6 Books to Read for a Better Career, According to a Communications Expert

If you’re a big reader, odds are you’re on Goodreads. It’s the easiest way to find new books, keep track of all the one’s you’ve already read, and remember if you liked them or not. I’ve found some of my favorite reads this way, and it’s truthfully a great way to meet people based on similar book tastes. (Because book friends are really important, okay?) As amazing as the site itself is, can you imagine getting to work there?

Goodreads’ Head of Communications Suzanne Skyvara is living that dream, as a book lover herself.  Suzanne told us all about the best books she recommends for working women.

Tara Mohr

Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message

I have recommended or given this as a gift to so many women and have yet to find someone who didn’t find it helpful.

The section on fear, with 15 different ways to tackle it, provides insights that I haven’t seen in any other book. And I find myself frequently telling people about the chapter on “hiding”. “Hiding” is where we think we are diligently moving forward but in reality are finding ways to stall and procrastinate on a new and scary project.

My favorite exercise is when Mohr guides you to find your inner mentor — we all have far more inner wisdom than we realize. As Mohr says “Playing big doesn't come from working more, pushing harder, or finding confidence. It comes from listening to the most powerful and secure part of you, not the voice of self-doubt.”

Fran Hauser

The Myth of the Nice Girl

Fran Hauser, who has held senior positions at Time Inc, People, and Moviefone, and is now a start-up investor focused on female founders, provides an excellent mix of theory and practical advice in her book. I love how she shares her own mistakes to show readers how everyone’s road to success has multiple hard lessons along the way.

In her chapter about investing in yourself, she gives some of the most actionable tips I’ve seen on networking and finding a mentor, and everyone should read her section on why asking to pick someone’s brain is the kiss of death!

Carter Cast

The Right — and Wrong—Stuff: How Brilliant Careers Are Made and Unmade

While Hauser gives great tips on how to find a mentor, if you’re struggling to make that kind of connection, reading Cast’s book is an excellent next step. It’s like sitting down for a series of insightful conversations with an experienced, supportive leader.

While today’s business world is leaning into “focusing on your strengths,” Cast wants to help people avoid the kinds of things that can derail or limit a career. His “Derailer Assessment” was developed and tested with MBA and executive students at Kellogg School of Management to understand which traits and behaviors are holding you back.

A second quiz is about understanding what motivates you at work; the five fundamental factors are achievement, affiliation, power, autonomy, and purpose. I was pretty convinced I knew what motivated me, but ended up being surprised by my results, which led to an ‘a-ha’ moment for me.

Jason Selk and Tom Bartow

Organize Tomorrow Today

This will feel like a very “male” book with lots of sports analogies and anecdotes involving male professionals, but I highly recommend women read it for two reasons: 1) there are some great organizational strategies that will really help you prioritize for success, and 2) there is a very useful section on communication.

A mentor of mine once told me that your leadership potential is judged on how well you communicate, and I see it all the time in meetings. People who are crisp with their answers earn more respect from leaders. If you are down in the weeds with your answers, you’re viewed as being down in the weeds in your work.

Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith

How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back From Your Next Raise, Promotion or Job

As one Goodreads reviewer noted, this should almost be called “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: for the other half of the workforce.” Goldsmith wrote the bestseller “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” based on his experience coaching (predominantly male) CEOs, but he realized that women face different challenges so he teamed up with women’s leadership expert, Helgesen, to write this insightful book.

Their push for women to do a better job of claiming their achievements is a must-read — all too often, women put their heads down, do the work, and believe that this will earn them recognition. It’s one of the major habits that hold us back so read this book to learn how to overcome it.

And their chapter on “ruminating” is a very healthy reminder for women about how to move on from mistakes — I really like how Helgesen and Goldsmith used their own experiences to show how women and men handle failure differently.

Ina Garten

Barefoot Contessa Parties!

You’ll often read about the importance of networking and a fun way to do this is bring together work contacts for dinner. Some of the dinners I’ve organized have resulted in people getting jobs at Facebook and Eventbrite — all because I brought together a group of smart, interesting women to get to know each other. If the location works, a great way to do this is to invite people to your home for dinner, and my go-to cookbooks are all by Ina Garten (in fact, her cookbooks are an auto-buy for me).

Her Parties book has never let me down — every time I serve an Ina Garten dish it’s a hands-down winner. What’s great about Parties is that she provides you with menus so you don’t have to figure things out yourself, and all the recipes are easy to make.

(My other favorite is her original, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, which has her famous Roast Chicken recipe. Apparently, it’s resulted in several couples getting engaged!)

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