Once the grueling process is over and you have officially collected that coveted degree in Animation, life can suddenly seem full of possibilities and yet utterly petrifying.
The level of petrifying depends on how optimistic a person you are but I think it is common to feel a little lost. Having been through this process myself and seeing many others go through it, I have compiled what I feel is a collection of the best advice I got about life after Graduation.
1) Don’t dwell on your thesis film. It will have things you’ll want to fix and you should be realistic about how much you want to polish and which things will never even be noticed by anyone other than yourself.
2) Don’t dawdle over your website and business card and other professional paraphernalia.
It’s easy to think that you should only start putting yourself “out there” once you’re ready, but you’ll really never be ready until you start applying.
3) Apply EVERYWHERE. And don’t start by applying to Pixar and Disney and whatnot. Make all of your application mistakes on small companies that are more likely to write back to you and tell you why your application was not chosen.
4) Learn from each application process. Refine the language on your resume, keep tweaking your cover letter, keep cleaning up and updating your demo reel.
5) When looking at companies and jobs, remember smaller companies usually offer greater opportunity for growth and tend to give their employees more creative freedom.
6) Believe in yourself. Don’t be blind to your shortcomings, but understand that there is a potential genius inside you who is waiting to come up to the surface. The only way that can happen is if you build up your self-confidence and work to show your best self off.
7) If you want to build a portfolio that will get you noticed with bigger places, look for a company that has a vision you appreciate and are inspired by. Then you can learn from people whose art you respect and they can mentor you and make you stronger as an artist.
8) Keep making art. If it’s tough to focus alone, find other job-hunting friends and get them to collaborate with you on films, games, anything.
9) Focus on what you love to do and don’t keep trying to accommodate your skills to match your idea of “what’s in demand”. The demand changes every week, you just have to wait for your week to roll by again.
10) First and foremost, be good at what you are selling yourself as. If you need to refine the skill, keep refining it while you apply for jobs. Send updated/refined animations to people you want to work for/with. Ask them for feedback and then try to implement those changes in the quickest and best way possible.
Showing someone that you work hard, listen well and are willing to improve is the best way to impress them. And employers love people they can rely on.
11) Retain your competitive edge. Submit to festivals, take part in competitions. Start a production blog and talk about your work in progress and what you’re researching now. Just because you graduated doesn’t mean you stop learning. College was the first step but it’s up to you to stay current. It would be even better if you got ahead of the times too but let’s just take the first step and then see.
12) Network. Network. Network. That doesn’t mean you call up random strangers and start asking them for jobs, it means you put yourself in places where you can shine as a person and do your best to be noticed. Don’t discount the dorky geek who hasn’t graduated yet, you never know who can facilitate your success. Go to conferences, festivals, comic cons… anywhere you would ordinarily go to have fun. Just keep your eyes open and start fun conversations with random strangers!
Animators are people just like you and it’s just as possible to run into someone in a gaming den as it is in a Job Fair.
13) Enjoy yourself! Most working professionals would kill to have the kind of free time you do. Use that time to relax, organize that closet you’ve been ignoring, go on that road trip you really wanted when you were suffering in school.
14) Carry your sketchbook and record all of these experiences. You’d be surprised at how useful they’ll end up being. Animators distill truth into entertainment: how useless would you be if you never did anything to talk about?
My final thought is that patience can be a double-edged sword. A lot of people preach it as a good way to survive the job-hunting process but it can hurt just as much as it can help. Find your balance, know when to stop or shut up and try to pick out the moments that call for a good push! Then make it happen! Congratulations!!