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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Break Room

8 Career-Boosting Books That'll Get You Ahead This Year

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Despite the many benefits of reading actual books, I’ll admit that for a period I read very little, always using lack of time as an excuse. Sound familiar?

But three years ago, I decided to make this a priority, and I’m proud to say that I’ve read at least one book a month since setting that goal. I’ve found it’s not only given me a competitive advantage in my career, but I’m also learning a lot more than ever before.

As I look to the year ahead, here are the eight books I recommend you pick up.

1. Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferriss

Over the last few years, Tim Ferriss has interviewed over 200 people on his podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show. His goal in each episode is to analyze these world-class performers to extract the tactics and tools each of us can use to improve ourselves and our success quotient.

Ferriss’ latest, Tools of Titans, summarizes the key lessons from each of those interviews. The chapters are concise and each one focuses on the morning routines, exercise habits, favorite books, time-management tricks, and other insights from the podcast guests. Regardless of your exact pursuits, you’ll no doubt find something in here to help you get to the next level.

2. Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Robert Cialdini

Last year I read social psychologist Robert Cialdini’s classic book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Published more than 30 years ago, Influence has become the go-to read for anyone striving to become more persuasive.

Cialdini’s new book takes this popular topic to the next level in his sequel of sorts to the original. In Pre-Suasion he shines a light on effective persuasion and reveals that the key to it may not lie in the message itself, but in the key moment before that message is delivered—hence the “pre.” Read it if you’re hoping to advance your career this year, whether you’re eyeing a promotion or taking the reins on a new initiative.

3. Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One by Jenny Blake

I was forced to pivot early in my career. Twice, actually. The first was when Lehman Brothers went bankrupt and I lost my job. The second was when I decided to leave my career in finance to pursue one in HR. I learned firsthand that making a career change is hard.

In Pivot, career coach and former Google employee Jenny Blake teaches the steps required to navigate a successful career transition. These steps include how to take smart risks, how to run small experiments to determine next steps, and how to double-down on existing strengths. This book is for anyone searching for an answer to the question, “What's next?”

4. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight

Vividly capturing the struggles of an entrepreneur’s life in the trenches, Knight, Nike's co-founder and former CEO, details the obstacles and turbulent times he faced throughout his rise as leader of the impressive brand.

So, while it may be easy to look at a large, wildly successful company like Nike and presume that it was bound for success from the start, that’s failing to look at the bigger picture. The same can be said of your career. Instead of focusing on the end result of your efforts, consider the importance of strife along the way to achieving a goal.

Even if you have no desire to start a company, strengthening your entrepreneurial muscle is critical in today’s workplace. Knight's story and advice will help you embrace that mentality.

5. The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done by Peter Drucker

I’ve read a lot of great business books, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I’d never read one of Peter Drucker’s, who’s broadly known as the founder of modern management, until quite recently. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard this book quoted and recommended by top leaders.

Drucker identifies five practices essential to business effectiveness that can, and must, be learned, and he demonstrates how being successful has less to do with being efficient (doing things right) and more on being effective (doing the right things).

6. Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter BY Liz Wiseman

Why do some leaders (diminishers) drain capability and intelligence from their teams, while others (multipliers) amplify it to produce better results? Wiseman provides insight into how leaders should focus less on being geniuses and more on becoming genius makers.

I reference this title in my own book because it’s had such an impact on me, and now, recently responsible for managing a new team and wanting to maximize everyone’s talent, I've picked it up again. But even if you’re not in a manager role, Multipliers can help you develop leadership skills and work more effectively with others.

7. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

We constantly hear others humblebrag about how they’re crazy busy. And if we’re being honest with ourselves, we’ve probably been there, done that a few times ourselves.

In Essentialism, McKeown argues that it’s time to focus on doing less while accomplishing more. His advice enabled me to say “no” more often, effectively cutting out a lot of the non-essential activities that had prevented me from doing what I really wanted.

This year I plan to reduce the clutter in my life and re-focus my time and energy on things that are actually important. In the words of McKeown, “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”

8. Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Wharton Professor Adam Grant—both New York Times bestselling authors—teamed up for this one. In Grant’s words, “After (Sandberg) lost her husband suddenly, we spent a lot of time talking about how resilience is not fixed; it’s a muscle that everyone can build. We combine Sheryl’s personal insights with my research on finding strength in the face of adversity.”

Option B was released in 2017, and you can bet I ordered my copy. I look forward to learning from these two inspiring leaders about how to become more resilient in my day-to-day life—when things are easy and when they’re decidedly challenging—and how to effectively and positively overcome setbacks.