The majority of games career advice you’ll read is the nuts and bolts of using recruitment agencies or building a portfolio. What is less discussed is your attitude and your personality.
Who you know and how much they like you has a huge impact on your likelihood of getting employed or promoted, especially in the incestuous UK development scene. If you shit your pants at Company A in the morning, they’ll be chuckling about it at Company B before noon.
However, if you win friends and influence people, the grapevine blossoms with positive words for you. And while you can’t please all of the people all of the time there’s lots you can do to manage your ‘personal brand’.
So, I spoke with universally liked industry nice man James Parker, the freelance script writer and designer, about how to approach your career. Here, I describe our findings.
Know Who You Are
Pop psychology edict dictates you are either a Type A or B person: As are highly strung ambitious types with lots of opinion, while Bs are laid-back steady workers. Knowing yourself and how you behave in a group, plus the personality types of those around you will hold you back from potential conflict.
Making games is about solving ill-defined problems with multiple potential solutions. Career-hindering conflict often arises from differences of opinion in tacking these challenges. Type As overpower Bs and clash with other As, while a group of Bs saunter along not challenging each other.
Disagreement is good – the challenging of opinions seeks exploration of other, often better, solutions. However, when disagreement becomes anger and frustration teams fall apart. It is the job of everyone to check themselves and others around them.
Ask: Am I being a dick here? Is everyone getting heard, including me? Do I fully understand everyone? Should I concede my point on this issue?
If you think someone isn’t doing this, pull them aside and speak to them privately. It will improve your happiness, your output and your career.
Be in the Room
Wallflowers get employed and promoted less than the life-and-soul types. It’s a given. Yet, affecting an extroverted personality makes you feel uncomfortable and come across as disingenuous to others.
However, to progress your career you need to befriend decision makers; even if you’re shy. Being in the room is the start of that: Get to as many meet ups, jams, socials, expos and conference as you can. Then talk to people.
Ninety-nine per cent of people in the industry are friendly, passionate people. The reason they’re here and not estate agents is that they love games, so be at ease.
Remember their names and ask about their careers and background. Request they introduce you to others; ask for their opinions or help. This is a light bulb to the moth of narcissism: people like to have their self-image of greatness reinforced. But be humble yourself. Join the conversation and don’t force it around to your agenda.
I’d extend this advice to Twitter: Get on and chat with people, but think about what you’d say to someone’s face and avoid, as James puts it, “being a keyboard warrior”.
There may come a time in your career when you get the chance to be public facing – either in the press or by speaking at conferences. This gives you the chance to propel your notoriety – being on stage or in the pages of industry press affords a level reverence towards you.
However, being in the public eye, especially with contentious opinions, has been seen to open you to career-damaging public criticism, amplified through social media, which can be hard to deal with, even for the thick-skinned.
While it may boost your progress it isn’t essential. Many build long, successful careers without being particularly known, while others just enjoy going out and representing themselves or their companies.
If you feel comfortable, then do it. But remember to enjoy it, be open and don’t take yourself too seriously. People warm to those that are honest, humble and happy.
Be a veteran
This advice is likely contentious. However, if you take away one thing let it be this: your career will rest on more than your ability.
You need to work on your qualifications and interview technique, but also pay mind to who you are, how you work with people and what impression you leave. Successful industry veterans often leave a photofit impression: passionate, friendly, confident and knowledgable.
They get that aura from working hard, being nice to people and, let me tell you from personal experience, never shitting themselves at Company A.