Read to Succeed: 14 Books to Jump-Start Your Professional Development
Whether you’re focused on a single career path or still exploring your options, you can leverage your research skills with readings that can help you push your professional development to the next level. These books can help you advance your professional development goals at a time that fits in your busy schedule. And the transferable skills—sometimes called “soft skills” to differentiate them from technical skills—they address are sometimes the difference-maker that will put you ahead of similarly trained candidates in your job search.
Is there a book or resource that we missed? Let us know what reads you have found invaluable to your professional development. We’ll follow up in a few weeks to share your recommendations!
Understanding your personal values, strengths and weaknesses is key to crafting your path.
- Tom Rath, StrengthsFinder 2.0: Discover Your CliftonStrengths (2017)
- Editors’ note: By purchasing the book, you can access a code for the CliftonStrengths assessment to identify your top five strengths.
- Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-lived, Joyful Life (2016)
Grow Your Relationships through Mentoring and Networking
The strengths that make you an outstanding scholar and researcher can be turned to the work of forging relationships with mentors and a broader professional network.
- W. Brad Johnson and Jennifer M. Huwe, Getting Mentored in Graduate School (2003)
- Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (2013)
- Alaina Levine, Networking for Nerds (2015)
- Steve Dalton, The 2-Hour Job Search
Explore Diverse Career Options
Whether you’re just contemplating paths beyond the professoriate or actively planning a nonacademic career, these books can provide a foundation.
- Christopher L. Caterine, Leaving Academia: A Practical Guide (2020)
- Richard N. Bolles with Katharine Brooks, What Color is Your Parachute? 2021: Your Guide to a Lifetime of Meaningful Work and Career Success (50th anniv. ed, 2020)
- Editors’ note: A classic of career development, this book has been a bestseller for over 50 years with over 10 million copies sold worldwide.
Humanities and Social Sciences Focus
- Katina L. Rogers, Putting the Humanities PhD to Work: Thriving in and beyond the Classroom (2020)
- Susan Basalla and Maggie Debelius, “So What Are You Going to Do with That?” Finding Careers Outside Academia (3rd ed., 2014)
- Melanie V. Sinche, Next Gen PhD: A Guide to Career Paths in Science (2018)
- Toby Freedman, Career Opportunities in Biotechnology and Drug Development (2009)
Succeed in the Faculty Search
The faculty job market is tough, but so are you. Take a page from these experts to increase your odds of success.
- Julia Miller Vick, Jennifer S. Furlong, and Rosanne Lurie, The Academic Job Search Handbook (5th ed., 2016)
- Karen Kelsky, The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide to Turning Your Ph.D. Into A Job (2015)
Stay Current with Columns
No time for a whole book? Check out recurring columns in online higher-ed publications for the latest advice.
- Inside Higher Ed offers career advice for both faculty careers and careers beyond academia. The weekly Carpe Careers column features experts on graduate and postdoc career and professional development. Create a free account for access beyond five articles.
- The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Advice Finder page addresses topics such as writing productivity, inclusivity, and coping with anxiety. Access Duke’s campus subscription to CHE from offsite via the campus proxy server.
You’ve already read all these and you’re looking for more. We recommend longer lists compiled by Natalie Lundsteen, Ph.D., Assistant Dean for Career and Professional Development and Distinguished Teaching Professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center, and by Jen Polk, Ph.D., a historian who has spent over a decade as a career coach for those pursuing opportunities both inside and outside the academy.
Melissa Bostrom, Ph.D.
Assistant Dean, Graduate Student Professional Development
Melissa ensures that all Graduate School students can identify and develop transferable skills to prepare them for the full range of career opportunities open to master's- and Ph.D.-prepared professionals. She is Managing Editor of the blog.
Katelyn Mehling Ice, Ph.D.
Recent graduate, Political Science
Katelyn Mehling Ice is a recent graduate and holds a Ph.D. in Political Science, with a focus on American political institutions. She is also the Graduate Student Affairs Intern in The Graduate School for 2021-22. In her spare time, she runs a meal prep service and trains in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and powerlifting. She is currently searching for her dream position in academic administration.