8 must read books for every stage of your career

8 must read books for every stage of your career

28 April 2017

Whatever challenge you face in your career has likely been faced somebody else before. And there’s a decent chance that person has written about their experience.

So, don’t go it alone. Get some guidance and inspiration from the following titles assembled by Business Insider:

1. When You’ve Just Graduated:

Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

As you’re emerging from the undergraduate cocoon, the real world can seem very, very big. And it can be hard to figure out your place in it.

Enter “design thinking,” a process that’s typically used to improve on an object or experience, like a lightbulb or online dating. Burnett and Evans teach a course at Stanford called “Designing Your Life,” in which they teach students how to apply the principles of design thinking to their own careers and relationships.

The book is an extension of the course, and includes helpful exercises such as “Odyssey Planning,” in which you map out different ways your life could potentially unfold. In one life, for example, you could be a lounge singer; in another, you could be an investment banker.

The goal of this particular exercise is to realise that you could do a lot of things—and many of them could make you happy and unfulfilled. So don’t worry too much about choosing perfectly.

2. When You’ve Landed Your First Job:

Give and Take by Adam Grant

There’s a common misconception that, to get ahead, you’ve got to be ruthless, sometimes succeeding professionally at other people’s expense.

In his 2013 book, Wharton professor Adam Grant argues that “giving”—being willing to help others—is really the secret to advancing in your career.

That said, it’s important to give effectively—for example, by giving in ways that align with both your needs and the needs of your organisation. Otherwise, you’ll put yourself at risk of burning out.

Grant makes his case with both research to support the link between giving and success and anecdotes about well-known givers in the business world.

3. When you’re trying to network more:

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

This 1937 bestseller is a favourite of legendary investor Warren Buffett and is the go-to resource for anyone looking to improve his or her interpersonal skills.

One of the most memorable lessons from the book: To be interesting, be interested. That is, your conversation partner will like you more if you simply let them talk about themselves.

Business Insider‘s Richard Feloni rounded up other lessons, including the importance of acknowledging your own mistakes and encouraging other people to think they reached a conclusion on their own—even if it was your idea.

4. When You’re a First-Time Manager:

Radical Candor by Kim Scott

Some people are thrilled to be responsible for other people’s success in addition to their own; others, less so. But everyone could use some guidance.

According to Kim Scott, a former Google and Apple executive and CEO coach, there’s only one effective way to lead: “radical candour.”

Radical candour is fundamentally about being straight with your employees, while still being a compassionate human being. In other words, Scott says, you simultaneously “challenge directly” while “caring personally”.

Feedback is a key component of radical candour. You tell employees directly when they have screwed up and what they can do to improve. You also actively solicit input from your team on how you can be a better manager.

5. When You’re Brokering a Deal (Or Asking for a Raise):

Negotiating the Nonnegotiable by Daniel Shapiro

Just because you’re not a particularly combative person doesn’t mean you can avoid negotiating. Whether you’re petitioning your boss for a raise or trying to land a deal with a client, it helps to know how to argue for what you want.

Shapiro is the founder and director of the Harvard International Negotiation Program; he’s led conflict-management initiatives in the Middle East and worked with leaders in government and business.

The thrust of the book is that appealing to rationality isn’t always the best way to resolve a dispute; instead, both parties in a negotiation have to be willing to get in touch with the conflict’s more emotional underpinnings.

One piece of advice Shapiro shares in the book: Figure out your “repetition compulsion.” It’s the pattern of behaviour you display repeatedly in negotiation situations, usually to your detriment. If you can pinpoint that compulsion, you can figure out how to act differently, so that you have a better chance of getting the outcome you want.

6. When You’re Planning to Start a Family:

Unfinished Business by Anne-Marie Slaughter

When it comes to juggling work and family, there are no easy answers—and the sooner you realise that, the less stressed and frustrated you’ll be later in life.

Unfinished Business, a follow-up to Slaughter’s 2012 article in The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All“, says no one can really have it all today. Slaughter, the former director of policy planning for the US State Department under Hillary Clinton, makes the case for policy and cultural changes that will lay the ground for gender equality and help all workers lead more meaningful lives.

Proposals for change are juxtaposed with anecdotes from Slaughter’s own life, in particular the conflict she faced between pursuing a high-octane career in foreign policy and taking care of her family. It’s an incredibly thought-provoking read and a helpful guide to setting yourself up for success at work and at home.

7. When You’re Moving into a Senior Leadership Position:

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter

Goldsmith is a psychologist and an executive coach and his book is full of no-nonsense self-improvement advice.

The title phrase reflects the idea that just because you’ve been able to get by with your counterproductive habits doesn’t mean you’ll be able to reach the top of your field with those same tendencies.

Goldsmith and Reiter highlight the 20 workplace habits that keep business leaders from success, and outline how to go about fixing your problem areas. For example, you’ll want to solicit “feedforward” in addition to feedback, so you get ideas for the future.

Another eyebrow-raising idea from the book: What other people think of you is more important than what you think of you. If someone says you’re too aggressive but you don’t think you are, it’s time to work on toning it down.

8. When You’re Making a Career Change:

Pivot by Jenny Blake

A “pivot”, as Blake defines it, is a career change big or small. Maybe you’re quitting your full-time job to launch a start-up, or maybe you’re hoping to switch to another department at your current company.

Whatever you’re aiming to do, Pivot will help break down both your dreams and your fears into manageable pieces.

Blake is a career coach and former Googler who’s already pivoted multiple times. She started out on the AdWords product training team at Google; then helped launch Google’s Career Guru program; then left Google after publishing her first book, Life After College, to start a business based on her blog and book.

A pivot is a four-step process: plant, scan, pilot, and launch. You can go through the cycle multiple times until you feel ready to make the change.

Most importantly, Blake says that even if you don’t land exactly where you thought you would, you’ll probably be in a better place that’s more suited to your skills and interests.