5 professional development books to help you adapt to the changing world of work

5 professional development books to help you adapt to the changing world of work

A professional development blog about future-proofing your career, finding your professional purpose and learning new skills. Here are five professional development books to help you adapt to the changing world of work.

Right move?

Change is in the air, isn’t it? Every conversation with friends and family has a ‘what next’ theme. These are big life-changing debates, about where and how to live and what work to do.

A few of my friends have sold their London homes this year, to move much further afield. That ‘forever home’ move that most of us thought we would make when the kids leave home, has been brought forward by nearly a decade. The new normal of home-working requires space, which most Londoners don’t have enough of.

The hustle and bustle of London is a thing of the past. If there isn’t a need to commute to our London offices anymore, and the excitement and culture of the capital have been paused indefinitely, what are we here for? This is Waterloo station at 11 am last Thursday. One of London’s busiest stations – deserted.

A review of 5 professional development books to help you adapt to the changing world of work, future-proof your career and find your purpose.

I used to think I’d live in London forever, now I’m not so sure. I’ve been spending a lot of time on Rightmove dreaming of a life near the sea. Unfortunately, we can’t tick all the boxes on our wish list, and don’t want to uproot the kids from school. So our own exodus is on hold for the foreseeable future.

Will work ever be the same again?

There are other changes afoot. Coronavirus has brought things into focus, like how much we value freedom, and how important it is to have purposeful and flexible work. Some of us have learnt the hard way not to put all of our financial eggs into one basket.

My usual appetite for reading fiction has shifted to professional development and business-focused books, so I can work out my values, purpose – you know, the BIG stuff.

5 professional development books to help you adapt to the changing world of work

Here are five professional development books I’ve read during the pandemic, which have helped me work out my professional purpose and have led to one exciting development I’ll tell you about later. I’m presenting them below in the order I read them. All except for the last book were published before COVID-19 turned the world on its head.

The Squiggly Career by Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis

From the blurb: Career ladders and jobs for life are a thing of the past. Today we’re living in the world of squiggly careers, where moving frequently and fluidly between roles, industries, locations and even careers, is becoming the new normal.

And to make the most of our squiggly careers we need to answer some important questions: What am I good at? What do I stand for? What motivates and drives me? Where do I want to go in the future? … 

Packed with insights about the changing shape of work, exercises to fuel your growth and tips from inspirational people, this book will help you to be happier and more successful in your career.

This book is equally useful if you’re employed and focused on one job, or self-employed with multiple income streams. It’s full of exercises and advice to help you identify your core skills and natural talents. It takes you through your past career to work out what is important to you, what you have most enjoyed, and what you’d run a mile from ever doing again.

There are some mental exercises in there too, such as turning any weaknesses you think you have, into positive statements. For example, my weakness: ‘lack of big picture thinking’ turns into a strength: ‘attention to detail’. It also addresses blockages such as imposter syndrome.

At the end of this process, you will have a clearer idea of your core values and your career ‘must-haves’. This will help you to see the possibilities, whether that’s going for a big promotion, moving to another company or a wholesale career change.

The Multi-Hyphen Method by Emma Gannon

From the blurb: The world of work is changing – so how do you keep up? The internet and smartphones give you the ability to make money on your own terms, when and where you want – but where do you start? …

Emma Gannon teaches that it doesn’t matter if you’re a part-time PA with a blog, or a nurse who runs an online store in the evenings – whatever your ratio, whatever your mixture, we can all channel our own entrepreneurial spirit to live more fulfilled and financially healthy lives.

The Multi-Hyphen Method has had a lot of hype, so I had high expectations. Gannon endorses a portfolio lifestyle, encouraging the reader to have several income streams. The focus is on developing a strong personal brand and taking your business online – whether that’s selling a consulting service or a physical product.

The book is a collection of Gannon’s and other contributors’ experiences, without much tangible advice. She has been hailed the voice of the multi-hyphen era, which is a new name for a not-so-new concept. Years ago, I read Be a Free Range Human by Marianne Cantwell, which gave me the push to leave employment. I found Cantwell’s book a more practical guide to creating a portfolio career.

A review of 5 professional development books to help you adapt to the changing world of work, future-proof your career and find your purpose.

Start With Why by Simon Sinek

From the blurb: Why are some people and organisations more inventive, pioneering and successful than others? And why are they able to repeat their success again and again? Because in business it doesn’t matter what you do, it matters why you do it.

Steve Jobs, the Wright brothers and Martin Luther King have one thing in common: they started with WHY. This book is for anyone who wants to inspire others or to be inspired.

Simon Sinek’s book sprang from his TED talk – How Great Leaders Inspire Action – which to date has been watched over 51 million times. This personal brand/marketing bible was published in 2011, so not only am I a bit behind the curve but the book is also due for an update for the online era.

Sinek is an evangelist for finding your purpose, your WHY. He provides case study after case study of businesses that have succeeded or failed, depending on whether they built on, or deviated from their original core values.

Sinek is not endorsing any kind of manipulation – it’s about having a strong brand with a clear vision and being able to communicate that.

His research really resonated with me. As consumers, we make most buying decisions with our hearts, rather than our minds. My brain may baulk at the price of the latest iPhone, but my heart says ‘I love it, I want it’. It made me think about my personal and business brand and how we appeal to clients on an emotional level.

[edit: since reading this book I have published a podcast about corporate purpose which you can listen to here. Look for Episode 9.

This led me to the next professional development book…

Find Your Why by Simon Sinek with David Mead and Peter Docker

From the blurb: … Find Your Why picks up where Start With Why left off. It shows you how to apply Simon Sinek’s powerful insights so that you can find more inspiration at work, and in turn, inspire those around you. …

Whether you’ve just started your first job, are leading a team or are CEO of your own company, the exercises in this book will help guide you on a path to long-term success and fulfilment, both for you and your colleagues.

The companion book to Start With Why has exercises to help you craft and communicate your ‘origin story’. Why you do what you do; why you started your business; or why you are drawn to your particular career. Your WHY statement is a one-sentence, personal brand strapline, which explains your (non-financial) motivation. The workbook has different chapters for individuals and teams.

It gave me clarity as well as inspiration for a potential new business idea.

How To Start A Business On Your Kitchen Table by Shann Nix Jones

From the blurb: … In 2014, in her farmhouse kitchen in Wales, Shann Nix Jones started to manufacture a relatively unknown probiotic goat’s milk product called kefir… Today, the business she started on her kitchen table has 300,000 customers and an annual turnover of £4.5 million.  

In this book, Shann shares the innovative methods that helped her turn her passion into a sustainable business …

Shann believes that anyone can start a business following her 13 steps and that doing so can bring you closer to living a life in which you are the CEO of your business and your destiny.

Shann Nix Jones’s book only came out this week – I was given an early review copy. Although I’m sure she finished it several months ago, it does acknowledge how much the world has changed during Coronavirus. Her book is even more relevant now that the job market is so precarious.

There were a few chapters about self-care, clearing your desk as well as preparing your mind, which all fits in with her whole-hearted business approach.

Shann has taken on board the ‘start with why’ edict and created a business that is completely values-based. Their value of ‘family first’ drives every decision they make. For example, if a customer is rude to one of their employees, they will refund that customer’s money and refuse to work with them again. How brave is that?

If you’re looking for your next side-hustle, or want to start a business, she advises that you find the intersection of what you love; what you do well; what earns you money and what the world needs. The possibilities are in that sweet spot in the middle of the Venn diagram.

I loved her friendly, down to earth writing style. I could imagine a conversation about her business over a cup of tea (with goat’s milk obvs).

So that’s the theory covered. What next?

Having absorbed all of these professional development books in a six-week timeframe, I have taken action. Since becoming self-employed I’ve had more than one income stream, but they have been disconnected from each other. I needed something to tie together the creative and professional elements of my work, to future-proof them both.

So I have stepped way out of my comfort zone. Combining one of my super strengths (The Squiggly Career) with my WHY (Start With Why) and turning obstacles into opportunities (How to Start a Business on Your Kitchen Table), I have started a podcast.

Don’t Shoot the Messenger is a podcast about the communications profession. I have conversations with experts in PR, corporate communications, internal comms and more – discussing everything from starting a career in communications to managing a full-scale corporate crisis.

I have only published one episode so far, but the response has been amazing. At the time of writing it’s currently number FOUR in the Apple Podcasts chart in the Careers category.


You can listen to it on the podcast page of this website or go to Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you usually listen to podcasts. I hope you enjoy it.

Learning how to create a podcast has been an interesting experience and has connected me with a new audience. It’s not a money-making exercise. Let’s face it, if I was motivated by money, I wouldn’t be sitting at my kitchen table writing this blog.

Embracing the unknown

So that’s where I’ve got to. I’m sure there are more changes ahead. I am embracing all possibilities, including a side-hustle as a seamstress.

It’s such an unsettling time. Are you making changes? Have you read any good business or professional development books you’d like to share?

I would love to hear from you if you listened to the podcast – your feedback is most welcome (but please be kind, I’m not over my imposter syndrome yet!).

Best wishes

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  1. Sarah September 18, 2020 at 12:14 pm - Reply

    Thanks for doing the legwork Vicki – have ordered Find Your Why. On another note, we left M25-land 15 years ago for a place near the sea, and haven’t regretted it for one moment. As for schools, the kids adapted and are now perfectly capable young men! Sx

    • User Avatar
      Vicki September 18, 2020 at 12:31 pm - Reply

      Hi Sarah, thanks so much for reading the blog. I hope you enjoy the book. I’m sure the seaside move will come at some point, just not yet. Vx

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