Renew Yourself: A Six-Step Plan for More Meaningful Work

Book Review by Caitlin Williams

Hakala-Ausperk, C. (2017).  Renew Yourself: A Six-Step Plan for More Meaningful Work. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.  129 pages with a 3-page Renewal Plan template and information on accessing a pdf of the Plan online.

Overview of Book

The beginning of Renew Yourself, Catherine Hakala-Ausperk’s latest book, highlights the challenging questions most people ask themselves at some point in their careers.  What if I want something more from my work?  Is this all there is?  Where did my passion go?  Through her engaging, encouraging style, the author guides readers to find their own answers by providing a path that makes the renewal process clearer as she offers renewal strategies to help readers make smart choices and take positive action in their careers going forward. 

“Feeling stuck” is often how our clients describe their situation when they are at a career crossroads, struggling to understand their boredom, burnout or sense of being plateaued.  And it’s at this moment that their beliefs about themselves –– their skills and their strengths –– often seem to desert them, leaving them unsure about how to move forward with confidence and optimism.   

Hakala-Ausperk helps her readers get through this “stuck spot.”  By framing key questions as starting points, and offering self-exploration exercises in a workbook-like format, counselors may help readers  re-visit the qualities they value most, the strengths they already possess and the unique ways they wish to make a difference in their work. 


Structure of the Book 

The author has structured her book around the “5W1H” formula familiar to those with a journalism background – but applicable in any situation to anyone wanting to research an issue and gain an understanding of what is going on in a story.  In this instance the “story” being investigated is the client's or reader’s own career. 

Simple but powerful, 5W1H refers to six questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how.  Hakala-Ausperk uses these one-word questions, which form the starting point for each chapter, to help readers look more deeply at their careers up to this point in their lives, reflect on what they have learned, and use this information to build a renewal strategy for moving forward.


Chapter 1: Who Are You?

The first chapter lays the foundation for the self-reflection exercises to follow.  It makes the case for self-renewal and invites readers to first look backward and reflect on where they have been in their professional lives; next, to reflect on what matters most right now; and last, to use these reflections to consider what might change as they move toward a future more aligned with those qualities and distinctions that “fit” for them now.  

Chapter 2:  What Do You Want to Do?

Here, readers are prompted to review the skills they have used and the tasks they have accomplished in the past, and then to identify the parts of their work that gave them the most joy and satisfaction. Last, readers review their current work to determine how much of it still brings satisfaction and makes a difference. 

Chapter 3:  When is the Time Right?

The idea here is that the right time to move is any time – regardless of life cycle or career cycle stage. “When you move forward isn’t half as important as that you move forward” (p. 36).  Moving forward here doesn’t require an overnight job change, geographic relocation or even formal change in position.  It simply means investigating one’s options.  As the author puts it: “committing to putting your dreams and values back on the front burner – and doing it now” (p. 47). 

Chapter 4:  Where Should You Be?

The focus here is on getting more clarity about the anxiety-filled question of whether to stay in one’s current job – or whether to leave.  Hakala-Ausperk helps here by expanding on the go-or-stay question.  She includes ten workplace-related concerns that often influence a person’s decision to stay or to go, and options for handling each of these ten areas. 

Chapter 5:  Why bother?

Want a compelling case for making the effort to self-renew?  Readers will find it in this chapter.  They will also get solid suggestions for staying motivated and getting support from others throughout the self-renewal process. 

Chapter 6:  How Do You Do It?

This final chapter is packed with succinct recommendations for taking all that has been learned through the book and putting these learnings into action.  Hakala-Ausperk sums it up nicely…“the most critical secret to success – in any job, in any career, at any stage and in any life… is to stay in motion.” (p.26). 

The remainder of Renew Yourself includes a three-page Renewal Plan, with space for filling in answers to the questions posed in the previous six sections of the book.


Who Could Benefit from this Book

Clients who are at a career crossroads, feeling unsure of how to move forward in their career or simply feeling burned out, could all benefit from this book.  The questions posed offer useful discussion starters, helping clients more fully explore the areas of their career most needing attention. Career professionals, too, could benefit from reading this book and reflecting on what they most want to get from (and give to) their own careers going forward.


Powerful Message on Meaning and Renewal

The three underlying messages of this book are all powerful, and reinforced throughout the chapters:

  1. self-renewal is possible;
  2. the process of self-renewal takes time and reflection and is best approached with a sense of curiosity, rather than impatience, and
  3. going through the process of self-renewal can lead to more meaningful work and the chance to make a difference.

The tools and the format the author uses to help readers move toward self-renewal are straightforward.  Self-exploration exercises are used to remind readers what is most important to them, and to help them discern differences between what might have been the skills they wanted to use in the past versus the ones that hold their attention right now.  

Renew Yourself, written by a veteran library professional, is relevant and applicable to individuals across all professional lines. The need for self-renewal – and the benefits of doing so – is a common theme for all of us today.



Hakala-Ausperk, C. (2017).  Renew Yourself: A Six-Step Plan for More Meaningful Work. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.  129 pages with a 3-page Renewal Plan template and information on accessing a pdf of the Plan online.


Caitlin WilliamsCaitlin Williams, Ph.D. is a lifelong career development professional.  She has worked in organizations, career centers, outplacement firms, and private practice, as well as teaching career development topics to counselors at San Jose State University.  She can be reached at: drcaitlinwilliams@gmail.com.


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1 Comment

Elizabeth Craig, NCDA Master Career Specialist (MCS)   on Friday 05/05/2017 at 12:54 PM

Thank you Caitlin for bringing this new book to our attention through your terrific book review. It sounds Excellent! I will definitely be getting a copy and utilizing it with my career development clients. Thanks again! Elizabeth Craig (www.ELCglobal.com)

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