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  • Event Wrap Up: Game Career Seminar 2007

    - Beth A. Dillon
  •  Introduction

    The Game Career Seminar, a one-day program designed for students and individuals interested in learning how to break into the videogame industry, was held at the Game Developers Conference on Friday, March 9.

    In addition to the day's sessions, GDC featured a Career Pavilion where attendees were able to meet with leading companies and HR representatives.

    Practical Career Advice

    Fiona Cherbak, Director of Client Relations at Enterprise Talent and Chair of the Development Committee for Women in Games International, provided helpful information in the session "Stay On Top of Your Game: Practical Career Advice from an HR Insider." Cherbak draws on her expertise as a recruitment specialist at Walt Disney Feature Animation, where she was solely responsible for recruiting over 300 animation artists and programmers for seven feature films.

    First, you have to ask yourself some questions: What do you want out of a game career? Do you play a lot of games? What kind? What type of career interests you? Do you understand the different types of game careers? Do you understand the abilities and aptitudes you have? Are you a team player or an individual contributor? Are you flexible about your career path? What's your plan or strategy to get there?

    Networking, covered more in-depth in a later session by Darius Kazemi, is an essential piece to attaining a career in game industry. First, you should have a personal business card, and identify yourself on your card by your profession (not exclusively that you are a student, even if you are). Second, you need to meet like-minded individuals so that you can hone your networking skills and find people to explore and develop ideas with. You can join associations or societies such as the International Game Developers Association. By attending conferences and events, you can meet new people and not only make connections yourself, but also connect people with each other. Volunteerism will pay back your efforts in the connections it affords you.

    Research is another vital step to getting into game industry in the right career path. You should read and research about people, companies, and products constantly. Before you apply to a company, find out about their employee culture and how leaders communicate to staff. Develop relationships with mentors who can share their knowledge and experience. As Cherbak points out, most game professionals are approachable!

    Internships are often equivalent to interviews in a company setting. After identifying available internships, establish an application process and contact within either the Human Resources department, a formal program, or by applying online. Play the company's games before you apply. Be patient and persistent, and when you become an intern, treat the position as a real job. Of course, you'll need to be prepared to be paid little to nothing, but don't be undervalued. Frequently, internships lead to in-company hiring, so show your potential employers how resourceful you can be.

    Human Resources departments are "typically the gatekeepers and the exit," said Cherbak. You should understand a company's recruitment and hiring process, and then identify key Human Resource and recruitment employees. Above all, avoid sending your resume blind, and don't cold call. Once you do submit your information, give them at least one working week before re-contacting them. Third party endorsement often encourages responses, as does having a relationship with Human Resources. "That spider of networking is what will ultimately serve you best," Cherbak stated.

    External recruiting firms are another way to get jobs. Firms always have a multitude of clients, so check in with them about who they are working with. Their fee is paid by the employer, not you, which means that their obligation is to that company, but can work to your favor. They often work with a hiring manager and appreciate your ability to update your resume when they need it. They can give great advice on resumes, demos, portfolios, and more. However, they usually work with experienced talent, not entry level beginners.

    Great resumes get attention and are easy to view. You should use bullet points and avoid paragraphs. Of course, always proofread for spelling and grammar. Leave off non-essential experience, but definitely include anything concrete you have done, such as school projects or self-developed games. If your school information is listed first, the Human Resources department often assumes you are a student and positioned for entry level jobs. Portfolios, however, which are separate from resumes, now need to be online and constantly updated.

    Interviews are a pivotal moment in landing a job. Cherbak provided the views of both companies and prospective employees. From a company's view, they may be asking questions such as: Are you qualified for the role you're applying for? Could you be trained? What's your work style or work ethic? Are you a team player? Or an individual contributor? Will you take direction? Are you a cultural fit? From your view, you should consider the games they make, the team you'll be working with, compensation, geographical location, and your opportunity to advance. Will you gain new skills and new contacts? Does the environment feel good? Can you make the commitment? During the interview, make sure you dress for the company appropriately. The Human Resource representative is likely to inform you about company culture if you ask. Come with questions about your goals, and know the company you are applying for.

    Beware of job descriptions that use the word "passion." There are few people without passion in the game industry, warns Cherbak, and you have to be cautious of cases where this may lead to exploitation. In summary, when evaluating a potential job, be sure to understand factors such as projects, salary, title, benefits, environment, relocation, flexibility, peers, and bosses. Prepare your resume, list of projects, demos, portfolio, and references. Following the interview, you should show commitment and follow-through.


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