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Day 2, Monday, August 9, 2004
I crawled out of bed a bit groggy from a long night of parties… er… “networking opportunities” last night. I joke, but I was actually able to meet a lot of really interesting individuals who gave me some insight on my job hunting quest. I dropped by the annual Sake Barrel Opening party found my way into the Ars Electronica animators party at Figueroa Hotel. I met a lot of folks who are in the same boat as me, seeking that dream job at SIGGRAPH working for a big CG company. We talked about approaches to finding those jobs and probably the most important key to getting that interview: networking with just the right people. Most employers have to sift to towering stacks of resumes of the same thing over and over, so if they’ve met someone interesting, or one of their co-workers suggests a candidates, the odds are much higher they will try to bring that person in for an interview. Cold calls and resumes work once in a while but knowing someone who knows someone can always give you that the edge, which is so important in such a competitive field like CG. Finally, the majority of the individuals I ran into were planning on heading down to the Job Fair once it opens on Tuesday.
This afternoon I got a chance to meet with this year’s Job Fair coordinator, Madeleine Slutsky. Slutsky is the Director of Career Services at the Illinois Institute of Art Chicago. AI was actually the organization that has stepped up to bring the Job Fair back to SIGGRAPH after a year’s hiatus. The Job Fair has always been one of the largest draws at the conference with thousands of eager applicants trying to schedule interviews with potential employers. Some attendees make the trip out with the specific intent of just getting a spot in the Job Fair. The last Job Fair was two years ago in San Antonio, as the recruiter pool began to dwindle as a result of the shrinking job market in addition to the costs of sending recruiters out. As a result, the Job Fair was dropped from last year’s conference in San Diego, leaving job seekers and recruiters alike without an organized venue for meeting. Since many missed having the Job Fair, Slutsky along with fellow AI career services specialist Connie Winn and scores of recruiters all pushed to bring the event back for this year, lining up 47 different companies to set up booths to do abbreviated interviews.
“The SIGGRAPH 2004 committee was amazingly cooperative in helping us organize and coordinate this year’s fair,” said Slutsky. A wide array of recruiters will be present. “This year’s fair has a good mix of employers from software design to game programming and visual effects.”
The Job Fair runs from Tuesday 10AM-4PM and Wednesday Noon-4PM, but if you want a good chance getting in you should get there as early as possible, as long lines are expected. The was it works is applicants come up for an abbreviated interview, less like an actual formal interview and more like a quick and concise introduction that can leave an impression on the recruiter. If they are interested in finding out more about you, there are two larger interview suites at the back of the hall where they can go into a more intensive interview. Here’s a few tips Slutsky advised:
-Be early! Recruiters are more likely remember you and be impressed by you when they are fresh, not after seeing hundreds of applicants.
-Prepare to wait. The Job Fair is expected to draw thousands of applicants.
-Bring samples of your work and fresh resumes. Assume all demo-reels as non-returnable because the volume these recruiters will be receiving will be massive.
-Dress appropriately. We’re all enjoying the great sunny California weather, but this is a job interview and you want to make the best first impression. This doesn’t mean break out the business suit, but nice casual clothing and collared shirts, no t-shirts or sandals.
-Be prepared to talk about what you’ve done. This may sound obvious, but it’s best to have a set plan of what you will say, almost like a script, but approach it with a more casual and conversational demeanor.
-Take a business card from the recruiters and follow-up. This is hugely important. Very little actual hiring will be going on at the fair, but the contacts you build are crucial. When you follow up after the conference you can schedule a more intensive interview with the employers and if you have met with the recruiters you are more likely to land the interview than if you just sent in a cold resume.
I got a chance to speak with some recruiters from High Voltage Software in Illinois, a game development company, and find out what kinds of things they are keeping an eye out for. They look for strong compatible personality and whether or not the individual is a good fit for the company and quality of your demo reel.
Some of the hotter jobs this year tend to be in the gaming and visual effects areas, so expect stiff competition for those jobs. Some of the bigger companies, as always, have a huge presence on the exhibition floor and have accommodated space in their booths for interview suites. The Exhibition floor opens at 10AM on August 10 th.
The next job related event I ran into was the panel on careers in CG Entertainment. The focus of the panel was to field questions from potential applicants on the skills, experience, and hiring process with various careers in CG Entertainment. They did a great job of giving us a feel of the industry and finding employment.
I ended the night with a stop at the ACM SIGGRAPH Chapters Party and a quick stop at the Newtek Lightwave party for some more networking opportunities.