With the economy improving, you might be considering a career change. Maybe you'd like to quit your present profession and do something completely different, even start a business. You could be primed for a change but unsure what change to make.
Whatever the motivation, here are some helpful books to guide you. Some are practical, offering step-by-step basics, while others serve as motivation to just get out there and do it.
Pick one or more from the following list that best suit your situation:
1. The Pathfinder: How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success by Nick Lore
The longtime career coach recently released an updated version of the 1998 bestseller, which directs people to assess their talents, personalities and what's important to them to determine work that would be the best fit. Lore counsels midlife career changers to look for clues about what matters or gets them excited, even in minor things like song lyrics. He also cautions not to scrimp on the time it takes to make a change. "The average man spends more time deciding what kind of car to buy," Lore tells Kerry Hannon in a SecondAct interview.
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.
A job hunting classic, Do What You Are helps midlife and other job seekers analyze what careers might suit them based on their personality type. It's built around the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator (MBPI), a popular career assessment that categorizes people into types based on how they interact with the world, get energy, notice information and make decisions. The book divides people into 16 types, then lists occupations compatible with each, along with tips on how to play up strengths and minimize weaknesses during interviews and on the job.
3. What Color is My Parachute? 2012: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers by Richard N. Bolles
The 40th anniversary edition of this category-defining career self-help book has been extensively rewritten to include modern job-hunting strategies, including how to use Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter in a job search. What Color is My Parachute? still covers familiar territory, though, sharing basics on resumes, networking, interviewing, salary negotiation and starting a business, as well as pointers on finding your passion and identifying transferable skills.
4. The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Mid-Life by Marc Freedman
A thought leader on the post-middle-age, pre-old-age generation, Freedman offers a road map for people who want to move to a second career, start a business or follow a long-delayed dream to serve their community. "It's a time," he writes, "when many have insight about what matters, a special impetus to act on this wisdom, and the ability to do so. In this respect, it's a potential sweet spot, a confluence rather than a reinvention." Freedman, CEO of the Civic Ventures think tank on social entrepreneurship, also wrote Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life.
5. Boundless Potential: Transform Your Brain, Unleash Your Talents, Reinvent Your Work in Midlife and Beyond by Mark S. Walton
Old dogs can learn new tricks, Walton concludes in a new book that connects brain research with successful midlife transitions. In the book, the former CNN correspondent turned leadership consultant explains that brains are wired for constant reinvention, and that adults in midlife can tap into amazing creative and intellectual powers to build new careers. But it takes effort. "Simply put, our brains work best when worked hard," he tells Reuters columnist Mark Miller in an interview. "Doing this literally rewires and reorganizes the brain and allows new creative, intellectual and social intelligences to emerge and be put to work."
6. One Person/Multiple Careers: The Original Guide to the Slash Career by Marci Alboher
Alboher's 2008 book popularized the term "slasher" to describe people who cobble together livelihoods from multiple occupations -- photographer/yoga instructor, entrepreneur/activist and the like. When the recession pushed more people, including many 40 and older, to adopt slasher careers out of necessity, Alboher released an update as an e-book. "We have a new passion for sustainability, both for ourselves and for the planet," Alboher writes in a new introduction to the e-book edition. "And slashing ﬁts right in with that new mindset."
7. Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz
If getting a job -- and getting ahead -- depends on who you know, it pays to know everybody. Ferrazzi became a master networker as the youngest-ever partner at Deloitte Consulting and then co-wrote the book with Inc. writer Raz (now editor of Fortune Small Business) to share his secrets. Among them: Build a network before you need it, find mentors, cultivate a unique style, and use lunch and other social settings to connect with colleagues and future contacts. Above all, be sincere and generous; networking doesn't work if you keep score.
8. Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success by Penelope Trunk
An expert on Gen Y and the new world of work, Trunk uses her book to explain how to get ahead by breaking traditional job-hunting rules. She's definitely not for everyone -- if you've read her blog, you either love her or loathe her -- and she doesn't specifically target a 40+ audience. But you don't have to be 25 to learn from her counter-intuitive career advice, which includes tips like being likeable matters more than being competent, and circumvent hierarchy by joining a team. If anything, read the book to learn how to get along better with younger managers, who would love to be mentored by a more experienced colleague, Trunk says in this SecondAct interview.
9. Me 2.0, Revised and Updated: 4 Steps to Building Your Future by Dan Schawbel
It's the Me Generation all over again, according to Schawbel, who literally wrote the book on how to use social media to cultivate a personal brand in pursuit of your dream job. "The Internet, more specifically social media itself, has forced everyone in the world to become a marketer, regardless of position," Schnabel writes. Like Brazen Careerist, the target demographic for Me 2.0 is Gen Y. But this version, updated in 2010, includes a new chapter on job hunting that could benefit anyone who wants to stand out in the age of online job boards, Facebook recruiting and Twitter job chats.
10. Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie
The founder of TOMS Shoes, Mycoskie created a company that makes philanthropy one of its operating principles, pioneering a buy-one, donate-one-to-charity business model. He chronicles his unlikely foray into the shoe business, and the book is a blueprint for others seeking to start a business that accomplishes good. Read an excerpt at SecondAct.com.
Read more: Reading List: Re-Imagining Retirement