Book Club: 5 Books That Had the Biggest Impact on My Career


1. How to Win Friends and Influence People

I was told to read How to Win Friends and Influence People on my first day on the job for one of the world’s largest consumer data agencies.

I wondered why my then-colleague was so insistent that I read it and why he so openly talked about a book that sounded quite manipulative to me.

At the time, “winning friends” and “influencing people” sounded like very underhanded and duplicitous ways to conduct yourself in the workplace. I wasn’t really interested in it. But the longer I worked with this colleague and saw how well liked and happy he seemed and how many people sought his advice, I thought I’d read it on his insistence.

Don’t be fooled by the title. It’s solely to grab your attention (obviously). The book has been in circulation for more than 70 years and with good reason.

It’s effectively a toolkit that will teach you how to effectively work with other people (essential life-skills irrespective of profession) and how to get on with people, which generally makes your job easier.

Author Dale Carnegie provides readers with common-sense strategies to manage relationships more effectively; how to become a better manager; how to get the best out of people; how to really connect with people; build real friendships and, should you need to (and it’s highly likely that you will, at some point, need to) get people to agree with your way of thinking.

I sometimes think that the title does it a disservice. It’s better described as something like “how to be a better human“, “how to make the world a better place”, “how to get along with people and show a genuine interest in their lives, so that good things happen to you“. It’s at the top of my list because the content is pretty much an amalgamation of these titles. You should read this one first if you haven’t already.

3. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a good Life

I read this later in my career. I don’t think I would have appreciated it should it have been around in my twenties (it wasn’t) and I certainly don’t think I would have paid attention – I certainly was very much “giving all the f*cks”, about what other people thought of me in my teens and early 20s. The process of caring less what people think of me if one that I have certainly started on in my 30s. And I hear your 40s are even better for it.

The title of this book alone is enough to sell it to me.

Sitting on the Tube reading a book that has such a prominently placed “f-word” on the cover is quite strange. I could feel people looking!

It’s probably one that my sister would put her book cover on (like lots of people did whilst reading 50 Shades of Grey)

Essentially, this book will encourage you to embrace your fears, really buy into the “what’s the worst that could happen” scenario and play it out in your mind and help you to realise that ‘the worst that could happen’ isn’t actually that bad.

EitSo if your aim is to let go of fear and do what you what you want so that you can ‘follow your bliss’ as they say, you should read this encouraging book. It’s very motivating and will give you a ‘can do’ and “will do” attitude.

NB – I also read F*ck It, Do What You Love about a year ago and was just finishing it on the Tube,I spotted a guy opposite me reading the cover and write the title down. He laughed and asked if it was good. I said yes and gave it to him. I often wonder if he is doing what he now loves – I really hope so.

Here are the others from the same author that you can also check out:

3. The Attachment Parenting Book: A Commonsense Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Child

Yes, that’s right. A book about raising a child has had made the list of books that has the biggest impact on my career. But surely that makes sense? I’m a mother, a have a career. I read a lot. Of course that makes sense.

I read lots of books when I was pregnant and I continue to read parenting books since our darling Poppy entered our lives. Children require different things from us as parents as they grow up so I like to read what learned authors and experienced parents have to say so I can cultivate the skills I need to be the best mother and understand her. That being said, I don’t read parenting books from people without children. It’s just a rule of mine.

Enter quite a conversional parenting book for the time. I can’t remember where I saw it. Perhaps I saw a celeb with it, but whoever it was, I was intrigued with the title so I bought it and read it.

The book is very broad on raising children and I didn’t take on board everything – with parenting books I encourage all new parents to take information that resonates with them and leave anything that doesn’t – but in a nutshell, it’s the opposite of Gina Ford (which I did read and simply decided wasn’t for us).

When it comes to returning to work after having a baby, if you choose to go back, the book encourages parents to make up the time spent away from your young baby when you return to work by continuing to breastfeed, co-sleep and baby-wear and to make appropriate child-care choices to support these aims.

The number one thing I took from this book was to establish priorities about whom I worked for, to ask myself questions like:

Why am I going to back to work?

Do I enjoy where I’m working?

Is this company a place I see myself in 5 years time?

Am I trading time away from my child for a job I feel lukewarm about?

How do I prioritise the needs of my baby and still pursue a career?

What needs to change to raise her as I want to?

If the answers to any of these do not correlate with what I’m trying to achieve and home and at work – I’m out.

The book is a good choice for anyone who wants to take cues from their child, to parent ‘gently’ and is open-minded about how to do it. Give it a read and see if it resonates with you.

Some other gentle parenting books I really like:

4. The Four Hour Work Week

Instead of cringe-ing when I read the title of this book, I scoffed! At the time, I was working sooo hard, putting in all the hours at work – I had very little balance, but (weirdly) getting quite a lot of enjoyment from it all. But I knew something had to give – working like that was not sustainable.

Again, this book is very full, but author Tim Ferris (whom I think is just brilliant and I listen to his podcast, The Tim Ferris Show each week) is pragmatic and provides real insight into how to streamline your life and create your dream life and business. At the time that this was written, it was one of the early books of its kind so I didn’t feel bombarded with this kind of information (like I sometimes do now with the info that’s out there).

Some real life takeaways that I love:

No multi-tasking. This has become a rule for me now. I don’t multi-task, well I try not to. I do a much better job of the single thing I’m focussed on when I’m not also trying to squeeze in something else. I never studied and multi-tasked, so why would I do this once in my career?! Nothing gets done properly, so I’m trying my best to stop.

Check email only twice a day. Batching. Ferris is a advocate of batching everything pretty much. It’s very effective. I do this with some email accounts really well and others not so much, but it’s a much better use of my time. I have also turned off notifications for email. Try it.

Ferris encourages working remotely and automating lots of tasks (which I’m still getting to grips with, but it works) but the number one takeaway for me is to define what you’re working for.

What do you want you life/lifestyle to look like? And not just what do I want to do or be.

What car do I want to drive, what house do I want to live in? Where do I want to travel to in the world? What do I want to do with my spare time?

Who out of you asks themselves this question on such a scale?

I read this book a few years ago and it has had a big impact on my decision to work for myself. After nearly 5 years of working remotely for someone else, I took the leap and started my own consultancy. At the time of writing this its hard work, but I’m getting there!

Check out other books by Tim Ferris:

5. The Rules of Work

A uni friend introduced me to this book. I borrowed it from her, I’m actually not sure that I gave it back (argh! Sorry!) but it’s one of the best books for navigating your career early on.

I’ll share a few of the ‘rules’ and let you read the book for yourself:

Enjoy what you are doing.” – you guys should know me well enough by now, if you don’t enjoy your job, take steps to change it. Life is too short to spend 30-40 hours a week somewhere or doing something that you hate or that your nonplussed about.

You don’t want to regret giving an employer too much of your time – go online, get the necessary skills you need to change career, have a friend look over your CV and speak to a recruitment consultant. Get out there and change things if you really aren’t enjoying yourself, the world is your oyster and there are so many opportunities now with advancements in technology. Put your happiness first.

Be 100% committed” – Do your best. Put the effort in. Be seen as someone that does great things in the workplace, that does work that is consistently good/very good/excellent. It’s so much more fulfilling and in essence don’t we all want to spend our time doing things that light us up and that is fulfilling?

Develop a style that gets you noticed” – meaning a work wear style. This goes without saying. I will aways encourage anyone who wants to progress their career to invest in their work wardrobe. I learned this early and have got lots of enjoyment from it (who doesn’t like dressing well?) and cultivating a style that gets me noticed has also opened doors for me.

I was invited to meetings and events I was probably far too junior to be present at, but as a result I was privy to information and insight from senior executives and Board members that has taught me so much in my career and gave me the ability to build relationships with people at that level.

Essentially, dressing well will never hold you back.

Make learning a lifelong mission” – I don’t mean going to university or getting a certificate, although these are good options if they’re the right ones for you. The author (who writes under a pseudonym) encourages continual personal development, investing in yourself, always seeing a learning opportunity in any situation; making a conscious decision to learn and grow, and then just do it. This is one of my fav rules in the book because it means you never sit still and get stagnant or bored in your career.

This one changed my career, because I read it right at the beginning of it! I was armed with knowledge and tips that really helped me form the offset. Yes, I still made mistakes career-wise and learned as I went along like all of us, but I felt much more prepared than I would have otherwise had I not read it it. This book is an easy read and I highly recommend it. Plus, it’s a great gift for new grads!

Check out others in the collection:

Are there any books you have read that have really impacted your career that I should read?

If so, comment below with the name of the book, the impact it had on your career (if you want to share) and the author, so that I can check it out!

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