8 must-read books: Fresh advice on managing your career

The best IT leaders expertly help their team members manage their career goals, struggles, and paths. However, they may tend to go on autopilot when navigating their own professional journeys. There have never been more career opportunities – and threats – for CIOs as the IT organization plays an increasingly critical role in overall business outcomes.

Taking full advantage of these professional prospects and effectively mitigating the risks, though, requires a thoughtful and more innovative approach.

[ Get updated advice on resume do’s and don’ts for job hunters. Read also: Job hunt: 10 common resume questions, answered. ]

We’ve gathered eight books to help IT leaders at various points in their career journeys – whether they’re considering transitioning to a new role or organization, managing a particularly thorny situation at work, or rethinking their professional trajectories.

Lose the Resume, Land the Job


By Gary Burnison

Book description (via Amazon): “Gone are the days of polishing up your resume and sending it out at random. At every level today, you need to ‘lose the resume’ in order to land the right job. In other words, you have to learn to tell a story about yourself that speaks to your competencies, purpose, passion, and values. Lose the Resume, Land the Job shares the new rules of engagement: How you must think, act, and present yourself so you can win.

“Based on inner exploration drawn from the IP of the world’s largest executive recruiting firm, the book gleans insights and stories (the good, the bad, and sometimes the ugly) from Korn Ferry recruiters across the globe who work with thousands of candidates each day. It helps you gain a deeper perspective on who you are, what you’re passionate about, the cultures in which you fit, the kind of bosses you should work for, and where you can bring the most value to organizations.”

Why you should read it: Ready to look for a new gig? Polish the resume, the experts will tell you, and start that search. That resume, while necessary, is nowhere close to sufficient for the thoughtful professional. Finding a job may not be hard for people with years of experience. But what’s never been harder, Korn Ferry CEO Gary Burnison says, is finding the right job. Burnison offers assessments, questionnaires, and candid advice for professionals from the front lines to the C-suite. He emphasizes looking beyond landing the next role – to building a career that’s a good fit.

Master Your Next Move, with a New Introduction: The Essential Companion to ‘The First 90 Days’


By Michael D. Watkins

Book description (via HBR): “Master Your Next Moveanswers a distinct need, focusing on the most common types of transitions leaders face and the unique challenges posed by each. Based on years of research, and now with a new introduction, this indispensable book explores eight crucial transitions virtually everyone encounters during their career, including promotion, leading former peers, onboarding into a new company, making an international move, and turning around a business in crisis. With real-world examples and many practical models and tools, Master Your Next Move is your guide to surviving and thriving as you make your next move… and every one after that.”

Why you should read it: In his international bestseller The First 90 Days, transition authority Michael D. Watkins outlined some foundational steps for getting up to speed quickly in new roles. Since that time, Watkins has worked with thousands of leaders, who opened his eyes to the discrete challenges of more specific career transitions, like promotions, joining new companies, and taking an overseas assignment. Here, he rethinks his framework for various career-change situations.

Questions Are the Answer: A Breakthrough Approach to Your Most Vexing Problems at Work and in Life


By Hal Gregersen

Book description (via Amazon): “For innovation and leadership guru Hal Gregersen, the power of questions has always been clear – but it took some years for the follow-on question to hit him: If so much depends on fresh questions, shouldn’t we know more about how to arrive at them?

“That sent him on a research quest, ultimately including more than 200 interviews with creative thinkers. Questions Are the Answer delivers the insights Gregersen gained about the conditions that give rise to catalytic questions—and breakthrough insights—and how anyone can create them.”

Why you should read it: “The important and difficult job is never to find the right answers,” said Peter Drucker, “it is to find the right questions.” Executive director of the MIT Leadership Center and co-author of The Innovator’s DNA, Gregersen digs deeper into this premise. He argues that in the face of opportunities and threats, reframing questions can prove powerful. Gregerson’s book can guide IT leaders to ask new career questions, helping them overcome assumptions, consider more creative solutions and approaches, and overcome perceived barriers.

Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life


By Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

Book description (via Amazon): “Designers create worlds and solve problems using design thinking. Look around your office or home — at the tablet or smartphone you may be holding or the chair you are sitting in. Everything in our lives was designed by someone. And every design starts with a problem that a designer or team of designers seeks to solve.

“In this book, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans show us how design thinking can help us create a life that is both meaningful and fulfilling, regardless of who or where we are, what we do or have done for a living, or how young or old we are. The same design thinking responsible for amazing technology, products, and spaces can be used to design and build your career and your life, a life of fulfillment and joy, constantly creative and productive, one that always holds the possibility of surprise.”

Why you should read it: “Design thinking can help you build your way forward from wherever you are, regardless of the life design problem you’re facing,” write Burnett, executive director of the Design Program at Stanford University, and Evans, adjunct professor and co-founder of Electronic Arts. If you’re stuck in some area of your career, pick this one up. The authors explain how to apply design thinking principles to the “wicked problems” (the ones most resistant to resolution) of work – and life.

The Passion Paradox: A Guide to Going All In, Finding Success, and Discovering the Benefits of an Unbalanced Life


By Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness

Book description (via Amazon): “Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness once again team up, this time to demystify passion, showing readers how they can find and cultivate their passion, sustainably harness its power, and avoid its dangers. They ultimately argue that passion and balance – that other virtue touted by our culture – are incompatible and that to find your passion, you must lose balance. And that’s not always a bad thing. They show readers how to develop the right kind of passion, the kind that lets you achieve great things without ruining your life. Swift, compact, and powerful, this thought-provoking book combines captivating stories of extraordinarily passionate individuals with the latest science on the biological and psychological factors that give rise to–and every bit as important, sustain–passion.”

Why you should read it: In writing their last book, Peak Performance, Stulberg and Magness discovered that the highest performers possessed more than just performance practices; they had an unrelenting drive. In this book, which delves into the art and science of passion, they argue that the choice to pursue a passion – and whether it serves as a largely positive or negative force in one’s life – is up to the individual. This book rejects the commonly held perspective that passion is something that somehow overtakes us, suggesting that passion (when approached the right way) is an ongoing practice that can bring joy to work and life.

What Color Is Your Parachute? 2019: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers


By Richard N. Bolles

Book description (via Amazon): “In today’s complex job-market, the time-tested advice of What Color Is Your Parachute? is needed more than ever. Recent grads facing a changing economic landscape, workers laid off mid-career, and people searching for an inspiring work-life change all look to career guru Richard N. Bolles for support, encouragement, and advice on which job-hunt strategies work – and which don’t. This revised edition combines classic elements like the famed Flower Exercise with updated tips on social media and search tactics. Bolles demystifies the entire job-search process, from writing resumes to interviewing to networking, expertly guiding job hunters toward their dream job.”

Why you should read it: The very 70’s-era What Color Is Your Parachute? (10 million copies sold in 28 countries) has remained one of the most enduring and beloved career discovery handbooks of all time – one that remains largely relevant in 2019. Bolles has boosted the value of his timeless tome with a reissue for digital age job hunters and career-changers.

Insight: Why We’re Not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life


By Tasha Eurich

Book description (via Amazon): “Research shows that self-awareness – knowing who we are and how others see us – is the foundation for high performance, smart choices, and lasting relationships. There’s just one problem: Most people don’t see themselves quite as clearly as they could.

Fortunately, reveals organizational psychologist Tasha Eurich, self-awareness is a surprisingly developable skill. Integrating hundreds of studies with her own research and work in the Fortune 500 world, she shows us what it really takes to better understand ourselves on the inside – and how to get others to tell us the honest truth about how we come across.”

Why you should read it: Self-awareness – the ability to see ourselves clearly, to get how others view us, and to understand where we fit in the world – has been the core of human survival for centuries. Eurich calls it the “meta-skill of the 21st century,” enabling better decision-making, stronger relationships, more effective leadership, and even greater profitability. Eurich shares stories of people who have made significant gains in self-awareness and offers techniques and strategies for doing the same.

Principles: Life and Work


By Ray Dalio

Book description (via Amazon): “Ray Dalio, one of the world’s most successful investors and entrepreneurs, shares the unconventional principles that he’s developed, refined, and used over the past 40 years to create unique results in both life and business – and which any person or organization can adopt to help achieve their goals.”

Why you should read it: A 600-page book may seem like a big ask for a busy leader, but business leaders from Bill Gates to Reed Hastings to Jamie Dimon extol the virtues of this tome. Dalio’s lessons for leadership and career, centered around the themes of radical truth and transparency, are, according to the Chicago Tribune, “applicable to the careers of powerful CEOs, ladder-climbing executives, longtime grunts, and fresh-faced rookies.”