The best self-improvement books are not only fixtures on your bookshelf, but sit next to your bed, rest on the corner of your desk and get packed in the suitcase for vacations. You hold on to them throughout your career, pulling them out every few months, skipping to your favorite chapters to relearn lessons and sharpen your competitive edge.
Below, we’ve listed some of our must-haves — books that provide value regardless of where you are in your professional and personal growth.
1. "Choose a Career and Discover Your Perfect Job: 105 Tips on Work Attitude and Motivation" Gary Vurnum and Patrick Merlevede
THE GIST: In a world where positivity and motivation can fade by lunchtime on a Monday, consider this book an energy drink for your career ambitions. It challenges you to place more emphasis on what makes you happiest — not necessarily what pads your paycheck. While you can certainly read the book cover-to-cover in a few sittings, the authors suggest choosing a particular tip from the book each day and implementing it. In effect, the book offers a 15-week crash course in evaluating your professional and personal goals and matching them to jobs that are truly fulfilling.
WHAT WE LIKE: The authors offer readers access to a free strengths and weaknesses assessment (sign-in required), designed to provide you with an honest view of what you have to offer a potential employer.
THE GIST: Written by Google’s Senior Vice President of People Operations, "Work Rules!" subscribes to the philosophy that positive work relationships and a supportive company culture are essential to success. The book provides a detailed case study and blueprint of the steps the search giant took to create an amazing place to work and a model of team-based productivity.
WHAT WE LIKE: A bit like getting the answers to the test before it’s been handed out, the book provides job seekers with an insider’s view of what smart companies are looking for in potential employees and cultural fit.
3. "The Unwritten Rules of the Highly Effective Job Search" Orville Pierson
THE GIST: If Laszlo Bock provided the answers to the test, Orville Pierson offers the intensive, step-by-step study guide to finding a job. The veteran job search expert lays out his proven methods for helping job seekers identify opportunities, develop a job search strategy and differentiate themselves from other candidates.
WHAT WE LIKE: Unlike many books that deal in theory and hypotheticals, Pierson’s provides a concrete plan. It’s a recipe for job search, introducing job seekers to various hiring scenarios (for example, how to pursue a newly created position) and advising them on how to get the most out of partners like career counselors and staffing companies.
4. "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead" Sheryl Sandberg
THE GIST: In a corporate environment that continues to favor men, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg provides advice for women faced with the unfair expectations set by society — and themselves. Blending personal stories and hard data, she offers inspiration for women, regardless of background, experience or profession.
WHAT WE LIKE: The unabashed honesty — Sandberg deals head-on with gender equality concerns that have festered in America’s corporate cultural consciousness for decades. From a job search perspective, her advice is clear: Look for positions (and organizations) focused on growth; they offer the greatest opportunities for career advancement and personal fulfillment.
5. "Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives" Gretchen Rubin
THE GIST: Your daily habits can influence your chances of success in life. That’s why countless books have been written on the habits of famous business people, public figures and celebrities. In her book, Rubin takes a different approach; instead of focusing on individuals, she explores four personality categories — and offers instructions for how to develop better habits based on your individual tendencies.
WHAT WE LIKE: Every job seeker can benefit from a little introspection and a personal improvement plan. To help, the author offers worksheets and templates for monitoring, measuring and making positive adjustments to your own habits. Download them free on her blog.
Whether you’re starting your professional library or adding to it, carve out a little space for these gems. Each offers a unique take on the job search, the challenges of the workplace and what it takes to build a career you can be proud of.
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