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Career Coach: Working Without a Net(work)

In this month's column, Pamela Kleibrink Thompson fills you in on the "hidden" job market, and how to find it.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson.

Almost 80% of jobs are never advertised, according to Cornell University Career Services. This is called the hidden job market. How do people get these jobs? The secret is networking, and we aren't talking about how computers are connected. We are talking about how people are connected. Networking is defined in the dictionary as the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups or institutions. I want to point out the word "exchange" -- that means that both sides give something to a network.

When I first graduated from college, I didn't understand the power of networking. I believed it meant using people. I didn't want to do that. I didn't understand that networking was the main way that people found work in the film industry and that it was perfectly acceptable. My college friend Louis got his first job working on a film with Francis Ford Coppola through his grandmother's connections. But I was stubborn and for years I persisted in my pure job pursuit by answering ads and cold calling. One day, Alex, another college friend, called me to tell me that "Family Dog," an animated episode of Steven Spielberg's anthology series Amazing Stories, was looking for a production manager. Although Alex was absent during the interview and said he had no input in the decision, I still give him credit for helping me get that job. That is an example of networking.

Working without a network can negatively impact your career just as much as working with a network can positively impact your career. I have two friends who are working on an animated TV series in its last season. They both have to find new jobs. One friend lives in Los Angeles and the other lives in Boise and commutes to L.A. I just reconnected with them both via Internet social networking sites. I suggested to the friend in L.A. that she attend a Women in Animation meeting. Her response was, "I have always tried to see myself as an individual when it comes to my career. Women in Animation never asked me to join and I never bothered."

I suggested to the friend in the Boise area that he attend a lunch meeting of the Idaho Media Professionals. At that meeting he was introduced to one potential employer/client, and also signed up for membership.

Los Angeles has many more opportunities and it has many more people, but I'm betting my friend in Boise will find work first because he embraces the idea of networking.

You might have heard that who you know matters as much as what you know. It actually matters more. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost all job openings are announced through word of mouth: "Employers fill the majority of job openings through the unadvertised, or hidden, job market," according to their website. This means you should spend a lot of time networking -- talking to people and asking them for names of others to speak to -- to learn about available positions.

So how do you expand and maintain your network of contacts in your desired career field if you are not working in that field? You can stay active by attending meetings, contributing to a newsletter, volunteering with an organization like Women in Animation or an animation festival, or working part-time, or networking with others online. You'll learn more about that next month.

Networking works. If you can network in person at a meeting related to your interests it can positively impact your career. You never know when you might hear about a job. Years ago I attended a Women in Animation meeting and was approached by Hope who told me that Libby was looking for a production manager. I wasn't looking for a job but I told Connie who told her sister Katie who got the job with Libby. Here is the networking chain: Libby-Hope-me-Connie-Katie. This was one of the unadvertised or hidden jobs.

If you aren't networking to find out about these hidden opportunities you are handicapping yourself. You might as well be working without a net.

Pamela Klebrink Thompson once believed that she could get jobs on her own but now her entire career seems to be based on networking. Once shy, she works on expanding her network almost every day. She is a career coach and recruiter and available for speaking engagements. She will be speaking at the Kalamazoo Animation Festival International ( in May and hopes to meet some new people there. She is a founding member and board member of Women in Animation and a member of Idaho Media Professionals. You can contact her at