Do you have a yearning to star in the second act or third act of your professional life? Many women in their prime years decide to make a right turn in their work life and change how they contribute their talents to the world. These women often have the financial freedom and hear a deep calling to give back to society differently than they did when they were younger. These women are grateful for the success they’ve had so far and at the same time, do something different and significant. Perhaps you are one of them. Perhaps you need the following books that can guide you to your second act career!

As a consultant and coach, I get deep satisfaction in helping people understand themselves better so they can live their best life. Our prime years are an opportunity to re-assess what and how we work. I recommend taking a deep dive into your self-knowledge as you contemplate a second act. Thus, several of the books I recommend here are offered to help you better understand yourself, your personality and talents. I’ll start with those books and then offer two more that will inspire you to discern your second act calling and take a leap toward it.

1. Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham & Donald Clifton, Jr.

Now, Discover Your StrengthsThis book and the work of its author, Marcus Buckingham, have popularized the StrengthsFinder assessment, which identifies your five top strengths. The assessment was created by the venerable Gallup organization so you can be assured of the instrument’s validity. The book includes a link to the online StrengthsFinder assessment, but be sure you don’t buy a second-hand book in which the previous owner already used the online login. Buckingham describes the importance of working within your talents in most of your professional responsibilities. I especially appreciate his recommendations for what to do with your weaknesses. Only one of the five strategies for working with your weaknesses is to “get a little better at it”, and he warns that this may not be very creative but could be necessary in order to excel at your strengths.

Armed with your strengths, you can now advance to your personality…

2. Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger

Do What You AreIn order to benefit from this book, you must know your Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a four-letter acronym. There are many free online assessments for the Myers-Briggs, and my favorite is at Do What You Are walks you through the 16 personality types and outlines the ten aspects of a satisfying career for each type. I use this often in my coaching practice to help people assess their career choices to date and make an informed decision about their next step. One important caveat deserves mention: executives often ask me if their personality type is conducive to being a leader. The answer: Effective leadership is not predicated on having a certain personality type; rather, anyone is capable of being an effective leader when they are aware of their personality and play to their strengths.

3. Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create and Lead by Tara Mohr

Playing BigTara Mohr caught my attention right away when she identified both the internal and external reasons that women don’t play big in the workplace. She says that the external effects, such as discrimination and bias against women throughout most of human history, have caused women to adapt to that reality and assume internal attitudes that result in behaviors such as conflict avoidance, playing small and people-pleasing. Mohr firmly asserts that both the external and the internal factors must be addressed in order for women to advance in the workplace. More than that, she helps you identify your calling – the work which you are pulled toward in order to fulfill your purpose – and helps you take a leap – the big action that will propel you toward your calling. The last chapter includes several exercises and journaling questions that will help you move toward playing big.

4. What Color Is Your Parachute? 2016: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers by Richard N. Bolles

What Color Is Your Parachute?Admittedly, this is an old book, but one that has been steadily updated over the years to reflect the changing landscape of work life. Heck, I used this book back when I was in my 20s and looking to extricate myself from a career I had trained for all my life (classical music) to one that was to give me ongoing satisfaction (business and high technology). Because I still have a very old edition of the book, I can assure you that the 2016 version is completely different. Bolles has specific advice for older job seekers: be persistent in finding employers who will appreciate your experience and passion. He also includes a full chapter on knowing more fully who you are, offering a series of questions and exercises in the form of a flower for you to complete.

5. Now What? Revised Edition: 90 Days to a New Life Direction by Laura Berman Fortgang

Now What?Written by a career coach, this book offers a process to figure out what your next act is. Interestingly, Fortgang starts with asking you to list what you don’t want, which makes some sense in determining what you really want, which is the opposite of what you hate. She also guides you through identifying your underlying beliefs, encouraging you to turn them around to get around those hidden landmines in your unconscious. The book is peppered with exercises, forms and questions to help you identify your new life direction.

As women in our prime years, we have the wisdom and experience to make a difference in this world, to contribute with our special talents, strengths and personalities. We have met the enemy and it is us – we are our own best enemies in pursuing our heart’s desire. Instead, in our prime years, let’s take the opportunity to follow our bliss and do exactly what we were made to do!


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