Repost:10 Things to Do While Waiting for that Perfect Job in Game Development

I repost these few things because they’ll all I’ve wrote of worth as of yet. But just you wait! New posts coming soon!

10 Things to Do While Waiting for that Perfect Job in Game Development

Alright, so you’ve graduated your school of choice, and you are all ready to make some games! But you’ve already realized that this whole getting-a-job thing might be harder than you thought. You’ve already been to GDC once or twice, and if you haven’t why not? But you’ve been to GDC, made some connections, shown your work, you’ve applied everywhere, and still no luck. I’ve been there, believe me. And I have a few reminders for all of you aspiring game developers out there.

1. Continue building your portfolio.

I think this one is the most important, simply because I see so many young game developers just get out of school and stop. They show me some content they’ve made out in school six months ago, and when I ask to see what they are working on now, they start to look around, and say “oh, well, I’ve been busy and, well…” I’m here to tell you guys, it’s not impressive. Yes, you’ve been trying to find a job, but you need to keep your skills honed. It seems like the artist side of things is more likely to just stop working then the coder side, but that is just my experience. The more you practice, the better you will get, and if you don’t have a job after six months, you can at least have an updated demo reel.

2. Learn every program you can.

In the game industry, companies will often use many different programs to create their games, and you should know at least a bit about all of them. Maybe you came from a school that exclusively taught Autodesk Maya. Well, you are likely to find that most game studios also use Autodesk 3DS Max. Don’t get to caught up with your favorite program that you discount all the others that the industry is using. Photoshop or Mudbox? Learn them both. Most software companies will let you download trial versions or limited license student editions. You can’t use these versions to make money, but you can learn how the program works with some of your spare time. While a game company that hires you will train you in their ways of doing things, it will help you immensely to have a good grasp of all the programs they use. Research your dream companies, find out all the different tools they use if you can. Then sit yourself down and learn them yourself!

3. Build a professional presence online using LinkedIn.

Do you have a LinkedIn profile yet? If not, then go sign up now and build your page until it is at a 100% completeness according to the site. Once you’ve reached that mark, you will have added a good amount of information about your experience, and you will have reached out to some of your friends or instructors who are already using LinkedIn for recommendations of your work. Your LinkedIn functions like an online resume. Listing your experience, showing recommendations of your work, and you personally, and also allows potential employers see if you share a connection in their network. If you were taught by a potential employer’s friend, they just call that friend up and ask if you are likely to be a good hire. Find as many acquaintances on LinkedIn as you can, and encourage your friends to build their own profiles. I myself do job searches through the site, as do many other employers. LinkedIn recently added a “follow this company” feature, where you can click a button, and then receive a feed on your personal page about the changes happening to that company, just as who was hired, who left the company, and what jobs the company posts to LinkedIn. It is a great tool, and I recommend you take advantage of it.

4.  Build and update your website.

Employers these days like to see that you have your own personalized website, and that you update it frequently. Use it as an online portfolio to showcase all that work you are doing, if you are following my first piece of advice. Potential employers like to see your writing ability. Why? Because artists and programmers alike will often need to document your work. Use a blog as part of your website, and update at least weekly. Write about your industry, and the new developments that have you excited. Share any information given to you by your friends or former teachers, or any other contacts within the industry that you have. Write about the latest jobs you’ve applied for and why you would really like to work at those companies. And get your friends to link to your website, and comment on your blog posts to raise your visibility on the search results of Google and Yahoo. Build your site with searches in mind. If you’ve never thought about search engine optimization before, go check a book or two on it out of the library and see if some of the suggestions the author makes will work for you. SEO is something a lot of sites overlook, and you can use that fact to your advantage.

5. Be a professional presence online.

Don’t forget to keep your other online presences professional. Have a professional email and a personal email. That is a good way to separate things you might not want anyone to see from the image you want to employers to have of you.  Make sure whatever Facebook and Twitter accounts you use for personal fun are not in anyway linked to your professional email or website. And keep in mind, that even if they are completely separate, there is no guarantee that someone won’t find them, so don’t go too crazy. Be polite and respectful on whatever forums you post on, no matter how unrelated they are to your chosen industry. The internet has a way of figuring out connections, and you do not want some to come across a flaming post you wrote one day in a fit of temper.

6.  Be part of the industry.

But how you say? Online of course! And I don’t mean by playing World of Warcraft. If you are an artist, you should already be a part of CG Society. Post your art, get critiques, and give advice to fellow artists. Many of my friends have picked up mentors that way. If you are into games, you are likely already active on Gamasutra, GameDev.net, which markets itself as the leading resource for game developers, and of course IGN, the most often visited site in the game development community. These sites and many more have message boards or forums and the like, and being active in some of these allows you to hear what your fellow gamers like and don’t like about their current games, which can give you ideas for later!

7. Personalize each job application.

I hope you’ve heard this enough times to fully believe it, because it is very important. Do not send out 50 cover letters with just the names changed, or the first paragraph slightly altered. Make each cover letter unique, and make sure you talk about what you can bring to the table. Tell us about what your teammates have liked about you, and things your teachers have complimented you on. Sending out unique cover letters saves you the embarrassment of friends at different companies talking over recent applications, and realizing they’ve both gotten one of your cookie-cutter applications. I had an instructor tell me that cautionary tale. It makes you look lazy, which is definitely something to avoid.  Use keywords contained in the job posting to make sure that your resume is found easily in the company’s database. Most companies use a database to store applicants, and use search terms from the job posting to pull up candidates for a particular job.

8. Always have a business card on hand.

This is more important in different areas, but if you live in an area where there are a lot of companies in your industry, you especially should have a unique business card with your pertinent contact information on it with you at all times. You never know when a chance meeting could leave you wishing for a way to leave your contact information with someone. When I say pertinent information, I mean your phone number, professional email address, and website. Business cards no longer need to have your address on them. Most correspondence will happen over email. Make sure your name is readable and easy to see. I’ve seen too many business cards with great graphics that leave me searching for the owner’s name and information. The important part is your name, not the graphics you can create.

9. Get a job.

“I’m trying!” You answer. I mean, any job. Unless you have no loans and enough money to live off of, if your dream job isn’t forthcoming, move to a promising area, if you can, and get a temporary job. Freelance work is a good idea too, if you have the proper licenses for the programs you are using. You do not want to be caught making money off a student version of a program. You do not have the rights to do that, and you can end up with a hefty fine and a stay behind bars. But if you can’t freelance, you can get a job that is not in your industry. It might mean swallowing your pride and working at the local Best Buy, but you probably know a bit about computers, and it will be money coming in. So many of my friends, and students I’ve known coming out of school, just sat around and tried to get industry jobs while they slowly ran out of money. I didn’t want to work outside my industry either, but having that money coming in meant I could keep looking. And never say no to an internship, unless you’ve heard really awful things about the situation from people who’ve done that internship. Many schools can help you use an internship to push back your student loans, which will be a big help if the internship is unpaid. Internships help you get your foot in the door, and should never be taken lightly.

10. Keep your connections alive.

What I mean by this is to make sure that all those connections you made while in school stay connected. In the months after I graduated, I watched Facebook and LinkedIn updates carefully. Most of my friends struggled for months to find jobs, but then slowly but surely they started talking about art tests and interviews, and maybes and hope-sos, and finally, YES as they got the job. No matter how hard it is, keep in touch with these guys, encourage them as they take their art test, or programming test, text them and ask how it going, and when they get the job, keep up with them as they learn what it is like to actually be in the industry. They won’t be able to get you a job immediately, but they might be able to put in a good word for you at HR, or give you advice for the next time you apply. And they can only do those things if you are fresh in their mind. Don’t be pushy or annoying, and make it about about them, and they will remember you kindly. Keep in touch with teachers, most of them already have worked in the industry and have connections. If you are fresh in those teacher’s minds, when their friends mention an opening at X company, maybe they will think of you and send it your way. Networking, networking, networking!

And that, my friends is all I have for you today. Good luck, and happy hunting!


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About chemdani

I am a lot of things. I am a Entertainment Business MS, I am an artist, and a writer. I am a friend, sister, daughter, and niece. I am silly and smart and sometimes funny. Altogether, I'm thoroughly Chelsea.
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