Being mentored by an established business professional is the apogee of professional development —one that each aspiring professional should seek. Having been fortunate enough to have mentors from various industries and backgrounds, thus exposing myself to a plethora of visions and perspectives, I have experienced the benefits of mentorship firsthand. While the topic of mentoring as a tool for professional development deserves to be discussed at length, the focal point of this post is another, older tool of development: books.
The epitome of professional advice I’ve received from my mentors is this: “Read everything. Fiction, self-help, novels, biographies, articles; whatever you can get your hands on.”
Now, that merely seems like an answer that allows one to quickly pass the question about their “secret to success.” Yet, at the same time it is the one characteristic that arguably every successful person (despite how one defines a successful person) shares. They read. A lot.
This post being brief, I must do a perfunctory job covering the scientific side of the benefits of reading. Rather, I will elucidate some of the more unexpected advantages of books.
First of all, books help you appear smarter. We all have been engaged in a conversation with someone we highly respect, and thus wish to impress. No matter the topic, reading allows you to contribute esoteric insights in the most random of areas. Bringing in even tiny bits of information gains you a reputation of being familiar with multifarious topics. This, in turn, demonstrates a curious mind, which many people respect.
Second, books expand your worldview. Reading biographies, for one, is an amazing way to walk through time in someone else’s shoes. You can travel through centuries of history in varying societies, allowing yourself to gain an understanding of diverse cultures. This is vital in today’s economy, where globalization continues to change and diversify our daily lives. The best part? You don’t have to spend a decade to learn a decade of history- a mere 200 pages will suffice.
Third, books are connectors. Carrying a book in your hand is one of the best conversation starters you can have. I’ve connected with people on a train, on campus, and best of all, at my workplace. When completing my internship, I happened to carry a book by David McCullough (a great historian — well worth a look!). As luck would have it, a higher-up walking by noticed the book, one that he had read as well, and stopped for a chat. Hence, I now had a connection with someone I would have likely never talked to, had it not been for my book.
Lastly, reading helps you find yourself. We’ve all been asked “What are you passionate about?”, to which some of us struggle to find an answer. I’ve been there too, and frankly, I still am not certain what my passion is. However, books have brought me closer to finding myself. I’ve read biographies that have drawn me closer to a certain lifestyle, while others have enabled me to confidently cross off another. I’ve been significantly influenced by self-help books, and I’ve been introduced to fascinating topics and concepts I had never heard of. Bottom line being, I am confident that one day I will turn a page on an arbitrary book, only to find my “why”.
To conclude, I am not claiming that books offer a panacea to all of our questions. Instead, I believe books accelerate one’s growth both professionally and personally, thus paving a path toward a fulfilling career.