When you’re in school, it’s good to step back every once in awhile and think realistically about what life will be like after you graduate. There’s a chance you won’t land that dream job immediately after you finish school—but don’t panic! Pro animator Elliott Roberts lived through the same uncertainty and now he hasStar Wars: The Force Awakens, Iron Man, and Ratatouille on his IMDB page. Here he shares six things that you need to do when you graduate from animation school.
Making the choice to become a professional animator is a huge life-changing event. We sacrifice many things in the quest to become a super-star animator.
The dreams of big studios jumping over themselves to have you as one of their employees are what keep us working through the night. But often, that dream is so big…so overpowering, that we rarely think about what would happen if we don’t get a job right after we graduate.
Sure, optimism is a great driving force while we’re in school, but it’s good to step back every once in a while and think realistically about what life will be like after we graduate.
I have vivid memories of this time in my life. It was both exciting and terrifying. When I graduated from Art School, I went from being a top-dog student to a lowly, fish in the giant ocean of unemployment. No matter how bright my future looked to me, self-doubt would often creep in and show it’s nay-saying little head. What ended up being a few short months felt like years…I think to myself now how great it would have been to have some post-grad advice.
So with that said, it’s my humble honor to contribute something that the internet is so sorely, sorely lacking: another listicle! Here are SIX THINGS TO DO WHEN YOU’VE GRADUATED FROM ANIMATION SCHOOOOOOOOOL! *long, dramatic echo*
No one’s going to come looking to hire you if you haven’t put yourself out there and told the world that you’re ready to change it! Even though Animation Mentor is incredible about helping graduates land their feet (or butts) in front of a company’s computer, it’s so important that you cover all of your bases here.
On top of sending out resumes and reels to your favorite studios, spend some time really looking around for lesser-known studios. There are a lot of exciting animation jobs happening in the world, and you have to start somewhere. It seems obvious, but so many graduates focus on just a few studios and are crushed when they don’t get a job. Sign up for job alerts on websites like LinkedIn, Zerply, HighEndCareers and GameJobsDirect. When you see job openings come your way, apply immediately. Even try connecting with recruiters. It never hurts to ask a studio if they’re hiring. Worst case, your email goes unread until the end of time. No big deal. The best case is you landed a job because you were diligent about finding opportunities when they arose.
BE HONEST (with yourself)
Weigh your options but be real about your situation. Don’t pass on a solid job because you think Pixar will be calling tomorrow. At the same time, don’t take the first thing that comes your way unless you honestly believe that nothing better will come along. How will you know if nothing better is in your future? Well you can’t know, really, because it’s the future—but in my experience there is always going to be more than one studio hiring out there.
Also put some thought into how it will affect your reel and resume. A 3-week contract on a really nice independent short film or game will be far better for your overall career than 12 months animating cycles for online poker. If you need the money, there’s no shame in taking the less-glamorous job for a while, but keep pursuing a job that will help fulfill your passion and get that experience and reel material under you belt. This is YOUR dream; don’t sell yourself short, but don’t reach for the stars when you don’t have the fuel to fly yet.
Never give up. Seriously, this old cliche is something that you will hear from EVERY professional in any industry you can imagine. Do you know how many times J.K Rowling faced rejection on Harry Potter? (Twelve times!) Imagine if she had just given up after the second or third time. (I for one would be CRUSHED living in a world without Harry Potter :D)
Many professional animators have faced rejection in their lives. If you’re really in it to become an animator, then you’re going to do this step anyway and don’t need the likes of me saying so. You’re not going to let rejection get the best of you. Going back to animation being a job of passion—if you’re convinced that this is your calling, don’t let anyone, especially yourself, get you down.
You know this is your passion if you’re willing to take a relentless amount of rejection before landing a job. The great news about getting into animation is that while you’re getting this rejection, you can still be improving, so if it does seem dire, it’s time to revisit your shots or start a few new ones.
Be ready to move to a new city, or be ready to wait longer. It’s not necessary to be a vagabond to be a professional animator, but it does help….a lot…to be flexible on where you live. Also, there is something to be said about being close to the industry. Opportunity seems to arise if you’re close-by, but that doesn’t mean you should pack up and move right after graduation. Weigh your prospects and take some time to travel, if you can afford it. It’s also nice to know which places you’d be ok living in and which places you think you’d rather avoid.
Get away from animation for a bit. Exercise because you’ve probably been sitting in front of a computer for too long, and you’re looking for a job that will put you in front of one for much, much longer! 🙂 Pick up a new hobby. Read books, go on hikes, travel (see above)…these are all things I did during my post-graduation blues, and they helped a lot.
You just graduated from a world-class animation school. You just met some amazing people in the animation industry. Take some time to celebrate!
Looking for more animation career advice? We’ve got you!
What NOT to Do as a New Animator
5 Things Not to Do on Your Demo Reel
A Guide to Demo Reel Reviews at Animation Conventions
How to Set Animation Goals and Follow Through
Some Words of Advice for Contract and Rookie Animators
Want to learn animation from pros like Elliott?