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Brian Kurth

Professional Career Expert

Career Change Books

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There I was, stuck in traffic as usual on the Chicago Kennedy Expressway. I had escaped another day from my “Dilbert” like existence in my product management job with the phone company, numb from the lack of passion for what I was doing.

But what was it I REALLY wanted to do? I daydreamed about becoming a wine marketer, a dog trainer, or even a tour guide. I wanted to do something that would make me feel alive and excited; something that would not just put bread on the table, but a smile on my face. I desperately needed a change, a new mind set, a chance to discover and explore what would truly make me happy. Can you relate?

Opportunity comes in all forms. Mine came when I got laid off in late 2001. It was time to get serious about figuring out what I wanted to be when I grew up. But first, there was a life-long dream to be fulfilled – a six-month road-trip across America!

As I drove across country trying to decide what to do with my life, I kept thinking about how I might pursue some of my career aspirations. Each time I thought about it, however, I was reminded that there was not a company out there that could help me test-drive my dream jobs. By the time I decided to move from Chicago to Oregon, I realized my dream job was to ultimately start a company that would help others find their dream jobs through the guidance of expert mentors. It didn’t happen overnight. It took a couple of years! But in 2004, my dream job became a reality with the founding of VocationVacations.

Starting a new company and reinventing yourself is exciting but scary as hell. Getting from the “Yes, this is a great idea,” revelation to actually making it happen is a challenging and often perilous journey. I found my career and lifestyle journey progressed more easily and strategically with logical and realistic advice from experts in the fields of life change, self-discovery and exploration. I got excellent insights from a number of books that were significantly helpful to me in the early stages of my quest for a new direction in my life, and others that have expanded my horizons and kept me energized and grounded as my business has grown and my life changed.

Below are the career and lifestyle change books that have influenced my decisions and ability to seize opportunities and face challenges. These books also got me thinking about sharing my own insights on career and lifestyle changes. In January 2008, my book “Test-Drive Your Drive Job – A Step-By-Step Guide to Finding and Creating the Work You Love” (Hachette, 2008) was released! (But for the sake of being unbiased I am not including it in this list).

I hope you will find a book here that will help you discover what makes you happy and motivates you to go for it!


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Best Career Change Books by Brian Kurth

The Best You Can Get

  • Changing Your Course – The 5-Step Guide to Getting the Life You Want

    Brian says: The Blanchards take you through the five D.R.E.A.M steps to changing your life: DECIDE what you want to change; RESEARCH the course you want to take; EVALUATE: How feasible are your goals?; ACT to make your plan real; and MAINTAIN your dream. This book offers a practical, comprehensive approach to get you started and stay focused as you begin the process of changing your life. Self-evaluation techniques help you identify what your passions are, determine your goals, understand how the people in your life and your environment influence you, identify what it is you really love to do, etc. These insights help you take control of your life and learn to listen to your instincts, trust your gut, and follow your heart.

    • By Bob and Melinda Blanchard
    • Sterling Publishing
  • What Should I Do with My Life. The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question

    Brian says: This was one of the books I was fortunate to read in the early days of VocationVacations. The real life narratives included in this book are compelling and told with candor, intensity, and passion about people who have overcome fear and confusion to find a deeper meaning and a larger truth in their lives.

    My copy of this book is quite “dog eared” with lots of notes and underlines. The stories I read in this book truly inspired me to keep the vision, work the plan, and work like hell! My hand-written notes in the inside book cover chronicle the very first days of VocationVacations, the one year anniversary, and when I began writing my own book. Bronson’s “people-speak” style of writing, his deep involvement in this book, and his compassion truly resonates with people who are in search of a new beginning – like I was.

    • By Po Bronson
    • Ballantine Books
    • Abridged audio CD, audio download available
  • Now, Discover Your Strengths

    Brian says: “Now, Discover Your Strengths” encourages readers to put their energy into identifying their strengths not into trying to correct their flaws. Makes sense. We all have talents (really!), so why not capitalize on what you do well not what you do poorly? It is a philosophy that has served me well when I am tempted to beat myself up over some shortcoming.

    Buckingham and Clifton have created a program, StrengthsFinder® Profile, designed to identify talents and build them into strengths. A unique identification number in each book allows readers to access this program through the Internet. Completing this profile is an interesting and revealing experience which results in the identification of your five most powerful signature themes from the 34 included in the profile. The book then shows you how to capitalize on these talents and strengths for personal and career success.

    • Full title: Now, Discover Your Strengths - The revolutionary program that shows you how to develop your unique talents and strengths – and those of the people you manage
    • By Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D.
    • Free Press
    • Hardcover, abridged audio CD, and cassette available
  • Encore – Finding Work that Matters in the Second Half of Life

    Brian says: “Encore” is a great read for the large number of baby boomers approaching retirement and wondering “what now?” Freedman describes the concept of a career after retirement this way: “The encore career is not a retirement job. It’s not a transitional phase. It’s not a bridge between the end of real work and the beginning of real leisure. It’s not leftover time to be killed. It’s an entire stage of life and work – a destination and a category of work unto itself.”

    The stories of people in search of finding purpose and making a contribution in the second half of their lives are truly inspiring. Although I am not of that generation, I gained great insights into how to help people discover new avenues to use their talents and experience in ways that are not only beneficial to them but to their community as well. I realized that as Freedman put it, “Sixty isn’t the new forty, or the new thirty. It’s the new sixty.” If you are trying to figure out what to do with your life now that you are grown up, this book offers great advice, guidance, and real-life examples of encore careers and the satisfaction they bring.

    • By Marc Freedman
    • Unabridged audio download available
  • The 4-Hour Workweek – Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich

    Brian says: Wow, with a title like that, how could you resist reading this book? Then you read the background on author Tim Ferriss, which includes racing motorcycles in Europe, skiing the Andes, scuba diving in Panama, and dancing the tango in Buenos Aires. How does he do it? In his book, Ferriss describes how he went from a “grossly overworked and severely underpaid office worker” to a member of the New Rich – “those who abandon the deferred-life plan (slave, save, retire) and create luxury lifestyles in the present using the currency of the New Rich: time and mobility.” With great insight and humor, Ferriss shares how he separated income from time and created his ideal life style. How he went from fourteen-hour days making $40,000 per year, to a four-hour workweek ringing up at $40,000 per month. I found this a fascinating, fun, and refreshing read and great food for thought.

    • By Timothy Ferriss
    • Crown Publishing
    • Unabridged audio cassette, CD, & audio download available

You will be happy with any of these

  • Don’t Retire, REWIRE – 5 Steps to Fulfilling Work that Fuels Your Passion, Suits Your Personality, and Fills Your Pocket

    Brian says: I love the positive “rewire” concept Sedlar and Miners describe in this book. They encourage people to not “retire” but to “rewire” and reroute their energy into something that will bring fulfillment and satisfaction to what can be the best time in their lives. As Sedlar and Miners put it, “Retiring is a going FROM, and rewiring is a going TO.”

    The five steps of the “rewire” process are outlined in this interactive book. Readers are encouraged to do some soul searching to understand what they will be leaving behind when they retire and how to replace that in the future. They are taken through a process to identify their “drivers” – what makes them happy, excited, fulfilled – and how to link those drivers to their activities, create a rewired vision, and develop an action plan. Real-life stories and lessons learned by hundreds of pre- and post-retirees bring wonderful insights to this “how-to” book.

    • By Jeri Sedlar and Rick Miners
    • Alpha Publishing
  • Make Money Not Excuses – Wake Up, Take Charge, and Overcome Your Financial Fears Forever

    Brian says: My final recommended book focuses on a topic that always seems to top the list of reasons people don’t pursue a new career or lifestyle – financial fears. I see this all the time with my “vocationers” who really want to change their lives but are fearful of the financial uncertainties this may create. “Make Money Not Excuses” helps you face those fears and take charge of your financial life.

    Although this book is targeted toward women, it is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to get their financial house in order. Chatzky shares her first-hand experience about her own financial disasters and how she finally took control of her future. She cuts to the chase outlining what needs to be done to deal with financial fears and problems and build a healthy and wealthy future. By taking charge and alleviating your money concerns, you can focus on more important things in your life.

    • By Jean Chatzky
    • Three Rivers Press
    • Abridged audio CD, unabridged audio download, Kindle version available

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