Updated: Jun 23
Hello fellow Animators! Firstly, congratulations on completing your studies and preparing to embark on an exciting journey in the world of animation. As you spread your wings and aim to soar high in the big studios, you may quickly realize that landing your first job in animation isn't as easy as you might have anticipated.
While some of your fellow students may have secured internships, graduate positions, or junior animation roles at major studios, you might be wondering about your own prospects. The truth is, most graduates mistakenly believe that big studios are eagerly waiting to snatch up fresh talent as soon as they graduate. However, the reality is quite different.
Landing your first job in animation can be challenging and demanding, but don't fret! It's not meant to be easy, yet it's certainly not an impossible task.
The inspiration for this post came from a Twitter thread by Joe Hobbs (@JLHGameArt) discussing the skill level required to land a first job as a 3D Artist in the games industry. As an Animator myself, I wanted to delve into a similar topic specifically focused on 3D Animation in games and VFX.
Let's face the brutal truth right away: studios are not there to teach you how to animate. While they will provide training on their unique pipelines and proprietary software, you need to already possess the animation skills required for the job if you want to be employed.
In this industry, competency is rewarded. The onus is on you to showcase your competency through an impressive Animation showreel.
Your degree alone isn't enough to make you stand out. Where you studied or what program you completed becomes irrelevant in the eyes of prospective employers. They are primarily concerned with whether or not you can do the job.
Consider this: every year, thousands of aspiring animators graduate from various programs, all covering similar topics with slight variations in structure. While your education is important, it's crucial to understand that you need to surpass the majority of your competition to catch the attention of major studios.
The big studios are constantly on the lookout for the best talent, and the industry itself is highly competitive. Therefore, you must give them a compelling reason to choose you over countless others.
Remember, most graduates don't secure a job immediately after university. Even as a professional Animator with over five years of experience, I faced similar challenges despite graduating at the top of my class.
To succeed where most fail, you need to be willing to do what the majority either hasn't done or isn't willing to do. Landing your dream job in animation requires dedication, hard work, and a willingness to continually improve your craft.
During my time studying Computer Games Animation at Teesside University, I spent the majority of my summer break practicing animation on a small 13-inch MacBook. I even brought my laptop with me on a family vacation to Portugal, tirelessly honing my skills while my siblings looked at me as if I were a bit strange.
The following summer, I managed to secure an internship with Hammerhead VR (now Dimension Studios). For six weeks, I traveled from Middlesbrough to Newcastle every day, while my classmates enjoyed holidays and time with friends. The point is, to achieve what most fail to accomplish, you must be willing to go the extra mile.
In my final year of study, I embarked on a very ambitious Final Year Project. However, as the first semester drew to a close, the project's scope exceeded my abilities. Faced with a decision, I had to choose between giving up my Christmas break or compromising on the quality I desired. Determined not to settle, I decided to forgo the holiday season and dedicated myself to bringing my vision to life.
As a result, my project stood out, gaining recognition from industry professionals and ultimately landing me a job at a major animation studio before I had even graduated.
So, what's the key to success? What strategies can you employ to stand out in a sea of talented graduates?
Here are some practical steps to guide you on your journey:
Master Your Craft: Continually refine your animation skills by practicing regularly, seeking feedback, and studying the work of industry professionals. Online tutorials, workshops, and mentorship programs can also enhance your knowledge and expertise.
Build a Strong Showreel: Your showreel is your most powerful tool in securing a job. Select your best work, showcasing a range of skills and demonstrating your ability to bring characters and objects to life. Tailor your showreel to the specific job you're applying for.
Network: Attend industry events, join online forums, and engage with fellow animators. Building relationships with professionals in the field can open doors to opportunities and valuable connections.
Seek Internships and Junior Roles: Consider starting with internships or junior positions at smaller studios or indie game developers. These experiences will provide valuable industry exposure, improve your skills, and potentially lead to larger opportunities.
Embrace Continuous Learning: Stay updated on the latest industry trends, software advancements, and techniques. Invest in personal development through workshops, courses, and online resources to stay ahead of the curve.
Be Persistent and Resilient: Rejections are part of the process. Don't let setbacks discourage you. Learn from each experience, adapt your approach, and keep pushing forward.
Remember, landing your first job in animation is a marathon, not a sprint. It requires dedication, perseverance, and a commitment to lifelong learning. Believe in your skills, keep honing your craft, and embrace the challenges along the way. With the right mindset and strategic approach, you can conquer the animation job market and make your dream career a reality.
Best of luck on your animation journey!