Welcome to “Follow Ups and Follow Through”, Part Four of “Using Conventions to Break Into the Gaming Industry” a four-part series of articles where I offer advice and suggestions for maximizing your career-opportunity exploration at GenCon or other major gaming conventions. In Part Three, “At the Con”, we discussed ways to make the most of your opportunities to network at the convention while still having a great time.
Here, in the final part of this series, we’re going to talk about what to do after the con, to make certain that the effort you put into the convention doesn’t go to waste. We’ll discuss establishing post-con contact with your new network of industry allies, as well as a very basic set of tips on how not to flub your first industry job.
Part Four: Follow Ups and Follow Through
Hopefully, by the time you return home from the convention, you’ll have collected a nice stack of business cards.
On the back, you’ve carefully jotted a few notes about your conversation with each person, as discussed in “The Wrap Up” of Part Three in this series. Use these as a “to do” list when you get home. Create a brief email letter and customize it for each of the individuals you spoke with at any length during the convention. A sample might read:
Thank you for our conversation on Y during GenCon last week. I really enjoyed hearing your thoughts about Z.
As we’d discussed, I am very interested in opportunities to freelance as a (writer/artist/editor) in the industry, and I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction to explore that avenue with your company.
Thanks again for taking the time to chat with me.
I. Wanna Job
jobless @ myhouse.com
I recommend doing this for all the contacts you make at the convention who are already involved in the industry. Just because someone doesn’t have hiring authority doesn’t mean they don’t have experience and insight that you can learn from. Plus, you have the opportunity to make more friends – always a bonus on both a personal and professional level.
Follow Ups – Part Two
Immediately after GenCon, many industry folk are swamped, exhausted and inundated with new contacts. I recommend setting up some sort of follow up list for yourself and sending a very polite second letter about a month after the first one. Avoid any sort of guilt-inducing statements – remember the person you’re writing to doesn’t owe you a response. But a simple follow up saying something like “I know it’s busy after big cons, so I thought I’d drop you a note to follow up on my email from last month” is a diplomatic way not only to keep contact, but also to show that you’re the kind of person who has follow through and persistence. Another note can follow, a month after that, if necessary.
Listen and Learn
The responses you receive back may vary from “check our website” to extensive offerings of advice. Regardless of how small or large, it’s always nice to send a follow up letter thanking the person for taking the time to write you. Especially if they’ve taken the time to actually give you in depth advice, remember that this is a valuable gift, and treat it as such.
However, as you learn more about the industry, you will also find that you’re sometimes given contradictory advice. One professional says you “must” do something one way to make it in the industry, while another says that such an act would make it “impossible” to succeed. When industry advice is mutually exclusive, as with any other situation, you’re going to have to make some decisions on your own. Weigh the pertinence of each person’s advice for your particular situation. Consider which jibes the most with your own personal philosophies and professional ethics. And then set your own course of action, based on what resonates correctly for you. Be sure to thank both individuals, however – they’ve both taken the time to share with you the truth as they see it.
At some point, there’s a good chance that, if you handle yourself well and have skill and persistence, you may be offered a job in the industry. While each individual situation is unique, there are some basic things to keep in mind about the gaming industry.
While you are working in the entertainment field, you’re still doing a job. Be responsible about deadlines, prompt and responsive with communication, and realistic about what you can and can’t perform. If you take on a job and discover that you don’t think you’re going to be able to complete it in a timely and professional manner, contact your supervisor and let them know that. Don’t just drop off the face of the planet and stop returning emails. Most industry professionals understand that sometimes things just come up, and may be willing to work with you, either by offering an extension, or by finding someone else to take on a portion of the project.
As well, be respectful of the Non-Disclosure Agreements you sign – violating one of them not only will almost certainly assure you don’t work in the industry again, it can cost you a great deal of money. NDAs are legal documents, and violating one could find you on the receiving end of an expensive lawsuit.
And finally, if and when you do break into the industry, remember to treat those who are still aspiring with the same respect and courtesy that you wanted while you were there. It’s easy to lose one’s humility on the “professional” side of the gaming table, but when it all comes down to it, we’re all just gamers.
GenCon, and other gaming conventions, can be intimidating to the aspiring professional. But they can also be a unique opportunity. I hope that these articles have provided some advice and aid for those of you who are seeking to enter the industry. Questions, comments or insight can be sent to me at my email (jess at jesshartley dot com) or you can find me at many of the major gaming conventions throughout North America.
After all, even established professionals should take advantage of opportunity whenever they can!
© Jess Hartley – http://www.jesshartley.com
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