10 Best Books & Blogs for Job Seekers

Sometimes the job search can make you feel like a needle in a haystack. There are so many people out there competing for the same positions you are, and it’s hard to know how to stand out. When you’re looking for direction and strategy, it’s often helpful to go to the experts to evaluate if you can use some of their pointers and adapt their advice for your own use. Here are the 10 best books and blogs/websites I’ve found to be most helpful for job seekers:

Books:
1. I Got My Dream Job and So Can You, by Pete Leibman

I was so impressed with his insight after I read it, that I emailed him immediately after finishing it to let him know how much I loved it. He replied to my email the next day, blowing me away even more! Great read with lots of useful advice.

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2. How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie

This is the classic book on human relations skills. A must-read for everyone, everywhere, every career, because of it’s useful application of how to communicate better. There’s a reason why this is still a hot seller and still relevant over 50 years later!

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3. 48 Days to the Work You Love, by Dan Miller

This view had a very unique twist on the job hunt – it looked at the whole person, and finding fulfillment in what you do, not just paying the bills (though that’s important too!) A very uplifting read, so if you’ve been struggling with pessimism, be sure to pick this one up!

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4. Job Searching with Social Media for Dummies, by Josh Waldman

Great tips for using your current media outlets to connect and aide your job search. Because that’s where the employers are looking!

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5. I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: Success Secrets Every Gutsy Career Girl Should Know, by Kate White

I couldn’t put this book down! Kate White, former Editor-in-Chief of Cosmo Magazine, shares her career experiences and motivation for professional development. Though this book doesn’t stick exclusively to the job hunt process, it’s very motivational and will get you thinking about your career path, not just the next job offer.

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Blogs & Websites:
1. Classy Career Girl – Anna Runyan shares great tips for developing a job search strategy. She has posts and webinars on resumes, cover letters, networking, etc. She also has some great interviews with writers and successful professionals that are worth checking into.

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2. Levo League – Tons of articles with insightful advice about careers, skills, lifestyle, fashion, etc. Also, they have articles about successful professional women that motivate and inspire.

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3. The Undercover Recruiter – Brought to us by our friends in the UK, the Undercover Recruiter has a great collection of articles about career management, the job search, interviewing, personal branding (my favorite), resume tips, and salary.

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4. The Daily Muse – Ok, like everyone else on this list, they also have an outstanding ensemble of articles about anything you can dream of involving careers and the job search. I especially their new feature of Muse University, which allows you to pick a topic that you’re interested in learning more about, and take a “class” on it, and you will get a daily email for 5 consecutive days with a recommended article and homework assignment to help you learn that skill. Don’t worry, you’re not graded, it’s for your own personal development! Topics include Kick Start Your Job Search, Becoming a Networking Master, and Ace Any Job Interview.

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5. Life After College – this blog talks about exactly what it suggests – life after college, and figuring out how to function in the real world, in regards to Life, Career, Money, Goals and Relationships. If you feel like you’re a fish out of water after your undergrad years, this blog will comfort you that you aren’t alone – and give you useful advice along the way!

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Book Review: In the Time of the Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez

I hate finishing a good book.

After becoming attached to the characters, seemingly at their side with the struggles they endure and the triumphs that they win, it’s sad to see them go. An end to a good book is like saying goodbye to a friend, with the hope of meeting one day again.

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Julia Alvarez’s In the Time of the Butterflies was one such book, and it resonated even deeper because, though this is a novel, the characters did indeed exist. The story of four sisters living in the Dominican Republic during the brutal dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo transports us to the era and enables to visualize what this regime was like. Patria, Dede, Minerva and Maria Teresa Mirabel each narrate a section of the story which helps us to become equally attached and identify with their circumstances and actions. The girls face various struggles due to their once-idolized leader throughout their childhood and youth, and in adulthood, led by third sister, Minerva, the sisters begin to participate in an underground political movement fighting to stop the dictatorship. Trujillo gets wind of the work of the sisters (known in the underground code as “The Butterflies” or “Las Mariposas”) and plots to have them removed. Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa were assassinated by a group of Trujillo’s cronies on a dark mountain road in 1960. After this, the Mirabel sisters became icons of freedom and women’s rights in the Dominican Republic and in the world.

Julia Alvarez used her creative license to construct historical events into an engaging novel in memory of The Butterflies. Though these sisters are very much intertwined with the identity of a nation, she was able to express their personages in an accessible, and approachable form. We are often faced with textbook interpretations of history, which make important figures like statues in a museum instead of once thinking, breathing individuals, capable of making choices and walking uncharted paths. We see these people as stagnant, unchanging. However, as we know with ourselves, our family members and our friends, this is not how humans operate. We are constantly evolving, and a life-changing decision we made today did not define who we were six months ago. The person we will be ten years from now will have experienced more joy and pain than the person we were ten years ago, and each day will define us a little more than yesterday. This is the beauty of historical fiction, and particularly this novel. As we journey with each sister, we come to understand her and the choices she makes. We see Patria, Dede, Minerva and Maria Teresa grow, and walk along side them. We begin to truly understand the environment and the people, not just what a textbook tells us is so.

The real-Mirabel sisters came to be known as heroines and martyrs in the Dominican Republic. Their death in 1960 inspired many to publicly denounce the cruel regime which signalled the beginning of the end of Trujillo’s reign. Through this novel, these women have become close to my heart for their small daily acts of bravery and standing up for justice that led to the ultimate act of bravery: the loss of their lives for what they believed in. Their story inspires me, and I hope it will you, to fiercely uphold what is just and right in our world, despite the resistance of others. Thank you, Las Mariposas, for your bravery and commitment to freedom – may we not forget your sacrifice.

Reflecting on the Read-A-Thon and Inspiring a Love of Reading

I work in program and development for a non-profit organization that works with inner-city students in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. While I never imagined I’d ever work in the education realm, and I don’t see this necessarily as my life’s work, I have learned so many invaluable lessons that I could not have gained from any other environment, and I am thankful for that.

Over a year ago, green and armed with a business degree, I set out to start my path as a young adult, and hoped I would make a difference along the way. Then I had an idea, and I was fortunate to have a mentor and boss who took that idea, helped me sculpt and refine it, and let it fly.

I dubbed that idea the Read-A-Thon. The premise was to give the 300 4th – 12th grade students in our 7-week academic and sports summer program incentives to read. (There was a fundraising component as well, but I won’t get into that for now.) An avid reader myself, I had gained so much from the characters I met and the situations they faced in my youth and adolescence, and I wanted our students to have that too. So, as I’m sure any parent or teacher will tell you, we used a little bribery to let these kids realize their potential.

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Did it work? To my excitement, yes! Enticed by the prize of a trip to a theme park and scholarship money, they read more than I imagined they would, with a total of 150,174 pages over the course of the program and 500 pages read on average by each of our students last summer.

But still I was not satisfied. I was charged with the high school girls in our program, and to my disappointment, they were the most unenthusiastic group towards this program. I had to almost beg them to read enough in order to reach the minimum goal I set for them. So I racked my brain on how I would get this same group of girls interested in the program the following year.

With our summer program coming to a close this week, and the second installment of the Read-A-Thon, I can definitely say that it has been successful. Not only for the 4th – 8th grade students (that was a given, looking at the kids’ great response from last year), but also for my high school students. My 24 high school students alone read 30,000 pages (that’s an average of 1,250 pages per girl) ! Also, the top overall reader of the 360 students in the program was one of my high schoolers, with over 3,000 pages. Woohoo!

What made the difference between this year and last? Honestly, I can’t completely pinpoint the answer, but here are a couple of things that I incorporated in their curriculum:

1. The College Focus. In our character development class, we discussed the steps one needed to take to get to college. It ended up being a lot of fun! We talked about the importance of the ACT and SAT tests, as well as college application essays, and how just reading on a regular basis helps you improve your language skills. Most of the girls speak primarily Spanish at home, so making sure they read a lot in English will automatically improves their skills! We also focused on what THEY wanted in a college, and they did research to find schools that fit their own criteria. We even spent an entire day in Chicago looking at a few colleges, and the girls had a blast!

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2. A Reading List. I compiled a list of about 50 books the girls could choose from to “count” for the Read-A-Thon. While we have a selected number of books that the younger students can check out and read, I felt that the high school students could have a little more lee way with what they could read for this program. I think last year I was too vague and let them read anything that could be considered “college bound” reading. This year I developed a list of titles I had read, and split them up into “easy,” “medium” and “challenging” categories. As they all are at different levels of comprehension, this made it a lot more manageable. After they read a book, they then met with me one-on-one to discuss it together.

3. Last Year’s Results. Money talks. And nothing like the fact that last year’s #1 reader was a six-grader that won over $200 in scholarship money for reading. If a six-grader can have enough dedication to do it, then surely a high school student can match that effort.

I’m so proud of these girls. I can’t describe to you what it feels like to inspire someone to read something like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, then say “I loved it! I’m going to read Sense and Sensibility and then her other books next!” or to hear someone say, “I can definitely relate to Fanny in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.” Today it’s harder than ever to get kids excited in reading. There are so many possible distractions, with the internet, social media sites, and don’t get me started about cell phones! But once they discover the infinite knowledge they can gain, the emotions they can evoke, or the places and events they can visit just by cracking open a cover, they have found something that can never be taken from them.

I hope to have planted a seed, and I can only hope that I can continue to nurture the plant to help it grow for the world.