“The Subtle Shark” May Redefine Your Career Achievements


A good read meant for those who do not have a consistent guidepost to know what feelings are natural to expect when advancing in your career and negotiating with other ambitious professionals.

subtle shark

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“I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire, cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar.” ~ Roar, Katy Perry

Katy Perry’s new song conveys a popular sentiment that resonates with people – the image of a spirit rising to meet challenges. That sentiment can, of course, be found in many people striving to build careers.  One journal that can outline what to expect is The Subtle Shark: Redefining Career Achievement by Ayesha Patterson (@AyeeshaAdvising). A first book, Patterson wrote this to help others understand what really goes into ambitious career plans.

My review copy arrived by mail. After reading it, I felt Patterson developed a solid short guide that small businesses can provide employees to inspire good professional practices. It is also helpful for those aspiring to do more in the businesses they contribute to.

Patterson has a background that reflects a growth within retail and customer service.  She is a Purdue graduate and Gary, Indiana native.  She covers her rise to general manager of several Midwest customer service centers for Best Buy, overseeing over 150 employees and supervisors.

Being Ambitious Requires Shark-Like Instincts

Patterson uses the image of a shark because of its image in business – a cut-throat, backstabbing person.  She notes on the book’s back cover that being ambitious does require shark-like instincts, but are not automatically a license for misleading behavior.

One example is learning to leverage what you know about a business for a new team, which she describes in her first foray as a customer service rep:

“I learned that while the retail holiday season is between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the repair holiday was New Year’s until almost St . Patrick’s Day…The technicians were about 3 – 4 weeks backlogged with repairs, which led to angry customers. I worked overtime to find out as much as I could and helped in other departments. That sped up my learning curve and earned me a lot of respect from my co-workers.”

She shares instances where conflict arises, naturally with coworkers or higher ups (names changed to protect the innocents). Nothing comes across as salacious, or earth shattering. But Patterson ultimately shares ideas where lessons can be best drawn over battling with other professionals.  Take this instance on being a team player. I liked how she referenced the difference:

“I specified true because there are times when people use the phrase “team player” when trying to convince you to do something ethically questionable…What I mean is at least pull your own weight and be willing to do more than you share to achieve the goal.”

Navigate Career Transitions as The Subtle Shark

The book’s tone is personal, like another Indiana native I reviewed, Carolyn Mosby, author of Unflappable.  Patterson differs with more focus on career transitions and less about Indiana institutions (understandable given Mosby’s history (read my review to learn more).  Patterson wrote Subtle Shark in a journal format, including some of her diary entries that help frame her early years up to her retail positions.

In fact, the tone Patterson imparts is a personal description of career management decisions. There are tips, but the how-to’s take the form of a journal describing the anxieties and confidence that can come with job advancement.

At 86 pages, with a few more from an appendix, the book is meant for those who do not have a consistent guidepost to know what feelings are natural to expect. As a result you get quick reminders, though mainly from Ayeesha’s perspective.

Gaining Insights

To gain insights from other industries or research from other perspectives, you should consider other texts that can enhance the points raise or cover complimentary topics.  Beyond the aforementioned Unflappable, there are a few good suggestions from what we’ve reviewed on Small Business Trends, including:

No matter your choice, give Subtle Shark a read.  A better idea is to share it with the young up-and-coming professional you know.  In either instance, the book will light the way for any professional caught in rough career waters.

It will also teach professionals to give their mightiest roar of personal growth against career challenges.

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Pierre DeBois Pierre Debois is Associate Book Editor for Small Business Trends. He is the Founder of Zimana, a consultancy providing strategic analysis to small and medium sized businesses that rely on web analytics data. A Gary, Indiana native, Pierre is currently based in Brooklyn. He blogs about marketing, finance, social media, and analytics at Zimana blog.

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