Your career is so much more than just a job. It’s simple enough to find a job that pays the bills. Building your career, unlike finding a job, is a lifetime pursuit. Building a career requires dedication, both to yourself and to the work that you do. Creating a career involves persistence as it will not always be easy to find fulfilling work while moving your way up the career ladder—and these days, many career paths do not resemble a ladder at all, but rather a long and winding road.
Lastly, building a career requires thinking smart about the sort of life you want to lead, about your skills and passions, and about the kind of work that can help you achieve maximum happiness and fulfillment.
If you feel like your career is firmly planted in a rut, some of the best advice out there comes in book form. We put together this handy list of the best books for career advice to read today to get you started on the right foot or back on track if you happened to stray a bit.
1. Designing Your Life – Bill Burnett & Dave Evans
Design thinking can help you build your way forward from wherever you are, regardless of the life design problem you’re facing. In the design field, every single choice is intentional—especially the ones that you don’t even notice. The same design thinking responsible for amazing technology, products, and spaces can be used to design and build your career and your life.
In Designing Your Life, you will learn how to apply this same thinking to the choices you make in your own life and intentionally build a system that works for you. Find out how to use Mind Maps and become immune to failure.
The strategies provided here will teach you to take action, and if that does not work, reset and try again. If you’re stuck in some area of your career, pick this one up.
So much of what is intimidating about asking your manager for a raise or a promotion is the actual negotiation process — framing your ask in a way that won’t seem outrageous without lowballing yourself. This book, written by the FBI’s former lead hostage negotiator, is designed to give you strategies to navigate that process as successfully as possible.
When you view negotiating as a constant practice, rather than just for selective circumstances, you’ll begin to see the benefits of engaging fully in your potential and taking actionable steps to get there.
3. So Good They Can’t Ignore You – by Cal Newport
Most people will tell you that to find a fulfilling career, you need to follow your heart and passions, but according to the author of “So Good They Can’t Ignore You,” most people are wrong. Matching your job to a preexisting passion does not matter, he reveals. Passion comes after you put in the hard work to become excellent at something valuable, not before.
Cal Newport makes the case that developing skills rather than focusing on the desires you already have is the key to successful career experiences.
With a title taken from the comedian Steve Martin, who once said his advice for aspiring entertainers was to “be so good they can’t ignore you,” Cal Newport’s clearly written manifesto is mandatory reading for anyone fretting about what to do with their life, or frustrated by their current job situation and eager to find a fresh new way to take control of their livelihood. He provides an evidence-based blueprint for creating work you love.
So Good They Can’t Ignore You will change the way you think about your career, happiness, and the crafting of a remarkable life.
4. The Pathfinder – Nicholas Lore
The Pathfinder is great for people at all career stages, from recent grads to longtime workers looking for a new career path. In the book, career coach Nicholas Lore lays out how to figure out what you want to do and how to set your course to get to that point. Lore uses diagnostic tools and tests from the career and networking hub, the Rockport Institute, to guide readers through the first (or next steps) on their career paths. Originally published in 1998, this book still receives rave reviews from readers who have used it as a means to discover a more engaging, fulfilling work path. With more than 100 self-assessments and diagnostic tools, The Pathfinder can help you see your career in a whole new light. This is a great book whether you’re starting off or looking for a career change.
5. Moving the Needle: Get Clear, Get Free, and Get Going in Your Career, Business, and Life! – Joe Sweeney & Mike Yorkey
If you feel like you’re stuck in a rut, either in your job or in your industry, Moving the Needle is designed to help you shake up the status quo, and move forward in your career with a refreshed sense of purpose. If you have no idea what said refreshed purpose could be, this book gives you the tools you need to figure that out.
When your job search isn’t going well, it’s easy to feel like you’ll be stuck where you are forever. Sweeney’s book outlines a plan to help you figure out what you want and chart your path to professional and personal progress. Don’t let yourself get stuck in a boring status quo—embrace ideas like risk and innovation that can help you move your career in a more fulfilling direction.
6. Invaluable: Master the 10 Skills You Need to Skyrocket Your Career – Maya Grossman
In this engaging and practical career development book, marketing expert and career coach Maya Grossman uncovers the 10 soft skills that every professional needs to master to evolve from a “typical” to an “invaluable” employee―the top talent every company wants to attract and retain.
If you want to accomplish more than you ever thought possible and accelerate your career development, this is the book you’ve been waiting for. It will help you position yourself at the top, deliver staggering results, future-proof your career, and get the job, promotion, or raise you want and deserve.
This isn’t your typical career advice but rather a practical step-by-step career guide to help you grow your career. Plus, Maya has an amazing toolkit that accompanies the book. The Career Development Toolkit will help you clearly identify your next career moves. This is a must-read book for anyone who needs help planning, executing, and tracking their career success.
7. The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success – Megan McArdle
This book is great if you’re recovering from a perceived career failure. We all face failure in life, whether it’s in our careers or personal lives. What matters is how we handle it. But how can you become one of those people who turn failures into learning experiences? No one likes to fail, but it’s an inevitable part of everyone’s career at some point. The key is managing those failures, embracing the challenges that come with taking chances, and taking the necessary lessons forward into the rest of one’s career. This book takes real-world stories of failure to illustrate how to embrace and move on from setbacks.
Cuddy’s book offers in-depth research on how your physical presence can change your mental energy and your confidence level. No matter what your line of work, making a great first impression is essential—and it is just as important to make sure that this first interaction is genuine and thoughtful.
Whether you are meeting a new potential boss for a job interview or giving a public speech, people can always tell if you are genuine, so learning how to build a “presence” and showing your genuine self is vital. To accomplish this, Harvard professor Amy Cuddy teaches you how to tweak everything from your body language to the way you think about big challenges in her book, Presence. This book is filled with brilliant research, but it’s also written for the average person and you’ll be able to start using her advice from day one.
9. Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers and Seize Success – Dr. Dawn Graham
Dr. Graham’s insightful book Switchers tells the story of completely switching up your career, and how to do it the right way. There’s even a section on how to craft the perfect resume that will catch their attention within six seconds.
Switchers provides proven strategies that will get you where you want to go. The first step is to recognize that the usual rules and job search tools won’t work for you. Resumes and job boards were designed with traditional applicants in mind. As a career switcher, you have to go beyond the basics, using tactics tailor-made to ensure your candidacy stands out. Packed with psychological insights, practical exercises, and inspiring success stories, Switchers helps you leap over obstacles and into a whole new field.
10. Do What You Are – Paul Tieger
If you’re struggling with your career path, unsure of which industry to pursue, or simply unhappy in your current role, this is the book for you. Do What You Are is basically a handbook for folks who are looking to determine which type of work would fit best with their own personality traits. You use your personality type to help you through the process of finding the right career.
There’s no magic answer here, but you’re able to use your Myers-Briggs results to lead you to an entire chapter based on career paths that could be excellent fits for you in your career.
This book includes advice and workbook exercises that use personality types as the foundation for exploring what’s best for us when it comes to our working selves.
None of these book suggestions alone will be the key to your career success. It still takes self-reflection, education, experimenting, and plenty of other things to get there. But these books are a good start. If none of these books spark your interest check out the website What Should I Read Next? It gives you book recommendations tailored to what you’re specifically looking to read. If you are looking for more career advice check out the Meratas blog!