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Seven self-help books to boost your career and your confidence

Angela Duckworth, author of Grit. Photo: TedTalks
'I realised that the strongest performers weren't those with the higher IQ. It was the ones who persevered.' Angela Duckworth, author of Grit. Photo: TedTalks

Self-help books can be a great resource when it comes to self-improvement and boosting your career. From improving your communication skills and building relationships with colleagues to nurturing your confidence and self-esteem, books can give us the tools and strategies to find success at work.

From new releases to bestsellers, here are some of the best reads about cultivating a healthy, fulfilling career in the modern workplace.

Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before? by Dr Julie Smith (2022)

It’s no secret that our workplaces are unhealthy. Excessive workloads, stagnant pay, job insecurity, discrimination and toxic cultures and environments have had a serious impact on our mental health. According to a survey of 30,000 people by AXA UK and Centre of Economic and Business Research, more than a fifth (21%) of UK adults are in emotional distress, defined by the study as ‘struggling’.

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Although self-help books are no replacement for professional support and treatment, having a practical guide can help – something clinical psychologist Dr Julie Smith provides in her latest book. It’s an easy-to-understand therapy toolkit designed to help readers understand and manage various mental health challenges from anxiety and depression to low motivation.

How To Fail by Elizabeth Day (2019)

Despite our best efforts, things go wrong and it’s almost impossible to avoid failure at work. We mess up job interviews, our technology stops working and we make poor decisions, but failing isn’t always a disaster – and it can be a good learning opportunity. Inspired by her popular podcast, How To Fail is Elizabeth Day’s funny and insightful outlook on the benefits of things going wrong.

Both a memoir and a self-help book, How To Fail discusses work, dating, babies, families, friendships and more. Day explores why we fail and how it can make us stronger and more resilient.

Read more: What to do if your company backtracks on remote working

If You Could Live Anywhere by Melody Warnick (2022)

Until fairly recently, your job dictated where you lived. If you wanted to work in publishing, you lived in London. Launching an app meant living in San Francisco. But now, with more people choosing to work from home either full-time or part-time, where we live is less dependent on our jobs.

Almost half of working adults were working from home at times during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to ONS data, 24% of people worked from home part-time in May 2022 – and more than eight in 10 workers said they planned to do hybrid work in the future. However, the place you call home still matters and finding the right place is essential for your happiness. Melody Warnick looks at how to find the right location for you while doing the job you love.

Read more: How to ask about work-life balance in a job interview

Grit by Angela Duckworth (2016)

Some people may be naturally gifted, but most have to work hard to succeed. Whether it’s practising an instrument for hours on end or honing your communication skills, achieving high often requires what psychologist Angela Duckworth calls ‘grit’. She speaks to CEOs, students, parents and others about how perseverance got them where they are – and why natural talent isn’t necessarily an indicator of success.

Deep work by Cal Newport (2016)

Modern work is distracting. We’re bombarded by Twitter notifications, pinged on Teams and many of us find it hard to sit down and focus without scrolling on our phones. Cal Newport, an associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University, explores the benefits of switching off from our distractions - and helps you learn how to focus again.

He advocates for “digital minimalism” and challenges the idea that we all need to be engaged with social media in order to achieve success. It’s a practical guide to cutting down on your screen time, something many of us could benefit from.

Read more: How to look for a new job while you're working full-time

Presence by Amy Cuddy (2015)

Even the most confident of us get anxious from time to time, whether it’s in a job interview or before a big presentation. Frustratingly, these jitters can stop us showcasing our skills and abilities – and can set us back when it comes to career progression.

Harvard Business School professor and social psychologist Amy Cuddy examines how to overcome anxiety in stressful situations with some helpful, practical tips. She looks at how the mind and body are connected and how body language and posture can be used to overcome nerves.

Be A Triangle by Lilly Singh (2022)

Research suggests self-esteem is linked to positive work outcomes, such as job satisfaction and higher income. However, a lack of self-esteem and confidence at work is something many of us struggle with. According to one 2019 study, 79% of women and 62% of men regularly feel a lack of confidence on the job. Imposter syndrome, doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud, is common.

Comedian Lilly Singh, the New York Times bestselling author of How to Be a Bawse, suggests that triangles are the ideal model for building self-esteem in this short book. Triangles have got a strong foundation and they are difficult to knock over – an ethos we should apply to ourselves.

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