Stop Applying for Jobs in the Video Game Industry

Stop Applying for Jobs in the Video Game Industry

That’s right: stop applying for jobs in the video game industry! The short answer is: because you should be networking instead.

But before I delve deeper into the topic, let me tell you a little story.

After having gotten my bachelor’s degree in IT, I’ve spent six months writing and publishing my first four monster erotica novellas and the following six months applying for jobs in the video game industry as a writer and/or game designer while working on my new romantic fantasy novel. I’ve sent my CV and cover letters to countless companies regardless of whether they had open positions for people like me or not. In those six months, I have gotten rejection after rejection from big names, and the one place that was actually interested in hiring me never got back to me after COVID-19 struck. After those six months of what felt like just feeling my way through the dark, hoping to grab onto something, one day, I made one simple change in my routine that practically changed my life forever.

I was really upset and lacking in motivation to do anything that day due to having been rejected so often for the past six months. I was really starting to feel like all hope was lost, and I needed an outlet. So, I fired up my web browser, opened up our local Facebook group for video game devs, and wrote a post asking for help and advice on why I wasn’t able to get a job even with possessing so many relevant qualifications.

But soon after, a whole bunch of people started commenting and DM-ing me with words of encouragement, questions, tips, and even job offers! I have gotten more job offers with just that one little post in that Facebook group than I did six months scouring the internet for companies to cold-email and position openings to apply for. That post is the reason that I have the amazing job I hold today: working on the kinds of games I know most about and enjoy playing the most; working with wonderful, passionate, and understanding people whom I consider my good friends now; and doing the very tasks I am most skilled at and enjoy doing the most.

So, what happened? Networking happened. You know—that thing everyone talks about but just seems dumb, pointless, and confusing?

And why exactly is networking important, apart from the obvious reasons implied by my story?

People Work with People

…not with qualifications. Even if you are the most appropriate person for the job on paper, if you seem disinterested or downright arrogant, you will be impossible to work with regardless of how much you know and how much experience in the industry you have. Since you’re spending almost a half of your life working, you want to surround yourself with good, honest, and pleasant people, right? If the completion of your tasks depend on when your colleague finishes their part of the work, you don’t want a lazy person in that positions to keep you from doing your job only to later be the one having to take the fall for the lack of tasks being completed on your end. Similarly, you don’t want to work with someone with such an overinflated ego that whenever you give them feedback on something, they get offended and fight you on it as if you’d just insulted their whole family tree and go complain to your boss about you. A lot of the times, the people you would work with are also involved in the hiring process for the position you are applying for in some way, and it’s in their interest to not only get the most competent, but also the most decent candidates for their new subordinates and colleagues personality-wise.

What happens then is, usually, in order to save on time and valuable resources, the ones making the hiring decisions often look to their own personal networks to fill needed positions within the company first.

But Isn’t That Nepotism?

While a lot of people seem to display their inappropriate attitudes very openly and unapologetically at even the earliest stages of the hiring process (see this post to learn how not to behave when applying for a job), a good number of them still make an effort to present themselves in a more positive light than what they are usually like. Unfortunately, if the arrogant and disinterested people get hired for their competence alone, that’s already a large sum of money and time lost on hiring the wrong person, keeping them in that position until a replacement is found, and searching for a replacement in and of itself. But what if you could actually save all of that time and effort by simply hiring people you already know are good and honest and are not only qualified for the job, but you don’t have to gamble on whether they are snakes in the grass or concealing a poor work ethic? Well, you can, and companies do just that. Think about it: If you were looking to hire a senior programmer to replace you because you are being promoted, you would most likely first contact some of your college buddies for whom you already know what their work ethic is like and how much they would be able to bring to the table skill-wise. It would save you the time and money needed to find a suitable candidate the old-fashioned way, and you already feel comfortable working with this person because you’re good friends and trust that they will have your and the company’s best interest in mind.

Back when I was still looking for a job and getting rejected left and right, I was furious at the thought of someone getting a job over me just because, for example, they went to the same college as the director of the company, but over time, I began to understand the benefits of this practice. The problem is that most people just assume that becoming close with influential people is near impossible to do unless you were brought together by some force outside of your direct control. I used to believe the same thing just half a year ago. However, after having spoken with my writing coach, I realized you don’t need to leave it all to chance as much as you think.

Show off Your Work

When companies look for people to fill senior and/or executive positions from outside the company, they look for people who are well-known within the industry first because, obviously, if they are such big names, they must be the best of the best. Not only that, but regardless of their actual skill and talent, their reputation gives the company some level of security that these people’s work is accepted and sought by the community. So, how do you get that so-called reputation? By simply showing off your work and cultivating a following. Write blog posts on things you know about, showcase your talents, give advice to people just starting out. Pretty soon, people will start talking to other people about you and you will become the go-to person for the things you’re most well-known for. Ask yourself this: If money wasn’t an option and you were, for example, looking for a ghostwriter for your book, would you try to get in touch with Stephen King, or look up some random dude on Fiverr?

Join Gatherings

Nothing is stopping you from joining online groups or attending conferences and conventions where the industry people hang out. Nobody can find you if you don’t get out there and be where all the action is.

Talk to People

Literally. Whether it be online in Facebook groups or during conferences and conventions, just start talking to people and contributing to discussions. This is especially true in the video game industry, for the people who work in it are mostly very friendly and social regardless of the jobs that they do. You will find yourself chatting up company execs and simple playtesters alike as though you’re friends, and once they learn of your talents, they might just message you about the next job opening at their company personally.

That isn’t to say that you should literally go around begging for a job. Just be yourself, be friendly, have fun, make some new friends, and you will eventually end up all working together and doing each other favors even if you initially thought you were way out of these people’s leagues. However, don’t ignore all of the people who haven’t yet reached your level of skill either. Send the elevator down—help these people out, have some friendly chats. Making connections of any kind with other professionals in your industry can only help you in the long-run. You never know when you might meet your future boss or the next talent you’d be lucky to have in your company.

It’s Easier Than It Sounds

Getting the career you want in the video game industry, or most industries really, is one half you wanting to improve in what you do and the other half you networking with other professionals in and even outside your field. I used to think that networking was some kind of exclusive high-end country club thing where you already need to know people and be somebody in order to participate, but I learned that it’s actually much easier and simpler to do than it seems. One girl that saw one of my Facebook posts in a group we’re both in messaged me saying how she loves what I do and would love to be able to do something similar herself, and now, I’m helping her improve her writing while she’s helping me learn the ropes of accounting and applying for financial support from the government for various business ventures.

And there you have it. It’s really that simple.

Be sure to check out this video to get a bit more of an idea about just how powerful networking is in the video game industry and how far it can take you, but the gist of it is pretty much the same.

Networking is not only much easier than most of us have initially thought, but it’s also necessary for your own development as a person and as a professional. When we communicate and share, we all benefit—our whole industry benefits. So, network, and good luck whatever your goals might be at this moment!

So, what were your thoughts on networking before reading this article? Are you now more interested in spending time putting your work out there and participating in discussions with other people in the video game industry?