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My Top 5 books about career change

Updated: Jul 23, 2021

Those of you who have been reading my LinkedIn posts, or even my blogs (you brave person!), will know that I read. A lot.

Which is why, when I've got a serious question to answer I'll grab a book, first and foremost.

Some people grab their phone. Some people google their way to an answer. Not me. I go to the library. And browse all the bookshops. In search of JUST the book that will give me the definitive answer to my question.

The question? What to do with my life.

So, no pressure then.

Now, in case you're like me, and hope to find the answer in a book, I'm going to have to manage your expectations.

It's very (very!) rare that a book gives you the full answer.

If that's what you're looking for then I'd like to manage expectations right here. They don't. And especially not when it comes to career change.

Because changing careers is arguably one of the most personal things you can do.

Because if you're seriously considering a career change the last thing you want to do is squeeze yourself into a job description. If you're taking the big step of considering what YOU'd like to do next, it's got to be - well - about you!

So, yes, expect guidance, advice, some good ideas, even a step-by-step plan and interesting exercises on how to get from 'I'm stuck and don't have a clue on where to go next' to 'Ah! I now know what I want to do next AND have a plan to make it happen!'

From my perspective, also expect a lot of AHA moments, some arrows straight into your heart and a profound sense of possibility and freedom. Always a sign of a good book!

But whatever you do, DON'T expect the answer on a plate.

Having said all that, if you're anything like me, you'll want the list anyway. Just because it gives you a book, by proper experts, with inspiration, ideas and - most importantly - a sense of direction. An idea on what (the hell) to do next.

And, of course, it'll give you an excuse (any excuse) to browse Amazon, the library or - the sweet shop for all book lovers - your book shop!

So, without further ado, this is my favourite list of Career Change books.

Be a free range human - Marianne Cantwell

It's all Marianne Cantwell's fault that I became a career coach. (Oh, AND a change manager, AND a portrait painter.)

I've read this book three times now, and have recommended it to numerous clients. In it Marianne tells us that you no longer have to be stuck in a 'career cage'. With a good wi-fi connection, a laptop and a phone you should be able to run your business from literally anywhere! (Obviously this was before Corona virus!)

Leaves, of course, the question of what the hell it is that you are actually going to do to pay the bills.

Well, Marianne spends half her book discussing just that! And giving you helpful little quizzes and exercises to get you started.

I love this book. It was one of the first books that gave a real alternative to the 9 to 5. That inspired me with hope, and excitement. That allowed me to see beyond the four walls of the office. And yes, that helped me to decide on what I wanted to do. Which was, well, everything! Because that is the beauty of this book. Once you start looking beyond the four office walls the opportunities are endless!

Born for this - Chris Guillebeau When I first started thinking about changing my career this was the first book I read. Chris Guillebeau's book gave me the first insight into a different sort of life. A life where you could do things that filled your soul AND get paid for it. A life where - if things weren't working out - you could just change. Do something different. In other words, it gave me a much lighter view of life. Up until then a career was this precious thing. That you carefully built up, piece by piece. A house of cards. This book showed me that there are multiple ways to build a career. It follows the Joy-Money-Flow model where all three have to be present for you to have a fulfilling career. It then goes on to provide a whole raft of ways in which you can make that ideal combination of the three happen. Reading it again - after having read so many other books on the same theme - I'm struck again by the joy that leaps off the pages. The freedom it offers. The different practical ways it shows. No wonder this book helped me on my my way!

The Squiggly Career - Helen Tupper/Sarah Ellis

Careers are no longer linear. Instead, according to Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis, they are 'squiggly'. Going all over the place. Not staying in one place and steadily climbing up the ladder. If there still is a ladder!

And to prepare for this squiggly career path, more than ever you need to look inside yourself. To know what you're good at (your strengths), to know what is important to you (your values), to grow your confidence and to use your network to find and go after the job you want to do next.

My takeaways from this book are this:

  • Networking - a 'dirty' word for a lot of us. But if you look at networking as 'who do you need to make your career a success, now and in the future'. Or as 'stakeholder engagement', or even as just 'meeting interesting people' it doesn't sound half so scary!

  • Curiosity - is, as the book says, the key to making a career change. How will you end up in a career completely different from your own, if you don't get curious about other jobs/careers/topics? Get curious!

A great read, with lots of useful tips and exercises to get you started on your career change.

Designing your work life - Bill Burnett & Dave Evans

I'd heard about this book. About the approach it takes to (career) change. A design-thinking approach. Which is very action-focused. A trial-and-error approach. if you want. Where you design an action (a mini-project, an experiment) to find out if you like a job, or not. Then trial it. And learn from it afterwards.

I like this book. For the action focus. But mainly because of the down-to-earth-ness (is that a word?). The book recognises that we all live in the real world. With bills to pay and responsibilities. That we get our fulfilment from a range of sources - which the authors helpfully narrow down to three: Money, Impact and Expression, which will change at different stages of our life. And that, whilst it is tempting to just throw in the towel at your current job, in most cases there is still a lot you can do to make your current job a whole lot more enjoyable.

This book spoke to my practical nature. Because not everyone can just chuck their job in to follow their dream. In some - a lot! - of cases by far the most practical thing to do is to make your life less miserable by doing more of what you love. Right where you are. Whilst you figure out what you'd like to do next.

It's only too late if you don't start now - Barbara Sher

Ever since I read this book I'm a Barbara Sher fan. In this book Barbara Sher (sadly she died in 2020) explains what a brilliant thing a midlife crisis is. And how the second half of your life is - actually - where you really get to live it!

Because where before you were run by hormones, and competitiveness and striving and wanting to fit in, in the second part of your life ('your second life') you get to actually choose to leave all of that behind.

No longer are you ruled by hormones. No longer do you have to do what society tells you.

You have become you!

There are some real mindset-untangling chapters in this book. About beauty. About money. About time. It talks about how you can now design your (work) life just the way you want it. By doing what you love. Because you are now free to do exactly that!

So, there you have it! My top 5 choices for books about career change. You'll have noticed that the books I've chosen are the ones that spoke directly to me. That had an emotional reaction. Or which spoke to my preference for action and practical application (no change without action!).

There are many more books that go into the 'nuts and bolts' of career change. The 'how to', if you want. And you'll be glad to know that I've read them too!

If you are more of the 'nuts and bolts' kinda gal, I understand! If that is you I'd recommend you head straight over to my Books Review section on my website where you will find many more books - about career change, and about other subjects as well (I told you: I read, a lot).

What is your favourite book?

Or - better still - what book would you want me to read next?

(And yes, if you think that I'm looking for another excuse to add to my already overflowing bookshelves you would be right!)


Tineke Tammes is an ICF credentialed Career Coach, who supports professional women in making successful career transitions into work they love! Besides that she is also a lifelong feminist, part-time portrait artist, never-only-read-one-book-at-any-time reader, and obsessive doodler. Oh, and she knows a bit about change management too.

Follow her on LinkedIn, or better still, why not book a free Introduction Call?

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