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Career Coach: Naming Names

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson explores the importance of remembering names for networking and career advancement.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson.

Remembering names is an important skill for both business and personal relationships.

My teenage daughter worked this summer as a Sky Ranger at Soaring Colorado, a high-end zip line attraction near Durango, Colorado ( Sky Rangers have to be able to recall the names of 30-60 guests as they guide them through the old growth ponderosa pine forest. Owner Denny Beggrow's philosophy is that every guest is special and unique and remembering the names of the guests is essential to provide a top quality experience.

There are many important reasons for remembering names. You never know when you might run into someone you know. A friendly wave is good, but it is so much better to be able to greet that person you have met by saying, "Good morning. How are you today, Judy?" But if you have forgotten Judy's name, just admit it. "Hi, I'm Pamela Thompson. I'm sorry I forgot your name." Once Judy tells me her name I will use it several times in conversation to try to imprint it into my brain.

Don't be like me. I met a guy my first week of college but had forgotten his name when I saw him again about a week later. I didn't ask him. We regularly walked across campus together, though we never had any classes together. We discussed all kinds of topics for the next four years as we traversed the campus. Finally, on the last week of school, another guy spotted my friend and commented on his new look -- he had shaved his beard and cut his hair, "Hey Alex, I like the new look." I will never forget his name. Thank goodness I didn't have to graduate college without learning that.

If you don't want to admit you have forgotten someone's name, tell him you would like to get a business card and then look at the card and embed the name into your brain visually. When handed a business card, Asians will study it a moment, holding it in both hands, as if it is a treasure. Which it is.

You never know when you might be in a position to recommend someone for a job. Recalling someone's name is so much better than saying, "There's a girl who's an awesome production manager who has long hair and glasses who works at..." It's so much better to be able to say, "I can recommend Katie, whom I worked with at Hyperion."

You can't effectively network with someone if you can't remember his or her name or interests. Remembering names cements relationships.

When you meet someone new in the industry, naming names can quickly establish a relationship. "Oh, you work at Rough Draft? Did you ever work with Rich? I worked with him on Family Dog." This is much better than, "Oh, you work at Rough Draft? I met a guy who worked there -- I can't remember his name exactly..."

Coming up with someone's name can make all the difference. Years ago, I answered an ad for a recruiting job at Fox Feature Animation, a brand new studio in Phoenix, Arizona. I really wanted that job and was anxious to make a good impression at the interview. Producer/Director Gary Goldman was animated as he spoke about the challenges of finding talent. He described one of the assistant animators he had recently hired, without revealing his name, to give me an idea of the kind of talent Fox was interested in. The assistant animator's background sounded like that of an artist I had recently worked with. Out loud, I said, "You mean Dana O'Connor." Gary was surprised and impressed that I could come up with an artist's name just by hearing his resume. He hired me to be Fox Animation Studio's recruiter. Knowing Dana's name sealed the deal.

Thus, when you remember names, you can forge relationships. When you forge relationships, your ability to network and help others will grow. I still am in contact with Dana and Gary.

In his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie observes, "A person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language." When you learn someone's name, use it often in the conversation. Making an effort to remember names can pay off both professionally and personally.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson presented her Career Strategies Workshop at the Art Institute of Indianapolis last month which included the Art of Networking where she admits that she has a hard time remembering names and gives tricks for overcoming shyness. She is speaking at Art Institute of Las Vegas this week and is betting that she won't forget anyone's name. You can reach her for speaking engagements, recruiting or personal career coaching at