Dream Big, Have A Plan
I speak daily with new graduates in Game Development that are looking for their first opportunity to make games. More often than not, when asked where they would like to begin their careers, they cite the most coveted and prestigious AAA studios. My first thought is that this is an overly ambitious goal. Then I follow up with my second question, What is your plan? How are you going to make this happen? This is always followed with silence, then "I am going to apply on their website."
I think it's important to dream big, but even more important to have a plan to help you accomplish these dreams. Sometimes that means starting a career elsewhere and working your way up, all the while keeping your eyes on the prize. However, that doesn't mean it's impossible either.
After ten years as a Career Advisor, I am now sitting on the other side of the desk and reviewing applicants for Game Developers, Game Artists, and Game Producers. Many of these candidates don't include a cover letter or link to their portfolios, they have no experience other than their degree, and no references of which to speak of. Basically they are throwing darts at a very small target, and they have not thought through a very important part of their career plan: how to establish their reputation.
When vetting candidates, I look as much at potential as I look at previous work. Potential is displayed through the amount of time and passion displayed working on their craft, whether a studio or classroom project, game jams, side projects, and other community-based involvement. A good digital footprint gives us insight to this involvement and passion, and it also displays the interpersonal skills necessary to succeed in a studio environment. It also grants the ability to make friends and establish a positive professional reputation.
It is not always the most experienced candidate that gets chosen, but rather the candidate that has a proven reputation of being the right fit for a studio, regardless of their portfolio. Sure, you have to have skills as well, but being able to fit into a team environment is crucial to your longevity in the game industry.
Your plan? – Establish your professional reputation from day one. The day you enter your degree program is the day you start, not when you start looking for your first job. Your professional reputation is your strongest currency. Your bank account grows with the number of professional friends you collect. These are the trusted industry veterans that will speak on your behalf. A noob with a great reputation will be hired over the vet with a poor one every time.
To Start – Have a complete and professional LinkedIn page. Utilize Twitter and especially make use of the appropriate hashtags and groups. Make sure you are easily identified, be passionate, knowledgeable, and willing to help others. Always introduce yourself when making contact with someone new. State the purpose of why you are asking to connect. Make sure you practice good digital hygiene. Most of all, work hard and show off your skills, but be humble and know that there is always more to learn. Then, be willing to do so.
More to come on this and other topics soon. In the meantime get started by following me on Twitter @RobCoble and @GameJobNetwork and remember, if you send me a LinkedIn connect request, be sure to tell me why? Make sense?