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  • Layoff Survival: Three Tips Toward a Quick Rehire

    [02.24.09]
    - Nels Anderson
  • Title boxLast month (January 2009), I was laid off from my job as a game programmer at Klei Entertainment. We were working on Sugar Rush, a game for Nexon North America (Humanature Studios). When Nexon Global closed the studio completely, Klei's project furthest in development no longer had a publisher.

    Completely understandably, the CEO of Klei had to tighten the belt and, being that I was the most recent person to be hired, I was let go.

    While large companies such as Nexon and Disney seem to be laying people off to placate nervous shareholders rather than out of legitimate financial necessity, smaller organizations often have to cut staff just to stay afloat.

    Klei is a fantastic organization with absolutely awesome people. I learned so much in the three months that I worked there, and I don't hold it against the company that I had to be let go.

    But personally, it was a particularly horrifying experience to lose my job.

    Hundreds of other game developers in Vancouver have been laid off recently, too. A local recruiter I spoke with told me that in that last six months, nearing 900 game developers in the city had lost their jobs. Open positions are scarce and fiercely competitive. This is probably the worst time in quite a while to be looking for a job in game development in Vancouver.

    Re-employed Within the Week
    Despite the grim outlook, I began talking to people I knew in the local industry almost immediately after being laid off. Two days after I was laid off, I had an interview. And within a week, I had accepted an offer from Hothead Games.

    I had actually spoken to Hothead over a year and half previous at the Penny Arcade Expo, shortly after I graduated with my master degree. I had already accepted a position at a non-gaming start-up (being an American in Canada, I had a "get a job or get deported" deadline after graduation), but I still made a point to have a conversation with the company.

    I chatted with various Hothead folks at local events and generally stayed in touch. When I was laid off from Klei and Hothead serendipitously had a new position open up at the same time, I wasn't an anonymous resume.

    I don't doubt this groundwork helped demonstrate that my skills and passion warranted an interview. I had also been working on a number of personal projects that ensured I'd have something substantial to discuss during that interview.

    What Went Right for Me
    Considering how many good folks have lost their jobs recently, I thought I would write about my experience and try to pinpoint some of the things that I did to help me land on my feet again quickly. Many of the things that come to mind aren't things I did in the week between losing my job and finding a new one, but rather are habits I've developed. They are little things I do daily, weekly, and monthly that, in a time of crisis, have paid off immeasurably.

    I won't pretend to be some kind of authority, with a list of "do this and don't do that." But to have moved from one dream job to another with such expediency, I must have done something right.

    What I can do is relate my tale in the hope that someone will find it useful, particularly people who are currently in the job market, as well as greener game developers who, like me, sit a little too close to the axe due to their lack of experience.

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