5 minutes with author John Lees


During my reading and reviewing of How to Get a Job You Love, I can honestly say I learnt a lot. In the months that have since followed, I have put into practice some fundamental concepts involved in career development and job market positioning, which have helped me both as an academic and as a blogger.

It would be selfish of me to keep such gems of information to myself right? Well at least I believe so. Consequently, I wanted to let you all know that I have reached out to the man responsible for my improved attitude, job search skills and curriculum vitae – author John Lees. He kindly agreed to let me interview him and offered great insight and advice on a few of the challenges some of you may be facing professionally.


1. Firstly, thank you so much John for your interest in QUAKE Books. As a way of introduction to our readers, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your career coaching company John Lees Associates?

I began my career in learning and development and spent 25 years training recruitment specialists. Gradually I realised that I wanted to help people sitting on the other side of the desks, so turned my focus onto career changers. 16 years ago I started writing my first book and set up a career coaching company which helps career changers across the UK. We’ve also worked overseas too. We specialise in helping people make difficult career decisions – difficult either because they don’t know what to do next, or because there are barriers in the way of success.


2. John, you have written various books on careers including How to Get a Job You Love, where does your passion on the subject come from and why did you decide to go down that path as an author?

I’m fascinated in the way people see themselves. In career terms this is often about helping people to imagine possibilities for change, and to see how with just a few small steps we can change what we do. I’m also intrigued and delighted by the way that even in a high-tech world the most important help and inspiration comes from conversations with other people. My books are designed to help people think differently, about what they do, and what’s out there, and how they will act.


3. I first came across you when looking for a European alternative to American Richard Bolles, author of What Color is Your Parachute? How much of an inspiration is Richard’s work to you and in which way does it influence your own?

I owe a huge debt to Dick Bolles. My work as a career strategist was inspired by the creativity, wisdom and generosity of 125 hours’ teaching from Dick Bolles at two of his summer workshops in Bend, Oregon, and a decade of continuing support and encouragement. Dick Bolles wrote the preface to How To Get A Job You Love.


4. You have various books on the subject of careers, including your newest 2016 release, The Success Code. Would you recommend that new graduates start with that when pursuing their career? Which book of yours would you recommend, and why, to people looking to run their own business? Likewise, to people who have lost their job and want to work but are close to retirement age?

The Success Code does something slightly different. It’s a book which shows how quieter, modest people can avoid the uncomfortable excesses of self-promotion and find a way of arriving at authentic impact – making your mark on the world without getting in someone’s face.

I find that new(ish) graduates usually get the most out of How To Get A Job You Love because it has a chapter on going to the job market for the first time. They usually find something useful, too, in Knockout CV, because it reveals how many CVs are vanilla, clichéd, and don’t offer any kind of differentiation.

I don’t have a book specifically about self-employment, but there’s a lot of thinking on this topic in How To Get A Job You Love. This has a great deal in to help those dealing with redundancy, and the section on portfolio working is useful to those in pre-retirement.


5. I personally graduated in 2008, at the height of the economic crisis. Many friends of mine, all over Europe in fact, now in their late twenties and early thirties, are still looking for an opportunity to work on their vocation, as opposed to a string of menial jobs and zero hour contracts. What do you think of these kinds of situations? Are governments doing enough or does career responsibility lie with the individual?

Yes, I think your picture is accurate. There’s plenty of work around and lots of different roles, but a lot of work has shifted to low-commitment engagements like the ones you describe. Fortunately there are still plenty of ‘proper’ jobs around – the problem is that a large proportion have gone underground and are filled in the hidden job market.


6. Thinking back to the person in the above situation, what advice would you give them? Where would you send them to learn more and secure a brighter future?

There’s no simple magic answer, but a broad strategy is to set out to use face to face meetings to discover, connect, learn, and to fall across hidden jobs. That’s how the job market has changed, dramatically, in the last 20 years. Passive methods such as online job searching get you very dull results. You get the best results from talking to people – however you do it. That’s the theme behind my book Just The Job which a lot of readers miss, even though it’s the only one which offers a step-by-step structured approach to finding a new job.


7. How much do you think reading can play in choosing a career path? Is it really helpful or is it just another excuse people use to avoid getting their hands dirty?

I worry when people get locked into passively thinking about possible futures rather than actively exploring them. Books, websites, coaching conversations can be informative and useful but they can leave you in reflective mode. We imagine that the end of the race is what matters most – the final steps to the finishing line. It isn’t the most important thing. What matters most is the first step you take, right now. And the critical step isn’t usually a web site or a book, but it will be a conversation.


8. For my final question and, as this is QUAKE Books, do you have a QUAKE Book ? What does this book say about you and what do you think others could obtain from it?

I have been wowed by In America: Travels with John Steinbeck, by Geert Mak (Vintage, 2015). Mak follows the journey Steinbeck took around the USA in 1960, and by discussing how America has changed in a half century offers stunning insights into modern society and culture.


Thank you John so much for the time you dedicated to the interview. I am sure readers will find it helpful.

Readers – if you are in need of good solid career advice and action plans, and you haven’t already, do yourself a favour go out and get a copy of at least one of John Lees’ books. If money is tight you could always ask your local library to order one in for you. Just don’t delay or you might never find that job you love!!



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