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Career Coach: Give Your Career a Holiday Gift

The Career Coach talks about ways you can give yourself a big gift during the holidays by helping your career.

The holidays are coming, which means shopping, travel, holiday cards and parties. Heres how to make the holidays meaningful for your career.

Instead of taking your wallet to the shopping mall, take your sketchpad. Illustrate the variety of humanity walking by. Practice your life drawing. Capture the personalities of the people walking past in quick sketches.

If you are traveling during the holidays, pack your sketchbook in your carry-on bag. Take advantage of layovers by sketching the people at the airport. Capture their moods. Observe their movements and body language. Are they carrying too much luggage and trying to drag a small child through the airport as well? Look out the windows the baggage handlers and airport workers make great subjects.

Theres no more unique holiday card than original art. I enjoy and save holiday cards from my artist friends. Photo cards are also effective. Send cards to those people you met this year at interviews (even if you didnt get the job and already sent them a thank you note after the interview), conferences, classes, user groups and other meetings. Heres a chance to express your appreciation, give thanks and show your creativity.

Invited to the company party? Make contact with those you dont work with everyday. Dont be shy about introducing yourself and give each person you speak to at least five minutes of your undivided attention. If youre shy, pretend that you are interviewing the person. People like to talk about themselves. Be a good listener.

Holiday parties are a great opportunity to expand your network. Whether its a neighborhood party, a friends party or industry-related event, make a goal of meeting five new people. If you go with a friend, make it a contest each of you must meet at least five new people and find out two things about each person. Compare notes afterward. If you get a business card or e-mail address, follow up after the party with a short note telling the person how you enjoyed meeting him or her.

Your networking doesnt work only at parties. Dont be afraid to speak to people while shopping or traveling too. You never know where it might lead. Some friends met their babysitter while standing in line at Disneyland. And one of my best friends met his future wife at the airport as they waited for their delayed planes from the east coast. My screenwriter husband met his manager at a Chinese restaurant.

Most of all, lend a helping hand and give someone encouragement. Spread joy and you will be surprised at what might happen.

Of course, these tips can help you at any time of year, but why not try them right away?

Enjoy the holidays and take charge of your career in the new year.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is a career coach and recruiter. Shes recruiting lighters, efx animators, texture artists, animators, modelers and color compositors for a photoreal, effects heavy feature. She speaks frequently at colleges and universities.