Books for Recent Grads

By Amy Lindgren

This is the first of three roundups of books helpful to different age groups. Next week I’ll showcase career management books for workers at mid-career. The final part will feature titles for workers in their 50s and beyond.


If you’ve recently graduated or entered the workforce for the first time, you’re probably encountering this perennial truth: There’s a lot about work that can’t be taught in school. The following books will help you navigate these new waters so you can focus on building your career.


Life After College: 10 steps to build a life you love, Tori Randolph Terhune and Betsy Hays, Rowman & Littlefield, 2014, $30. Available as an ebook.


This is one of several well-targeted books that have cropped up in recent years to help young adults overcome a range of challenges from time management to purchasing insurance. While I like that information, three solid chapters on succeeding at work and finding a mentor are what keep this title in my lineup. Life After College is not an in-depth strategy book, but an overview of the main areas competing for a 20-something’s attention while launching into adulthood. Abundant stories and examples make it a quick and useful read.


Own Your Future: How to think like an entrepreneur and thrive in an unpredictable economy, Paul B. Brown, Charles Kiefer and Leonard Schlesinger, AMACOM, 2014, $22.


While this book wasn’t written with young adults as the target, I can’t think of a better premise to learn early than the simple fact that nothing is certain. The authors write with wit and confidence, bringing forth entertaining business stories and the less-famous quotes of famous people (who remembers President Kennedy saying “Life is unfair” when pressed about the details of a military call-up?) Despite the title, the theme of Own Your Future isn’t that everyone needs to be an entrepreneur but rather, that everyone must control their own destinies, take action, and learn from the results. A good message for new careerists, made operable by the authors’ direct advice and action steps.


Career Errors: Straight talk about the steps and missteps of career development, Frank Burtnett, Rowman & Littlefield, 2014, $30. (Print and electronic versions available after Aug. 1.)


If you want to know where your job search or career path went wrong, author Frank Burtnett is ready to tell you. A counseling professional whose background includes student services and admissions work, Burtnett writes as if he is addressing students directly — not in the “I’m your pal” way that we’ve come to associate with this genre, but in the “You’d better listen because this is your life” tone that I wish more people would use. The book covers 25 errors, ranging from imploding interviews to missed growth opportunities, providing simple charts and 1-2-3 outlines of steps to help correct course. While this is a good book for young adults, its density and tone might be off-putting. Even so, it would be a good bet for parents or mentors, who can glean good advice to offer for perplexing problems.


Breaking into the Boys’ Club, 2nd edition, Molly Shepard, Jane Stimmler and Peter Dean, Taylor Trade Publishing, 2014, $16.95. Available as an ebook.


Although this book is written for women, I have no hesitation recommending it for young women and men alike. The authors have achieved a difficult goal: Providing an even-handed approach to gender-based power dynamics, with an emphasis on self management. Both genders will benefit from the strategic advice on clear communication, meaningful networking, and building professional presence. Young men will also gain important insights into the less evident inequities faced by their female counterparts, and steps they can take to avoid perpetuating those inequities. But Boys’ Club is especially important for young women, whose careers can benefit from an early understanding of how best to communicate, self-promote and play it smart in the workplace.


Manager 3.0: A millennial’s guide to rewriting the rules of management, Brad Karsh and Courtney Templin, AMACOM, 2013, $17.95. Available as an ebook.


Ready or not, the millennials are in management roles and it’s their turn to shine. Authors Karsh and Templin (the latter is a millennial and a senior manager) have written this book as a guide for young adults who are finding themselves in old-school leadership positions while holding new-school management philosophies. The book starts with the inevitable but still helpful guide to the generational divide in the workplace, then leaps into the nitty-gritty of the situation: Redefining management while working within its structures. This is a well-written, straightforward book in a genre that’s bound to expand as more young adults reach these levels.


Amy Lindgren owns a career consulting firm in St. Paul. She can be reached at
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In the News, Tips
July 22, 2014