The Top 10 Tools For 21st Century Career Success

Career success isn’t rocket science – it’s a simple 3-step process. (1) Know what you want to achieve. (2) Define what success looks like (how will you know you achieved it?) and (3) Take action. The more you do, the faster you’ll get there.

Circumstances do not make or break success. It’s determined by believing you can achieve your goals; by adopting specific, more useful patterns of thinking; and by preparing yourself mentally and physically to develop the habits of success. Success may be an “inside job” but it still requires a lot of work! Here are ten tools to help you more easily make your mark.

TOOL #1: A contact relationship management (CRM) system

Everyone is a job seeker. Some are active job seekers; others are passive ones. Passive job seekers become active job seekers every 3 to 5 years. If you are a student now, the US Department of Labor estimates you will have 10-14 jobs by age 38!

Looking for work can be grueling. Don’t spend valuable job search time trying to invent an organizational system. Get yourself a great contact relationship management (CRM) tool called JibberJobber instead. It’s free and lets you track all the critical information you collect during a job hunt and when networking.

Track companies you apply to or think you’d like to work for someday. Track each job you go after and log the status (date of first interview, thank you letter sent, etc.). Jibberjobber has great reporting tools and offers excellent advice too. Setting up a CRM puts all your critical information in one place where you’ll have access to it for your entire career!

TOOL #2: A professional online presence (your web site, MySpace, and LinkedIn pages)

Employers are now using the internet to find and qualify new hires. At the very least, you should have your own name reserved as a web site domain name where you can post an online version of your resume and other pertinent career information.

Many domain registrars have low sign up and hosting fees and offer tools for building a web site that require no technical expertise. For example, my web site, lindalopeke.com, was built in a single weekend using only the service provider’s web page templates. It costs just $0.35 per day to make up-to-date information about my career and my resume instantly available to anyone. No more mailing or photocopying expenses!

Having an online presence makes you stand out from your competition. Start by reserving your domain name. If you have a common name, like John Smith and the domain is not available, try a variation such as MrJohnSmith.com or MsJaneDoe.com. If that doesn’t work, try adding your initials, profession or city (e.g., JSmithArchitect.com or JaneDoeMiami.com).

Create free myspace and linkedin pages designed to market yourself professionally not socially (and don’t forget to screen your “social” pages for career-killing content).

Check your “Google factor” periodically. Search for your own name and see what comes up! As you grow in your career, so too will your online presence. However, always remember, “What goes on the net, stays on the net!” so keep that in mind when posting in favorite blogs and forums.

Video resumes are becoming increasingly popular but can work against you if you aren’t careful in what you do and say in them. If you decide to do one, get professional help with it (services are available for TOOL #3: A good headshot

You need a professional headshot (not a “glamour” shot) when you are promoted to the higher ranks. Investing in one now will have you moving up even faster. Have a good black and white and a color digital photograph created in both high-resolution (300 dpi) and low-resolution (72 dpi) files available at all times.

Update your headshot every 2-3 years. Initially, you’ll use it on your resume and business card (the ones you create for yourself). Eventually, you’ll use it in other places where you are building your success brand. For example, to show next to articles you write for your company newsletter. Always control your image where you can.

TOOL #4: An hourglass (the ultimate uncomplicated personal productivity tool) Time easily slips away. An hourglass quietly reminds you of this. Displaying a classy hourglass (or collection) is guaranteed to get you noticed and remembered for being conscientious about personal productivity!

Self-imposed time limits help you focus better and produce more. And to get the most out of the workday, you must stop wasting time. This simple tool has an amazingly powerful impact on your productivity when used to help you be more aware of passing time.

Hourglasses come in sizes from 3 minutes (egg timer) to 90 minutes. In SmartStart we use a 3-minute timer to limit time spent on phone calls and answering routine email. And we use a longer one for tasks requiring more time and concentration.

TOOL #5: A chess set (secret weapon of the world’s best team builders)

Forget about candy dishes and donuts for in-office networking and team building. Display a great-looking chess set instead! Put it in an open spot near your work area. Use a picture frame to display a sign that says “Get in the game!” and lists a few simple rules for players passing by. The only rules you need to post are:

  1. Anyone can play and
  2. After making a move, please turn over the black/white card so the next passer by knows which color chess piece to move. (Then have a card next to the chess board that says “White goes next” on one side and “Black goes next” on the other.)

You’ll be amazed how many people participate in this open match. You’ll give yourself and your department or team a good name throughout the entire company. Plus, everyone who plays will be sharpening strategic thinking and problem solving skills! This promotes team harmony and reinforces that everyone is on the SAME team while advancing your success!

TOOL #6: A networking kit (containing breath mints, your goal card, a business card case and cards, an image-enhancing pen and small notepad, and “signature” stationery)

Networking is not something you do when looking for work or favors. It’s something you do every day. And your network is not all the folks whose business cards you have or whom you’ve entered in your CRM tool–your network is the people who would take and/or return your phone call! It is going to take some effort and advance preparation to grow your network. That’s what your “networking kit” is for.

Don’t take a chance on leaving a bad first impression because your breath is stale or offensive. Pop a subtle breath mint before making social rounds.

Before attending networking events set 3 goals. Write them down and review them before launching yourself onto the scene. The first goal could be how many strangers you plan to meet; the second how many things to learn about each new connection; and the third might be how many connections/reconnections to follow up on before leaving.

You need a great business card, even if you have to get it made yourself. Most business cards (90%) are thrown away. Yours will be kept if you make it, the conversation, and the card exchange more memorable.

Use both hands to present your card to someone you’ve just met (it makes the gesture feel special and you more memorable). Always speak in good taste when exchanging cards (pass along a compliment and avoid making boorish comments or using bad language). Never write on a business card you receive in the person’s presence (it’s rude); leave the room or immediate area before putting your memory-jogging facts on the back.

Carrying around your business cards without a protective case is like throwing your laptop into the car naked. You need a case to keep your business cards safe, neat, clean and handy. Talking with strangers can be nerve-wracking; however, when you have an unusual business card case it can be a handy conversation starter. I carry two; one for my own cards and one reserved for business cards I collect.

Discipline yourself to follow up. Exchanging business cards is not networking; developing relationships with those you meet is. Use your image-enhancing pen (which does not need to be expensive) to make notes to help you follow up in a meaningful way, then send personal handwritten cards to those you want to stay connected to over time.

TOOL #7: “Signature” stationery

Fine stationery enhances your professional image and is a wise investment. It takes little effort to develop your “signature” style. Before selecting affordable items at local retailers, get familiar with options offered by a specialist in high-end stationery.

If you study the “Executive” offerings at Stationery Studio you’ll see many designs that support your desired professional image without sacrificing personal style. Use their virtual tool to experiment with different lettering styles, ink colors, design motifs and envelopes with tissue linings. When you’ve found something you like, print it off and go shopping. Look for similar items to purchase at lower cost. Once you’ve chosen your “signature” stationery, use it consistently to keep in touch with those in your network. It becomes your trademark.

TOOL #8: A success library and toy box

Successful people read. A lot. Carry your books around in audio files on your iPod or set aside a special bookcase at home but do create your own library of personal development materials. (A minimum of 10% of your workweek should be spent in “learning” mode.)

A well-stocked personal success library includes: biographies and autobiographies of people you admire, collections of inspirational quotations that appeal to you, foundational texts that shape your thinking, reference texts that build your skills in specific areas (language and communication, technology, other key areas of professional interest), and other books of personal interest (both classics and current best-sellers).

In your “toy box”, you can have any number of cool items such as Brain Age (an electronic game), puzzles (crosswords, sudoku, and brainteasers), ThinkerToys, brainstorming and mindmapping aids and other tools for sharpening your mental reflexes. These make for great entertainment when you just don’t feel like reading on your commuter train or while waiting around in airports, traveling on business, or being stuck in dreary hotel rooms.

TOOL #9: A membership in toastmasters Toastmasters is not exaggerating when they say “your success in business is based on how effective you are”. The higher you go, the more your communication skills are on display. By participating in Toastmasters programs people from all backgrounds develop and enhance their vocal power.

Start preparing now in the arts of speaking, listening and thinking! These vital skills promote self-actualization, develop confidence and self-esteem, enhance your relationships with others, and position you for making significant contributions to your employer and the world. A membership in Toastmasters is a personal growth experience you won’t regret.

TOOL #10: A personal stylist

Your image is part of personal branding. The world is full of people with good degrees who are completely lacking a sense of style. You only get one chance to make a great first impression and doing so is a necessity for winning in the competitive business world.

Investing in the services of a personal stylist costs less than you might think, pays big dividends, and is of great benefit when you:

  • are about to make your “debut” in the corporate world
  • want to change careers and work in a different industry or sector
  • want to move from a technical role to an operational one
  • perform well and have excellent reviews but just aren’t getting ahead
  • want to strategically position yourself for a higher rank
  • are faced with a life-changing transition (pregnancy, divorce, etc.)
  • are about to begin working in a country or with a culture you weren’t born into

Professional stylists are objective about what really suits your coloring, body shape, and the business image you must project. You do not need to spend a fortune to look great; it is possible to spend a fortune on garments that only hold you back from getting ahead.

Working with an expert to develop your style is empowering. Taking time out to develop or refresh your style and update your professional look can reenergize a flagging sense of self and kick start a stalled career. When you know you look your absolute best you carry yourself differently, with more confidence. People feel that energy and perceive you as even more capable. The medium is the message; never second-guess your style!

While these are all excellent and highly recommended tools, the one tool that tops them all is a personal mentor.

THE TOOL THAT TOPS ALL: A personal mentor

Sometimes, what you can’t see keeps you from achieving your goals. Having a mentor gives you access to information otherwise not available to you. A coach may tell you what to do but a mentor will also tell you why. That makes a good mentor priceless!

Even the best university education can leave you unprepared for handling the substantial emotion and cultural politics that exists in all organizations. Everyone needs a “safe harbor” when self-doubt and fear are rocking the boat and a steady, experienced hand to guide them at the wheel when negotiating foreign waters.

A mentor shares personal experiences and helps you create new learning opportunities. S/he can also connect you to other resources that help advance your goals or serve your needs if they are beyond the mentor’s expertise.

Many business rules you’ll be judged by are unspoken or require translation to be fully understood and usefully applied. Often only a mentor will tell you the truth or rise to your defense in a sticky situation. If you’re lucky, you’ll have more than one in your lifetime. Cherish them all and honor them well for shortcutting learning and helping you succeed.

All of these tools are readily available and anyone can use them. The question is, how many will you put to work for you?

A Career Planning Checklist for Your Job Search

If you are currently looking for a job, you probably have some idea about the job you want. You may know something about how to get that job. You may even have some ideas about companies that might hire a person like you, with your skills and interests. Maybe you learned these things from friends and family members, in school or from previous job search experience, or from just living — in other words, “common sense.”

Sometimes, however, “common” sense is not always good sense. Unfortunately, many people learn career planning and job search skills the same way they learn about sex — “on the street,” from their peers, from experience, or from training in school, or from an all-too-brief conversation with a more experienced person. And how accurate was what you first learned about sex? Well, you get the point!

If you have spent any time looking for a job, you may be thinking, “There must be a better way.” In fact, there are many “better ways,” and it is up to you to find your better way. When it is all said and done, it is not what you know that matters. It is what you do with what you know that will get you from where you are to where you really want to be. Most successful job seekers do follow some common practices to progress in their careers. Discuss your goals and activities, ask questions and seek career counseling from a qualified career coach. Seek career training or join a job club if these options are available. Use this checklist to measure your progress.

World of Work: I understand the value of making wise career decisions. I am learning to expect change and prepare for it.

Expanding Knowledge of Myself: I have taken an inventory of my skills, interests, values, abilities and dreams. I have established a profile of my Skills Language, my situation and my concerns that are important to my career decision-making.

Expanding Knowledge of Job Options: I have identified possible occupational, educational and other developmental alternatives. I have compared the pros and cons of a variety of occupations and determined which ones are best for me. I have a focused employment objective.

Who is Hiring: I know how most people find jobs and use every source of job leads available to me. I have something valuable to contribute and am ready to go to work.

Networking & Direct Contact with Employers: I clearly explain my goals and skills to people I know. I follow up on all new contacts, so I will know more people. I contact employers that interest me, even if they have no job openings. Out of respect and gratitude, I write thank-you notes to each person who helps me along the way.

Marketing Myself on Paper and in Person: I make a good first, and lasting, impression. I use my Skills Language effectively in job applications, in my resume, in cover letters, during interviews and for other opportunities. I use the phone with confidence and briefly summarize my skills and goals. I am well prepared to find the job I want.

My Action Plan: I have made decisions about my goals that are both realistic and reflect the lifestyle I want to have. I mapped out plans to reach my goals. I am taking actions needed to reach my goals, such as enrolling in courses of study, acquiring additional work experience and news skills, networking and meeting with employers.

Repeating the Process: Career planning is never over. There is a great deal to learn from every job I hold: new skills, new ideas, new challenges, new opportunities that come my way and I create. I am reviewing my career action plan every year or two to determine if my work is still relevant or if my situation has changed. I am planning my next move. I am helping others by sharing what I am learning.

Is the Dental Assistant Job an Underpaid and Overworked Career?

People always look for career potentials before they undergo training or pursue higher education. They also consider the employment prospects since this is the primary reason why they are choosing a specific career path. Being without a job is not a good position to be in considering the current economic climate. There are many job opportunities in the medical career but oftentimes people are wary of the difficulties of the job considering the long working hours and working in a hospital scenario. This is also common in their outlook towards the dental aid jobs.

The dental aid jobs don’t often require a hospital environment since the job is mostly done on an office with duties and responsibilities not as difficult where one is in a medical career. The dental aid jobs are a supportive of the role played by the dentists. With the growth in demand for dental services, the dentists often find their schedules full requiring them to hire the services of the dental aids. The salaries of the dental assistants are dependent on a lot of factors but it is excellence and experience that are the major considerations for the salary increases. A dental aid with extensive job experience including a good number of certifications deserves the best that the market has to offer.

In order to have a job in the dental field, the first thing to be done is to look at prospective job opportunities and submit a dental helper resume. If you find difficulty accomplishing a resume, there are many templates online where you can find a dental helper resume that can be easily edited according to your requirements. There are also professionals online who can do the services of creating an excellent dental helper resume for a fee. Based on the advice of experts, it is important to limit the number of pages of the resume to one or two pages. What is considered to be most important is honesty as making representations on the resume may cause irreversible problems later on.

When you have gained a lot of expertise and experience in your job as dental assistant, it results into plus points for you during the job interview. The educational background, work experience including the skills gained will also determine the salary that will be offered. While the beginner naturally gets a lower pay, hard work and efforts always produces the best results not only financially but emotionally.

Career Focus – Building a Resume For Fit and Focus

Finding a job is the ultimate goal for the job seeker. However, to get there without wasting time requires having a real plan with a clear target.

Since the market is flooded with job seekers, the competition is more intense now than ever. There may be many talents and skills you can list on your resume, but you must make sure your resume is focused. It is not necessary to list every skill you might have accomplished at a particular job unless it is pertinent to what the employer is listing as qualifications or requirements for the position.

For example, think about the last time you had to clean out your garage, the basement, that junk room, or even that junk drawer. It’s absolutely stuffed with useless items. The last thing you want to do is drag out every single item, decide to keep or discard it, and then reorganize with purpose the things you want to keep. But you find the courage. You start the project. Suddenly you can’t seem to let go of things that you “may need some day.” You’ve had it for years, will probably never use it, but for some illogical reason, you can’t let it go! But inside you know what you should do. Don’t hang on to everything! Get lean and mean!

This also applies to how you layout your resume. When applying for an opening, you have to rework the resume or cover letter to match that specific position – which can be an exhausting task. So what about creating a template for your resume? What if you started with a resume that is targeted to what you really want? What if you cleaned out the resume garage? Pull out every skill or achievement you have under the roof and lay it out in chronological order. You could even categorize your skills or achievements as another way of looking at your career history. Then, streamline your resume by eliminating the “excess” so that it showcases your talent and has a clear focus. Don’t hold on to things you don’t need because you are trying too hard to be everything to everyone. That just confuses the reader! Once you have a focused resume completed, it’s much easier to edit it for a specific position that matches your goal.

Here are some steps to streamline your resume for potential employers or networking purposes.

Job Resume Tactic #1 – Create a resume template and then list all applicable achievements that highlight your match to the job you will be seeking. As I’ve been saying, when you read an ad or job posting, streamline the resume to fit the job. Push back and don’t dump everything back into the “garage”! You want the resume to reflect the skills and requirements the employer is looking for in an applicant. Going back 10 years (but no more than 15) in your employment history should be enough. If you’re listing education, include it all no matter how long ago it was accomplished. It’s not necessary to give dates on degrees, etc.

Job Resume Tactic #2 – If you don’t know what career target you really want, then start by choosing two targets you can research by talking to others who currently hold that position. Use your resume as a way to introduce your strengths and why you are interested in the job target. Ask how they see your talent and skills fitting within this job. Maybe you have worked for large organizations in a specialized field, but now want to make a change. Do they see your skills fitting in this new job target? Where do they see a fit? What differentiates a candidate in this area? What other areas could utilize your talent and skills? What is their suggestion on where you can go and what you can do with your talent and skill set? Then, who do they know in those areas whom you can talk to? When you build relationships with your peers at other companies and in other industries, they become internal advocates and ready connections to jobs they hear about.

Job Resume Tactic #3 – Utilize the “T” letter to showcase your “FIT” for the job. This type of letter literally has two columns in the body of the letter, one titled “Their requests” and the other “I obtain.” The “T” letter can be used in place of the cover letter. Use the “T” letter to make it easier for the employer to keep your resume active. Don’t allow them to eliminate you because your resume is overwhelming, too wordy, or more than two pages. This is the best you can do when you have not been able to build a relationship with the decision maker. Remember not to spend too much time applying for jobs, and instead focus on networking!

So, approach your job search with a plan. Have a career focus. Clean out your resume “garage” and streamline your response so that it’s organized and has a real theme. By being organized and having a plan, you won’t find yourself looking for a job well under what you are capable of doing because of desperation. You won’t push your resume out like a shotgun blast just hoping to hit something. Having a focused resume and a plan will allow you to hold a dynamic networking meeting with a valued professional, not one where it seems like you don’t know what you want. Having a plan will help you breathe easier… because now you have direction and know what you want!

Is Your Resume Selling Yourself or Your Career Short Now?

A resume is not just a piece of paper that is meant to list the jobs you've held or the education you've acquired. It is your introduction to a prospective employer and represents the essence of your career, capabilities, and skill sets. When you are interested in a job you have one opportunity to gain the attention of a prospective employer and it is done when you submit your resume. Within a matter of minutes (or more likely seconds) someone will visually scan the resume and make a determination of your potential candidacy for an open position.

It is possible that the person who will make this assessment of your qualifications may not know the specifics of the job you've applied for beyond the actual job description, and for better or worse that means your resume must stand out in a way that ensures You are able to move beyond that initial screening. To accomplish this goal you must have a well-designed, well-formatted, and well-written resume that markets your skills, experiences, and education in a manner that creates a connection to the open position. Unfortunately most resumes resemble DIY projects that are easily overlooked and quickly discarded by recruiters. When you consider the highly competitive nature of most careers, you cannot afford to have a resume that sells yourself and / or your career short.

Why Consider a Resume Writer

As a professional resume writer with over 12 years of experience, I have just about seen it all with regards to the style and type of resumes that most people try to develop on their own. And just because someone has hired a resume writer it doesn't mean their work is all alike or of the same quality. People generally seek out a resume writer when they are not getting the results or results they hoped to receive. Someone who truly wants to help their customers won't take an existing resume and simply re-type or re-format it. That may be helpful for someone who only wants to have their resume updated but most people need more help than that – as a truly effective resume won't be needed for long because a good resume gets noticed right away. And even though I have potential clients who are in need of a new resume, and they are willing to consider hiring a resume writer, there are still many misconceptions that must be addressed before they become willing to take the next step.

Misconceptions about Resumes

One of the first misconceptions is that a resume writer should have samples and templates available to share with prospective clients. I can describe the method I use but I cannot share resumes I've completed due to a signed confidentiality agreement. More importantly, I don't have samples as every resume I write is custom-developed and designed for each new client. Another misconception is that a resume has to be limited to a single page. What happens is that people who take this approach will use small font sizes and / or try to fill the one page with so much wording that it becomes almost impossible to read, and for most resumes it sells the person's career short. For those candidates who have developed significant career experience it is not unlikely that their resume will consist of two or three pages of content. Of course the caveat is that it should not be pages filled with verbose wording and hard to read paragraphs that have been typed in a small font size. A resume must be easy to read and highlight the best of a person's career, from their skills to their accomplishments.

Reasons for Misconceptions

Another misconception involves the cover letter, which is often written as several paragraphs in length for people who believe a lot is required on that first introductory page. But that defeats the real purpose of a cover letter and minimizes the time a recruiter is likely to spend reading the resume. A cover letter only needs to express interest in a position and generate a desire within the recruiter to read the attached resume. The underlying reason for these misconceptions is due to the unlimited number of online articles and posts written about resumes, along with templates and samples that are easily accessible. Whenever someone begins to sort through all of these resources the end result is often a patchwork of various themes and styles. What makes this worse is that there are few people who can write objectively about their career and the jobs they have held. As an example, I've written resumes for sales professionals and even professional writers. In addition, many people lack exemplary writing skills. It is not uncommon to observe resumes with uneven font sizes and errors with spelling, grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and other mechanical errors. I've also observed verbose wording, jobs written like a standard job description, and clich├ęs (thinking outside of the box, being a team player, etc.).

Making an Investment in Your Career

When you consider all of these aspects of a resume and how easily it can become ineffective, you begin to realize that an investment in a professionally written resume is actually an investment in the development of your career, whether you need a new job now or you are passively looking. Consider this perspective: if you wouldn't walk into an interview in old, worn out clothes then you shouldn't submit a resume in the same condition – anything less than professional looking. A resume represents you and your career, and your potential job prospects depend upon on how well you can convey the best of who you are and what you are able to offer a potential employer. If you are uncomfortable with any aspect of writing a resume it will show up in the final product. In addition, if you cannot convey your thoughts well it will also be reflected in the overall tone that is projected in your resume.

Contacting a Resume Writer

If you decide to contact a resume writer, take time to learn about their background, their approach to resume writing, and their general disposition towards helping their clients. A certificate from a resume institute or something similar does not automatically guarantee they are proficient with formatting and editing. And should a resume writer charge excessive fees and make promises about the results you can expect, also be cautious as the resume is only the first step needed when trying to secure a new job – and it is a very important starting point. If you don't gain an opportunity to speak to someone about your background then your prospects with that employer have been minimized. This underscores the importance of hiring a professional to develop your resume. You cannot afford to wing it on your own, so to speak, especially if the timing for a new job has become critical or you have found it difficult to gain the attention of recruiters and prospective employers. An investment in your resume becomes an investment in your career, one that may result in helping you find and acquire a new job. If you have any hesitation about sending out your current resume, now is the time to contact a professional.