Book review: The Vault Guides

Recommended in any UK careers service, but are they any good?
Commercial awareness
Book reviews

With over 100 books in the series, the Vault Guides offer a wealth of information on careers in anything from investment banking and strategy consulting to advertising, nursing and supply chain management. Each book begins by defining what their particular sector is about, showing where it fits into the jigsaw of the commercial world, picking through the jargon and buzzwords and outlining different career options across the industry. They then move on to a 'Getting Hired' section, which gives details of the interview process, writing tailored C.Vs and cover letters and preparing for both technical and competency interviews. Finally, arguably the most important section of each Guide are the chapters clearly outlining what the job involves on a day-to-day basis - particularly useful for showing quite how unglamorous a lot of entry level jobs are!

The Vault Guides offer short (under 200 pages), concise outlines of a range of career options, generally giving sound technical overviews of each particular sector. However, they can often be simplistic in nature, shying away from tackling the complex issues typically touched on by interviewers as you advance through the recruitment process. Also, with the most recent series updates having taken place in November 2007 and February 2008, the current global financial crisis - surely a key interview topic in this year's milkround whichever field you are going into - is not mentioned at all.

Overall, the Vault is a good series to use in order to work out at an early stage the potential career paths which will and will not suit you. Informative, readily available and quick and easy to read, I would definitely advise spending an hour or two flicking through various Vault Guides prior to spending days completing lengthy application forms for milkround jobs as the term progresses: they should help you to write solid answers whilst avoiding applying to roles which you are in reality not interested in. Meanwhile, the Vault Guides to the Top 50 Consultancies and Banks and 40 Accountancies and Law firms give a ready-made longlist of firms to apply to if you choose to target your search to any of these areas. However, as you get to interview stage, the Vault Guides soon become redundant as more complex books are required (perhaps through suggestions in their lengthy reading lists) - alongside things which can not be found in books, such as face-to-face interview practice and speaking to those in the know, whether people already in the industry, careers service officers or recruitment consultants.

In conclusion, a one-stop shop to getting a job The Vault Guides are not: particularly this year when global budget cuts are resulting in the majority of top-tier milkround employers hiring fewer graduates than normal. Nonetheless, they are good things to read as a first port of call when working out which careers are of interest as you begin the job search. Further down the line, they also serve as a welcome last minute reminder on the train down to London this winter.

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