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The New Books to Read This Fall

My favorite part of being an author is writing. A close second is finding new books in my mailbox. This fall, there’s an unusually exciting crop of big idea and business books about human behavior, innovation and entrepreneurship, and the fundamental questions of success, meaning, and happiness in work and life. Here are the 14 forthcoming and just-released books to check out:

1. Me, Myself, and Us by Brian Little (October 14)

I’ve never read a book that revealed so much about my own personality, let alone the peculiar habits of my friends, co-workers, and family members. With extraordinary wit and wisdom, Little—the winner of Canada’s highest award for university teaching and one of Harvard’s favorite professors—offers startling insights about our trivial pursuits and magnificent obsessions.

2. Rookie Smarts by Liz Wiseman (October 14)

If you believe in the value of experience, prepare to have your worldview turned upside-down. Wiseman masterfully shows why novices can outdo veterans, expertise blinds us to fresh ideas, and we’re all missing out on the brilliance of the newbies around us.

3. The Innovators by Walter Isaacson (October 7)

The author who brought us the epic biographies of ...

Navigating the Tricky Transition From Peer to Manager

What would you discuss in your first meeting as new manager and your first one-on-one with employees if promoted within group of co-workers?—Anonymous

One of the more difficult transitions in professional life is being promoted to manage a group in which only yesterday you were a fellow team member. The discontinuity in the team’s relationships can greatly improve the work environment, send the organization spiraling downward, if your prior peers undermine you in your new position, or land your group’s performance somewhere in between. How can you navigate the tricky shoals of shifting from peer to manager, especially in the early going?

Congratulations on your promotion. It indicates that you were successful in your prior job and that upper management perceives that you have potential to be a leader. Yet learning how to be a manager is not as easy as it may seem. Now you are formally responsible for your team and how it engages with the rest of the enterprise. Indeed, perhaps the most difficult challenge about entering management is adopting this enterprise perspective.

Before meeting with your team members, meet with your manager, mentors and other managers with whom you have pre-existing relationships to ...

One in Four Americans With College Degrees Shouldn’t Have Bothered

Roughly 25% of those with bachelor’s degrees in the US derive no economic benefit from their diplomas.

That’s the takeaway from analysts at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The same analysts have argued in the past that the benefits of a college degree, on average, still outweigh the costs. (Other Fed studies have suggested that, on average, those with bachelor’s degrees earn $800,000 more than people who finished only secondary school.) And while median earnings of college students typically remain between 60% and 70% higher than those with high school diplomas, there’s still a surprisingly large chunk of students who don’t do any better than those who never went to four-year schools.

The Fed’s analysts divided the pool of college degree holders into quartiles. They found that people in the lowest quartile earned roughly the same amount of money as those with only a high school diploma.

The analysts wrote:

These figures suggest that perhaps a quarter of those who earn a bachelor’s degree pay the costs to attend school but reap little, if any, economic benefit. In fact, once the costs of attending college are considered, it is likely ...

Grade Inflation: Does It Matter?

The issue of “grade creep” in the federal workforce arises on a regular basis. As the average grade (and the average salary) of the typical federal employee continues to go up, this trend is cited as yet another example of a bloated bureaucracy of highly paid workers. The overall average grade is now higher than GS-12, and the average federal salary is approaching $80,000, according to the Office of Personnel Management. Some find it easy to conclude that government is growing aimlessly, and federal workers are earning more money for performing functions that haven’t changed. But is an increase in average grade really a management “fail” that needs to be fixed?

CAUSES

A couple causes of grade creep are well-known and make sense, given the evolving nature of the federal workforce:

More knowledge workers. This is the most common cause. The nature of government work has changed, and continues to change. There is a continuing increase in analytical, program management and technical work at all agencies, and corresponding higher General Schedule grades. At the same time, lower-graded administrative, clerical and support work continues to disappear, due to technology and the elimination of certain functions. Jobs such as file ...

Do High-School Students With Jobs Make More Money Later in Life?

Remember the job you had in high school? Scooping ice cream at Baskin Robbins, babysitting for a neighbor, or a cashier at the mall? For me, it was a receptionist job at my friend’s dad’s place—a doctor’s office. Such drudgery has always been thought to come with a hidden bonus: The promise of higher future earnings. But, unfortunately for today's working high-school students, it seems that that effect may be waning.

A recent paper from economists Charles Baum and Christopher Ruhm found that for a cohort of kids who had jobs in the late 1970s, working for 20 hours a week in the senior year of high school yielded an 8.3 percent wage boost over their non-working high school buddies. For those who had jobs two decades later, in the late 90s, the boost was only 4.4 percent. This was true even when the researchers controlled for family background characteristics and student ability.

The most painful part: “Senior-year employment was predicted to decrease the probability of subsequently working in the relatively low-paid service sector for the 1979 cohort but to increase it for the 1997 cohort,” they write. They also found that the ...