Living

6 Great New Books for Your Job or Career

For workplace happiness, changing fields or finding part-time work in retirement

It looks like 2019 will be a promising year for workers: Unemployment remains at a historic low (3.7 percent) and wages are inching upwards. To help you make the most of this still-hot economy, here are six new books that can help you be happier at work, land a job, win a promotion, downshift into semi-retirement or switch careers:

To Be Happier at Work

Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Work Done, by Laura Vanderkam, a leading productivity expert and mother of four, can help you with the struggle to maintain boundaries in a 24/7 wired world.

Unlike most other time-management books which focus on tips and tools, Off the Clock teaches you to become more conscious of how you spend your time. It’s not about doing less, Vanderkam says. It’s about making smarter and more deliberate choices with the limited time you have.

After reading Off the Clock, I realized that my focus is sharpest in the morning. So now, instead of reading my local newspaper over breakfast, I read work-related books and save the paper for evening, when my focus tends to wane.

The Myth of the Nice Girl: Achieving a Career You Love Without Becoming a Person You Hate, by veteran media executive Fran Hauser, is a must-read if you struggle with being nice in a workplace that often seems better suited to bullies. And don’t be fooled by the title. Although the book is targeted to young women, Hauser’s advice is spot on for older workers and men, too.

Hauser draws from her personal experience and from other successful women, to provide counsel on a wide range of thorny workplace situations. For example, if you tend to avoid difficult conversations on the job, Hauser offers five ways to open a discussion without being confrontational. If you hate to network, you’ll find dozens of icebreaker tips that will make the process feel more authentic. And if your boss says you’re too nice to be effective, you’ll discover scripts to help you respond firmly, but politely.

To Change Jobs or Careers

Friend of a Friend: Understanding the Hidden Networks that Can Transform Your Life and Career, by associate professor of leadership and innovation at Oral Roberts University David Burkus, offers a fascinating look into the social science of networking and how it can help grow your career.

By now, all of us know we should network. But this book explains why certain types of networking activities are more effective than others. For example, you’ll learn that dormant ties — people you may have forgotten about or haven’t spoken to in a while — tend to generate more varied and novel job-hunt ideas than networking with your inner circle.

And if you hate networking mixers, you’ll be happy to discover Burkus’ advice that they‘re actually of limited value  (in practice, most of us mingle with people we already know). Burkus concludes each chapter with a “From Science to Practice” tip section that will help you transform networking theories into action.

Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers and Seize Success, by Dawn Graham (a psychologist and director of career management for the Executive MBA program at Wharton) is the most pragmatic and useful book about career change I’ve read in years. And I’ve read many!

As Graham explains, switching careers is a far more complex undertaking than most people realize. It takes time, determination and a measure of luck. Her book outlines a step-by-step process that helps demystify the process — from clearly defining your new career goal to landing a job. It includes inspirational career change stories, tested wisdom (such as what to consider when deciding if you need to go back to school) and practical job-search tips (how to adapt your resumé to better showcase your aptitude for a career switch).

Best of all, you’ll learn dozens of strategies for dealing with the inevitable frustrations of switching fields, including advice on dealing with rude recruiters, avoiding the “it’s not fair” mindset and tips on staying positive during a drawn-out search.

To Work Part-Time in Retirement

Retirement Reinvention: Make Your Next Act Your Best Act, by career coach Robin Ryan, is an easy read filled with fun stories and second-act ideas. You’ll find plenty of advice on starting a flexible second-act career, including hobby-based businesses, temporary assignments and part-time professional gigs.

There’s also a helpful chapter, Making a Difference and Giving Back, that provides an overview of volunteer and paid opportunities in the nonprofit sector. Ryan warns, as I do in my work as a career coach, that it can take longer than expected to find satisfying encore-career work. When exploring options, she says, ask good questions, try a job out and only stay if it makes you feel like you are doing something truly meaningful.

Purpose and a Paycheck: Finding Meaning, Money and Happiness in the Second Half of Life (available starting January 29), by my fellow Next Avenue blogger Chris Farrell, provides an uplifting look at what he calls the “second-life revolution.”

Weaving together research, insights from longevity experts and interviews with successful career changers, Farrell — also a Minneapolis Public Radio journalist — makes a convincing case that the outlook for older entrepreneurs and part-time workers is far brighter than in the past.

Farrell shares dozens of inspirational interviews with people who’ve found novel ways to blend meaning and income later in life, including a college professor turned pizza restaurateur, an IBM employee turned political activist and a father and son who started a brewery together. At a time when much of what’s written about work in retirement focuses on the scourge of ageism, this book will leave you feeling hopeful and energized about the possibilities for your future.

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