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Tools To Help You Find a Career

Career success isn’t rocket science–it’s a simple 3-step process. (1) Learn what you want to achieve. (2) Define what success looks like (how will you understand 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 position” but it still requires a lot of work! Here are ten tools to benefit you more easily and help you make your mark.

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

Everyone is a position seeker. Some are active job seekers; others are passive ones. Passive position seekers become active position 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 good contact relationship management (CRM) tool applied JibberJobber instead. It’s free and lets you track all the critical information you collect during a position 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.).

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

Companies 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 job information.

Many domain registrars have low sign up and hosting fees and offer tools for office a web site that require no technical experience. For example, my web site 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 job 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, job or city (e.g., JSmithArchitect.com or JaneDoeMiami.com).

Create a free LinkedIn page 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 job, 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 however 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 benefit with it (services are available for <$200). Some, who have created video resumes on their own, crashed and burned and few examples posted on YouTube are amazing models to follow.

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 instance, to show next to articles you write for your business 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 benefit 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 benefit 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 group builders)

Forget about candy dishes and donuts for in-office networking and team office. Display a fantastic-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 principals 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 passerby 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 group a fantastic name throughout the entire company. Plus, everyone who plays will be sharpening strategic thinking and crisis solving skills! This promotes team harmony and reinforces that everyone is on the SAME group while advancing your success!

TOOL #6: A networking kit

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 employer cards you have or whom you’ve entered in your CRM tool–your network is the individuals 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 negative 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 know about each new connection; and the third might be how many connections/reconnections to follow up on before leaving.

You need a fantastic business card, even if you have to get it made yourself. Nearly all employer cards (90%) are thrown away. Yours will be kept if you make it, the conversation, and the card exchange more something to remember. Use both hands to present your card to someone you’ve just met (it makes the gesture feel different and you more memorable). Always speak in good taste when exchanging cards (pass along a compliment and avoid making boorish comments or using negative language). Never write on a employer card you receive in the worker’s presence (it’s rude); leave the space or immediate area before putting your memory-jogging information on the back.

Carrying around your business cards without a protective case is like throwing your laptop into the car bare. You need a case to keep your business cards safe, neat, clean and handy. Talking with strangers can be nerve-wracking; but, when you have an unusual employer card case it can be a handy dialogue starter. I carry two; one for my own cards and one reserved for company 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 benefit 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 businesslike image and is a intelligent 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 “Manager” offerings at Stationery Studio you’ll see many designs that support your desired businesslike image without sacrificing personal style. Use their virtual tool to experiment with unique 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 individuals read. A lot. Carry your books around in audio files on your iPod or set aside a different 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 apprehend, 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 cities of businesslike 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 fantastic entertainment when you just don’t feel like reading on your commuter train or while waiting around in airports, traveling on company, or being stuck in dreary hotel rooms.

TOOL #9: A membership in toastmasters (www.toastmasters.org/)

Toastmasters is not exaggerating when they say “your success in company is based on how effective you are”. The higher you go, the more your communication skills are on display. By participating in Toastmasters programs individuals 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 business and the world. A membership in Toastmasters is a personal growth know-how you won’t regret.

TOOL #10: A personal stylist

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

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

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

Businesslike 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 fantastic; it is possible to spend a fortune on garments that only hold you back from moving 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 understand 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 THEM 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 however a mentor will also tell you why. That makes a fantastic mentor priceless!

Even the best university education can go you unprepared for handling the substantial emotion and cultural politics that exists in all organizations. Everyone requirements 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 chances. S/he can also connect you to other resources that benefit advance your goals or serve your needs if they are beyond the mentor’s expertise.

Many business principals 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?