The best books for taking charge of your career

Why am I passionate about this?

As a kid, I dreamed of becoming a California beach lifeguard. Considering I grew up in Michigan, this was a rather aspirational choice. To my parents’ relief, my career goals shifted over time, as I realized my gift for writing. I became a journalist then went into marketing. But after years of cranking out corporate content, I (sadly) burned out on it, dropped everything, and became a recruiter. Within months, I missed writing – so much so that I started a career-related blog, which became a thriving business dedicated to helping people move their careers forward. Gratefully, this work led to an amazing assignment, writing Do This, Not That: Career


I wrote...

Do This, Not That: Career

By Jenny Foss,

Book cover of Do This, Not That: Career

What is my book about?

Do This, Not That: Career is a straightforward and easy-to-use guide that will help you navigate the modern workplace, gain the confidence you need to go after what you want, and build the career you dream about.

Organized into chapters based on themes like finding a new job, dealing with your boss, and handling common workplace dilemmas,  this book will help you identify what to do (and not do) in tricky situations, like: asking for a promotion or raise; dealing with a boss who is a micromanager; negotiating a job offer; managing team conflict; creating a “manager-worthy” resume; and many more!

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love

Jenny Foss Why did I love this book?

So Good They Can’t Ignore You changed the way I think, and how I coach clients. Like many people, I’d long assumed that “follow your passion” is good career advice. “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” right? 

Wrong. Cal Newport shatters this belief with a science-backed argument as to why “following your passion” often doesn’t lead to career fulfillment.

He studied the topic exhaustively and discovered that the people who report being happy most frequently are those who build valuable skills then leverage this know-how to gain access to the things that matter most to them.

So whether you’re chasing freedom, flexibility, recognition, autonomy, or a fancy corner office, this book maps out a viable path to a meaningful and rewarding career.

By Cal Newport,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked So Good They Can't Ignore You as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Cal Newport's clearly-written manifesto flies in the face of conventional wisdom by suggesting that it should be a person's talent and skill -- and not necessarily their passion -- that determines their career path. Newport, who graduated from Dartmouth College (Phi Beta Kappa) and recently earned a PhD. from MIT, contends that trying to find what drives us, instead of focusing on areas in which we naturally excel, is ultimately harmful and frustrating to job seekers. The title is a direct quote from comedian Steve Martin who, when once asked why he was successful in his career, immediately replied: "Be…


Book cover of Cues: Master the Secret Language of Charismatic Communication

Jenny Foss Why did I love this book?

I devoured body language expert Vanessa Van Edwards’ first book, Captivate, and was thrilled when I learned that she’d written Cues. What I love about Vanessa’s writing, and particularly this book, is that she makes scientific research (in this case, research on how to become more charismatic) interesting, easy to digest, and (importantly!) actionable.

It’s a great read for anyone who finds themselves struggling to connect with and engage others in the workplace, at interviews, or in day-to-day life. The book teaches you the cues that will help you be more charismatic in any setting.

By Vanessa Van Edwards,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Cues as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's not enough to have great ideas. You also need to know how to communicate them.

What makes someone charismatic? Why do some people captivate a room, while others have trouble managing a small meeting? What makes some ideas spread, while other good ones fall by the wayside?

Cues - the tiny signals we send to others 24/7 through our body language, facial expressions, word choices and vocal inflection - have a massive impact on how we, and our ideas, come across. Our cues can either enhance our message or undermine it.

In this entertaining and accessible guide to the…


Book cover of The Long Game: How to Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World

Jenny Foss Why did I love this book?

It’s hard to not want instant gratification, especially in our “get what you want, and now” culture. We see the shiny objects and opportunities for a quick win, and we chase them. Unfortunately, as Dorie Clark maps out in The Long Game, this frenetic behavior isn’t helpful if you want to achieve big goals. 

I discovered this book when life was starting to feel like a giant game of Whac-a-mole. Sure, I was achieving success, but I could never seem to find the time to get to a couple of long-range projects that really matter to me. 

The Long Game gave me several tangible tips for staying focused on my long-term goals in a world that pushes me, and all of us, to grab for those immediate, more shallow victories.

By Dorie Clark,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Long Game as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Wall Street Journal Bestseller

Your personal goals need a long-term strategy.

It's no secret that we're pushed to the limit. Today's professionals feel rushed, overwhelmed, and perennially behind. So we keep our heads down, focused on the next thing, and the next, without a moment to breathe.

How can we break out of this endless cycle and create the kind of interesting, meaningful lives we all seek?

Just as CEOs who optimize for quarterly profits often fail to make the strategic investments necessary for long-term growth, the same is true in our own personal and professional lives. We need…


Book cover of Designing Your New Work Life: How to Thrive and Change and Find Happiness--and a New Freedom--at Work

Jenny Foss Why did I love this book?

This book is fantastic. The authors, both Stanford professors, lay out in an engaging and conversational way how to find purpose and fulfillment in your work by applying design thinking (a concept that involves innovation and iterative problem-solving to improve products) to your career. In other words, your career is “the product”.

Designing Your Work Life is particularly great for anyone who’s feeling under-challenged or maybe even a bit burned out in their job, but not sure if quitting or making a big career change is the right move. Why? Because it’ll teach you how to redesign your job (again, using design thinking) to become something you actually love.

By Bill Burnett, Dave Evans,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Designing Your New Work Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the authors of the #1 New York Times bestseller Designing Your Life comes a revised, fully up-to-date edition of Designing Your New Work Life,a timely, urgently needed book that shows us how to transform our new uncharted work life into a meaningful dream job or company. With practical, useful tools, tips, and design ideas that show us how to navigate disruption (global, regional, or personal) and create new possibilities for our post-COVID work world and beyond.

Bill Burnett and Dave Evans successfully taught graduate and undergraduate students at Stanford University and readers of their best-selling book, Designing Your Life…


Book cover of A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life

Jenny Foss Why did I love this book?

I stumbled upon A Curious Mind while browsing cookbooks in a thrift store. What a find it was! The book shares the story of Hollywood movie producer Brian Grazer (Splash, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind), and how his endless curiosity served as a true game-changer in his rapid rise to the top of his industry.

While there’s a hint of how-to A Curious Mind, it’s more an inspiring story that keeps you interested and helps you understand the immense power that curiosity can have on your career, your relationships, and your life.

By Brian Grazer, Charles Fishman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Curious Mind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For decades, film and TV producer Brian Grazer has scheduled a weekly "curiosity conversation" with an accomplished stranger. From scientists to spies, and adventurers to business leaders, Grazer has met with anyonewilling to answer his questions for a few hours. These informal discussions sparked the creative inspiration behind many of Grazer's movies and TV shows, including Splash, 24, A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, Arrested Development, 8 Mile, J. Edgar, and many others.

A Curious Mindis a brilliantly entertaining, fascinating, and inspiring homage to the power of inquisitiveness and the ways in which it deepens and improves us. Whether you're looking…


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We Had Fun and Nobody Died: Adventures of a Milwaukee Music Promoter

By Amy T. Waldman, Peter Jest,

Book cover of We Had Fun and Nobody Died: Adventures of a Milwaukee Music Promoter

Amy T. Waldman

New book alert!

What is my book about?

This irreverent biography provides a rare window into the music industry from a promoter’s perspective. From a young age, Peter Jest was determined to make a career in live music, and despite naysayers and obstacles, he did just that, bringing national acts to his college campus atUW-Milwaukee, booking thousands of concerts across Wisconsin and the Midwest, and opening Shank Hall, the beloved Milwaukee venue named after a club in the cult film This Is Spinal Tap.

Jest established lasting friendships with John Prine, Arlo Guthrie, and others, but ultimately, this book tells a universal story of love and hope…

We Had Fun and Nobody Died: Adventures of a Milwaukee Music Promoter

By Amy T. Waldman, Peter Jest,

What is this book about?

The entertaining and inspiring story of a stubbornly independent promoter and club owner 

This irreverent biography provides a rare window into the music industry from a promoter’s perspective. From a young age, Peter Jest was determined to make a career in live music, and despite naysayers and obstacles, he did just that, bringing national acts to his college campus at UW–Milwaukee, booking thousands of concerts across Wisconsin and the Midwest, and opening Shank Hall, the beloved Milwaukee venue named after a club in the cult film This Is Spinal Tap.

This funny, nostalgia-inducing book details the lasting friendships Jest established…


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Interested in decision making, quality of life, and interpersonal communication?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about decision making, quality of life, and interpersonal communication.

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