How do animation students find internships and temporary placements in the industry? It's a question we get asked a lot here at Escape Studios. Jobs in the entertainment industry have always been highly competitive, and even unpaid internships can be hard to pin down. There are many ways - official jobs postings, word of mouth, rumours in the pub, personal contacts, even cold-calling - all of these can be effective ways to find an internship in the business.
Below are the twelve key rules we think are important for success.
Rule No 1 - Be good at what you do
Ok, you're still a student and no one expects you to be Michaelangelo, but the industry is competitive, and you need to be good at your work. Make your animation good quality, entertaining and fun to watch. Employers like students who are confident in their skills.
Rule No 2 - Prove it with a great demo reel
Your demo reel is your shop front, your display of talent. Nowadays it should be online at a website or blog. At this stage it doesn't have to be perfect - just show your best work done so far. A great demo reel brings in work and helps an employer identify your skills.
Rule No 3 - make your work easy to find
Got yourself a blog or website? If not, why not? These days, employers won't wait for you to send them a reel - they want to click on your work. So make sure your demo reel and artwork is hosted online at your blog or website. If you don't have one, do it now. It's free! A blog is quick, easy and free to start. You can also build your own website at wix.com, which might take a little longer to create.
Which one you choose doesn't really matter, as long as it looks crisp and clean and is a good shopfront for your talent. Learn more on how to put together a free website or blog.
Rule No 4 - polish your CV or resume
The next thing you need is an up-to-date, short, and easily readable CV (or resume in the USA). Find out more on how to put together a great CV.
Rule No 5 - Research - find out who is hiring
There are hundreds of animation, games and visual effects companies in the UK alone, and hundreds or even thousands around the world. Remember that most media companies speak English - wherever they are located, so don't be shy to apply abroad. Make a list of companies, or - better yet - create a spreadsheet, so you track where you have applied and when. Try to find out who is looking for talent. Keep an eye on job forums, industry news websites, Facebook pages. There is always a company somewhere looking to hire fresh talent.
To start looking, go to the CG Studios Map. You will have to register, but once you have done this you have access to lists of CG studios all over the world. Just enter the location you are interested in (e.g. London) and see what comes up. Now that you have a list, you can start to contact individual studios.
Rule No 6 - sign up for job alerts
One method is to sign up with the internships page at The Animation World Network (AWN). Other places to look include Mediargh which posts lists of internships and also jobs.
Rule No 7 - Start applying. Now it's time to start applying
You will need to draft a short cover letter to send to each company you are applying for. Draft a standard letter, save it, and then adapt it for each company you apply for. Each letter you send should be tailored to suit the company you are applying for so that it doesn't read like a form letter. Form letters go in the bin. What are your skills, and how are they relevant to the position you are applying for? Employers like to see that applicants have done their homework and can explain why they are interested in a career with their company. Be enthusiastic, and show that you know what that company does for a living.
Rule No 8 - Learn to make good coffee
Realistically, your job as an intern will often be quite dull. The company can't give you specialist work to do on client brief because, most likely, you don't have the right skills yet. So you may well end up making a lot of coffee and tea, and even cleaning the kitchen. Working as a runner is a well-established route into the industry. Runners do lots of the dull jobs that keep a company ticking over, including boring stuff like wiping kitchen counters. But, if they get taken on at the end of it, it's worth it.
Rule No 9 - Get ready for interview
Company recruiters want to know that you are enthusiastic and motivated for the industry and the job role you are applying for. You must research the company. Recruiters often ask questions like: "What do you think this job involves?" or "what do you expect an average day to be like?". Understanding what the company actually does will make you seem engaged and interested.
See our blog post on what not to do at a job interview.
Rule No 10 - Work your connections
Personal connections can really help. If you know people who work in the creative industries, ask them about internships. There is no shame in this - many of the jobs you get in industry will be thanks to the sort of loose connections that make up what people call networking. Employers want to be comfortable with the person they are hiring, and if someone within the company can vouch for the applicant, then so much the better. Make a list of people you know in the business and see if they can help you out. Many Escapees might well be willing to help out a fellow Escape Studios Graduate - if you ask nicely. Sending down the ladder to help give an opportunity to a newbie isn't as rare as you might think.
Rule No 11 - Keep your ears open!
Keep in touch with your fellow classmates. You can keep each other informed about who is hiring and who needs bodies in a hurry. Media companies tend to practice crisis-management, which is to say that when they need people, they tend to need them right away. So keep you ear to the ground, polish your online portfolio, and be ready to move quickly.
Rule No 12 - Don't give up!
You need rhinoceros hide in this industry. Expect rejection, and don't take it personally, if companies reject you or (much more common) simply ignore you. It's just the nature of the business, and it isn't personal. Keep trying and you will be rewarded.