CAREEREALISM Career Advice & Job Search Magazine Wed, 17 Sep 2014 06:08:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 This is weekly program whether career expert J.T. O'Donnell reviews skills and techniques needed to succeed in your career. She also answers question live from our views. Tune in Tuesdays at 1pm ET on to join our weekly Career Q&A! CAREEREALISM clean CAREEREALISM (CAREEREALISM) Career Q&A with J.T. O'Donnell CAREEREALISM 3 Little Career Secrets Of The Ultra-Successful Wed, 17 Sep 2014 06:08:42 +0000 What's the secret to success? There are actually three! So, what are they anyway? Let’s get into the three little career secrets of the ultra-successful.

The post 3 Little Career Secrets Of The Ultra-Successful appeared first on CAREEREALISM.

Two simple questions for you:

  1. What’s the biggest thing holding you back from achieving everything you desire?
  2. What’s your greatest asset in life?

Related: How 20 Seconds Of Insane Courage Got Me My Dream Job

Now, here’s the interesting part… They’re exactly the same thing:


You are your greatest asset, and funnily enough, you’re also the one standing in the way of achieving your wildest dreams.

So, in this article, I’m going to give you three small things – that when used together on a regular basis will help you:

  • Increase the value of your greatest asset in life… You.
  • Release the unconscious behaviors that are holding you back

Sound good?

The 3 Little Career Secrets Of The Ultra-Successful

Great. Let’s get into the three little career secrets of the ultra-successful:

1. Continuous Improvement Through Education

“Rich people have small TVs and big libraries, and poor people have small libraries and big TVs.”

― Zig Ziglar

The wealthiest people I know have invested in themselves far beyond a typical education.

They spend tens of thousands of dollars on education each and every year. Why?

Because they know that their biggest asset in life is themselves. Therefore, it makes sense to continually invest in the improvement of your greatest asset… doesn’t it?

2. Work With Great Mentors & Coaches

I’ve heard that Tiger Woods – one of the best in the world at the game of golf, has five coaches.


The beauty of working with great mentors and coaches is that you’re tapping into the wisdom of other successful people who have been where you are.

They’ve faced the same challenges, searched for the same answers, and sought the advice of their own mentors and coaches along the way.

Bottom line: A great mentor or coach is worth their weight in gold, and working with them is one of the fastest ways available to accelerate your success.

3. The Power Of The Master Mind

Have you ever sat in a “hot seat” where five or more smart people with similar goals give you their best solutions to your most challenging problem?

Sounds powerful, doesn’t it?

That’s why Napolean Hill, author of the famous book Think & Grow Rich, says this:

“Analyze the record of any man who has accumulated a great fortune, and many of those who have accumulated modest fortunes, and you will find that they have either consciously, or unconsciously employed the “Master Mind” principle.”

- Napolean Hill

The Master Mind group is one of Hill’s 13 principles of success that he shares in this must-read success book.

Now that we’ve covered the three little secrets of the ultra-successful, take stock of where you are right now:

  • Are you continuously learning?
  • Do you have a great coach or mentor?
  • Are you part of a mastermind group filled with peers you respect?

If the answer is “no” to any of these questions then consider taking steps to build these 3 success secrets into your life.

It’ll take a bit of time, but each of these elements independently can change your life.

Together, they’ll make you unstoppable.

If you’re interested in a one-of-a-kind solution combining each of these elements, then feel free to join my community of like-minded success seekers by subscribing here.

You’ll get access to a free video with more great job seeking tips, and I’ll let you know when I release my solution.

Cheers to your success!

Related Posts

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10 Inspiring Quotes About Career Success
Beware: The #1 Myth About Getting Your Dream Job

Ryan Niessen

About the author

Ryan Niessen is a keynote speaker and co-creator of The Gateway Method: a simple, proven way to gain inside access to the world’s best employers and get your dream job. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Facebook.



Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CAREEREALISM-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here.


Debby Wong /

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3 Tips For Writing A Successful Cover Letter Wed, 17 Sep 2014 05:50:52 +0000 When you sit down to write a cover letter, keep in mind the following points. They will help you write a successful cover letter that will get callbacks!

The post 3 Tips For Writing A Successful Cover Letter appeared first on CAREEREALISM.

Job seekers without a flair for writing and storytelling may find it painfully difficult to put together an impressive cover letter. The most common way they start their cover letter is with words like, “I’m very pleased to submit my application.” But do you realize just how awfully stiff these words sound to employers?

Related: 4 Inside Secrets To Writing A Great Cover Letter

A cover letter is your personal introduction to the employer. It has to communicate your professional journey so far, or how you acquired the skills that you’ve listed in your resume. In the recruitment industry, narrating a story and driving home a point is considered a “very good” practice, really. You can also mention common contacts, crack a mild joke, and carefully build the interest of the person reading it.

But before telling you how to do that, let’s find out what a cover letter is, and why it is so important:

What Is A Cover Letter?

According to the most common definition of a cover letter – it is a document sent with the resume to provide additional information about your experience and skills. It tells what qualifies you for the job and why prospective employers should hire you.

It’s your chance to impress the reader and build a connection with him or her, which is why having a readable and honest cover letter will be the window to your dream job.

3 Tips For Writing A Successful Cover Letter

When you sit down to write a cover letter, keep in mind the following points. They will help you create a nearly perfect cover letter.

1. Keep It Short

First things first, never exceed the cover letter by two pages!

Experienced recruitment professionals time and again give this advice to every job seeker – never write lengthy cover letters because no one has the time and patience to go through lengthy text that’s not relevant to them.

As a general rule, larger the company, the less important a cover letter becomes. The only exception to this general rule might be when you are applying for some very senior positions at a big company.

Unless you are eyeing such posts, keep it short and sweet.

2. Write A Striking Introduction

The very first lines of your cover letter should blow the reader’s mind. If they don’t, you’re application is going in the recycle bin, and that’s for sure!

Don’t make it abstract by starting with something like, “I’m a highly skilled salesman with proven experience….”

So what? Every person claiming the position will say the same.

Instead, make it a little more striking by saying something like this:

“I see that market sales have dropped drastically in your industry. I have 12 years of experience in international marketing in the same industry, and I’ve been able to increase sales at the last two companies where I worked.”

Now that’s a killer opening for the employer. You’re making the same claim as above, but it sounds to be true.

Alternate Way Of Starting The Cover Letter

Not everyone will have prior experience or an experience to brag about.

Statistics have proven that less than 10% job seekers get selected by responding to Internet ads. Most of us get jobs through personal contact. Maybe you went from company to company on your own, or your friends and family recommended you a position.

If this is the case, begin your cover letter by saying something like, “XYZ recommended I get in touch with you about the sales job at your company….”

Again, you’ve given it a personal touch, and chances are you’ll be recognized for that.

3. Write A Career Summary That’s Tailor To The Job

Now that the biggest hurdle of introducing yourself is past, you may elaborate more upon your skill set and career path.

After the introductory lines, write a small summary about your career, tailored to fit the needs of the company you’re approaching.

In the next paragraph, lay out your accomplishments (again only the ones relevant to this job).

And, in the last paragraph, say when you’ll get in touch, or ask for an appointment or interview dates.

This is a guest post.

Related Posts

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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Focus – A Critical Skill For Job Seekers Wed, 17 Sep 2014 05:44:25 +0000 In a world where job seekers are presented with thousands of pieces of “job hunting” advice, the need to develop the skill of focus is critical. Here's why.

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In a wired world where job seekers can be presented with hundreds, if not thousands, of pieces of “job hunting” advice daily, the need for job seekers to develop and use the skill of “focus” is critical.

Related: 3 Things HR Looks For In An Employee

We’re confronted with the “Paradox of Choice” in almost every area of our lives. On television, there are hundreds of shows being broadcast at any moment, with online services and on-demand programming, it leaps to the thousands.

While some fast-food restaurants have maintained simplicity (i.e. In ‘n Out), the selections at most are seemingly endless. Waffle House claims there are 3.5 million ways to order their hash browns. Most of us who have visit a casual dining restaurant have been confronted with one where the menu is ten or more pages of options. And the “Paradox of Choice” (Barry Schwarz, Ecco, 2003) teaches us that too many choices often leads to a serious limitation to our ability to make decisions.

In the job hunting world, this factor is not new. I’ve been critical of books arguing for the “1000 Best Interview Questions” for years. But it’s now experienced the “wired explosion” with new suggestions for resume formats and cover letters. I was schooled in job hunting techniques by some key mentors. One of them was Bill Needler (founder of The Job Forum) who was known for clearly stating: “50% of all job hunting advice is wrong – the problem is we don’t know which 50%)

The evaluation of best resume formats or “the three things you must know about…” is probably an endless debate. The objective here is to recommend an important strategy for surviving this “wired explosion” in the job hunting world – simply stated, FOCUS.

The need for “focus” is being recognized as a critical skill in the business community. Daniel Coleman, the leading authority of Emotional Intelligence (EQ), recently published a comprehensive examination of the subject, stating very strongly:

This can be boiled down to a threesome: inner, other, and outer focus. A well lived life demands we be nimble in each.  For leaders to get results, they need all three kinds of focus. A leader tuned out of his internal world will be rudderless. One blind to the world of others will be clueless. Those indifferent to the larger systems within which they operate will be blindsided.

(Focus, Daniel Coleman, Harper, 2013)

It is easy to see how this applies to job seekers, awareness of strengths and accomplishments (internal), of the marketplace and teamwork (others), and of trends and organizations (outer).

All the available information means people have to work harder to consume it, categorizing information, sorting facts from opinion, and putting everything into context. Unless we take the time to do that, and have the skills to do it well, we could actually be less knowledgeable. 

(“Managing the Information Avalanche,” Ron Ashkenas, Harvard Business Review, March 6, 2012)

The message from Ashkenas is even more on target for job seekers – “the skills to do it well.” The good news is that he provides some key action steps for job seekers:

  • Focus on a few key indicators.
  • Differentiate opinion from data.
  • Examine trends and patterns.
  • Periodically look at the ecosystem.
  • Use information as a basis for dialogue.

As strategies for your job search, these steps translate perfectly. You can’t be tracking dozens of website, blogs, and Facebook pages for tips of your resume format. Identify 2-3 goods sources and give yourself the time to go deeper with the advice from this sites. There’s more opinion than data on job hunting techniques – and that’s OK – but make sure you see the recommendations backed by research knowing even that will be countered by other research.

The world is overrun by identifying trends in this “wired explosion.” One example is the innovative approaches suggested for resumes (e.g., visual resumes). It’s important to carefully examine trends that may impact your job search. If this trend continues, how does this affect you? What if it’s just a fad? What if your “innovative” resume turns off more potential employers that it attracts?

The larger world of careers, jobs, and the economy are always factors to be considered. Right now there are on-going, sometimes fiery debates over the “skills gap” and “living wages.” Do these issue impact your job search? For many, the answer is “definitely.”

And finally the easiest piece of advice for all job seekers, “use information for dialogue.” Make sure your strategies, your resume, your prepared answers to possible interview questions, are something you’ve discussed with colleagues and, if possible, with a knowledgeable adviser.

Focus involves having an effective radar system to know what you should be monitoring for your effective job search. It includes awareness of what’s important both today and in the future. And you can’t put “everything” on your radar – limit your radar to some important resources for the various aspects of your career search.

Related Posts

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Jim Schreier

About the author

Jim Schreier is a management consultant with a focus on management, leadership, including performance-based hiring and interviewing skills. Visit his website at



Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CAREEREALISM-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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6 Easy Steps For Building A Defined Personal Brand Wed, 17 Sep 2014 05:11:47 +0000 In order to be successful, you need to have a defined personal brand. We can get a really solid start in easy six steps. Ready? Let’s go!

The post 6 Easy Steps For Building A Defined Personal Brand appeared first on CAREEREALISM.

A lot is being made of building a personal brand lately. And no matter the circle, it really is a good idea to have a clearly defined personal brand. This is especially true if you are in the midst of growing your career, or finding a new position. What isn’t so great is that developing a brand sounds like a very lofty idea that is not easily executed. It sounds hard, but I am here to tell you: It really isn’t all that hard.

Related: 5 Ways To Boost Your Professional Profile With Social Media

We can get a really solid start in easy six steps. Ready? Let’s go!

Step #1: Define your brand

The first thing you should probably understand is how to define a personal brand. I happen to subscribe to this definition:

It is the intersection of your reputation, your aspirations and who you really are as a person and a professional. Think about it this way: In terms of reputation, look at what are you known for? Or what does everyone come to you for? In terms of your aspirations, what do you hope to achieve in your career and in your personal life?

And finally, you overlay your reality. For me, I am an innovator who is passionate about creating happy experiences for job seekers. So, what’s yours? Feel free to make a diagram like above for yourself; it may help refine your position. Once you have this dialed, it’s time to spread the word on your brand.

Step #2: Tidy it all up

Chances are, you are very active in social and now that you have defined your personal brand, you need to go into all of your profiles and update the information to reflect your newly defined personal brand. Your profile text should be very relevant to who you are and your pictures should also be “on brand.”

Step #3: Create and curate great content

One of the easiest and fastest ways to build credibility in your personal brand is to create and curate really great content that supports the things you stand for. For many, it is finding great articles that are in your area of expertise and sharing those out to your networks.

For example, I am passionate about creating great job seeker experiences, so I curate content from a number of sites dedicated to helping people get the most out of their career and their workday. The key is to pick a few focused areas to solidify that branded position among readers and followers. Use a RSS reader like to aggregate news from all the blogs you read so you can go to one place to see all the news you may want to curate.

Step #4: Make new connections

Use LinkedIn Groups and Twitter to create new connections. Join groups on LinkedIn that are aligned with your brand and then, start posting your great content there. But, be sure you respond to any comments that your articles may generate.

In addition, you can also join a weekly Twitter chat to network with new people on Twitter. You can find weekly Twitter chats by going here and seeing what might align with your passions. If you choose to get involved in a Twitter chat, be sure to actively participate, use the hashtag of the chat and follow people who are interesting. This is a great way of growing Twitter followers and establishing your brand. Plus, a company or two has been known to use Twitter chats to identify talent to connect with, so they may also lead to job opportunities.

Step #5: Try your hand at guest posting

As you start to find your voice in this conversation, don’t hesitate to reach out to a blog you follow and ask to provide content. Many times, bloggers are looking for content and are happy to give you some space. Make sure when you are pitching a story idea that it is not overtly promotional and that you have a distinct point of view on the subject.

Step #6: Be sure you can back it up

So, you have a brand and your social profiles are beautifully aligned. You contribute to the conversation in your area of expertise. But, make sure that above all, you can back it up. Make sure that if someone comes across your work, it validates you position. Remember that time that Las Vegas said it was for families? Yeah, that didn’t work because they couldn’t back it up. So, be sure that you have the experience to back that brand up.

This post was originally published at an earlier date.

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Tracey Parsons

About the author

With passion and an innate curiosity, Tracey strives to push the envelope to create great experiences for talent. Tracey has been developing digital, mobile and social solutions for nearly 20 years in the talent acquisition space. Currently CredHive’s CEO, she is dedicated to changing the way hiring is done to create a more level playing field for talent. Visit CredHive to learn more.


Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CAREEREALISM-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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6 Ways To Figure Out What You Want In A Job Wed, 17 Sep 2014 05:09:38 +0000 How do you figure out what you want in a job? Let’s face it, this kind of insight doesn’t grow on trees. Here's some help from a career coach.

The post 6 Ways To Figure Out What You Want In A Job appeared first on CAREEREALISM.

One of the most common questions I hear from job seekers and career changers is how to figure out what they want to do next. Let’s face it, this kind of insight doesn’t grow on trees. Sooner or later, most of us need a little help to clarify our job options and redirect our long-term career plans.

Related: 5 Dynamic Ways To Reinvent Your Career Path

Before considering how to figure out what you want in a job, let’s first delineate what you need to know about a job in order to evaluate it as a potential match. You need to know what level of role it is (professional, management, executive, and so on), the scope of the position (its key functions and responsibilities), the industry(ies) in which it can be found, and the types of companies that hire people to do that work. This is the level of clarity needed to apply for jobs, write resumes, and perform effectively interviews and is part of the process of defining a realistic job search strategy.

If you have deeper questions about what kind of work, you should be doing or think you may need to change careers altogether, then you will find it helpful to dig deeper. For this deeper career excavation, you will need to identify your personal meaning and pleasure indicators as well as your strongest skills.

Of these three, your skills are usually the easiest to identify because they are the most obvious. Most of us can fairly quickly identify at least some of the things we’re good at doing. If you need more help discovering your most important skills, you may want to consider completing a skills identification exercise.

Career pleasures, or likes, are easy to identify for those occupations and fields you’re aware of but next to impossible to clarify if your awareness of career fields is limited – which is exactly why career assessments can be helpful. A career coach can be a great ally in this process, too, since an experienced one can shortcut your research and exploration dramatically by showing you possible life directions based on the patterns of your likes and dislikes.

Career meaning is the toughest of these three to identify on your own, though values assessments can point the way. Reflecting on the career choices you’ve made to date can streamline your exploration and aid you in focusing on the career options most likely to be of value to you.

The intersection of these three elements is the classic career satisfaction goal because ultimately a great career choice is one that creates meaning for you, gives you deep pleasure, and takes advantage of your strongest skills.

So, how can you figure out what you’re looking for career-wise? There are six primary pathways to career clarity. Which ones are best suited to your personality, timeline, and budget?





Books & Internet Resources Richard Bolles’ classic What Color Is Your Parachute is a how to guide for figuring out what you want to do with your work life. Other great options include Do What You Are, Strengthsfinder 2.0, and The Pathfinder. There is a wealth of free information about careers available on the Internet as well. Do-it-yourself career exploration takes longer than working with a professional. This pathway could take 1 to several years. Ranges from free to $25.
Journaling Figuring out what you want in a job requires self-reflection. As a self-reflective activity journaling can be a powerful ally. Introduction to Journaling shows participants how to leverage the power of introspection and introduces topics such as values clarification and career journaling. Journaling is another DIY approach, but when pursued with a firm structure it place is likely to require less time overall, though it still may require 1 to several years. Ranges from free to $99.
Career Assessment There are a wide array of options available, from instant online tools and quick checklists to validated and researched personality and career assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, DISC, Career Key, and the Strong Interest Inventory. Varies from instant feedback to custom reports available in 1-2 weeks. Generally the longer the turnaround time for results the more in depth those results will be. While results may be available rapidly, figuring out how to use them usually takes longer. Ranges from free to $500+.
Unpaid Work Options such as internships, job shadowing, and volunteer work all allow you to sample occupations and careers before committing to them on a semi-permanent basis. Each also offers some exposure to and experience with key skills. To collect skills and experience via unpaid work generally requires a minimum of several months to yield insight and connections. Free
Paid Work While not always advisable, it is possible to try occupations on for size AND get paid to do so. The downside is that if your choices are random this will produce a great deal of chaos in your work history and will limit your ability to land great jobs later on. When leveraged as part of an overall career plan, though, this option can yield great insight for kinesthetic learners. As with unpaid work, this pathway generally requires months to years yield the needed insight and experience. Free
Career Coaching 1:1 and group coaching options provide structure and guidance for career exploration. These programs vary widely in their content, so look for someone with strong credentials and experience. Group options are generally time-limited and last from weeks to months while 1:1 coaching is ongoing and may stretch from several months to a year or more. Ranges from hundreds of dollars for a short-term group program to thousands of dollars for long-term 1:1 coaching.


Although you can leverage full-time work as a means to figuring out your overall career trajectory, this option is really the costliest of the six pathways. I’ve seen many professionals who kept trying different career options by landing different jobs in different industries over a period of several years. The problem is that this many job changes creates chaos in the resume and makes landing a great job much harder to do.

That is why, if your budget allows, working with a career coach will likely yield greater insight and momentum than pursuing career exploration on your own. Many coaches offer group programs that give you a structured program, accountability, and direction at a fraction of the cost of working with a coach 1:1.

This post was originally published at an earlier date.

Related Posts

5 Signs You Chose The Wrong Career Path
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Cheryl Simpson | Executive Job Search Coach

About the author

A 15-time, award-winning resume writer, Cheryl Lynch Simpson serves mid-career to senior executives as a credentialed resume writer (ACRW), LinkedIn strategist (COPNS), and Get Clear, Get Found, Get Hired (G3) coach. Like her advice? Check out her website, for a complimentary copy of her popular Polish Your Profile LinkedIn presentation, or follow her on Twitter!


Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CAREEREALISM-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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How To Avoid Falling Into The ‘Miserable Career’ Trap Tue, 16 Sep 2014 06:56:39 +0000 Unhappy with your career or the way you're living your life? It's time to get in control Here's how to avoid falling into the 'miserable career' trap.

The post How To Avoid Falling Into The ‘Miserable Career’ Trap appeared first on CAREEREALISM.

The year was 2009.

I was an overly confident (and incredibly ignorant) young man…

And I was on a mission to kickstart my career and make a lot of money.

Related: How 20 Seconds Of Insane Courage Got Me My Dream Job

The results of my quest are both hilarious and embarrassing (you can click here to watch the 3-minute video with the full story)…

And while I learned an incredibly valuable lesson from this experience, I nonetheless wasted an entire year of my life.

I was burned out, had used up all my savings, was living with my parents, AND was completely miserable.

So, what happened? And how can you avoid an equally horrific fate?

I Fell Into The “Miserable Career” Trap

Unfortunately, it’s rather easy to do.

Try working long days filled with frustrating tasks that aren’t your natural strength.

Add that to unfulfilling results and a total lack of meaning…

And throw in a dash of desperateness… and you’ll get there.

So, if you’re like me in 2009 – and you’re NOT engaged, excited, and exhilarated by your career right now, then here’s…

How To Turn Your Career Around

For me, it started with one simple decision.

I decided to take 100% accountability for all of my results in life.

Even the ridiculous ones. For instance (and thankfully this hasn’t happened to me – yet!), say someone decided to prank me by throwing a pie in my face I was walking swiftly towards an important business meeting.

I could get angry, curse at him up and down, cancel my business meeting, and let it ruin the rest of the day.

Or, I could chase him down and wipe as much pie as possible on him, then laugh and walk on into my business meeting with a hilarious story and an important lesson learned…

The lesson being this: always be aware of your surroundings (and especially flying pies!)

One choice makes me a victim.

The other empowers me and challenges me to grow and do better.

Simple, right?

Combine 100% accountability with the following formula, and you’ve got a recipe for success.

The 5 Elements Of The Ultimate Career Formula

Now, if you want to dodge the pie of death (career death, that is), there’s actually a proven formula for avoiding the “Miserable Career” trap I fell into – and instead creating a career and life you love.

1. Apply Your Strengths – take tests and assessments to figure out what you’re naturally good at, and make sure your role is in alignment with your results.

2. Align With Your Values – identify what’s most important to you, and make sure your position and the company you work for fit. If you’re a health junkie working for a soda-pop company, you may want change things up.

3. Lean Into Your Inspiration - lean into your inspiration by reflecting on what you enjoy, what you’re passionate about, and what drives you crazy in the world!

4. Make a Great Income – leverage your skills and experience to make the highest income possible.

5. Magnify Your Impact – contribute your skills to projects that make a difference in the world.

The sweet spot of these five elements is where you’ll find your ultimate career.

Applying this formula is a process, but one day you’ll hit the tipping point where you realize that you’re right in the middle of your ultimate career – and you know that you’ll only continue to magnify your impact and income from there.

And if you want a little extra help with kickstarting your ultimate career, you can check out my free video with three tips you can start applying now, right here.

This video is a collection of some of the best job seeking wisdom from my friend and mentor, and it’s tailored specifically for people who want to make a living and a difference in the world – while tuning into their strengths, values and inspiration.

Related Posts

5 Exciting Career Moves That Will Change Your Life
10 Inspiring Quotes About Career Success
Beware: The #1 Myth About Getting Your Dream Job

Ryan Niessen

About the author

Ryan Niessen is a keynote speaker and co-creator of The Gateway Method: a simple, proven way to gain inside access to the world’s best employers and get your dream job. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Facebook.


Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CAREEREALISM-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here.


Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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Why Being An Apprentice Is Accelerating My Career Tue, 16 Sep 2014 06:32:09 +0000 You might think of an apprentice is a glorified intern or personal assistant. The truth is, it's WAY more than that. Here's why it's accelerating my career.

The post Why Being An Apprentice Is Accelerating My Career appeared first on CAREEREALISM.

“What are you going to do now with that $200,000 education?”

My dad asked me this question painfully quickly after my Yankee’s Stadium graduation ceremony. Needless to say, he was delighted with my first professional decision: to become a yoga teacher.

Related: How To Make Internships Translate To Employers

When I told him about my next career move, which was to become an apprentice, his reply: “Erin, these aren’t real jobs. You’re learning magic, now?”

It was precisely that connotation of the title juxtaposed to the dismal reality of the job market that drew me to apply for the position as apprentice to Shane Snow, a self-proclaimed technology geek and an advocate for the power of stories.

The Chief Creative Officer of Contently by day, and a features writer/urban explorer by night, Shane was looking for someone to work closely with him in support of the release of his first book, Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success (and I’d be a crappy apprentice if I did not mention that it was rated one of top new business books of the fall and that he has been called the next Malcom Gladwell). After googling him and reading his features in Wired, Mashable, and the New Yorker, I decided that I wanted to work with him. Plus, I assumed I would get to learn the secret behind his awesome hair.

And so here I am. My Contently business card reads, Apprentice to the CCO, and it never fails to extract an eyebrow raise and a smile. My co-workers have also shared their envy of the amorphous title.

I’ve gotten to follow Shane on interviews, to tapings of video segments, and official Contently meetings with well respected companies. I’ve been a part of his book launch process and witnessed what goes into the publicity and preparation. I’ve helped him execute his online webinars and have gotten to do some writing of my own.

The highlight for me of all of my experiences thus far has been the way Shane has incorporated me into every conversation. He introduces me as his apprentice, and explains that I am there to soak it all in. I become an equal in the room because he establishes it immediately. I am not a simply a scribe or Beverage Procurement Manager. I’m at the table and I’m meant to be there.

The response has each time been the same: people find it fun and a reflection of Shane’s unique mix of wisdom and congeniality. Having an “apprentice” present rather than an assistant relaxes the room. In the slew of business meetings people attend each day, the master/apprentice paradigm doesn’t emerge as often as you might think.

Of course, there are the less exciting administrative tasks — coordinating calendars, sending follow-ups, scheduling appointments, making sure he is eating correctly, and so on. But that is part of the deal: be there for the small things and the big things will come.

A lot of what I do can be tagged as #PersonalAssistant. However, what differs is the commitment to teaching that threads through each unpredictable pearl of a day. It is obvious to me that Shane views our dynamic as a mutually beneficial relationship, where there is learning, growth, and support on both ends. This principle of teaching freely, of innovators and leaders offering value to others as key to their success is one he discusses in his book Smartcuts.

The importance of mentorship is one of the most common pieces of advice I have heard as a “recent” college graduate (under three years is still recent, I swear). Female movers and shakers such as Huffington and Sandberg talk about mentorship as one of their key principles to success. One of the appointments I got to tag along with Shane was to interview the co-founder of the GLG group, one of the most successful start-ups in New York City, for a Fast Company

Alexander Saint-Amand said something during the interview that really stuck with me: The best way to learn is through one-on-one instruction. Accelerate the process of teaching yourself a skill or gaining knowledge by finding a person who is an expert and ask them questions. Learn from them. I’m lucky enough to do this every day.

As part of the millennial generation that is challenging traditional career paths and responding to the ever-shifting job market, I think being an apprentice is the way to go. Not only do I get to meet other movers and shakers, but I have someone looking out for my best professional interest. Also, sometimes I get to dress up like a robot.

Anything goes when you’re an apprentice. Yes, dad, I’m pretty sure my job is magic.

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Ace The Interview By Asking The Right Questions Tue, 16 Sep 2014 06:28:17 +0000 What's the secret to acing an interview? Questions. As a job seeker, you must always have questions. Here are some questions to ask in your next interview.

The post Ace The Interview By Asking The Right Questions appeared first on CAREEREALISM.

People hire people they like, so your job in an interview is to build rapport and change the interview format into more of a conversation.

Related: 3 Ways To Build Rapport And Ace The Interview

You also want to make sure the job is a good fit for you so be prepared to ask good questions.

Thinking ahead and having questions for the employer is a good thing. It shows them that you are a serious candidate giving careful thought, and not someone who’s just applying to dozens of jobs to simply take the first job offer that comes their way.

More often than not, the interviewer will come to the end of the interview process asking, “Do you have any questions for me?” As a job seeker, you must always have questions. Saying “no” implies you are not very interested in the job.

Questions To Ask In An Interview

So, to make sure you have questions to impress at your next interview, ask some of the following if it has not already been addressed:

  • What’s the biggest challenge to this job in the first six months?
  • Why is this position open?
  • What are some of the qualities valued of the last person in this position in fulfilling the job?
  • What do you like most about working for this company?
  • Can you describe the typical day in this position?
  • How would you describe the corporate culture?
  • Do you feel I am a good fit for this job? Do you have any concerns?

Clearly, the more research you do behind the scenes before the interview, the more ideas you’ll have on what questions to ask. This will not only exhibit how serious a contender you are, but also that you have done your homework for an engaged discussion. Asking these types of questions also give you the necessary information and insight to help judge whether it is the job you want when that job offer comes around.

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Don Goodman

About the author

Don Goodman’s firm was rated as the #1 Resume Writing Service in 2013 & 2014. Don is a triple-certified, nationally recognized Expert Resume Writer, Career Management Coach and Job Search Strategist who has helped thousands of people secure their next job. Check out his Resume Writing Service. Get a Free Resume Evaluation or call him at 800.909.0109  for more information.


Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CAREEREALISM-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here.

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3 Steps To Create Your Own Career Development Plan Tue, 16 Sep 2014 05:15:19 +0000 Not sure where you want to go with your career? It's time to create your career development plan! Here are three steps you need to take.

The post 3 Steps To Create Your Own Career Development Plan appeared first on CAREEREALISM.

If you’re pondering how you’re going to get where you want to be, there are some simple steps you can take that will help you create your own career development plan. Let’s not be confused by the word “simple.”

Related: The Importance Of Having A Solid Career Plan

Sometimes the simplest of concepts or steps can be tough to do because they require some thinking and some effort. Yet, your think time and effort are an investment in your future and happiness, which make it all very worthwhile.

Step 1: Figure Out Your Destination

As with all efforts, you must be clear about your direction when you create your own career development plan. You don’t take a road trip without knowing where you want to end up. You also don’t need to overly complicate this task. I think the following questions are helpful in thinking out your destination.

Where do you want your career to be in two years?

  • I like this question because this window is close enough to your current reality that it is easy to visualize.

Where do you want your career to be in five years?

  • If you see that your two-year goal is merely a step in an overall direction, then this question helps you define a longer term goal. Sometimes it’s difficult to see that far out in time, as life and opportunities present themselves and can cause you to reset your plans. That’s okay, but it’s good to be looking “two steps ahead.”

What makes these targets resonant for you?

  • Don’t make a goal just for the sake of making one. You need a goal that really rings your chimes and helps to motivate you into action. If you’re making a goal based on what someone else wants, it also isn’t going to be that compelling for you. Being clear on your direction means being clear that this direction is inspiring and motivational and knowing what is driving you to it.

Step 2: Do A Gap Analysis

A gap analysis is where you figure out the differences in the qualifications between where you are right now and your two-year goal or next step.

Using a job posting or job description for the position you are aiming at is a good way to get specific information about the skills and experience that are expected. I think it is good to get more than one job description (perhaps one with your company and one with a competitor) in order to ensure you aren’t missing any key items during your analysis.

Go through the job description line item by line item and rate your current state of skills, education, or experience to what is listed. Your rating system can be as simple as 1-10, with ten a perfect match and one being completely missing. As you rate, make notes about your thinking for future reference.

Once you have completed this exercise, identify all of the items where there is anywhere from a fair amount to a substantial amount of development that is needed. Look for commonalities and clump those together as a category. You will discover that there will be themes to your gaps.

Also, don’t get too compulsive about where you don’t think you’re a perfect match but think you have fairly developed skills. If they are mostly present, they will make you a competitive candidate and shouldn’t require too much development attention.

You now have a list of development items.

Step 3: Create Your Development Plan

You are now fully armed with a clear two-year goal and all the details of where and what you need to develop to get you where you want to go. Your plan will be best if you can consult with your boss and/or a mentor to help you with ideas of how to get the skills you need to add.

There may need to be some logical order to a few of the items on your list. Sometimes you need to do X before you can do Y. Make these among the highest priority items so you can accomplish these things and move on to others.

Usually there are multiple ways of accumulating the needed skills.  You may also want to have multiple ways of beefing up your skill set to add depth to it.  An example is if you want to move to a project management position, you may want to get certification and also to ask for project responsibilities.  Initially, these may be small, which are fine; they will give you an opportunity to grow and learn.

You may need to research various ways to get the skills you need. Once done, it will give you ideas on how you can approach these items.

You need dates. You need to keep yourself accountable to your plan; and the best way to do that is to give yourself a “start by” date. You can’t predict how long or how much work you will have to do in order to develop the skill at the level you need, but you do have control over the action you take to get started.

Keep track. You need to pay attention to your plan a minimum of twice per year. This will allow you to stay focused on your progress and remind you of next steps.

Career development is the sort of thing that you can easily forget about until you wake up one day to realize you have gone nowhere and aren’t having fun. You are responsible for where you go in your career. With a little bit of planning you can accomplish great things.

This post was originally published at an earlier date.

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9 Reasons Why You Need A Resume (Even If You Have A Job) Tue, 16 Sep 2014 05:15:05 +0000 Here are some of the reasons why you need a resume at all times, whether you're employed or not. It's a great tool for marketing yourself...

The post 9 Reasons Why You Need A Resume (Even If You Have A Job) appeared first on CAREEREALISM.

During a job search, your resume plays a major role. It provides proof that you’re capable of doing the job. However, having a resume even if you’re not looking for a job is also important.

Related: Resume Cheat Sheet: 5 Tips For A Winning Resume

Here are nine reasons why you need a resume, even if you have a job:

1. To Ensure Client Loyalty

Clients and customers are always on the lookout for a better, quicker, more attractive response! There’s no quicker way to lose a customer or opportunity for business than to rest on one’s laurels and assume you have things wrapped up. A good job yesterday may mean nothing if a more visible competitor impresses one’s best client. Ensure visibility and present one’s expertise to not only new customers, but also existing ones.

2. To Attract New Clients Or Customers

Whether the plan is growth, replacing clients lost through attrition, or just ensuring a fair share of the American Pie, everyone needs new customers. Tomorrow is mercurial, especially in today’s economic times. The winners are constantly in motion – visible, dynamic, and attractive.

3. To Improve Or Maintain Status In An Industry Or Field

In many industries, it is crucial to have a standing in one’s professional community. A recommendation from a competitor (or at least a lack of negative comment) can often carry more weight than one from a friend or customer. Visibly impressive qualifications communicated well and often ensure that few people will have ill words to speak. To do so would be to risk dissension.

4. To Provide Job Security

In today’s climate, even holding one’s current role steady is a challenge. If changes need to be made, a manager will be less likely to delete someone who clearly has the skills, knowledge, and ability to do the job. All things being equal, the one APPEARING most qualified will be kept on. This is not to say that it is not necessary to hone one’s skills and remain sharp on all fronts, of course.

5. To Obtain A Raise

Who doesn’t want more money? Clearly delineate value to the company, recent accomplishments, and present them in a polished fashion to justify the raise to a superior. Not only will an updated resume provide the needed justification, but also it gently reminds the boss that you are a well-qualified employee that would be sought after by competitors.

6. To Confirm Self-Worth

Often, today’s business environment does not provide positive feedback to workers. Sometimes one just needs to see oneself through another’s eyes. A resume is a great way to sit back and look objectively at oneself to see what others may: A pat on the back if done correctly!

7. To Identify Gaps In Skills, Knowledge, Or Abilities

Prior planning prevents… Well, enough said! Just the exercise in pulling together the information for an updated resume may be enough to identify areas for improvement. There is no time like the present – not having an up to date resume is like playing Russian Roulette with one’s income. No one wants to have to look for work because they lost their job. Be prepared, keep a current resume, and keep skills current.

8. To Find A New Job

Change is sometimes forced on a worker – companies do not share all the information that could potentially impact employees or sometimes the company is blind-sided by changes outside of its control. If you are caught in this position, your stress will be somewhat eased by an updated resume on hand and ready to send to potential employers and colleagues.

9. To Find A New Opportunity

A visible resume posted online or shared among a network of trusted friends or colleagues could open doors to opportunities not recognized, considered, or thought of. How exciting to be presented with the perfect opportunity out of the blue? A network member might recognize a match between contents of a resume and an opening only they are privy to at the moment. After an “AHA” moment or two a line can easily be drawn between the needs of the opportunity and the offerings outline in a well-formatted resume.

This post was originally published at an earlier date.

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Mary Sherwood Sevinsky

About the author

Mary Sherwood Sevinsky is a career and occupational consultant who is masters-prepared and certified. She is a business owner with nearly 20 years of experience in Corporate Management, Career Assessment & Counseling and in writing Career Articles and Educational Materials. She has worked as a corporate manager experienced in hiring, firing, and managing a staff of professionals with a multi-million dollar budget. Learn more about Mary and her services:

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CAREEREALISM-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here.

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