Thu 17th Jul 2014, by Bethany Lawrence | Tutorial
Pursuing a dream career can be a daunting task for most hopefuls wanting to break into any industry, but for students wishing to enter the CG field, they have good reason to be cautious.
Because of company closures, mass employee layoffs, and bankruptcy in the industry, there are simply not enough stable jobs to go around for animators and artists. So to the new graduate, getting a foot in the door can be a challenge. The good news is that a dream job is possible with the right know-how. You need to know exactly what employers are looking for in your application and reels.
Joining us at CG Society is Pam Hogarth, who has spent almost 30 years in the world of visual effects; 25 of which doing marketing, education and career guidance. She worked at LOOK Effects as a Director of Marketing, and still continues to work with LOOK when guiding their publicity and marketing. Before LOOK, Pam spent 12 years helping to build Gnomon School of Visual Effects. During this time she advised, taught, and placed hundreds of aspiring artists.
Pam currently runs a workshop with CGSociety educating the secretive facts of the industry (‘You as a Brand’) from putting together job applications to what the industry will expect to see in you. Pam has generously compiled a top ten list for the new graduate.
Networking isn’t just about knowing your teacher, and there are several great ways to connect with people in the industry. Going to networking events (and not just standing in the corner with a drink in hand) is one effective way, by talking to experts and asking them your questions. Familiarity in this industry is definitely a plus, when a future employer can put a face to a name. Attend as any many workshops, events, classes, and find as many people in your area related to your industry as possible.
If you live in a remote location, sometimes connections can’t be possible, and work can be harder to find as people within the industry are more inclined to hire people who are local. Relocation may have to be considered, but be aware of where you are going. For example, Los Angeles is ridiculously expensive for a new graduate, and could have your savings wiped in a week. So if the industry is your passion, be aware that relocation could be a decision you may need to make in the future. It is also suggested that if you are an overseas applicant thinking of moving to a different country, you must thoroughly research into Green Cards and Visas. Some countries only have a limited amount, and it can be extremely competitive to obtain one.
There is no better way to both network and get advice than connect with people who have been in a similar situation as you. Find graduates, talk to teachers, and get their advice on your current situation and what they would recommend in terms of entering the CG field. You will not only be able to form a suitable plan to suit yourself on what you wish to do, but you may gather tips from various people on what not to do when trying to enter the field.
Be aware that although Disney and DreamWorks may seem like a dream gig, they often have hundreds and hundreds of willing artists at their disposal, and therefore have no need to hire a graduate with a smaller portfolio. Middle to lower end companies however, may have a better chance of hiring you as they do not have the necessary funding that a high end company can afford. Aiming for these companies will offer you your best chance at success.
Past student of Pam Hogarth, Joost van Schaik's demo reel.
Experience isn’t just available for graduates, and by getting some extra experience ahead of your fellow students, this builds you up a portfolio that employers will be able to determine from the moment you graduate. Experience can come in all shapes or forms, paid and unpaid, but every project will be valuable. There are also many things in the industry you simply cannot learn from just a course. Employers often will find a student who has put in extra effort during their studies to get real world experience more innovative and impressive than ones who have simply completed their courses.
Similar to getting ahead early, there is nothing more invaluable than taking an internship role within your industry. Most often they are unpaid, but rarely, you can strike lucky. Not only will you build up a portfolio, but you will also be slowly putting together an address book of contacts that have worked and communicated with you personally. While other graduates of your level will have a piece of paper, you will have a whole toolbox of valuable materials for your career.
The industry is a fast paced environment and is constantly changing, and therefore employers are looking for candidates who can handle more than one task. It is great to specialize- but lots of companies may be using the same skills, and what can make YOU stand out is if you have something different to offer. It will also give you a wider hunting ground for jobs, and generally will make yourself more employable.
Nightmare interviews where candidates applying for DreamWorks have exclaimed: “I love Finding Nemo!” aren’t as uncommon as you may think. Get familiar with your company before your interview. Find time a day or so ahead of the interview and really research exactly who the company are, what work they’ve produced, their greatest achievements, and perhaps some of the head persons in your industry. Know enough so that you can give a brief summary.
The resume has for too long been assumed to be the paper that will get you the job you seek. This is a common misconception. How you should be thinking is that the resume is your ticket to an interview. Remember that a resume has a very simple yet daunting task: You must get a solution to the company you are applying for in under 3 pages. Don’t tell them everything, but tell them enough to be interested in interviewing you. When you get to the interview, then you can bring out your other achievements.
Evaluate your thoughts on a career in the CG industry- are you doing it out of passion, or money? If money is your answer, perhaps this fast paced industry may not be for you. As with any job, there are times it is going to be stressful or boring, and doing a career you will not love is just going to not only kill you, but be a disappointment for someone who genuinely is passionate about their work and can’t enter the field.
Past student of Pam Hogarth, Boyo Frederix's 2014 Demo Reel.
It is no secret that this industry is extremely competitive, and many students back out because of the pressure. While trying to break in, you must have a very thick skin to deal with rejections, work long hours, and may never have time for leisure. But you will get there. If you can keep sight of your career, show enough commitment, keep to your goals and work at your career bit by bit, you will eventually reach your working goals.
The ‘You as a Brand’ workshop focuses on career building through weekly classes hosted by Pam. She has reminded everyone that anyone of any level is welcome, from beginner to professional, and more information can be found below or on the CG Society Workshops page on when the next course is to begin.
Finally, Pam sends a note of assurance to all artists feeling a little daunted by the industry that no matter what, stick to your guns and persevere, as you never know what may be just around the corner. As long as you work hard and are truly passionate about what you do, you may find that climbing the employment ladder will get easier and easier with each rung.
Below is a one-hour Q&A recording, in which Pam talks about what will be covered in her upcoming CGWorkshop and answers questions about the course, your resume, reel and portfolio.
Pam has also recently launched a new seminar program as cofounder named Conduit Seminars, in which she and recruiter Debra Blanchard Knight give seminars on more tips of the trade. At CGSociety, Pam’s next class of ‘You as a Brand’ begins on the 21st of July. For more information, visit the links below: