11 Best Career Guidance Books: Taking Your Career To New Heights

Discover the 11 best career guidance books to help you embark on your path to professional success.

It’s challenging to figure out what you want to do with your life. It’s important to have a roadmap of what you want to do with your life before you begin the process of finding a fulfilling career. Working with a career coach can be a great way to begin the path to career success, as can checking out must-read career guidance books.

Perhaps you already know what you’d like to do with your life. If you want to become an artist, an actor, or a public speaker, you might be checking out the best creativity books to help you design your path to success.

If you want to become a writer, you may be researching the best writing books to help you hone your craft. No matter where you are in the process of figuring out the next steps for your career, consider learning from experts who can teach you how to take things to the next level.

1. From Strength to Strength by Arthur C. Brooks

From Strength to Strength by Arthur C. Brooks shows the reasons behind performance decline at work over time and what you can do to continue an upward trajectory of success as you grow in your career. This book provides practical, day-to-day tips that you can use to ensure that you continue to climb the ladder in your field as you gain the wisdom that comes with experience within your industry.

“You deserve a lot of praise and admiration, and you’ve probably gotten it. But you know intellectually that you can’t keep this party going forever, and might even already see signs that it is coming to an end.”

Arthur C. Brooks, From Strength to Strength
From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Brooks, Arthur C. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 270 Pages - 02/15/2022 (Publication Date) - Portfolio (Publisher)

2. Deep Work by Cal Newport

Deep Work digs into the importance of flow, which is the ability to concentrate on an intellectually demanding task. When you go into a state of deep work, Newport argues, you’ll be able to be both productive and fulfilled. The author shares tips on how to get into this state, including quitting social media and embracing the feeling of boredom at work.

“Deep work is necessary to wring every last drop of value out of your current intellectual capacity. We now know from decades of research in both psychology and neuroscience that the state of mental strain that accompanies deep work is also necessary to improve your abilities.”

Cal Newport, Deep Work
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Newport, Cal (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 287 Pages - 01/05/2016 (Publication Date) - Grand Central Publishing (Publisher)

3. Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

In Designing Your Life, authors Burnett and Evans discuss that despite having a clear life plan for fulfillment, many people find themselves unsatisfied in their careers. Hitting milestones may provide a temporary hit of feel-good chemicals, but the sense of accomplishment often dissipates after the congrats fade. This book offers readers the chance to learn more about life design and how they can approach their lives much the way an engineer approaches solving technical problems.

“The reframe for the question ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ is this: ‘Who or what do you want to grow into?’ Life is all about growth and change. It’s not static. It’s not about some destination. It’s not about answering the question once and for all and then it’s all done. Nobody really knows what he or she wants to be.”

Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, Designing Your Life
Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Burnett, Bill (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 269 Pages - 09/20/2016 (Publication Date) - Knopf (Publisher)

4. The First 90 Days by Michael D. Watkins

Taking on a new responsibility at work? It can be tough to figure out how to get started right, and in The First 90 Days, Michael D. Watkins shares concrete steps that you and your team will need to take to make your leadership as effective as possible. This guide takes you through the increasingly complex challenges of being promoted in today’s corporate environment. It also teaches you how to delegate your old responsibilities so that getting promoted doesn’t simply mean you’re doing two jobs at once.

Looking for more? Check out these essays about work.

“You also need to learn to strike the right balance between keeping the wide view and drilling down into the details. This juggling act can be challenging, because what had been the fifty-thousand-foot view in your previous role may be equivalent to the world at five thousand feet, or even five hundred feet, in your new job.”

Michael D. Watkins, The First 90 Days
The First 90 Days, Updated and Expanded: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Watkins, Michael (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 294 Pages - 04/23/2013 (Publication Date) - Harvard Business Review Press (Publisher)

5. Staff Engineer by Will Larson

If you’re working as an engineer, you’re likely familiar with the difficulty of figuring out exactly what your job entails. In Staff Engineer, Will Larson digs deep into the ambiguity of engineering jobs and offers advice on how to design your engineering career to reflect the day-to-day tasks you want to accomplish at work. Larson heavily researched tasks associated with different engineering titles across companies, creating a steadfast guide to lead engineers to create fulfilling career paths.

“The technical leadership track is populated by titles like Staff engineer and Principal engineer. That this second track exists at all is a sign of progress, but there’s much work left to make it both accessible and impactful.”

Will Larson, Staff Engineer
Staff Engineer: Leadership beyond the management track
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Larson, Will (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 370 Pages - 02/05/2021 (Publication Date) - Will Larson (Publisher)

6. Life is Short and So Is this Book by Peter Atkins

In Life is Short, Atkins discusses the latest research on productivity, fulfillment, and how to cut out the stuff that doesn’t matter to create a life that’s both accomplished and happy. The author became focused on the idea of making the most out of the time we have available after watching his boss pass away from cancer at a young age. 

“A number of people I know claim to be great multi-taskers. The brain, however, doesn’t work that way; instead it focuses on one activity at a time. If you switch back and forth between multiple tasks, your brain works more slowly than it would if you focused on each activity for a period of time.”

Peter Atkins, Life is Short
Life is Short And So Is This Book: Brief Thoughts On Making The Most Of Your Life
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Atkins, Peter (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 63 Pages - 03/07/2011 (Publication Date)

7. Negotiate Like a CEO by Jotham S. Stein

Knowing your worth can be challenging, especially if you’re afraid to put yourself out there when it’s time to determine your salary. Negotiate Like a CEO will teach you how to determine and demand your worth and will explain how to stay the course when it comes to the ups and downs of working in the corporate world. When you’re at the top of your field, it’s normal to feel like no one understands what you’re dealing with.

Stein will show you that you aren’t the only one who has had a tough time at the top of the corporate ladder and will give you concrete strategies to compensate in a way that reflects your experience and value. Looking for more educational books to help you learn French? Check out our round-up of the best books for french beginners! You can also search for our best book guides using our search bar.

“Leverage can take the form of growth prospects, experience, management team quality, expected revenue, anticipated rate of return on either the company or the entrepreneur or executive as manager. Whatever the substance of the leverage, if you have it and they want it, then you’ll command more, if you recognize your value and demand more.”

Jotham S. Stein, Negotiate Like a CEO
Negotiate Like a CEO: How to Get Ahead with Lessons Learned From Top Entrepreneurs and Executives
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Stein, Jotham S. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 294 Pages - 02/24/2022 (Publication Date) - Political Animal Press (Publisher)

8. Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen

We’ve all received harsh feedback at work, trying to walk the line between working constructive criticism into our self-improvement efforts and standing up for ourselves when we believe we’ve done the best we could. Thanks for the Feedback will help you differentiate between the feedback that makes sense for improving your life and the feedback that isn’t reflective of your performance. It can be tough to develop a thick skin to survive in the career world, and this guide will help you learn how to accept and respond to criticism, allowing you to improve your workplace relationships and job performance.

“Each year in the United States alone, every schoolchild will be handed back as many as 300 assignments, papers, and tests. Millions of kids will be assessed as they try out for a team or audition to be cast in a school play. Almost 2 million teenagers will receive SAT scores and face college verdicts thick and thin.”

Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, Thanks for the Feedback
Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Stone, Douglas (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 329 Pages - 03/04/2014 (Publication Date) - Penguin Books (Publisher)

9. Multipliers by Liz Wiseman

Multipliers is the perfect guide for those currently leading a team who are focused on creating a positive, productive environment where team members feel valued. Multipliers help leaders learn how to bring out the best in those they supervise, creating an environment where employees get the chance to shine and thrive. This book differentiates between Diminishers and Multipliers and helps leaders change their mindset and skills to get the most out of their department. Are you searching for books to expand your knowledge of Buddhism? Check out our round-up of the best books for Buddhism.

“Instead of writing people off as not worth her time, she is able to ask, ‘What could be done to develop and grow these capabilities?’ She then finds an assignment that both stretches the individual and furthers the interests of the organization.”

Liz Wiseman, Multipliers
Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Wiseman, Liz (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 292 Pages - 06/03/2010 (Publication Date) - HarperCollins e-books (Publisher)

10. Ultralearning by Scott H. Young

Ultralearning is a guide to maximizing your potential in your field. It can be hard to feel comfortable in a career in today’s challenging economic climate. By picking up ultra-learning skills, you’ll make yourself a valuable asset within your industry.

When you use the strategies of ultralearners, you’ll be able to understand innovations in your field more quickly and gain focus that allows you to boost your productivity. In this guide, Young delves into the latest research in education, knowledge, and intelligence to provide readers with concrete action steps to move the mind forward.

“Despite their idiosyncrasies, the ultralearners had a lot of shared traits. They usually worked alone, often toiling for months and years without much more than a blog entry to announce their efforts. Their interests tended toward obsession. They were aggressive about optimizing their strategies, fiercely debating the merits of esoteric concepts such as interleaving practice, leech thresholds, or keyword mnemonics. Above all, they cared about learning.”

Scott H. Young, Ultralearning
Ultralearning: Master Hard Skills, Outsmart the Competition, and Accelerate Your Career
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Young, Scott H. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 305 Pages - 08/06/2019 (Publication Date) - Harper Business (Publisher)

11. The Long Game by Dorie Clark

In today’s fast-paced corporate world, companies are focused on results. The Long Game teaches you how to get the fast results necessary for professional growth while staying focused on the skills that will help take your career to the next level. Clark teaches readers how to tap into their ability to see their long-game career goals and use their actions today to help them get to the next rung on the career ladder. Looking for inspiration? Check out our guide with the best creative business ideas!

“We need to be nimble, and adapt when circumstances change. But long-term thinking is what undergrids everything and enables us to make those adjustments. If all we do is bumble along, reacting to stimuli, we won’t be anywhere near our goals. But if, instead, we embrace long-term strategy and recognize that the path may change over time–that’s what maximizes our changes of success.”

Dorie Clark, The Long Game
The Long Game: How to Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Clark, Dorie (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 239 Pages - 09/21/2021 (Publication Date) - Harvard Business Review Press (Publisher)

FAQs About Best Career Guidance Books

What is the best piece of career advice?

Like many things in the career world, the opinion of what advice is best is subjective. Many agree that “Get outside of your comfort zone” and “Never stop learning more about your craft” are solid words of wisdom to keep you headed down the right path.

What are the common mistakes people make when choosing a career?

One of the most common mistakes people make when choosing a career path is focusing solely on the money their career has the potential to make rather than considering whether their career path will create a fulfilling life.

What is the difference between career guidance and career advice?

Generally, career guidance refers to help in selecting a career path, while career advice refers to ways to get ahead in one’s chosen career. However, these terms can be used interchangeably, so it’s important to note the context when these terms are utilized.

  • Amanda has an M.S.Ed degree from the University of Pennsylvania in School and Mental Health Counseling and is a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer. She has experience writing magazine articles, newspaper articles, SEO-friendly web copy, and blog posts.

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