Imagine if What Color Is Your Parachute? or Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow was written by a comedian, and you’ll get a decent idea of what Carol Leifer’s How to Succeed in Business Without Really Crying, a strange combo of career guide/humor essay memoir. Leifer – a popular and successful comic, stand-up, and comedy writer – gives her readers tips on how to move forward in their careers by using her own story as a source of inspiration. Though Leifer is a very funny lady, the book is fitfully successful.
As a career guide, Leifer’s book rarely moves beyond common sense (dress for success, don’t be late, do research before showing up, that sort of thing, don’t be jerk to the receptionist). She doesn’t have much to offer that most wouldn’t learn from a pamphlet or poster at a high school career guidance counselor’s office. The book’s gimmick – that the tips are illustrated by anecdotes from Liefer’s career and life – isn’t enough to make the book an interesting take on the career guide. If Leifer had worked with a career counselor and collaborated on the project, maybe How to Succeed… might’ve worked.
And though the book doesn’t succeed as a substantive career guide, it does work as a humor essay collection. When she focuses on tales of her work and adventures she had plugging away, building her career as a stand-up comic, the book is pretty fantastic. Also good are the parts of the book which deal with her supportive family and great network of friends, which include Jerry Seinfeld and Paul Riser (and there are some great pictures of Seinfeld and Riser in the book with fun 70s hair). When Leifer moves away from career search cliches, How to Succeed is a fun, diverting read.