Summer Reading for the Career-Minded

A book is among the world’s great bargains. You get years of a brilliant person’s expertise distilled and available to you 24/7 for the price of a pizza.

Here’s my list of recommended summer reading for the career-minded.

John Adams by David McCullough. Biographies of great people have given me inspiration and ideas on how to enhance my career. This tour de force by a Pulitzer Prize winner profiles the ultimate career: president of the United States. And it’s a profile of a president who more than held his own against the more vaunted presidents that bracketed him: Washington and Jefferson. More than a career profile and wonderful history lesson, it is an intimate story of relationships professional (for example, with Jefferson) and personal (with his remarkable wife, Abigail Adams.)

Some might ask, “Why go back that far? Why not recommend Bill Clinton’s autobiography. I decided not to even read it, deterred by the New York Times review, which called it, “sloppy, self-indulgent and often eye-crossingly dull,” and the Associated Press, which said that reading it was like “being locked in a small room with a very gregarious man who insists on reading his entire appointment book, day by day, beginning in 1946.”

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. Today’s conventional wisdom says that to succeed, it takes a village--individualism is passé; teamwork is the way. Most successful people I know laugh at that, and so does this book. It’s the story of an architect who felt that collective effort usually requires compromise and therefore results in a mediocre product. The book will inspire anyone who aspires to individual excellence but wavers because of the media’s nonstop deification of teamwork and community.

Gray Matters: The Workplace Survival Guide by Bob Rosner, et al. This book mainly made my list because it lacks competition. It would seem that everyone should have a workplace survival guide on their desk, but this book, only decent, is the only one I’ve seen --and I did an amazon search to confirm. The book offers useful but not surprising reminders (for example, you have to know when to suck up), and its sugarcoated style and chapter summaries make the read quick and quasi-pleasurable.

Monster Careers by Jeff Taylor with Doug Hardy. asked me to write the book but changed its mind. Frankly, now I’m glad. They did a better job than I probably could have, distilling’s massive content into the definitive book on how to land a job. Unlike typical job search books, which are written by counselor types, most of this book’s information comes from a better source: people who hire.

Diary of a Job Search by Tim Johnston. So many people apply for a job or two each week and think they’ll land a job before retirement age. This book describes the much more common reality. It’s a compelling read with a surprise ending: the job seeker networked his butt off for eight months and in the end, got his job by answering an ad. As I’ve been saying in this column, networking just isn’t working as well as it used to.

Blue Blood by Edward Conlon. Written by the author of the New Yorker’s Cop Diary series, this may be the best book ever on what it’s like to be a policeman. His being long-time New York City cop gives him the experience and being a Harvard graduate, he has the mind to richly describe that experience. Well worth reading even if you have no desire to be a cop.

Now What?: 90 Days to a New Life Direction: by Laura Berman Fortgang. I normally hate books written by career coaches. Too much psychobabble (“Get in touch with the your inner voice and follow your passion.” That rarely works). Or too simplistic (“Set goals and take baby steps”.) This book offers sound advice on both the psychological and practical fronts. I also like its 90-day plan concept. Too often, people spend years figuring out their career goal. This book limits the process to an appropriate length.

Cool Careers for Dummies (2nd edition) by lil’ ol’ me. Yes, I’m touting my own book, but it is unique in offering insider descriptions of 500+ interesting careers including low-risk/high-payoff self-employment ideas, plus The One-Week Job Search and 47 cures for procrastination. The Los Angeles Times called the book “full of smart advice.”

What Color is Your Parachute, 2005 edition by Richard Bolles. (to be published in September) This is the classic job search book. Previous editions have included a wealth of ideas to help you choose a career and land a job. Bolles, one of the field’s best minds and writers, says that this September’s edition will be a major revision.

© 2007, Marty Nemko

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Marty Nemko holds a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and subsequently taught in Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education. He is the worklife columnist in the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle and is the producer and host of Work With Marty Nemko, heard Sundays at 11 on 91.7 FM in (NPR, San Francisco), and worldwide on . 400+ of his published writings are available free on that website and is a co-editor of Cool Careers for Dummies. and author of The All-in-One College Guide. E-Mail.

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