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The Career Coach: How to Slay Your Prospects

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson tells a spooky story that's more common than she realized.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson.

Halloween is a time of ghouls and goblins, witches and werewolves. There is no magic spell to getting a job, but there is a silver bullet that can kill your career. Here is one scary tale.

I recruited a system administrator for a production company in California that was making a film for Paramount. The system administrator was interviewed by the producer and all the supervisors on the film. He was going to be an integral part of the team-- setting up the computer network for the innovative visual effects film. The system administrator was offered the job and his start date was Monday.

That Monday morning I got a call from the producer. "Where is he?" she asked. "What do you mean, 'where is he?'" "He's not here." Since it was his start date for an important position, I was worried that he might have been in a car accident. I dialed the number of the system administrator. He answered the phone. I was relieved to hear his voice. "Hi," I said, "weren't you supposed to start today on that Paramount feature?"

"Yes," he answered, "but I decided to take a job with this visual effects house instead." "OK," I said sarcastically, "thanks for letting me know."

I called the producer. "Hi. He's not coming in. He decided to take a job at a visual effects house."

There was a silence. Then a sigh. Then quietly, "He's on the list."

"I'll find you another system administrator as soon as I can." I hung up and started calling until I found someone who interviewed, accepted the job and started on the Paramount feature just two days later.

The movie was released and the producer and supervisors who interviewed the system administrator all went on to other jobs, at companies all over the world, advancing in their careers.

I told this story recently at KAFI, an animation conference in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Several students from Bowling Green State University in Ohio came up to me afterwards and told me that one of the animators who worked on the Paramount feature in California had visited their school and told the exact same story. I knew that all the supervisors and producer knew this story but it had spread throughout the company. It was much more well-known than I thought. Every person in that production company knew this story. What's more, they knew the name of the system administrator who failed to show up.

Luckily for the system administrator who didn't show up for work, the visual effects house where he took the job is still in business. I hope it stays in business for a long time and that the system administrator is able to retire from there because his invisible resume (his reputation) has been mutilated.

You can hasten the demise of your career without knowing it. That system administrator who decided not to fulfill his commitment and failed to even notify the company or recruiter that he wasn't going to show up doesn't stand a ghost of a chance of getting a new job if he ever leaves the company. If he ever wants to work somewhere else, he'll have to get more than a mask or costume. He'll have to get a brand new identity.

The system administrator should have told the visual effects house that he had a prior commitment to the Paramount feature and he would become available after the film was completed. He should have fulfilled his commitment to the Paramount feature. The visual effects house is still around and they would have been just as interested in hiring the system administrator when he was done with the feature as they were when he accepted the job.

The trick to building a great career is to honor your commitments, deliver work on time and maintain a professional, positive attitude. If you do that you'll be treated to a lifetime of opportunities.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson has recruited for companies all over the world and recognizes how small the world really is and how important it is to maintain an impeccable reputation.  She recently presented her Career Strategies Workshop at the Art Institute of Indianapolis and the  Art Institute of Las Vegas.  You can reach her for speaking engagements, recruiting or personal career coaching at