Proverb — “It’s not what you know. Or who you know. But who knows you”
I finally achieved a life goal of mine back in September, I got a job in the video games industry. This has been a dream of mine ever since I was a kid but it was only in the summer of 2016 where I thought about taking steps to make it a reality.
I’m writing this article as the most frequent questions I’ve been asked since I joined Electronic Arts 2 months ago are, “how did you get a job at EA?” and “how do I get a job in the video games industry?” The first question is much easier to answer and the purpose of this post is to explain what I did to get the position of Senior Recruiter at EA. The second question isn’t as straightforward. I will provide some tips from my experience so far as well as advice from others in the industry, but my plan is to write a more in-depth post on the subject in the future.
I remember a conversation with one of my best friends back in August 2016 where I said, “I’m going to try and get into the video games industry”. And not because I wasn’t enjoying working at Hudl, in fact I loved working there. I enjoyed my role, had great peers, respected the leadership, had awesome office facilities etc. But the product, and sports technology industry, doesn’t excite me. My true passion lies in video games. I can play, talk, research and analyse games all day. And that’s a major reason why I pursued a career in recruiting for software companies in the first place, I hoped it would lead to working in the video games industry one day.
So, I had the motivation, but what did I do next? I started doing my research and keeping my notes in a fairly basic Google Sheet. This is what I did step by step:
- Confirm that my skills are needed in the video games industry. Yes, even small games companies need a recruitment function. Awesome.
- Decide what companies I would like to work for. I started by listing out the biggest and best in the industry. I also looked up who made my favourite games and what companies are close by (step 3).
- Look at what companies are close to me and I could commute to. If none are near you, then you will have to consider relocating. Luckily I lived in London and the South East UK is one of the biggest game hubs on the planet.
- Out of those companies, find out who have their recruitment functions in those offices. For example, Nintendo have employees in the UK but their Talent Acquisition Team is based in Seattle.
- Check job sites to see who’s hiring. Orca is the best site to check, it’s an aggregator that groups all advertised positions in the video games industry in one place. You can also set-up alerts so you never miss an opportunity. This is how I found out about games studios I hadn’t heard of before.
My shortlist then looked like this: Electronic Arts, Ubisoft (Reflections), Microsoft, Riot Games, Activision, Twitch, SEGA, Bossa Studios and NaturalMotion. Then the last stage of research:
- Find out who you need to speak to. This isn’t always easy and often means you have to network.
As networking is embedded in my role as a Recruiter, I found this next bit enjoyable and easy. But I take it for granted that networking isn’t natural for many. And that’s understandable, unless you’ve practiced introducing yourself to strangers many times it can be a daunting task. That said, I only I introduced myself to a stranger in-person once (that was David Barker from Riot Games at a MeetUp), all the rest I used either LinkedIn or email (which is less scary).
Luckily it’s easy to find people on LinkedIn (I’m not going into how to do that here) and send them an InMail or request to connect with a note. But before making an introduction, check their careers page to see if there is a suitable opportunity for you. It will make your introduction more meaningful as it shows you’ve done your research and you can tailor your message i.e. “I’ve noticed there are no Recruiter vacancies” or “I’m really interested in the [x] role I saw on your careers page”. Here’s an example of the intro I sent to Mike Christie at Bossa Studios:
I definitely could improve that message looking back, but it was enough to get a conversation started. The message was clearly tailored for the role, company and Mike personally.
I first spoke to my now manager at Electronic Arts in October 2016. They weren’t advertising but I made Dan aware of who I am, why I’m interested in joining the team and formed a connection so that I could check back with him every few months. 10 months after that introduction a position opened up, I dived straight into the interview process and got the job.
It took 13 months from saying “I’m going to get into video games industry” to starting at EA. I count myself truly lucky, EA was at the top of my list of companies to work for. I started with the aim of getting into the industry and ended up at a dream company.
TIPS ON GETTING INTO THE VIDEO GAMES INDUSTRY
Sorry this last section is so short, as promised above, I will make this into a full article in the future. Ultimately you need to ask, does a video games company need my skills? Now that might be in the studios developing games with disciplines like engineering, art, design, production, audio, narrative, QA etc. Or in the many business functions like marketing, HR, finance, recruiting, sales etc.
If you don’t have the skills then you need to find a way to acquire them, and that might take many years requiring you to get a degree, an internship, work experience, complete side projects, a stunning portfolio or participate in online courses.