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Creative Career Coach: Father Knows Best

A handful of industry pros share their father’s advice that has carried them throughout their careers.

In the United States, we celebrate fatherhood on the third Sunday of June. Inspired by Anna Jarvis, who established Mother's Day, Sonora Dodd proposed the idea of Father's Day. She wanted to honor her father, William Jackson Smart, a Civil War veteran, who had raised six children as a single parent. Although his birthday was June 5, the Spokane Ministerial Alliance finally agreed upon the third Sunday of June to commemorate and recognize fatherhood. The first Father's Day celebration took place in the United States on June 19, 1910. President Richard Nixon, father of two daughters, declared Father's Day a national holiday in 1972.

In this column I'd like to honor fatherly advice. 

Suze Datz, former VFX recruiter, shared advice from her father. "If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it; don’t lie; don’t be a sore loser or an obnoxious winner and treat people the way you want to be treated." He also taught her about baseball’s infield fly rule and how to keep baseball stats. But that’s another story.

Steve Hulett, former business rep for the Animation Guild: "Parents' advice? Do your best. Once we went off to college they underwrote us financially but all of us worked. College wasn't expensive in the late 1960s, and you could (almost) support yourself. I washed dishes and stocked vending machines at UCI when I went there. Worked 16-20 hours per week. [My dad was] One of the most talented human beings I've ever known. Ralph Hulett painted landscapes, backgrounds for cartoons, inventive Christmas cards, beach towel designs, even covers for record albums. He departed a long time ago, but my memories of him remain vivid ... like one of the bright watercolors that he did so well."

Bill Kroyer, animation director and professor at Chapman University: "My father's advice: Do a good job no matter how small the task. His practical application of this idea has me paying careful attention to every hedge I trimmed, sidewalk I shoveled, or car I washed, but the philosophy behind it was similar to that idea that any job worth doing was worth doing well. When I got into animation, no matter how seemingly trivial the clean-up or in-betweening job I got, I focused completely and did my best, and I believe that was the ethic that allowed me to succeed in the business."

Tom Sito, professor of animation, USC: "My father taught me, 'You'll get further in life with a smile than without. Plan ahead for your future. And never volunteer for anything that doesn't pay.' Alas, I did not follow the last lesson."

Rita Street, animation executive producer/ writer and founder of Women in Animation: "My dad wasn't really an 'advice' kind of guy. He did, however, have an amazing collection of comics and introduced me to Casper and Archie, but most especially Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge. And, although some of the old duck comics by the amazing Carl Barks are politically incorrect, their adventures were, and still are, wonder-inspiring. My dad's adult love of the Duck clan led me to my career in cartoons. And, for that, I'm forever thankful!"

My opa, my father's father, Jan Kleibrink, advised him to "Keep calm. Ultimately things will straighten out."

Before I graduated college, my father Paul Kleibrink, gave me the best career advice of all: "It's your life. Live it how you want to live it, not how you think others want you to. Do what excites you the most."

My father-in-law, Rex Thompson, believed that you can do anything if you work hard at it. Working hard at it includes learning what you need to know, as well as whom you need to know. What he didn't know, he was ready to learn. A master at networking, my father-in-law talked to everybody. And he listened. He claimed that he would prefer to be alone, but he found himself often surrounded by people because they liked to be around him. He was a master salesperson because he was a natural. After work, he coached a girls softball team. He taught them teamwork and encouraged them to always do their best. He believed in them. He believed in me. He always advised me to stretch and grow. He encouraged me to take chances. If my employer didn't give me the chance to learn, move on. Don't be afraid to make a change. My father-in-law's business card didn't have a title on it--just his name, Rex Thompson, and what he did, "Everything." Rex died on March 10, 2003, and everyone who knew him had a story about him. He encouraged everyone who needed encouragement (which is everyone!) to pursue their dreams.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson appreciates and loves her dad, Paul Kleibrink, who will be 93 in September. Pamela assists her clients to reinvent and transform, whether it’s starting new careers or businesses or starting new jobs or beginning college educations. A career coach and recruiter with clients in animation, visual effects, games, and design, Pamela Thompson is available for one on-one career coaching sessions, recruiting, or speaking engagements. Contact Pamela Thompson, The Creative Career Coach, at