Best 6 books to help with career change

  1. The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

    Reading this book, for the first time in my life I started to consider a life where you don’t have to put up with being chained to a desk doing work you don’t want to do.

    I was going through a particularly bad patch in my previous job, in around 2007. At this time, my favourite running joke with a friend on my team was that I was digging an escape tunnel under my desk, à la The Shawshank Redemption.

    Just about every lunch break I’d go for a walk, feeling desperate, head to the nearby Waterstone’s bookshop on Oxford Street, and scan through the books to somehow try to find answers to the questions I had whirling around in my head. What am I doing with my life? Why do I feel miserable? What can I do to make it better? The title jumped off the shelf at me.

    I’d pop in again and again to read a bit more each day. One day I finally made the purchase – one of the best decisions I’ve made. I still refer to this book, a decade later.

    Tim was one of the first to write about ‘lifestyle design’, shunning the typical idea of working 9-5 in an office doing a job you don’t like and waiting until you retire to do all the fun stuff you dream of – and instead finding ways to incorporate these things (learning, travel, adventure, entrepreneurship) into your present day.

    How did it help me?

    It inspired me to dream of a life where I’m not wishing my time away until my next holiday, where I decide what I want to do, how I want to live my life, and then find a way to make that a reality. To not put off dreams until later in life, dreams such as living abroad and learning a new language. I’d previously lived in France, and promised myself that I’d live abroad again, one day. See what happened here.

    Tim has written several other books, all great, but this is definitely my favourite. He also has an amazing podcast, the Tim Ferriss Show, where he interviews seriously impressive guests (Tony Robbins, Richard Branson, Seth Godin) about their ‘tactics, tools and routines’ for being mega successful – I’m obsessed.

  2. How To Stop Worrying And Start Living by Dale Carnegie

    King of self-help, Dale Carnegie, wrote back in the 40s and 50s about implementing small habits and behaviours that improve your life. As someone who had always considered myself ‘a worrier’, this is a book I looked to for reassurance. (I found it on my parent’s bookshelf one day.) Perfect title! It was exactly what I needed at the time, constantly worrying about what I was doing with my life and not knowing what to do about it.

    In this book Dale teaches us how to face worry head on, providing different techniques for handling it. For example focussing on today’s actions rather than worrying about tomorrow’s; analysing your worry by getting all your facts together about a situation, writing them down, then analysing them impartially, coming up with several solutions, and then making a clear decision and taking action.

    How did it help me?

    Amongst many other tips he gave me the realisation that your optimum state should be to be as relaxed and calm as a sleeping kitten. Feeling tired, tense, and anxious, is a habit. Relaxing is a habit.

    Imagine picking up a sleeping kitten, they’re all soft and floppy. Like a crumpled sock. That’s how your body should feel. Soft, relaxed, calm. First reading this at a time when my back and neck were constantly tense and uncomfortable due to feeling stressed and sitting at a computer screen all day, this was a revelation. And something I try to remember.

  3. Be Your Own Life Coach by Fiona Harrold

    I also found this book on a bookshelf at my Mum and Dad’s, I still have no idea how it got there. The cover is kind of cheesy. But I love it. It’s full of little pink post-it notes highlighting the pages I like to refer to.

    Fiona starts off talking about not going through your life with regrets, about doing the things you dream of. She talks about how your beliefs and outlook effect the rest of your life, and you need to make subtle shifts in your thinking if you want to make changes. It’s all about creating your ideal life, and building your confidence to make it happen.

    Fiona encourages you to take control of your life, don’t put up with a so-so life, strive for more. It’s as though you have this person to hold your hand saying, “You can do this. You are absolutely equipped to deal with anything that comes your way.”

    How did it help me?

    It’s a really reassuring read, with case studies showing how people have transformed their lives by learning to follow their intuition, believe in themselves, and give something new a try. It encouraged me to stop making excuses and aim to live the life I want. The focus on building self-reliance and self-worth is inspiring, especially as someone who had lost confidence in my abilities.

  4. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers

    This is one of those books I’d pick up in the library when I was feeling totally lost and needed all the help and reassurance I could get.

    It’s all about taking action to get rid of the feeling of fear, rather than letting it fester and grow. Everyone’s scared of different things, all the time, and that’s not going to change. But you can practise facing the fear, doing whatever it is you are scared of that is stopping you from living your life as you want to.

    It’s like building a muscle, the more often you face your fears, the easier it gets. You get used to getting out of your comfort zone, and dealing with whatever comes your way. 

    How did it help me?

    The stand-out point for me is on tackling indecision and paralysis. When making a decision, you can take path A or path B – both are the best path to take. You’ll never be able to 100% predict the outcome. Deliberating, hesitating, over-analysing and not making a decision, all comes down to fear, and stopping yourself from taking action.

    Take path A and great things can happen. Take B and great things can happen. There is no wrong decision. Even if the path you take doesn’t pan out as you had hoped, you can correct your path as you go.

  5.  Working Identity by Herminia Ibarra

    I read this book around the time I left my previous job. The book focuses on the commonalities will all have in career change.

    You will go through a potentially tricky transition period. Read more about it here.

    You don’t have to immediately move on to the job you’ll have for the rest of your life. Take the pressure off.

    Test the next thing out, staying open-minded. It’s all part of the process.

    You’re shedding the skin of your previous work identity, maybe you’ll have to shed another one before you find something that fits.

    How did it help me?

    It was comforting reading about high achieving MBA types and rather than feeling inferior, taking comfort that we’re all the same, we all go through the same issues.

    Herminia’s words are encouraging; if you change career there will be a transitional period, it won’t always be smooth, but if you can accept that and just keep moving forwards, you’ll do ok.

  6. This Year Will Be Different by Monika Kanokova

    I read this book a few months after I had left my job of 10 years and was figuring out what I wanted to do next. One thing I knew was that I wanted to work differently. I didn’t want to work in a corporate environment or in a big office anymore. And  I wanted to do work I was actually interested in.

    I love this book as it’s basically a series of case studies where the author interviews interesting women who are doing interesting work, mainly freelance or have started their own businesses.

    The ones that really caught my eye were location independent. As someone who loves languages and has lived abroad before, I found this book so inspiring, reading about women from around the world, living where they want, finding a way in which to work to support this.

    To read the details of how someone makes this kind of lifestyle work for them was truly inspiring. And surprise surprise, my work is now location independent, working either from home, a co-work space, cafes or at my parent’s when I’m back to the UK visiting.

    How did it help me?

    Reading about people who are living their lives in a way that interested me was an eye-opener. Having spent my whole working life up until then working in offices, this opened up a world of different possibilities.

    I started to imagine myself doing something similar. From there, I started to figure out how I could do the same, and look out for opportunities which would allow me to live in this way. Seeing what is possible is the first step.

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What is Meditation Anyway? (What I’ve learned)

A few years back I was going through a stressful time at work. I was feeling overwhelmed and unhappy. I’d heard that there are many benefits to meditating and that it can help with stress, so I gave it a try.

I downloaded the Headspace meditation app on my phone, and tried their 10 minutes for 10 days challenge. Every day for 10 days you click a button on the Headspace app, and for 10 minutes you are guided through a different meditation. You find a quiet space, sit with your eyes closed for 10 minutes, and essentially focus on your breathing and on letting your thoughts flow, not paying attention to them or dwelling on them.

Timing Matters

At first I tried meditating in the evening before bed. I sat on my yoga mat in the sitting room.  The meditation was so relaxing that by the end of the 10 minutes I just wanted to lie right down and sleep. Hence, this time of day wasn’t for me. I love to read before bed and now I didn’t want to read, I wanted to sleep. That bothered me. I’d have to come up with another solution.

So I switched to meditating in the morning. 10 minutes, first thing in the morning on waking, sat up in bed. This was better. It’s definitely easier said than done, this whole not dwelling on your thoughts thing – before you know it you can be falling down a rabbit hole of deep thinking. But the whole trick is to develop an awareness of your thoughts. “Hold on, I seem to be running through tomorrow’s presentation in my head (and it’s making me breathless and panicky), let’s just go back to focussing on counting my breath. 1 and 2, 3 and 4…”

It became a habit. Three years on, I still do exactly the same. I stick to the guided meditations. There’s a whole range of topics to choose from depending on what’s going on in your life: balance, focus, anger, relationships…. I went through a period of completing 15 minutes’ meditation, which felt like an achievement, but then I switched back to 10 minutes. 10 minutes is doable. It’s easy to find 10 minutes.

How Meditation Helps Me

I think meditation helps me. It’s not so much the time sat still that is the revelation (although taking the time to sit still and breathe deeply does feel good). It’s the moments during the rest of the day when the words or focus of the guided meditation come back to me.

When I’m able to distance myself from my thoughts:

“Hmmm well that’s a negative view you’re taking there, maybe stop, and focus on a more positive angle.”


“Ok you’re feeling really stressed right now, there’s not much I can do about it, you’re reacting, but remember this feeling won’t last all day, it’s just a moment, it will pass.”

I can’t exactly always control my thoughts, and the emotions they bring up, but I can have an awareness. They’re just thoughts. They come and go. They don’t have to define the whole day. There’s no such thing as a bad day. Well, maybe if something really, really bad happens there is. But on the whole it’s how I’m choosing to view the things that are happening around me that are making me feel bad.

I can have an awareness of the thoughts passing through my mind.

Being Present

One of my favourite memories is during a holiday to Turkey, the month after leaving a job I’d had for a long time (the holiday had been planned before making that decision, great timing).

On holiday I really took time to digest what had happened, I wrote a sort of ‘thought diary’ every morning, letting out all my thoughts, feelings, fears, ideas, everything. It was so cathartic.

And after breakfast, I’d sit on our little balcony, close my eyes, and listen to a meditation on creativity. During this meditation you imagine a small ball of light or energy, growing within you, expanding to fill your surroundings, the room, the town, the country, the world, the universe…I love learning and thinking about the universe so I particularly liked this one.

When I’d open my eyes on completing the meditation, I’d take in the amazing view in front of me. The blue sea, with a small boat lazily chugging by, the green cliff top looking majestic, the perfect cloudless blue sky, the bright pink bougainvillea framing the view from my balcony. The brightness the sun cast on the landscape.

On opening my eyes, it was as though everything was in high definition. I took in every detail. That moment of realisation “Oh yes, I’m in Turkey! I can feel the warmth on my skin, and what an amazing view!”

I guess the whole point is that the meditation made me be in the present moment, as we’re advised to do so often (and with good reason I think). It made me appreciate the present moment. I was acutely aware of my surroundings, the view, the feel of the warmth of the morning, the smells, the sounds. I think you’re more aware of these things when you are visiting somewhere new anyway. But the meditation really bought the present into focus, and intensified my awareness.

And I’ve had this ‘feeling present’ realisation in much more mundane surroundings also; in my flat in Tooting, noticing an interesting shadow the morning sunlight was casting on the wall, or starting the meditation when it’s dark outside and then opening my eyes to realise the sky is turning pink, the day is dawning.

In those moments I’m not rushing off, running through my to-do list, getting ready for the day. For a minute or so I’m just looking, contemplating, right in the now, noticing something new.

Over to you

Do you meditate? Do you find 5 to 10 minutes to sit quietly, letting thoughts pass by, breathing deeply? If not, is now the time to try, and see how it makes you feel?

During a period where you might be feeling out of control, overwhelmed or just too busy, taking 10 minutes to yourself can work wonders in calming you down, and gaining perspective.

Simply remembering to breathe deeply is so good for you, as many of us seem to be in the habit of breathing shallowly.

Give it a try.

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Favourite books on Career Change & Improving Your Life

I love to read. In reading I find answers, solutions, escape, inspiration, adventure, solace…

I think that reading was probably the main thing that helped me through my career transition. Well, reading, and then taking action. I turned to books for answers to the many questions I had. When I was feeling desperate, I’d wander around bookshops in my lunch break, dipping into any that caught my eye. They always seemed to be books to do with stress, being busy, feeling overwhelmed, how to be happy, how to change career, how to find your passion.

There are a few books I got my hands on that particularly resonated with me and had significant impact on the next stage of my life. They’re listed below, as a source of inspiration if you too are looking for some answers (or at least words of comfort or advice).

I’ve also included books I’ve read more recently on mindset, confidence and being yourself.

You can read a post which goes into a bit more detail on these books, here: Best 6 books to help with career change


Books on career change & deciding how you want to live your life

What Colour is Your Parachute by Richard Nelson Bolles

The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

This Year Will Be Different by Monika Kanokova

Working Identity by Herminia Ibarra

The Element by Sir Ken Robinson

Can We Live Here by Sarah Alderson

Books on mindset: confidence, facing fear and taking action

Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers

How To Stop Worrying And Start Living by Dale Carnegie

Unlimited Power and Awaken The Giant Within by Tony Robbins

Lucky B*tch and Get R*ch Lucky B*tch by Denise Duffield-Thomas

Be Your Own Life Coach by Fiona Harrold

F**k It by John C. Park

The Chimp Paradox by Prof. Steve Peters

Books on being yourself, being bold, being creative

Quiet by Susan Cain

Girl Boss by Sophia Amoruso

How To Be A Girl by Caitlin Moran

The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

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The One Habit That’s Going to Change Your Mindset, Improve Your Confidence and Make You Take Action

(Hint, the new habit? It’s listening to podcasts and reading books. We’ll get there in a bit. First, here’s the background.)

The New Normal

Over the past few years, surrounding myself with people who think in a certain way has totally changed my mindset and has been massively beneficial. Because of this I now believe I’m a person who can live an exciting, interesting, adventurous life.

I can leave a job I don’t enjoy.

I can move to live in another country.

I can set up my own business.

If other people out there can do it, why the hell can’t I? Whereas once before I wouldn’t have had the confidence to think like that, this kind of thinking has become ‘normal’ for me. My goals and dreams are totally doable and achievable.

And if I look back at the me from a few years ago, I realise how far I have come.

Hiding Away

At that point I was severely lacking in confidence. I didn’t know where I wanted my life to go (other than a consistent longing to fling myself from an office window- more with the desire to fly far far away than to land with a splat).

I was in a job I didn’t enjoy and hadn’t enjoyed for years. I felt trapped, lost, stuck, frustrated. I was meandering, aimless – I wasn’t yearning for a promotion or to become my boss, there was no appeal there whatsoever. I just wanted to hide away.

The prospect of a potential huge new project or important client would appear and I’d feel a sinking feeling, I didn’t want to deal with it and I didn’t feel equipped to deal with it, despite having worked in the industry for a decade! It seems incredible now but that’s how I felt.

Now things have changed. I’m much better at making decisions about what I want to do, and how I want to live my life, and going for it.

Deciding what I want, having the balls to ask for what I want, and making it happen. To have the confidence and boldness to go for it. It’s as though I’m building this decision-making muscle, which was lying dormant for many years.

The New Habit

I honestly can’t stress enough how important reading books and blogs and listening to podcasts has been in changing my mindset and building my confidence. Read more about this here.

Reading, listening and absorbing.

They say you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Well, through books and podcasts, I’ve been surrounding myself with people who are living bold lives, on their terms. Find out who here and here.

People who are passionate, confident, who admit to taking risks and making mistakes, but who have the drive to make it work.

People who have great, interesting lives, who haven’t let themselves be held back (by themselves).

People who didn’t know it all before starting out, who still don’t know it all, and have just learned along the way.

People who have found their own voice and are brave enough to be heard.

Sometimes I’m surprised to hear that these people are my age or younger. And they seem so self-assured and confident! But sometimes they say things which are kind of obvious. Or even a bit silly.

And I love it, because then I remember that they are just like everyone else, we ALL have the same fears and worries – there are just those who deal with them, and move forwards, and those who hold themselves back.

Taking action is key

I was listening to a James Altucher podcast yesterday and he said something I had to make a note of:

“The only way to get out of your comfort zone is to do something out of your comfort zone, not read something about getting out of your comfort zone.”

Taking action is key. It’s one thing to absorb all this information, and feel great and dream, and think big. But, you’re only going to progress if you actually start taking action for yourself.

Over to you

Think about someone you find inspiring or interesting. Have they written any books? Are there any autobiographies or biographies about them?  Do they have a website, articles, blog? Have they been interviewed for a radio show or podcast? Are there interview clips of them on YouTube? Have they done a TED Talk? Is it someone you know, or could make contact with? Could you invite them for a coffee?

Read about them, listen to them, find out about their life and see what you can learn from them. Then Take Action. What is it about them that lights you up? What have they done that you can you try or replicate? Can you channel their positive spirit? Build your tenacity? Adopt their work ethic? Try some of their daily habits? Incorporate some of their tactics in your daily work?

Please share with someone you think might enjoy reading this.

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Salsa for Beginners (or Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone)

“Let yourself go!” he shouts. “One, two, three” pause “six, seven, eight.” “Enjoy it!” he barks. “One, two, three” pause “six, seven, eight.” My young dance partner twirls me round and somehow whacks me on the head in doing so. We burst out laughing as we struggle to keep going in time to his muttered counting. Our bald, tanned, swivel-hipped, all-in-black teacher Carlos continues his commands as we step and sway.

It’s a typical Monday night at my local salsa class. Twenty of us are partnered up in a circle in a bright, mirrored, dance class, focussed and intent. When I first moved to Valencia a year ago, doing a regular salsa class with the hope of one day being able to go to a salsa club and actually dance with people (rather than cringe, freeze, turn down the gallant dancers eager to whisk me to the dancefloor) was top of my wish-list.

I spent a month in Cuba a couple of years ago and was entirely seduced by the way people could dance there, from tiny children moving fluidly to dignified smartly dressed 90-ear olds; and particularly the beautiful, self-possessed twenty-somethings who made salsa dancing cool, in their casual denim shorts and trainers, dancing with ease and throwing in Michael Jackson style swoops in a balmy outdoor club overlooking the sea.

Being vulnerable, letting go…

My beginner’s classes started a couple of months ago, and although I had done some one-to-one classes in Cuba, this was the place for me. I’d been to a huge, popular salsa club earlier in the year, and had been too intimidated to dance. I’d forgotten how to move and felt seriously self-conscious. I needed to start from scratch.

And I am learning. These lessons are in Spanish. My Spanish is getting there but still, I sometimes struggle with the listening part. (“Preparados?” Sure, I’m ready…) Half the time I have no idea what my teacher or dance partners are saying to me. I just smile and laugh. I feel uncomfortable, vulnerable, exposed. But, these classes are teaching me to let go, to not have to be in control. To not care what I look like, how ungraceful I may look. To not worry that I don’t understand the names of the moves, and that I can’t for the life of me remember them all.

… and going with the Flow

There’s nothing like that feeling of flow, when you’re doing a move you’re actually mastering, your feet are doing what they need to without too much thought, your partner is spinning you effortlessly, you feel like you’re a dancer at the 1830 club in Havana… This may only happen occasionally, but it doesn’t matter. I dance for this feeling. And to enjoy the simple act of moving to music, feeling the beat. I dance with a big grin on my face.

I’m out of my comfort zone, I don’t know what I’m doing, it’s hard, but I absolutely love it. Is there something you’re putting off because of fear of not knowing what you’re doing? Something you think you’d secretly enjoy? Is now the time to try?

Please share with someone you think might appreciate reading this.

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