Finishing undergrad with dual degrees in English and French, it was assumed that I’d do one of three things: teach, travel and teach, or go to graduate school and… teach. To be clear, the educators in my life (and it can only be assumed of the teachers in all of our lives) are the most inspiring folks I know. But though I learned to read and write effectively, I was far from being qualified to teach. Instead, like many other book-obsessed-since-birth literature students, I wanted to be a writer. And despite attending many an info session at my college’s job services office, I had no idea where to start. That is, until I discovered the best career podcasts that could transform my trajectory and inspire a healthy relationship to work.
As I re-read that last sentence, I realize how crucial a piece of the professional puzzle it is. It’s safe to assume the majority of us are highly motivated types who love diving into everything feet first.
But it wasn’t until I realized that what I do is separate from who I am that I uncovered a true sense of passion and purpose in the work I produce.
The following CS editor-coined best career podcasts touch upon everything from finding flow to cultivating an online presence. While the topics vary, the core intention is this: learning to design a dream career that aligns with your values, fits your schedule, and supports your whole person—mind, body, and yes, soul.
Feature image by Riley Reed.
Keep scrolling for the 7 best career podcasts to help you find motivation and meaning.
How I Built This
I have a thing for gushing about my favorite NPR news hosts (a cool and calm tone has to be a prerequisite). At the top of my list? Guy Raz. His work is consistently well-researched and brilliant. Raz dives into his interviews with poignant, conversation-expanding questions. And even if I feel like I know his subject’s story well, I always step away with illuminating info. How I Built This dives deep into the origins of the world’s best known companies (think: Discovery Channel, Headspace, Audible, and countless more). The conversations point to the many twists, turns, and setbacks that can ultimately lead to success. I’m never not shocked, surprised, and totally inspired by the end of each episode.
Best Episode: Goodreads: Otis and Elizabeth Chandler
If you couldn’t tell, we’re big on books here at CS, and I’ve always loved using Goodreads as a way both to track and review my own completed books as well as to discover new reads to add to my list. There’s something about the low-tech aesthetics of the site that makes it feel like my own comfy corner of the internet. But the wealth of information and inspiration it contains is beyond words. Well, its humble design matches its humble beginnings. This episode takes a deep-dive into how, with next to no resources and a desire to prove another colleague wrong, Otis Chandler built a site he believed in—and wanted book lovers everywhere to enjoy. – Isabelle Eyman, Managing Editor
Listen to How I Built This.
The Career Contessa Podcast
My favorite podcasts not only leave me feeling inspired, but always supply me with actionable takeaways. As someone still navigating the early years of her post-college life, The Career Contessa has (continuously!) come in clutch for all the things that come up in the professional world. How to turn sensitivity into a superpower? Check. Need help overcoming imposter syndrome? Check. The best tools for investing in self-development? Check, check, and check. Everything you need to step into your work with joy and success, this podcast delivers.
I’m sure I’m not alone in considering myself an overachiever (it often goes hand-in-hand with perfectionism… ). But it wasn’t until recently that I began to uncover the ways that it was holding me back. Career Contessa founder, Lauren McGoodwin walks listeners through the ways we can dial down our constant need to achieve. I stepped away not only feeling better about the ground I’ve covered in my career so far, but learning how to consistently celebrate my small wins and see challenges as opportunities for growth. – Isabelle Eyman, Managing Editor
Listen to The Career Contessa Podcast.
Too Smart for This
Host Alexis Barber works full-time in big tech at Google/Youtube while also being a content creator. Here’s the thing: she’s only 23. Alexis doesn’t claim to have everything figured out. This podcast is dedicated to how she and the women she interviews find inspiration and confidence to create their dream lives. It’s a great balance of practical advice, personal stories, and mindset tips. It’s also refreshingly aware of the societal obstacles that women, particularly WOC, face on the road to success.
This episode with fellow content creator Lynette Adkins explored one of my favorite topics: practical applications of manifestation. Both Alexis and Lynette balance spirituality, manifestation, and meditation with systems and planning. Plus, as two Black women, they talk about veering away from the expected path/traditional definitions of success, despite what people may think of them. Lynette also talks about the struggle of balancing her values and politics with her work. It’s refreshing to hear her commit to constantly learning and not feeling tied down to past version of herself. – Langa Chinyoka, Beauty Writer
Listen to Too Smart for This.
Work Life With Adam Grant
I’ve always admired the work of organizational psychologist Adam Grant. He’s the author of five books (the incredibly popular Originals counted among them, though I can’t recommend his entire oeuvre enough), a top-rated Wharton professor, and is listed on Fortune’s coveted 40 under 40 list. Grant helps people craft lives that are rich in purpose and creativity. His podcast builds on this, uncovering the ways we can build a better work life. Grant can take a topic we think we know and turn it entirely on its head. The podcast dives into the world of work, and shares fascinating ways we can make the quarter of our lives we spend doing our jobs more enjoyable.
Best Episode: How to Stop Languishing and Start Finding Flow
I found Adam Grant’s New York Times article on languishing fascinating, and in our uncertain world, incredibly relevant. This episode approaches the concept in a similar way. It breaks down the what, the why, and the how of escaping the cycle of stagnation and connecting with the ever-elusive idea of flow. As someone who’s felt trapped by her pandemic-induced emotional state of limbo, I found this episode illuminating in all the most interesting ways. But I’ll let you discover his game-changing tips yourself. – Isabelle Eyman, Managing Editor
Listen to Work Life With Adam Grant.
The Harvard Business Review IdeaCast
The insights pepper throughout these conversations are worth a grad school tuition fee, I swear! Sarah Green Carmichael, Alison Beard, and Curt Nickisch ask questions that nail the critical intersection of how we’ve worked in the past, how we work today, and where we’re headed. It’s focused on leadership, but the takeaways speak to any career trajectory, as well as all genders and identities.
Best Episode: Getting People to Help You
Social Psychologist Heidi Grant breaks down the misconceptions around why people tend to not help others and the ways we miss out when we don’t ask for support. We all suffer from the “illusion of transparency,” which means we think our thoughts and feelings are obvious to others. But we have to ask for what we need and want, including help. This is truly transformative in the world of work. – Stacey Lindsay, Contributing Editor
Listen to The Harvard Business Review IdeaCast.
The Goal Digger Podcast
Jenna is the master at turning business topics that could be dry and boring (email lists anyone?) into the most engaging and value-driven episodes that I nearly always listen to start-to-finish. If you’re an entrepreneur or someone pursuing a creative passion, you’ll love that she gets granular and specific. But she doesn’t just tell you what you should be doing. Jenna gets into the details of exactly how, why, and when. I always learn something new.
Best Episode: How to Show Up Online Exactly As You Are (No, Really!)
This interview with Radhi Devlukia Shetty confirmed so many things I inherently know about the importance of authenticity. But sometimes, it helps to get back to the basics. Radhi talks about her journey of pursuing what she’s truly passionate about and making sure there’s value and meaning behind everything she shares online. And when she decided to ditch the perfect, polished version of herself and just show up? That’s when the magic began. – Camille Styles, Editor-in-Chief
Listen to The Goal Digger Podcast.
The Marie Forleo Podcast
Marie Forleo was one of those people I had heard about on a million other podcasts before discovering her own. It makes sense though—Forleo is everywhere. (Even Oprah’s a fan.) While on the surface, her work might seem similar to that of any other self-help authority, Forleo is the real deal. I finished her book, Everything Is Figureoutable as I started going deep into her podcast. I can say with confidence that nothing has provided me with a better path forward to fulfillment. All topics are covered: ways to respond to failure and fear, how to contribute meaning with your work, plus plenty more actionable tips for career success (and happiness!).
Best Episode: The Power of Feeling Deeply with Glennon Doyle
I’m not alone in feeling transformed by Glennon Doyle’s perspective and writing. Like many people, I’ve kept myself contained in an attempt to be liked and to win others’ approval—and that’s unfortunately been true for my work self as well. Forleo and Doyle discuss what it means to be living in your truth and why disconnecting from society’s expectations could be the best thing for your career and life. Sage advice we all could use. – Isabelle Eyman, Managing Editor
Listen to The Marie Forleo Podcast.