Search form

Career Coach: What is Your Gift?

This month Career Coach Pamela Kleibrink Thompson makes us think about the gifts we have and how we can give a bit of ourselves during the holiday season.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson.

'Tis the season to think about giving and receiving gifts. We have all received a special gift -- the gift of life. We each have at least one special gift to share with others. It might be an ability to make others laugh, an ability to teach, an ability to write, or draw, or design videogames or help others to do their jobs well. It might be an ability to create, or an ability to mediate or an ability to heal. It might be an ability to organize, lead or come up with ideas. Perhaps you know what your special gift is, but you are not using it. Perhaps you don't think your gift is worth anything. It's time to shed those thoughts and unwrap your gift. Share it with the world.

I recently stopped by a local coffee shop called the Village Joe in Valley Village, California, to view watercolor paintings done by Jeffrey Cantamessa, age 12. Jeffrey is fascinated by trains and one of his paintings intrigued me -- it depicted a train track hugging the edge of a canyon in the Southwest. Matthew Giaba, the unassuming owner of the coffee shop, encourages young artists like Jeffrey by giving them the opportunity to show their work to the world.

Matthew told me his favorite painting of Jeffrey's was a dark piece in somber blues and purples that depicted New York City's twin towers before 9/11/01. "I used to be a paramedic," Matthew said quietly. "I was there." Matthew's unit was the sixth to respond to the World Trade Center. Looking at the pictures, Matthew added, "Jeffrey is a lucky kid. His parents encourage him to pursue what he loves. Some kids might be talented in fixing cars or cooking or whatever and they don't get any encouragement from anyone to pursue their passion. So they end up doing something else they don't really like. It's such a waste." Whether Matthew is aware of it or not, his gift is to be a nurturer. He provides a quiet place to eat, talk, reflect and for young artists to show their work.

I meet many people who think their gifts are nothing special. Because it comes easy to them, they think there is no value to it and that anyone else can do what they do. Artists often feel this way because they associate with other artists. Everyone they know can draw or paint or animate, so they don't consider their gift is special. If they associated with bankers or lawyers, they'd realize their talent is special. Whatever your special talent, it's important to cherish it and share it.

Some recognize they have a special gift. My friend, Jerry Rabinowitz, an 80-something volunteer at the Interfaith Food Pantry in Studio City, California, has been there almost every Friday for nearly 20 years. He inspires others to share what they have with the needy. I love visiting him and helping him whenever I can. When students visit, Jerry asks them, "What would we do if Bill Gates, the richest man in the United States, came and asked for a bag of food?" Some of the kids squirm, some tell him they should charge him, and Jerry says, "We give him a bag of food, free, no questions asked. We are here to help, not to judge." I always feel better after seeing Jerry. His gift? A ready smile and warm hug. He has the gift of giving. He has spirit.

You may be lucky and have many gifts, many talents, many abilities. During your life you may have many careers and different opportunities to use your gifts. It's never too late to pursue your gift. Grandma Moses was 76 when she started painting.

There may be times you feel that no one is interested in your gifts. Have fortitude and persevere. A young man started an animation company in the Midwest and was unsuccessful, but he didn't give up and became a newspaperman. He moved to Los Angeles with just $40, some drawing materials and a reel, which showed some of his work.

He lived with his uncle and set up a studio in his uncle's garage. He kept applying to studios in Hollywood, but no one wanted him. But he persevered until a New York distributor agreed to pay him to produce some films, combining live action with animation. He had to borrow money from his brother and uncle to get started and, after some more borrowing from friends, his fledgling studio managed to survive. He was determined to share his gifts with the world and the world now knows the name of Walt Disney.

Whatever your gift is, value it and nurture it. And share it with the world whenever and wherever you can.

If you are looking for a material gift this holiday season to share with someone in the animation field, consider Animation Writing and Development, From Script Development to Pitch by Jean Ann Wright (Focal Press). An excellent book for anyone aspiring to be a writer, it's like having a mentor helping you through every step of the process, from the premise through a finished pitch. Producing Animation by Catherine Winder and Zahra Dowlatabadi (Focal Press) is not just for producers. A fabulous overview of the animation process, anyone in animation would benefit from this terrific guide.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson thanks AWN for giving her this forum to express herself. She will be teaching "Career Realities" at Gnomon starting in January for 10 weeks. Come join her on Sunday from 4-7:00 pm and discover your gifts. For a personal career coaching session or to book a speaking engagement, contact Pamela at