3 books I keep recommending to clients – on Career Transition

Maya Gudka, Executive and Life Coach and Researcher

Navigating our careers, particularly the transitions, can feel messy and murky. The following book recommendations offer structure, optimism and help us manage the psychology of this process. Yet they don’t seem to be the obvious go-to reads for those grappling with these issues. In my hypothetical course entitled how the hell to navigate life and work they would be a core part of the syllabus. Here they are.

1. Why the follow your passions mantra is misleading, ‘So Good They Can’t Ignore You’ by Cal Newport.
I don’t think the title represents the content of this book so you might miss it if you’re on a quest for career nirvana. But this book should be required reading for every 18 year-old contemplating their next steps after school. And while it might be ideal to have read this earlier in our career, we experience career transitions and questioning later on (see next title below), which is where I encounter this subject with clients. Cal Newport distinguishes following your passions, which can lead us to reject great career choices for the wrong reasons, from building a career that you love- which requires:
– Career capital – built through cultivating rare and valuable skills
– Fundamental psychological elements – such as autonomy, recognition and impact
– Understanding the lifestyle you wish to have, and working back from that. By lifestyle he means living environment, financial means, time availability, and social aspects amongst other activities. The idea is to take a broad-based life view rather than fixating solely on content of our work.

2. Career reinvention & questioning are natural development phases, not a crisis – ‘Couples That Work’ by Jennifer Petriglieri.
Petriglieri describes three notable transitions in this adult development journey – the second of which is specifically described as reinventing oneself. At this stage, we question expectations of what others expected us to do with our careers and lives and might seek to break free of these to become authors of our own lives. We don’t tend to do this alone, and it impacts others, particularly our partners and families – and Petriglieri argues that this dynamic is generally not addressed.

This book shows how we can support ourselves and partners through these three stages and come out stronger together. She highlights common oversights such as focusing exclusively on monetary or logistical considerations as we negotiate our careers with our partners – and how this can result in arrangements which overlook social, emotional and psychological needs. It also makes an excellent, research-based case for being a dual career couple – even if it might seem a more chaotic arrangement in the moment!

3. Transitions need to be honoured, rather than rushed through, in order to be successful. ‘Transitions’ by William Bridges

I read this when I moved out of employment and found it helped me to see the transition process as a much more sacred and special time (see Entering the Neutral Zone). Bridges references cultures where transitions are much better celebrated and embraced, and how empowering this can be for embodying the changes underfoot.His Transitions model is also used in organisational development and emphasises that change will only be successful if leaders and organizations address the transition that people experience during change. Supporting people through this, rather than pushing forward is essential for the change to work as planned.

Have you read any of these, or do you you have any additions to the list? When I started listing my perennial book recommendations I actually ended up with 10 titles on different themes…so there may be future posts like this.

Maya Gudka is an Executive and Life Coach at Wondersource. Click here to learn more or book a session with Maya.

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