16 Best Career Books to Read in 2021

Home » Books » Career BooksUpdated: July 25, 2021

You found our list of the best career books.

Career books are guides that help readers choose a fitting job field and develop professionally. These works cover topics like job searching, forming relationships, and building skills. The purpose of these books is to help readers find job satisfaction and flourish career-wise.

You can use these books along with personality tests and career tests to find an ideal job path.

This list includes:

  • books for career guidance
  • self help career books
  • career development books
  • career change books
  • career books for college grads

Here we go!

List of career books

From new releases to bestsellers, here is a list of books about finding the perfect job and cultivating a fulfilling career in the modern workplace.

1. Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type by Paul D. Tieger, Barbara Barron, Kelly Tieger

Do What You Are

Do What You Are uses Myers-Briggs personality types to give readers career guidance. The book starts with a personality test to determine readers’ identities, then suggests professions and outlines strengths and weaknesses based on the results. There are chapters devoted to each type, with analyses of which careers are most motivating and fulfilling to different personalities. The book gives advice on how to choose a job that compliments interests and natural skill sets and how to get promotions and leadership positions within that chosen path. Do What You Are provides instructions for picking a professional that brings out your full potential and customizing your career.

Notable Quote: “The right job enhances your life. It is personally fulfilling because it nourishes the most important aspects of your personality. It suits the way you like to do things and reflects who you are. It lets you use your innate strengths in ways that come naturally to you, and it doesn’t force you to do things you don’t do well (at least, not often!)”

Buy Do What You Are.

2. What Color Is Your Parachute? 2021: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers by Richard N. Bolles

What Color is Your Parachute

What Color is Your Parachute is one of the most well-known career change books. This handy guide teaches how to conquer the job search and find meaningful work. Using a self-inventory called the Flower Exercise, the book helps readers reach the heart of their work identity and find what motivates them professionally. The book also gives advice about resumes, job interviews, salary negotiations, and starting self-run businesses. What Color is Your Parachute is the ultimate guide to finding the right career fit.

Notable Quote: “Just because you can’t find them doesn’t mean they don’t exist. You’ve got to change the way you’re looking for them. Because there are always job vacancies out there.”

Buy What Color Is Your Parachute?

3. Designing Your Work Life: How to Thrive and Change and Find Happiness at Work by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

Designing Your Work Life

Designing Your Work Life is an offshoot of the bestseller Designing Your Life. While many other self help career books center on finding the perfect position, Designing Your Work Life shows readers how to find happiness in current roles by adjusting attitude and behavior. The book reframes dysfunctional thoughts in more productive ways, and helps readers stop labeling workplaces as “good jobs,” or “bad jobs,” and start looking for ways to change unhappy circumstances. Designing Your Work Life deals with topics like the balance between money and meaning, office politics, and resilience. The book also explores how to quit gracefully when the suggested steps do not lead to fulfillment.

Notable Quote: “Yet most jobs are built around tasks to get done and transactions to manage, and most managers aren’t comfortable talking about meaning and impact. When you become the designer of your work life, you can help your boss and your company make your job the job you want.”

Buy Designing Your Work Life.

4. So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport

So Good They Can't Ignore You

So Good They Can’t Ignore You is a manifesto for skill-building. Cal Newport argues that while most people believe that “following passion” is the key to job satisfaction, ability and competency are the elements that help people find meaning and fulfillment in work. In other words, most professionals do not know what they like to do until they start doing it. Excitement about work comes as a result of building skills and honing the craft, not waiting for inspiration to strike. The book examines case studies of professionals who love what they do and lays out a formula for getting good at and enjoying work more quickly. So Good They Can’t Ignore You reveals the characteristics that contribute most to helping workers stand out among other employees and find a career that stands out from other jobs.

Notable Quote: “Passion comes after you put in the hard work to become excellent at something valuable, not before. In other words, what you do for a living is much less important than how you do it.”

Buy So Good They Can’t Ignore You.

5. The New Rules of Work: The Modern Playbook for Navigating Your Career by Alexandra Cavoulacos and Kathryn Minshew

The New Rules of Work

The New Rules of Work is one of the better books for career guidance in the modern age. The traditional wisdom of “get a good job and work hard to rise in the ranks over several decades” rarely applies in an era of ever-shifting opportunities. Instead, many professionals think more strategically and change jobs more frequently in an effort to keep growing and have more control over their careers. This book lays out blueprints for finding and landing desirable positions, networking, and making positive impressions. The authors are the creators of popular job search resource The Muse. The New Rules of Work is a helpful tool for any reader looking to master the job search and achieve modern career success.

Notable Quote: “You want work to be a meaningful part of your life. You want to enjoy what you do. You want to feel empowered by your job. You want to make a difference.”

Buy The New Rules of Work.

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

Pivot

Pivot is a manifesto for changing course and taking control of your career. The book explains how to take small steps that position you for a better career path. For example, reduce decision fatigue, clarify your vision statement, identify work-history highlights, and expand your sphere of influence. The book teaches readers how to change direction and pursue new opportunities, either by moving positions or redefining roles in the current company, or switching jobs and industries altogether. Pivot is a step-by-step guide that makes the process of professional reinvention much less daunting, since the book advocates for a gradual approach over a quit-and-start-from-scratch method.

Notable Quote: “You can learn to enjoy calculated risk and uncertainty in exchange for adventure, flexibility, freedom, and opportunity.”

Buy Pivot.

7. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

Drive

Drive is a deep dive into the world of motivation. Drawing on decades of behavioral research, the book explores the psychology behind the forces that spur people to action. For instance, material rewards like money are much weaker motivators than the need for self-expression and the desire to make a difference. The book seeks to find a deeper understanding of how the brain functions and optimize employee mindsets. By identifying true motivations and sources of satisfaction, workers can find more fitting professional missions and employers can more effectively inspire team members. Drive unlocks the keys to passion and high performance at work by helping professionals care about work and find work that they care about.

Notable Quote: “We have three innate psychological needs—competence, autonomy, and relatedness. When those needs are satisfied, we’re motivated, productive, and happy.”

Buy Drive.

8. Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam Grant

Give and Take

Give and Take seeks to rewrite the definition of success. Adam Grant insists that beyond luck, hard work, and talent, relationships are the factor that determines career success. The most high-achieving individuals provide value to professional contacts, and simply put, give more than they take. This generosity inspires gratitude, which pays off in the form of a reliable reputation and increased opportunities. The book outlines the three types of professionals: “takers,” who receive more than they contribute, “matchers,” who seek to make all exchanges equal, and “givers,” who put in maximum effort without counting up the returns. Grant argues that contrary to popular expectation, these “givers” become consistently high performers and reap numerous rewards in their careers. Give and Take presents case studies and statistics that prove the benefits of being professionally generous and genuine.

Notable Quote: “Success doesn’t measure a human being, effort does.”

Buy Give and Take.

9. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter

What got you here won't get you there

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There is an instruction manual for next-level career growth, and is one of the best career development books. Often, the behaviors that result in early career accomplishments are not enough to sustain success or push workers to higher tiers. To succeed in the competitive business world, professionals need to constantly learn and grow. This book defines the qualities that separate top performers from the pack. The guide explores twenty common habits that prevent high achievement and prescribes behaviors for self-improvement such as listening, thanking, and following up. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There is full of practical, candid advice to reach the higher ranks of any profession.

Notable Quote: “People who believe they can succeed see opportunities where others see threats.”

Buy What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.

10. Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy

Presence

Presence teaches readers how to project confidence and competence in professional interactions. Amy Cuddy, Harvard professor and the speaker in the viral “power pose” TED Talk, explains physical and mental hacks that can make huge differences in interactions and first impressions. This book lays out subtle changes individuals can make to body language and mindsets that can help professionals perform better in high stakes situations like job interviews or deal negotiations. Presence is a how-to-guide for overcoming professional challenges and embodying the best version of yourself at every juncture of your career.

Notable Quote: “Focus less on the impression you’re making on others and more on the impression you’re making on yourself.”

Buy Presence.

11. The Unspoken Rules: Secrets to Starting Your Career Off Right by Gorick Ng

The Unspoken Rules

The Unspoken Rules is a guide to unexplained professional etiquette. Workplaces have a set of unwritten rules and behavior standards which managers may not explain. Often, colleagues consider these behaviors common sense, however the etiquette may not be obvious to every worker. Violating these implicit rules can hold back careers and slow down professional progress. Gorick Ng teaches readers how to avoid these missteps and faux paus by laying out the silent laws of the workplace in simple terms. For example, show you want to learn and help, know your context and your audience, and think multiple steps ahead. The Unspoken Rules is a playbook for making a good impression and fast tracking your career.

Notable Quote: “Hard work is only the price of admission into the game of career building. To survive and thrive in this game, you need something more. You need to know the rules of the game.”

Buy The Unspoken Rules.

12. Never Eat Alone, Expanded and Updated: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz

Never Eat Alone

Never Eat Alone insists that relationships are the key to personal and professional success. To advance in your career, you must be able to get along and work well with others. Never Eat Alone outlines techniques for building bonds with colleagues and collaborators, such as creating a network before you need it, communicating consistently, and seeking to serve as well as be served. This book points out opportunities to connect with others authentically and breaks the task of networking into more manageable steps.

Notable Quote: “Success in any field, but especially in business is about working with people, not against them.”

Buy Never Eat Alone.

13. You Majored in What?: Designing Your Path from College to Career by Katharine Brooks

You Majored In What

You Majored in What? is one of the best career books for college grads. The link between receiving a diploma and launching a long term career is rarely a straightforward or obvious journey. The book shows graduates how to “wander wisely,” in the years following college and explore career possibilities beyond the most common paths. Career counsellor Katherine Brooks teaches readers how to leverage liberal arts degrees to get jobs by focusing more on skills than degree knowledge and embracing exploration. The book shares proven methods for gaining employment and provides helpful diagrams and exercises to help readers uncover professional goals. You Majored in What? is a book of advice for emerging professionals without a clear plan.

Notable Quote: “But linear thinking can keep you from thinking broadly about your options and being open-minded to new opportunities, and ready to respond to the constantly shifting nature of the job market.”

Buy You Majored in What?

14. Invaluable: Master the 10 Skills You Need to Skyrocket Your Career by Maya Grossman

Invaluable

Invaluable provides a clear roadmap for becoming an indispensable asset to any company. The book describes 10 skills that make employees stand out, such as planning, extreme accountability, and lifelong learning. By following these actionable steps, professionals can garner golden reputations, earn the esteem of colleagues, win praise and appreciation from bosses, and advance more quickly through the ranks of a chosen field. Invaluable is a masterclass in becoming a model employee and the best professional version of yourself.

Notable Quote: “I want to make it crystal clear that being an invaluable employee has nothing to do with your profession. It doesn’t matter how old you are or where you are starting from. Anyone– yes, anyone, including you– can become an invaluable employee.”

Buy Invaluable.

15. The Common Path to Uncommon Success: A Roadmap to Financial Freedom and Fulfillment by John Lee Dumas

The Common Path to Uncommon Success

The Common Path to Uncommon Success is a career book for individuals who choose entrepreneurial life over more traditional professional paths. John Lee Dumas draws on material from his podcast Entrepreneurs on Fire to identify the patterns, qualities, and behaviors that help founders achieve greatness. The book lays out a 17 point plan to help startups enact meaningful missions, achieve financial stability, and survive competitive landscapes. The Common Path to Uncommon Success is a useful crash course in career counseling for any aspiring entrepreneur.

Notable Quote: “Your big idea is not either/or. It’s not something you are passionate about or something you have expertise in. Your big idea needs to be a combination of your passion and your expertise.”

Buy The Common Path to Uncommon Success, and check out more books on entrepreneurship.

16. The Squiggly Career: Ditch the Ladder, Embrace Opportunity and Carve Your Own Path Through the Squiggly World of Work by Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis

The Squiggly Career

The Squiggly Career ditches the myth that following a prescribed path is the only way to achieve professional success. Many accomplished individuals had nonlinear careers. The authors show readers that it is never too late to pursue a new path, change direction, or switch tactics to take control of your professional destiny. The book provides a blueprint for identifying values and strengths, overcoming doubt and imposter syndrome, building support systems, and uncovering a wealth of potential. The Squiggly Career is a modern reimagining of the career self-help guide.

Notable Quote: “We need to forget about plans and focus on possibilities.”

Buy The Squiggly Career.

Final Thoughts

Choosing a career can feel overwhelming, especially in the modern work world where options abound and the interviewing process can be intensive and competitive. However, it is important to note that your initial job does not have to be your career. Working gradually towards a dream profession is acceptable, as is changing careers. Job books can help readers feel less stressed and more confident in the job search, and can make the path between first job and dream job less confusing.

For more reading recommendations, check out this list of training and development books.

FAQ: Career books

Here are answers to common questions about career books.

What are career books?

Career books are works that teach readers how to choose a satisfying and appropriate job and thrive professionally. These guides cover topics like pursuing a fitting profession, job searching and interviewing, and building skills and relationships.

What are the best career books for students?

The best career books for students include You Majored in What? by Katharine Brooks, The Unspoken Rules by Gorick Ng, and The New Rules of Work by Alexandra Cavoulacos and Kathryn Minshew

What are some good books for career changers?

Some good books for career changers include What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard N. Bolles, Drive by Daniel H Pink, Pivot by Jenny Blake, and The Squiggly Career by Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis.

Why should you read career books?

You should read career books because finding fulfilling work can seem overwhelming. These books break down the process into simple concepts and steps and can help give job seekers at any career stage guidance and direction.

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Author: Angela Robinson

Team building content expert. Angela has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and worked as a community manager with Yelp to plan events for businesses.

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