The 9 Best Career Books of 2020

All the advice you need to take control of your professional life

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A career is so much more than just a job. Almost anyone with enough time on their hands, enough determination, or enough desperation can find a job, and most people can even find a job that pays the bills, if just barely. But building a career, unlike finding a job, is a lifetime pursuit. Building a career requires dedication, both to yourself and to the work that you do. Creating a career involves persistence because it will not always be easy to find fulfilling work while moving your way up the career ladder — and these days, many career paths do not resemble a ladder at all, but rather a long and winding road.

But finally, building a career requires thinking smart about the sort of life you want to lead, about your skills and passions, and about the kind of work that can help you achieve the maximum happiness and fulfillment.

Need some inspiration and guidance when it comes to building and navigating your own career? We put together a handy list of the best career books to ready today to get you started on the right foot or back on track if you happened to stray a bit.

Best Practical Advice: What Color Is Your Parachute?

What Color Is Your Parachute?
Courtesy of Amazon

This book is one of the most popular career advice books for a reason. Written by Richard Nelson Bolles, founder of the modern career counseling field, it delivers all of the advice you need to find the best job and career for you. It’s packed with information on job hunting strategies, and the newest version even includes social media and online tactics to help you land a job faster. The book walks you through every step of the process, from designing your resume to networking and figuring out which careers make sense for your personality style.

Best for Women: Savvy! The Young Woman's Guide to Career Success

Getting career smart is made easy with authors Alice Nagle and Luanne Tierney. They are both ambitious Silicon Valley marketing experts who tell all the best tips and tricks for young women to get ahead in their careers. Learn how to increase your confidence at your place of work. Advance your communication and presentation skills. And even learn how to make the most of business meals while using proper etiquette along the way. Savvy also touches on building your personal brand with a robust online presence. This book is geared toward women in their 20s and 30s and relates to the IT corporate world. If you are looking to transition your career or are just starting out, this book is the perfect guide to get you where you want to go.

Best Counterintuitive Advice: So Good They Can’t Ignore You

Most people will tell you that to find a fulfilling career, you need to follow your heart and your passions — and according to the author of this book, most people are wrong. Cal Newport makes the case that developing skills rather than focusing on the desires you already have is the key to successful job experience. This book focuses on interviews with all sorts of successful people, from farmers and freelancers to venture capitalists, and helps you discover the strategies that helped them design amazing careers and lives.

Passion, Newport argues, comes from putting in tough work and developing skills. Would you consider turning down a promotion? Have you ever stretched beyond your comfort zone and asked for feedback? You will learn how to dig deep and create value versus focusing on a passion mindset where you look for the value in what the world is offering you. Following Cal Newport's series of counterintuitive rules will help you advance in this marketplace at the right pace.

Best for Developing Soft Skills: Presence

No matter what your line of work, making a great first impression is essential — and it is just as important to make sure that this first interaction is genuine and thoughtful. Whether you are meeting a new potential boss for a job interview or giving a public speech, people can always tell if you are genuine, so learning how to build a “presence” and letting your genuine self-shine through is vital.

In this book, Harvard professor Amy Cuddy teaches you how to tweak everything from your body language to the way you think about big challenges to accomplish this. The book is filled with brilliant research, but it is written for the average person, and you’ll be able to start using the advice from day one. 

Best for Understanding Your Personality: Do What You Are

Perhaps unsurprisingly, certain personality types are terribly suited to particular jobs. If you can not stand children, you will make a terrible Kindergarten teacher. If you do not like math, you will hardly get far if you decide to become an engineer. But how do you discover what your unique personality is and how that impacts the best career choices for you? That is where this book comes in. This book will walk you through every step of figuring out your personality type, what occupations are popular with others with that personality type, and gives you an inside look at your unique strengths and weaknesses. You will also figure out how to make your job search as efficient as possible.

Best Book Of Interviews: The Third Door

This book was the result of an 18-year-old’s five-year adventure tracking down the world’s most successful businessmen and superstars to figure out how they became better than the rest and successfully launched their incredible careers. You will be gripped by the daring tales author Alex Banayan recounts, including how he hacked shareholder meetings, chased celebrities through grocery stores, and danced with some of the greatest dancers of all time.

In all his wild adventures, he learned that the one thing all of these people had in common is that they took the “third door” — they did not wait in line, and they did not buy their way in to the “nightclub” of success — they barged their way in through hard work and determination. Learn how to build a network when you are just beginning and do not know anyone. Learn how to approach someone online without being spammy. And find out how to bounce back from rejection all from some of the greatest minds in the country. Becoming a successful business-focused individual does not happen overnight. Get the advice you need to apply to your journey.

Best for Big Thinking: Get A Life, Not a Job

You spend most of your waking weekday hours doing work, so why would you want to spend those hours doing work that you hate? While many of us are caught up in the habit of thinking about the next job we want, if we want a truly fulfilling life, we should be thinking about what kind of life we want instead.

The author Paula Caliguiri, Ph.D., encourages you to take control of your destiny. You do not have to quit your job and start your own company to attain this, although that can work for some people — you will learn instead how to spend your time more efficiently on the things that you enjoy and less time on the things that feel like drudgery. This book is a quick and inexpensive read providing useful questionnaires, exercises, and case studies of people who have experienced multiple career “acts.”

Best for Getting Organized: Designing Your Life

In the design field, every single choice is intentional — especially the ones that you do not even notice. The most comfortable things we use every day and don’t even think about are the same ones that were designed most thoroughly. In this book by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, you will learn how to apply this same thinking to the choices you make in your own life and intentionally build a system that works for you. You will start by working backward to determine what you want out of life and then learning how to achieve that productively by thoughtfully redesigning your routines — with plenty of experimentation, prototyping, and constant iteration along the way.

Learn to embrace your choices instead of anguish over them. This is huge for many people who are held back by a limited belief system. According to this book redesigning your career and life are possible at any age. Find out how to use Mind Maps and become immune to failure. The strategies provided here will teach you to take action, and if that does not work, reset and try again.

Best for Designing A Coherent Career: Body of Work

In the past, individuals often built a steady career that mirrored a ladder: they chose a field they loved, started at a low-level position, and slowly worked their way up to the top. These days, people move more sporadically and might spend a few years working several different seemingly unrelated jobs. How does all of this form a career story you can be proud of? Pamela Slim’s book explores the idea of connecting your accomplishments to an excellent package that you can use as a personal brand and leverage to take your career to the next level. The exercises inside this book will help you discover your passions and help channel them into a future job that makes perfect sense for you.