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11 books to help grow your career during a recession — with tips on how to get hired, promoted, and find meaningful work

11 books to help grow your career during a recession — with tips on how to get hired, promoted, and find meaningful work
  • The US is now facing a looming recession, leaving many people uncertain about their career prospects.
  • While these are unique circumstances, it can still be helpful to read up on expert advice and the accounts of other professionals as they navigated financial crises and hardship in the past.
  • We've compiled a list of books that will build up the business skills and knowledge needed to face this recession, with help from career experts Amanda Augustine and Fred Goff.

It can feel daunting to navigate your professional life under the uncertainties of a pandemic-induced recession.

The total number of unemployment filings over a 16-week period has reached nearly 50 million. And an economic recession has turned what was a job seekers market, into an unemployment rate of nearly 11.1% in June.

But it's not the first time that people have had to navigate the effects of a severe economic downturn. If you're wondering how to best manage your career through the recession, it may help to read up on how experts have done it in the past.

We researched and cross-referenced lists and reviews of the best business books, with a specific emphasis on those most helpful for recession times. We also got recommendations from CEO of Jobcase Fred Goff and career advice expert Amanda Augustine to compile this list of the best books to improve your career prospects during a recession.

"Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World" by Adam Tooze

"Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World" by Adam Tooze
Amazon

To make smart business decisions, it's helpful to understand the current market and its history. Adam Tooze's book provides a contextual knowledge of how the economy today was shaped by the 2008 financial crisis and the subsequent economic crises that followed.

Tooze explains complex financial concepts with enough simplicity for anyone to understand. "Crashed," which won the Lionel Gelber Prize in 2018, combines historical narrative with practical macroeconomic and financial background in a way that will inform readers about the past, but also equip them with useful knowledge to navigate their careers in the future.

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"How Will You Measure Your Life?" by Clayton M. Christensen

"How Will You Measure Your Life?" by Clayton M. Christensen
Amazon

Goff said that the pandemic has forced many to contemplate their success in a way that they would not have under normal circumstances.

"Many of us look back and realized we bounced from opportunity to opportunity without a ton of consideration for our overall objective of worklife or even to determine what metric would determine success for ourselves," Goff said in an email to Business Insider.

Goff recommended that readers approach this book as a way to re-frame the way they view success so that they can reflect on their careers and what truly makes them feel fulfilled.

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"The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch

"The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch
Amazon

Randy Pausch's "The Last Lecture" provides another form of perspective for those who are re-evaluating their careers during the pandemic, which has given many plenty of time to reflect. Goff recommends that those who are building their careers at the moment "take advantage of that time, re-evaluate and make sure we are on the right path."

"The Last Lecture" is inspired by the final lecture that many professors give on their last day of teaching. Written by a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University who was diagnosed with terminal cancer, the book offers the advice that he would give if it were his last.

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"The 2-Hour Job Search, Second Edition: Using Technology to Get the Right Job Faster" by Steve Dalton

"The 2-Hour Job Search, Second Edition: Using Technology to Get the Right Job Faster" by Steve Dalton
Amazon

While it's important to reflect, there are also books to consult for those who are ready to search for a new job.

Amanda Augustine recommends Steve Dalton's book, which provides insight into the most effective the job search process. The book provides advice on navigating the job hunt efficiently and finding a job in less time.

"While Dalton acknowledges that all job searches involve the prep, search, and close phases, his book focuses on demystifying the activities in the 'search' phase that will help job seekers uncover the unpublished or 'hidden' job opportunities you won't find anywhere," Augustine said.

"In an especially crowded job market, it's important to utilize multiple methods in pursuit of job opportunities. This book does a great job of encouraging professionals to be proactive and to focus on the activities that will yield the best results for their job search."

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"Work Your Money, Not Your Life: How to Balance Your Career and Personal Finances to Get What You Want" by Roger Ma with Jennifer Ma

"Work Your Money, Not Your Life: How to Balance Your Career and Personal Finances to Get What You Want" by Roger Ma with Jennifer Ma
Wiley

Roger Ma is an award-winning financial planner and a publisher strategist at Google. His financial planning book offers guidance on finding a meaningful career and financial security at the same time.

The book is a great resource for early-career professionals who are considering a career change. "Many young professionals want to change careers but are afraid they can't afford to make such a transition," Augustine said. "Ma helps readers understand how to make smart decisions about their finances — something we could all benefit from at this uncertain time — while pursuing their careers."

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"Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike" by Phil Knight

"Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike" by Phil Knight
Amazon

The Nike creator's memoir offers an inside look into the mind and habits of a successful entrepreneur who left business school with little more than a degree and $50 that he borrowed from his father.

A recession can be a good time to start a business, and there are few better companies to look to for this than Nike. The memoir offers a perspective on starting a business and having confidence in your vision, even when prospects appear grim.

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"Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action" by Simon Sinek

"Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action" by Simon Sinek
Penguin Group

Author Simon Sinek started a movement to help people gain inspiration at work in 2009, at a time when many were still reeling from the aftermath of the Great Recession. He also gave the third most popular TED Talk of all time entitled "Start With Why."

The TED Talk and this book both focus on a crucial question: how are some organizations and professionals more successful than others? According to Sinek, successful professional suits have one thing in common: a thorough understanding of the purpose – the "why" – behind it. The book provides a framework for building professional pursuits in a way that can inspire and transform.

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"The Start-Up of You" by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha

"The Start-Up of You" by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha
Amazon

Goff recommends "The Start-Up of You" for Reid Hoffman's general career advice. Written by the cofounder and chairman of LinkedIn, the book offers advice on gaining an edge and standing out in a saturated and competitive career market.

At a time when global competition is fiercer than ever, Hoffman offers a unique suggestion to approaching your career: treating it like a start-up business. The book teaches emerging professionals to take risks and invest in themselves just like they would a startup they feel confident in. The advice is especially relevant to the demands of the modern global market.

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"Bounce Back: How to Fail Fast and be Resilient at Work" by Susan Kahn

"Bounce Back: How to Fail Fast and be Resilient at Work" by Susan Kahn
Amazon

"Resilience is not something that you are born with, it is not a mere personality trait," Susan Kahn writes in this book about resilience.

Resilience, or the ability to recover quickly from difficult situations, is something that we will all need to help us adapt to the looming effects of the recession. The ability to learn from adversity is a key trait to weathering difficult economic circumstances, and Kahn's book offers helpful advice to cultivate that skill.

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"Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises" by Timothy F. Geithner

"Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises" by Timothy F. Geithner
Amazon

Timothy Geithner was president of the Federal Reserve and then Barack Obama's secretary of treasury during the 2008 financial crisis. He helped guide the United States through the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

His book offers an inside look into the policy makers of the last financial crisis, and insight into how the US was able to withstand an enormous amount of pressure on its financial systems. It provides contextual understanding the crisis and its aftershocks so that we can be better prepared for the next one. A historical understanding of how the economy works at a policy level is crucial for those hoping to understand how to navigate their business on a personal level.

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"You Need a Budget: The Proven System for Breaking the Paycheck-to-Paycheck Cycle, Getting Out of Debt, and Living the Life You Want" by Jesse Mecham

"You Need a Budget: The Proven System for Breaking the Paycheck-to-Paycheck Cycle, Getting Out of Debt, and Living the Life You Want" by Jesse Mecham
Amazon

Having a well planned-out budget is a good idea for any stage of life, but especially during a recession. Jesse Mecham's Wall Street Journal Besteller offers a simple, but comprehensive set of rules for anyone hoping to get their finances in order and put their money to work for them. The book offers advice for those who are struggling to get out of the paycheck to paycheck cycle or to get out of debt.

Mecham offers the financial literacy tools they need to take control of their personal and professional lives. "You Need a Budget" makes budgeting one less thing for people to worry about as they take strides towards successful careers.

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