What are your favourite books on career development?

I've read somewhere that soft skills are more critical than technical skills for business success.

What are your favourite non-technical/career development books?

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Vijay Thirugnanam's photo

I think soft skills should be practiced by interacting with people. No point reading a book. Having said, if you are like me, having to read first before practicing, there are some books that I will recommend.

  • How to win friends and influence people - Dale Carnegie
  • Influence - The psychology of persuasion - Cialdini
  • Flow - Optimal experience - Mihaly C
  • The Secret - Rhonda Bryne
  • Inner Engineering - Sadhguru

These are nice books. The last book, Inner Engineering has a chapter on Energy. That part may be omitted. And also, it is an advanced book and makes sense only if you are 30+.

In a nutshell, the highlight of all these books can be summarised into a few core advice:

  • People get influenced by your commitment, consistency, likability, and ability to help (reciprocate).
  • You should enjoy your work. And there should be some sort of single mindedness when you work. In fact, you should lose your self (identity) when you work.
  • Body is not just physical energy but has some sort of life energy. Do Yoga to regulate your life energy apart from doing physical exercise (gym) to keep yourself fit.
  • Mind can be in five states - three of which are important for software engineers. Distracted, Oscillating and Focussed. Being in a focussed state is desirable. This can be achieved if you pump in enough life energy into your body (Not physical energy).
  • When you pump some more life energy, your mind moves from focussed state to a blissful state. If you can keep yourself there, whatever you wish for will materialise and come true.
Ben Buchanan (200ok)'s photo

"Turn The Ship Around" by David Marquet An easy read because it's told in the context of a true story, sets up a great model for understanding motivation and competence. Although written from the leader's perspective it is revealing for everyone involved.

"How Successful People Lead" by John C. Maxwell A compact summary of Maxwell's 'five levels of leadership' concept. Was hard to find for a while, but it's currently available as an e-book.

"Managing Humans", and "Being Geek" by Michael 'Rands' Lopp These are a little more wild and woolly than the others, as they're more of a collection of blog posts than traditional books. But they give a much more approachable vibe to leading and growing your tech career, compared with most business books being pretty dry.

Sébastien Portebois's photo

Thanks for asking this...I have many recommendations for technical books, but nothing really worth it (at least from the top of my head) for soft skills. Definitely following this to see the answers !

Richard Uie's photo

"I've read somewhere that soft skills are more critical than technical skills for business success."

I've learned not to believe everything I read.

I have a degree in Psychology, which is my way of saying that I've read an almost stupid amount of books related to interpersonal relations, group dynamics, people-stuff-in-general.

The Math parts of my degree and my graduate-level training in Statistics and Operations Research led me to read a crazy amount of material related to Project Management and Decision Theory.

That said, for me, the most important career-development ideas were those that made me more mindfully masterful of my tradecraft. So, the best for me was The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master. I note that I have never aspired to management. I wanted to be the most guru-ful developer - senior project analyst/engineer or team lead maybe, but not non-coding manager.

How you define "success" depends on your goals.

Bridget Sarah's photo

I think it depends on the individual, some soft skills come naturals and for example some of these soft skills I had to learn but It does help if you have a range of technical skills. If you want to be successful then its down to you, no one else will do it for you, and its that determination, drive, passion and lots of motivation that helps to put you in that direction for success.

I have Gordon Ramsey's biography, as well as a few others and despite they've had fails along there careers, they made it in the end :)