Career Success

Success-300x199Have you just graduated? Have you just landed yourself with that first job? Are you ready to take on the world but you feel lost? Are you at your first few years of work or at a career crossroad? And feeling disgruntled, demotivated, confused and in need of guidance?

What do you do next in order to progress?

Life in the working world is very different from school or college. There are no clear rules so to speak. But there are guidelines and principles you can follow to increase your chances of career success.

Based on our real life experiences, we want to provide you with guidelines, advice and tips to help you ease into the working world. In the hope this will help you achieve career success.

This is our toolbox, tools we have used in the course of our own pursuit of a successful career.

The tips, techniques and advice are geared for you to be a success with bosses, colleagues, clients and foes.

While we can share our experiences with you, YOU need to belief that you are in charge of your own destiny. Everything starts and ends with you. You are the one in control, no one else. We do not have magic formulas here you can learn in a night and be on your way to greatness. But what we know is this – the advice, tips and techniques here are used by ourselves. We aim to guide you towards a successful career, work and life.

We have collected them for you to freely use in pursuing career success. You are your own career builder; we are the supplier of the tools. You need to decide which tools to use, which suits you best and then put them into action.

There are three things we ask of you:

  1. Bring Enthusiasm. Unless you are interested to improve yourself and attain success, no amount of reading can help you.
  2. Take Action. Internalize the relevant materials. Then decide to take action. Nothing happens until you act upon that change you desire.
  3. Be Patient. Nothing happens overnight. Success like many things in life takes time. Drop by drop an empty bucket is soon filled with water. Small steps at a time. Pursuing career success is a marathon. Not a sprint.

As you peek around you will see things in a different perspective, so you can enjoy and feel more satisfied pursuing career success. Well, come on in and let’s get started!



Career Advice


When you’re looking for help with your choice of career, it’s easy to take the first advice that comes your way – after all, it’s important and usually highly time-sensitive! Friends and family are often more than willing to tell you their thoughts. Careers are so important, however, that it’s always important to seek a second opinion. Look for advice from tenured professionals in the field that you are in or are looking to break into.

Whether it’s your first time in or you are looking to further your position within your current career, navigating your way through the path of career development can be a daunting endeavor. Knowing where to seek career advice can ease your transfer into a new career. Developing your identity, creating and maintaining your image, and preparing yourself to take advantage of emerging opportunities all contribute to your success in the workplace. Career planning is a personal plan to increase your value to an employer while focusing your career goals around your unique skills and ambitions.

Some excellent published works on career advice include: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter; Your Career is an Extreme Sport: Focus Drive Excel by Eileen Gunn; Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Changing Your Career by Herminia Ibarra; and Rules for Renegades by Christine Comaford Lynch.

Some general career advice before you dive into the wealth of resources available onsite:

The first step to controlling your career path is to pay attention to your progress. Create frequent, and realistic, short-term goals and work hard to meet them. Ensure that your short-term goals are in line to help you meet your long-term career plans. Reevaluate these goals a couple of times per year to keep track of your progress. These goals can include taking on relevant side jobs, volunteering to gain experience, or returning to school for an advanced degree.

Keep your knowledge of your industry and your skill set current. Participate in any career-development opportunities offered by your employer, renew your licenses and certifications regularly, and stay connected to the larger industry outside of your own job and company. Self-motivation is the number one force pushing you to achieve.

Don’t let a company control your progress. If your place of employment lacks opportunities or promotes a culture that discourages progress, move on the greener pastures. Good companies allow their employees to grow along with them. If your company doesn’t allow you to branch out and continue to develop your skills, look for another company that does.

Knowing when to seek career advice is often intuitive. You may feel overlooked, neglected, or even bored. If you aren’t challenged by your position, if you aren’t allowed to grow at a comfortable pace, if you feel your work environment takes from you more than it gives, it may be time to consider seeking advice from a mentor or other resource.



Applications & Mock Interviews


Description: This is a application and interview practice forum for Grades: 9–12. practice completing a job application and participate in a mock interview.


  1. Examine the “Dos and Don’ts” of completing a job application
  2. Exhibit appropriate behavior during a mock job interview


  1. Job Application printable (PDF) from Spell Well! 50 Quick, Fun-Filled Ways to Help Students of All Learning Styles Masters Their Spelling Words and/or a variety of job applications from various local businesses.
  2. Career Portfolios and Resumes from Lesson One
  3. Writing paper/pencils
  4. Chart paper
  5. Transparency of a job application
  6. Overhead Projector
  7. Interview Questions Printable (PDF)

Set Up and Prepare (min of two on a team to a max of four on a team for group study sessions)

  1. Copy the Job Application (printable) and/or collect a variety of job applications from various local businesses. Make sure the applications are blank.
  2. Make sure to do this study in a group of four (max).
  3. Inform other students or team members in your group that they will be involved in mock job interviews on a specified date, encouraging each to dress appropriately for the mock job interview event.
  4. On a chart paper or transparency, write the following journal prompts for Part II:
    • Describe five ideas, accomplishments, strengths, skills, or personal qualities that you think would best “sell” yourself to an employer.
    • What are your personal skills and abilities, and how do they relate to a particular job? Write about specific examples of how you have used them.
    • What are your weaknesses, and what steps are you taking to improve them?
    • Describe your ideal work environment, which may include the kinds of companies and their philosophies, physical environment, types of people with who you work, amount of supervision, and types of responsibilities.
    • Describe your educational background. How is it relevant to your desired job?
  5. Write the following Job Acquisition Descriptions on chart paper for Part II:A. JOB AVAILABLE: Typist
    EXPERIENCE: Office assistant at local high school
    SKILLS: Typing, 60 wpm
    EDUCATION: Business certificate

    B. JOB AVAILABLE: Sales/Inventory Clerk
    EXPERIENCE: Wal-Mart cashier and stock person
    SKILLS: Good communicator, cash register operator
    EDUCATION: High School Diploma

    C. JOB AVAILABLE: Mechanic trainee
    EXPERIENCE: Mechanic for Reliable Auto
    SKILLS: Capable of completely overhauling or rebuilding most car engines
    EDUCATION: Certificate in Auto Mechanics



Step 1: Introduce this lesson to your group (if its a group study). Complete the application as though you were applying for a job right now. If you have a job, you may use that as a reference. If not, ask everyone to think about where they would like to work. Encourage each other to use the information from your resumes and career portfolios that would help out.

Step 2: Collect the applications. Assemble in their small groups (max of four if a group study). Redistribute the applications randomly, asking each team to critique them. The team should generate a list of positive aspects and suggestions for improvement for each application.

Step 3: Upon completion, ask each team to share their lists. Generate a discussion of common errors and ways to improve. Using the transparency, model a complete application. Make sure each student on the team understand the following list of “dos and don’ts.”


  • Read the form thoroughly so that you put relevant information in appropriate sections
  • Follow the instructions accurately (e.g. ink color, continuation sheets, block capitals)
  • Answer the questions with evidence from your experience which demonstrates you
  • Know what job involves
  • Keep a copy of your form so that you can use it to prepare for an interview or complete other forms
  • Write using active words and I/Me statements
  • Put a positive emphasis on your experiences


  • Leave any sections blank
  • Write illegibly or cross things out
  • Fail to research the employer and the type of work for which you are applying
  • Leave gaps in your employment/study record
  • Misspell words

Step 4: Note that a standard application form is an opportunity for each students to promote their achievements, experiences, and skills. Your aim should be to make connections between what you have done (at school or in other jobs) and the employer’s description of their ideal applicant. You should provide examples of how you have used certain skills in a way that comes alive to the reader of the application. Briefly discuss appropriate ways to request an application in person or on the phone.

Step 5: Display the Job Acquisition Descriptions Chart and select an imaginary job (A, B, or C) for which you will be applying. Instruct them to complete the application using the experience, skills and education listed on the chart. You will be using this application during their mock interview process.

Distribute the blank application and Interview Questions a few days before the mock interview, allowing students (if group study) time to complete the application and practice their responses to the interview questions. Encourage the team to dress appropriately for the interview and bring their career portfolio, resume, application, and Interview Questions printable to the interview.

Step 1: Begin the mock interview by having the team quietly journal their responses to any of the five prompts listed above. When finished, discuss team responses and appropriate ways to share these responses in an interview setting. Share with the team that they will be practicing the interview process by participating in a mock interview.

Step 2: Ask students to find a partner. Each will portray an interviewer and interviewee and ask questions from their Interview Questions printable. Each team member must have their completed application, resume, career portfolio, and Interview Questions printable available. Allow time for each student or team member to role-play.

Step 3: Close the lesson by asking for volunteers to be interviewed by you in front of an audience. Allow the audience to provide positive feedback and suggestions for improvement.

Supporting All Learners

Using paired settings during the mock interview encourages all students or team members to practice in a less anxious environment.

Lesson Extensions

Encourage students or team member to compose a follow up letter to the interviewer using a word
processor. The letter should be neat, organized, grammatically correct, contain no misspellings, and be written in business format. The students should thank the employer for the interview, restate their qualifications, list their phone number and the times they may be contacted, write an appropriate closing, and sign the letter in longhand.

Conduct a Mock Interview using business representatives from the community.


  1. Complete a job application.
  2. Write a journal entry.
  3. Participate in a mock interview.


Do students or team members understand interview etiquette? Do they feel equipped to complete a resume, a job application, and participate in an interview using their career portfolio?

Assess Students or team members thru peer review

Note how the students or each team member perform in the mock interview.
Written Outcome: Evaluate the completed job application.



Not getting any interviews or job offers?

If you’re not getting any interviews, then there might be a problem with your resume or cover letter. Below are some common problems and how to address them:

  • You aren’t tailoring your resume to EACH job ad. Show each prospective employer why you’re the perfect person for the job. If your skills or experiences aren’t an obvious match, you need to connect the dots for the employer.
  • Your cover letter or resume are poorly written or have typos. Have a friend or relative who is a good writer look over your materials. A fresh eye may catch errors you missed.
  • You have gaps in your employment history. Consider using a functional format resume instead of a chronological one to highlight skills and accomplishments rather than job history.
  • You aren’t selling yourself well. You need to communicate what’s special and unique about what you have to offer. If you’re not sure where to start, try taking a skills assessment.
  • You aren’t using the right keywords. Many online job banks use a keyword matching system to match resumes to job openings. Good keywords can be found in the job ad or position description. Use these to describe your skills, experience, and education.

Are you getting interviews but no job offers? Something might be going wrong in the interview process:

  • You don’t know enough about an employer. Researching the employer is an important step in applying for any job. It’s best to do it before you apply, but you really need to do it before an interview. Your research will help you be better prepared for the interview questions.

  • Your interviewing skills are falling flat. Review the interview tips to prepare for the interview and practice answering common interview questions.  It may also help to do a mock interview with a friend or family member.

  • You’re sending the wrong message. Even when you’re not speaking, you’re sending a message. How you walk, your posture, eye contact, and how you dress all say something about how you feel and what you are thinking.

  • You’re saying negative things about your past employer. An interview is not the time to do this. Unless you can show how you turned a negative situation into a positive one, potential employers will think less of you.

  • You’re pricing yourself out of the job. Employers will ask about your salary requirement or your previous salary. If you name a salary that’s too high, they may no longer consider you for the job. Too low, and you may end up working for far less than what the employer might have paid you.

Interview Tips

Interviews are your chance to sell your skills and abilities.

They also help you find out if the job and company are right for you. Use the following tips to ace your interviews:


Review common interview questions. Practice answering them with someone else or in front of a mirror. Come prepared with stories that relate to the skills that the employer wants, while emphasizing your:

  • strengths
  • willingness to work and flexibility
  • leadership skills
  • ability and willingness to learn new things
  • contributions to the organizations in which you have worked or volunteered
  • creativity in solving problems and working with people

Figure out in advance how well you qualify for the job. For each requirement listed in the job posting, write down your qualifications. This can show you if you lack a particular skill. Plan how you will address this in the interview so you can convince the interviewer that you can learn the skill.

List Questions to Ask at the Interview

Pick questions that will demonstrate your interest in the job and the company. This might include commenting on the news you learned from the company website, and then asking a question related to it. Also ask questions about the job you will be expected to perform, like:

  • What are the day-to-day responsibilities of this job?
  • How will my responsibilities and performance be measured? By whom?
  • Could you explain your organizational structure?
  • What computer equipment and software do you use?
  • What is the organization’s plan for the next five years?

Be Prepared

Remember to bring important items to the interview:

  • Notebook and pens
  • Extra copies of your resume and a list of references
  • Copies of letter(s) of recommendation, licenses, transcripts, etc.
  • Portfolio of work samples

On the day of the interview, remember to:

  • Plan your schedule so you arrive 10 to 15 minutes early.
  • Go by yourself.
  • Look professional. Dress in a manner appropriate to the job.
  • Leave your MP3 player, coffee, soda, or backpack at home or in your car.
  • Turn off your cell phone.
  • Bring your sense of humor and SMILE!

Be Confident

Display confidence during the interview. Be confident, but let the interviewer start the dialogue. Send a positive message with your body language.

  • Shake hands firmly, but only if a hand is offered to you first.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Listen carefully. Welcome all questions, even the difficult ones, with a smile.
  • Give honest, direct answers.
  • Develop answers in your head before you respond. If you don’t understand a question, ask for it to be repeated or clarified. You don’t have to rush, but you don’t want to appear indecisive.