5 Books to Read if You’re Thinking of Changing Careers

5 Books to Read if You’re Thinking of Changing Careers
5 Books to Read if You’re Thinking of Changing Careers


Unhappy workers dream of doing something different, but often don’t know where to even begin. They might want to start by reading these books.

During the pandemic, we had sudden layoffs, quickly followed by the Great Resignation. Now millions of positions are unfilled, yet many Americans still say they are unhappy in their jobs. In a survey of 1,000 workers between the ages of 25 and 44 by online-course provider edX back in 2018, some 29% of respondents said they had changed careers since their first job after college, and 32% said they were thinking about a change.

With that in mind, The Wall Street Journal asked some experts what books would be most helpful for people considering switching careers. Here’s what they said.

“What Color Is Your Parachute: Your Guide to a Lifetime of Meaningful Work and Career Success"

By Richard N. Bolles

This book gets a big thumbs-up from Hartford, Conn.-based Paul Tieger, an expert in the study of personality types and a trainer of human-resources specialists.

“What I appreciate most about Dick Bolles’s book is its comprehensiveness," Tieger says. “It was really the first career book, and it opens people’s eyes to how important it is to understand your needs to find career satisfaction and success."

Richard N. Bolles includes many activities that help people find satisfying work. It also covers such topics as identifying strengths for interviewing, networking, navigating the job market and handling career moves. Better still, it has stood the test of time. The book was first published in 1970 and has been regularly updated since.

“Make Your Contacts Count: Networking Know-How for Business and Career Success"

By Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon

When switching jobs, who you know helps. That is why increasing your contacts is a key skill, says Red Bank, N.J.-based Dawn Graham, who works in talent management.

“I used to believe if I worked hard that was all you needed," Graham says. “We know now that without your network, all the experience and qualifications in the world won’t help you." This is why Graham recommends “Make Your Contacts Count," a book about how to develop contacts to get yourself where you want to be. The two authors, Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon, have collaborated on a number of books about networking and careers.

“It’s a very tactical book," Graham says. It shows you strategies and describes what individuals can do to build networking into their lives. While some people may wish to have lunch at their desk, for example, they should consider scheduling lunch with a different colleague once a week. “Make the most of those moments you have with people," she says. Reading the book also led her to start taking notes about people in meetings, with a view to striking up conversations later.

“The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth"

By M. Scott Peck

Carlsbad, Calif.-based Adam Markel, a researcher and author on the topics of resilience and the future of work, recommends “The Road Less Traveled," by M. Scott Peck, a psychiatrist and bestselling author who died in 2005. One of the book’s themes, Markel says, is self-discipline, something of a requirement for anyone seriously pursuing a new career, and extremely helpful in overcoming fear of change.

Change happens constantly, and where there are inflection points, “it can drive people to a reactionary state of fear," Markel says. But, he says, change is inevitable and fear works against us achieving our goals.

Peck’s book, first published in 1978, led Markel to explore the reasons he felt fear in the face of change, and he credits the book with helping him overcome those fears. “If it doesn’t create fear and panic, then you are able to find the creative opportunities in whatever it is that is happening," he says. “Things always work out for the best."

“The Good Enough Job: Reclaiming Life from Work"

By Simone Stolzoff

Many younger workers these days want jobs with meaning, purpose and impact, says William Burnett, executive director of the Life Design Lab at Stanford University. It is a lot easier to find those things outside the workplace, Burnett says, which is why he recommends this book by Simone Stolzoff, the former design lead at the design-services company IDEO.

“The book gives you permission to say, ‘The job I have is good enough,’ " Burnett says. “A job is a good enough job if it is one that fits your values and you are learning stuff." A lot of younger people have it backward, Burnett adds. You don’t find meaning in life through work, he says, “you find meaning by expressing yourself into the world." People need another strategy to have lives with impact, he says, which is where Stolzoff’s book helps.

“Dedicated: The Case for Commitment in an Age of Infinite Browsing"

By Pete Davis

Stolzoff himself recommends this book. It isn’t necessarily a career book, but its lessons—from Pete Davis, an author focused on public-policy matters—apply to choosing a profession, Stolzoff says. For instance, most of us periodically experience a lack of commitment even if it is scrolling through Netflix to find the perfect movie. Of course, we don’t want to watch a bad film, but scrolling prevents us from watching anything. At some point we need to dive in and see what the movie is like. If it is bad, then you stop and pick another.

“The culture is one of restlessness," which is the opposite of what we want, Stolzoff says. “The truth is we yearn for purpose and for dedicating ourselves to commitments." The way to see whether a job fits, he says, is to dive into it with gusto. If you don’t really commit, you won’t know enough to decide.

“Make a firm decision one way or the other," Stolzoff says.

Simon Constable is a writer in the Occitanie region of France. He can be reached at

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