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Career Coach: A Valentine

For February, the Career Coach Pamela Kleibrink Thompson writes a Valentine about her move to Los Angeles and introduction to the film industry.

February is the month I moved to the Los Angeles area. The mountains were capped with snow and the air was clear as clear as my enthusiasm and passion for film. I was determined to work in the film industry, though I had little knowledge of how it worked and even less knowledge of how to get a job.

I knew very few people in L.A., just a handful of friends I had met in college. I was proud and stupid I vowed that I would find a job on my own. I didnt have to ask for anyones help or advice.

My mother had issued a challenge when I had gone to college. To overcome my shyness, I had to meet two new people a day. Now, I had a new challenge I had to call two new people a day.

Somehow I had found out about an industry directory, which listed companies and phone numbers. I traveled to Hollywood to buy a copy and couldnt find the address I got lost wandering around on Hollywood Boulevard, when the address I wanted was on Sunset. An inauspicious beginning, but my perseverance paid off.

Directory in hand, I started making phone calls cold calls. I knew no one and had no real system. I kept a record on a piece of paper of when I called, whom I spoke with and what action was needed (this was before computers were used in the home and long before the wealth of information on the Internet).

I did not have good follow-through or a great system. My telephone technique was not that fabulous either, but somehow I managed to get quite a few interviews, just from picking up the phone. One of the people I met with was Cornel Wilde, a big movie star from the 40s and 50s. I went to his office in Hollywood and found out he was looking for scripts to produce. I didnt have any in my back pocket, nor did I think of anyone who might have one. One of my handful of friends, whose father was a cameraman in the business, was amazed that I just waltzed into Mr. Wildes office. Though I had been a film student, I was not familiar with Mr. Wildes career. We had a pleasant conversation, but I didnt know what to talk about or what to ask for.

Today, I know better. If I have a business meeting with anyone, I know to search for him or her on Google and read as much as I can about the person before we meet. Today, I know I should have researched Cornel Wilde. In those days, if I had looked him up in a film encyclopedia in the library, I would have found out that he was born in New York City (like me), and was pre-med in college (like me). We would have discovered we had a lot in common and the meeting would have been more productive.

Today if an actor/producer/director told me he was looking for a great script, I would be able to tell my screenwriter husband, as well as many other writers with scripts. My circle of friends has grown over the years.

I also know that my vow of doing everything on my own and not asking for anyones help is stupid. Its the hard way and not how business works. Most jobs are never advertised and it is not considered presumptuous to ask for help, as long as you are willing to give help in return.

Its ironic that I didnt understand the need for networking and shunned it in the early part of my career since now my entire business is based on referrals and networking. My recruiting and career-coaching clients are usually referrals from other satisfied clients. I have learned that most jobs in any industry, but especially the entertainment industry, are never advertised and that who you know is often more important than what you know.

Here in Los Angeles, there are at least a dozen different animation related events you can attend every month. Not only do you have an opportunity to learn something new, but you also have an opportunity to meet a lot of new people. But wherever you live in the world, you can network with other people in the industry by joining discussion groups on the Internet. (The Internet was not around when I first moved to L.A.).

If your town has a college or university, find out if it will host any guest speakers who are in the industry you want to get into. If your town has an art gallery, find out if there will be any visiting artists you can meet. If your town has a bookstore, there may be a visiting author. Seek out ways to build your network and it will grow. One person I know lived in the Chicago area and when the local art gallery hosted some animators from Disney, this person made it a point to go to the gallery and meet the animators. He stayed in touch with them and later interned at Disney.

By writing this monthly column since June 1999, (almost seven years!), and by becoming a career coach, I hope I can save other people some missteps on their career path.

If you have a story to share about getting started or a career or work related question you want to see addressed in this column, please write to me in care of editor@awn.com.

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

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