April 1 is April Fool’s Day--a good time to review 12 mistakes we foolishly make in our careers. 1. Failure to maintain your network. Even if you have a staff job, you need to maintain and grow your network. Feed information and help into your network, so if you ever have to tap into it, people will be there to help you. But you have to help them first. Don’t wait until you get laid off to think about networking. Make it a daily habit. 2. Failure to keep your resume and reel up to date. Keep track of every job you do and every project you work on. Get material for your reel. But don’t show any images that have not yet been released to everyone, unless you have express permission from the company to do so. 3. Talking smack about employers and co-workers, whether present or past. Don’t post remarks on the internet that are negative about anyone in the industry or media. A friend of mine discovered that her employee was complaining about her company and its projects on Facebook. It’s a sure way to lose your job. If you are unhappy, figure out a solution and make a presentation to those who could make changes. Don’t air your grievances to the public or you will be perceived as a whiner, or worse–a saboteur. 4. Failure to improve and update skills. Stay up to date on the software used in your specialty. Even if your employer uses proprietary software take classes or teach yourself commercial software that is readily available. Check job postings to see what is in current demand. Know what is needed and be ready to fill that need. It never hurts to add to your skills and software knowledge. A number of years ago, I worked on a feature called Bebe’s Kids. It was one of the last features done in traditional ink and paint. I spoke to one of the painters about learning digital ink and paint and she claimed that she was too old to learn anything new. You are getting older every day and a year from now you will be a year older, whether you learn a new skill or not. 5. Failure to take advantage of savings programs. Perhaps your company has a 401K plan in which the employer matches part of your contribution to a pension plan. If such a program is available to you, take advantage of it. Financial planners say that employees should always contribute at least enough into their 401k to receive the full employer-matching contribution. If you're not getting the match, you are losing out on free money. Another way to potentially boost your income or at least to save immediately, is to participate in an Employee Stock Purchase Plan. This company-run program gives employees an opportunity to purchase company shares at a discounted price. It’s a way to save money too because you contribute to the plan through payroll deductions. The amount of the discount depends on the specific plan but can be as much as 15% lower than the market price. This is a way for you to have an automatic boost of as much of 15% in earnings. 6. Failure to plan ahead and save money. Save as much as you can for the future. It will give you some freedom in this world of unstable work. A few years ago, my husband overheard two young artists who were just laid off, facing their first hiatus from Nickelodeon. The conversation went something like this:
“Dude, I need to find a job fast.” “I’m going to take some time off and work on my personal project. And I’m planning a short trip too.” “Dude, how can you do that?” “I saved some of every paycheck since we started.” “Dude, I spent it all on concerts, comic books and restaurants.” (He looks around the fast food restaurant). “Maybe I can get a job here to tide me over.” 7. Failure to make connections with people in other departments. Make an effort to meet people before you in the pipeline and after. Never eat alone. A friend of mine who worked at Virgin Games often visited people in the other building and built and maintained relationships all over the company, not just with her own team. Her reputation for delivering fabulous product on time spread throughout the company. She continued this habit of cultivating friends throughout the company when she moved to Disney, which naturally resulted in people wanting to work with her. She was promoted on a regular basis. Another person who did not interact widely was laid off because no one knew her value to the company. Interact with employees after work in activities you enjoy. 8. Failure to help junior staff or contribute to the community. Those people you help along the way will improve their skills and get new jobs. These contacts may help you to find your next job. But whether they do or not, it’s a good idea to help out the juniors and students. You were once a newbie too, remember? 9. Failure to maintain a professional/helpful attitude. If you have a complaint, come up with a solution you can present for consideration. If the solution cannot be implemented, don’t insist that your way is the only right way. There may be others. 10. Failure to ask questions. Assuming or pretending you know something can lead to mistakes, rework, missed deadlines and other problems. Do not act like a know it all even if you feel that you have been there/done that. Every company is different. Don’t be a primadonna. 11. Failure to take initiative. Make it known you want to grow. Don’t wait for a formal review to speak to supervisors. Tell them what interests you and what skills you offer. If you take on a job, follow through on all promises. 12. Failure to dream or apply. Don’t put yourself out of the game at the start. Years ago, I discovered that job descriptions are not always accurate. I had about 10% of what was described in the ad and I sent in my resume to Hanna-Barbera. I was interviewed for the job. I wasn’t prepared and I didn’t get the job but my eyes were opened to new possibilities when I realized that I didn’t always need all the attributes listed in a job description. Artists often tell me that they want to work at Pixar, or another company. I always respond to this kind of statement, “Have you applied?” Avoid most of these mistakes throughout your career and you’ll never be the poster child for April Fool’s Day. Pamela Kleibrink Thompson has worked with both wise men and fools, but learned something from every one of them. She has presented her Career Navigator Program at schools such as Ringling, SCAD, IADT and numerous Art Institutes and conferences. She enjoyed presenting the commencement address at AI Tampa in 2010. You can reach her at PamRecruit@q.com
Pamela Kleibrink Thompson The 911 Recruiter/Career Coach Ask about the Career Navigator Program
©2012 Pamela Kleibrink Thompson
Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is a career coach and recruiter and is a huge fan of Dr. Seuss. One of her most cherished possessions is a copy of Oh, the Places You’ll Go signed and augmented by artists she worked with on The Simpsons. She also owns a copy of Boners, the first book illustrated by Dr. Seuss, which she found at a garage sale in Beverly Hills. You can reach Pamela for personal career coaching, speaking, or recruiting at PamRecruit@q.com. She would love to hear any tales or stories about persistence.