Top Career Development Books in 2021
- Best for Discovering Your Passion: What Color Is Your Parachute, The Artist’s Way
- Best for Career Development: StrengthsFinder 2.0, The Third Door, Limitless
- Best for Motivation: The Millionaire Next Door, Think Like a Breadwinner
- Best for Outsourcing: The 4-Hour Workweek
- Best for Honing Your Leadership Skills: Radical Candor, Dare to Lead
- Bonus (Best for Down Time): Bossypants, Lizz Free or Die, The Rosie Project
Careers are sometimes like that bread you left out a bit too long, with the best intentions of making a delicious sandwich out of it.
They can get a bit stale.
In order to freshen up your career, it’s important to discover a career that suits you, learn how best to climb the proverbial ladder, and get practical advice on how to hone your leadership skills.
The following researched books provide all of that plus much more. They contain insights and actionable advice for job seekers and career tweakers alike to develop and grow in your career.
Best for Discovering Your Passion
In an ideal world, we’d all be doing what we’re passionate about. Why not aim for “ideal” and see what happens?
Whether you’re just starting off on your career journey or imagining a different gig, these books will guide you on a journey to discovering what you love. Who knows, maybe it’ll turn into something profitable!
“What Color Is Your Parachute? 2021: Your Guide to a Lifetime of Meaningful Work and Career Success” is one of the most popular career advice books for a reason. With more than ten million copies sold over fifty years, this career guide’s a sure bet to finding and landing your dream job.
The book, written by Richard Nelson Bolles, was bestowed an honor in 1996 by The Library of Congress, which named it one of 25 books that have shaped readers’ lives. The book was also on the New York Times bestseller list for over a decade.
So, what can you expect from this trusted career book?
Bolles boils down all those things that seem overwhelming about job interviewing. He also encourages job seekers to take the reins in their own hands and do research about potential employers.
Here’s an excerpt from his book:
“What kind of information do you as job-hunter want to gather? That’s pretty simple. You use the interview to satisfy your every curiosity about the place, the job, and the people there. You try to find out “Do I like you all? Do I want to work here?” You want to find that out now, not have to quit in two months, or somewhere down the road.”
He covers tips on resume design and strategies for job hunting. This new version also includes social media tactics to reel in that job lickety-split. But, the bottom line of this book is just like the title suggests: finding a career that matches your “parachute” or personality.
Next up: another time-tested book that really helps you delve deeper into what you’re meant to do.
To put “The Artist’s Way” in perspective, Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Eat, Pray, Love,” stated:
“Without The Artist’s Way, there would have been no Eat, Pray, Love.”
In other words, this book enabled her to write her own blockbuster book.
Need I say more? Okay, probably a bit! The author of The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron, has written over thirty books and is also an award-winning playwright.
The full title: “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity” is truly that. It’s so popular that support groups around the world use this book as the foundation of a 12-week program to gain self-confidence and harness their creativity.
The book’s main thrust is to engage in a morning ritual of writing three pages daily without making corrections to unblock creative channels. And the other ritual is going on an “artist’s date” each week. This means leaving work obligations and notification checking behind and simply going to a place for inspiration, whether a park or art gallery.
For those, like myself, who don’t consider themselves particularly creative, Cameron says:
“We are all creative. With a few simple tools, you can move into your creativity. It’s never too late.”
The main message of this book is to infuse your life with creativity. Unblocking your creativity means unlocking potential you may not have known you had. All that can lead you to a job or career that is more in line with your natural abilities and skills.
Best for Career Development
In order to develop, you need to know your strengths. And Gallup stepped up to the challenge of helping millions to discover their top five strengths.
Once you know your strengths, you can optimize those in your current job or find the job or position that’s most suitable for you. After you take the online assessment, you can learn how to apply those using the highly personalized method in this book:
The author, Tom Rath, is a senior scientist and advisor at Gallup. He’s the author of several international bestsellers and one of the most distinguished authors of the last decade.
The Economist recognized StrengthsFinder 2.0 as the top-selling career book globally in 2007. The book identifies thirty-four strengths, so you can identify your “Talent DNA.”
These strengths, allied CliftonStrengths, (after Don Clifton, who spent decades researching them), are categorized into four domains:
- Strategic thinking
- Relationship building
You will find out what you’re naturally best at and what you may need to work on to accomplish tasks that are outside of your natural skill set.
When you know what your innate strengths are, you’ll want to find the key to success. And the key to “the third door.”
2. The Third Door: The Wild Quest to Uncover How the World’s Most Successful People Launched Their Careers
by Alex Banayan
Here’s an excerpt:
“There’s the First Door: the main entrance, where 99 percent of people wait in line, hoping to get in. The Second Door: the VIP entrance, where the billionaires and celebrities slip through. But what no one tells you is that there is always, always… the Third Door. It’s the entrance where you have to jump out of line, run down the alley, bang on the door a hundred times, crack open the window, sneak through the kitchen–there’s always a way.”
This international bestseller, written by Alex Banayan, describes his own journey as an 18-year-old who finds unconventional ways to interview highly successful people (like chasing Larry King in a grocery store)!
The teenager managed one-on-one interviews with the following famous personalities:
The one thing that Alex found that they all had in common: they all discovered success by using “the third door.”
The concept of “the third door” is that there are ways to achieve things that are not always on a clear path. Networking with those who know whom we’d like to know can allow us a means to having a sit-down conversation with them, as an example.
If you’re reading this, you most certainly would like to have a dream job and live your best, or rather exceptional, life, right? The following book will show you how to elevate your mental aptitude and learn quickly. Those are key aspects in developing yourself in your career.
by Jim Kwik
The author, Jim Kwik, shows you how to “flip your mindset.” Based on the premise that our brains are akin to supercomputers, Jim explains how to reprogram our thoughts and assumptions so we can move towards positive thinking and greater possibilities.
Seeing as he’s worked closely with CEOs, professional athletes, and leaders in many industries, his methods are a sure bet.
This book will help you unlock your brain power and apply it in your personal and professional life, with the author being a renowned “brain coach.”
Best for Motivation
Money is not always the top motivator. But it sure doesn’t hurt!
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to increase your wealth. It’s sometimes difficult to know how to approach obtaining a position that will bring in greater income.
If you’d like to know the secret to financial success, the following authors will give you a helping hand—and possibly a fatter wallet.
This bestseller by William Danko and Thomas Stanley is sure to inspire you with practical advice based on the practices of those who’ve “made it.” They show how to amass wealth through thriftiness.
by Dr. Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko
This book is based on countless interviews and data which show that becoming a millionaire is within reach of the “average Joe” (or Jane)—if you’re willing to make some sacrifices.
The next book is mainly for women who would like to bring home the bacon and not stress too much; author Jennifer Barrett has the answer.
2. Think Like a Breadwinner: A Wealth-Building Manifesto for Women Who Want to Earn More (And Worry Less)
by Jennifer Barrett
Barrett is CEO at Acorns, a financial wellness app. She’s also the founding editor of a site called “Grow.” She was the Personal Finance Editor at CNBC Digital and has written financial articles for Forbes, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, to name a few.
This book provides the path for women to take charge of their financial futures. Jennifer teaches about money behaviors and attitudes and helps readers become more confident and smart about money.
Best for Outsourcing
What would you say about a 4-hour workweek? Sounds pretty tempting, doesn’t it?
Many employers don’t take advantage of all the opportunities out there for outsourcing. One book lays it all out and leaves room for plenty of “me” time.
Tim Ferris’ book shows the path to using outsourcing to become more flexible and greater relaxation time through more focused and quality output at work.
by Timothy Ferriss
Tim explains how to follow his D.E.A.L. concept, which stands for the following:
- Definition—which shows how to redefine objectives
- Elimination—it’s amazing how many things lack quality and can be eliminated
- Automation—examines using automation to free up time and allow cash to flow at the push of a button
- Liberation—this is about freedom from a static workspace
And with more time on your hands, you can focus on improving your leadership skills.
Best for Honing Your Leadership Skills
Leaders have a lot on their plate, and sometimes it’s possible to lose sight of self-improvement. Every leader has room for growth. Even if you aren’t in a management position, you can groom yourself into a leadership spot by reading books by those who know best.
For those who would like to be an amazing boss and stay human, the next book is for you.
by Kim Scott
Author Kim Scott led teams at AdSense, YouTube, and Google teams. She was a faculty member at Apple University.
She co-founded two companies: Just Work, aimed at helping organizations and individuals establish equitable workplaces. And Radical Candor, a company that helps to eliminate the world of bad bosses.
The idea of “radical candor” is the premise of the book. The Radical Candor website states that:
“Radical Candor is Caring Personally while Challenging Directly. At its core, Radical Candor is guidance and feedback that’s both kind and clear, specific and sincere.”
She posits that it’s a boss’s moral obligation to challenge their employees when they screw up. She explains how to do that effectively. This book contains a great toolkit for all bosses.
Next up: Brené Brown.
Brené has made quite a name for herself as the author of five #1 New York Times bestsellers, the host of the Unlocking Us podcast, and as a Ted Talk dynamo.
Make sure to add this to your leadership honing book list:
by Brené Brown
In this book, Brené, a research professor at the University of Houston, has done extensive research on vulnerability and has worked on transforming leaders and teams to become more open about things that bring them shame and healing.
Bonus: Best for Down Time
This last section is devoted to lunch break and vacation reads. These books wouldn’t ever be classified as “career development books,” but research shows that stepping away from the computer and taking a break from the grind can actually increase productivity.
We’re more creative and energetic when we’ve had a chance to not think about work and even have a laugh.
These books meet the chuckle-trigger criteria:
- Bossypants by Tina Fey really dishes out the LOLs, so be careful if listening to the audiobook at your desk at work that you don’t guffaw too loudly!
- Co-creator of “The Daily Show,” Lizz Winstead, wrote Lizz Free or Die—a laugh-out-loud book about coming into her own as a comic.
- The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, about a genius with Asperger’s who meets a great girl and the challenges he faces. A touching love story with a unique twist.
To Wrap Up
There are hundreds of experts out there who can help to motivate you to develop yourself and find meaningful work. Many of them have written books in order to share their wisdom so we can all benefit from it.
Take advantage of the sage advice awaiting you, so you can find the perfect job or level up in your career.
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