n-Space Blog

Standing Out in the Crowd

Posted in Career Advice by Mrs. Cheryl O'Leary on April 12, 2011

This year’s GDC was a new experience for me; I had the privilege of representing n-Space in our first ever career pavilion at the show.  It was a whirlwind of resume gathering, handshaking, and introductions.  I learned so much from the three days I worked the booth that I wanted to share a few tidbits that might help with the search for your job in the Game Industry. Hopefully these will help those searching now, and, as was the case for many of you, sometime in the not so distant future.

The one consistent question we were asked was this: “What can I show / do / learn to make me stand out in the crowd of applicants?”  It is a complex question and yet a very important one to answer.

The reality of the world is this:  ideas are many, but being able to make something concrete with your idea is very rare.  In other words, the doing part is the most important part of any resume, or life, for that matter. n-Space boils this down into a three phrase philosophy:

Results Matter – Character over Credentials – Expert is a Skill

Let’s break this philosophy down and see how it could apply to your resume, website or portfolio to make it stand out in the crowd.

I will begin with the most important part, in my opinion, “Character Over Credentials.”  The Gaming Industry is a relatively new one, with an incredibly magnetic pull on new talent. While the energy and enthusiasm that comes with being young is definitely a plus for most Game Developers, the lack of professional experience is definitely a drawback.  What to do?

When we review a resume or a portfolio or website we can usually tell almost immediately if you have what it takes to make it.  How so you say?  By seeing what you have actually done.  How much care and attention to detail have you given in crafting this website / portfolio / resume?  n-Space wants to see that you have a life outside of school and that making art or coding or designing is your passion.  Sure school projects are great, but have you made a game on your own or with a small group of friends?  How entrepreneurial have you been?  “With my schedule,” you say, “how could I possibly fit in school, work, parties and personal projects?”

People that stand out… make it work.

I have seen many great resumes from young people with things that make them stand out: a would-be Game Designer that started his own food delivery business in school, a Programmer that had actually coded games on the side and you could download them from his website, an Environmental Artist who cared enough to show many, many examples of High Poly and Low Poly models and fly throughs of scenes that weren’t part of her senior group project, they were done on her own for her own pleasure.  These people show Character and Passion for what they do, a willingness to go above and beyond, just because they love doing it.

Having lots of formal education is not the only way to make yourself stand out, nor is it a guarantee of success. We have people on staff that are mostly self-taught and are some of our most skilled experts. They show a love of learning, self determination, initiative and well… great Character!

The other two parts of n-Space’s philosophy really branch from the root of Character:  Results Matter and Expert is a Skill.

Let’s look at Results Matter as it would apply to a resume / portfolio / website.  You are your own best judge. Do you think your work is outstanding?  If not, what can be done to improve it? Hone your skills and put the time in to make your work outstanding.  Be selective and show only your very best work. Make sure to look and see the work of those you are competing with and strive to do better. Seek out and accept constructive criticism. Potential employers have looked at thousands of renderings, millions of lines of code and have read hundreds if not thousands of ideas.  Nothing looks outstanding by accident or miracle, so put the time in to be the best.  On that last note, let’s transition into the last bit of n-Space’s philosophy:  Expert is a Skill.

For most people, being an expert at what they do does not fall into their laps wrapped in glittery paper and tied up with a bow.  There are always exceptions, of course, but most of us have to work really hard for great lengths of time to even be good at something.  Skills are learned, step by tedious step, one at a time.  It is perseverance and overcoming the tedium of the tasks that gives you expertise, shows great results and builds a resilient character.  One of the best lines I can see on a resume/portfolio cover page, or website is a simple one:  I have a love for learning and am willing to do whatever it takes to make myself the best at whatever I want to become.  This is important, it shows humility, knowledge that there are always others that are both better at what you want to do and worse, but you want to push yourself to be the best.

A couple of last ideas to make yourself stand out in the crowd:

  • Always follow up giving your resume or card to someone with an e-mail or call. Always.
  • Make sure everything is spelled correctly, is grammatically correct and functions on your resume, portfolio or website.
  • Be clear and concise.
  • Be aware of, and gracious for, time that is given to you by a potential employer.  Everyone’s time is precious to them.
  • Remember to give a personal touch to your introduction, pointing out something you like about the potential employer, and why you would fit in nicely.
  • Research potential employers thoroughly. Use the many tools at your disposal today to make contact with decision-makers long before sending a resume. Building relationships like this takes time, so start early. Use LinkedIn and twitter professionally. Avoid contacting professionals via Facebook and be mindful of what you share on your own pages as most potential employers will use them to get to know you.
  • Present yourself and your work in the most professional way you can.
  • Be yourself, be confident.

Remember nothing happens by accident or miracle, just a whole lot of hard work.

Over the next months I plan on blogging more on this subject going into greater detail about specific skills and abilities that stand out in websites, portfolios and resumes, with video advice from some of our in-house experts.  Check back for Environmental Art Advice, Creative Director Advice, Technical Director Advice, Art Director Advice and more!