Some of us go to events for the good times and bright lights. Others go to dress up as their favourite characters and meet new people. And some people go with folio in hand looking to find their dream job.
Ruth Bosch, game artist at League of Geeks, is one of the lucky people who scored a job while attending GDC (Game Developers Conference) in San Francisco. GDC is a massive annual gaming event attended by tens of thousands of fans looking to get a chance to play the latest games, show off their cosplay creations and make new friends and connections.
I had a chance to talk to Ruth and ask her just how she did this and whether she had any tips for artists looking to do the same thing.
Ruth, who is originally from Berlin, met the League of Geeks team at GDC 16' after she won a scholarship from Games Austria. She applied for the scholarship on a whim with exceedingly low expectations.
"It was a 'Tell us why we should give you a ticket' type thing. I wasn't going to apply but my friend convinced me to so I submitted like 1-minute before the deadline. When I got the phone call saying I had won a spot I ran around my flat like a crazy person."
After hearing the good news, Ruth immediately started her normal pre-convention routine. Order fresh business cards, update her folio, check out which studios have booths and do a bit of research on them.
But, once the time came to finally board the plane to the US, Ruth's new business cards hadn't arrived, her folio had no sexy new art and no studios had a copy of her resume. She'd simply run out of time to get everything done.
So she made sure she'd done everything that was in her control. She did her research on the studios attending. She made sure her work was easy to find. She looked after herself during the event. She set herself some achievable goals. And she went in with the right mindset.
"I just treated GDC like a holiday and went and enjoyed the experience. That mindset helped a lot. I'd go and make some new friends and I'd just be myself. Anything else would be a bonus."
So, Ruth went to San Francisco, had a blast, met new people, danced, chilled on bean-bags, talked to people about nothing and met the team at League of Geeks. The rest is history.
Despite the seemingly random set of circumstances surrounding Ruth's employment, she does have a checklist of five things she does before and during a convention. They are...
1. Make your applications studio specific
Every studio is different. Whether it be art style, subject matter, style of productions, language spoken or size, every studio goes about things differently and hires artists that they believe will be best suited to that style.
"When I work on applications, I like to do something specific for each company. I tailor my portfolio in a way that I think would seem most attractive to them."
But it's important to make sure that the work is still in your style. Read the job description carefully and make sure your application is relevant to the position.
"Keep that street art in your gallery elsewhere so they can check it out, but make sure you show them what's relevant first."
It may seem like a lot of work, but it is always worth it. Doing this not only helps to expand your skill-set, but also shows studios that you are willing to adapt and have done your research about them.
2. Be Prepared
"I like to do my homework and make sure that all of my work is not only relevant, but easy to access for everyone looking for it."
Preparation is key to a successful convention. Set some clear goals and how to achieve them. Spend a couple of hours researching the studios and artists attending so you can hold a conversation with them. Spruce up your folio with some exciting new work. And get some snazzy new business cards made up. You never know what's going to land you your dream job.
"I met Ty (Ty Carey) and we had a very classic business card exchange. He checked out my portfoio and, later that day, I got Tweeted at by League of Geeks asking if I'd like to come back and have a chat the next day. It was crazy."
3. Be Consistent and visible
This industry is extremely fast moving and fluid. Changes are made quickly and vacant roles in studios need to be filled as soon as possible. That's why it's really important to be easily findable and definable.
"I have a website with an easy to understand URL." Ruth told me. "My email address is easily accessible. And I have all that information clearly displayed on my business card. I'm super easy to find."
It's also important to be consistent with your messaging and your style. Make sure that when potential employers find you, they know exactly what they're going to get when they hire you.
4. Don't expect everyone to be interested in you.
Not everyone is going to care for your work or your personality. And that's totally fine. You might be the most talented animator, coder or VFX artist in the world with a killer repertoire of jokes and one-liners. If a studio isn't hiring, then there's nothing you can do. Don't get disheartened and keep being yourself.
"Don't expect the perfect outcome from every conversation. Sometimes you just need to relax and enjoy where you are and what you're doing."
It's also important not to be too much of a pest. If someone seems too busy to talk to you, it might be best to come back and say hi another time. Remember, if it's been a long day for you, it's also been a long day for everyone else. Be nice and be understanding.
Promotional Poster Art by Ruth
5. Look after yourself and pick your karaoke songs wisely.
If you're planning on making the most out of every event that you're going to attend, you have to be at the top of your game. And that means looking after yourself.
"Every night I find the most horrible, green coloured smoothie and I eat oranges and lemons. But I also make sacrifices. Sometimes I skip parties or events if I'm not feeling 100%."
And this could be Ruth's most important tip. "Make sure you enjoy yourself, but not too much. You can't talk to cool people with no voice, so choose your karaoke song wisely."
It's not the most obvious place to get a job but, if Ruth Bosch is anything to go by, it's absolutely do-able. Give yourself the best chance by being prepared, being smart, being yourself, being kind to others and being kind to yourself.
"Just try and have a good experience." Ruth said as we wrapped up our interview. "People around you will remember that experience and they'll remember what kind of person you are."