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Holiday Gifts for the Career-Minded

By Marty Nemko

Does he really need another tie? She, a nightgown? Well maybe.

But if someone on your gift list could use a career boost, consider one of these:

How to Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less by Milo Frank. The book offers communication lessons from TV commercial and advertising writers. Tony Lee, editor of Career Journal, named this book his Editor’s Choice.

An audio course from the Teaching Company. Many people suffer from Ivy envy. They feel inferior for their lack of a degree from a prestigious college. The Teaching Company offers 175 courses taught by top professors at the nation’s elite colleges, for example, Stanford professor and McArthur “Genius” Fellow, Robert Sapolsky teaching “Biology: The Science of Life."

Stanford aspirants kill themselves for the honor of paying staggering sums to take such classes but thanks to the Teaching Company, the Ivy envier in your life can take a course for just $15-200 and unlike actual Stanford students, they can stop and start the lecturer at will, 24/7.

Frankly, listening to these classes reminded me of how professors, even top ones, make mountains out of molehills—do I really care if music is conjunctive or disjunctive? But perhaps I’m just not sophisticated enough to appreciate even the great professors. For a catalog, go to or 1-800-teach-12.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Although it’s been 75 years (and 15 million copies) after its publication, this old chestnut fully deserves a spot on this list. An example of its advice: Every person you meet feels superior to you in some way. Figure out what it is and give the person the opportunity to express that superiority.

Best Home Businesses for People 50+ by Paul and Sarah Edwards. Even if you’re just 15+, this is a good gift idea for anyone who muses about self-employment. It offers specifics on how to succeed in each of 70 businesses that can be run from home. For example, Daily Money Managers help people make bank deposits, pay bills, balance checkbooks, reconcile bank and credit card statements, organize tax papers, and file medical claims. Sounds like an unmet need, but how to get clients? The Edwardses suggests getting referrals from financial planners, tax preparers, mental health providers, hospital social workers, pastors of large churches, and adult services agencies.

A career-related engagement calendar: Palms look cool and allow syncing with your computer, but I stay with a traditional engagement calendar because it’s crashproof and data-entry is faster. The Procrastinator’s Planner includes such features as timewatchers for the dawdler and bail-outs for the incorrigible. The Lawyer Cartoons Weekly Engagement Calendar will mete justice to the attorney in your life Of course, there’s the Dilbert 2005 Weekly Engagement Calendar for the cube dweller on your list, or the calendar I’ll be using in 2005: The Live with Intention 2005 Datebook. It contains obvious but central reminders such as, “Let us live the highest vision of what is possible.” The calligraphy and accompanying paintings are, to my eye, gorgeous. Except for the Dilbert, these calendars may be hard to find locally but are available on

A subscription to Fast Company magazine. ($12 for TWO one-year gift subscriptions. (515-248-7693.) It’s filled with tips and trends for career success. This month’s issue focuses on creativity. A tip from John Nash, the mathematician subject of the movie, A Beautiful Mind: ”Learn by doing. Classes dull the mind.” A trend profiled in this month’s issue of Fast Company: offshoring creativity. Americans take solace that while the US may offshore implementer jobs, most innovator jobs remain here. Alas, not for long. Leading US companies are setting up centers for innovation in India and China so their products, from idea to manufacture, can occur without having to hire the expensive and litigious American workforce.

A resume. Creating a resume is the first step in a job search and a real confidence booster, helping you realize you bring more to the table than you thought. A resume writer can help tease out those gems from your background and word them professionally. It usually costs $200-300 but it can be a worthy investment in your special someone’s future. For non-technical career resumes, I recommend Beth Brown (415-835-2150 or For technical resumes, you might consider my associate, Dilip Saraf: 510-477-0154.

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