Summertime “best book” lists usually focus on easy, beachy reads — thrillers and bodice rippers that temporarily engage you but are easily forgotten. Here’s a list of career-minded books that should stay with you.
First a caveat: No book offers a sure menu for success. What you take away from reading is only as good as what you practice once you get out of the deck chair.
That said, here’s a totally arguable selection of career advice books that might be of use. First on the list, two old but gold standard recommendations:
“How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie: This is all about being nice to people, but not so nice that you’re a doormat. It prescribes a non-Machiavellian — or at least subtle — way to get along and yet get results you want without making people hate you.
“Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey: Business students the world over can recite the habits. If you don’t know “sharpen the saw,” it might be time to open the Covey toolbox.
Now on to more recent publications. Here are three books that might be of value to people who haven’t figured out exactly what they want to do with their work lives, or for people who worry that they’re not good at any one thing:
“Body of Work: Finding the Thread That Ties Your Story Together” by Pamela Slim, “Refuse to Choose: Use All of Your Interests, Passions and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams” by Barbara Sher and “I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was,” also by Sher.
If you’re interested in a little introspection as well as insight into why the smartest person in the room doesn’t necessarily get ahead but the former class president does, be sure to read another near-oldie but goodie by Daniel Goleman, “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.”
Author Keith Ferrazzi offers practical tips in the same vein in his “Never Eat Alone And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time.” The advice goes beyond cultivating lunch buddies at work — don’t fail to attend the cocktail party attached to a work convention.
If you think you hate your job because you didn’t get a raise or you’re waiting for a different motivational carrot, check out “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.” Author Daniel Pink argues that the secret to work satisfaction (not to mention strong performance) is self-directed.
But don’t ignore the fact that pleasing yourself is only part of the success equation. The other part is pleasing others. Especially in team environments, you have to get along. You have to help others look good too. Try “Give & Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success” by Adam Grant.
And for the entrepreneurial-minded, there’s plenty of praise for “The Art of the Start” by Guy Kawasaki. While it’s targeted more to high-tech startups, there’s universal advice about understanding the market and your (potential) customers.