The Associate


A particular high point of my holiday reading was picking up John Grisham’s The Associate. Those of you who haven’t read Grisham will no doubt be sneering into your lattes, but us Grisham fans know that you’re missing out.


However the point of this post is not really to make the case for Grisham. I’m sure that international best seller John Grisham isn’t waiting for an endorsement from a no readership careers blog to save his career. I’m actually writing about The Associate because it is essentially a novel about graduate recruitment, work-life balance and career and therefore might be of some interest to the readers of this blog and even potentially to their clients.


The book is about Kyle McAvoy a Yale high flyer who is about to graduate from Law school. He is considering career options and swinging between taking a corporate law job and a low paid community position. However he gets pulled aside by some shadowy figures who have evidence that can implicate him (unfairly) in a rape committed some years earlier. They put pressure on McAvoy to take the corporate job where they intend to use him for corporate espionage.


One of the reasons why this book was so interesting to me is that it is using the idea of career as its principle emotional hook. The reader feels very strongly that Kyle should have the right to make choices about his career and not be pushed into doing something that he doesn’t want to do. The corporate job he takes is enormously well remunerated and highly desirable. However, for him to lose the career choice provokes a moral reaction in us.


Career choice, at least in our culture, has the status of moral right. We shouldn’t be forced to do what we don’t want to do. This is perhaps one of the reasons why guidance professionals are so frequently under fire. If they get it wrong they have violated someone, pushing them down the wrong path. Guidance deals in important stuff and the suspicion that professionals might misadvise perhaps underpins lots of the criticism that the profession comes in for.


Anyway, back to The Associate. Once Kyle takes up his position as a graduate recruit in a large corporate law firm (an associate) we get a well realised portrayal of the reality of graduate recruitment. Thankfully I’ve never been graduate recruited but I have see friend go through a mill that looks very like what Grisham portrays. Long hours, total focus on the job and a social life that is squeezed around the edges of work and ultimately just blends into the job. Grisham has his associates sleeping at the office, working 20 hour days and above all doing jobs that are incredibly tedious.


If you are in the business of advising graduates get the ones who plan to go into the top flight graduate recruitment schemes to read The Associate. It realises the pressure, the tedium, the moral dubiousness and the bloated nature of large corporations extremely well. Grisham’s first love is small town law and so you have to read his critique of the corporates with a recognition of his bias, but none the less this is an entertaining and interesting read.


Does anyone out there recommend that clients watch particular films or read particular books in order to learn about potential careers?      



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