Why You Need to Read Like Your Career Depends on It
Reading books may not appear on your résumé or Linked In profile. But the benefits you reap from what you read will. Reading books will help you learn new skills, improve your decision-making abilities, and even provide you with more professional opportunities. Reading books can also help you avoid costly mistakes and reduce your learning curve.
Think about it like this: on your job or in your business, you will have endless opportunities to learn new things. From mastering new skills to growing in your ability to lead others, every week you will have a chance to grow. Now, will you haphazardly approach these moments with little preparation and reflection? Or will you embrace them by doing what you can and reading whatever book may help you improve yourself? Well, what if we said reading books will boost your performance and help you to work better with others? Would you devote yourself to reading more books? We hope so.
Eight Reasons Why Readers Do Better in Their Careers
As a reader, you can rise above your competition, grow yourself as a leader, and obtain a competitive advantage by reading more books. Check out these eight research-backed reasons why you should make reading a part of your professional development.
- Reading Increases Professional Opportunities
- Reading Improves Your Decision-Making Skills
- Reading Reduces Stress
- Reading Helps You Sleep
- Reading Improves Your Ability to Lead
- Reading Makes You Smarter
- Reading Makes You More Creative
- Reading Improves Your Communication
If you want to enjoy the benefits of reading, then you need to read often, read broadly, and read beyond your comfort level. A steady dose of comic books and steamy romance novels will not yield the same results as reading classic literature, biographies, and many excellent contemporary nonfiction books.
If you are new to reading, it will take a while to cultivate a taste for good books. It takes time, effort, and practice to get used to reading. The demands of a book far outweigh those of an article from BuzzFeed that’s long on headline but short on content.
Six Ways to Know What You Should (and Shouldn’t) Read
We’re not going to talk about what type of bookshelves you should purchase or how you should organize your books. We’re going to walk you through the books you should read—and what books you shouldn’t read.
- Read for Personal Change
To discover books for personal change, ask yourself,
Am I aware of my strengths, weaknesses, talents, or leadership style? Assess yourself by picking up books that will guide you in examining yourself.
What quality or virtue do I want to develop? Find a book about someone who exemplifies this characteristic or books on how to develop the virtues you aspire to possess.
Who inspires me? See if this person has written a book, or read a book about this person.
What type of work do I want to do? Read books about the work you’re interested in to better understand what interests you about this line of work.
- Read for Personal Enrichment
To find books you’ll love, ask yourself,
What types of stories do I love? Discover new authors and titles by exploring books similar to something you’ve read before.
Do I really like a particular genre of music, musician, or band? Get biographies or books about the history of the music you like.
Do I have one or more hobbies? Buy books about the hobbies you possess or want to learn about
What historical event or person interests me the most? Get one or more books about the era itself and at least one biography about the person you’d like to learn more about.
- Read for Spiritual Enlightenment
To find books for spiritual enrichment, ask yourself,
Am I interested in a specific religion? Purchase the sacred text about that religion or a book about that religion itself.
Who are two or three pastors, theologians, or philosophers I’m familiar with? Get a book they’ve written, a book explaining their work, or a biographical work about them.
Do I have questions about life, faith, or some other topic related to my spirituality? Buy two or more books on that topic from different perspectives to consider the answers to your questions from different points of view.
- Read for Professional Development
To find books for your professional development, ask yourself,
What’s a skill I want to develop? Look for a how-to book on this skill or find a book about someone who possesses this skill.
Who is someone I admire in my line of work? Get a book written by this person or a book about them.
Do I need to develop as a leader? Purchase books about leadership or books about leaders you respect.
- Read for Wisdom
To find books to grow in wisdom, ask yourself,
Where did I grow up? Find books about the town or area you’re from to shed light on how these communities may have influenced you and your family.
What events have influenced me and my family the most? Get books on these events from different perspectives; that way you’ll develop a well-rounded understanding.
What’s a current issue I’m concerned about or interested in? Get a few books about this issue to explore it from a perspective you agree with and one you disagree with to obtain a well-rounded point of view.
Who’s a famous politician, businessperson, author, musician, pastor, philosopher, or military figure I’m interested in? Purchase one book about someone you admire to see what you can learn from their life and experiences.
- Read Recommended Books
To find recommended books, ask yourself,
Has someone I admired up close or from a distance recommended books to read? If not, consider reaching out to this person for book recommendations—even if you don’t think they’ll respond.
Has a media company I follow, such as CNN, Fox News, or Forbes published a must-read list? See what books they suggest reading.
What about a media company I don’t agree with? Expand your horizons by reading a recommended book from their list.
What are my favorite books? Find two to four titles similar to your favorite books by leveraging the search capabilities of an online bookstore—or ask a knowledgeable bookstore employee or librarian.
Have I read any books about my profession? Search for a list of the “best” books about your profession or business from a reputable source.
What books have won awards or been bestsellers in my desired area of study? Read through lists of Pulitzer Prize, Nobel Prize, or National Book Award winners and bestseller lists like those published by the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
Don’t feel overwhelmed by the number of books available.
Take the time you need to think about what you should read. Assuming you’re taking a step toward reading more, park yourself on this chapter for a moment. Identify what books will benefit you the most and books you’ll enjoy reading for the sake of reading. Spending time here will save you wasted time in the future and put you well on your way to living a reading life—and confidently saying no to tens of millions of books.
How to Build Your Reading Plan
To read more books, you need a reading plan. Thankfully, this isn’t a complicated process. A reading plan is basically a checklist of books you want to read. So, instead of jumping from random book to random book, create a reading plan to help focus your efforts on what you should read to accomplish your goals.
Step 1: Know Your Why
Do you want to learn new skills? Do you need help overcoming a challenge? Are you interested in expanding your vocabulary, learning about a certain historical era or current events, or becoming a better conversationalist? Whatever your motivation, now is the time to tap into it. Your why will fuel your progress toward accomplishing your reading goals.
Step 2: Set Realistic Reading Goals
It doesn’t matter how you schedule your reading time, such as “I’ll read fifteen minutes per day” or “I’ll read three hundred pages per week.” The biggest idea we want you to take away from this step is that you’re making the time you need in your schedule for reading. This way you can get a better idea of what you’re capable of doing. Set yourself up to succeed rather than crash and burn in a fire of disappointment.
Step 3: Pick Categories or Genres
When it comes to naming the categories you want to read, identify what types of books will help you accomplish your goals and what you actually enjoy reading. What types of books will most influence your life, work, hobbies, and aspirations? What types of books do you like to read for their entertainment value?
Step 4: Track Your Reading
Regardless of what system you use to track your reading, the goal is not necessarily to fill out the entire calendar but to know what you’re reading this month and the next so you can be prepared and have what you need to read. This way you’re not waiting around or spending time gathering material when you could be reading.
Reading is a fluid activity. If you’re not enjoying a book or you’ve already grasped what the author is trying to say in the first fifty pages, feel free to abandon it. There’s no reason to plod through a book if you don’t want to or have to.
Step 5: Choose Your Titles
You have a reading goal. You’ve made a plan. You know what categories you’re going to read. Now you get to pick the individual books.
Don’t get bogged down by choosing books. Ideally, it’s best to identify enough books to read for the next two or three months to help you fulfill your reading goal. But at the end of the day, you just have to know what you’re going to read next.
Five Tips on How to Read Smarter
- Reread All Sorts of Books
As you grow and stretch personally and professionally, you naturally gain new perspectives. These experiences serve almost like a fresh pair of eyes when coming back to a book a second, third, or even fourth time.
- Read until You Love It
Reading isn’t a natural activity enjoyed by all. For a variety of reasons, there are people who have loved reading from birth, others who could take it or leave it, and some who’d never dream about cracking open a book. Regardless of where you fall on this spectrum, reading books is something you can grow to love. But your love for reading may not come easy—it will require effort, discipline, and perseverance.
- Save Things to Read for Later
You’ll never be able to read everything you want to read. Now, we are not curmudgeons who are here to dash your dreams against the rocks. Instead, we want to help you focus on reading material that’ll help you to learn new skills, expand your influence, and boost your career.
What’s the point? You’re going to stumble upon something you want to read nearly every day, and you’re not going to have the time to read it right then and there. So get ready to keep a list of what you want to read later.
- Always Carry (or Have Access to) a Book
Is someone late to your meeting? Read a book. Sitting in traffic? Scan a page. Taking a train, subway, or bus to the city? Breeze through a few chapters. This one reading habit will boost the number of books you can read.
Know what else? Carrying a book with you is one way you can reduce your stress and better enjoy your commutes; it can be a conversation starter, or, if you’d prefer not to talk to anyone, it’s a great way to avoid people too (if you fall into this latter camp, you can thank us later).
- Don’t Only “Read” Summaries
This is like chewing on a piece of nutritious food and then spitting it out—you’ll only enjoy the taste but not benefit from the substance.