Career coach and blogger Pamela Slim recently released her first book, Escape From Cubicle Nation. Based on her blog by the same name, the book outlines the process of moving from employee to entrepreneur. Though I have already made the leap to self-employment, I enjoy reading Pamela’s blog and was interested to see what she had to share with others. Now deep in the trenches of running my own consulting business, I figured I would share my thoughts on the book for those just starting out.
For years I have referred to leaving a job you don’t like as “busting out of Shawshank.” Since this book discusses how to “escape” corporate life, I’m going to continue on with a jailbreak metaphor for this review, if only to amuse myself.
Life Behind Bars
The book starts by discussing the failings of corporate America and the unhappiness that has been borne among many who live inside those corporate walls. The basis for this introduction goes back a few years, to an excellent and inspiring blog post/rant the author wrote titled an Open letter to CXOs across the corporate world. Having been a corporate trainer and consultant, Pamela had seen how companies repeatedly disappointed and failed their employees, causing her to declare a new mission to help people break out and forge ahead on their own.
The book does a good job outlining what drives people to consider starting their own business, and addresses the fears and concerns that arise when contemplating a major life change. Such upheaval can be emotionally daunting and the first few chapters acknowledge that, helping to put readers in the right frame of mind for the next step.
Planning Your Escape
There are many paths to self-employment, and various options are presented to readers. A nice chunk of the book is dedicated to identifying an opportunity, thinking of a business concept, and testing your idea in the real-world. This is admittedly an extremely deep subject, and at times the author breezes over a topic, or offers advice that is a bit too generalized (if you need to be advised to Google “graphic design” to consider starting a graphic design business, you should probably reconsider). Case studies of individuals with non-traditional careers are also included, to help paint a picture of how one can support themselves without a regular paycheck.
Life on the Outside
The book wraps up by discussing the various practical elements involved in starting and running your own business. Somewhat mundane but crucially important topics like legal representation, insurance policies, and tax preparation are included, though (thankfully) not in great detail. More in a “don’t forget to go research this more” kind of way. Here the book finds a good balance on including important topics without devoting too much time to each one.
Escape from Cubicle Nation offers a fun and informative look at a serious and sometimes scary subject. The author’s writing style, and the metaphors used (like referring to certain business decisions as Crack Pipes vs Wheatgrass Juice), keep things entertaining and easy to read. The book is comprehensive, offering an overview of everything involved throughout the entire process of starting your own business. If you are looking for details of the specifics, like marketing your business when you’re just starting out, then this probably isn’t the right book for you (though, to the author’s credit, she does also introduce readers to other experts and authors who could fill in those gaps.)
Overall, I would recommend Escape From Cubicle Nation as a great starting point for anyone considering making this leap. When the economy tanked, it showed that there is no such thing as a steady paycheck, and that we as individuals are responsible for our own financial security. The warden (your boss) may be taking care of you now, but ultimately, he probably doesn’t have your best interest at heart. Breaking out and being your own boss may be your best bet at job security.
If escaping your cubicle seems appealing, then pick up this book. Read it, then start digging. Freedom is waiting on the other side.
One of the Co-Founders of SideTour, former TechStar (NYC Summer 2011), ex-NBA'er, and past TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon Winner.