Career Transitions

Turning chaos into careers.

Taking Charge of Your Career: Summer Reading

Three new books will help you navigate your career.

I’ve been away from blogging for a few weeks while making my own career transition from The University of Texas at Austin to my new role as the Executive Director of the Office of Personal and Career Development at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC.

I’ll write more about the transition in future posts, but moving gave me the opportunity to catch up on career reading and I’d like to tell you about three new career books worth checking out. Although these three books focus on different aspects of career development and the job search, what I particularly like about them is their emphasis on action and taking charge of your career regardless of your situation.

1. Are you stuck, trying to find a new career, or in need of career/life inspiration?

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Check out Finding Your Element by Ken Robinson with Lou Aronica (Viking/Penguin, 2013). Some of you may be familiar with Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talks and/or his previous related book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. This new book picks up where the other left off and provides practical steps for finding and pursuing your passions. Robinson challenges individuals who believe they don’t have a special talent or passion to expand their thinking and look beyond their current circumstances. The chapters are organized around key questions designed to make the reader think: “What Are You Good At?”; “What Do You Love?”; “What’s Your Attitude?”; etc.

I found this book engaging and inspiring. Finding your passion is a phrase that has been much maligned in today’s economy with increasing emphasis on equating the “best” careers with those which produce the most income; Robinson bucks this trend by reminding us that happiness at work is equally important and that it is possible to have both if one is creative and willing to experiment. This book is a great read for college students or others embarking on their first career, career transitioners, or anyone who is stuck in their present job.

2. Are you in a job search and not sure if you’re making the most of social media and the internet?

Joshua Waldman’s book Job Searching with Social Media for Dummies (Wiley, 2013) may be just what you need. This thorough and exhaustive exploration of social media and websites will provide you with everything you need to analyze and adapt your current social media platform for the job search. Initially covering such general topics as why you need an online presence (no matter what field you’re in), how to conduct a successful online networking campaign, marketing yourself with your personal brand, later chapters drill down into the specifics of using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. I found his chapter on lesser-known websites for job hunters interesting and discovered new sites to recommend. Particularly helpful is the final part of the book where he explores three interesting topics: the ways that job searching has evolved recently; tips for staying up-to-date with social media; and finally, the most common mistakes people make when using social media. My favorite tip in this last section was the importance of keeping in mind what the hiring manager wants/needs to see. Too many job-seekers focus on what they want to say rather than what employers want to hear.

3. Not sure how you need to think and act to succeed in today's work environment

In his soon-to-be-released book (due September 3), Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success (St. Martin’s Press, 2013), millennial branding expert Dan Schawbel draws on research into workplace success as defined by the different generations and tackles the challenges of those differing perceptions, helping readers shape their online brand, attitude, and behavior to position themselves for greater success. Schawbel notes the challenges of today’s work environment and his book is devoted to taking charge of your career-- positive and proactive ways you can tackle the economy rather than being a passive victim. He describes new rules for the workplace including: every job is temporary; your job description is just the beginning; you will always need to keep developing new skills; your reputation is your best asset; etc. I particularly liked his “rule of one”: all it takes is one person to change your life for the better. As someone who promotes chaos theory related to careers, I have often found that people’s lives can change radically due to a small encounter or experience. (My entire career trajectory was influenced by one restaurant manager I worked with for only a few months.)

What I like about Schawbel's book is that it goes beyond social media and branding and focuses on the mindsets you need and the powerful actions you can take to make yourself indispensible in the workplace. The focus on taking charge of your career is a message that can’t be overemphasized— particularly in today’s climate where we constantly receive negative messages and are subliminally (and sometimes overtly) told we have no control or power in our lives.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, an underlying theme in all three books is to take charge of your career no matter what stage of life or field of work you are in. You don’t control everything, but you can control yourself and the choices you make every day. You have the ability to navigate your career and your life. Each of these books encourages you to seek out the best in yourself and put that self forward on a consistent basis.

©2013 Katharine Brooks. All rights reserved. Find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons Calsidyrose

Katharine Brooks, Ed.D., is the Executive Director of the Office of Personal and Career Development at Wake Forest University. She is the author of You Majored in What?

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