Books to give graduates

Amy Lindgren owns Prototype Career Service, a career consulting firm in St. Paul, Minn. She can be reached at or at 626 Armstrong Ave., St. Paul, MN 55102.

Spring is graduation time for all manner of training programs, including high schools, colleges and technical programs. If a special someone in your life is finishing a degree or diploma, you might be searching for the perfect gift.

What better than a guide to help launch a career or job search? Here are a few to get you started.

"The Wall Street Journal Guide to Building Your Career" by Jennifer Merritt (Crown Business, 2012, $15; also available as an e-book). Don't be intimidated by the Wall Street Journal part of this book title — it's not written with that newspaper's formality. Nor is it a collection of rerun columns, thankfully.

Instead, Merritt, WSJ’s former careers editor, has combined her extensive knowledge of the careers process with strengths in reporting to provide an informative guide. The result is a slim-enough volume that manages to cover a lot of territory, from choosing a career to finding an internship to landing not only one’s first career position, but the second as well.

It’s this arc, from graduation through the first few years of work, that sets this book apart. Sections on managing office politics, overcoming a bad review and choosing a mentor are helpful extras for on-the-job reference.

"Knock 'em Dead: Secrets & Strategies for First-time Job Seekers" by Martin Yate (Adams Media, 2013, $15.95; also available as an e-book). I've said it before, but I truly respect Yate's work. His "Knock 'em Dead" job search books have set a standard for clear and effective advice not buffeted by short-lived job hunting trends or questionable statistics about top-paying careers.

Yate’s strategies focus on the tried-and-true: strong networking, resume writing and interviewing, combined with persistent follow-up. In this guide for new workers, he adds useful chapters on career management and job changing, with illuminating quotes from a panel of 40-plus career experts.

"This Is How to Get Your Next Job" by Andrea Kay (AMACOM, 2013, $16; also available as an e-book). If your graduate likes lists, this gift will be a hit. Kay's advice is dispersed in a variety of top tens and top fifteens, including, "10 Things You Should Never Wear" and "15 Things You Should Never Say." Kay balances the gimmicky nature of the lists concept by providing depth for each tip.

"What Color Is Your Parachute?" (2013 edition) by Richard N. Bolles (Ten Speed Press, 2013, $18.99; also available as an e-book). It's hard to imagine a graduation book list without the iconic "Parachute." Now in its 43rd year of publication, this book defies logic by remaining relevant year after year.

That’s no accident, as Bolles is relentless about edits and additions, ensuring that each new version contains references to current market conditions and job search tools. I believe that he has simplified his language over the years as well.

While this won’t be a book that your graduate will read front to back, the variety of topics and resources makes it a good choice for long-term reference.

"Build Your Dreams: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love" by Alexis Irvin and Chip Hiden (Running Press, $17; available July 2013). Job search, job search, job search. What about the dreams we're all supposed to nurture in our youth? Co-authors Irvin and Hiden asked themselves that question before leaving their jobs to travel across America interviewing others about their dreams.

First they made a documentary about those conversations, and then they wrote a book to help others launch their dreams. The film is being shown on college campuses, so your graduate may have already seen it. The book is not due out until July. If the pursuit of dreams interests your graduate, then mark your calendar and buy this book. It’s an enlightening combination of encouragement and practical advice, with chapters on discovering dreams, setting goals, building budgets and handling failure. Not a bad selection for someone just setting out these days.