I was talking to a friend about networking and its importance to the game industry. He asked me what role I thought social networking had in the entire scheme of networking. I told him it was one of the three pillars.
The three pillars of networking are the following
Virtual – the networking you do online
Physical – the networking you do face to face
Personal – the effort you put into your personal life
Each of those is extremely important to building and maintaining a network and networks are the safety net for us in this highly volatile industry. Let’s talk about each of those pillars.
1. The Virtual Pillar
I’ve covered the Virtual Pillar in a previous post Networking 101, but will do a quick review here. The Virtual Pillar is your online presence. It covers how you present yourself in social media spaces as well as how you appear in your own personal space.
The game industry lives on Facebook and Twitter. Linked In is also important as that’s where Headhunters and recruiters look. It is important to practice strict online hygiene, meaning keeping your online persona clean and professional. Do not post pictures of you passed out drunk and if your “friend” posts pictures of you, untag them. Keep your posts SFW and whatever you do, do not post anything even remotely bigotted or hateful. Employers and potential employers regularly check Facebook and Twitter and Instrgram, so the rule of thumb is.. if you wouldn’t print it on your business card and hand it to a potential employer.. don’t put it on social media!
And the reverse is also true. Facebook and Twitter can be a fantastic way to open up conversations with people whom you respect and who can also be very important to your career. Keep your conversations with them short and professional. Do not devolve into fanboi-ing and never EVER ask for a job!
2. The Physical Pillar
The Physical pillar covers the face to face opportunities that you should be involved in, in order to keep your network active and positive. Conference, trade organizations (IGDA, WIGI, etc) are the places for you to get face time with people who are valuable for your career growth.
But it’s not just a matter of joining or attending, the way to get attention and get a good start on your career is by becoming active and productive in these organizations. Your local IGDA chapter is the perfect place to start. Join and attend the local meetings. Better yet, volunteer. The best job in the world is the one handing out name tags. You get to put a face with names and actually interact with everyone as they come in.
Conferences are, likewise, extremely important as it is where you can pick up business cards from people who are important to you. Also, if you can volunteer to work at a conference, even better. This gives you face time with speakers and VIPs who can be very influential for you.
Overall, prove that you are a reliable, dependable member of the team for the groups you are involved in. This will put you in exactly the right place next time an employer says, “Wow, we really need a go-getter for this starting position.”
3. Personal pillar
Now you may be wondering what your private or personal time can do for your networking. This is the time you spend out of your daily life working on things that will advance your career. The benefit that people wanting in to the industry today have over old timers like me is that you have the tools to make games right at your fingertips. There are tools and engines out there that are free or very low cost.
Also, you don’t have to make just computer games. Make board games. Make card games. Make games for school children. Make games for senior citizens.
Just. Make Games.
You can also write a blog. Write critiques of games you have played. Write observations about other people playing games. Write about a particular coding problem you’ve run in to. Write about art tools you are trying. Write and get involved in game culture!
And if you are not making games or writing about games, READ about games. Read Gamasutra. Read Kotaku. Read Raph Koster’s Theory of Fun. Read Jesse Schells’ Art of Game design. Educate yourself. This is so beneficial when you are entering the interview phase. When you can converse about these books, or bring in and show off a game you are working on, or point to a blog you write, you will put yourself head and shoulders above the people who just hand in a resume and cross their fingers.
By paying attention to these three pillars, and tending to them on a daily basis, you will be forming skills and habits that will serve you well through the entire industry. You will become the type of candidate industry employers are looking for!