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Career Coach: Ghosts Can Haunt Your Career

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson reveals how to take care of your invisible resume.

Pamela Kleibrink


You have agonized over your resume to make sure it's perfect. The font is ideal, there are no typos and it makes you look like the consummate professional. This is the resume you submit to potential employers.

But you have another resume which goes wherever you go. Your invisible resume is compiled by those who have worked with you whether on a paying job or on a volunteer project. You built it with every interaction you had with co-workers, colleagues and peers, whether in school or on a job.

Your invisible resume is more powerful than the paper kind. It's the most powerful marketing tool you have. Your invisible resume -- your reputation -- can work for you or against you.

You need to keep your invisible resume in great shape because the world is small and word travels fast. Are you professional, reliable and trustworthy or do you have a lackadaisical attitude, a grumpy countenance and an abrasive personality? Your invisible resume tells all.

Are There Ghosts in Your Past?

The world is small, especially the world of animation and vfx. I was hired by Framestore in London to find someone for a project. I found the perfect person in Los Angeles. He had everything the company asked for. I was excited. He had a stellar resume on paper, he had a fabulous reel, he was available and in the right price range. I sent his resume and reel to Framestore. Several days went by and I finally called the company in London to ask about the candidate. Yes, they got his resume. Yes, it was excellent, they agreed. And his supporting materials were perfect. But they didn't want him because years ago he had worked with one of their employees, now a supervisor. The supervisor's report was that the candidate's attitude was so bad on the job they had together years ago that the London supervisor didn't want to work with him again.

Every job counts: even your first job. Don't be a know it all. Don't complain. Don't be hard to get along with or have to get special treatment. Don't have a bad attitude or be a prima donna. Do every job as if it were your dream job from day one. Because people will remember.

A Monstrous, Unthinkable Mistake

I was hired by a visual effects company to recruit staff for a feature. One candidate, let's call him "Daffy," was interviewed by all the producers and supervisors on the feature and hired for a key position. On the day Daffy was supposed to start work, I got a call from the producer who asked me where Daffy was. I called Daffy at home, worried he might have had an accident, which would explain why he hadn't shown up for work. Daffy answered the phone and explained that he had accepted another offer and wasn't going to work on the feature. I called the producer back, explained the situation and there was a long silence. Then, "He's on the list."

For leaving an employer in the lurch, Daffy added a huge blotch to his invisible resume. The feature Daffy was supposed to work on was released and all the supervisors went on to other companies all over the world. None of the supervisors from the feature film who interviewed Daffy will hire him in the future. But Daffy did far more damage than either he or I suspected.

I told this story last year at KAFI, an animation festival in Michigan, far from Los Angeles where the story occurred. A group of students from Ohio came up to me afterwards and told me they had heard the exact same story from an entry level animator on the feature. Not only did all the supervisors know about Daffy because they had interviewed him, but apparently also every person on the feature knew about it and they all went on to companies all over the world. Daffy's invisible resume is now a permanent handicap.

Don't Spook Employers

Don't post questionable material on the internet. Employers check social networking sites like Facebook to find out what kind of person you are. Don't post anything you wouldn't want them to see.

How you leave a job is important to your reputation. End your job in good standing. Giving two weeks' notice so the employer can find someone to replace you is commonplace. But don't give your two weeks' notice just before starting a two-week vacation.

Exorcize the Demons

If you damaged your invisible resume, work hard to fix it. Acknowledge your past mistakes to your potential employer and tell him or her you have learned from them. Having learned from them, you are a better employee and you want to prove it. Volunteer to work for free for a week. Work hard. You want to prove that you can be trusted, you are a valuable employee and you are going to make the best of your fresh start. Be friendly to everyone. Prove you are a team player with a great attitude.

Cast a Magic Spell

The invisible resume is your most important marketing tool. The world is small and word about your reputation can be spread using the tools of the internet and face to face contact. You want that to work for you, not against you.

Your performance is key to building your believability. Build a reputation for honesty, candor and ethical behavior. Avoid gossip. Be trust worthy. Be a "problem solver." Be dependable, committed and easy to deal with.

Maintain a professional, upbeat, can-do attitude. Enthusiasm and passion go a long way to building your career.

Your invisible resume is exchanged any place two people get together -- at work, social gatherings, meetings and especially when a company looks for new hires. Ever heard anyone say, "Anybody know this guy? What's he like?" Word travels fast and your invisible resume travels faster than you know. You add to your invisible resume every day, but it is very hard to delete anything.

Reputations matter. Make sure your invisible resume is stellar and you'll never have a problem finding a job.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is a recruiter, career coach and internationally known speaker at conferences and colleges. As a career coach she helps people find jobs and careers they love. She helps clients visualize their future and gives ideas on how to attain what they desire. As a recruiter, she helps companies find the people they need. You can contact her at Her "Career Coach" column can be read at Her Linkedin profile can be found at