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I was only two weeks into my new job at BetterUp.
A package arrived at the door. It was heavy — and I could tell it was already a little different than your typical swag bags that companies give out to new hires.
Excitedly, I brought the package into our kitchen and opened the box. Inside was a collection of books. As an avid reader and writer, this quite possibly was one of the best “new hire welcome gifts” I’ll ever receive.
At BetterUp, we’re big believers in staying on our edge. It’s embedded into our culture that to continue to grow, you need to continue to learn. But beyond the virtual walls of BetterUp, learning is critical to any transformational growth journey.
And according to LinkedIn’s 2022 Workforce Learning Report, people want to learn (and companies benefit from it). In fact, 94% of employees say taking time to learn is beneficial to their careers. And companies that excel at career mobility retain their employees nearly twice as long as companies that struggle with it.
One of the most accessible and best ways to learn is through reading. We’ve compiled a list of the twelve career books to help you stay on your edge. No matter what you're going through in your career journey, we’ve found a book for you.
What is a career book?
First, let’s take a minute to define what we mean by career book.
What is a career book?
A career book is a book that will help you further your career and develop you professionally. Career books often cover topics like leadership and career transitions. Career books can also cover professional development, relationship-building, and more.
We know there are plenty of career books out there. And truth be told, some are more useful than others. But because there’s such a wide range of career book offerings, you’re bound to find a book that is right for you, at this moment in your career.
A single career book isn't likely to guide you through your entire career. Some people do have one that they swear by, but for the rest of us, it's about finding the book that speaks to our need, challenges, and aspirations right now.
When you feel a bit stuck or lost, a good book can fuel some of the motivation to get unstuck. Maybe you need a fresh perspective or inspiration. Maybe you need tangible steps and a map. Maybe a particular author cuts through the noise to tell you exactly what you need to hear at this moment.
For example, let’s say caregiving responsibilities pushed pause on your career. But now your kids are older, and you’re ready to get back into the workforce. You might be struggling with how to re-enter the workforce, how to make your skills relevant, or how to reclaim your reputation. There’s a book for that.
Or let’s say you’ve identified with your coach that you want to hone your leadership skills. You can see yourself climbing up the corporate ladder but you want to make sure you invest in yourself as a leader. You’ve identified some areas to work on, like influencing, team-building, and communication. There’s a book for that.
Our career paths are multi-faceted and complex. Oftentimes, our careers are non-linear journeys where we tend to face obstacles at certain points in time. Books can provide food for thought and prompt reflection. They offer structure in our quiet moments of self-discovery.
Your coach is a great resource to overcome these obstacles but sometimes, supplemental resources are the homework we need in between times.
12 must-read career books to jump-start your journey
While there's no such thing as the 12 "best" books, these books are likely to hold something you need. Let’s dig into these 12 best career books so you can start stocking your shelves.
The Long Game: Best for planning long-term career success
Dorie Clark, industry-leading expert and adjunct professor at Duke University, shares how to break the cycle of feeling rushed, overwhelmed, and always like we’re behind.
In The Long Game: How to Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World, Clarke talks about how we all have the same 24 hours in a day. But with the right strategies, we can become more efficient and powerful in how we use our time. Clarke takes the reader through how to create strategies and frameworks for long-term success. Clarke talks about how to break out of the frantic day-to-day routine to transform your career.
The Confidence Code: Best for women
Authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman argue that women are better educated and more qualified than ever before. But there’s still one issue getting in the way: confidence.
The Confidence Code digs into research to help women lean into the corporate world with confidence. The book explores genetics, gender, behavior, and cognition. This book will offer women practice advice to achieve the careers women deserve (and some inspiration along the way).
I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was: Best for finding your purpose
Author Barbara Sher challenges readers that there could be more to life than what you’re getting. As a strong believer that a life without purpose is a life without passion, this book is a New York Times bestseller. It will guide you through finding your “long-lost goals” and overcoming the roadblocks along the way.
Drive: Best for finding your motivation
Pink also uses science and evidence to show us the surprising truth about what motivates us. For example, he tells readers through science why rewards and punishments usually backfire. He also explores the desire for purposeful, meaningful work.
Moms for Hire: Best for caregivers re-entering the workforce
This eight-step guide is for moms (or any parent) who want to re-enter the workforce after taking a career pause. Author Deborah Newmyer uses creative exercises, advice, and anecdotes from well-known working moms. These anecdotes and stories serve as inspiration to help readers re-enter (and overcome their fears).
This book also talks about finding fulfilling employment, learning how to negotiate, and giving voice to the desire for work. For anyone who has recently taken a career break but is looking for some career advice, this book is for you.
Expect to Win: Best for career growth and strategy
Expect to Win: Proven Strategies for Success from a Wall Street Vet is a must-read for anyone looking to progress in their career. Author Carla Harris is one of Wall Street’s most powerful women, which is no easy feat.
As Carla’s career progressed, she discovered survival skills needed for business success. She vowed to share her learnings with the world. In each chapter of this book, you’ll learn different pearls of wisdom to help fulfill your career potential.
Pivot: Best for figuring out your next career move
Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One is a must-read for figuring out what’s next. Author Jenny Blake is a former career development program manager at Google. In this book, she reveals how to methodically and strategically make your next career move.
In the last couple of years, we’ve seen millions of employees pivot their careers. No matter where you want to take your career, this book offers valuable insight.
Leaders Eat Last: Best for developing leadership skills
Author Simon Sinek is a celebrated career writer, especially when it comes to leadership books. A visionary and leader of a cultural revolution, Sinek challenges readers to question why.
In Leaders Eat Last, Sinek explains how an organization’s “why” helps to create sustainable, successful businesses. He cites human biology of how and when people are naturally at their best. This book digs into great leaders from the Marine Corps. Sinek shows us how we can borrow lessons to help deepen trust and commitment to leadership skills.
Designing Your Life: Best for finding meaning and purpose
Authors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans use parallels from design thinking to how to design our life. This book explores how to find meaning and purpose, regardless of who or where we are. It also digs into how to build your career (and your life).
At BetterUp, we believe that we bring our whole selves to work. This book parallels a lot of the thinking in our Whole Person Model. We don’t leave parts of ourselves at home when we show up at work — it’s simply not possible. This book helps adopt the same problem-solving of design thinking at scale. Ultimately, it helps to find a life of fulfillment and joy.
What Color is Your Parachute?: Best for approaching the job search to find career success
Richard N. Bolles' classic career book has been used by career counselors and job seekers for 50 years to thoughtfully approach the job search process. Published by Vanderbilt University, What Color is Your Parachute? 2021: Your Guide to a Lifetime of Meaningful Work and Career Success is updated to reflect newer challenges and tools available to job seekers.
At its core, you’ll still find the exercises, worksheets, and lists to work through a career assessment. Named the Flower Exercise, this self-inventory helps you think through your career (and your life) and design for your key interests, skills, and passions.
Radical Candor: Best for building relationships (especially for women)
Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity is a must-read for all the women in leadership out there. Women are no strangers to double standards. When it comes to navigating the corporate world (especially as a leader), it becomes increasingly difficult.
Author Kim Scott served as a successful manager at Google and Apple. Over the years, she earned growing fame for her method of effective leadership: radical candor.
In this book, Scott talks about finding that sweet spot between effective criticism and effective feedback. She identifies three simple principles for building better relationships with your employees. She also provides guidance on how to create a work environment where people thrive.
Think Again: Best for learning (and unlearning) in a changing world
These past couple of years have shown us more than ever that change happens fast.
And with rapid change comes rapid learning (and oftentimes, unlearning). This book is one of my favorite recent reads, one that challenges your traditional way of thinking.
Author Adam Grant (and BetterUp Science Board advisor) talks about the joy of being wrong and embracing the unknown. When it comes to uncertainty, we know we have plenty of uncertainty ahead of us. But with Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know, we’re challenged to shift our mindsets and perspectives.
Grant also digs into the science behind rethinking. In fact, he argues it’s a necessary skill (and the evidence backs it up). In the end, it’s about how we learn, unlearn, and rethink in a fast-changing world.
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: Best for finding career success
Author and world-renowned executive coach Marshall Goldsmith digs into what it means to be successful.
The corporate ladder is filled with successful people. And the closer you get to the top, the bigger differences those small nuances of success make.
In this book, you’ll learn valuable career advice that Goldsmith often gives out in his one-on-one coaching sessions. You’ll also learn how to make lasting behavior changes that have a big impact on your success. Goldsmith also offers step-by-step advice on how to find success and a fulfilling career.
Grow your career with BetterUp
But whether you're seeking opportunities in your current company or in a whole new industry, you don’t have to find your career path alone. Creating a roadmap for your career is no easy feat.
With the help of a coach, you can understand your values and motivations and create actionable steps to help further your career. Take your professional growth to the next level with the help of BetterUp. Whether you’re a job seeker knocking out job interviews or looking for your next move, get started today.
Madeline is a writer, communicator, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change. She holds a bachelor's in English Creative Writing and Communication Studies and lives in Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, she's usually somewhere outside (preferably in the mountains) — and enjoys poetry and fiction.