A great book isn’t just a fun way to pass the time. The best books offer truths that you can carry into your life—and yes, into your work life, too. That’s because career lessons don’t have to come from business tomes or self-help titles. They can be found in anything from a thriller to a memoir, if you know where to look.
And who better to recommend a few great reads (or listens!) than the folks who work every day to bring stories to life? We asked three Audible employees to share the books that taught them key lessons for their careers—and how they apply these insights every day.
The Power of Pursuing Your Passion
Rowing the Atlantic: Lessons Learned on the Open Ocean by Roz Savage
The Whip by Karen Kondazian
Rage Against the Dying by Becky Masterman
Chosen by: Beth Anderson, EVP and Publisher
Why did you choose these books?
These three audiobooks introduce the listener to three different women—actual and fictional—who defy popular expectations to achieve their own goals. By rowing solo across oceans, Roz Savage demonstrates the power of a woman in a battle against the elements and the limits of physical endurance. In the novel The Whip, Charley Parkhurst disregards societal norms of the 1800s by assuming the identity of a man in order to have the life and career she wants. Brigid Quinn in the thriller Rage Against the Dying faces down assumptions about both her age and her gender in her work as an FBI agent tracking down a killer.
The message of all three is that if you are passionate about achieving a goal or pursuing a career, don’t let societal norms, popular expectations, or narrow-minded prejudices get in your way.
What I like about all of these stories is that they all feature strong women who are getting the job done.
How can you apply lessons from these books at work?
Find your passion or your goal and pursue it. You may be lucky enough to have a support team around you as Roz Savage did. Or you may have to prove yourself before you find that support structure.
What is your best advice for being a strong woman at work?
Be smart; work hard; collaborate with colleagues; find satisfaction or even joy in what you’re doing.
Backing Down Isn’t an Option
The book: Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers by Lois P. Frankel, PhD
Chosen by: Kalpana Banerjee, Senior Director, Product Management
Why did you choose this book?
This book gives over 130 mistakes women could be making in our careers that could be sabotaging them, and tips for how we could be doing better. I liked many of the tips...but if I were to call one out, I would say “being overly concerned with offending others” was a good one.
What did it teach you?
If you hesitate to clearly express your point of view or back down from a conflict because you want to be liked or you don’t want to ruffle feathers or offend someone, you have not used an opportunity to express your true point of view. And if you do this often enough, you are sure to be overlooked for your opinion since you never have a differing point of view or challenge the status quo.
Speak up for what you want and ask for the things that you need and that matter to you.
How do you use this advice when you face conflict at work?
I personally have tried to bring in objectivity to a conflict. If someone acts offended by a legitimate request or concern that I have raised, then that does not mean I back down. Clearly it is a concern that bothered me, or else I would not have raised it, so I try to present it in a different vein. I try not to apologize for someone else’s bad reaction but go into problem-solving mode in an attempt to identify the real source of the disconnect so we can address it objectively.
I can assure you that this is a continuous learning experience—I need to remind myself to do this daily. I encourage my team to challenge an opinion by offering a diverse point of view. This diverse thinking can only help the team collectively grow and expand our thinking towards better, creative outcomes.
Find Strength in Your Authentic Voice
The book: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
Chosen by: Kari Niles, VP, Creative Director
Why did you choose this book?
Bird by Bird is a book about the author’s experience as a writer. The way Anne expresses it is using your authentic voice and really digging deep.
I began my career in creative at a digital agency, when the internet was in its nascent stage. Most of the senior creatives were from a design background and were male. I am neither. As a writer, and as a female, in order to stand out and add value I had to be true to who I was and share my story. Not “personalize” the work necessarily, but feel confident that not only is my voice valid in the room, but it’s necessary.
How did using your authentic voice help you in your career?
Under-representation is often one of the biggest (and least recognized) challenges to marketing agencies; meaning, without female voices in the room, how do you market to women? I used my authentic voice to add value for clients, and that in turn was recognized by the agency management team. Being true to me got me ahead.
What is your advice for people searching for their authentic voice?
My authentic voice is not always right. In fact, it’s often wrong. I bet yours is, too. So in order to follow your gut and be true to your voice, you must be open to feedback. Above all, listen carefully to how your ideas and opinions are received. Read between the lines. Listen for the pauses and hiccups and quiet nodding heads. That will help you better understand what it is you’re putting forth in the world, its worth or lack thereof, its acceptance or resistance.
Listening and being observant will help you navigate your own voice toward success.
What would you recommend someone do if they want to be more authentic at work?
Empathy is under-rated in the workplace. If you want to bring “the whole you” to the workplace, if you want that to be recognized and acknowledged, you need to be ready to give that in return. Ask about others’ ideas, where they come from, what informs them. Care about what the heck gets them out of bed in the morning. Be a human, and others will give you permission to be a human, too.