Most career advice books stink. But these 5 are worth at least a glance

Friday, April 9, 2021
We’re only a quarter of the way through 2021, and there are some fantastic new releases that you need to get your hands on ASAP to boost your career success. There’s something for everyone in this roundup, so grab your coffee, and dig into one of these books.

Solo: How to Work Alone (and Not Lose Your Mind) by Rebecca Seal

My first recommendation is Seal’s handbook, Solo, helping you learn how to work from home (or anywhere) alone. Timely in its release, Seal delves into how solo work was thrust upon many of us because of the pandemic, and how it’s affecting our mental health. We’re still hard-wired for in-person connection, after all. 
Yes, you may prefer to be solo for work, but others merely see it as a necessity they tolerate. For example, creatives need it for focus and inspiration, while problem-solvers need it for intense thinking and uninterrupted analysis. The good news is you can change your perceptions and experiment with how you work. It’s quite a practical little guidebook you can keep on your desk for your next coffee break.

What I like the most about her writing is that it’s part memoir and part strategy. It’s an easy read because of this, and the personal anecdotes make it enjoyable to learn all the different ways we can survive solo work. It’s like reading a podcast – personal stories, research, and interviews woven together in a beautiful tapestry of thoughts on working alone. 

“A World without Email: Reimagining Work in an Age of Communication Overload” by Cal Newport

Productivity junkies will recognize Newport’s name and jump head-first into his latest. Those of you not familiar with Newport will be interested in noting that he doesn’t have social media accounts. He’s an expert on focus and what he calls “deep work,” and now he’s helping us take another look at a necessity in the workplace: email.

A World without Email characterizes how modern knowledge workplaces operate as a hyperactive hive mind workflow. You may be working in one if when the central point person in these email chains – the manager – steps away, then all threads (and work) grind to a halt. Newport also goes to great lengths to explain why email is making us miserable. Let me tell you it was a relief to understand this psychology.

Possible solutions were a fascinating part of this book, like a twice-daily Scrum meeting in-person or on Zoom that lasts no more than 15 minutes, followed by a 2-4 hour uninterrupted stretch of work time. Newport’s book (for managers and knowledge workers alike) will get you questioning how you work and whether you might need to break up with your inbox (at least for a few hours at a time). 

“Put Happiness to Work: 7 Strategies to Elevate Engagement for Optimal Performance” by Eric Karpinski

Positive psychology has finally made its way into the boardroom thanks to Karpinski’s new book, where he pushes back against the notion that work-life balance is all employers need to be concerned about. Within the term itself, the understanding is that work isn’t for fun or happiness; that’s for life outside of work, and thus, not an employer’s responsibility. 

While many of us are guilty of dismissing happiness as a “nice to have” rather than a precursor to success, Karpinski puts research and a decade of experience behind why it matters to people, culture, and the bottom line. Balancing out his enthusiasm for happiness in the office, Karpinski tempers his arguments with realism. Not everyone can be happy at work all. the. time. Good news on that front: Short bursts of happiness sprinkled throughout the month are all that really matter to employees and, in turn, their engagement. 

Put Happiness to Work is a choose-your-own-adventure-style book for leadership. You can move between the seven strategies depending on what your team needs most right now. And I have to admit, I wanted to look into the counterintuitive strategies first – like putting negativity to work. So I bounced around between chapters and the book didn’t lose any of its luster when reading this way. Time-strapped leaders looking for strategies to implement with their team can pick this book up and easily find inspiration and simple strategies that work...

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