Great Resources That Will Improve Your Career
Following on from Great Resources That Will Improve Your Business, this is a second resource list dedicated to you, rather than your company.
I’ve never met anyone who regrets the time and money they spent on educating themselves.
I’ve met a lot of people who either regret not taking their careers more seriously, and a lot of people who have their development ranked at the bottom of their priorities.
A single resource won’t seem magical to everyone, but by picking a portfolio of these resources you’re likely to change your perspectives and spark new ideas about yourself and your future.
If you like them or if you have recommendations, please let me know.
The number one issue I hear is “I don’t know where I’m going”.
This can lead to feeling “Lost” or “Stuck” or “Demoralised”, and a sense of regret.
I believe this comes from a lack of clarity.
Not because you’re tired or because you don’t feel qualified, but because you don’t know what you’re working towards, and it’s hard to spring out of bed when the goal is unclear.
These tools will help you to identify what you’re working towards, how long it will take, and the price you’ll pay to get there.
Mastery – Robert Greene
This book looks at the lives and careers of a wide range of successful people throughout history, and captures the essence of what they did differently.
One of these concepts is the idea of the 10 year apprenticeship, similar to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours idea, where they learned their craft without any fame before suddenly gaining recognition as a master.
You’ll learn tactics for your own apprenticeship, but also enjoy the work of an expert storyteller.
The Dip – Seth Godin
A wonderful book and also a wonderful idea.
Seth debunks the idea that quitting is bad.
Instead, he explains that most journeys follow the same process including a huge dip in your motivation while you get good at something (e.g. learning an instrument or a language).
Your job is to work out if the reward at the end (playing piano or holidaying in France) is worth going through the dip (hundreds of hours of practice, often without the appearance of progress).
If it’s not worth it, quitting is the right move.
This is a profound tool for anyone who is deliberating over their current work situation, as well as anyone embarking on a new project.
Show Your Work – Austin Kleon
Too often our tendency is to wait until we “get good” before we let other people see what we’re up to.
Whilst nobody enjoys hearing a six-year-old kid try the violin for the first time, we tend to go too far the other way, and it actually hinders our progress.
This is such an enjoyable book to read, you’ll knock it over in a short plane ride.
It’s also the book that made me start this website.
Earn or Learn – Mark Suster
In an article from 2011, Mark Suster put forward the idea that your career has phases where the primary goal is to earn money, and phases where the goal is to learn as much as possible.
This is a great clarifier, especially if you’re deliberating between a few different roles.
I see young people chase an extra $10k salary in a grad job, but then end up lamenting that their work is boring and their team has a bad culture.
It might be that you’re better off taking less money early on in order to build your skills, connections and chase the projects you find interesting, rather than going for the maximum available income.
Choose Yourself – James Altucher
This is a good book, but the underlying principle is even more important:
Too often our tendency is to wait until we get picked – someone chooses us for a job, a grant, an invitation.
While these are flattering, they make your career dependent on someone else, who has to see you and recognise your value, even before you’re good.
It’s better to pick yourself, to start doing the work and letting people experience it for themselves.
This is the spirit of starting new projects and creating your own opportunities, rather than putting in applications for other people to let you into their projects and opportunities.
The second most common issue I see is a perceived lack of professionalism.
This can manifest itself into imposter syndrome (“I am a fraud and people will see through me”), or undermined credibility (“I can’t charge proper rates, I’m not good enough yet”).
Here are some tools that can boost your credibility, both for your own self-perception, and for making better first impressions in the future.
What happens when somebody types your name into Google?
Is it your Facebook profile?
Your results from an ultimate Frisbee tournament in 2013?
Your SoundCloud page?
A personal website lets you control the top listing in Google for your name.
You can go minimal and just have a nice landing page – like an online business card.
Or you can create your own digital folio full of articles, links, photos and examples of your work.
Either way, there is no reason not to do it, except for the fact that this idea is currently making you nervous.
I use Squarespace, it’s easy to use and is really cheap.
No coding required, it feels like building a site out of Lego bricks that click together.
One great photo is worth 100 regular photos.
Do you have one?
You’re allowed to look ugly and cross-eyed in all the others, so long as you get one shot where you’re well-lit and look professional.
You can try and stage this yourself, or get a talented friend to help you out, as long as you take it with a really good camera and have someone who knows how to use Photoshop.
A great way of finding inspiration is to go to LinkedIn and see what others are doing, it will make you aware of the styles you like and dislike.
Everyone thinks that their resume sucks.
I’m not going to try and convince you that yours is actually really good, but rather tell you a trick: Canva will make your resume look legitimate.
Their templates are mostly free, well designed and they make it easy to copy your text into their layouts.
You can also borrow ideas from various templates and mix them together, combining the topics that make you look your best.
Your ability to have good conversations can open surprising doors in your career.
You’re also likely to encounter many difficult conversations, and the way you handle these can shape your reputation – for better or worse.
These tools can build good habits, and change the way you approach important conversations.
Career Cards – The School of Life
This is a box of 100 cards, each with a question about your views on work, money, identity and success.
I keep a box on my coffee table, and they come in handy whenever friends are talking about their work dilemmas.
Some of my favourites include:
Thanks For The Feedback – Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone
I bet this book seems unappealing, because feedback is unappealing.
It doesn’t have to be.
By changing the way we approach feedback conversations, we can avoid stepping on other people’s toes while also making ourselves clear.
The book also teaches you how to interpret what others tell you, and helps you identify the way your brain tends to respond to positive and negative feedback.
One clever concept is the three types of feedback – appreciation, evaluation and coaching.
If you choose the wrong approach for the situation, your well intentioned conversation will have the opposite effect, e.g. offering coaching when someone wanted reassurance, or giving compliments when someone wanted practical suggestions.
Getting Naked – Patrick Lencioni
Not as spicy as the title suggests, this is a book about being vulnerable in consulting.
Too often our default behaviour is to construct a façade of professionalism, which might be good for a first impression but becomes a hindrance to genuine relationships further down the track.
You’ll learn how to put your ego aside, in favour of having transparent and vulnerable conversations with clients that achieve better results for everybody.
I generally don’t believe that fancy products make you better at your work.
That said, there are a few exceptions.
A Good Presenter/Clicker – Logitech
Get a good clicker.
Get one that works every time.
Get one that’s easy for other people to use.
You’ll enjoy using slides more, and it will make it easier to structure presentations that use lots of images, rather than fewer slides with lots of text.
Powerbank – Various Brands
A great example of a product to get before you actually need it.
I carry a powerbank in my work bag, and I believe it’s bailed me out around 20 times, and bailed out my colleagues another 20.
You use your phone for so much of your work – emails, maps, itineraries, tethering, music – so why risk it running out of battery?
Pick a size that you’re happy to carry around, and you’ll be thankful in the future.
There are a lot of benefits you can derive from your social media accounts, and there are a lot of traps too.
I feel like it comes back to “Goods fit for purpose” – picking the right tool for the job.
This is defence rather than offence; it is a pretty standard expectation that you’ll have a LinkedIn profile.
Even if you barely log in, build it properly once so that you look the part.
It’s also a great way to share articles and learn about interesting projects that your friends are building.
I don’t really like Tweeting, but I love my curated feed.
By following people who do interesting work in your field (or different fields), you’ll get a great selection of images, articles, debates and resources put in front of you each day.
It’s been a great source of book recommendations, and it has lead me to some of my current favourite writers, inspirations and mentors.
Sometimes you need inspiration and encouragement.
Sometimes you know what has to be done and need a kick in the butt.
These are the latter, and they’re highly effective.
The War Of Art – Steven Pressfield
This is a book that will permanently change your worldview.
Steven writes about how to get your important work done, how your brain will create what he calls “The Resistance” and how to overcome it.
If you’re even feeling stuck on a personal project, this book is for you.
Also it’s short and it’s cheap – no excuses!
Extreme Ownership – Jocko Willink and Leif Babbin
Two former elite soldiers wrote one of the best leadership books in recent history.
It’s all great content, but the first 30% of the book is the real gold – the concept of taking “extreme ownership” over your work as a default, rather than blaming other people or external factors.
If this sounds like a bad idea to you, read the first few chapters and see if you still disagree.
It changed my mind and helped me understand how I was focused on being “technically in the right” rather than getting the important result.
Atomic Habits – James Clear
James puts forward the idea that the most effective way to improve your life is to consistently make 1% improvements – subtle nudges to your routines.
He looks at the science behind habits, and gives a heap of great suggestions for minimising the triggers that trip you up, and increasing the likelihood of making good decisions while your brain is on autopilot.
One of the great examples that sold me on the book was his example of behaviour and identity, e.g. smokers who say “No thanks, I’m trying to quit” have lower success rates than those who say “No thanks, I don’t smoke.
By changing how you define yourself, you will change your routines and adopt better habits.
Ego Is The Enemy – Ryan Holiday
One of the best books I’ve ever read, Ryan argues that the biggest danger that faces leaders is themselves.
You’ll learn about the common mindsets that hinder your chances of success, and enjoy the interesting historical examples of leaders who made the right/wrong calls.
The Courage To Be Disliked – Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga
Without spoiling it too much, this book hits you like a brick.
It is structured as a student talking to his teacher, a clever format for the authors describing their core subject (Alfred Adler’s psychological theories) whilst also incorporating the questions and scepticism of the reader.
This would be a good one to flick through in a bookstore to see if you like it.
It’s not for everyone, but it might become one of your favourites.
A good volunteering opportunity can be rewarding for you and the causes you care about.
It can be satisfying and constructive, letting you use your current skills for the greater good, or as a chance to refine new skills that will be handy in the future.
Vollie is a good platform for finding opportunities, and costs you nothing to use.
Personal Finance Bucket System
Money gives you freedom and choices.
By getting your act together, you can pursue work that is educational and fulfilling, instead of chasing higher paying jobs because you spend more than you earn.
Building a good personal finance system will help, I recommend the bucket approach used by experts like Scott Pape and Dave Ramsey.
The earlier you start, the more you’ll have to play with, and the more security you’ll have in the future.
Goal setting is more important than I initially realised.
Setting the wrong goal can encourage unhealthy/ineffective behaviour, even if the underlying principle is good.
e.g. “I won’t eat junk food” is less helpful than “I want to drop my body fat by x% by Christmas”
The SMART system is useful, your goals should be:
Specific (instead of vague)
Measurable (instead of “the vibe”)
Actionable (you can reach them, and aren’t dependant on external factors)
Realistic (to avoid disappointment) or Relevant (does it actually help me?)
Time Bound (to give a sense of progress and urgency)
Try it for yourself – whenever you set a goal, check it against these five points to see how it can be improved.
Tools of Titans – Tim Ferriss
A collection of incredible people giving valuable life and career advice.
Tim promises that you’ll like 50%, love 25% and never forget 10%.
I’ve found this to be true.
You’ll find some gems around how to structure your career, how to use your time, how to work with others, how to challenge yourself, and possibly find your next favourite role model.