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January 18, 2016 // 8:00 AM

20 Essential Books, Podcasts, TED Talks & Blog Posts for Every Stage of Your Career

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How many times a week do you hear the phrase, "Oh, you have to check out that blog post/podcast/book/TED Talk. It's the best!"

I'm a low-stakes betting person (not the billion-dollar-Powerball-jackpot type), but I'd put good money on the fact that you probably hear that a lot.

The problem? You're busy. You don't have time to check out every single thing someone sends your way. You've got actual work to do and people to manage. If you're going to make time for reading, watching, and listening, you want it to be relevant to what you're currently working on. But, you don't know whether something is worthwhile until you do it. 

Where do you see yourself in five years? Take our free quiz here to figure out the next step in your career.

With this in mind, I polled the rest of HubSpot's content team, pulled some recommendations from an internal wiki page by my colleagues Rebecca Corliss and Andrew Rodwin, and did a little old-fashioned digging of my own to find the best blog posts, books, TED Talks, and podcast for every stage of your career. 

While I've tried to bucket each of my recommendations by a stage of your career, it's by no means meant to be restrictive. Borrow recommendations from other categories -- you never know what you might learn. 

Want to jump to a certain category? Click one of the following links:

Fresh Face to Your Industry

1) Book: So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love, Cal Newport

We've all heard the refrain, "Do what you love, and you'll never work a day in your life." We've probably all questioned its validity, too. 

Cal Newport's whole book is about questioning that saying. In his book, Cal uncovers how passion fuels hard work and success -- and vice versa. 

For anyone who's struggling to choose a career (or just wondering whether the career you chose is the right one for you), this book will give you the advice you've been craving.

2) Blog Post: Any Post on Your CEO's Blog

Yes, I know this isn't a specific blog post, but I wanted to include this generic recommendation because I think it's solid: Find where your CEO/CMO/COO/manager blogs -- and read it. Not only will it prevent you from struggling to make small talk in the hallway, but it will also give you a window into how your boss (or your boss' boss, or your boss' boss' boss) thinks. And the latter is especially important -- especially as you're hoping to move up at your company.

If your CEO doesn't blog yet, find another CEO/boss who you admire, and follow their writing. Need a suggestion for someone to follow? I'm biased, but my CEO wrote a very smart and interesting piece on our blog, ReadThink, recently. Check it out.

3) Podcast: Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me!

When you're getting started in your career, you spend a lot of time absorbing your domain knowledge. If you're new to marketing, for example, you'll probably read a ton of content on how to blog, how to create landing page, how to measure the effectiveness of your marketing, etc. And with only so much time in the day, you might ignore learning about current events. 

The thing is, knowing about the world around you can unlock creative ideas about your work ... and you know, just make you a more informed person in general. That's where the podcast Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me! comes in. It's a quiz-style show from NPR that helps you catch up on current events in a totally fun way.

4) TED Talk: "The Power of Introverts," Susan Cain

It can be tempting to feel like you have to be gregarious to be successful in business, but that might not be the best way for you to get ahead. Turns out, introverts can be just as successful as extraverts. For a reminder that there's no reason for you to contort your typical demeanor to fit into either end of the personality spectrum, I'd highly recommend watching the following TED Talk from Susan Cain.

Developing Individual Contributor

5) Book: Think Like a Leader, Act Like a LeaderHerminia Ibarra

There's no one way to be a great leader. Some people are loud extraverts, some set quiet examples for their team, and others may find some sort of middle ground. 

When you're a little ways into your career and thinking about your next steps, you're going to need to start developing your own leadership style. This book will come in handy to help you find a unique style that helps you succeed in your career.

6) Blog Post: "Do You Have a Manager's Mindset?"

This time in your career is one where you might be asking yourself one question almost every day, "What's next?" 

Many people will wonder if management is the next step. But how can you figure out whether you want to be a manager before you actually make the switch? While you certainly should chat with managers at your company, research roles and responsibilities, and do some soul-searching, I'd highly recommend starting with this article. It'll give you a good overview of what life as a manager looks like. 

7) Podcast: Freakanomics

At this stage, you've learned a ton. You've got some years of experience under your belt. You've had some big wins. Maybe you've gotten knocked down once or twice, but you still retain that bouncy pep in your step you did right out of school. 

As you grow, you need to maintain that balance of humility and confidence. And what better way to fuel that than by listening to a podcast that's all about challenging common assumptions? Freakanomics will make you think critically about what you believe, and challenge you to continue to think differently. 

8) TED Talk: "5 Ways to Listen Better," Julian Treasure

Listening is crucial to any stage of your growth, but it's especially essential to this stage of your career. Though you've learned a ton so far, you still have a long career filled with learning (and listening) ahead of you. So use this TED talk to get some tips for making your listening skills better.

Mid-Level Manager

9) Book: Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't, Simon Sinek

Not every boss is great. Some are okay. Some are just ... bad. And when you're the boss, you don't want to be in the latter camps. You want to be the amazing manager, the one your team goes home and gushes about at the dinner table. 

If you want to make sure you're on the right path to becoming an amazing boss, I'd recommend starting with this book. It gives you a great framework to build off, regardless of where you work.

10) Blog Post: "What Amazing Bosses Do Differently"

This blog post is a great complement to the book above. It'll give you some solid advice for building and growing a team that people love to be on. Plus, it's way shorter than a book, so you'll have time to read this on your lunch break. 

11) Podcast: Startup

Before Startup, I had a rule for the podcasts I listened to: None should be about business. I wanted to keep work at work, you know?

But then I heard how great Startup was, and finally decided to listen to an episode. 

It is hands-down one of the best podcasts I've listened to. It's open, honest, and frank about the struggles of building a team. And when you're a new(ish) manager, it'll be refreshing to commiserate with someone about these things (even if that someone is a host of a podcast and doesn't know you're commiserating with them). 

12) TED Talk: "Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are," Amy Cuddy

Up until this point, your tangible work has probably shaped the majority of your success. That blog post that generated thousands of views, for example? That showed how well you understood your audience. 

But now, as a manager, your body language can have a big impact on how well your feedback is getting received. And because feedback is so crucial to your team's growth (and thus, your success as a manager), you can't afford to mess this up. 

So, use this TED Talk to get a lesson in adjusting your body language. Bonus: It can help you in non-management situations, too. 

Accomplished Individual Contributor

13) Book: Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative, Austin Kleon

So, you've advanced up the career ladder and gotten lots of experience in your field. At this point, you've probably built some great habits that'll help you uncover your next big ideas. 

But what if you're struggling? What if you hit a creative rut, and need to get unstuck?

This book can help. It'll give you some great advice on being more creative, and hopefully get you on your way to tackling your next big idea.

14) Blog Post: "Nobody Cares How Hard You Work" 

It can feel like the only way to make progress in your career is to put your head down and grind away at work. After all, hard work is the most important -- and effective -- way to get things done. Right?

Not exactly. In this article, author Oliver Burkeman explains why hard work isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Reading it might inspire you to think differently about how you're approaching your work -- and make changes that'll benefit both you and your team. 

15) Podcast: Mystery Show

Let's be honest: At this stage in your career, you need a little mystery in your life. 

This quirky podcast is made by the folks who are behind Startup, so you know it's got to be good. The show uncovers answers to questions you didn't even know you had (e.g. How tall is Jake Gyllenhaal?), and is entertaining to boot. The host has some awesome tactics for getting to the bottom of a story that just might come in handy in your work. At the very least, you'll learn exactly how tall Jake is. 

16) TED Talk: "Got a Wicked Problem? First, Tell Me How You Make Toast," Tom Wujec

When you're this advanced, you're going to start running into problems no one has ever solved before. Everyone will look to you and assume you know how to do it. (Or, they'll assume you can figure it out.)

But maybe you're worried you can't tackle it. The problem is really big, after all. 

If you've ever had that twinge of doubt, this TED Talk will be the welcome antidote. 

Experienced Executive

17) Book: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown

When you're an executive, you get pulled in lots of different directions. Budgets! Hiring! Strategy! Seating plans! Happy hours! Just 15 minutes to pick your brain!

The thing is, less can often be more. In this book, author Greg McKeown talks about the idea of removing the unimportant things in your life to be even more effective at what you do (and happier to boot). 

18) Blog Post: "Radical Candor -- The Surprising Secret to Being a Good Boss"

As an executive, your job is to make sure your team stays on track to hit the goals and fulfill the vision you have set out. The way to make sure that happens? You've got to give great feedback. 

This post outlines an easy-to-understand framework for giving feedback that's actually helpful to your team, regardless of how long they've been in business or what level they are in your company. This framework for radical candor can also be applied to you, so you can get even better feedback from your team. Win-win, if you ask me. 

19) Podcast: The Growth Show

Last moment of bias, I promise. 

Here at HubSpot, we have a podcast that uncovers interesting stories and advice from every corner of the business world. One week, you can hear about how Mozilla's CMO identifies the next big thing for his team to tackle, and the next, leadership advice from a classical musician-turned-engineer-turned-entrepreneur. Taking 30 minutes to learn from someone outside your industry can help you step up your game immensely. 

20) TED Talk: "Why the Best Hire Might Not Have the Best Resume," Regina Hartley

While you may not be in the trenches every day, you are responsible for hiring people who are in the trenches every day. 

That's a tough job. If you make the wrong call, you drag down your team. But if you make the right call, your team's productivity and success can skyrocket. 

How do you make sure you're hiring the right person? In this TED Talk, Regina Hartley argues that you should ignore their resume. Watch the video below to learn why you might want to rethink your hiring practices in favor of landing smart, talented people.

What other books, blog posts, podcasts, and TED Talks would you recommend?

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Topics: Podcast Professional Development

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