Top Five Focus – Career Books

While it’s the responsibility of individuals to drive their own careers, it’s reasonable for people to expect a helping hand from their manager as they plot their path forward. This is important in good times where there are obviously more opportunities to progress, but also vital when things dry up.

Right now, we are starting to see the inevitable impact of Covid 19 on peoples’ careers as jobs are placed at risk, redundancies escalate and individuals who until March were secure in their roles and organisations, find themselves looking for a new job.

You may be managing people whose positions your organisation has had to make redundant and are therefore losing from your team. So, what can you do to help the people you are having to let go increase their chances of securing a new opportunity quickly?

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers here. No matter how you may wish to frame the break from work as an opportunity for people to reflect, plan and explore, the reality may be that the luxury of time is not one that is available to the individuals who have lost their jobs.

To help people in this situation, a listening ear and some pertinent questions to encourage self-awareness can be enough to prompt them to take ownership of their predicament and consider their options.

But if you want to offer more in the way of advice and mentoring, any one of these books is a useful place to start. They all do slightly different things to help individuals move on, so if you know a little about the specific needs of your former team members, you can make the best recommendation.

Reading a book or two is no substitute for the hard job of getting a new job, but they can at least prompt clarity of thought and direction.

How to Get a Job You Love by John Lees

This book is absolutely packed with practical exercises to help people identify the kind of job or career that they might find fulfilling. It’s really useful if they’ve been in a role or organisation for many years and have perhaps lost sight of what really makes them tick.

By understanding more about what they know, what they’re good at, what drives them and the kind of environments that they enjoy, they can focus their search options towards roles, companies and sectors that they’re more likely to find fulfilling.

Plus, the book is updated every year, so the advice is totally relevant to today’s marketplace.

Working Identity by Herminia Ibarra

One of the first career books to advocate a more experimental & exploratory approach to career reinvention. The central idea of the book is for individuals to consider different possible versions of the self they might become in the future, and then to network in each of the options.

By meeting new people currently living each of the possibilities, career searchers get a greater sense of what really drives them, what will fulfil them and where they might excel. And because energy generally increases for one of the possible selves, opportunities also present themselves.

Requires more time, an openness to ambiguity and willingness to adapt, but potentially rewarding. Very useful for post-35 career changers and job hunters.

Squiggly Careers by Helen Tupper & Sarah Ellis

A relatively new book and one that has attracted a lot of recent media attention. It combines the ideas of the first two books on our list and correctly states that the idea of linear careers is now a thing of the past.

To be truly successful, we must become more skilled navigators of unpredictable career paths than our predecessors. Using the book, your role in this process may be to help your people find answers to five core questions.

  1. What are their values and how can these underpin their new job or career?
  2. What are their natural strengths – the things they are great at which also give them energy – and how can they build their career around these?
  3. What confidence gremlins are they allowing to get in their way and what can they do to overcome them?
  4. Who do they need in their network and how can they go about connecting with them?
  5. What can they do to start exploring all of their options?

 How to Find Fulfilling Work – By Roman Krznaric

A thought-provoking little book from the ever brilliant ‘School of Life’.

Less about identifying strengths and skills and much more about understanding how we want work to contribute meaning to our lives. The book asks some pretty big questions, not unlike the questions many have been asking themselves throughout lockdown.

Not really a ‘How to…’ book this one. It’s potentially far more inspiring and soul nourishing than that.

What Should I Do with My Life? By Po Pronson

The last book in our top five is a collection of real-life career change stories and frankly, it’s absolutely brilliant.

It is packed with the stories of everyday people who have either chosen to change their career or have found themselves in a position of having to. Some did it quickly, while for others it took years. Some were successful, and others were not.

Whatever their outcome, the reader is bound to connect with several of the stories and the individuals who have lived them, who unknowingly then go on to become silent mentors.

As an extra bonus, at the back of the book is a long series of questions that challenge the reader to consider their career, what it means, what might be next and how to press on.


We hope this is a useful list if people are turning to you for guidance or even if you have found yourself in the unwanted position of needing a new job.

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