Here is a snippet of a conversation I had with someone close to me:
Me: I want to find a career I am passionate about.
Him: I think you’re confusing passion and profession.
Me: No, I am not. I will have both at the same time because they will be the same thing.
We have a different mindset when it comes to what we would do for a living. To a lot of people, a job is something that puts food on the table, a roof over your head, and it pays the bills, and I am in no way putting that down. I respect people who work to support themselves and loved ones. What I am aiming for is to discuss the difference (to me) between a job and a career. I am working towards a career, a profession that I love that happens to support me financially and emotionally.
I’ve never really been money driven. Money is nice to have, but it doesn’t guarantee wealth. I don’t have to be a CEO of a company in order to be content. I prefer to be happy in everything I do. Whether that is professionally doing what I love or playing with my dogs, I want to find happiness in as many aspects of my life as possible. There is too much negativity out there that strips away your joy, why not work to build a strong foundation in everything that strengthens your smile and heart?
So what type of profession am I seeking? We will have to take a small step back, so I can explain how I got here. My professional experience started shortly after I graduated from college. I found a decent job with great pay (for someone my age at the time), and I’ve been stuck since then. My resumé was shattered because the industry I was in was highly unstable. I’ve been laid off nearly five times in the last seven years. It’s a horrible feeling when you put so much time and effort into a company, and then you are hit with the realization that you are just a number that didn’t fit in the budget for that year.
Last year, I was laid off yet again, but this time it was because the company I worked for was bought out by another one. Many positions were eliminated and I found myself seeking employment again. But in the last year, other personal experiences were shaping me and I didn’t even realize it. I started getting rid of all the negative people in my life, and I began to understand myself better. I realized what I wanted to do with my life, and it wasn’t anything near what I was did in the past. Sometimes, epiphanies have the worst timing, but better that it happen now during a time when I can still take care of myself and evolve into a better person.
I started going to a lot of geeky conventions (something I was unable to do for a number of a years) such as RTX and DragonCon, and my inner nerd was brought back to life. One of my geeky passions is video games. I love games that can take you away, make your mind shut down and bring a completely different world to life. I’ve been hooked on video games since my parents bought us an NES all those years ago, and video games (as far as I’m concerned) will be a part of my life for the rest of my days. So it hit me. I would love to make video games or at the very least, be a part of the gaming industry.
So now what? Making that decision for yourself is a great thing, but now you need to act. I cannot tell you how important it is to network and connect with people in the industry. I can’t speak for all fields of work out there, but I am confident to say that nearly everyone I have met in the VG world has been nothing but supportive and helpful. In the last year, I’ve been very fortunate in meeting some big names out there, and I have learned so much from them. Note that I do not have a job in this field YET, but I would like to share some experiences with you readers that I have found helped me a great deal in this adventure. There are guides out there created by industry leads to help you along the way, but I didn’t find much in relating to people who were on the same page as myself. Here is the start of my journey. Another note, I am in the middle of it.
Answers are out there. Even if you don’t get a chance for personal interaction with the heads of an industry you are interested in, you have the internet. Search for your role model’s blog, vlogs, articles, follow them on Twitter and Facebook. The best thing about this method of self-learning is that it is free. There is a ton of information out there. Take advantage of it. And if you can budget accordingly, I HIGHLY recommend attending panels of these people. Go to a convention and soak up as much information as you can. Conventions are great to have fun and play games, but don’t forget to educate yourself. And yes, you can always Youtube a panel, but don’t pass up a chance to speak to these guys one on one.
Respect your potential mentors. To go along with networking with industry veterans, I will also suggest that you not overwhelm them. Being inspired and motivated by them and their work is awesome, don’t lose that, but understand that they are people as well. While they try to help as many people as possible, they cannot get to every question or inquiry. You don’t want to give off a bad impression before you even get a chance to work with them. Come to them as a student, not a fanboy/girl. I’ve actually seen people go up to veterans and demand that they review their work or resumé. Don’t be that person. No one likes that person. Keep your inquiries to the point, and it might even be helpful to have a business card on hand. If you don’t take yourself seriously, why should they?
Be willing to start at the bottom. You may have great ideas, but you need to earn your stripes. I have had several people tell me that my willingness to do repetitive, menial work from the start is a good attitude to have. Everyone started somewhere. Don’t think that you can just hop into a job and automatically act like a creative director. Learn. I cannot stress that enough, and it is something my father taught me. No matter what you do, there is always something that you can learn. It doesn’t matter if it’s a program or a simple skill as learning how to use a multi-function copier. I am being completely serious about the copy machine. Because so many people view learning hardware as an insignificant “skill”, they refuse to learn how to use it. You know how to use it, and now those people come to you for help. You’ve become valuable. Expand on that idea.
Hook up with people who want to create something as much as you do. I am VERY fortunate to be working with a talented group of people on a project called Fallout Lonestar. If you work on a project like this, you gain experience and knowledge, plus you learn how to collaborate with people which is quite essential in this line of work. You must learn to push for what you believe in as well as learn to sacrifice ideas. Time and time again, developers will tell you that they were hired or have hired those who have created a successful product. Talent and passion go hand in hand, and people recognize that.
Educate yourself. I also had a very productive talk with a few people in the industry recently. As I have narrowed down what it is I truly want to do, I learned that it is also beneficial to invest in a variety of certifications. Some of these classes are pricey, but if you’re serious about pursuing your dream, you won’t think twice about those costs. And education especially these days costs a pretty penny, so decide wisely when determining what knowledge to place under your belt. I love Shakespeare, but he’s not going to help me land a VG job.
Most importantly, don’t give up. It’s so easy to, but I am telling you to keep going. Even if things never seem to go your way, keep on trucking. There have been so many times when I wanted to throw in the towel because I was just overcome with frustration. I became depressed even because I had this realization about myself so late in the game. But friends have told me that I was being silly, and you know what, I was. I can’t change what I’ve done with my life so far, but I can change how it will be shaped in the future. This is not an easy path at all, but can you imagine the reward if you stick with it all the way? Think of that reward when you feel like walking away.
So that’s it. That’s what I’ve learned so far. I’ve gone through every emotion that the Harry Potter series makes you feel while walking down this path. And I’m not doing it for just a job.