If you are interested in getting your first job in the animation industry there are some things you can do to increase your chances of getting a foot in the door. There are also tips to help you get on once you have secured a job in the exciting, varied and high-pressure world of production.
Starting your animation career can be daunting, but once you have a good plan in place it will be easier to apply for a job and start work in the best possible way.
In short this looks as follows:
To make planning easier you can:
- audit yourself: What do I want to do? What type of business, and job aligns with my career plans?
- build market knowledge: Research. Study the types of business, production, and content you love. Why would they hire you?
- analyse skills gaps: Do I have the skills and expertise required to work with them?
- plan for the future: How will I develop the skills required and demonstrate my ability?
Before applying for a job you can:
- audit yourself: Do my CV, online profile and my reel/portfolio really demonstrate what I can do?
- build market knowledge: What are the key elements of the job, the company, the production - and why?
- analyse skills gaps: Am I in possession of all these skills, how do I show them off at interview?
- plan for the future: Am I ready to apply right now and confidently get a job offer?
To start work in the best possible way, you can:
- audit yourself: Understand your contract, do a SWOT on your first three months performance
- build market knowledge: Ask for feedback, be assertive - are you fulfilling your quota?
- analyse skills gaps: What do I need to do to pass probation, or gain recognition - what am I doing well? What is challenging?
- plan for the future: Create a professional development plan. How will you continue to improve?
Understanding who you are as a professional, and who you want to be, is the foundation of setting clear career goals. Giving yourself an honest audit of what you have to offer a new employer, will set out a definitive path which you can use to confidently grow as an animation professional.
Download our animation career map for more information on the entry level roles which will get you a foot in the door of the industry.
Creating a career plan
A few things to think about when creating a career plan are:
- visualising your future professional self (e.g. career objectives, personal mission, capability, accountability)
- assessing your current experiences, skills and USP (e.g. skills gaps analysis, career anchors, unique sales proposition, attitude)
- thinking about your values and passions (e.g. elevator pitch, passions, personal values)
- analysing your ideal employer, from their mission to their creative content (e.g. quota, progression, contract terms, content creation)
- determining a SMART goal and benchmarks to measure your success (e.g. schedule plan, set benchmarks and SMART goal)
- reviewing who you are right now (e.g. role models, showreel, CV, social media presence)
Additionally, it’s worth exploring the differences between working as a freelancer, entering the industry as an apprentice and getting hired as a PAYE employee. Finally, networking and mentoring support can help you create a clearer long term plan.
Creating valuable career collateral is essential in securing your new animation job. But remember, a hiring manager may not be a creative, so you must provide a three-dimensional view of your professional power. A beautifully crafted showreel and/or portfolio, a strong CV, targeted cover letter, powerful social media presence, and confidence at interview, is the ideal combination.
Your desired job:
When you have found a job role that interests you can ask yourself:
- about the company, its values and content
- what kind of skills, attitude and capability the company is looking for
- what contract type, contract duration and quota the company offers.
You need to make sure your CV highlights your skills in the right way. It should be:
- plain format, no graphics, columns or fancy fonts
- optimise content to fill the employer's need
- demonstrate your unique value – why you?
- highlight your transferable skills
- link to your reel and/or portfolio on page one
- use a features and benefit style – how can you help them?
Your reel or portfolio should showcase what you can do. It should be:
- no more than two minutes
- start with your best and finish with you second best work
- showcase your strengths. Technique outweighs originality
- demo the 12 principles where possible, but highlight your best bits
Don’t take credit for someone else’s work and check your NDAs and always contextualise your input.
Your confident interview:
To come across confident in your interview, you should:
- do your research and prepare to pitch yourself
- use real examples of how you work
- ask relevant questions and show your enthusiasm
- be professional and respectful
- test your technology if the interview is virtual
- always follow up
Alongside a professional CV, and powerful covering letter, for creative roles, it’s essential that you provide a visual portfolio of what you can do. Even those focused on production roles benefit by showing examples of animation they’ve worked on, with explanations of their involvement. For information on how to do this, see Build your animation portfolio.
Want to know what a good showreel looks like? See examples here. ScreenSkills may be able to provide a bursary to support the purchase of software, hardware or training.
- Where to start: To get a creative role, you need to be able to show employers a portfolio, in the form of a website or video showreel. Combine still and moving images which spark the viewers’ attention, and hold it...
- What work should I use: Match your art style and genre to the studio or production you’re applying to work for. Don’t leave your best to last. Match what skills you’re showcasing to the role.
- Checks and credits: Be clear about your contribution. Use text to explain tools or software used. Only use your own work. Check any non-disclosure agreements or copyrights beforehand. Multiple, contextual reels are good practice. Stay updated.
- Technicalities: Check your portfolio works on most screen sizes, devices, operating systems and browsers. Does it work on PC and Mac? Desktop and mobile? Choose a universal digital platform like Vimeo.
It might seem obvious, but it’s easy to get swept away in the excitement of your new job. Never agree to work without knowing how much you’ll be paid, when you’ll be paid, and what you’re expected to do for the money. Expect a formalised induction which outlines the company, the who, what, and why of your job; and introduces you to critical contacts. Be both respectful, yet confident. If you’re unsure of anything – ask.
A few things you can expect when you start a new job are:
- contract: should include a start date, pay and rewards details, working hours, contract length, information on holiday, sick leave and your notice period
- induction: introduction to the company and your manager, hardware and software set-up, quota and ways of working
- expectations: your availability, quality of work, quantity of output, communication and professionalism
- assert: your strengths, how to best communicate, any challenges you are facing
- respect: people’s time, client demands, onboarding process and your colleagues
- connect: to a ‘buddy’, your manager, your team, the pipeline
Consistency is key. Getting a job is only the first step. A considered and assertive approach to your work will help you gain the approval of your colleagues and help you evolve as an animation professional.
- Listen: Ask to listen in on briefings or meetings which may support your knowledge of the job. Take notes and reflect on information you're given.
- Learn: Find a mentor amongst your crew; who can help you? Use tutorials, training courses, and inhouse initiatives to increase your expertise; technical, creative, and soft skills.
- Ask questions: Get curious. If you want to know why a design doesn't work, ask. Ask for clarity if you're unsure.
- Rest: Don't burn yourself out. If you're struggling with your quota, speak to someone who can help. Get plenty of sleep.
- Watch: Shadow the experts where you can and watch how they interact with others. Follow the pipeline; want to see the animatic? Ask.
- Play: Get involved in socials; your work network is valuable. Remember to keep loving what you do - it's animation!
- Respect: The expertise of your peers. The opportunity you’ve been given – demonstrate your loyalty to your studio and don’t jump ship at the earliest opportunity. Think long-term.
Regardless of whether you choose to freelance, or to work as an employee, you should always be planning at least three months ahead. Most studios are keen to keep and grow their talent – don’t be tempted to jump ship for every new opportunity that comes your way.
Grow your credibility and expertise by gaining feedback from your internal and external network, confidently ask for feedback where you can. No matter where you are in your career, you’ll never know everything, and learning is a continuous journey.
Apply to join our Building Blocks to Your Animated Career programme. You will find it in ScreenSkills Training and Opportunities directory when it’s running.
Download this information
"Animation building blocks - starting your career in animation" is available as a PDF