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It is hard to describe the feeling when it dawns on you that your college degree has been preparing you for a job, not a career.
What’s the difference?
A job is something people do for financial returns. A career is something you build over decades, at the end of which you look back with joy over all you have accomplished.
So, while college may not prepare you for this, there are many terrific books that cover a wide-range of post-study options.
Here are some of the best career books for college students.
1. THE THIRD DOOR BY ALEX BANAYAN
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have coffee with the richest man in the world? Go clubbing with celebrities or even rewarded for committing cyber crimes? Okay, maybe not the last one, but these are all things college freshman Alex Banayan did!
Alex set out on a mission to interview the world’s most successful people in order to find out their secrets. What he found out was that they refused to wait in line or use conventional means; they took the third door.
If you are a highly-ambitious individual with dreams of becoming the next Mark, Warren or Lady (Gaga), this book is for you.
2. WHAT COLOR IS YOUR PARACHUTE? – RICHARD N BOLLES
So, you have two options: you can apply to work for a Fortune 500, or a start-up with strong growth potential. Which of these companies will be more likely to hire you?
If you chose the start-up, then you are absolutely correct and you just made Richard Bolles proud. What Color is Your Parachute is the best-selling career advice book for a reason. It is full of unconventional wisdom and strategies guaranteed to get you several interviews before you graduate.
The strategies have been so successful that 10 million people have bought this book over the past year, and it just got a fresh update.
3. SO GOOD THEY CAN’T IGNORE YOU BY CAL NEWPORT
Passions are overrated and misleading. They are constantly changing, depending on who we are dating at the time. When you are therefore given advice like “follow your passions”, it inevitably leads to “What am I passionate about?”
A more objective and trustworthy alternative according to Cal Newport, is to do what you are actually good at. If this seems contradictory to what people say, it’s because it is and it is right.
Just like Alex Banayan, Cal Newport interviewed a lot of successful people and found out that passion comes as a result of excelling at something. But don’t just take our summary for it, read the book for yourself.
Additional reading from: Deep Work by Cal Newport
4. GET THE JOB YOU WANT, EVEN WHEN NO ONE’S HIRING BY FORD R. MYERS
There is nothing like a global catastrophe or economic depression to make a person fear for their job-security. Add on top of that a mountain of debt (student and otherwise) and it feels as though your heart just might explode.
But this book is the light at the end of the tunnel. As a matter of fact, you don’t even have to wait for the end, because this timeless masterpiece will show you how to employ unique strategies to get a good job at the right wage, in the right company.
In fact, the author argues that tough economic situations can help you develop an even better career. Now, that’s not something you read every day.
5. DO WHAT YOU ARE: BY PAUL D. TIEGER, BARBARA BARRON AND KELLY TIGER
You have probably heard more than enough about personalities and careers, but now it’s time to read it for yourself.
Over one million people have bought this gorgeous guide to navigating the job market based on your particular set of skills. What you’ll find here is a lot of references to doing what you are passionate about, but before you think these books are contradictory, there is a caveat.
The authors of this book want you to do what you’ll love based on what you are naturally good at. There are a few helpful case studies in the book and who knows, you just might find one that matches your exact situation.
6. DESIGNING YOUR LIFE BY BILL BURNET & DAVE EVANS
When a Stanford professor of Mechanical Engineering writes a book, you expect it to be, well, not this!
Designing your life takes a methodical approach to helping you get what you want out of life, without sacrificing your happiness. Unlike most of the career books, this one takes a holistic approach to your well-being.
This book was borne out of actual lectures, and so has many applicable insights and practical tips that can help you as a student, before you step into the big, bold world.
7. 120 JOBS THAT WON’T CHAIN YOU TO YOUR DESK BY THE PRINCETON REVIEW
Enough with the career advice. Now, we just want a good old-fashioned book that will tell me point blank that my life post-college won’t be a nightmare.
Well, if you dread strict formal dress codes, cubicles and mind-numbing group meetings, then the Princeton Review has come to the rescue.
The 120 jobs discussed in the book come with practical tips from people living what could be your dream. While some of these jobs require a degree or even an advanced degree, some of them do not.
In hindsight, you probably should have read this book before college…..oh well!
8. VERY GOOD LIVES: THE FRINGE BENEFITS OF FAILURE AND THE IMPORTANCE OF IMAGINATION BY J.K. ROWLING
Finally, we have a book by probably the most recognisable author on our list. J.K. Rowling has had a rather remarkable career (and bank account) for someone who was constantly being told her writing just wasn’t that good.
Well, if you have experienced any form of disappointment in your personal and professional life and would like to learn how to make lemonade, this is the book for you.
Very Good Lives is based on Rowling’s Harvard commencement speech in 2008 and was published seven years later.
Unlike most of the books on our list, you won’t learn practical tips on landing your first job or acing an interview. However, what you will gain is a sense of conviction that even if your first plan doesn’t work, one eventually will. And that plan you get right, can be more rewarding and fulfilling than you ever could have predicted.