can find anything you need, but I was often struck by how the flow from one idea to the next left me uncertain of how it was all coming together. If you squint at any individual choice, you can justify it, but some editorial development and improved transitions would have made a big difference to the reader's feeling of being carried along a clear path within each chapter.

Massive headache:

This criticism falls 100% on the publisher. Who did you let copyedit and typeset this book? I have a copy of the first paperback printing, so I dearly hope you have corrected the many many many layout errors in subsequent printings. If not, someone needs to scrutinize the bullet alignment, the inconsistent choices about when and how to use headings and indentations, and other one-off stylistic mishaps like introducing a checklist phrased as a multi-part statement as "a series of questions". Poor production values, when this egregious, interfere with the reader's understanding and enjoyment.

Will nevertheless recommend.
Profile Image for Claudia.
2,440 reviews86 followers
February 4, 2018
This book was not written for me, a retired professional, looking for the 'threads', the themes of my career at the end. It's for younger readers, younger professionals, to create the themes and threads, being clear about your purpose and passion.

That said, I still learned. I read the advice for bloggers with interest, and hope my own blog follows her guidelines.

Right at the end I found what I needed --how to create your own high-level story. Answer: 1. What are the themes that run thru your work? 2. What are your roots? 3. What are the ingredients of your story? 4. How do you sprinkle in your credibility.

I'm hoping these questions will help me focus.
Profile Image for Jeanne.
Author 1 book7 followers
January 21, 2014
An engaging book filled with easy to follow information, some of which I already knew from having spent a few years on this beautiful rock called Earth, some of which I didn't know or hadn't thought about quite that way. Much of the information, ideas, and suggestions contained on these pages is transferrable, allowing you to use the information and exercises for on the job clarity, when writing the next great novel, when sitting around the supper table.
Profile Image for Michael Tefft.
Author 4 books3 followers
December 31, 2013
Another fabulous, thought provoking book by Pamela Slim of Escape from Cubicle Nation fame. What she challenges you to do is not easy; it's literally defining who you and writing your story. This is not a quick fix solution - this is meaningful work. My current job ranks way too high on her Loathing Scale, but I intend to follow the exercises in this book.

Go and get this book NOW!
Profile Image for Andy Beal.
Author 5 books46 followers
January 21, 2014
I had to keep putting this book down, not because it was tiresome, but because my mind would start processing all the great ideas that came from it. This is one of those books that gets you thinking about the legacy you wish to leave and the body of work that will define you.
Profile Image for Dave Rothacker.
37 reviews5 followers
March 24, 2014
For the Baby Boomer - No matter where you are in your career arc, Pam's book helps to instill reverence in what you've accomplished. There's soooooo much more to give yourself credit for than you realize.

For the re-inventing your career Boomer, Body of Work helps you understand what you've put into the tank on your journey.

For Gen Yers - All I can say is that I wish I had access to Pam and her book when I was younger. It'd be easy to call this book a roadmap. But I don't think it is. A map exists for someone to pick up and follow. Body of Work is more like a friend along for the journey. If you aren't taking the journey, out there doing things, the book will idle like a car in neutral. Move forward and the book is there.

For business owners - In addition to instilling reverence in your work, Pam's book encourages adventure, discovery, experiments, learning, creativity, innovation and my personal favorite: Freedom. And as The Who and I have always said, "Freedom tastes of reality."
Profile Image for Nick.
Author 21 books101 followers
March 17, 2014
This is one of the good kind of self-help books -- clearly written, full of great stories, and immensely helpful. Pam's authenticity shines out from every page. If you're trying to figure out your role in life, your next move, or whether or not to start that business, read this book first and answer all the questions. You'll be glad you did.
Profile Image for Melinda Flaugher.
122 reviews4 followers
July 8, 2018
The first half of the book deserved four stars because the author writes to various types of job hunters, but the second half only receives three stars because the book relates more towards entrepreneurs. I really enjoyed the first few chapters because they helped me with job direction.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
Author 12 books87 followers
January 11, 2021
Wonderful book. I will be using it in a professional issues class for my students this spring and expect they will find it very useful I thinking about their futures.
35 reviews
October 16, 2015
This was a very uneven book for me. I really liked the first three chapters: Your Body of Work, Define Your Roots and Name Your Ingredients. I liked them so much that I actually filled out the in-book activities which is something that I almost never do. I found Rafe Eric Biggs story in Chapter 6 and the idea of ecosystems and watering holes in Chapter 7 interesting. That being said, I feel that I didn't get much out of Chapters 4-8.

The final chapter, Chapter 9 (Share Your Story) has some worthwhile material but for a book with the subtitle "Finding the Thread That Ties Your Story Together", I thought this chapter should have been more in depth (or more ideally spread across several chapters). Also, for a book that has many exercises throughout I find it odd that there isn't one at the end of Chapter 9 (which could have helped the book to deliver more on the promise of telling your story). I think this book would have been better if it had been more focused. There's some good information in here but I think the book tries to cover too much material.

I was expecting a book primarily about crafting a coherent story around the more complicated work histories of the modern worker. I didn't feel that I got that here. However, I do feel that first three chapters deliver on a different idea: determining what story you want to tell in the future and why.
Profile Image for Fayiz Melibary.
26 reviews18 followers
May 18, 2016
لو إنت من جيل البعثات أو حوله، أنصحك و بشدة إنك تقرأ هذا الكتاب.

تناقش الكاتبة فيه كيف سوق العمل لهذا العصر أختلف عن الماضي و كثر التغييرات و التحولات بما فيها التطور الألكتروني الجارف بيغير سوق العمل بشكل شبه يومي، مما يجعل التفكير بشكل Linear في الحياة المهنية غير ملائم لعصرنا.

الكاتبة تنصح أن الشخص ينظر لحياته المهنية بنظرة شمولية أكثر و عميقة، ليدمج ما بين شهاداته و خبراته الحياتية ليكون لنفسه برسونا مهنية مميزة تجعله مختلف و ذَا قيمة سوقية أعلى في سوق يكتظ بكل التخصصات من كل العالم.

بمعنى آخر، حاول تنوع من خبراتك مهما كانت شهاداتك، لأنه نحن في عصر ينظر لتنوع الخبرات على أنها القيمة المُضافة، وهي اللي تجعل الشركات تختارك بدل غيرك.

أيضاً تنصح أن تنوع مصادر دخلك وإن كان بشكل بسيط، بمعنى لو أنت كنت مهندس، و لديك شغف في الكتابة أو التصوير، اهتم فيهم، فقد تجد نفسك بعد أعوام من الممارسة المهنية للهندسة في مركب مختلف تماماً تقل فيه قيمة خبرتك الهندسية و تزيد قيمتك ككاتب.

أخيراً، تساعدك الكاتبة في كيفية تقديم نفسك و "جسد أعمالك" بشكل يجعل صورتك مصقولة أكثر و جذابة لأصحاب الشركات و حتى من يبحث عن خبرات استشارية و غيره.

الكتاب جاني في وقت مناسب بشكل عجيب و حقيقة غير نظرتي لأمور كثير، أنصح بقرائته لأي شخص تجاوز سذاجة الظن أن الوظيفة هي أمان للمستقبل.
Profile Image for Kat.
49 reviews2 followers
June 6, 2017
I love the concept of creating a body of work based on my skills, passions and beliefs (rather than following a set singular career path) and the first few chapters really enthralled and excited me. I felt really understood as a 'multi-potentialite' which I feel is a different and more positive way of defining millennials. I found the rest of the book covered many concepts and ideas I'd already discovered but it was still really helpful to consider the techniques in a new and different context. I was motivated to complete a large number of exercises and activities and put an awful lot down on paper which is rare for me. If you are looking for a source of inspiration and want to escape the 'group think' bubble, this book is definitely for you!
Profile Image for Connor Leech.
37 reviews1 follower
November 21, 2016
I liked this book but it covered a lot of self help that I did not think was necessary. The author starts with a strong thesis and asks many, many questions for readers to contemplate. This book is good for probing in to how you think about your career. There is an undertone of fear that you have to do side projects and other work to keep up running throughout. I would read a few pages and then have to stop and think about wtf I'm doing with my life, remember I'm fine and then keep reading. This book is good for getting you motivated to work on other things and seeing your career as broader than your day job!
72 reviews4 followers
January 16, 2018
Why this book was written: To show readers how to tie disparate areas of their work into a congruent story

Synthesis: Identify your ingredients - the set of skillsets that define you. Then choose to apply these to disparate pursuits in the roles of employee, self employed, entrepreneur and investor.

Key techniques:

- Identify what type of networker you are; connector (connects people), maven (has varied knowledge) or salesperson

- Tell a narrative story around everything you have done - whether it be singing part time between a management consultant career or moonlighting as a photographer while being a doctor by day

Decent book that's a worthwhile read
Profile Image for Anita Ashland.
260 reviews17 followers
December 24, 2016
If you have an eclectic work history...a lot of skills that don't always seem to fit together...or simply want to get down to it and figure out your story already... then you'll benefit from the insights, stories and exercises in this book.

You'll also learn about cool things like multipotentialities and connectional intelligence.

There's a section with practical ideas for what to do whenever you feel stuck. She also offers refreshing new definitions of the word success.

It's a quick read and worth the time.
Profile Image for Kony.
395 reviews240 followers
February 24, 2018
I appreciate Pam Slim's practical, wise, nonjudgmental approach to designing and implementing your own vision of success. With grace and clarity, she walks you through the entire process -- from identifying your core values, personal strengths, hard skills, and work modes; to overcoming internal and external setbacks; to assembling a network of peer mentors who balance out your weak spots; to tailoring your story for the right audiences. The personal reflection exercises toward the beginning are especially useful. (Now I need to go back and actually do them.)
Profile Image for Danielle.
14 reviews18 followers
September 18, 2018
was sooo excited while reading through the first chapter or so and the excitement never died down! very helpful stuff in trying to reframe your career around your values instead of pigeonholing yourself into an occupation and taking whatever associations are attached to it. the idea of avatars/ecosystems/watering holes is so similar to personas. the author takes you through a multitude of thoughtful questions that can spark inspiration for the storytelling of your life and career.
Profile Image for Melissa.
5 reviews3 followers
February 21, 2014
Some great ideas in this book for entrepreneurs and those working for organisations. I read through the whole book quickly to get the big picture, but I'll definitely be giving it a second read at a slower pace.
Profile Image for Rachel.
Author 1 book10 followers
January 11, 2014
A fabulous, insightful book with straightforward and actionable takeaways. I would recommend this one in particular to any self-identified multipotentialites.
84 reviews5 followers
February 4, 2014
Very good writing on how to think about your career and your life. Highly recommended for people thinking of change or early 20s thinking about where to head out in the world.
Profile Image for Gisli Olafsson.
Author 3 books14 followers
February 2, 2014
I liked it. It brings together a number of good ways to help you find and define your body of work - what you want to become known for.
Profile Image for Stacey Nguyen.
126 reviews
January 2, 2018
It's one of the better self-help books I've read recently - Pamela Slim has a gift for helping you ground your big vision in concrete steps, which is a more difficult balance than you would think.
3 reviews
July 15, 2018
Very well-written book with concrete examples and a ready "to-do" formula on how to create, articulate, and compile your own body of work
Displaying 1 - 30 of 92 reviews

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