Career Transition

Ivy Exec Reviews: 7 Books to Read After Losing Your Job

Ivy Exec Reviews

There are many words to describe it—fired, let go, laid off, terminated—but the experience of losing your job is impossible to capture in only one or two words. Sometimes, it takes a few chapters to process. In this month’s installment, Ivy Exec reviews the best books to help you move forward after a forced career transition. Spanning the classic underdog narrative to a Stanford University course, here’s our recommended reading list for getting over a dismissal.

Ivy Exec Reviews 7 Books to Help You Bounce Back After Getting Laid Off

Designing Your Life

Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

Based on the wildly popular Stanford University elective, Designing Your Life is about integrating your work and worldview to pursue a lifelong vocation that’s meaningful, balanced, and rewarding. Professors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans developed the material to address a surprisingly common problem: about 80% of people don’t know what passions drive their career decisions. The book explains that passion isn’t an innate quality—it requires reflection and curiosity. They encourage readers to “iterate,” or refine and evolve their process and mindset to adjust to new conditions. It’s a process of consistent self-improvement. 

Who is this book for? 

  • Anyone accused of overthinking who feels like they “lack direction.” 
  • People who like working with structure. The book includes worksheets at the end of each chapter that facilitate action and measurable change.

Perhaps the book’s most important lesson is that the only failure is settling for a life that makes one unhappy. With useful fact-finding exercises, an empathetic tone, and sensible advice, this book will easily earn a place among career-finding classics. -Publishers Weekly

Radical Candor

Kim Scott

**Top pick from Amber Crow, Ivy Exec’s Career Advisor. Here’s how to schedule a free consultation with Amber!**

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The modern workplace has as much to do with learning as it does teaching—even if you’re a manager, you’re expected to collaborate, brainstorm, energize, and break a sweat. Gone are the days when CEOs supervise from a lofty (out of touch) distance. If you’ve recently left a toxic corporate hierarchy, Radical Candor will reintroduce the vigor and ambition that first inspired you to lead. 

Who is the book for? 

  • Leaders who want to ignite new enthusiasm in their career. 
  • Workers who are tired of cryptic business strategies and red tape.

Mistakes I Made at Work: 25 Influential Women Reflect on What They Got Out of Getting It Wrong

Jessica Bacal

Ivy Exec ReviewsWomen who are successful in their career are held to a near-impossible standard—and rarely do they have opportunities to be vulnerable. This book proves it’s possible to be flawed and still demonstrably great at your job. Each of the 25 collected essays is honest, approachable, and delightfully pragmatic; bulleted takeaways appear at the end of every chapter. 

Who is the book for? 

  • Anyone who’s been afraid to admit when they’re wrong.
  • Readers of the “Dear Sugar” advice column and NYT bestselling memoir Wild.

David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

Malcolm Gladwell

Ivy Exec reviewsThe theme behind this collection of essays is not everything is as it seems. The towering giants who claim to be invincible are capable of falling—and the underdogs that are small and agile might actually be strong enough to lead the pack. Gladwell’s essays force perspective so the reader evaluates which qualities are desirable within the real context of society and the world at large. It’s an empowering read for someone who’s recently lost their footing.

Who is the book for?

  • Runner-ups and readers who’ve come in dead last.
  • People who want to learn how to frame their achievements in an interview or job application.
  • Unorthodox thinkers.

This book is fundamentally about the weapons of the spirit. It’s about how the things that are in your heart or your soul or your imagination are every bit the equal of the material advantages that you’ve been given. -Malcolm Gladwell in an interview with Inc. magazine

Educated 

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Tara Westover

It’s easy to feel isolated after a setback—and if that’s the case, sometimes the most motivating experience can be listening to someone else’s journey. Tara Westover was a teenager the first time she entered a classroom. Originating in rural Idaho, she was raised by a survivalist family living independently from almost all outside contact—including schools, hospitals, and most forms of media. But Westover is eventually admitted on a scholarship to Cambridge, where she starts to unravel her father’s dogma. Unpredictably violent, tender, and endlessly compassionate, Educated is one of the most celebrated memoirs of the decade.

Who is the book for?

  • Readers seeking an inspirational story with grit.
  • Anyone who’s felt intimidated by pedigree.

Unfu*k Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Life 

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Gary John Bishop

Don’t let a rocky history get the best of your future. This book will help you evaluate your thought patterns and routines to get into the right headspace before you embark on a new career. Bishop offers a refreshing, no-nonsense take that centers around the reader’s self-empowerment. 

Who is the book for? 

  • Workers who’ve been jaded by a bad boss.
  • Readers with a sense of humor (and appreciation for well-timed profanity).
  • Anyone looking for a “tough love” pep talk.

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Less

Andrew Sean Greer

Fictional protagonist Arthur Less is a recently dumped, aging author who can’t move past the modest success of his decades-old debut novel. Plagued by writer’s block and paralyzing anxiety, Arthur Less encounters a new crisis: winning the “Wilde and Stein Literary Laurels” award, which shoves him back into the spotlight and the elite literary scene. 

Who is this book for? 

  • Someone who’s felt like an imposter at work.
  • Fans of John Irving and deft storytelling.
  • Readers who enjoy travel narratives.

Arthur’s wanderings as he makes his way from disaster to disaster are hilariously, brilliantly harrowing. But laughter is only a part of the joy of reading this book. Greer writes sentences of arresting lyricism and beauty. His metaphors come at you like fireflies — or like the “pygmy hummingbird moths” that delight Arthur amid his latest gloom, at a golf resort he fears he has visited accidentally… -The New York Times


Next: Ivy Exec reviews books that will spark your creativity.


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About the Author

Rachel Lake is a writer, editor, and content manager with Ivy Exec. She regularly hosts free webinars on leadership, job searching, career advancement, and more. Based in New York City, Rachel holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. To get in touch with Rachel, contact her on LinkedIn.