future focus

recommended reading

Classic career texts

Brilliant future - work out what you want and plan how to get there

Chris Sangster
ISBN 0-273-65601-5 Paperback 230pp; £12.99

Brilliant FutureThis is a great book to have by your side when you’re starting a new job. It’s more a workbook than a text book and provides a focus for understanding your personal style, how you operate and how you can get the best out of your situation.

It’s all about self awareness and the author is keen to work with you to develop what you’ve got rather than try to force you to fit someone else’s mould, and it’s also good at helping you to consider what alternative options there might be out there, not just presenting you with getting to grips with more of the same.

It’s realistic. So, while motivating you and encouraging you to think widely, it doesn’t set up false expectations, so you will be advised that certain courses of action or certain approaches take time, need qualifications or training etc

It’s full of exercises to help you to reflect on past experiences in order to shape your future, and I particularly like the Format pages, listed as appendices, which can be useful for people who don’t want to read the whole book to do the exercises, or want to revisit the exercises at a later date. The Format pages are, essentially, templates for different scenarios. So, depending on your particular situation, you can choose which format to work with, thus providing more focused questions and challenge for you.

Buy 'Brilliant Future...' from Amazon.co.uk



How to get a job you'll love

John Lees
ISBN 0-07-710382-3; 252p; £12.99

How to get a job you'll loveThere are plenty of books around on different aspects of managing your career. Based on the premise that we all invent creative solutions to everyday problems - 'taking children in opposite directions in one car; paying this week's bill with next week's money', John Lees adopts a right-brain approach in solving career issues. This has plenty of appeal, because he rightly points out that, if things aren't working for you in terms of achieving a satisfying career, then you probably need to take a different - more creative - approach.

Unfortunately, most people are not very clued up on how to manage their career anyway, so when they do get around to doing so, through lack of confidence in what they're dealing with, they consider that there must be one correct way of going about it.

Through providing a whole variety of exercises to set you thinking, John Lees frees you up from conforming to one way of doing things, which makes the book more relaxing to work through, and will build your confidence in your ability to manage your career. Working through it won't feel like a chore, which is the effect of some of the career books around - not helpful when you're already feeling stressed because of an unsatisfactory work life. If you're looking to change direction, or just evaluate where you are in your career, this book provides an effective jump-start to actually taking some action.

Buy 'How to get a job you'll love' from Amazon.co.uk



Snap, crackle or stop

Barbara Quinn
ISBN 1-843-04007-7; paperback; 165pp; £15.00

Snap, crackle or stopThis book is for people who are thinking about career change, from the perspective of the 'snap' of not being able to take it one day longer in the current role or the slow painful crackle of creeping discontent. Using case studies for encouragement (there are hosts of people who do actually make the break), it looks at why we stay in a job far longer than we feel we should, and drives us to action through honestly evaluating our situation.

Barbara Quinn asks us to consider ways in which we are limiting ourselves and provides the framework for us to assess the level of risk and likely benefits. Immensely readable, entertaining and thought-provoking, this book provides a career health check and will help in taking those next steps towards a rewarding future.

Buy 'Snap, crackle or stop' from Amazon.co.uk



What colour is your parachute?

Richard Bolles
ISBN 1580-083-412; 422pp; £14.99

What colour is your paracute?The classic book for career changers, 'What colour is your parachute? ' is lively and visually appealing enough to comfortably find a place in someone's Christmas stocking, yet it provides a focused and direct tool for approaching career change.

This book really helps you to understand what you want out of career, whether it's via a traditional job-hunt or a life-changing job-hunt. This book is updated annually and the author's dedication shows - he builds confidence rapidly and energetically. The book has lots of ideas and plenty of back-up strategies, so you soon find yourself thinking that at least one of them will work for you. It contains questionnaires and exercises to help you to identify your unique skills set and to find a way forward. Plus one valuable section rarely seen in career guidance books - how to choose a career counsellor. Good, solid, lively and practical advice. No wonder it's a best-seller.

Buy 'What colour is your parachute?' from Amazon.co.uk



What Next? - The complete guide to taking control of your working life

Dr. Barbara Moses
ISBN 0-7513-6446-0 Paperback 336pp; £14.99

What next?As career guidance books go, this one is pretty all-encompassing. Barbara Moses covers all the usual career stuff such as writing a CV and preparing for interviews, but she also covers broader career issues such as overcoming career crises and dealing with difficult bosses. This is helpful as we all know that it's one thing to find a great role but another to experience ongoing satisfaction in the workplace.

When working with clients I always spend some time at the outset exploring their current situation and it's great to see this idea addressed in the book. So the first chapters cover personality questionnaires, suitability for different types of industry, motivators and using past experiences as a guide for the future. Many career books jump straight into a chapter on the CV, which severely misses a trick as if people don't take a long hard look at what they have to offer they are in danger of repeating less than satisfactory work experiences.

If you're interested in career theory and some depth behind the career management process, then this book is probably not for you. As a typical Dorling Kindersley publication, there are lots of quizzes and questionnaires, photographs and colour which give it a lively and pacey feel. It's more likely to be something you'd pick up and work on in short bursts rather than to provide a solid understanding of career management.

At £14.99, it's not the cheapest career book on the market, but its style will probably mean that it gets used, and its overall feel is positive and upbeat, so if you haven't got a clue where to start in taking control in your career, this is as good a place as any, and in that respect, not bad value.

Buy 'What next?' from Amazon.co.uk



Lifestyle - the wider context


Authentic Happiness

Martin Seligman
ISBN 1-85788-329-2 Paperback 320pp; £15.00

Authentic HappinessI recall reading Martin Seligman in my psychology undergraduate days, and it appears that things have changed since then. Seligman is a psychologist who was dissatisfied with traditional approaches to psychology which were based on negative or dysfunctional aspects of human behaviour to focus on ‘Positive Psychology’ which considers people’s capacity to change their lives through focusing on their strengths.

His shift in focus is based on the point that ‘people want more than just to correct their weaknesses, they want lives imbued with meaning’. In other words, we want to be happy.

His wide-ranging book talks about the three pillars of positive psychology – positive emotion, positive traits and positive institutions. Clearly, the approach is that if we understand and embrace the first we can build the second, and through that the third will evolve. This idea is expressed through much New Age writing, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s no reason not to give it a try.

I like practical books, and this one is certainly not pure theory. Seligman has created several surveys which allow us to discover our ‘signature strengths’ and to use these to address aspects of our lives which are less than fulfilling.

Some criticisms of the book are that it is ‘too positive’ (a criticism which has been levelled at me many times, I recall, and I’ve always taken the view that it’s others’ loss to hold that view) and ‘too American’. Well, take a look yourself, if it’s going to help a few of you to find a clearer path, then I say give it a go.

Buy 'Authentic Happiness' from Amazon.co.uk



The Luck Factor

Dr Richard Wiseman
ISBN 0-7126-2388-4 Paperback 215pp; £9.99

The luck factorThe fact that the author is very keen to be in print as Dr Wiseman rather than just plain Mister will tell you that we are being encouraged to believe that this is all scientific stuff, not just some dude's views and opinions on luck. And that is so. The book is based on research into how life unfolds for people who consider themselves to be lucky and people who consider themselves to be unlucky.

Ten years ago, Wiseman decided to search for the elusive luck factor by investigating the actual beliefs and experiences of lucky and unlucky people. Looking at the results, he was able to identify four main factors which explained living a lucky and unlucky life. He was then able to show a group of people who considered themselves unlucky how to think and behave like lucky people. The results were astounding with almost all participants reporting significant life changes, including increased levels of luck, self-esteem, physical well-being, confidence, and success.

He then, of course, goes on to teach you, through exercises, how to turn your fortunes so that you can give your own luck a boost.

This is an extremely readable and practical book, packed with case studies, ways of assessing your own luckiness and a variety of exercises for creating a changed attitude. Try it!

Buy 'The Luck Factor' from Amazon.co.uk



The Tipping Point - how little things can make a big difference

Malcolm Gladwell
ISBN 0-349-11346-7 Paperback 280pp
£7.99 (currently on special offer at Amazon.co.uk - just £3.99)

The tipping pointNow this scared my socks off. Having decided upon recommendation to buy this book, I was tootling around in my local bookshop, searching in the Business books, only to be redirected by the sales assistant to Science. ‘But I don’t read Science! I haven’t done that since I was an undergraduate!’ I told him as I trotted behind him, at the same time getting quite excited at the prospect of reading Science, just a few steps and substantially less than ten pounds sterling away.

And what a great book! As readable and absorbing as any truly good novel, it explores the phenomena whereby suddenly something becomes big, a force to be reckoned with. Malcolm Gladwell analyses a range of phenomena, from medical epidemics to shopping trends to social issues, getting at the heart of why this idea/trend/disease took off at that particular time – what were the elements which conspired to shift the way that it was previously experienced, and catapult it into another league.

Apart from the contextual element, he identifies the personality types which are the necessary factors – the people who play a key role in making that shift and identifies the characteristics of the environments which make a difference - people with a wide, rather than narrow, network.

It’s not a self-help book, so unfortunately you don’t get a chapter on how to make it work in your personal life, but I’ve outlined a few ways above. What is does, though, is to get you thinking about the principles of making a difference. It’s quite an energising book, so include it in your holiday reading.

Buy 'The tipping point' from Amazon.co.uk



The big difference - life works when you choose it

Nicola Phillips
ISBN 1-843-04001-8; 203pp

The big differenceAnother great book in the Momentum series. I haven't yet found one that doesn't hit the spot. As with the others in the series, this is essentially a practical manual for dealing with life in all its glory. In an early chapter, Nicola Phillips explores the difference between choice and decision, a debate which, I have to confess, loses me a bit, but she picks up speed when she gets into the nitty-gritty. Her book is heavily based on using the performing arts as metaphor and guide - she explores plots, scenery, suspending disbelief, dialogues and movies, and embarks upon a narrative of..…narrative. Story-telling, and why it's important. She delves down to peel away the layers that may have prevented acceptance of our story for what it is - which can often be a defence mechanism. She explores fantasies as an important part of that dialogue and helps us to differentiate between when our fantasies are helpful and when they stop us from making a difference to our lives. And much more. Her essential and ultimate question is 'What's stopping you from making the change'


Buy 'The big difference' from Amazon.co.uk



Unconditional Success

Nick Williams
ISBN 0-593-04897-0; paperback; 302pp; Great value at £10.99

Unconditional successSomehow we get to adulthood with the belief that success is for the few. We also tend to hold negative associations about success. Nick dismantles these ideas, instead replacing them with a new success ethic based on 'creating a new match between who we are in essence and what we do in the world'.

He encourages us to see that we can have the success which we dream of. This book provides a framework for reviewing our established view of success and the ideas which we have internalised about it. Nick provides exercises to encourage us to gain clarity about our sense of self and our values, and what that means for us in setting goals from now on.

The exercises and examples provide gentle challenge and the 'wisdom questions' which Nick poses are deceptively simple, but they very powerfully get to the heart of understanding our experience of work and success.

Buy 'Unconditional success' from Amazon.co.uk




Gregg Levoy
ISBN 0-609-80370-0; paperback; 329pp

Part of the challenge of mid-life review is getting clarity about what it is you feel led to do. Gregg Levoy encourages us to take a hard look at those messages which we may have been ignoring, perhaps for decades. This book is beautifully written and Gregg uses an abundance of myths and real-life stories as illustrations. This provides a comforting feeling as we recognise that our experiences and responses are similar to the examples he gives and thus we realise that we're not alone in finding our path for life - others have had the same challenges in recognising their true calling.

Gregg helps us to differentiate between true callings and 'siren songs', to recognise the tactics we invoke in order to avoid the calling (for example, instead of becoming the musician we always dreamed of being, becoming a music critic), and to learn how to deal with the voice of Yes and the voice of No. This is not a quick fix and you won't find a one-size-fits-all solution. What this book provides is a kind of prism through which you see your life in a different way. It is at times humorous as well as being comforting and challenging and is essentially a practical guide for finding our way.

Buy 'Callings' from Amazon.co.uk



Lifeshift: Doing The Dream

Andrew Ferguson
ISBN 0-9536878-0-5 Paperback 250pp; £12.50

LifeshiftThis book is billed as 'the definitive guide to taking back your life'. That's a grand claim and Andrew Ferguson is stated as the pioneer of 'holistic enterprise'. No surprise that Andrew's approach is to look at career as a fulfilling concept within the whole of life, an approach which is very much New Age thinking applied to the world of careers. However, if these ideas don't alienate you, and I know that they are not everyone's cup of tea, he goes into considerable depth by integrating many concepts and this makes it quite satisfying to read by drawing on different approaches.

The book is based on the rhythms of life and the idea that we go along paths which we may or may not feel comfortable with. Andrew claims that we have 'roadmaps' for our set paths but that they actually cloud our vision and that Lifeshift is about finding a new road. Personally, I enjoy the detail of the theories which underpin the book and the preamble before he gets to the nitty-gritty of how to make the change, but many people might be champing at the bit for the exercises to take them forward.

Further evidence of this integrated approach is in Andrew's practical support through his Breakthrough Network and workshops. If you're after a quick fix this is probably not for you but if you're after a career book based on some philosophical ideas and you're happy to explore some theories, then try it.

Buy 'Lifeshift' from Amazon.co.uk



Working Identity - unconventional strategies for reinventing your career

Herminia Ibarra
ISBN 1-57851-778-8 Hardback 200pp; £18.99

Working Identity - unconventional strategies for reinventing your careerHerminia Ibarra turns conventional wisdom on its head. We are told that in order to make change we must know what we want to do. Ibarra challenges this to say that we only know what we want to do by acting and then evaluating and reviewing those actions to shape our knowledge.

With two key premises at the core of the book - 1. there are many possibilities for change, and 2. changing career means changing ourselves, Ibarra explores thirty-nine case studies to demonstrate how powerful and effective the change process can be. She overlays the stories with theories of transition and comes up with a practical framework for approaching career change. A framework flexible enough to allow for further unfolding. Working on the basis that transition is chaotic, she normalises the experience by reviewing real-life cases.

She admits that this is not a book for everyone, but if you've been struggling to find a way of driving through change, and just getting a better understanding on what you really want, it might just be for you. At the very least it will help you to consider your current situation from a fresh new perspective.

Buy 'working identity' from Amazon.co.uk



Powerful beyond measure

Nick Williams
ISBN 0-593-04898-9; 252p; £310pp

Powerful beyond measureWe learn to see power as relational - we can only have power at the expense of others, and vice versa. We therefore attribute power with negative connotations and believe that it can only be achieved through becoming a different person, one we don't necessarily want to be - and usually if someone else will allow us to change. We see it as win-lose. We associate power with control and domination.

Nick Williams shows us a different perspective which is based on finding the power within us rather than searching for something outside of us which doesn't feel comfortable. It's about being rather than doing and letting power emerge. He takes us through exercises which help to dispel the myths which we grew up with surrounding the concept of power and encourages us to see that we can all become powerful - it's just a case of finding it, knowing where to look.

The examples challenge the way that we view power and the way that we view ourselves and help us to ditch approaches which are unhelpful to us in our development.

Nick draws upon a variety of established texts from different sources which explore ideas of power and he brings these words of wisdom into the here and now with case studies. Nick's style is inspirational and practical - this book is highly readable and thought-provoking and will give you the confidence to tackle the difficult issues in your life.

Buy 'Powerful beyond measure' from Amazon.co.uk



Giant Steps - small changes to make a big difference

Anthony Robbins
ISBN 0-7434-0936-1; 410pp; £7.99

Giant stepsI was determined that I wasn't going to like what Anthony Robbins had to say. You just had to look at that All-American confident smile, the perfect teeth and the year-round tan to know that he couldn't possibly have anything to say which was going to relate to me. But, needing a book to read, and with little choice available, I bought his 'Awaken the Giant Within', and was overwhelmed by the unrelenting force of his positive and practical approach to life.

His 'Giant Steps' is a distillation of the key hints and tips of the earlier book and is an absolute gem. Open it randomly and you'll be hit between the eyes with a solution to something that's been eluding you for years. He is able to reframe absolutely any situation to see the positive aspects and the learning from it. One of my favourites is intensifying your experience of positive emotion by coming up with new words to describe your emotional state, so for example instead of saying that you feel happy, say that you feel exuberant or impassioned. You then create a new reality - honestly! He helps us to see how we tend to perpetuate negative and destructive behaviour and uncompromisingly shakes us out of it. Giant Steps is a great source of advice, although some of the pieces seem a little disjointed or out of context - that's when you realise that you really should invest in the original.

Buy 'Giant steps' from Amazon.co.uk



The Living Workplace

Ann Coombs
ISBN 0-00-638569-9 188pp; $16.99

The living workplaceThe Living Workplace, subtitled Soul, Spirit and Success in the 21st Century, is a vision of tomorrow's workplace, a workplace which accommodates employees' demands for a lifestyle, every hour of every day, which is about quality of life and recognition of values, as opposed to the Toxic Workplace, defined as 'a place where people come to work so that they can make enough money to leave it'.

Coombs' vision speaks of spirituality, passion, integrity and honest conversations - in other words, introducing a sense of humanity. Coombs relates her experience in reintegrating these factors into the workplace and she doesn't shy away from confronting senior executives as to the true nature of their company's problems, even when it gets personal. You may not entirely agree with her vision, but you can't fault her commitment in supporting those organisations that wish to move towards it. She challenges leaders to conduct a new style SWOT analysis to look at Spirit, Wisdom, Openness and Thoughtfulness in the way they run their company (examples include 'believes in the people he manages'; 'builds on core human values'; 'is compassionate without ignoring accountability issues') Essential reading for anyone in an organisation which claims that their people are their greatest asset. Prepare to be challenged!

Buy 'The living workplace' from Amazon.co.uk



What Should I Do With My Life - the true story of people who answered the ultimate question

Po Bronson
ISBN 0-099-43799-6; paperback 400pp; £7.99

What should I do with my life?This is not a textbook and there is no sixteen-point plan. This is, quite simply, a collection of chronicles about ordinary people who try to find their ‘calling’. As the author says – ‘when I say that these are ordinary people, I mean they’re real, they’re messy and complicated’. These are stories of people’s gambles to follow their dreams. And guess what? Some of these gambles turn out to be unsuccessful, but Po Bronson thought it was worth the telling, all the same.

Po Bronson has collected together 50 or so chronicles, packed together into one book. They are short and simply written, consisting of a mix of dialogue and Po’s take on their story, a take which he often expresses as woefully inadequate in advising, reassuring or guiding others (a role which seems to be thrust upon him by virtue of the fact that he has asked to interview them). Each story includes a photograph and that’s quite powerful in itself – you think – ‘yes, that could just as easily be me there.’ Sometimes he is impatient with them, sometimes he is critical, usually he ends up admiring them. This is inspiring not because they are all success stories but because they are people who try to make some greater sense of their lives. It’s a powerful book because it’s simple and might even help you to find a way to move your own story on.

Many thanks to Simon for this recommendation.

Buy 'What should I do with my life?' from Amazon.co.uk



Happy Mondays

Richard Reeves
ISBN 1-843-04005-0; paperback; 190pp; £15.00

Happy MondaysThis book takes an uncompromising view that the bad press which work receives is outdated and irrelevant. Richard Reeves challenges many of the so-called problems of modern life - that high turnover reflects job insecurity, that increased hours at work are destroying family life, that community and spiritual life is less important, by claiming that people are finding a new fulfilment at work. The problem is that this change is not recognised. 'Work is changing' he says, 'It is better than ever. But attitudes to work are changing more slowly than work itself'

With an energy and enthusiasm which proves that he clearly loves his work, Reeves in many ways portrays a return to pre-Industrial attitudes, values and habits. 'We are continuing to blindly ape the industrial working life long after the need for it has passed'.

He challenges the status quo in a fun way ('Was Archimedes bathing during normal working hours?') which makes the book highly readable. He compares choosing the right job with choosing a partner - 'it's easy to be dazzled by good looks and a wallet full of gold credit cards'.

This book is well researched and entertaining but delivers some challenging messages. He proposes a new charter for work which clearly outlines what the new worker is looking for. I'd make it compulsory reading for all HR Directors!

Buy 'Happy Mondays' from Amazon.co.uk



Building skills


Managing Brand Me

Thomas Gad and Anette Rosencreutz
ISBN 1-843-04017-4 Paperback 190pp; £15.00

Managing Brand Me'Brand Me' sounds a bit offputting, doesn't it? A bit Californian. Don't let that deter you from reading it, it's an excellent book. Yet another one from the Momentum series and they always hit the spot. Focused, practical and easy to work through without being patronising.

We all recognise the importance of branding for products we're bombarded with through adverts, and we also recognise that individuals develop personal brands, too. Look at David Beckham, Audrey Hepburn, Richard Branson and a whole host of other people.

You, too, can develop your own 'brand' to enable you to stand out from the crowd. In fact, of course, you're already doing it, so what this book does is to help you to make it a more conscious process to allow you to develop it in a way which you might want to be seen, rather than leaving it as a hit-or-miss approach. It helps you to develop an identity and then market yourself according to that in order to provide a consistent and powerful message for now and for the future. This is crucial in managing your career.

Focusing on what you stand for, the book encourages you to bring in everything you do to remain consistent with that, so your vision and the way in which you communicate all fit. The great thing about this book is that it builds your brand step-by-step, so whereas you might think, for example, that to develop your particular brand you need to get into public speaking, but it feels way out of reach, this approach begins by getting you to think about the fundamentals of what you have to offer on four key fronts - functional, social, mental and spiritual - and uses those as building blocks. So working up to big changes in behaviour is much easier to do with these basics in place as points of reference. All the exercises then build on those.

There are some practical exercises to get you thinking, but not so many that it's daunting, and these really are easy and appealing to do. I know that with many books I look at the exercises and think 'yeah, I'll do that later…' knowing that I probably never will, but these are manageable, and above all, they make tons of sense. Coupled with an inspirational style, this book does help you to believe that you can build an effective brand for yourself.

At £15.00 (around £10 from Amazon), not the cheapest book I've recommended, but in terms of driving a self-marketing strategy for life - wow, a tremendous bargain, go buy it!

Buy 'Managing Brand Me' from Amazon.co.uk



'The first 90 days – critical success strategies for new leaders at all levels

Michael Watkins
ISBN 1-591-39110-5 Paperback; £16.99

The first 90 daysThis one is apparently doing the rounds of friends who have recently started new jobs. As the title suggests, this book is aimed at those new to leadership roles, but it’s worth a look for anyone making a new start.

Buy 'The first 90 Days' from Amazon.co.uk



Powerful networking

John Lockett
ISBN 1-84203-038-8 220pp; £6.99

Powerful networkingAn easy-to-read guide to developing networking skills, which assesses your particular networking style and encourages you to build on that, rather than adopt a style which doesn't feel comfortable. For example, it clearly demonstrates the way in which introverts might approach networking which won't make them feel awkward, self-conscious or false.

This book puts forward the reasons why networking is effective and gives some good examples, and it also describes the different types of networks which people might have. It is divided into easy-to-read chunks and punctuated with mini-exercises to help you to engage with the ideas and to define your personal style and approach. Before you've reached page 40 you'll wonder why you haven't been networking all your life! It's a great handbook and will help you to keep focused in developing this valuable skill.

Buy 'Powerful networking' from Amazon.co.uk



Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman
ISBN 0-7475-2830-6; Paperback 350pp; £7.99

Emotional intelligenceApplying the principles of Emotional Intelligence literally changed my life and enabled me to extract myself from a negative and destructive experience, so I can't recommend it too highly.

Daniel Goleman's book has been around for nearly ten years but he was foremost in getting EI principles out to a wider market. He tells us that emotions play a far greater part in thinking and decision-making than even the toughest tough guy might generally acknowledge.

After a brief introduction exploring the general issues of intelligence and the power of emotions, Goleman looks at new discoveries in brain anatomy, particularly as it relates to what happens when emotions 'take over'. The second, and longest, section of the book looks at the nature of Emotional Intelligence. This is being able to understand oneself as well as others, being able to control emotions (or not), and being able to have the right degree of emotion at the right time for the right reason for the right duration. Goleman's third section incorporates the general ideas of emotional intelligence into the broader context of living, stating that emotional intelligence is in fact a more critical factor than IQ in being successful in many important parts of life - both in personal and professional relationships, and for self-satisfaction and self-growth. The fourth section examines developmental issues, leading to the final section exploring what happens when such development goes wrong.

This book is packed full and the small print might make it appear rather daunting, but it is immensely readable and well worth the reading.

Buy 'Emotional intelligence' from Amazon.co.uk



How to get what you want in the workplace: a practical guide for improving communication and getting results

John Gray
ISBN 0-09-188460-8 Paperback 290pp; £6.99

How to get what you want in the workplaceYou might recognise John Gray as the guy who wrote the hugely successful 'Men are from Mars, women are from Venus' and when I initially browsed through 'How to get what you want in the workplace' it opened at a page outlining 101 ways to score points with a woman, some of which, although he insists these are non-sexual behaviours, I have to confess did make my skin creep and I thought I'd feel very uneasy working with a guy who adopted these (particularly if he went for all 101, whew!)

However, that aside (and, yes girls, of course there's an equivalent feature on how to score points with men) at the heart of it this book is about recognising differences between people, and as someone who spends much of my time supporting clients in understanding personality differences, I appreciate the general message.

There are ways in which we can consciously adapt to others through understanding our own and their style and as a result improve communication, whether with teams, peers or clients. I'm all for that.

This book is, at it says, practical and as you might expect from a book about communication, easy to read, explaining communication styles and misunderstanding in simple terms, with plenty of hints and tips for adopting different behaviours. Some of the gender-based examples are quite stereotypical, but if you accept this for what it is, a simple communication guide, I'd say it was worth reading and is exceptionally good value.

Buy 'How to get what you want in the workplace' from Amazon.co.uk



Stand up for your life

Cheryl Richardson
ISBN 0-553-81449-4 Paperback 240pp; £7.99

Stand up for your lifeIf you're taking time out then you could do worse that to have this book by your side. Cheryl Richardson gently takes you through a process which assesses your current confidence levels and helps to understand why your life has shaped in this way, before providing exercises to build confidence.

Using real-life stories and examples, she provides a practical, step-by-step plan to help, (in her words):

  • Build self-trust and inner confidence by strengthening your relationship with yourself and your inner life.
  • Identify and eliminate the thoughts, words and actions that rob you of power and self-esteem.
  • Face 'conflict phobia' head-on by telling the truth with grace and love.

Use fear as an ally to build your 'courage muscles'.
Pass up good for great by centring your life around your values.
Practical and empowering, Stand Up for Your Life will inspire you to use your talents and your gifts - and allow you to lead a more passionate, fulfilling life. It is sensitive at the same time as objective and the pace is swift enough so that you don't get bogged down in the exercises.

Buy 'Stand up for your life' from Amazon.co.uk



Brilliant CV - What Employers Want to See and How to Say It

Jim Bright and Joanne Earl
Published by Prentice-Hall. Price £9.99

Brilliant CVThis is a lively and direct book which operates on the basis that readers may not know anything at all about CVs, so is useful for those who really don't have a clue. Through use of plenty of humour and oodles of examples, the authors get the message over effectively and painlessly. This is an easy-to-work-through book which is visually appealing as well as having sound content.

While being readable and entertaining, it also makes the reader really think about the subject in hand. For example, a Cosmo-style quiz early on in the book highlights, in a challenging and interactive way, the pitfalls of going for a CV with eye-catching fancy fonts, gimmicks and lots of glitz.

For a small volume, it also covers a lot of ground. It addresses the broader picture of having different CVs for different purposes and doesn't shy away from talking about dealing with tricky explanations for real or perceived problems (eg gaps in work experience; discrimination of various sorts). It also has a good section on the benefits and drawbacks of using electronic CVs, and what to watch out for if you are going to use them. All in all, pretty comprehensive and excellent value.

I'm a great fan of the Business Minds and Momentum books and, lo and behold, though I wasn't aware of it at first, this is one of theirs. Look at www.business-minds.com for the full catalogue.

Buy 'Brilliant CV' from Amazon.co.uk



Interviews made easy

Mark Parkinson
ISBN 0-7494-2851-1 Paperback 120pp; £7.99

I've given you the context for interviews. Building on the idea that an interview is a two-way process where the interviewee can, and should, take an active role, Mark Parkinson approaches the interview as a game, and in this small but concise volume, goes about explaining the rules.

In other words, this book demystifies the interview process. It starts off by providing a background to the job search process and covers the different routes to interview, through newspaper advertisements and agencies to networking. This is quite interesting background information if it's something you're not aware of, but if you've bought this book with an interview looming you'll want to skip these pages and go straight for the nitty-gritty.

The book comes into its own, perhaps not surprisingly, when it's dealing with the interview itself. There's a good overview on psychometric tests, enough to give a real flavour of the variety out there, and some good information on the structure of interviews. The most useful part is the section on likely interview questions. Preparing answers to this lot will stand you in good stead for most questions you're likely to come across.

This book is pretty comprehensive. It even has a section on ‘other interview techniques' including astrology and graphology, so if you invest in this little volume you'll pretty much be prepared for anything.

It's very practical, so I can't promise that you'd be inspired or get a quick positive fix if you read it before an interview. You will, however, have a very clear idea about what you're likely to be facing. And it has to be worth the time and investment to get to that.

Buy 'Interviews made easy' from Amazon.co.uk





The Good Web Site Guide

Graham Edmonds
ISBN 0-00-719083-2 Paperback 495pp; £4.99

The Good Web Site guideThe internet is confusing and frustrating, even for those who might consider they are computer literate. The Good Web Site Guide helps you to find your way through all the confusion by listing over 5000 Web sites in over 100 different categories. Sites, some lesser known, are rated according to information content, service, design and fun and categorised under easy-to-follow headings.

The Jobs and Careers section includes those sites addressing career advice as well as job agencies, plus those directed at those who want to work from home or go freelance. The book is a great starting point for all your internet needs and it’s updated annually, so you can pretty much guarantee it’s relevant. The next edition is out in August 2005 so it will be even more up to date.

Go get it. It could be the best fiver you ever spent!

Buy 'The Good Web Site Guide' from Amazon.co.uk



The Ultimate Business Library - the greatest books that made management

Stuart Crainer
ISBN 1-84112-059-6; 325pp; £15.99

The ultimate business libraryAn effective way to build our own learning is to draw on the experiences of those who are older and greyer than we are, yet sometimes the thought of doing that can be a daunting experience.

How often do you browse the business bookshelves and think 'I'm sure that I'd benefit from reading this if only I had time'?

The Ultimate Business Library is a summary of business books in a surprisingly small volume. Stuart Crainer reviews 82 books, ranging from classics such as Machiavelli's The Prince (written in 1513, apparently), to those who have shaped thinking in the business world more recently, such as Henry Ford, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Charles Handy and Tom Peters.

Most of the reviews begin with a summary of the author and therefore allow you to evaluate why it might be a good idea to read on. It provides a neat summary while constantly cross-referring to other thinkers and other Big Ideas, so you shouldn't get caught out if you start quoting it as though you've actually read the original text. Useful and interesting in itself, it'll enable you to understand what those MBA students are talking about, but more importantly, will whet your appetite to encourage you to further delve into a book which may just be right for you.

Buy 'The ultimate business library' from Amazon.co.uk



Psychometric testing


How to master psychometric tests

Mark Parkinson
Publisher Kogan Page. ISBN 0-7494-3420-1

How to win at aptitude tests

Paul Pelshenke
Publisher Thorson. ISBN 0-7225-2814-0

How to win at aptitude tests Vol II

Iain Maitland
Publisher Thorson. ISBN 0-7225-3261-X

How to pass numeracy tests

Harry Tolley & Ken Thomas
Publisher Kogan Page. ISBN 0-7494-3437-6

How to pass verbal reasoning tests

Harry Tolley & Ken Thomas
Publisher Kogan Page. ISBN 0-7494-3436-8

How to master personality questionnaires

Mark Parkinson
Publisher Kogan Page. ISBN 0-7494-3419-8

How to pass selection tests

Mike Bryon & Sanjay Modha
Publisher Kogan Page. ISBN 0-7494-2697-7


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