Unemployment is traumatic, and people who have been there never shake the fear of going back. If you've spent five months job-hunting (an average amount of time) you have probably faced worry, uncertainty and financial desperation.

Here are some things you can do while you are employed so that next time you're looking for work, the task is much, much easier:

Save money
The worst job hunt experiences are when you have to take the first job you get because you are risking financial ruin. If you save money when you are employed you'll be able to be a lot more picky when you're looking for a new job. Almost everyone is desperate when they are unemployed, and one of the hardest things to do in an interview is act self-confident when you're feeling down. This task if even harder if you're going to be out on the street in three weeks.

Also, unemployment gives you lots of time but little money to spend. If you have some savings you'll be able to enjoy the time you have when you're not working. After all, you can't job hunt all day every day — it would make you crazy.

This isn't something you do when you need a job. It's something you do when you have one, when you're feeling confident. If you are good at making connections with people, and you do it regularly, then people will be there to help you when you need a job. If you contact people only when you need help you are not a networker, you are a sponge.

You don't need to be friends with everyone, but you need to have some real friends. Note that friends are not people you go out drinking with occasionally. Friends are people you are very honest and forthcoming with, and people who depend on you. When it comes time to get help, it's not the people you're friends with who will help — they have the same information that you do. It's the friends of friends who will help. And they don't come by way of superficial connections.

Focus on achievements
Your resume is what gets you an interview. Even if you are using connections from your network, sooner or later, someone will say, “Send me your resume and I'll take a look.” Your resume should have a few, huge achievements that the rest of the lines are built around. When you are gainfully employed, look for opportunities to create these achievements.

This means being selective in what projects you take on. Projects that are going to do very little for your resume should not take up a lot of your time — do them as quickly as possible and move on. Projects that will give you the chance to highlight grand and quantifiable results on your resume are projects you should be willing to volunteer for. These projects are worth working late nights, taking on huge risk, and working with people you hate.

On a well-crafted resume, one line of greatness can cut months off your unemployment suffering.

Be creative
The jobs that are staying in the US feature some form of creativity — from troubleshooting, to management to strategy. Hone your skills as a creative thinker so that you can sell yourself that way next time you need to find a job.

So many people who are in non-creative jobs tell me that they are creative and their job is safe from off-shoring. They are delusional. Here's a test to give yourself:
Do you come up with new product ideas or features?
Does set up intra-departmental process?
Do you work face-to-face with other people all day?

If you answered no to all three questions think hard about how to make your job more creative and people-oriented so that you can find a new job without moving to India.

The good news is that each of these recommendations will improve your career. Your work will be more interesting and you will bring more joy to your job and the people you meet. The added benefit is that you will have it easier next time you are unemployed, which means a little less worrying now.

In the ongoing development of me as a brazen careerist, my weak point has been networking. I know it's my weak point because I meet a lot of powerful people who could do a lot for me and instead of leveraging the relationship, I end up losing touch with them.

Where I fail is that I don't know how to maintain regular contact once I have established a base relationship. There is an art form to the act of the “just checking in to see what you're up to” email that is lost on me.

I try to pay close attention when I get one from someone else. Here's what I've noticed: That I always appreciate the email, no matter how long it's been since I heard from the person. So probably other people would appreciate an email from me. But still, I put off sending these emails because I fear I have nothing to say that the person cares about.

If I were giving advice to myself I'd say, “Just a short, simple email. Nothing huge. To remind the person you are thinking about them and also to tell them what you've been up to.” But I always feel like I need some sort of excuse to email. If I were a guy, I'd send an email about sports, like, “Rah rah my team beat yours. Rah rah.” Or, “I thought of you sitting in my court-side seats.” My instinct, as a woman, I'm sorry to say, is to send stuff about kids. Like, “Congratulations on your son's first birthday. I remember seeing the photo last year and he was so cute.” But the kid emails have not gone over that well in the world, and, right or wrong, I never get the kid emails from men, so I stopped sending them to men.

I had this idea to buy into a service that scans newspapers every day for names of people I know. Then I could say, “I saw your name in the paper. Congratulations on blah blah blah,” I would look like I'm really on top of the industry news, and that I'm concerned about the person. But the services were all really expensive. And, let's face it, if I were a millionaire, my networking could be, “Hi. How are you? I'd love to chat with you again. Do you want to fly on my jet to my island next week?”

But recently I noticed that Google has a new service, in Beta right now, called Google Alerts. This is how the company web site describe the service: “Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your choice of query or topic.”

It seemed too good to be true, but I tried it. I set up an alert for a former boss of mine who was really supportive of me, and then about a year after I left his company I stopped contacting him because I couldn't think of anything to say. (Insane, really. A complete violation of any networking rulebook. And just writing about it here makes me realize how absurd it is that I can't figure out how to write a “just saying hi” email. After all, I'm a writer!)

I thought I'd redeem myself by contacting him next time his name is in the press. But after a few days of hearing nothing from Google, I realized I didn't even know if the service worked.

So I set up a Google alert for my sister-in-law, who just landed a job big enough that she's popping up in newspapers all over the country almost every day lately. And sure enough, her name landed in my email box today: The Google alerts worked. My sister-in-law didn't know she was in a Seattle newspaper today until I told her.

Tonight, I created Google alerts for twenty of the people I most wish I would be good at staying in touch with. I feel like I'm on the cusp of making amazing headway in the networking department. God bless

Wouldn't it be nice if recruiters called you regularly to see if you're interested in interviewing for one of their jobs? Here are some steps you can take to make that fantasy come true:

1. Get a high profile in your industry.
Speak at conferences. You might not get paid in cash, but you'll be noticed. And because you won't get paid, landing a spot on a panel is actually not that difficult. Speakers get noticed not only by conference junkies, but also by the press (a fine line, really). And the best way to get your name in the news is by saying something intelligent and elucidating to someone who can quote you.

Also, if you can afford it, hire a public relations professional. I got the idea for this column from a press release (generated by a public relations specialist) sent to me in the form of an article by David Theobald, CEO of Netshare. Who knows if he really wrote it (I doubt it since writers are cheap and CEOs aren't.) But he does have good ideas. And look, it worked. Now you know his name and might check out his company.

2. Send a resume recruiters can use.
Become a specialist. I once met a recruiter for lunch. She spent the whole meal finding out about me, and then she said, “You need to say what you are up front. Generalists don't help recruiters.” I did not take her advice. At the time, I was scared to specialize — I thought I'd miss opportunities.

But research shows that after five or six years, you will move faster in your career if you establish yourself as a specialist. This makes sense, because a recruiter has to sell you to her client in one sentence, for example, General Motors guy who is a management star, or advertising genius who can take a brand to the top.

Also, create a keyword-friendly resume. No one wants to imagine that their career is dependent on some computer plucking them out of a black hole. But the reality is that recruiters manage large piles of quality resumes with keyword searches. So write a resume that includes the keywords you want to be identified by.

3. Say the right thing.
You never know where you are going to meet a recruiter. Maybe you'll sit next to one on an airplane, or maybe you'll get a phone call in the middle of your busiest day at work. You have to be ready to talk at any time.

So have a pitch about yourself ready to go, and focus on accomplishments. When a recruiter asks, “What have you been doing?” he is sniffing around for star performers, not just people who get their job done. So don't bore the recruiter by listing job duties. (Many people say they cannot do this because the recruiter needs background to understand the accomplishment. This is not true. Everyone understands raised revenues, saved time, and decreased costs. Lead with one of those phrases, and if the way you did the task is a little obscure, you'll still get your point across. Don't bother clarifying details that don't matter.)

Also, be prepared to talk about what you're looking for in your next step. If you can't answer that question, a recruiter can't determine if you're a good fit.

After all this, you're probably wondering what Mr. Theobald has to say. Here's an example: Have a good voice message. “You have only one opportunity to make a first impression, and everyone thinks that’s eyeball to eyeball, but it’s more likely to be on the phone. Be sure the tone and message on your answering machine is upbeat and professional.”

I got a book deal. So this is, undoubtedly, the first of at least a hundred columns that will plug the book, which is not coming out until spring 2006. Far away, yes, but not too far for you to make a note in your planner: “Buy Penelope’s book.”

I got a big advance for the book. Not big like Bill Clinton, who received four million dollars. But big enough to buy a nice house (if I didn't live in New York City, which I do) and big enough to stop fights with my husband about money (no small feat, believe me).

Yet for all my recent success, someone asked me last night, “So, what do you do?” and I didn't say anything about a book. Lame. That's when red lights went off in my head. Experience tells me that one needs to manage career success as carefully as one manages failure. So I am making a plan to manage the book success.

1. Take time to be happy.
In the past, I have been at points of great success and been too driven toward the top to see how far I had come. For example, when I was a professional beach volleyball player signing autographs and smacking a volleyball in Bud Light commercials, I was always unhappy that I was not in the top twenty players. Now, as someone who makes a living sitting at a desk, I am amazed at my former athletic achievements (and muscle mass). But I never enjoyed them when I had them. I focused too much on what I didn't have.

So I am taking a month to bask in my book success. I am telling myself that my hard work and tenacity with my book proposal paid off. I am patting myself on the back, which I always tell other people to do, but rarely do myself.

2. Tell people about the success.
One of the people I mentor amazes me with his diligence when it comes to telling me about his success. I don't have a very close relationship with him, and sometimes I think to myself, “Why is he telling me this? Why is he sending me links to his stuff?” but I always end up thinking better of him when he tells me his achievements. He has taught me that there is very little harm in letting people know what you're doing that is great.

When it comes time for me to send emails to announce my book deal, my first instinct is to be hesitant — thinking with each email, “Does this person really want to know? Does she care?” But my mentee has taught me that I shouldn't think twice. I should just send the email. If someone is offended by my announcement then they were probably never going to be helpful to me anyway. Being shy about my success will get me nowhere.

3. Draft a strategy to leverage the success.
Too many times in my life I have followed up success with worries — that I would not get to the next level, that the achievement would slip out from under me. My worries about leveraging success undermined my ability to do it.

Take, for example, the time when I was running my own company and hiring all my friends and family and we had tons of money and great press. I spent my days so worried about where to take the company next that my hair started falling out. Really. I never even knew that women could lose their hair from stress until my shower drain clogged.

This book deal has great potential for worries because really, a book deal is all about sales. I have to make sure people buy the book. Also, I can't help thinking about the next book deal. Writing is a business; there's no point in launching one product and calling it a day because a thriving business is a bunch of products.

So this time, I'm going to use my success as a starting point for strategic thinking instead of fearful thinking. And the first thing, in this vein, will be to craft a new answer to the question, “What do you do?” I need to get my book into the answer.

Those who have mentors are twice as likely to be promoted as those who don’t, says Ellen Fagenson Eland, professor at George Mason University and 2003 Winner of the Mentoring Best Practices Award. So start taking the mentoring process very seriously — it should be a cornerstone of your overall career strategy. Here’s a plan to get you started:

Step 1: Identify a potential mentor. This person can be any age, but the most effective mentor is someone approximately five years ahead of you in your career. A person at this level will know how to navigate your organization at the spot you’re in, and the person will remember what it is like to be where you are. This person should be someone you admire and someone who has good communication skills.

Step 2: Have good questions. Would-be mentors are most receptive to people who ask good questions. What makes a good question? It should reveal that you are both directed and driven. But the question should also demonstrate that you understand the mentor’s expertise and you can use it well. So, a question like, “What should I do with my life?” would be out.

Step 3: Don’t expect miracles. A mentor is not going to rescue your whole career, even if she can. People want to mentor a rising star, so look like you’re on track when you ask for help. Ask, “What skills should I develop to earn an education policy analyst job with a Senator?” rather than, “Can you get me a job with a Senator?” even if the mentor is Caroline Kennedy.

Step 4: Be a good listener. This person is not your therapist. You ask a question, and then listen. If the mentor needs to know more, he’ll ask. Do not tell your life story. It is not interesting. If it were, you’d be writing a book or doing standup, right? If you find yourself talking more than the mentor, then get a therapist before you scare your mentor away.

Step 5: Prove you’re serious. You can demonstrate that you’re hungry for counsel by implementing the advice your mentor gave, showing the result, and then going back for more. So, if your mentor suggests you get on project X, get yourself there, do a good job, and report back to your mentor that you are grateful for the advice because you were able to learn a lot and shine. Your mentor will be much more willing to give you her time and energy after you’ve proven yourself to be a quick and eager study.

Step 6: Always be on the lookout. One is not enough. Each person needs a few mentors, because no mentor lasts forever, and each has a different expertise. Two of my best mentors were very different from each other. One helped me to fit in with the guys so that I could succeed at a company where I was the only woman in management. Another mentor helped me to keep my sanity and my focus when balancing work and children seemed totally impossible.

Step 7: Give back. The best way to learn how to rope in a mentor is to be a mentor yourself. You’ll find out first hand what makes a protégée annoying, which will, in turn, make you a less annoying protégée. You’ll also discover why helping someone else grow is so rewarding, which will give you the courage to ask people to help you.

I met a not-friend at a not-cool-but-not-cheesy restaurant. I was networking, because this is what you must do to further your career. Even if you hate it you have to do it. I did not wear work clothes, because even though networking is work, you’re not supposed to look like you’re on the job. I knew we weren’t really friends, because I wasn’t wearing my really ratty overalls.

We discussed segmented marketing, but in a cool, maybe-we’re-not-working kind of way. For example, we talked about who is using Napster now, and about which bands get downloaded most. We moved a little in the direction of which bands we each like, but my not-friend didn’t share my musical tastes, so we danced away from the topic quickly.

If I were really looking for a friend, I would have gone full-steam ahead into topics that may be controversial, but can weed out inappropriate people: politics, money, sex. These are make-or-break topics. But I could not afford a “break” on this occasion, because this person was one of my best connections in the advertising world.

Early in my career, my boss was having trouble because someone who reported to her hit on her, and was upset that she said no. The story got out, and soon the whole office knew about it. She pulled me into her office one evening and said, “What do people think of what’s happened with ____?” At the time, I was flattered that I was the one she pulled aside. Now I realize that I have to be extra careful to edit myself as I go. Complete honesty is not completely good: It alienates people — specifically, me.

The not-friend I went to dinner with asked me if I liked her yellow scarf. I thought it was gross, but I was afraid to tell her the truth. (In fact, I’m not even telling you the real color of the scarf, in case she ends up reading this.) Maybe if I told her the scarf was awful, we would have immediately become good friends, and she would always love me for my honesty. But maybe not. It was the maybe-not part that kept me from telling her the truth — because I would rather have a good network than a good friend. (I don’t need a Rolodex full of friends; I do need a Rolodex full of contacts: people who will have dinner with me at innocuous locations and help me navigate my career.)

Still, I wanted to tell my not-friend that I hated her scarf. I want to show people who I really am. I want to see if they would still like me. I want to distribute surveys (to be put on file later in my Rolodex) that ask people if they enjoyed my honesty, and if they would be willing to do favors for me now that they know the real me.

Instead, I ordered a cosmopolitan because she ordered one — even though I don’t really drink. And I told her little things about me that she didn’t already know, so she felt like she was getting to know me.

I did not tell her that I find the networking so exhausting, my Rolodex is actually shrinking from atrophy. I decided that maybe a good step would be to buy her a new scarf — a way to express my true feelings in a positive way. If I could only be more positive.

I told her things that are so banal that they would annoy you. When we parted I pretended to take the train home and instead of going straight home I bought a milkshake at a diner and sat in a booth decompress. The most tiring part of networking is having to be clever and interested for so long. And the cruel truth of the work world is that people who love to network don’t need to do it.

People like me, who hate networking, need to be diligent. I tell myself I have to endure one of these nights each month. I remind myself that I might meet the perfect person to help me later, that networking is like money in the bank. So even if someone has terrible taste in music and scarves, I work hard when I’m with her, because you never know when networking will pay off, but I really believe that it always does, even after all my complaining.

Maybe you have never been fired. I sure have — more often than I care to remember — and I can assure you that, while the moment may be humbling, the experience has always been educational. Here are things I learned after getting the boot. They may not be earth-shattering lessons, but they’re good reminders when your earth has been shattered.

Be gracious, even at the end.
My first firing took place at my grandma’s bookstore. She said, “I told you that you can’t read when you’re working.” I said, “Just let me finish this one page.” She said, “You can finish all the pages — because you’re fired.” Fine, I told her. Besides, she didn’t pay enough. She told me that I made a lot of money for a 9-year-old. Then she said, “When you’re fired, it’s important to be as gracious as possible because there’s no point in burning a bridge any more than it’s already burned. And you never know what you might need later from the person who is firing you.” Then she took me out for ice cream.

You’d rather be where you’re appreciated, anyway.
I worked at a pizza parlor, where we treated the kitchen like a chemistry lab. The boss’s wife decided that 16-year-old girls were too tempting for him and instructed him to fire anyone who fit the above description. I tried proving my worth by inventing a method to make dough twice as fast as anyone else. But my hours dwindled. I was berated for not lining up the pepperoni exactly. It became a job I could only do wrong. The boss eventually followed his wife’s directive, and I took my pizza expertise to another restaurant, where I became the go-to pizza queen.

Even if you have a job, network like a person who needs a job.
Continuing my career in food services, I worked at an ice cream parlor. It was easy when someone ordered a flavor like daiquiri ice, which would thaw in five minutes. But hard flavors like pralines-and-cream would take most of the day to soften, and scooping them made my muscles sore. So I started directing customers to other ones. (“French vanilla? Feh. Orange sherbet — now that’s a flavor.”) When the end was near, I gave ice cream away for free. When the end arrived, I got another job right away — with someone who had benefited from my scooping largesse.

Everyone is expendable. Especially you.
Upon entering the real world, I worked at one of the first high-profile e-commerce websites. I had done my master’s thesis on interactive media, and suddenly 50-year-old managers were asking me for advice. Competitors tried to recruit me. I felt wanted and needed, and I started believing my own press. So much so that I neglected internal projects for freelance ones, thinking I was untouchable. I was the only one who understood the Internet, right? Wrong. And anyone who thinks they can’t be replaced is too.

I learned my first lessons in the importance of workplace communication when I had a job in the British Pound trading pit at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. What makes the exchange special is that there are no pretenses: You don’t have to be an Ivy Leaguer or a genius trader to succeed. The people who do succeed are alert, quick, and well versed in the art of communication.

It is ironic that the most treasured office skill is most prevalent at the most un-officelike place. But the trading floor is a great classroom for people who work in a traditional office, especially those who remain stalled professionally because of a lack of communication skills.

Lesson 1: Learn the secret language.
Every office has a secret language. At the Merc, it’s hand signals. The trading pit — literally a pit — is filled with people waving and motioning because it’s so large and loud that people have to use hand signals to talk to each other. I had to take a class so that I could signal phrases like “Prudential Bache has a large order in the British pound pit that needs to be filled at 68.” The guy across the room might say, “Watch me for an order coming in,” and I’d have to keep a close eye on him all day because he’d only signal the order once before giving the business to someone else. The difference between “buy at 68” and “sell at 68” is the turn of a palm. At a standard office, the secret language may be that business is mostly conducted by e-mail or meetings, or that the boss likes to be presented with ideas in a certain fashion. If you don’t communicate in the way that people expect, no one will hear you.

Lesson 2: Build relationships during downtimes, and you will benefit during the fast times.
When the trading floor is slow, the traders and clerks stand around talking; the scene resembles a bar. If you are not funny, or insightful, or clever, or at least good at laughing at other peoples’ jokes, people will not like you. And if people don’t like you on the trading floor, it will cost you — just like at the office. When trading picks up and phone orders from brokers stream in, people will trade with you or they won’t. At the office, if you are disliked, you aren’t asked out to lunch, assigned good projects, or given help and support when you need it.

Lesson 3: The small communication cues are the most important.
In the office, this rule is subtle. For example, I had a boss who was great verbally, but whenever he got nervous he would bite his nails and, no matter what he was saying, all we heard was, “This place is headed for a train wreck.” People pick up on the most casual, seemingly trivial things.

The great thing about the trading floor is that you get immediate feedback when you botch a small cue. When trading is fast, prices move fast, and if you miss a price, you could be held responsible for getting that price anyway. In the language of hand signals, a trader can say, “I have 600 shares to sell at 70,” in less than two seconds. The trader will make that sale by simply catching someone’s eye and seeing that person nod. If either one of those people makes even the slightest mistake, they could lose thousands or millions of dollars.

It is not an exaggeration to say that poor communication skills are the number one problem that holds people back in the workplace. One manager I talked to at a Fortune 500 company said that most of her management time is spent coaching people on how to talk to each other so that teams work efficiently. “And people don’t even appreciate it,” she says. For everyone out there who has been coached by a boss, be grateful. Because on the trading floor, you’d otherwise be fired immediately.

To celebrate St. Patrick's Day, acknowledge that you are not a leprechaun and that you have to create your own luck. Sure, luck can make or break a career, but those who make their own luck can make their careers shine. St. Patrick's Day is a great day to assess where you stand in the lucky-person parade.

1. Being lucky is a way of looking at the world.

You can look back? on your life and see the luck in it or see the failure. But all good interviewers know that past performance is the best indicator of future performance. They want to know about your successes, so why doom yourself from the start? View yourself as having lead a charmed life, and you will find yourself becoming the recipient of more lucky charms. Optimists know this intuitively. Our lives unfold the way we see them. If you expect bad things to happen, they will. But if you expect good luck, it likely will come your way.

2. Know what luck looks like

The luckiest people knock on the door of opportunity and it opens. Throughout your life, though, you’ll knock on hundreds of these opportunity doors. Sure, this is a figurative statement, but put on your metaphorical walking shoes.

One caveat: You must be clear on what you want for this rule to work. Doors will open to you constantly, and unless you know what you want, you won't know if you have been lucky enough to get it.

To be a lucky person in this world you must have a vision of your life. Otherwise you will walk through any door, and whims, aimlessness and fate will direct your life. [I didn’t understand this last phrase]

3. Entourages make opportunities for luck

You’ll find more four-leafed clovers if everyone is hunting them for you, than if you're searching alone. So invest in yourself by hiring people to help you create luck. An assistant at work, a cleaning person at home — whatever you need to free up clover-hunting time. Examine every task you do that does not, in some way, allow you to knock on doors that might open to big-time luck. Delegate the luckless work so you can concentrate on your vision. Consider using the money you might spend on movies or lattes to pay an assistant. And every entourage should include trusted advisors – a mentor who will steer you to the good clover patches. Don't go picking without one.

4. Surround yourself with lucky people.

Successful people have successful friends. There is, of course, the chicken and egg question. For example, did Sam Waksal befriend Martha Stewart *because* she was rich and famous or because he liked her? You and I will never know, but they did hang out together — along with all their other rich, successful friends (whether either is truly lucky is debatable and probably depends on your personal value system). And that's where the odds come in. Don't worry about why or when lucky people find each other. Just play the odds, and make sure you are hanging out with lucky people now.

5. Don't tell other people they were lucky

We all want to believe that we have accomplished some great feat through personal skill and ability — not luck. If you say it was because of luck, then it seems as though we had nothing to do with making something happen. So don’t tell someone who’s just achieved an important goal that they are lucky. Maybe they are, but you should focus on the skill they used to make their luck Besides, showing respect and admiration for others — not to mention hanging around with a winner — makes you look good..

If you hate your acquaintance for being lucky, stifle that feeling until you get home and can curse and scream until you feel better. But remember that no one seems very lucky while jealously screaming about his or her neighbor. And don’t forget Rule No. 4. Stop screaming and go out hang out with this person.

When the Oscars run (probably overtime) on Sunday, I'll be rooting for “Lost in Translation” for best picture. Not that I have seen the other competitors, but I loved this particular movie. In fact, I was so impressed that I read up on Sofia Coppola. In the process, I learned more about career management by how she managed hers.

Of course, Sofia has had more advantages than most fledgling directors. Her dad, Francis Ford Coppola, provided her with a stunning apprenticeship, including giving her a part in “The Godfather: Part III,” screenwriter lessons and producing “Lost in Translation” for her.

But before I launch into a celebration of Sofia Coppola, I need to say that the U.S. is not a meritocracy: Rich people are better connected, so they get better jobs. And rich people who are not well connected tend to get better jobs because they have an easier time envisioning themselves in a successful career than poorer people. An example: My younger brother, now 21, did almost no homework in high school, and he recently landed a job most college graduates would covet — investment banking in Europe.

He used connections and a lofty vision of himself to get it. He started on his career path in high school by getting a management job at a Blockbuster store? This was easy in the wealthy community where we were raised because no adults there wanted (or needed) this type of job. That left the entry-level management jobs to high school students. At my local Blockbuster store in sort-of-rough-and-tumble Brooklyn, the managers are in their thirties. So the first moment of inequality is that rich kids can get great jobs in high school.

Since he had been an actual manager before, I was able to give him a management job in my own company during the summer after his freshman year of college. And I concede he did an outstanding job. But only a sister would give a 18-year-old a management job in a software company.

The next year, my cousin, a high ranking guy at a big ad agency, gave my brother a summer internship even though my brother missed the deadline for applying and wasn’t in business school like all the other interns. And to be honest, my brother did a great job of mending fences with a basically estranged cousin. He also had a stellar resume written by yours truly.

So by the time my brother graduated from college, he had a great experience on his resume that helped him land his new job in Europe. I don’t begrudge him that. And I admit that with a lot of effort and even more luck, a poor kid could land the same positions as my brother. But it’s clear he had a million advantages that poor kids don't have, so he didn’t need as much luck.

Speaking of people who don't need luck, let's get back to Sofia. Tracing the career of a person who had every advantage in the book can make one a little peevish. So how do people act when they have every advantage? That’s the relevant question, because probably we should all act the same way.

People like my brother, who have relatively few advantages compared to someone like Sofia, ask for everything — just to see if they'll get it. He asked my parents to pay for him to attend an expensive college even though he didn’t do a lick of homework in high school. Even though he knew he wasn’t qualified, he asked my cousin for an internship. He could do this because he could envision himself getting it. Poor kids have to stretch to imagine having food on the table every night.

In Sofia’s world, though, you don't just ask for something — you operate as though you’ll definitely get it. The difference is that my brother and others like him still need to make contingency plans, whereas really well connected people don't. Thinking this way is what helps them to succeed.

So Sofia Coppola wrote “Lost in Translation” for Bill Murray before he said he'd make a movie with her. Once she finished the script it took her months to finally get it to him. Then she left messages on his 800-number for five months before he responded to the script.

We should all believe in ourselves so much. How many of us would spend months on a project that might not happen? It's her belief in herself that impresses me. It doesn't matter if your last name is Coppola; if your screenplay is terrible, Bill Murray won’t do it. In that sense, Sofia did, in fact, take a gamble, even though she wasn’t in danger of starving like some screenwriters are. And with the biggest risks come the biggest rewards.

Maybe rich people can afford to take more risks. But my point is that by believing in yourself, as Sofia Coppola did, you may be able to leap career hurdles you once thought were impossible. How can you not root for her on Sunday?