A career expert shares her 3 must-reads that can help you succeed work

Figuring out how to get (and stay) ahead in your career can be challenging and overwhelming.

But career coach Celia Currin says reading the right books and articles can help significantly.

At a recent New York Women in Communications, Inc. event, Currin shared her three must-reads for anyone trying to move forward in their career.

"These are for anyone who's trying to build a long-lasting career and be thoughtful about it," she tells Business Insider.

Here's what Currin — who has an MBA from Harvard; was the first female editor of Harvard's weekly newspaper Harbus; and has held senior roles at Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal — thinks all ambitious career builders should be reading:

'Lean In' by Sheryl Sandberg


Currin says she finally took the time to read the 2013 book "Lean In" by Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, in early February 2016. She thought it was a "fabulous" quick read from a good writer.

"I thought it was a very interesting view of career issues from the woman's perspective, and I thought it was a very candid and personal approach," she says.

While the book is more relevant to women and how they are sometimes their own worst enemy in the workplace, Currin says she'd recommend it to men, as well, because it talks about different styles of work, such as direct versus non-direct.

"People need to be pretty conscious of their own style and the style of their colleagues and that's not just a woman's thing," she advises.

Synopsis: "Lean In" by Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg focuses on how women unintentionally hold themselves back in the workplace, and what they can do to fix it. Sandberg includes compelling research, as well as personal anecdotes, to explore negotiation tactics, mentorship, and how to build a fulfilling career.

'Who Gets Promoted, Who Doesn't, and Why' by Donald Asher


Currin says the 2007 book "Who Gets Promoted, Who Doesn't, and Why" by career expert Donald Asher is a great book for someone starting a new job because it gives "real common sense approaches" on how you can set yourself up for success at your new company.

The book advises you to work smarter to get ahead, not harder.

For example, Currin says ambitious people often get a nice pay increase when they switch jobs, but they have to be sure their timing is right. "You need to move when you're still hot, not when you're cold," she advises.


"Who Gets Promoted, Who Doesn't, and Why"explains "exactly what puts one employee on the fast track to an exceptional career, while another stays on the treadmill to mediocrity," according to the book summary.

Asher organizes his advice around ten things everyone should be doing to get ahead, including these three tips: "timing is as important as performance or talent," "always make your boss look good," and "find guardian angels and benefactors."

'The Brand Called You' by Tom Peters

Currin says the 1997 Fast Company cover story "The Brand Called You" by Tom Peters revolutionized the world and is still timely 19 years later. "Everything in it is still very much on target," she says.

The article "was way ahead of it's time," Currin explains, because it views all workers as free agents. In other words, you're the head marketer for a brand called you. "In a sense you're contacting your work and your time and your efforts to a company," she says.

The article is especially applicable to job seekers and climbers today because it tells you to think of your career as a chess game where you need to make strategic moves rather than a ladder where you just need to keep climbing, she says.

For example, Currin only worked for two companies — Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal — over a 25-year period, but admits that most people don't want to do that anymore. Today, she says, people stay with an employer for about four years before moving on to a different company or industry.


"The Brand Called You" by Tom Peters tells readers to think of themselves as a brand — just like Nike or Coke — that they are in charge of marketing. He says you should never let your company or job title define you because no matter who you are working for, you are ultimately working for yourself.

"We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc.," Peters writes.

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A career expert shares her 3 must-reads that can help you succeed work

Minimize the stress of your first week in a new job by taking time to organize your personal life.

"Any projects around the house that have been nagging at the back of your mind? Now's the time to get them done," says Ryan Kahn, the founder of The Hired Group and creator of the best-selling How To Get Hired online course.

Miriam Salpeter, job search coach, owner of Keppie Careers, and author of "Social Networking for Career Success" and "100 Conversations for Career Success," says your break between jobs is the perfect time to schedule doctor appointments and deliveries that require you to be home, and to run any errands that may be difficult to get done once you start your new job.

"Take advantage of not having to be reachable during the day, and stop checking your email or looking at Facebook for an afternoon or two," says Sutton Fell. "This gives you a chance to reset your brain."

Instead of staring at a screen for hours on end — which you'll probably have to do as soon as you start your new job — pick up a book you've been dying to read, or go take an exercise class you've been wanting to try.

"Before starting a new job, take the time to ensure that you are maintaining the relationships you had formed at your previous job," Kahn says.

Make sure you have contact information for the people that you worked with in the past, and plan on checking in with them on a regular basis once you're in your new role.

We know we said earlier you should take a break from technology — but it's okay (and advised!) to take an hour to two during your time off to update your LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook profiles with your new company and job title.
You might not have a chance to do afternoon lunches with people for the first few months of your new job, so your break is a great time to do these, says Sutton Fell.

Nicole Williams, LinkedIn’s career expert and best-selling author, suggests using this break to spend time with family.

"When you start any new job you should expect to work longer hours — at least the first several months," she says. "Utilize this time to make the most of being at home."

Whether you can get away for a night or a week, take a trip somewhere to recharge, see new sights, and take full advantage of your time off, Sutton Fell says.

In today's competitive job market, the more senior the position, the more you will be scrutinized in those first few months, Kahn says.

"You'll be expected to hit the ground running versus spending time learning the ropes. Get a head start by researching the industry and the company, and learning as much as you can about the position and the team you will be working with," he suggests. 

Give some thought to what you want to do differently from the start in this new job, Williams Yost says.

"Are you going to try to wake up earlier and get to the gym a couple of days a week? Are you going to try to schedule a networking lunch outside of the office once a month?" Use this time to establish a plan. 

During this rare lull between jobs, think about where you are headed. Where do you want to be in five years? In 10 years? How will this job help you get there? Coming in knowing where you're going will help you stay on the right path from day one, Kahn says.

If your work schedule is shifting at all, it's important to organize things like childcare, household responsibilities, and your personal routine, Sutton Fell says.

Salpeter says if you altered your sleep schedule at all during your time off, you should try to get into a "work-oriented sleep routine" a few days before starting your new job.

Don't forget to spend some time on yourself. Take time to relax, get plenty of rest, and indulge in some pampering. 

"Congratulate yourself on a job well done," Williams Yost says. "Treat yourself to a massage, new power outfit, or a nice dinner. You landed a job in a dim market; you should take the time to be proud of yourself."

Worried that it may be difficult to get back into the swing of things if you’re too relaxed during your time off? "Work is like riding a bike; once you start that first day, you'll click right back in," Williams Yost explains. "So don't worry about being too relaxed during your break. Drink it all in. Enjoy every minute of it. Then dive into your new gig with a new outfit, fresh outlook, and happy heart."

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