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Career Coach: Declaration of Independence

You don't need to be American to celebrate Independence Day. In the new job market, Pamela Kleibrink Thompson explains why we should all declare our independence.

pam.gif Pamela Kleibrink Thompson

In July, people in the United States celebrate Independence Day. This year, declare your independence and stay that way.

A New Way of Thinking

First, think independently. You are not an employee. You are a vendor of specific skills. You are hired by a company for as long as that company requires those skills. When your skill set no longer meets the needs of that company, your employment there will end. That is the nature of the business.

Recognize there is no such thing as job security, especially in the animation industry. One veteran animator, who has seen the ebb and flow of demand for animation, states his life is much like that of a migrant worker and that one should be ready to move on to another studio at any moment. To do this, one must have transferable skills that the studios want.

Stay up to date on what the company needs and make sure you have the skills they look for in new hires. Invest in yourself. Take whatever classes/seminars you need to make yourself more valuable to your employer and to future ones.

Once You're In

Most jobs are project based. This means you are hired as the company needs you. If you are hired for a specific project, don't think of yourself as a staff employee, even if the project lasts for many months. You may be hired to work on consecutive projects, but you are still a project hire.

Since you will have many jobs in your career, be a positive, hard-working team player people will want to work with again. Maintain a great attitude and give every job your best, no matter how brief. And remember, your current job may end, but the same employer will hire you again if your work is of high quality and your approach is professional.

Keep your marketing materials up to date (resume, portfolio, demo reel and breakdown sheet). Network all the time, even when you are employed. The best time to find your next job is when you are still in a job.

The Long Haul

When considering job opportunities, remember in the long run, what you learn is more important than what you earn. The more skills you have, the more employable and valuable you are. At a small company you may have the opportunity to learn many aspects of the business. At a large company you have an opportunity to make many more contacts. Keep in touch with those you work with when they leave the company. These former co-workers may give you a tip to your next job.

When you land your dream job, don't go out immediately and buy that dream car or dream house. Even if you have a staff job, you probably should view yourself as a freelancer. Maintain at least 6 months of expenses in a savings account to help you weather any layoffs, hiatuses or down time.

Once you declare your independence and strive to maintain it, no one will wield undue power or influence over your financial well being again. Don't allow someone to hold you hostage financially. If you dread going to work, it's time to network and get that next job.

The days of an artist retiring from a long career at a single studio are gone. It's important for you to take an entrepreneurial approach to your career. Recognize that you are in business for yourself. That requires hard work to maintain good relationships with clients and to market yourself to potential new clients. Accept independence as a way of life. Prepare for down times, enjoy the good times and welcome the freedom that this provides.

Read more of Pamela's Career Coach advice columns now!

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is uniquely qualified as a career coach, independent recruiter and management consultant. She frequently speaks about careers at colleges and universities.

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