There’s never a truly safe time to hand in your notice and head off for pastures new. But, more often than not, the thinking time we have over Christmas prompts us to seek better or different opportunities.
Of course, the economic decline has made that even tougher in recent years, with hundreds of people across the industry desperately clinging onto their jobs rather than looking for new ones.
And, despite the Government officially declaring an end to the recession early last year, the jobs market has been much slower to recover than recruitment experts might have liked.
“After the election, we saw a distinct drop in confidence and the number of jobs being placed,” says Lis Welsh, owner of Lis Welsh Search & Selection.
“More companies are using their own resources to recruit staff. There is less need for the skills of the traditional recruitment company in the games industry.”
Avatar Games Recruitment’s MD Eamonn Mgherbi adds: “Employers have approached the jobs market with much more caution, with tighter financial budgets set by companies to spend on recruitment.
“Opportunities for lesser-experienced individuals are also tighter than a couple of years ago as companies are more focused on employing experienced people who require less support.”
NEW YEAR, NEW JOB
But the games industry has entered 2011 with a fresh batch of optimism and recruitment agencies have been flooded by new candidates and vacancy listings. Many firms believe it’s going to be a good year for the jobs market.
“It’s going to be massive,” says Kim Adcock, owner of OPM Jobs. “We’re already registering more high quality, experienced candidates than we have in a long time. With growth comes opportunity and people are hungry for a fresh challenge now that there is some confidence in the economy.”
Aardvark Swift’s sales and marketing director Ian Goodall agrees: “Most publishers are more positive, although they know that there are still tough times ahead.
“We’re seeing a lot more recruitment in the digital space: digital marketing, community and web-focused roles.”
Some sectors have proven to be less buoyant. Goodall observes that the digital shift has led to fewer opportunities focused on boxed product or retail, while Adcock claims the transition towards a downloads-centric market has “changed the face of sales, marketing, PR and distribution forever.”
A CHANGE OF SCENERY
As the games industry evolves, many people are seizing the opportunity to move into different fields entirely.
But recruiters are warning that such jumps are not to be taken lightly. Applicants must consider whether or not they’re truly ready before making the transition to another part of the industry, and polishing their CV is essential (see ‘Top Tips For Your CV’).
“You need to look at the common ground and skillsets between sectors,” says Way Forward director Gavin Sanders. “You also need to promote and highlight these on your CV.”
Welsh warns: “But be aware most companies are looking for senior experience personnel that can hit the ground running. They want people with experience in that sector and the knowledge required to carry out their role with little extra help.”
Adcock agrees: “It may still be a little early in the upturn for games companies to hire unproven professionals. There is some money around now but everyone is being incredibly careful about how they are going to spend it.”
That’s not to discourage everyone from moving. In 2010, people from around the industry have proven it is possible to successfully leap from PR to journalism or distribution to publishing (see ‘Switching Sectors’).
SEARCHING FOR STAFF
Companies looking to hire are also being cautioned. With blockbusters like Black Ops outperforming all other media, the notion of working in games is becoming increasingly attractive to people in other industries.
But skills and attitude are more important than ever, and firms would do well to remember that if they are to continue growing the games market.
“Don’t fall into the trap of thinking the market is flooded so it will be easy to hire,” Goodall warns prospective employers.
“Good people are in short supply as ever and many are staying put – it is causing a shortage of skills in some areas. And many people have been forced out of the industry, so the ‘pool’ is not as big as you think.”
Mgherbi adds: “It’s key to hire people who aren’t just looking for a job. You need people who want to work on your project, who will put extra hours in, who genuinely care if each project is a success or not.
“Finding the right employee who has the same values as your company can make or break a project.”
Like the economy itself, the jobs market is stabilising. As that happens, more and more opportunities will arise for people to switch between sectors, rise through the ranks or embark on new journeys entirely. But only with shrewd applications and good planning will they be able to find their perfect job.
Advice for those who have moved around the industry
Was: Account Manager, Bastion PR
Now: Freelance journalist
“When you’re moving into freelance, you need to take account of the gap between the last wage slip, and the first freelance payment – freelance is so much less reliable than a full-time job. You have to work twice as hard to make sure that the same money will come in. And it’s crucial to get work lined up before your previous job ends. I’ve managed to get myself into a situation where I can afford to not get paid for a few months. Plus, I have no commitments, so it’s easy to gamble now.”
Was: Product Marketing Manager, Gem Distribution
Now: Trade Marketing Manager, Nintendo UK
“With any change of role, there are always transitions to go through. However with so many great projects to get my teeth into and an experienced, inspiring team to work with, this transition has been a pleasure. I’ve experienced so many benefits by moving to such a forward-thinking, marketing-driven company that it’s hard to single out one or two. If you’re think of moving, make sure you have an open mind, be ready to learn and prepare for an exciting road ahead!”
Was: Performance Manager, NHS
Now: Data Analyst, SCEE
“My salary may have dropped when I left the public sector, but the benefits are outweighing any drawbacks. My advice to anyone who wants to take the leap is to be aware that occasionally playing Killzone will never be sufficient – it’s important to have an understanding of games from a variety of angles, as well as a skillset you can demonstrate that makes you a genuinely attractive proposition.”
TOP TIPS FOR YOUR CV
The experts’ insight into keeping your resumé fresh
* Keep it legible and remove any photos. Get your dates right and add the months, not just the years. Condense it to one to two pages.
* Hiring managers and HR people sometimes have hundreds of CVs to assess – make sure yours is concise, attractive and will encourage them to want to meet you.
* Include hobbies and interests. Companies employ people, not robots. This also gives the interviewer the opportunity to find common interest and build a rapport.
* If you provide a link to professional or social networking sites, make sure your online profile is professional and that anything compromising is visible to friends only.
* Keep it relevant. Consider whether you need to write a CV for each role you apply for, emphasising the skills/experience most appropriate for the position in question
* Always include your responsibilities and achievements. These are your selling features. Employers want to know what you can do for them.