2009 Recap: My Favorite Career Books of the Year

December 30, 2009

Full disclosure: all books mentioned below were purchased by me in 2009…

2009 was another year of career transition for me.  I spent considerable time on my job hunt including time spent revising my resume, dabbling in different social media tools and attending networking events.  However, one of the most important things I did this year was to embark on some intense career exploration.

This exploration included the reading of many career-related books. As part of a 2009 recap, I wanted to share with you my three favorite career books that I read and studied this year (they were not necessarily published in 2009):

Wake Up Inspired by Marian Baker

I had a chance to see Marian Baker speak at the my local career center during the spring and I was very impressed.  I enjoyed her ability to combine information about finding our right work with an eye on big-picture spirituality.

Her book emphasizes the importance of not just finding a job, but also a career filled with inspiration and passion. What I liked the most about this book: its numerous exercises designed to help us to tune into what we are looking for.  It contains some of the best writing prompts and exercises that I’ve seen and used in any career-related book. Reading WUI felt a lot like going through a coaching experience.  Through the exercises, I felt like I discovered a lot more about myself.

While this book seems to be geared toward women, I know that its lessons can be applied by anyone seeking something more in their careers.

To learn more about Marian, including her book and coaching information, check out her website here.

Escape From Cubicle Nation by Pamela Slim

I’ve been a fan of Pamela Slim’s blog for some time now, but was very intrigued to learn that she released a book earlier in the year. So when I found out she was coming to Chicago to give a day-long seminar based on her book Escape From Cubicle Nation, I signed up quickly.  It turned out to be one of the highlights of my summer.

Escape from Cubicle Nation covers everything you need to know about going into business for yourself including all of the fears and realities of being an entrepreneur. The book also includes some powerful exercises to get ideas flowing.

In the book, Pam talks about the importance of having and finding our “tribe.” Attending her seminar, I came to the realization that Pam’s tribe of seminar attendees had some amazing business ideas and were incredibly talented and creative people. Included in this group is Colleen Wainwright, aka the Communicatrix, who also presented during an afternoon session.

This book continues to be a source of great information and a valuable reference as I continue on my career journey. Whether I go into business for myself sooner or later, I know that EFCN will figure prominently.

For more information about Pam Slim, including a free chapter from the book, check out her Escape From Cubicle Nation blog here.

Strengthsfinder 2.0 by Tom Rath

Earlier in the month, I took a class at my career center based on this book and Marcus Buckingham’s Go Put Your Strengths to Work.

Central to Strengthsfinder 2.0 is Gallup’s online assessment which gives its readers five key strengths.  The whole premise of both the Tom Rath and Marcus Buckingham books is that our greatest priority should be building upon our greatest strengths rather than improving our biggest weaknesses.  I found the assessment to be very interesting and enlightening.

I also feel fortunate to be part of a class that discusses these strengths and examines them in greater detail. The book includes some great ideas for action that are based on your strengths and the website offers more resources.

One note of caution: do not buy this book used or use a library copy.  Each copy of the book contains an access code that can be used for the online assessment just once. This annoyed me at first, but I think the information is valuable enough that it is worth the cost of the book.

To learn more about Tom Rath’s book, click here.

So how about you…what are your favorite career books and why?

1 Lori December 30, 2009 at 3:02 pm

Hi Tim,
I always enjoy posts like this, highlighting/describing books that have been of help or enjoyment – so thanks for writing this for us.

It sounds like you’ve going through a considerable amount of self-discovery and done a lot of “homework” regarding your next step career-wise. From my perspective, this is so very important than just floating from one job to the next without taking time to really figure out what makes sense or where one’s strengths lie. Congrats for this!

A friend sent me a video recently about that, actually, building one’s strengths as opposed to *patching* weaknesses. I’ll send the link to you as I think it may resonate with you.

Congrats for the efforts you’ve put into your next steps, Tim, I am 100% sure all your work will pay off!

As for your question about career books – one of the books I read, which I’ll never forget, was a career book about alternative careers in science (i.e., What do you do with a Ph.D. when you’re burned out at the bench?).

It was pretty young at the time (looking back) and it gave me hope/reassurance that I wouldn’t be wasting the 10 years of my life I spent training for a bench-science career if I chose to not use my science background at the bench.

Not sure how much that comment helps anyone reading your comment section – other than to know that reading, investigating, and attending workshops can really open one’s eyes to possibility that’s hard to see when you’re in a certain “box.” You know?

Thanks for another excellent, thought-provoking post, Tim.
Happy early New Year’s, too! 🙂

2 Tim December 30, 2009 at 5:45 pm

Hi Lori: Thanks for your comment…I’d love to see that video you mentioned. I’ve spent time reading a lot of books…but I know my next step,which I will get to in the new year, is to conduct a few (actually a lot of) informational interviews. I’ve done a few of these and they are really great, no-pressure ways of gathering information and building a network. Actually, if anyone else out there is doing some career soul-searching, I would highly recommend doing informational interviews. Essentially, you have the chance to talk to people about their jobs without asking for a job.

It is good to know that the book you read helped and re-assured you in your early days. I know there’s a lot of stuff out there and it can be a little crazy and overwhelming sometimes. I tend to do a lot of research and analysis about things before making decisions, but sometimes (and I need to remember this) you just need to leap and take action. Hope your new year’s is rockin’!

3 Tim December 31, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Hi Nadia: Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the book idea…it sounds interesting! I know what you mean about finding our right job…there are a lot of lists out there that will share with us the “hottest” jobs, etc. This is good information, but like you said, its all about enjoying our work. Thank you for your New Year’s wishes…I wish you an awesome, healthy and prosperous 2010! Yep, I plan on smiling and laughing more…even if it hurts me 😉

4 suzen January 1, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Hi Tim!
Great book reviews! I haven’t read any business books this year, unless What Would Google Do? counts. I found that positively fascinating! Since I’m in more of a retirement mode now, I only wish I’d had the opportunity to read those 25 years ago! It’s very encouraging to me though, to see that you can find help in books for careers. I’ve relied on books/research so much that both are still are huge part of my life no matter what the subject matter!

I hope this new year brings you joy – and good coffee!

5 Tim January 1, 2010 at 11:04 pm

Hi Suzen: What Would Google Do sounds like a really interesting book. I know I’ve read a lot of career books and they have been a big help for me. I will say though, that they have their limitations…sometimes it is best to talk to someone, which I’ve done (but probably not often enough). In the case of the Tom Rath book, I’m working in a group setting and that has been very helpful to hear about other peoples’ challenges, as well. Sorry to ramble about this. It is also good to learn that you’re a book lover, too! Thanks for the good wishes (and virtual coffee), I hope you have a fantastic new year!

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