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Golden Guide Career Advice: Read Your Way to Success

Lydia Lazar

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Golden Tip No. 12: Read, Read, Read

Golden Guide Career Advice is a series from the AMA in partnership with Lydia Lazar, author of Dean Lazar’s Golden Guide: Pragmatic Career Advice for Smart Young People. A new tip in the series will be posted each Tuesday—all tips are available here.

Do you have a career question? Contact Lazar at deardeanlazar@gmail.com—the answer may appear in a future post.

Read widely the professional journals in the fields in which you are interested, keep up with relevant websites and blogs and have some idea of what is happening in the world. Do not rely solely on social media or television for your news.

It may be hard to imagine, but not so long ago—and well within the memory of the people at the top of most institutions, businesses and organizations—there was no internet. How did those people get ahead in their careers without online connections, without instantaneous access to the most famous and most obscure news outlets, and without the opportunity to do research on companies and people while wearing pajamas sitting on a couch?

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The answer is that they cultivated sources of information that in some way provided them with an edge against their competition. The strategy of personally curating a news feed predates Facebook and it remains one of your best tools for personal and professional achievement.

The key is to widen your approach to information-gathering. While you do need to keep up with “the news,” it’s even more important for you to keep up with informed opinion about the topics, people and professional developments in your field. In order to do that, you need to read deeply, critically and voraciously.

Why is this sort of wide reading approach so useful as a career advancement strategy? Because it prepares you to be “in the know,” if by happenstance you find yourself in a conversation where your expertise can shine.

Find the magazines, journals, blogs and books that matter for your profession, and take the time to read and digest their insights. Be sure to read with a critical eye and do not take things at face value. Double-check assumptions and conclusions and challenge the conventional wisdom as you read: Does the author provide credible sources and make reasonable connections?

Perhaps you will discover something new and end up taking a deep dive into unexplored intellectual or professional territory. Perhaps you will identify an area where you have relevant, recent experience and can contribute to the conversation, thus helping to build your reputation as a thought leader in your field.

No matter where reading takes you, you will be in good company.


Dean Lazar's Golden Guide

For more career tips, read Dean Lazar’s Golden Guide: Pragmatic Career Advice for Smart Young People, available on Amazon and at your local bookstore. Do you have a career question? Contact Lazar at deardeanlazar@gmail.com—the answer may appear in a future post.

Lydia Lazar is founder and president of LHL Consulting. She is the former associate dean for recruitment and career services at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, and previously, dean of international law and policy overseeing international student admissions (LLM) at Chicago-Kent College of Law.