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Career Coach: Life Lesson: You Are Not Your Job

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson reminds us that one cannot define themselves around their current job.

Pamela Kleibrink


A friend of mine was hospitalized last month for kidney failure.  He had been drinking to excess since he had been laid off from the company where he had worked his entire life.  He had worked his way up to a relatively high position and had visions of a comfortable retirement.  He was devastated when he found out that the company he dedicated his life to was not as dedicated to him.  After a brief exit interview and some help from an outsourcing company to put together a resume, he was out the door with no other help or assistance or tools to find new employment.  He never really recovered from that blow to his confidence.

He was hired by the company right after college so he never acquired the knowledge he needed to survive and succeed in a job search. His confidence was demolished because he defined himself by his job.  As month after month of unemployment went by, he became more withdrawn.  He rarely ventured from his home.

It’s natural to go through a grieving process after a layoff.  It’s likely that you’ll want to retreat from the world.  My friend thought that he added no value because he was not currently employed.  He is mistaken.

Too often people tie their identity to their jobs or their employers.  But they are not just animators or artists or production managers or production accountants.  They are more than the sum of their achievements on their resumes.  Employers might be interested to know what you have done and that should be reflected on your resume.  But what employers really want to know is what you can do for them.

Though it’s hard to be upbeat and positive when you have been laid off or are unemployed, try to view this as an opportunity to reinvent yourself.  It’s not easy but it’s important to be positive because no one wants to associate with someone who is morose and desperate.  Even if you don’t feel it, fake it by smiling and acting cheerful.  You may even convince yourself that losing a job is not the end of the world.

Most of us like working with people we know so the more people you know the better it is for you.  Most jobs are not advertised.  More than 70% of jobs fall into what is called the hidden job market--you hear about an opening through one of your contacts.  So it’s important to get out to events or places where you will have human interaction.  Spend less time searching for jobs on the computer and more time making connections face to face.

When I was laid off at Virgin Games as the manager of art (my last employer), I was stunned.  It was my  yearly review and I expected I was getting a raise, not a pink slip.  I forced myself to look calm while one of the higher ups told me that I may have to take a job that paid less than I was making at the time.  He was wrong.  I never took another job.  I assessed what I liked most about my jobs and realized it was finding jobs for other people.  I became a freelance recruiter specializing in the animation, games and the visual effects industry.  That expanded to my career coaching business.

My entire business is built on networking.  When I lived in Los Angeles I went to as many animation and visual effects events as I could.  I was actively involved in local chapters of Women in Animation and SIGGRAPH, producing the Career Boot Camp in 1998 and 1999.  I joined the Visual Effects Society, participated on the education committee, and presented at some of the workshops.  I heard about jobs and opportunities from friends I made at these meetings.  I told friends I met about jobs and opportunities.  I got involved in giving to the community and learned that building relationships for the long haul was the key to my business and to my life.  The hardest aspect of networking for me is to keep in touch with all the terrific people I’d like to stay in touch with.  Networking is about friends helping each other with resources, introductions, referrals and maybe even jobs.

Networking brings out other facets of your life that you might not have explored before.  Networking gives you a chance to learn about new opportunities.  When you speak to new people you get a glimpse of different jobs or careers.

You have a lot to offer the world–take the time to discover what that is.  It might surprise you and your former employer.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is a recruiter, career coach, speaker and writer.  Realizing she is not her job, she has reinvented herself many times.  She contributed to the books Eclectic Collage 1 and Eclectic Collage 2: The Relationships of Life, which you can find on  You can reach Pamela at