It’s getting around to graduation time for you college kids so all this portfolio advice stuff rattling around in my head seems timely. 

No news or show and tell today.  Believe me, I’m disappointed too.  I am scrounging together research for some environments to go with the mouse warrior I posted earlier so keep a lookout for some really rough doodles and lighting studies in the near future.

The Job Fair

Since these applications are the bulk of the materials I go through and I have had experience standing in lines at these things too I think it makes sense to just follow the entire process through from start to finish.

We’ve already talked about Passion.  So you’ve looked yourself in the mirror, had epiphanies, gotten it together and you’ve worked your butt off for a few years.  Congrats now you get to look for a job so you can work your butt off forever.  Fortunately for you art is a pretty sexy career path (No, you don’t get to play WoW all day, all you posers can settle back down).

Job Fairs are like Speed Dating.  Ideally the school’s given you a list of the companies that will be present that’s at least half accurate and you have a couple in mind you HAVE to wait in line for and otherwise you’ll see who shows up.  Generally you have no idea who you’ll be talking to (Art Director, Hiring Manager, HR Grunt, etc.) or exactly what the company is looking for or if they’re just present to keep their rapport with the school for when they are genuinely hiring.

Most students approach the Job Fair with the intent of getting a job.  You’re doomed to disappointment if this is your goal.  Odds are the person who will hire you isn’t in the building at all. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, Job Fairs are also a good place to get some legit portfolio review if you do manage to get to talk to Artists or Hiring Managers.  If you’re talking to and HR person just be excited.  Excitement is important, more on this later.  If you’re goal is just to get the emails of the Art Directors so you can follow up, that is a

I advise you to set a reasonable goal for yourself that isn’t “get a job.”  A good goal is to make sure you’re leave behind makes it into the box labeled; GOOD. And not the trash.  A lot of stuff doesn’t make it out of the building.  Or your goal could be just to get the emails of the Art Directors you talk to so you can follow up.  If you’re an underclassmen go to the Job Fair for practice at failure.  Seriously, accept that you’re too young and underskilled and everyone is going to shoot you down.  You’ll still get good feedback and you’ll remember what not to do. 

The first Job Fair I went to I dropped something as soon as I started my pitch to EVERYONE I talked to.  Ravensoft, Lucas, Pixar, you name it I was bending over or stooping down to retrieve something.  I am not a clumsy person either.  It was an absolute train wreck, it was rad.  Walking back to my car afterwards the only thing I could think was, “Could be worse, I could have been ‘qualified but retarded’ instead of just retarded.”

To be perfectly honest with you I am not good at Job Fairs.  I do not elevator pitch well.  My background is in Theatre Design, which being the grand-daddy of storytelling, has a very unique way of approaching design.  I’ve always said Video Games blend a very powerful level of audience interraction and cinematic potential that surpasses Film and Theatre.  Combined with- 

I’ve melted the mind of some poor HR person and I’m not even into the meat of it yet.  All she wanted to hear was “Well, gee, I’ve always loved art and playing computer games and it just seems like it’d be the best of both worlds, which would be swell.”  Or something.  The first thing an HR person will ask you is “What Games do you play?” or “What’s your favorite (insert our company here) game?”  My response was always something along the lines of, “I don’t play many games anymore, I’m too busy working.”  Which is genuine but doesn’t match their script of correct answers.  Also, don’t dwell on the portfolio feedback of these folks too much.  Art is subjective, and they are not artists.

Most importantly be excited.  If you’re not into it, believe me I was not into after applicant #5, and you’re number #1262 and we can just skip it.  If you get jittery, yawn, it’s psychosomatic and will calm you down by fooling your body into thinking its tired.  I like to pop altoids nonstop in addition to this.  But when you step up to the plate be excited about accomplishing your goal.  Be honest about what you want.  The Job Fair is youre first chance to start overwhelming potential employers with your value.  You only have a few minutes, nowhere near enough time to get a job but enough time to lay the foundations for solid follow ups.

Go for feedback.  Go for contacts.  Do not go for a job.  Don’t try to sell yourself to what you think the employer is looking for.  Jobs are a lot like dating.  It is a relationship, and both parties need to be satisfied for things to work out.  You can interview them as much as they interview you.  Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions up front, it will make you memorable.  The Job Fair is your first chance to start overwhelming potential employers with your value. You only have a few minutes, nowhere near enough time to get a job but enough time to lay the foundations for solid follow ups.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about Leave Behinds!  Oft overlooked and undervalued but worth so much more than a crummy DVD case.

Filed under: All TalkJob Talk

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