The Australian Career Book Award 2020 – What We’ve Learnt Over Three Years


Professional CDAA member Lawrence Arnold is a careers and employability counsellor and coach in Melbourne. He is the author of several books on career and employability, and is a regular presenter at CDAA events. In this article, as Award Convenor of The Australian Career Book Award, Lawrence presents learnings from the first three years.

CDAA members and award committee members with career writers at the Award Presentation 2019

The Australian Career Book Award, supported by The Royal Society of Arts (RSA) Oceania, is now in its third year. We’ve learnt over that time that there are plenty of great Australian career books and that promoting them has led to identifying more fantastic career writers. We've also found that there are five genres of books evident in the Australian career space. 

The five genres of career books include:

1. The ‘how-to’ book

The ‘how-to’ is one we’d immediately recognise – How to kickstart your career, or How to write a great CV. It’s packed with advice on career implementation and career development. There’s usually some kind of personal self-assessment of the reader, analysis of important issues in the job scene, a number of entry points into the text, and targeted reader exercises. Successful how-to books show a consistent vision or overarching narrative operationalised throughout the text, defining a practical and effective action package for the reader.

2. The list book

The second type is the list book – 101 ways to improve your career. The list book may not have the narrative complexity of the ‘how to’, but should be packed with practical advice to solve the reader’s micro-problems, advice that’s easy to find with an easy layout, and a great index. The more it looks like a computer manual, the better.

3. The career memoir

Then there’s the career memoir book, which is generally written by some international entrepreneur or national celebrity – I did it my way. This may be short on specific advice on starting that international airline, but will be big on inspiration, helping readers ‘get up and find’ their ‘get up and go’, and then ‘get out and do’. This type of book may not have in-depth exercises, but should deploy targeted writing strategies to encourage deep reflection by the readers to help them turn inspiration into perspiration, perspiration into implementation, and implementation into exultation.

4. The interview book

The interview book, or case studies book, will be packed with inspirational stories of people who overcame challenge and adversity to develop a stellar career. These will usually be well-known people from industry, the media, entertainment, and particularly sports. If they overcame illness, injury, bankruptcy, humiliation and prison, or are just leaving football … how easy is it for the readers?

5. Specific sector preparation

There are also books that prepare readers for specific occupations – What it takes to be a vet, or that provide advice to cohort groups on how to enter and thrive in those work environments.

Thought leadership

Some books jump the genre rails and become thought leadership books. They’re rare, and unpredictable. They change, not just what career changers do, but the approach of the career coaches helping them. When they become more evident in Australian career writing they may become the sixth genre.

The 2020 award – nominations from CDAA members

These are the genres identified in the first two years of the award, but this could change with the 2020 nominations. To help small publishers, independent publishers, and self publishers compete on a level field with the big houses, the nomination process is fee-free, and only two book copies need be sent initially.

Nominations close June 22, 2020 and all CDAA career writers with a book in the locker are invited to apply. The awarded book for 2019 on career mentoring was Career conversations: how to get the best from your talent pool by CDAA member Greg Smith. Book reviews by Award Committee members are at under the Award tab, and The Australian Career Book Collection lists recent books by genre under the Collection tab.

For further information on the nomination process, and all things award please contact the Award Convenor at [email protected].

Contact Lawrence Arnold

Email: [email protected]