10 Books to Jumpstart Your Career After a Slump
From "Big Magic" to "The Confidence Code."
No matter how old we are or how long we’ve been working, we all have questions when it comes to careers—from how to respond to a rejection letter to learning to say no when a role isn’t a good fit. That’s where Career Counselor comes in. In this weekly series, we connect with experts to answer all of your work-related questions. Because while we don’t all have the luxury of a career coach, we still deserve to grow in our careers.
After a year and a half, most careers have been reimagined. While some of us have turned sofas into desks and others had to juggle childcare and professional obligations, some people had to totally rethink what their career looks like as entire industries dramatically changed. That’s all to say, with it being a hell of a year, people are most likely feeling burnt out—but where do we go from here? Do we need to rediscover the “inspiration” that made us take our current role? Or, is it time for a complete career change?
Whatever it is you’re feeling, a good book could help pull you out of the slump. You might need a career book that gives you clear next steps, or one that offers general feel-good inspiration and reassurance, that yes, you got this. And, hey, even if you’ve had a banner career year and you’re feeling pumped for what’s ahead, these books are still a great read to keep the momentum up!
Best career books to read:
1. Radical Candor
Author Kim Scott not only has an impressive résumé that includes working at Apple University and Google but she also has a knack for storytelling in a relatable, slightly tough love, humorous way that makes you forget you’re reading a management-focused book.
Her tales of working in Silicon Valley add color to a narrative that’s all about bringing your human self into the workplace. She believes people should be firm, but compassionate, and that everyone has strengths to bring to the table––they just need to be realized. If you’re a manager feeling burnt out trying to navigate WFH culture, this book can light a fire under how good it feels to bring out the best in people.
2. Designing Your Life
“Design thinking” can sound like a buzzword that’s thrown around management and marketing programs to talk about how one can creatively think outside the box and solve a problem. But it’s a concept used to distinguish the innovators from the pack. And in Designing Your Life, authors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans make the case for—you, guessed it—designing your life, which includes your career, with the same creativity and enthusiasm. If you don’t like where you are, what can you change by innovating?
3. The Confidence Code
When you’re feeling like you’re in a career slump, it can be hard to muster up the confidence to show up every day, much less figure out what’s next. Authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman talk to psychologists to get to the bottom of what drives confidence––and why you need it to succeed. They find out that, yes, some of it is ingrained in who we are, but you also have the power to choose to be confident and take control of your life direction.
4. You Are A Badass Every Day
Jen Sincero’s books can sometimes have a bad rap for how simplistically and colloquially they’re written—but, let me tell you, she knows how to make a reader feel like, “YES, I’ve got this!”
I picked up this book in an airport bookstore on my way to South America during a particularly frustrating time at my old job. In this book’s 224 pages, which read incredibly fast, I found myself totally regaining my motivation to go back to work and crush it by dealing with colleague drama and taking ownership over my own “product.” Now, whenever I’m feeling those stagnant career feelings creep in, I give this a quick reread.
5. Big Magic
Becca Freeman of the Bad on Paper podcast has said she rereads Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic every January. And that makes sense, it’s a book that helps you reset the way you look at the world and reminds you to think differently about creativity.
She doesn’t necessarily talk about scarcity, but she does say that creativity and ideas are floating around in the world and, if you don’t act on them, someone else will. With that in mind—along with her emphasis on pursuing passions just because they bring you joy—you’ll finish this book motivated to just do it; whatever it is. You only get one shot to carve out the life and career you want, so don’t waste this incredible opportunity.
So much success comes from how we present ourselves to the world, not just our work output. And, when we’re in a career slump, it can be hard to remember how to access that confident demeanor. Author Amy Cuddy discusses how you can learn to maintain a calm, collected, bold presence, even when you’re feeling anything but—and, in the process, cultivate that as your day-to-day baseline.
Susan Cain’s book Quiet has been quietly passed around workplace circles for almost a decade now. Now, as we come out of a year where introverts thrived in a remote environment, this book maybe even more relevant.
It’s often the loudest voices that are heard in the workplace, but there’s power in the ability to listen and offer perspective. So, if you’re feeling anxious about returning to a work environment that you don’t feel is effective for introverts like you, read this book and learn why your presence is so critical.
8. Steal Like an Artist
Whether or not you consider yourself to be in a creative job, everyone can benefit from flexing their creative muscles. Author Austin Kleon teaches you to pursue what makes you tick, to take the initiative to do things yourself when you see an opportunity and to write the book you want to read. These are all simple and important lessons we can use in the workplace day in and day out, yet we don’t always take the time to remember them. Oh, and be nice. Isn’t that the most important tip of them all?
9. The Mother of All Jobs
This is the book so many people probably need in 2021. Author Christine Armstrong found herself torn between motherhood and her career, and she wanted to know she wasn’t alone. So, she interviewed working mothers to show the realities of pursuing both of these things in tandem. This book won’t give you all the answers, but it will help you feel seen, and sometimes that’s all someone really needs to get their vibe back.
10. What Color Is Your Parachute?
Here’s your practical advice book. The one you’ll hear mentioned again and again by career experts. Updated just this year, this career book by Richard Bolles and Katherine Brooks was first published fifty years ago and, yet, so much of the advice still holds up today.
From figuring out what it is you want in your career and life to the nitty-gritty of polishing up your résumé and honing your social media presence, this is the book to pick up when you’re ready to go from reinvigorating your outlook on your career to taking specific, directed steps towards something new.