Activision had posted a job opening for an “Art Services Screenshot Associate“. Among the many bullet points of requirements (four year degree!) and job duties was this gem:
Perform advanced retouching of screenshots and teach skills to others as needed.
This sort of “honesty” from Activision is becoming more and more common. I look forward to the inevitable “Game Reviewer Bullying Associate” position getting posted.
But this isn’t a post to knock Activision around again. This is about career paths.
Growing up as a gamer, I shared the dream of making video games for a living. How cool would it be, to sit around playing games all day and getting a paycheck for it? But that is what we all do. We take our favorite hobbies and activities, the things we love, and try our hardest to get paid for it.
Before horrible ads made such dreams into self-parody, I did managed to find my way in to getting paid to help make video games. And then it turned into a full-time telecommute position; and then I would relocate to NYC and work out of the company office. I followed the usual industry trajectory: start in QA and support, advance to design and production.
Having games be your work was, surprisingly, about what I expected – a very casual environment, LAN games during lunch, and a lot of freedom to work independently. (To this day, I miss being able to go into work in a t-shirt.) But the seams became exposed rather quickly – it was hard to live in NYC on what I was making. Freeverse was a small company then, not quite the behemoth in the mobile gaming marketplace it is now.
When the time came to move on, I was interviewing to make the leap into the IT field, and presented two offers: I could take a job as a support technician immediately (yielding a large effective pay increase) and then move up when something more suitable opens up – or I could wait until that opening happened, and start at that point.
I opted for the latter.
It’s not that I’m against rising through the ranks of a company. I went through two or three titles at Freeverse; I’m now in my fourth position at WCMC. It’s not that I didn’t need the money – I did, and the eight months I had to wait out for the opening to occur were a little tough.
It’s a personal value. Do not take a position solely for the sake of advancing out of it.
Let me be clear: you should always be looking to advance. The second you land a position or a promotion, you should be looking at your org chart, thinking “where next?”. Staying in a position where you can’t advance is like staying in a loveless marriage – it will eventually end in frustration, and you will have no idea what to do once you’re out of it.
But taking a position solely to jump into something else, or solely as a “way in to the industry”, is foolish.
You can’t advance if you don’t love what you’re doing, because you’ll never excel in your work without that drive.
You won’t advance if you’re embarrassed about your title, or ever look at yourself in the mirror and have to ask “I went to college for this?”. Where you start is when you form all your opinions about your work environment, your co-workers, the management team, and your industry. If you resent them when you’re starting, you will resent them always.
Taking a job you don’t want to later get a job you do want still means you’re working at a job you don’t want.
And let’s be fair: promises about advancement opportunities aren’t worth anything when you have no credibility with the company. Budgets get slashed, economies crater, departments get restructured, better candidates appear on the horizon – and they have no loyalty to you until you’ve paid your dues.
To those out there with hopes of working in a field they already love, but are considering jobs like “Art Services Screenshot Associate” as a way in: do yourself right.
Find a position to start at that you’ll love just as much as the one you’re eyeing for your next title. If you love QA, great – you can absolutely start there and advance. But if you hate it, find another in.
Get hired using your skills at a level you won’t feel insulted for. Four years of college deserves better than being a Photoshop monkey with “Associate” in your title.
Never settle. Find a position that you’ll never be embarrassed talking about what you do, one you won’t ever have to consider leaving off your résumé.
Once a bullshot artist, always a bullshot artist.