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Career Coach: The ABCDs of the Invisible Résumé

The Career Coach talks about the importance of the invisible rum

You are always the last to know your own reputation Lance Thompson

What people say behind your back is your standing in the community Ed Howe 1853-1937, American journalist

You have two résumés. One is a written record of your education, skills, experience and accomplishments that you submit to a prospective employer.

Your invisible résumé is much more important and travels with you throughout your career. You begin to build it even before you land your first job. Your invisible résumé reflects how others experience you your attitude, your reputation and can be helpful or detrimental to your career. It is written by those who have worked with you and interviewed you. This invisible résumé can open or close doors more quickly than anything you can submit to an employer.

The animation, games and visual effects industry is worldwide, but it is well connected. Your invisible résumé is distributed any place two people in your industry get together at work, social gatherings, meetings and, especially, when a company looks for new hires. Ever heard anyone say, Anybody know this guy? Whats he like? Word travels fast and your invisible résumé travels faster than you know. You add to your invisible résumé every day, but it is very hard to delete anything.

A is for Attitude

Why do companies interview you? They already have your résumé and demo reel. They can see you are qualified for the job. They know what you can do. They interview you to assess your attitude. Are you a complainer or a can-do person? Upbeat or depressed? Energetic or lethargic? Cocky or confident? Positive or negative? Innovator or clock-watcher? You might realize this assessment happens during the interview, but remember that every day on the job, your attitude is assessed and remembered by employers, co-workers and colleagues.

Does attitude make that much difference? Who would you rather work with eight to 10 hours a day someone who says This is stupid I cant do this theyre asking the impossible! or someone who is upbeat, cheerful, enjoys his work and puts forth his best efforts. Enthusiasm and passion go a long way to building your career.

Dont be arrogant. Even if you are well educated and super talented, dont dispense unsolicited critiques of others work, especially if you are not a supervisor or lead. An artist at a game company alienated several of his co-workers when he offered his opinions of their skills and abilities in an after work, life drawing session. His hubris cost him several job opportunities.

Be a problem solver. If something at work doesnt please you, try to find a way that it can be fixed and if it cant be, keep those complaints until you get home. No one wants to hear you moan about something that isnt fixable. When confronted with a problem, find solutions and be excited about the project.

The best way to keep ones word is not to give it Napoleon Bonaparte 1769-1821, Emperor of France

B is for Believability

Dont lie during your interview. Dont put work in your portfolio or on your reel that isnt yours. Dont take credit for work you didnt do. One artist presented beautiful work in his portfolio and demo reel that was not his own. No one ever found out until he was interviewed by an employer who recognized the pilfered work as his own. How often do you think that employer tells that story?

Your performance is key to building your believability. Dont exaggerate your skills, experience or ability. You can be positive and confident, but dont claim skills you dont have. If you land a job you cant handle, what is the point?

If you are a person who gets things done, is easy to get along with and delivers on promises, then you will get more jobs in the future.

C is for Commitment

Another negative entry on an invisible résumé occurs when an employee leaves before a project is complete abandoning the team. If done with sufficient notice this is acceptable because a replacement can be brought in. But it is not a good idea to suddenly bail because a better project comes along. Let the team know that they need to find a replacement for you or better yet ask the new company to delay your start date until after your expected finish date. The new company should be willing to accommodate you, as it would not like to be left in the lurch at the end of its project.

D is for Dependability

It amazes me how many freelancers fail to deliver work on time. You must deliver the work by the deadline. There was one artist on a television show who simply didnt show up to deliver the work on the day it was due. When finally reached on the phone, he said he needed three more days to complete it. He was granted those three days, but never got another freelance assignment from that producer. If you are going to be late, let your client know before the deadline. They may be able to arrange some help for you.

One candidate, lets call him Daffy, was interviewed and hired. He was supposed to start work on Tuesday, but called to say he needed an extension to start the following Monday. The company agreed to this, but the following Monday, Daffy did not show up for work. The company finally reached him and Daffy admitted that he had accepted another offer. For leaving an employer in the lurch, Daffy added a huge blotch on his invisible résumé.

The animation and visual effects industry is a tight community, and reputations matter as much or more than talent. Make sure your invisible résumé is stellar and you will have little trouble finding work. If you are easy to deal with, reliable and have a can-do attitude, youll make the team.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is a recruiter, hiring strategist and career coach. She is recruiting artists for a visual effects film being produced in Los Angeles. As an employer and recruiter, she has had personal experience with all the examples in this article and hopes that both veterans and students can avoid these mistakes in the future.