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Ask Amiqus: I'm about to hit 30 - will I get stuck in my current role?

Posted by: Liz Prince

Things don’t stay the same for very long within the games industry. 

 Progress is both one of the great challenges and the great joys of games. The ever-changing landscape means that spending a while in one job can feel like going backwards as the world moves on around you. So what does this evolution means for your career, and how can you be sure to avoid getting stuck in a rut at any age?

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A great place to start is where you are today. What’s the story of your career so far?  There’s always going to be aspects of your work you do and don’t enjoy, so this is all about balance and understanding how far you have come, what you have learned and what needs more work to move your career on. One way to do this is to write down the achievements, learning and development you have experienced in your role so far. This is a good time to dust off your portfolio or resume and get it up to date. Many people only do this after they’ve already decided to leave, but updating your CV doesn’t mean you have to apply for a new job. Your portfolio can be a very useful tool as a way-marker to take stock of your work over the years and assess where you are up to in your career.

As well as thinking about your own job, try to put this in context with the progress your employer has made during your tenure. It could be that you have the same job title that you had when you started, but you may have made significant progress in responsibility in as the studio has developed and grown.

Head in the right direction

Next, think about where you are headed. Road-mapping your ambitions can help clarify where you want to be and when. Does your current career path lead you toward or away from where you want to be? You can make a start on this by yourself, but if you have a good relationship then sitting down with your line manager can be a great help. To do this effectively, be open to asking for feedback about your development needs as well as your strengths so you can plan together with your boss how you will progress your career in harmony with what the studio need from you. This can also help you stay motivated around the less enjoyable parts of your work - you may feel it’s all worthwhile if you are moving toward your long-term goal in the end. However you also need to be prepared to accept the possibility that your long term ambitions may not be available where you are today. If your path is taking you away from your dream then how much do you want it, and what are your alternatives if you do decide to move on?

What progress means to you

A key thing to think about is what progress means to you - there’s no right or wrong answer. For some this means managing a team or running a studio one day, but for others progress could mean becoming a technical or creative expert and not having any direct reports at all. You may even decide that your job title or career position is less important than what project you work on. For example you may define progress as to always work on AAA or to keep following the tech to work on the latest platforms. It’s also important to be realistic. Though ambition is always welcome, studios can be nervous of hiring people who run before they can walk as this gives the impression you may rush, compromise quality and that you don’t plan to be in your next role for long. Work history which shows progression over a realistic timescale is key to demonstrate the right duty of care and depth of experience, so think carefully about moving too fast or too often.

Keep flexible, stay valuable

Regardless of age, when it comes to your long-term career in games it is always a good idea to keep your skills up to date to avoid getting stuck.  Compare your current role to market trends;- are you on the right platform; deploying the latest tech; using the current software releases; or working on the right games? Staying up to date will make sure you keep valuable both to your current employer and to the wider industry and this is a prerequisite for progress. If you’re creative, keep feeding your portfolio and utilising current software packages and developments like PBR. Take care to continually invest in your influences within games and other creative art and design forms. For coders, experience on the most powerful game engines and tech is very attractive. This might be in a shiny new area such as VR, but a stalwart code base means that if you are able to code in C++ or in C# you can apply your skills to a great many areas and avoid any rut. Production people need to stay across current methodologies and project work practices where QA’s may need to balance how far their technical tools sustain the demands of new types of game experiences. Commercial teams will need to understand evolving product mechanics and new ways in how games will reach and engage their audience.

Whichever discipline you work in, many people in their 30s are still carving out a path and experiencing formative work experience. 

Making a move

Once you‘re clear on a career trajectory, bear in mind that there is usually more than one way to get to where you want to go. Studios look to employ people that are good at what they do but also are able to adapt as requirements change so don’t be so set on a particular outcome that you miss unexpected opportunities that pop up along the way.

If you do decide that you can’t fulfil your ambitions where you are, you don’t have to quit and swap careers overnight. It’s possible to spend time building a new foundation of skills or a portfolio in your own time through training and self-directed work, gradually gathering experience and confidence in your new area in readiness to make the move when the time is right. Use all the resources available to your to help get on to the right path – talk to recruiters, read blogs, follow companies of interest on Linkedin. Do your research about the right decision for you so you are fully informed well-ahead of when you do make your move and you have a good idea of which companies could give you what you’re looking for. There is a lot of competition so if you want to move ahead don’t be afraid to constantly push yourself toward new areas and away from your comfort zone.

This article from Amiqus first appeared in Develop Magazine.

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