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Career Coach: Luck

In this month's "Career Coach" column, Pamela Kleibrink Thompson celebrates St. Patrick's Day by laying out the reasons why counting on luck for success is a recipe for failure.

You create your own luck by preparing for, recognizing and acting upon opportunity.

Success is simply a matter of luck. Ask any failure.

-- Earl Wilson (1907-87)American newspaper columnist

St. Patrick's Day is symbolized by leprechauns and shamrocks -- two symbols of luck. And we often refer to the luck o' the Irish.

Often when someone is successful, we think of him or her as lucky. You can be lucky too.

You create your own luck by preparing for, recognizing and acting upon opportunity.

Preparing for Opportunity

When you commit to a course of action, often it seems that everything falls into place -- you have a sudden streak of luck. Everyone you meet seems to be a piece of the puzzle. By committing to a goal, you are better able to recognize opportunities that will help you attain that goal. Lucky people are prepared for opportunities and take advantage of them.

To be lucky in your profession, put yourself in the right place at the right time. Attend meetings of industry organizations, such as local SIGGRAPH chapters, Women in Animation, ASIFA or user group meetings. Take advantage of any meetings you can attend. My friend, Erik, who lived in Chicago, went to an art gallery that sold animation cels. A guest from Disney was scheduled to speak. Instead of remaining in the background, Erik asked Andreas Deja if he would be willing to view his portfolio and give him some feedback. Andreas recognized Erik's passion and mentored him. Erik eventually became an intern at Disney and has since worked at DreamWorks and other studios.

When you are clear about what you want, things start to happen, which seem serendipitous.

Ask for what you want and let others know about your dreams and aspirations. My grandmother used to say, "No you have; yes you might get." You have to take chances and be not only willing to try, but be willing to fail and be rejected. Be open to feedback and don't let it get you down if someone isn't as encouraging as you'd like them to be.

Don't hide your talents and interests from others. Use every chance you get to tell others what you do and you will create your own luck. Take advantage of the unexpected and do something out of your comfort zone to propel your career forward. Take a chance and make a call or write a note or talk to the person in the elevator.

Recognize Opportunity and Take a Chance

There are more opportunities available to everyone -- all the time -- than we recognize.

One evening, a group of friends in the carpet business went to a comedy club in Toronto for amateur night. One was urged by the others to get up on stage. Following the Nike philosophy -- "Just Do It" -- he took the chance. What was supposed to be a fun, spur-of-the moment dare to entertain his friends turned into a life-changing, career-changing opportunity for former carpet guy, now comedian Howie Mandel.

Put yourself in play. You can't win a contest that you don't enter. Even if you live in an area that isn't full of opportunities for employment as an animator, it doesn't mean you can't work as an animator. Create your own films and enter them in film festivals and contests. You might get lucky and win the contest. Those who enter never have a chance. Don't search for excuses about why you can't do something and why nothing ever works out for you. Put effort in every day toward what you really want and share your dream with others.

Opportunity is everywhere. Learn to recognize it and be ready.

Act Upon Opportunity and Unlock Your Potential

A career coaching client, Mike, had moved with his wife and three children from the Midwest where he had been an art director for an advertising firm. He enrolled in animation classes in Los Angeles, preparing himself to make a career change to follow his dream to work in animation. When I reviewed his portfolio, it was obvious he had a passion for character design and I told him about a job opening at Nickelodeon. He acted upon the lead immediately, submitted his portfolio and received a character design test for The Fairly OddParents. As soon as he got the test, he recognized the opportunity and acted upon it. He worked hard on the test, forgoing all other activities. His family didn't see him until he finished the test.

Mike was overjoyed when he was hired, besting other candidates who were experienced character design artists. He acted upon opportunity and was hired despite the fact that he had no experience in the animation business. He felt lucky but he had worked hard, preparing himself by taking classes and working on his portfolio and doing his best on the test. He had acted upon opportunity.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson.

Don't be afraid of doing the unusual or the unexpected. By doing the unusual and the unexpected, you will invite change. A Seinfeld episode once had the unlucky George do the opposite of whatever he thought he should do. Instead of flattering his boss, he told him what he thought and was promoted. Instead of fawning over a girl, he ignored her and she seduced him instead. Everything went his way as long as he did the opposite. Try something out of your comfort zone. Be bold and take a chance and do something unusual or unexpected.

When you go to an animation-related event, talk to the other people there. If you see someone at an event wearing a company logo, you can start a conversation by asking them about that company. Be genuinely interested in people and you will be surprised at the opportunities that come your way.

Create the Life You Want

A recent client, Anthony, moved his family from Detroit to Los Angeles, because job prospects in Detroit were dismal. With only $500 in his pocket, he drove a van loaded with all their stuff. His two teenaged children and his wife believe in him and support him in his passion. The day he moved to Los Angeles, he called a friend who was currently working in Las Vegas. Anthony drove to Las Vegas to help his friend at E3. While Anthony was there, his friend called a friend in Los Angeles and asked if he could use another hand. Anthony went back to Los Angeles and started loading gear for another show. Within the week, they noticed how industrious he was and offered him a supervisory position.

Keep at It

There are countless tales of artists who are "discovered." But rarely is someone an overnight sensation. Those who are lucky enough to be discovered are those who are persistent and focused. An artist named Ted, whose birthday is March 2, came up with his first illustrated children's book when he was in his early 30s. Despite 43 submissions and 43 rejections, Ted didn't give up.

Finally, he ran into a college buddy on the street and told his friend what he was trying to do. That friend happened to work for a publisher and helped Ted publish his first children's book. Lucky for us, Ted did not give up and kept at it. Lucky for us, he was not afraid of telling his friend what he was up to, because now the world knows and loves the writing and illustrations of Ted Geisel, alias Dr. Seuss.

The person who is lucky is the person who is focused and persistent, positive and passionate.

Luck is preparing for, recognizing and acting upon opportunity. Will you be ready?

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is a recruiter, hiring strategist, career coach and speaker, available for personal consultations and speaking engagements. If you are interested in her professional services as a career coach, speaker or recruiter, contact her at