Mind Tools Career Excellence Club.
Got career development? MindTools does--in abundance.
A disclaimer: the opportunity to review this site was very intriguing as I had previous experience with it. I was already familiar with the MindTool free site and had been subscribing to their monthly e-newsletter, which I had enjoyed and gotten a lot of good info out of. I knew that that the site creators had begun a paid service last fall known as the Career Excellence Club but hadn't considered signing up for it.
I quickly learned that this show is definitely worth the price of admission, which I must admit surprised me. With the wide array of free material available on the Internet, I am usually pretty leery of whipping out my credit card for online organizations or clubs that give partial information to entice you, and then, when you click to continue reading an article or use a feature, you have to get out your credit card and pay for the rest of the material.
In most cases, clients of mine and I have found these sites offer little if any added value to the free content. This is definitely not the case here. MindTools gets it right on all counts.
Their free newsletter has always given me good, solid career development advice and resources. Their Career Excellence Club takes everything to the next level. I believe this site has ample resources to enhance your career, regardless of your field. It's a unique site and setup because they do their best to make you actually feel a part of a helpful online community, and the tools to improve your mind and career are plentiful and on target.
At $19 a month for the standard membership and $27 monthly for the premium level, I think it's a good value. If you are serious about personal development and taking charge of your career, you're going to be spending that kind of money in one trip to Amazon or Barnes and Noble. MindTools can give you what you're looking for right here and now.
What impresses me most about the site is the range of material offered. If you are a younger member of the workforce and looking for newcomer insight, they have that; if you are a mid-career professional or an experienced old pro, this site is also an excellent development tool--with the advantage of objectivity that comes with not being affiliated with a particular company.
I say this from firsthand experience. Over the past few years, many companies have begun their own internal career development sites that offer many tools for employees. A large company I have recently been working with puts a very extensive set of online tools at the employee's disposal, including a very good individual development plan builder.
The problem with most of these sites is that they are very egocentric, in a company sense. They give lots of information, but it is usually delivered in a way that makes it applicable only as an internal tool. There is little or no objectivity as to how ideas and concepts are presented.
MindTools, on the other hand, is a career resource dedicated exclusively to career development, and it shows.
I would also tend to recommend Career Excellence Club over such sites as, say, Careerbuilder.com or Monster.com. Those sites also contain some valuable free material, but, due to their primary function as sponsor-driven job boards, they too have a certain editorial slant that at times greatly skews the information at hand.
They come from a corporate perspective that ignores the career development of the individual in favor of getting fresh candidates to look at their sponsoring companies. MindTools is not a job board. They exist solely for the purpose of career development, and they tackle that singular issue with purpose.
The options on MindTools are plentiful, and the technology is easy to use. They have done a nice job of keeping the link-clicking to a minimum; usually one or two clicks gets you not only the information you want from a main menu, but also some valuable complementary material. Just pass your cursor slowly over the MindTools homepage toolbar and see the plethora of options available.
They also do a nice job of providing links to other related topics on the site, and it is not uncommon to find articles on the same topic that provide slightly differing viewpoints. Their editorial staff seems to be committed to providing a wide range of viewpoints, and, as a paid member, you can comment on one of their many forums as well.
The Community Forums cover a wide range of topics and are a far better feature than similar features on most free sites I encounter. As would be expected, the fact that people are paying for the privilege of participating raises the level of discourse considerably, keeping out the casual, bombastic, and sometimes off-topic surfer. The quality of the information and the discourse is as high as any payment-based professional site I have encountered.
What kinds of career development tools does Career Excellence Club offer? Let them explain:
Where you want to develop real strength in a career skills area, look at our in-depth self-study courses. These give you the real expertise you need to enjoy an excellent career. And for personal help, talk to our career and life coaches. Backed by MindTools, discover the essential skills and techniques that help you excel in your career--whatever your profession. Learn leadership, personal effectiveness, goal setting, and stress management. Further, discover techniques that improve creativity, assist problem solving, organize time and deadlines, and improve your memory.
The menu of self-study courses has a fairly comprehensive set of choices, including time management, problem solving, and project planning and management.
I would feel very comfortable recommending the site to younger colleagues I was mentoring--if they are self-directed and not easily distracted. That gets to the question of when is enough too much. I could easily see someone prone to distraction or veering off topic getting lost on the site in something entirely off the path.
That is a complaint I have with most any website of this nature. Many a client of mine has gone surfing for a specific piece of information, only to find themselves bleary eyed at 3 A.M. because they found a great article and then followed link after link after link to more "good stuff." The Career Excellence Club definitely has that sort of addictive feel to it: very easy to get caught up in their interconnected good stuff.
Another key facet of MindTools really jumps out at me the more I poke around its many offerings. Many sites (even the best ones) offer a variety of options that turn out to be variations on the same theme or identical articles that end up being cross referenced under different headings.
I have yet to encounter anything I would call repetitive in MindTools, nor have I stumbled across rehashed pieces from elsewhere on the site that seems reworked just to make it fit into a different category. Everything I have found is a fresh, no-holds barred take on a topic. Not to say I agree with it all, but in my book that is another big plus for the site. They aren't afraid to take an at times offbeat look at topics and give a fresh perspective.
I could also see using the Career Excellence Club as directed learning for colleagues being mentored. Devising a very basic or fairly intricate mentoring plan for someone else or yourself would be very easy to put together. If there were any cost concerns in that approach, I would simply look at it the way I would recommend a pertinent book.
As a career counselor, I could also see using MindTools and the Career Excellence Club as your mentor development tool. Putting together what would amount to a professional development syllabus for someone you were mentoring would be a pretty good thing to have in your own portfolio, wouldn't it?
In my view, MindTools and its Career Excellence Club are great resources, well worth the investment of time and money. I would have given Career Excellence Club four stars, but I got sidetracked a few too many times by too much good stuff.
Review by Mark Lucker
Product Ratings Mind Tools Career Excellence Club Overall rating *** 1/2
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|Publication:||Training Media Review|
|Date:||May 1, 2007|
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