For many graduating students, their biggest fear is not being able to get a job. Not only are you competing for jobs with established industry insiders, you’re also competing against your entire graduating class!
There aren’t enough jobs for everybody. If you don’t stand out from the crowd, you’ll be left behind. Here’s how you can differentiate yourself and be somebody those hiring managers can’t pass up.
Nail the Basics
Before a hiring manager (HM) will even look at you, there are a few things you have to do right . You need to have a good resume. Write a solid cover letter. Have a stand-out portfolio. But that’s just the baseline. Most of your peers will also do that stuff, so you need to nail these basics just to stay in the running.
Prove That You Can Deliver
From a hiring manager’s (HM’s) perspective, it’s very tough to know whether or not an applicant can actually deliver great results. Great results can’t be gleaned from a resume, or from an interview. Some companies give “take home” tests in attempt to assess results, but those can easily be gamed.
The only way to know for sure if a candidate can deliver, is by looking at their past results.
Do you have past results of delivering great products? You have to prove it to the hiring manager! If you’re a level designer, show the HM some great levels you’ve built. If you’re an artist, show them a great portfolio. If you’re a programmer, send them a demo that you coded in Flash or Unity 3D or whatever.
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Since you’re applying for a job making video games, there’s one sure way to prove that you can deliver: show them a video game that you’ve made! It’s hard to argue with actual results. I’m shocked at how few candidates bother to send me a demo of good work they’ve done.
What if you don’t have a demo to show? Then you’d better get to work building one. Because I can guarantee, at this very moment, somebody else from your graduating class is building a sweet little demo right now. And they’re about to get that job instead of you.
Be A Rock Star
Every hiring manager is on the lookout for what we call “rock stars.” Rock stars are those rare individuals that are highly talented, productive, fun to work with, and amplify the power of their teams. They’re on a steep trajectory toward greatness.
Are you a rock star? Maybe you are but you just don’t know it yet. Maybe you haven’t been building games long enough to compare yourself to others. But it’s never too soon to start thinking like a rock star, and behaving like a rock star. Here’s what a top performer looks like:
- Highly productive. Do you get a lot done? I mean, A LOT? A highly-productive person doesn’t just get double the work done. They get up to 10 times more work done than an average performer. (I’m not exaggerating, this is backed up by years of data.) On the flip side, they rarely get paid 10 times as much. So it’s no wonder companies are on the prowl for high performers: they’re great bang-for-buck. Start paying attention to how you work and how much you get done. Start optimizing your time and productivity so you can get more done than everybody else. A lot more.
- Highly results-focused. Do you wait for somebody to tell you what to do? Do you constantly look for ways to improve your product and team, and then just do it? Self-motivated people are always pushing the boundaries. They’re always looking for ways to improve themselves and their teams to get the best results. You’ll never hear them say “that’s not my job,” because they consider their “job” to be building a great product and contributing every way they can. Stop working in your own little bubble, and start taking ownership of the end product. Do whatever it takes to make it awesome. That’s how you deliver great results.
- Expert in something useful. If you’re just graduating and starting your career, you’ve learned a little about a lot of things but didn’t “go deep” in any specific area. That’s a great foundation for starting a career. But to stand out from the crowd you need to offer something that everybody else does NOT have – and something that hiring companies need. You could be “expert” in a particular art technique, or a particular design tool, or a particular area of technology. Note that “expert” is a relative term. The goal is to be able to say “I have more knowledge/skill/talent in this applicable area than anybody else in my class, and that’s why you should hire me!”
Be Somebody That People Want To Work With
When a company is evaluating a candidate, they’re looking for more than just knowledge, skill, and talent. They’re also looking for somebody they can trust while working, crunching, watching movies, playing games, or debating the game design. They know they’ll be spending some long and stressful hours with you someday. So if you want them to hire you, then show that you’re somebody that’s fun to work with. Somebody that will make a great teammate.
So be yourself. Be smart, be funny, be friendly, be generous, be passionate. Be somebody that you’d want to work with, and chances are good they’ll want to work with you too. After all, everybody wants to work with a rock star!
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