Helpful Hints in Preparing for the Workforce

helpful hints splash

By Jamie K. Bolio

Founder, 62 GEORGE STREET

Director of Int’l Outreach and Content Acquisition
Partner, CRAFT

Preparing for the Workforce

In reviewing portfolios, chatting with students, studios, and colleagues (as well as my own experience as a member of the artistic community and also having served as a recruiter), there are a few things I’ve noted below which may be of particular importance for graduates to consider in preparing for the workforce.

Online link / Website, Blog or Portfolio:

Have a simple link to show your work that can easily be sent to potential employers.
Upload and organize your best work as a demo reel (without music, unless it is part of the piece) and/or as a digital a portfolio on a website or a blog.

If you’ve had the blog for some time and you are not yet an established professional, you may want to clean it up to ensure that only your best work is showcased.
*YOU’RE ONLY AS STRONG AS YOUR WEAKEST PIECE.

Include a bit of information about yourself – keep it professional and double check spelling, grammar, punctuation, upper and lowercase, no smiley faces or emojis.

Your reel / portfolio must grab them within the first 10 seconds so make sure to put your very best pieces up front and end strong as well.

If you are an artist – details ARE important: choice of typeset and spacing, composition, content of and accuracy within the text, how you organize / layout / display your work…
This presentation is an example of your overall aesthetic, ability to pitch and promote a / your product without mistakes.

+Be Prepared
Be ready to show your work if you’re at a recruiting event or an interview.
Try to avoid wasting time turning on your computer, browsing your files, and clicking images one by one.
IPads are a good size and easily accessible. (Computers are a bit cumbersome, iPhones are too small…)
Have your site / blog open and ready to access.

+Back-Up Plan
In reviewing several websites a few weeks back, WIX was not loading.

Have a backup plan ready to ensure that you’re able to show some of your key work if your website does not load or does not load quickly: a pdf of the images, saved in your photo images on your phone?

CV:

If you have a website, include a CV that you can constantly revise from the site. This way, you don’t have to resend if you find an error or as you update it…

Make sure to keep your CV / resume confined to 1-2 pages only.

Don’t include a physical address for safety reasons. You can include your cell phone which – in general – will, by the area code, identify the country in which you’re living.

Your blog, website and email address should be named appropriately, linked to your name and easily searchable, such as YourName@gmail.com, www.YourName.com, info@YourName.com.

Declare a position so studios know which department to forward your reel for a formal review.

List your software skills and level of proficiency.

List your experience.
If you do not have any industry experience, list other jobs which show responsibility and reliability over time.

If you have interned or volunteered, include that project as well.

If you can help out on a film project during the summer – even if it is out of your wheelhouse, it is great to get to know a new skillset and a new group of creatives.

Format your CV, double check for errors and save it as a pdf (formatting can change with different versions of Word).
As mentioned above, if you can post and update from your website or your google drive, you can send a link and update it as needed.

Emailing companies or returning messages:

A standard, polite, professional email (not too formal, too causal, or too long) is fine (again: in capital and lower case letters, checking grammar and punctuation, without emojis).

You can email to inquire about job posts or simply say something along the lines of
having recently graduated from XXX and you are attaching a link to your website and CV, which you’ll continue to update. You’re hoping to work in the industry as a [ex: character designer] and if [they’d] be so kind as to forward [your] link to the appropriate department and / or keep [your] information on file, [you’d] be very grateful.

In responding to companies, make sure to read their email thoroughly and include exactly the information they’ve requested.

If you must retrieve some details before you can respond in a timely manner, you could send them the bulk of the information and briefly explain that you are waiting on X because of Z.

When emailing, texting or responding to someone you may consider writing out your message in full before copying / pasting / sending or hitting send / enter by mistake. You may not know where the person is, their time zone, or if they are hearing notification beeps.*When someone writes one line and hits return (beep), writes another line and hits return (beep) and this happens 12 times and you’re in a meeting (or trying to sleep), even if your phone is on silent, those notification beeps keep interrupting…

If you have multiple things to message – consider sending one email later in the day so you are not bombarding the recipient with too many emails as some people get hundreds of emails a day. Try to keep your email short, concise or bullet-pointed.

Be careful not to copy / paste the same exact messages to different studios with only small details you intend to change.
Do your research and write thoughtful / corresponding emails to the appropriate contact person.

Depending on the situation, you might send a thank you note / email as well.

Do not send unsolicited work to studios. You can send in your reel or portfolio but not scripts or treatments. It is against legal advice for studios / companies to look at or open unsolicited materials and it will be returned to sender.

Interview:

Be a few minutes early, be appropriately and cleanly dressed. Be pleasant and polite to EVERYONE. Be prepared / do your homework about the company and its products / employers / heads of department etc…
No eating or chewing gum…
Be prepared to answer a questions such as:

  • How do you focus in a busy / chaotic environment?

Additional Thoughts:

+Are there animation organizations you can get involved in now?
ASIFA-Hollywood? The European Animation Awards? Drawing clubs?

-Keep showing up at film festivals, paneled / screening / networking events…

NOTE: Be respectful of other filmmakers’ and artists’ time privacy at events like Comic-Con or Annecy.

-Get your foot in the door where you can and move up, even if it is as an intern or a volunteer on a project while you’re in between gigs.

Social Media:

Be mindful of what you are posting and the conversations you are having online.

In communicating on social media, especially about animation, you could be talking about a project someone has worked on…

Same goes for your profile – even if you only have your first and middle name vs your last name, you are connected to others and potential employers can find you.

Make sure that your social media profiles are respectable, be mindful of the photos you post, and you may wish to remove the tagging option without consent.

Be aware of your friends list (their extended community as they comment on your posts and you on theirs) and the implications of your words.Could this be offensive to others? Is it wise to add your co-workers / boss?

Is it better to have a separate page for your professional life and one for your personal?

Regarding your own work (blog or website) – as noted earlier, you may choose to have more control over what you post and have the ability to remove or update them (from the source) as your work improves. If you post directly to facebook, it can be shared and then the image is out there forever.

Password protected links can be used to best protect and ensure that the contents of your reel are only shared to a select audience. You can also change your password after each review.

In preparing your reel, make sure to clearly mark your work vs the work of others, so as not to misrepresent yourself.

Downtime – Retraining / Upskilling / Volunteering:

Artists at all levels should do their best to stay current with new technology. Once you learn one language, it is easier to adapt to others.

In your downtime (also mentioned earlier) volunteer to help on film projects outside your comfort zone, be it live action, stop-motion, mixed media. Grow your network. You never know what route life will take and it is good to help on others’ projects (and someday they may help on yours). You also may end up moving in another direction spurred on by something or someone in between paying gigs.

Etiquette:

+Workplace
When entering the workforce, be mindful of an unspoken studio etiquette and hierarchy. Be diplomatic, keep your head down, don’t gossip.
Hit your deadlines and if you are falling behind, let your supervisor know ahead of time so the team can find a way to solve the issue.

Be reliable, be flexible, be able to take criticism and be willing to make changes over and over again without a sigh, a huff, or a complaint.
Learn how to spot problems and give constructive feedback.

Be a “we” and not an “I.”

As early as you can, take advantage of great opportunities to work abroad on strong projects. Pack lightly and be ready to move on as needed. Embrace it.
Change is good… You will travel, have new cultural experiences, meet different people, learn new workplace dynamics / become more adept, and expand that very precious network around the world that will help sustain you as the business continues to change.

-Reputation
Much of your ability to get and retain work is based on your talent (+ software proficiency / skill level), work ethic, personality / disposition and relationships to those on the inside.
Relationship with co-workers start in college. A reputation can and may precede you.

-The value of critiques
The ability to spot an issue, know how to resolve it, and convey a critique constructively is of great importance. It is also very important to be able to take criticism or feedback, follow direction, and be able and willing to make as many revisions that may be required. Whether you’re at a studio or getting feedback on your reel, artists much be open to feedback and making changes without ego. They must listen to their supervisors and make changes quickly and often. Supervisors do not want excuses, whining or arguments – they just want the changes made ASAP.

-Diversify
Try to find a few things that you are good at, professionally, and can always be doing interchangeably. Don’t get complacent because you’re good at something, because the money is good, or because you think a studio needs you.
Positions are phased out all the time and you must be able to do something else well enough to stay employed while you’re retraining for a second skillset.
You must always stay current, fresh, keep learning and keep your skills sharp. Companies cannot be loyal and you have to make sure that you protect yourself by constantly upskilling and improving as you move up and gain a broader understanding of the entire process of filmmaking.

+Social Media:
As was mentioned earlier, there is an online etiquette. Be mindful of adding or engaging with industry professionals and getting into discussions or offering an opinion in which you may offend those who worked on a film.

Do not tag professionals in images of your artwork or post those images on their walls.

Do not ask professionals for a job (or a drawing) – go through proper channels. If someone is a good friend or someone you know pretty well at the studio, you can perhaps as

Film festival etiquette:

Be mindful of a professional’s time – they are often with other people or on their way somewhere else.
Ask yourself:
Will this interaction actually be helpful to either of you or a hindrance to either of you? If you must, find a way to keep it very brief…

CVs / Reels
Do not put anything on your reel that is not yours.
Do not misrepresent yourself in any way
Do not use someone as a reference without their permission.

Business cards are good to have on hand.
Have your name, email address, your position, website, and a memorable image to help them remember you… Make it a nicely made / nice looking card. If it can be white on the back, people often write notes on the back.

Recruiters:

Studios / Recruiters cannot get back to everyone who submits for a job. Unfortunately, they are now only responding to those they’re interested in pursuing.
Don’t reapply until you have more work to add to your reel and a fair amount of time has passed (at least 6 months).

Wage Gauge:

Try to find out the range of salaries or freelance rates for the role you’re hoping to obtain.
Many recruiters or producers will ask for your daily rate when they are hiring. If you have a general idea, it is easier to feel like you’ve not outbid yourself for the job.

CRAFT hopes to help in this search in the near future…

Forgive this random stream of consciousness-type post (but I wanted to have something posted for the Animation Bootcamp on Monday). I’ve been in Annecy this past week (wonderful but crazy busy) and I’m leaving for Amsterdam in 2 hours.

Hoping it helps!
Good luck to all of the recent graduates!

jkb