15 Books About Careers, Work-Life Balance, And Leadership To Help You Prepare For Your First Professional Job

If you've just graduated college and are about to begin your first hunt for a professional position, you might feel a bit like a fish out of water. All the rules your parents have taught you about resumes, cover letters, and job hunting in general might be very outdated by the time you get your sheepskin, and you may find yourself woefully unprepared for the realities of today's workplace environments. Because there's no harm in being overprepared, I have picked out 15 books to prepare you for your first professional job, because no one should feel caught off guard by professional life.

I graduated college with two editorial internships lined up, and even though those positions gave me fantastic work experience — and looked great on my resume — I felt like a student when I moved on to working for other, paid outlets. A few years down the road, I still feel like an impostor sometimes, but I'm also pretty confident in my abilities and my worth as a writer.

Regardless of what field you go into, you're likely to experience impostor syndrome at some point. The books on the list below won't protect you from every self-doubt, but they will give you the tools you need to navigate this brave new world with more confidence and ease.

'Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead' by Brené Brown

Everyone experiences setbacks in their professional careers, and you won't be any exception. Knowing how to bounce back from failure will help you turn a setback into a springboard, and Brené Brown's Rising Strong is here to show you exactly how you can fail better.

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'Weird in a World That's Not: A Career Guide for Misfits, F*ckups, and Failures' by Jennifer Romolini

Former HelloGiggles editor-in-chief and current chief content officer for Shondaland.com, Jennifer Romolini was a 27-year-old college dropout before she made it. If you've ever felt like your awkwardness or failure to conform has harmed you in the workplace, Weird in a World That's Not is here to help you make better moves in your professional career.

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'Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead' by Sheryl Sandberg

Starting your post-college career, but worried that you'll miss out on family life? Since it was published in 2013, Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In has been the gold standard for exploring how women can balance building their careers and families.

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'Feminist Fight Club: An Office Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace' by Jessica Bennett

I'm sorry to say that you'll probably encounter misogyny in your professional career. If you've never had to deal with sexism in the workplace before, you might be taken aback by just how nasty it can get. In any case, you should definitely invest in a copy of Jessica Bennett's Feminist Fight Club before you start your first professional job.

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'The Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person' by Shonda Rhimes

As an entry-level worker, you may be tempted to make yourself available to your new employer 24/7, but you shouldn't forget to take time for yourself, your friends, and your family. In this memoir, Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes explores what happened when she decided to spend the next year saying yes to anything that scared her.

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'Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking' by Susan Cain

As an introvert, I can tell you that the working world wasn't really made for people like me, what with its emphasis on networking and intra-office socializing, both of which my my skin crawl. If you're worried that you won't find your place in the professional world, check out Susan Cain's Quiet to learn all about what you can bring to the table.

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'Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One' by Jenny Blake

Regardless of how strong your work history is, securing your first professional job is a huge step. In today's economy, however, you can't expect to remain at the same company for your entire career. Even if you're content with where you've landed, check out Jenny Blake's Pivot so that you're prepared to make your next move.

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'Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered' by Austin Kleon

The gig economy depends on creative people, but getting your work out there can feel like a daunting task. Austin Kleon's Show Your Work! is a must-have book that will show you how to build an audience and soak up all that exposure.

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'Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance' by Angela Duckworth

At this stage of the game, it doesn't matter that you excelled in your compulsory education, or even in your undergraduate studies. You're going to meet and work with a lot of people someome manage to easily navigate their way around hurdles you struggle to overcome. In Grit, Angela Duckworth shows that tenacity, not talent, will get you far in life.

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'Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges' by Amy Cuddy

Your posture and carriage can sabotage your professional potential by causing you to appear weak, shy, or submissive. But don't worry. Amy Cuddy's Presence will teach you how you can hack your body language to make yourself look and feel more powerful.

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'Body of Work: Finding the Thread That Ties Your Story Together' by Pamela Slim

Freelancers, take note! You don't have to get stuck in one track for your entire career, and if you're all over the place, then that's fine, too! Pamela Slim's Body of Work will teach you how to identify the factors that connect your various jobs, and build your brand based on this new knowledge.

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'Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration' by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace

From the co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios comes this book, which is perfect for both entry-level workers and first-time managers. Creativity, Inc. explores how Pixar's organizational structure and workplace philosophies have contributed to its success.

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'Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader' by Herminia Ibarra

For anyone who wants to move up in the professional world — and, let's face it, that's pretty much everyone — there's Herminia Ibarra's Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader. Although this book is tailored toward individuals who are already in management positions, it never hurts to get ahead on your leadership studies.

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'The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life' by Twyla Tharp

Are you a creative about to enter into a non-creative field, afraid you'll lose your artsy spark when you take up office life? Check out Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit to develop strategies for preserving and improving your creative skills.

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'The New Rules of Work: The Modern Playbook for Navigating Your Career' by Alexandra Cavoulacos and Kathryn Minshew

Today's job economy expects workers to make a lot of incremental, upward moves at various companies before they land their dream job. To better understand how this works — and how you should go about putting it into practice — check out Alexandra Cavoulacos and Kathryn Minshew's The New Rules of Work.

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