For Those In A Rut
Hey everyone! Like my new look? I thought this look would be more inviting for any potential partners and recruiters. Let me know on my social media! I want anyone who is looking to do business with me to be able to easily find me and you can help by engaging with me there. Anyway, here’s some advice for you!
Hitting Rock Bottom
Hitting rock bottom is a real feeling in this profession. But if you have already read my last post, you already know that the lessons you learn most are the hardest experiences you go through. That is why you are exactly where you are meant to be. I hope the following pieces of my career experience can shed some light for you if you are going through anything similar on your journey.
I recently applied to a AAA studio with full confidence in my ability to provide value to this relatively old studio emerging in a new location near me. I was excited to get accepted for an interview straight out of college. It was the best-case scenario in my eyes at the time and I was ready to dedicate my next year to the project immediately. I can wholeheartedly say that getting rejected from that studio might have been one of the best things I could have experienced in my career as a game developer. Man did I fall when I got that rejection letter soon after. I was an emotional wreck. I was at rock bottom. It’s crazy how rock bottom is so relative to where you are in the short term.
The experience taught me a new level of 5 familiar lessons:
- Education doesn’t end after college, it’s a priority you establish.
- Work by systems, not by project.
- Don’t lose focus, theres always next time.
- Your physical well-being is your responsibility, not your off time.
- Learn from your mistakes, they guide your future always.
Coming out of college, I was lead to believe that I was done as far as developing fundamental skills to be able to make it into a high-quality studio! Luckily, this AAA studio taught me where my shortcomings were. I am sure that many other people had quite a similar experience with their first game audio job application to a AAA studio, but coming from a self-taught background, I had no idea where I stood as far as ability. To me, I thought that was a dangerous place to be in because having no reference of where your skills lie leaves you uninformed on what needs work and where you should look for education. So I first had to learn about myself through all of the information that I had.
It was probably the first week after I read my rejection email that I started to understand that I had everything I needed in front of me that I needed to find out what I needed to work on. Even a rejection email that tells me that they were concerned with my technical skills can be enough to point you in the right direction if you can get over your slump and don’t give up. Although it was vague on delivery to cushion the inevitable blow to my ego, they told me that out of pure honesty and that’s something I might not have gotten somewhere else which makes me grateful. That was when I understood that I needed to build my technical skills. So I did what any normal person would do in that situation. I learned C#!
Haha, I know that could be quite a dramatic turn for some people, but trust me when I tell you that I will never regret learning C# from Udemy and YouTube to advance my understanding of not just coding but the process of making a game in incorporation to my game audio educational marathon. After hearing so many colleagues sharing how uniquely they slipped into the industry, there was a common denominator and that was their specialty. I will go into detail on specialties in my next blog post so stay tuned for that! Just know that when it comes to your career you are not racing anyone. You are positioning yourself in a way that provides the most amount of value to your clients and or future employers! And that effort can bloom into a specialty only you can perform.
So while I was going through my coding hell for the past couple of months, I learned more than a lot about myself and my craft. This led me to start thinking more of the micro to macro level of consiousness of my skills instead of a project-by-project, “crafting-by-necessity”, way of looking at work. And for great results too!
Planning, Practicing, and Publishing
Planning is the ultimate asset of every project nondiscriminatory of function that we all as creators have at our disposal. Utilizing that time to its fullest potential brings out the full potential of your work. The intention is everything in planning and it leads to you being organized as you work. Having a plan and being able to easily execute it now documents your work to a new level. Now you have the opportunity to plan out sharing your work to put yourself out there. After my “rock bottom” I understood that there will be more significant losses than that that I will go through and the only way to prevent them from happening as much as I can, I needed to get good. Like really good. Like so good, nobody can see my portfolio and just forget about me. This competitive attitude I have has to be one of the best things I can say I have without ego. Because it’s a competitive attitude that focuses on who I am now and who I was in the past, not anyone else. Because of this awareness, I was able to plan out my practices with my weaknesses on a pedal stool for me to reference and improve during my practices.
Practicing by following your plan is just a matter of execution. Your work will speak for itself always to the trained professional, but consistent work and growth is a process that you can achieve in many ways:
- Starting a podcast for Dialogue Experience
- Partnering with an indie studio you worked with for a game jam
- Composing music for charity or portfolio benefit
- Participating in Sound design Excercices of Challenges
- Creating a demo reel highlighting your specialty
When executing your plan, it would be to your benefit to record yourself working. Audio work is a lesser-known field and it is automatically a niche that is interesting for people who are in the industry or not. The more you post, the more you look reliable to any wondering recruiters or devs looking for specialized talent. Your network also wants to know what you are working on. Don’t make the mistake of working without showing your work. There should be no room for anyone to ask you how you work if you have the tools to show them through your brand’s Instagram page or Twitter.
Publishing my work has been the top way people have been able to get in contact with me. They can easily see the scope of my abilities without even going to this website. This quality is what makes social media such a good conduit for work. Utilize it by planning for it and make your education your brand!
A great role model and sound designer in the game audio world, Akash Thakkar, said it best in one of his meetings with me. “Rest before you feel burned out.” This is the best way to keep yourself not only motivated, but also energized for the coming work you have going for you. Do not, and I mean DO NOT compromise your health for a temporary project. Many developers in the indie space would understand if you are a freelancer that you need to focus on your health at any given moment. Trust in your communication than your insecurities when dealing with clients, they are human like us too!
Resting can come with some productive benefits if you utilize it right. This is why Akash says it is a skill in itself. Many people don’t know how to rest and everyone has their own way of detaching themself from work both physically and mentally. Playing video games is a good start, but there are other things you can do that vastly outpace your current resting “curriculum”:
- Audiobooks give you wisdom of those before you (Ex. Automic Habits (JC), Mastery (RG), Launch (JW), etc…)
- Learning a new Language
- Improve your workout process
- Discover new talents or instruments
- Travel and experience the world outside of Video Games
A final point Akash notes is that you have to learn how to rest alone and with others. There is a definite difference and developing a way to rest for both should be your priority if you have no action steps when it comes to your resting periods.
Learn From Rock Bottom
If you have done everything I have already shared in this post, then you already are well above where I am at when I am posting this post. At the time of this post, I am 7 months past that rejection letter with that AAA studio. What I learned since then was how to make my own video game, more on audio programming, on-the-job experience working as a freelancer, and where I fit in my network of game developers. Now I plan on demonstrating everything I have learned through my series of demo reels geared towards branding myself as a reliable selection for any ring I toss my hat into.
by strengthen my working and resting habits, I believe I can make a name for myself in this competitive but inviting field. I have no doubt that anyone reading this post would be a guest that I can provide value just by you making it this far in my post. I appreciate the love and support and I will continue to share my experience in the hopes of helping anyone going through what I am going through. But as for this post, I leave you with these key takeaways:
- Take notice of the skills you are weak and strong at.
- Make plans to improve your weaknesses and specialize your stregnths
- Review your past and take notes
- Never give up on your journey, you never know what opportunities are right around the corner
When we fall the hardest we are open to the greatest change in our life.Avatar Aang 😉