Critical advice to help you land your first job in vfx, animation, games and design

Critical advice to help you land your first job in vfx, animation, games and design

We all have that one friend or family member that will never understand why it’s so hard to get a job in the film, games or design industries. This person typically comes from a non-creative and equally boring industry like finance or sales. Or they might have that “know it all” persona that is harder to crack than a Nokia 3310.

No matter what you try, they simply can't relate to the challenges of learning software, multiple coding languages, hardware debugging, competition from other artists and manuals that are thousands of pages long. Then there is that uneasy feeling that you don’t even know what you need to include in your portfolio. It’s not like you can just pass an exam and get a job like your annoying friend, you need to create a slick portfolio filled with projects to impress the ultimate final boss - The Recruiter.

The good news is that each of these challenges can be tackled with the right approach. I've put together a list of tips that I believe all junior artists should understand, and also a few habits you should follow to help you land your dream job.

Show you understand the pipeline

Job applicants often forget to show their understanding of the pipeline. For example, if you are applying for a concept artist job, make sure your concepts are descriptive and could easily be passed to a Layout Artist, or Modeling Artist. This goes go for everyone else in the pipeline. Are you a rigger? Then make sure that an Animator could easily pick up your rigs and they are intuitive and easy to add new features and modifications.

Less is more

Applicants always go for quantity over quality which is a terrible idea. You will always be remembered for your weakest project. It's a much safer bet to remove it from your portfolio or demo reel, instead of leaving a doubt in the minds of the recruitment teams.

No research about the company

It’s obvious when no research has been done about a company. I've had people apply for jobs at Visual Effects companies with portfolios filled with toony and stylised work. Even if the work is amazing, you're going to make your life much harder if you can't demonstrate skills that relate to the job. In the case of a job in Visual Effects, photorealism, and matching photographic reference is key, so demonstrate it.

Show your reference

CG is boundless and allows us to create anything we can dream. This is not always helpful when applying for jobs. I completely encourage everyone to spend time doing this to develop your skills, but make sure to round out your portfolio with work that actually meets a clear brief, or matches a predetermined style of visual concept.

Go beyond the tutorial or class project

Recruiters love finding fresh talent, but what they don't love is to see the same tutorial or class project over, and over again. Sure, you created something cool, and it looks great on your portfolio, but it's highly recommended to take your project and push it further. Imagine what message that sends to a recruiter. I know who I'd be interviewing first.

Convert your Resume

Make sure to have a downloadable PDF version of your resume, not just an image. Don't even send a Word Document either. It doesn't matter how good the document looks on your computer, it will always look different when someone opens it themselves. Control the narrative, send a PDF document that will even allow bots to read the contents.

Show your Art and Passion

There is always such a focus on 3D skills when people apply for jobs in games, animation and visual effects. It makes sense, you've worked yourself to the bone learning everything you can about 3D and you want to showcase it to the world. But like all rockstars, remember your roots. Remember your foundational skills and allocate some space to show them off. Adding a project to your portfolio filled with examples of life drawing, real world sculptures, painting and even photography is highly encouraged to as supporting material. It's also a great discussion point for interviews and helps show your interests.

Presentation is Crucial

There is nothing worse than poor presentation when it comes to portfolios. All it shows is that you can't manage your time and are happy to present poor work. A recruiter is looking for someone to represent their company. Consider two job applicants for an animator position. Both have equally good skills, but one presents playblasts with poor lighting and basic shaders. The other presents clean renders, with appealing lighting and shaders, all nicely edited together to tell a story. Which person do you think will get called in for an interview? How much extra time was needed to do render your work, instead of output playblasts... absolutely nothing is the scheme of things.

Keep creating on a daily basis

Getting a job in games, animation and visual effects can take a long time. With this in mind, the worst thing you can do is stop learning. You need to keep creating on a daily basis. You need to keep pushing you skills. The best part of this is you will keep having a new excuse to reach out to recruitment teams. There is absolutely nothing wrong with sharing a new project with a recruiter, and I'd actually highly recommend it.