I would say, that networking is about just as important as having ‘talent’.
Maybe…even a little MORE so?
I would almost say..that if you can be an effective net-worker, you will have very little trouble being and staying employed in these art entertainment industries.
Now, I have never been a totally outward type of individual. It’s not that I’m socially inept. Or painfully awkward. I can mix and mingle if I need to.
I’m just more of a private type of personality.
Plus I’m a very nose to the grindstone sort of person. I like to be very very focused.
If there’s a project I’m on, man oh man…I’m chaining myself to the animation desk or drawing board and I’m cranking!!!
And that would be fine…..if all it came down to was just doing the work. And trying with all your might to do it well.
But…in many cases. It’s not.
When I got into doing concept art for game developers, I took that same hardcore work ethic of ‘nose to the grindstone’ into my concept work as well.
In all honesty, part of it WAS indeed the ‘grind’ mentality. But part of it was also a fear of falling behind.
I’ve never been as ‘fast’ as I’d like to be in doing what I do. And I’m always a bit terrified to not get it to the point where I’m satisfied with, due to the time constraints.
So there’s that.
So, when asked to go to lunch, I’d politely decline and stay in and grind grind grind.
Sure. I’d join them every now and then, but usually I’d opt out. Preferring to get a jump on the work instead.
People just kind of got that from me and while always giving the invite would pretty much expect me to decline.
Fast forward 5 years.
The same art director (whom I’m happy to say has come to be one of my closest of friends), brought me on board at E.A. to work on one of their mobile games.
My mindset was the same. Work work work!
Turning down invites in order to “gitter’ done”!
One day before lunch, my Art director (John) came to me and said, “Hey. Come with me. We need to talk.”
So… We went outside.
He very pointedly stated:
“Dude…a bunch of us are going to lunch. And your f@@@’ing going”.
I was kinda taken aback a little bit.
“Are we going over some work?” I asked
“Nope”. He replied. “We’re just going”.
“Uhh…why exactly?” I asked.
He looked at me and with growing frustration in his voice said: “Dude…. You’re my friend. And I’m just gonna be flat out honest with you. I know you don’t like to break your workflow. I know you’re not a “lunch guy”. But you’ve got to get out every now and then with the crew!
We went back and forth with each other. Both of us growing more and more frustrated and even angry with each other.
I expressed how much of a waste of time these things often are. And most of the time running well over a typical lunch period, and I have TONS of crap to get done.
And then he said (paraphrasing)
“…. Steve. This is your career man! It’s not JUST about the work itself. Yes. The work does speak for itself. BUT…there is also networking! And you don’t do it. And you have to do it! You’re kind of harming yourself by not doing it.”
After a few more rounds…We went back inside. I can’t remember if I went to lunch that day. I probably did.
In the end, my art director friend wasn’t wrong.
“Networking” is important. And I simply wasn’t doing it.
There’s a certain ‘schmoozyness’ about it that rubs me the wrong way. A sort of shallowness to it in some ways I guess, that I’ve never been all that comfortable with.
But, there is validity in it. Right or wrong.
In an earlier post “Self doubt and comparing yourself to others”, I spoke briefly about how you’d be amazed at how many very mediocre artists are working in the game and animation fields.
And that is true.
Not “bad” or talentless people. Not at all. Mainly people that are starting out, or green. But yeah…some that are just not quite *there* yet.
But there they are!
And how do many get to that point, and more importantly what are they doing to STAY at that point?
Who you know and get to know in these fields is an important thing.
You are building relationships. Relationships that can and will help you keep employed and stay employed.
People will remember their experience with you. On a personal level.
“Was he/she a cool person? Were they fun to work with.”
As I stated briefly in my post “The Interview”, there is a sort of shallowness to it. But on the flip side, there is some merit to it as well.
These questions they’ll ask themselves internally, will be right there with “are they on time with their work?” And even if the work isn’t top notch quality…more often than not, your chances of being sought out and getting a gig in the future from the people you’ve networked, are exponentially better.
Keeping it REAL
So yeah. While networking is important, keep in mind that you need to be careful to not come off like a smarmy brown noser. And there are definitely enough of those in these fields.
The ‘Eddie Hascals’. And believe me, no one likes the ‘Eddie Hascals’!!
Keep it real! And be yourself.
Do the “hang out” thing. But don’t go over bored with it. And don’t let it get in the way of the work. Which it very easily can. Because that work still needs to be done. And one of the questions that will be asked by those people that you’re networking is gonna be: “Does his/her work come in on time?”
The last thing you want is them saying “Yeah. Great person. But they are always late turning in their work.”
So find that balance. And know where to prioritize.
If you CAN find that balance, you’ll go a long way to helping yourself in any of these art fields.