Abigail Dalton

As the New Year approaches, there’s no better area of life in which to take stock than one’s career. Published just in time for reassessment and reflection are four new books that cover a range of professional concerns, from resettling for a new career to finding deeper fulfillment at work. Whether you’re miserable at your 9-to-5 or just looking to improve your output, these books have something for everyone.

FINDING BALANCE

Even skeptics of mindfulness-based techniques and meditation practice will find worthwhile material in Sharon Salzberg’s Real Happiness at Work. Beautifully structured into clear and concisely written chapters on topics like “Balance,” “Resilience” and “Communication and Connection,” Salzberg’s guide moves through various work-related stresses and common scenarios using real life examples and stories, and offers concrete solutions for relieving work-related anxiety and discontent. Using detailed experiences from an impressive array of workers—from CEOs of major organizations, to freelance writers and artists, to waitresses, secretaries and book editors—Real Happiness at Work offers something for everyone. From short suggestions on increasing mindfulness in the office, to clearly laid-out exercises and questions and answers at the end of each chapter, Salzberg has written a short and helpful handbook for anyone looking to re-center themselves in an era where most work and life mantras are, “Go, go, go.”

FINDING TIME

Richard Koch’s The 80/20 Manager purports to be the solution for those managers, executives and employees overwhelmed by their job and a lack of time, and in many ways it fulfills its lofty promise. The book is a follow-up to Koch’s 1997 bestseller, The 80/20 Principle, which asserts that 80 percent of results come from 20 percent of effort. In a working world where the response to “How are you doing?” is almost universally, “Busy,” The 80/20 Manager offers workable and realistic solutions for managers and employees who want to maximize their time and output without overwhelming themselves. Koch provides numerous paths to becoming an “80/20 Manager,” moving (as he states) from the easier routes to the harder. But readers would do well not to view each section—including instructions on how to be a superconnecting manager, a mentoring manager and a leveraging manager—in isolation, but rather in conjunction. There are lessons to be learned in each chapter, and Koch clearly and efficiently ties his core lessons together at the book’s conclusion.

BOUNCING BACK

For anyone who has gone through the experience of losing or searching for a job during the economic downturn, Dwain Schenck’s Reset: How to Beat the Job-Loss Blues and Get Ready for Your Next Act provides a lot of familiar moments. That, at its core, is its greatest strength—having gone through a layoff in 2012, Schenck intertwines his own story with seasoned advice from friends and colleagues on how to go about job-hunting in one of the worst economies in the last 100 years. Reset starts off on strong footing, as Schenck describes his own layoff and his conversations with others about the best ways to go about resetting yourself for the economy and the career ahead of you. His advice on networking, reassessing your career and professional goals and adapting to social media in an increasingly tech-savvy market are also valuable. Toward its conclusion, the book strays into less helpful territory (for instance, while job-searchers may be prone to overeating and taking poor care of themselves, an entire chapter on diet advice seems strangely out of place). Despite these detours, the recently unemployed will find Reset a sympathetic and reassuring pep talk that’s well worth their time.

CASHING IN

Future entrepreneurs, or anyone looking to earn a little extra cash doing something they love, will find a lot of worthwhile advice and anecdotal experience in Kimberly Palmer’s The Economy of You. A mother of two with a few side gigs, Palmer lays out in easy-to-read path to starting your own side business or monetizing a hobby. Featuring stories from other entrepreneurs who have made a name for themselves and found success in a wide variety of formats—from selling items on Etsy, to starting their own websites to taking on freelance baking assignments and writing columns—The Economy of You is well written and organized for the novice side-gigger. Replete with “Top Takeaways” at the end of each chapter and a comprehensive workbook to get readers started on their own journey, Palmer’s book provides a great starting point for anyone interested in taking what they love and using it to earn a little (or a lot) of extra cash.

As the New Year approaches, there’s no better area of life in which to take stock than one’s career. Published just in time for reassessment and reflection are four new books that cover a range of professional concerns, from resettling for a new career to finding deeper fulfillment at work. Whether you’re miserable at your […]

When Ken Ilgunas went into one of Duke University’s busier parking lots to live deliberately, as that slightly better-known writer Henry David Thoreau did more than 100 years ago in Concord, Massachusetts, it’s entirely possible he was unaware of the potential for memoir in his unconventional living arrangements. It is our luck, then, that with a professor’s encouragement he put pen to paper, and provided us with the interesting narrative that is Walden on Wheels. Here, Ilgunas writes about his descent into debt (which, like many students, he accumulated easily and thoughtlessly), as well as his journey out of the red and into the black.

Ilgunas’ story is both conventional and unconventional; encumbered by $32,000 in student loans, he realized that in order to live the life he wanted, he would need to pay the money back, and quickly. But unlike so many of his Millennial counterparts (at least the ones that can find jobs), he knew he wasn’t cut out for an office-bound life which would leave him with a steady salary but little of what he calls “adventure.” Saddled with both debt and a desire to live a “wild” life, he began a series of unconventional jobs in Alaska and Mississippi, and eventually found himself in a graduate program at Duke, living out of a van in order to save on housing costs and to stay out of debt.

Though the first part of Walden on Wheels recounts Ilgunas’ less than enthralling college years and his almost indifferent accumulation of debt, his story gains momentum as he describes his own wilderness adventure that constituted his early jobs, and the sources of income that enabled him to pay off that debt in an impressively short period of time. As a wilderness guide, line cook and janitor, he committed himself to the idea of hard work as a means of economic—and in turn, personal—freedom. After years of the kind of labor most people wouldn’t consider, he emerged debt-free, and entered a graduate program to live a life of the mind.

While Ilgunas’ time in his red van on Duke’s Mill Lot consumes fewer pages than his title might suggest, it is in his “Walden on Wheels” that he manages to fully articulate his philosophy of living, and why he felt compelled to pay off his debt so quickly when others of his generation might be fine with decades of repayment. Though few among us would be willing to live in such cramped quarters for a year with little change in diet or recreational spending (by the end of the book I wondered if he wasn’t entirely put off of peanut butter), many would do well to take to heart Ilgunas’ message of living simply to avoid lives borne of necessity rather than passion. It may meander at times, but Walden on Wheels is a worthwhile manifesto for those debt-saddled Millennials who may see only one path forward.

When Ken Ilgunas went into one of Duke University’s busier parking lots to live deliberately, as that slightly better-known writer Henry David Thoreau did more than 100 years ago in Concord, Massachusetts, it’s entirely possible he was unaware of the potential for memoir in his unconventional living arrangements. It is our luck, then, that with […]

As the new year begins, many readers are looking for advice on getting their finances or careers in order. Whether you need a kickstart for saving and organizing your money, a guide to planning your retirement, a blueprint for considering a second career or a handy encyclopedia of money-saving tips and tricks, these books will help you get your footing when it comes to your finances.

Though you may be reluctant to be seen reading it in public, Jan Cullinane’s The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement is a guidebook in the best possible sense. Carefully organized and exceedingly thorough, Cullinane’s guide covers everything from financial basics—including taxes, retirement funds and costs of living—to where to live now that the kids have left the nest and what to do with your sudden influx of free time. Featuring first-hand accounts from women who have gone through a myriad of life changes, including being widowed or divorced, or changing careers or locations, Cullinane moves through the considerations many retiring women face with logic and heart. Lest you think this is only for the older (and, as the title suggests, single) women in your life, the book opens with information on how women are statistically likely to outlive men, or suffer financially from a divorce. It’s full of good advice for all, although the carefully researched and detailed specifics Cullinane includes at the end of each chapter might be best for those single women close to, or in, their retirement years.

ATTITUDE CHANGES

When Carrie Rocha and her husband took stock of their finances early in their marriage, they realized that though they always met their financial obligations to others, they had little to nothing left over in case of an emergency. In Pocket Your Dollars, Rocha details how an emergency can, in fact, happen to you (delightful though it may be to imagine otherwise). Although your financial situation may seem dire now, it needn’t always be that way, she writes. Using her own story, and those of others, she provides concrete plans for getting your financial life in order. She also focuses strongly on the “attitude changes” or psychological barriers many people must face when trying to improve their personal finances. “Today is the day,” she says, “to let go of your past and start focusing on your future.” Rocha follows up with concrete plans for overcoming any personally imposed impediments; for example, she writes, “make a list of everyone . . . you need to forgive in order to accept your present financial situation.” For readers who think that they weren’t taught to handle their finances correctly, or that everyone around them is making financial change impossible, Rocha’s methods should prove worthwhile.

SAVING TIME AND MONEY

Chock full of interesting, useful and (occasionally) bizarre tips for everything from your household to your finances and your car, Mary Hunt’s Cheaper, Better, Faster is an incredibly thorough amalgamation of ideas to make your life exactly that—cheaper, better and faster. Though some of the tips were hard to understand—I’m still grappling with the logistics of a tip involving frozen fish and a milk carton—most of them were enlightening and helpful, and the book is one I would encourage anyone to keep on hand. Need to clean your microwave? Hunt’s suggestion to “stir 2 tablespoons baking soda into a cup of water. Set in the microwave and allow to boil for at least 5 minutes,” remove, and wipe down, got my own microwave clean when years of struggling with cloths and frustration couldn’t. The book could benefit from an index of sorts, but a quick skim through your chapter of choice should be enough to obtain whatever tip you’re looking for. Whether you need advice on holiday decorating or renter’s insurance, Cheaper, Better, Faster is a great resource to have in your library.

YOUR SECOND CHAPTER

Nancy Collamer’s Second-Act Careers is an excellent starting point for retirees who are starting to think about going back to work in a new field. The emphasis here is not on providing detailed resources for those heading back into the workforce, but rather on offering an overview of the possibilities for a new career—including starting a business, freelancing, consulting, working part-time in a variety of capacities, and in one particularly engaging chapter, traveling. This is a better resource for a fairly well-off individual looking to explore her options, as opposed to a retiree desperate for a new source of income, and at times the occupational suggestions seem slightly unrealistic. (It’s unlikely that many people will pursue a second career as a fitness instructor, for instance.) But if you’re interested in exploring your options and engaged by self-administered reflection exercises (Collamer features many toward the end of the book), then Second-Act Careers is a useful launching pad.

What Second-Act Careers lacks in specificity, Marci Alboher’s The Encore Career Handbook more than compensates for in attention to particulars. Alboher starts with a realistic view of the post- and semi-retirement landscape, accounting for age discrimination, the flailing economy and the changing job market, and moves on to detail ways to both brainstorm and find a new career that fits your lifestyle and skills, as well as concrete steps to make that new career work financially and logistically. Each chapter features a detailed Frequently Asked Questions section, as well as carefully listed resources for further research. She also provides thorough first-hand accounts from others who have taken on second careers. The real goldmine, however, is the lengthy list of possible career options listed at the back of the book, along with extensive resources for further pursuing those options. Alboher’s attention to detail will prove incredibly useful—from verbatim suggestions on how to network via email and in person, to budget worksheets and business plan builders, this is the ultimate workbook for anyone looking to branch out professionally in retirement.

As the new year begins, many readers are looking for advice on getting their finances or careers in order. Whether you need a kickstart for saving and organizing your money, a guide to planning your retirement, a blueprint for considering a second career or a handy encyclopedia of money-saving tips and tricks, these books will […]

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