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The Top 10 Must-Have Professional Development Books

If you’re just starting to build your professional development library, the following ten books are essentials. These are considered the “classics”. They are the most widely referenced in business because they offer timeless advice in an engaging way. Check out this list and be sure to share your personal favorites in the discussion.

What Color is Your Parachute? By Richard Nelson Bolles
My father gave me this book when I graduated from college and five years later, I mailed it to my older brother when he was considering a career change. The concrete advice offered in this book is both practical and insightful, whether you’re just entering the workforce or exploring your career options later in life. It is the “best selling job-hunting book in the world” for a reason. The useful information inspires readers to honestly evaluate their strengths and goals, establish a plan, and execute that plan with care and efficiency. A new version is released every year, so be sure to get the most up-to-date copy. However, even an older edition will be useful.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, By Stephen R. Covey
I’ve read this book two times and will probably read it again very soon. Each time I open it, I learn something new. This isn’t a “quick read” kind of book. I recommend that anyone who is serious about personal and professional development study the lessons here carefully. The habits presented here are thought provoking and truly life changing. Stephen Covey does an amazing job of inspiring and teaching the reader. The information is profound, building on principles of psychology, spirituality and philosophy so be prepared: this is an intense read.

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, By David Allen
Often referred to as GTD, the organizational system presented in this book has gained something of a cult-following in recent years. Originally created for CEOs, the system outlines how to effectively manage an overwhelming workload. I have personally used an adaptation of the GTD program for several years and I love it. The book seems to overcomplicate the process so don’t get too wrapped up in it. I recommend reading it once through and just take notes of things that hit home. Take the parts that are useful and implement them. Don’t worry about following every step precisely, unless you really want that kind of firm structure. If you really get into the GTD-thing, you’ll find plenty of blogs and websites dedicated to discussing techniques for effectively implementing it.

How to Win Friends and Influence People, By Dale Carnegie
This book is a sort of “Human Relations 101.” It’s broken down into short sections that explain a principle and offer practical examples. This classic provides an in-depth analysis of human behavior and our common characteristics. It outlines strategies that will help anyone become more influential, a better leader, more persuasive, and yes, even more likeable. It’s a fascinating read and one that really motivates the reader to explore the depths of human psychology. It’s a must read for every human being.

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