We all know it can be difficult to break into creative industries. Competition for jobs is global, junior talent is strong and every month more and more artists graduate and are competing for jobs. It’s not all doom and gloom though. There are plenty of great jobs out there. The hard truth is that too many of you are making simple mistakes that can be avoided.

In this article, I have highlighted some of the most common reasons why people don’t get offered jobs and miss out on opportunities that can change their lives.

Job in VFX, Games, or Animation.

You are not showing the recruiter you understand what the actual job involves. The harsh truth is that you are not going to be creating the hero character for a film as a junior artist. You are not going to be lighting or compositing a complex battle sequence. You are not going to be animating an entire action sequence by yourself. So stop trying to create this content in your projects and fall short.

Instead of setting the bar so high, show skills that will support the lead artists instead. Spend time creating background assets and even props that the hero characters might interact with. Create background animation performance loops that are refined and subtle. By doing these “less glamorous” projects you show your understanding of what your job will start as and that you can fit into any team.

You need to get some runs on the board first

Applying to Big Studios is not to be discouraged, but the chances of getting hired at top-tier companies with no experience are very slim. I get it, everyone wants to work at big-name companies, but it’s getting harder and harder to land those jobs as a junior artist.

Don’t give up on these dreams, and don’t stop applying for jobs and building relationships with recruiters. Make sure you also apply for jobs at smaller local studios. Not only will this dramatically improve your portfolio, but it will also strengthen your professional network and build your confidence which is probably lacking a little right about now. Getting some runs on the board and applying for a job at your dream company will become a lot more achievable.

You are relying on a piece of paper too much

I get it, you’ve spent all your money and time on a great course. You have a shiny new diploma, certificate, or degree, and your school has been pumping you up to apply for jobs. The problem is, that a degree is no guarantee of getting a job. It surely helps, but don’t rely too heavily on this piece of paper. Treat it like an ace up your sleeve. It’s there, it will come in handy one day but if your portfolio is filled with tutorial-based projects and half-finished renders you will not be getting any job offers soon.

You have no solid foundation skills

It doesn’t matter how nice that Zbrush detailing is on your dragon if your base mesh doesn’t show any knowledge of anatomy or balance you are never going to impress anyone.

There is nothing worse than seeing someone spending time on the final touches of a project when the foundations are so weak. It’s exactly why engineers and construction workers spend so long creating foundations for buildings. It’s where all the long hours are spent. It’s where people see a big hole in the ground and are not impressed. But without this foundation, the building will never work.

I’m always more impressed with someone who decides to model a hand in different poses and really nails it, than someone who attempts to model a full digital double with sausage fingers.

Spend time working on your foundation skills before you get distracted by all the nice tools at your disposal. Spend time truly understanding anatomy, balance, light, composition, and color before you even think about fine detail in any 3D model, texture, animation, or environment.

You are expecting recruiters to watch everything

It’s a great feeling sitting back and watching your demo reel and looking over your portfolio. It’s a time to reflect and congratulate yourself on how much your skills have improved. However, don’t expect a recruiter to have the same passion for your work. Their job is to hire the best person for an open position. They have a very keen eye for skills and are also on tight schedules, so don’t expect them to watch a 5-minute demo reel or flick through countless images.

It’s been said a million times before, but make sure to only include your best work. A demo reel with one good project is much more impressive than a demo reel with one good project and a bunch of fluff. You are always remembered for your weakest work, so don’t give the recruiter a chance to see it.

You don’t have a work Visa or a degree

This doesn’t relate to all jobs, but if you are applying for a job overseas you will most likely need a visa and an accredited degree. Without these, you are going to struggle even to be considered for a job and you are probably wasting your time with the application in the first place.

Getting yourself a degree is a requirement for many countries and without it there is little to no chance you will even be considered for a junior role.

Don’t give up though, it means you should apply for a few local jobs, remote freelance work, or whatever it takes to get a few projects on your resume. This is also another reason why getting a degree from a reputable school is recommended.

I know there is a huge financial overhead on this approach and it’s not obtainable to everyone but there are options out there. Take for example the Rookie Awards, there are loads of Educational scholarships available each year to help even out the playing field.

If you are not sure where to start to get a degree, there are also free advisers you can speak to who can help find you a school based on location, budget, and career goals. Follow this link to speak to an independent school adviser today.

You are showing the wrong style of work

When applying for a job at a visual effects studio, don’t show all your cartoony-style projects. You need to match your work to the studio. If the studios create photorealistic work for feature films, they are not going to be impressed by someone who creates cute characters and environments. Sure, it shows you can use 3D software and that you have some skill, but it also shows you have no idea what work they create for clients.

If you are applying for a job with a Visual Effects studio, show photorealistic work. Take photographs of objects and build them. Get footage of a dog and roto animate to the footage. Create an explosion, but make sure it’s integrated into a live-action plate. This goes the same for Games studios and Animation Studios too. Match your work to their style and you will get a lot more job offers in your inbox.

You are creating visually disturbing content

This one happens all the time and it’s an absolute red flag for so many reasons. I get it, you have the tools to create anything you want on the computer.

However, it doesn’t mean you should create a creature that could be used in a science fiction porn movie.

If you enjoy creating content like this, that’s fine. However, I strongly suggest you spend time on other projects that use your newfound anatomy skills on something a studio can work with and show some variety.

You are showing you can’t work to a schedule

One of the most important skills an artist can have is the ability to work to a schedule. Films and games often work to tight schedules and it’s essential that you can manage your work and stick to a deadline.

So before you start your next project that involves creating four hero characters, a complex performance, and a highly detailed environment… take a step back and set realistic goals. You need to make sure you have enough time to complete your work and meet the brief you have set. Otherwise, you are going to have a demo reel filled with a bunch of half-finished content and a list of excuses that no one wants to hear.

You have never worked to a brief

There is nothing more frustrating to a recruiter than having an artist show random works of art. You need to show projects that have been created with a solid brief from someone other than yourself. Make it up if you must, but set limitations to your project in terms of schedule, theme, and technology. Enter a contest if that helps, but just set yourself a brief.

Showing your finished project is great, but you will have a lot more to talk about and discuss with a recruiter if you can explain the brief you worked towards and the challenges you had to deal with.

You are showing you don’t care enough

It might seem like a small thing, but presenting your work as playblasts or poorly rendered content is not a good idea. To be honest it’s wasting people’s time. If you can’t take the time to properly present your work it shows you won’t take pride in presenting your work each day on the job.

So before you send off your new demo reel in a rush, spend the right amount of time to present your work properly. This is a huge part of an artist’s job. Every day you will be asked to present your work to your supervisor, lead, or team. So get used to it and show that you care about how you present your work to others.

You wasted your time building a website

If you have a WIX site, a WordPress site, or anything other than an Artstation or Rookies portfolio, you are kidding yourself.

Firstly, you are not going to impress a recruiter with a fancy slideshow header or a nice spinning logo. It’s just not going to happen. They want to see your work that relates to them, not to a web development agency.

Secondly, it’s highly likely that your site is slow and has a poor user experience. Plus, recruiters are creatures of habit. They want to see work and they want to take the next steps. They simply don’t have time to dig around your website looking at slow-loading videos and images.

Your job application shows you are lazy

I can’t tell you how many artists I’ve reviewed for jobs have included a half-baked message in their application. “Hey, this is my work. It’s not finished, but I want this job. PM me!”

I know it’s obvious to everyone why this isn’t a good way to apply for a job, but I have countless examples like this that happen all the time. Don’t be one of these people. Take your time, prepare your application carefully and please use a dictionary, or even better, an app like Grammarly.

You are frustrating people before they even see your work

This comment relates to demo reel videos, not digital portfolios. I understand how proud it can feel to share your work but get to the point and keep it simple.

Creating a demo reel with loads of great projects doesn’t mean it warrants a title sequence similar to a James Bond film.

Ideally, you only need your name and email address. Anything else is probably overkill. However, if the title sequence is more than 15 seconds be warned. The viewer is hovering over the timeline ready to scrub and you’ve effectively annoyed them. It might be small, but you are trying to make a good first impression so don’t waste it on something so simple.

You haven’t figured out what you are good at

It’s like the old saying goes “If you can’t love yourself, how can anyone else?”. Well, this goes the same for getting a job in visual effects, animation, and games. If you can’t show what you love to do, no one else is going to spend their time figuring that out for you.

There are always exceptions to the rule here, but please don’t expect to get a job showing a recruiter you can do everything at an OK level. You are going to have a much better chance of landing a job if you can specialize in one or two skills and target your application to a specific department.

You are creating a showreel, not a demo reel

A showreel is typically what you’d see in a production studio that has loads of finished projects. They are showing these as part of a sizzle reel to impress future clients. But they are not demonstrating anything.

When you create a demo reel, make sure it’s actually a demo reel. This means you need to demonstrate your skills. That’s why it’s called a demo reel.

If you are not including breakdowns and explaining what you did on a project, then you are not doing yourself any favors. Sure, the show finished renders and illustrations but make sure to explain to the recruiter how you created it. Show the decisions you made and the challenges you overcame. Let them see behind the perfect glossy surface, that’s what they want to see.

You have poor communication skills

You might have amazing work, and you might be available right now, but if you can’t sit down and explain to a recruiter who you are, what you want to do, and elaborate on some of your projects you are always going to struggle to get a job.

I’ve sat in interviews where people can’t even explain who they are and why they want to work in the industry. I get it, you are nervous, but recruiters simply want to know if you can hold a conversation. They want to know if a supervisor gives you a task you will be able to ask questions, explain your thoughts, and highlight problems. It’s that simple.

Before your next interview, prepare some answers to questions about yourself and your work. Also, take a breath and congratulate yourself before you enter the interview room. You have been invited in for an interview because you impressed someone, so the hard part has already been done.

You are not being patient enough

Things take time. Especially when it comes to learning visual effects, animation, and game design. So be patient. It’s not going to happen straight away. I know you want a job now and I know you have the talent, but you need time to prove your skills and prepare yourself for your dream job. Keep enjoying the process, enjoy your time learning new skills and the job will come when you are ready.

You are not good enough yet

Unfortunately, likely, you are not good enough yet. This does not mean you won’t get there. It does not mean you should stop trying. It just means that you need to take a step back and give yourself more time to perfect your skills.

Instead of spending time applying for every job you see, compare yourself against other people applying for these types of jobs. Look at their strengths, look at your weaknesses, and set some realistic goals on how to improve your skills.

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I would highly recommend taking some time, being brutally honest with yourself, and making sure you are not doing any of these right now, or in the future. Getting a job in visual effects, animation, and games is achievable if you stay away from these common mistakes.

I would love to hear from people about any other mistakes they see, so please share your advice and stories in the comments.