You’ve seen a vacancy that looks perfect; your skills match up, your experience is almost parallel to the job spec, and you even live next door. You apply for the job and are unsuccessful because you’ve never worked in the games industry.
This is the catch-22 situation that we deal with on a weekly basis. How can I get experience in this industry if I need that experience to get a job in the first place? Unfortunately we can’t claim to have the exact answer to that, however we can offer some guidance.
Tailor your application to the games industry
This is probably the best advice we can give. Anything about you that would help your application to this industry should be included; whether it be modding experience, personal projects, previous work that has similarities to the job in question, or even that you are just a huge gamer. We’ve seen it countless times where we know that the candidate is mad about the games industry and the word ‘game’ isn’t even mentioned in their CV. We recommend a cover letter if you want to go into detail as we’ve seen this approach work more than once.
Highlight your transferable skills
What are you great at that matches the job spec? Hiring managers sometimes have to sift through hundreds of CVs just for one vacancy, as you can imagine they’re not going to be able to read every word, therefore all relevant skills should be near the top of your CV.
Network with games industry professionals
We can never stress enough how useful networking sites such as LinkedIn are. These sites can be used to see how games industry professionals present themselves and their work; these are the people you will be up against. On the creative side a lot of people put their portfolios online, so you can see how yours compares and ask them for critiques.
Be prepared to take a hit on your salary
Sadly you may need to take a pay cut to land a job in this industry, particularly on the technical side of things. A programmer will earn a lot more working for a big IT firm creating databases all day, of course it’s probably more exciting to develop a game so you’d need to ask yourself which is more important before applying.
Contracts will often be longer in the games industry
Most people making the crossover to games come from the TV and Film industry. It is not uncommon that the TV and Film industry will hire on short to long term contracts and will pay generously for the insecurity. The games industry will more often hire on long term contracts or permanent employment where you will get a host of other benefits; such as bonuses which will boost your salary. On base salary alone the games industry might not be able to match the high day rates of TV and Film.
The crossover is easier for some job functions
Skill shortages often force games companies to look outside of the industry to fill a vacancy. Development managers from an interactive TV background are in demand due to the functionality on the current generation of consoles. Another example of this is on the analytical side of things. Until 2012 we’d only seen a handful of analytical vacancies, since then we’ve had to open a new desk to deal with the demand for analysts; analysts that didn’t exist in this industry to begin with.
For some job functions the crossover is easier simply due to the job being fairly similar in other industries, these include illustrators, concept artists, backend programmers, server developers, character artists and anyone with digital marketing experience.
If you really want to work in the games industry it is important that you don’t give up at the first hurdle. Learn from application feedback and interviews. Change your CV and portfolio if you need to. The chances are that if you keep trying, you will find that all important games industry experience.