Saturday, 25 April 2009

The Route to Success (or Road to Ruin)

I previously addressed how the games industry lacks conduits for good management technique, and managerially trained job candidates into the industry; but with that aside I'd like to take a look at some of things that really help anyone get a head start on applying for a games industry job.

It’s been said far too many times, but the most difficult step in the creative industries is the first one. Without relevant experience in the industry you want to be a part of, how can you impress upon your prospective employer that you have what it takes?

Well, initially I'd say it’s most important to take your time to research properly. This includes a number of elements; both the practical- such as writing a covering letter and CV effectively and having a clear way to show your portfolio of work, and the more industry-based research, such as knowing the post that’s available, and knowing the right people to speak to about it.

Stupid mistakes in a job application are always frowned upon, but I think some people make too much of a meal out of problems like this. A strong application will still be looked upon favourably, but try to eliminate silly errors with proof reading. Know the formal approach and don't cut corners.

Tailor your CV to the job you're applying to and know the required look and approach for your position, and whether it’s a good idea to try to go against the grain, or if simple is better. I would even suggest getting in touch with people in the industry to ask their opinion of your CV. I refined mine by speaking to Colin MacDonald of Realtime Worlds, Iain Donald of BBC Prototype, Neil Thompson at SCEE Europe and Frank Arnot of 4J Games. Just bear in mind that you should be critical of any feedback you get, don't change everything because one person says so. Try to use your own judgement. It’s also a great way to approach people within the industry and have your CV passed around without actually formerly applying.

This leads me to my next point, which is to network. If you are equally matched to others applying for a job, getting to know the people involved in the company could help you get the position. It won't make up for a dodgy resume and lacking experience or qualifications, but knowing where and when to find games industry people is a good way to advertise yourself, and build trust with that person. Not to over-analyse too much, but if the person can happily chat to you over a beer, then they gain a good impression of your overall character. Don't go in selling yourself wildly and embarrassing yourself, but make sure you say enough for them to judge your skills and assertiveness. Attend anything like game expos or conventions, or more informal game nights out. These things are all happening you just need to look to find them.

This brings me to my wrap up. Getting these industry contacts is hard without a first job. But another thing you can be doing to boost your chances at a job is creating palpable, immediate work that can truly show off your skills. A good CV is one thing, and a good manner in person is another, but having an actual artefact to show- a creative piece that lets them see your vision in action- gives them a far better idea of what you can offer them. For artists this is a little different, but for designers and producers: get stuck in and make that game idea you're planning.

One, very final note: When you approach an employer, don't just take it for granted that jobs happen through the HR department. Want to be a designer? Find out who their designers are, find their email address and get in touch with them. Ask a question of them, and then propose your position and ask for help and input. Sometimes you'll get nothing in reply, sometimes you'll get forwarded to the HR department, but when it works, you benefit greatly.

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