5 Books About Career Development That Will Actually Teach You Something

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This post contains affiliate links. Read the disclosure policy.

Five years from today, you will be the same person that you are today, except for the books you read and the people you meet.
— Charlie “Tremendous” Jones

When was the last time you learned a really good piece of advice that helped you move up in your professional life? 
These books are great for anyone looking to advance their careers, build their skills, and become more effective in life and work. I compiled this list specifically for marketers, writers, designers, photographers, and other creatives.
As a marketer myself, I’m a huge fan of reading to level up my game for one simple reason: If you want to learn about business or improve on a particular aspect of your career, a $20 book is one of the cheapest crash-course educations you can get today.
Think about it… for the cost of a decent lunch (I currently live in the U.S.), you can get a career-advice book that may literally change your life.
So here’s a roundup of 5 books that I’ve read, enjoyed, and recommend.

1. Linchpin by Seth Godin

I dare you to read this and not get a little fired up and action-ready.

If you feel like a consumer rather than a creator because you stop yourself even before you start, you definitely need to know what a Linchpin is.

Seth Godin (one of my all-time favorite thought-leaders) unpacks this concept in a way that leaves you nodding along with his suggestions. 
Linchpins are people who, regardless of their title, are flexible in the face of change and resilient in the face of confusion.

They follow their creative instincts, leverage their humanity, and foster their individuality. And that’s why they become indispensable.


The basic premise of the book is that working harder, faster, and cheaper than your colleagues or competitors is no longer a guarantee of success.

Tough to hear?

Yes, but consider the truth to this.

The competitive advantage the marketplace demands is someone more human, connected, and mature

2. Ego Is The Enemy by Ryan Holiday

Take Steve Jobs.

He was 100% responsible for his firing from Apple. Apple’s decision seemed like an example of poor leadership, but Jobs was, at that time, unmanageable. His ego was out of control. 
Ryan Holiday believes that what is rare is not raw talent, skill, or even confidence, but humility, diligence, and self-awareness.

Ego basically kills what we love.

This book is a call to action to fight you emotional and egotistical impulse. Once you do so, interactions are endless to take your career to the next level.

Try these:

  • Come up with ideas to hand over to your boss.
  • Find people, thinkers, up-and-comers to introduce them to each other. Cross wires to create new sparks.
  • Find what nobody else wants to do and do it.
  • Find inefficiencies and waste and redundancies. Identify leaks and patches to free up resources for new areas.
  • Produce more than everyone else and give your ideas away.

 3. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Now, bear with me: Although not directly career-related, worldwide bestselling author of Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert, provides some crazy-challenging perspectives on creativity and inspiration.

Whether you’re looking to start a blog, create a business, or find new ways to address tasks in your work, you’re going to find in Big Magic a source of wonder and joy.


Elizabeth Gilbert redefined what an original idea meant for me. As she puts it, “Everything reminds us of something. But once you put your own expression and passion behind an idea, that idea becomes yours.”

In a world where we look around and think, “but it’s all been done before,” this statement makes you rethink the limits you’re setting on yourself.

Most things have already been done - yes, but they have not yet been done by you.

4. Essentialism by Greg McKeown

I couldn’t wait to read this book.

After all, who wouldn’t feel good when someone tells them that they could do more in less time?

Such is the premise of Essentialism: Getting only the right things done.

Greg McKeown shows you how to apply selective criteria for what is essential, then eliminate everything that is not. 


As he puts it, “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”

You have to make the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to do only what it’s essential for you.

So next time you add an activity on your calendar consider this: “Will this task or effort make the highest contribution toward my goal?”

5. Difficult Conversations by HBR Press

This is by far the most powerful book I have ever read on how to handle uncomfortable talks at work.

It hit me in all the right places.

First, it helps you understand what makes a conversation difficult: conflicting interests, personal styles, lack of trust, different views of the facts, and emotions.

Then, it walks you through the actionable steps you can take to communicate in a way that’s constructive.

Okay, it was hard to pick a favorite—the whole book is a takeaway. But, successful communication is where it’s at: “Don’t focus obsessively on what you want to say.

Instead, develop a habit of slowing down, listening carefully to what’s being said, and observing people’s body language as they speak.” 

Bonus reads!

One book that I want to mention is The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris. It’s not going to teach you how to manage your career but it will teach you how to think about it differently.
The books listed above are newer reads. But if you’re a lover of the good-old classics, then I recommend:

  1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People‎ by Stephen R. Covey 
  2. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

They’re still in print today because the advice is just that good.
By starting with any of these, you’ll figure out what you need to learn more about and then can choose your next career development book after that.

Whatever you do, keep reading!

Miriam Ballesteros