Rule No 1 - Get really good at what you do
Your first and most important task is to get really good at what you do. This is an obvious rule, but the industry is competitive, and you need to be very, very good. At university, the pace of life can move slowly. But your life as an employee or a freelancer is a world of perpetual deadlines – any of which you will miss at your peril. You have to be on top of your craft, and be better than the rest. It takes a while to get really good, so you must use your time at uni to study hard and practice. Make your work entertaining and fun to watch.
|Your demo reel is your shopfront - make it enticing|
Rule No 2 - Have a great demo reel
Students worry a lot about grades, but the most important thing that any student will have on graduation is not their class of degree, but their demo reel. A graduate’s demo reel is their shop front, their display of talent. Nowadays it will be online at a website or blog. A great demo reel brings in work.
The number one rule of demo reels? – it should be completely free of mistakes. Most studios get piles of unsolicited demo reels. The good news is - they will probably look at your reel. The bad news is - they will probably look at your reel for ten seconds or less. So you have, in effect, ten seconds to impress. If there are any errors in your work, they will notice, and they will assume one of two things: either you saw the mistake, but could not fix it, or, worse, you didn’t see the mistake. Either way, you’re in the bin. Remember - no mistakes.
Rule No 3 - make your work easy to find.
Got yourself a blog or website? If not, why not? These days, employers won't wait for you to send them a reel - they want to click on your work. So make sure your demo reel and artwork is hosted online at your blog or website. If you don't have one, do it now.
|Quick, easy and free - a great way to showcase your talent|
Rule No 4 - polish your CV or resume
The next thing you need is an up-to-date, short, and easily readable CV (or resume in the USA). For more on how to put together a great CV, read this post.
|Insert your name here.|
Rule No 5 - do your research - find out who is hiring
There are literally hundreds of animation, games and visual effects companies in the UK alone, and hundreds more around Europe. As a citizen of the UK, you have a right to work anywhere in the EU. Remember that most media companies speak English - wherever they are located. Make a list of companies, or - better yet - create a spreadsheet, so you track where you have applied and when. Try to find out who is looking for talent. Keep an eye on job forums, industry news websites, Facebook pages. There is always a company somewhere looking to hire fresh talent.
To start looking, check out this Games Development map. This map shows the locations of Games studios all over the world. Click on the red dots to find 'em. The same goes for the CG Studios Map. As above, this map shows the location of CG studios all over the world.
Rule No 6 - sign up for job alerts.
One method is to sign up with the jobs page at awn - The Animation World Network. I have personally found work through this site - my job on Robots at Blue sky Studios came from awn.com
Rule No 7 - Start applying for jobs
Now it's time to start applying. You will need to draft a good cover letter to send to each company you are applying for. Draft a standard letter, save it, and then start adapting it. Each letter must be tailored to suit the company you are applying for so that it doesn't read like a form letter.
What are your skills, and how are they relevant to the position you are applying for? Employers like to see that applicants have done their homework and can explain why they are interested in a career with their company. Be enthusiastic, and show that you know what that company does for a living.
Rule No 8 - Consider working as a runner or intern
Finding internships is easier than finding a job, but they are still competitive. And yet, in an increasingly tough world for graduates trying to break into the creative industries, it can be an important step on the ladder to a successful career.
|Runners - first learn to make great coffee|
Rule No 9 - Get ready for interview
Company recruiters want to know that you are enthusiastic and motivated for the industry and the job role you are applying for. You must research the company, and find out what your likely job will be.
Recruiters often ask questions like: "What do you think this job involves?" or "what do you expect an average day to be like?".
They may also ask what your career goals are. This is a good opportunity to explain your career ambitions, but don't be too ambitious. Everyone wants to direct Hollywood movies and win Oscars, but the reality of most careers will likely be rather different. Being aware of what a realistic career in the visual effects industry looks like will win you the respect of the person interviewing you. Saying you want to be Stephen Spielberg will not.
Rule No 10 - Work your connections
Personal connections count. If you know people who work in the creative industries, ask them about internships. There is no shame in this - many of the jobs you get in industry will be thanks to the sort of loose connections that make up what we call networking. Employers want to be comfortable with the person they are hiring, and if someone within the company can vouch for the applicant, then so much the better.
Make a list of people you know in the business and see if they can help you out. Lots of ex-students might well be willing to help out a Bucks undergraduate - if you ask nicely. Sending down the ladder to help give an opportunity to a newbie isn't as rare as you might think.
|Keep your eyes and ears open|
Rule No 11 - Keep your ears open!
Finally, keep in touch with your fellow graduates! Your graduating class is a little community of talent, you can keep each other informed about who is hiring and who needs bodies in a hurry.
Media companies tend to practice crisis-management, which is to say that when they need people, they tend to need them right away. So keep you ear to the ground, polish your online portfolio, and be ready to move quickly.
|Be the rhino|
Rule No 12 - Don't give up
Develop rhinoceros hide. Expect rejection. Keep at it and you will be rewarded.
(Editor's Note: For more on what studios look for in a great demo reel, try this link, and read our guide to student demo reels. Hear what London's Blue Zoo has to say about finding work, and take a look at this video on portfolios by Sony Pictures Animation. You can also watch Alex's ten minute video on creating a great reel, and read this post on the perfect demo reel. Also, check out our guide to animation careers here, and also take a look at this map of digital studios - a great place to start your search for work in the business. Learn the nuts and bolts of freelance life by reading our guide to invoicing clients, and our guide to putting together a great CV. Also download the free Escape Studios guide to careers in VFX.)