Book by: Terry Arndt & Kirrin Coleman
Review by: Jennifer Centner
Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College Academic Advising
Arizona State University


Graduating students from their program of study may be the perceptible goal of higher education institutions, however the true success is graduating students who are successful in their chosen careers. As overwhelming as transitioning from high school to college may be, transitioning from college to a career often proves to be a bigger hurtle. Backpack to Briefcase: Steps to a Successful Career, focuses on preparing individuals with the knowledge for almost every aspect of the transition from college to the workplace setting.

Students nearing graduation are frequently overwhelmed with what’s next. While advisors may desire to guide the student through the job search, interview, and adjustment to the corporate world, that’s typically not realistic. This book is an excellent stand-in, and provides answers to questions that students may not have even known they had. The guide is very straightforward and has the feel of a close friend offering advice. While it may not be something advisors refer to weekly, it certainly is an invaluable tool advisors may feel confident in recommending for graduating students.

Higher education institutions typically offer seminars or resources to students as they begin searching for internships or jobs, however it’s also important that students have the information they need to succeed once they’ve landed their first internship or job. Much of the information may seem basic or implied, however many students in college are embarking on their first work experience and may not be aware of workplace expectations. As the title suggests, some chapters delve beyond the early stages of a new career to long-term topics such as increasing salary (chapter 15), finding a mentor (chapter 16), and even unemployment (chapter 19).

A large portion of the content throughout the guide boils down to understanding the company culture, something that can make or break a first job. Chapter 2 focuses solely on company culture, informing the reader that the culture of the organization has a “profound effect on your life at work and outside of it” (p.22).  This is important to note because the guide doesn’t only concentrate on how an individual can sell themselves; it also focuses on reminding the reader that they have options and should also consider how the company fits into their own personal values, goals, and lifestyle.

Advisors are not the primary audience, however this book reminds new and seasoned advisors of the struggles students graduating or pursuing internships may experience, especially when these experiences are their first. The table of contents makes it easy for advisors to identify the sections that speak to them based on their student population.

While it may seem basic to some, there’s something valuable in this book for everyone regardless of where they are in their career, but it is most valuable to individuals just starting out in the workplace. Within the advising community, I recommend utilizing this book largely as a tool for students transitioning from college to the workplace or those beginning their first internships. By preparing students for what happens after they walk across that stage, students will be empowered to take charge of their careers.

Backpack to Briefcase: Steps to a Successful Career(2014). Book by Terry Arndt & Kirrin Coleman. Review by Jennifer Centner. Bainbridge Island, WA: College Transition Publishing. 122 pp., $29.95 (Paperback). ISBN 978-0-9748332-4-5.


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