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Career Coach: 'Tis the Season for Giving

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson gets into the holiday spirit with some It's a Wonderful Life-inspired advice.

Pamela Kleibrink


"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -- Mohandas Gandhi

One of my favorite movies is It's a Wonderful Life, which is popular viewing at Christmastime because it takes place around the holidays. But it is not just about Christmas -- it's about how a small town businessman affects the lives of everyone he encounters during his life. George Bailey is given the chance to see how he has touched the lives of everyone in his community and outside it as well by having his request granted -- "I'd wish I'd never been born" -- and then learning what the world would be like without him.

You affect all the people you encounter too, whether you realize it or not. You won't be given the opportunity to see what the world would be like if you weren't in it, but you have the power to have an effect on everyone you meet. You can be a force for goodwill and cheer and encouragement or you can have a negative impact on those around you. The choice is yours.

No matter where you live or what job you have, you can improve the life of someone else. Recently my daughter and I visited a Walmart in Boise, Idaho. Neither of us was in a great mood as we walked through the store and got in line to check out. Matt, the cashier, greeted us with an attitude that was so overwhelmingly positive that it changed our mood. When Matt said, "Thanks for coming in today" both my daughter and I felt like he genuinely meant it and we were both smiling when we left the store. Matt was able to lift our spirits with his incredible spirit. When I got home I started to put my receipt away and then noticed the number of the store manager on the receipt. Inspired, I called the store to lodge a compliment and told the manager about our wonderful experience with Matt. The manager told me this was not the first time she had heard great things about Matt. In his own small way, Matt was making a difference.

I recently read The Fred Factor by Mark Sanborn. Sanborn describes how his postman Fred makes a difference by the way he serves the people on his route. His point is that passion in your work and life can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. Artists touch people through their work. The projects you work on can have a powerful impact on others so work on projects which have value to you, not just in a paycheck, but in the story and message. We can all remember being positively inspired, encouraged or touched by creative works. Wouldn't that be a great gift to give to others?

This month is the season for giving, but why not make it a habit all year round? Give of yourself -- a smile to a stranger, encouragement to a younger artist, a helping hand to someone in need. I write a lot about networking -- about building relationships for the long term. But you can help someone in the short term too, just by showing a little extra kindness or positivity, like Matt, the Walmart clerk.

Give of yourself all year round in small ways and you can make a huge difference in the world, whether it is with your family, your school or at your job. You can be the difference. The choice is yours and the action is yours to take. Make the most of every day and add value to someone else's life and you'll add value to your own. Like Matt, the Walmart cashier, you can create value for others and it won't cost you anything. Just adopt a positive attitude and spread the goodwill toward everyone.

The angel Clarence (Henry Travers) in It's a Wonderful Life reminds us: "Strange isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives."

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is a recruiter, career coach and speaker. You can reach her for personal consultations and speaking engagements at She thanks people like Matt, the cashier in Walmart, who make the world a better place. And she thanks all the artists and writers who influence the world in positive and creative ways.  And all the writers who worked on It's a Wonderful Life. *

*Philip Van Doren Stern has a story credit for It's a Wonderful Life on IMDB. Nine other writers worked on the screenplay, including Dalton Trumbo, who first adapted it for RKO. Clifford Odets and Marc Connelly did rewrites. Frank Capra purchased the project from RKO and hired Frances Goodrich and her partner Albert Hackett to rework the existing adaptation. Jo Swerling is credited for additional scenes. Capra also brought in Michael Wilson and Dorothy Parker for dialog work.  Capra also worked on the screenplay.