I wrote some tips on meeting people at GDC a while ago. It was the GDC that lead me to my current job (more on this here). Recently, I got some friends asking me for advice on breaking into the game industry, how to present yourself, and how to meet people at GDC. So I decided to write another post about it. This will be a collection of what I learned from the Career Service Center and the career workshops at DigiPen, plus my own experience.
These tips worked for me, but they might not suit everyone. Feel free to disregard any of them at your discretion.
Email, Twitter, Domain Name
Before doing anything else, you should have a professional-looking email address. Don't use random internet names like AwesomeDude7345; that makes your address look unprofessional. Make sure the only thing present in the name part of the address is your name. The email address I share with people is MingLun.Chou[at]gmail.com.
Applying the same rule to your Twitter handle and domain name can help them appear more professional as well. My Twitter handle is TheAllenChou, and my domain name is AllenChou.net. Of course, you can always throw in some variation if that helps express more about yourself, such as JasonGameDev.net or AmysArt.net.
LinkedIn is a professional social network where you can build online professional connections. You can join groups and follow companies on LinkedIn. Your profile page is the place to show people your professional side; maintain it well. Many recruiters actively look for potential hires on LinkedIn by going through his/her 1st, 2st, and 3rd degree connections. It is important that you build connections with people in the industry on LinkedIn. I constantly receive messages on LinkedIn from recruiters in the game industry and software engineering industry.
You can customize your LinkedIn profile page's URL. Choose one that follows the aforementioned rule for your email address. My LinkedIn profile page URL is linkedin.com/in/MingLunChou.
Always keep a stack of business cards with you, so you are prepared when the time has come for you to exchange contact information, or when you just want to present yourself to others. To make yourself appear more professional, use a card holder. It looks much more professional to pull out business cards from a card holder than from a jeans pocket.
After you give someone your business card and leave, that person might want to write down some notes about you on your business card, so they can still remember you after meeting many other people at GDC. Choosing a material that is easy to write on for your business card would make this process easier, as well as using a light color on the back of your card and leaving some writing space.
Make sure your name is the most noticeable text element on your business card. If you want to, just use a few stand-alone words to describe your profession. Don't try to squeeze a wall of text that describes every positive thing you have to say about yourself. Once I received a card with a wall of text, saying how passionate a designer the person is and his many holy life goals as a designer. I read the first few sentences and put the card away, never bothering finishing it. This is a business card, not a cover letter.
Below is my current business card design. My name is the largest text element and is at the direct center. I put down four of my primary professional skills (Physics, Graphics, Procedural Animation, and Visuals) below my name. My contact information is at the bottom, including my website URL, email address, LinkedIn profile URL, Twitter handle, and Google+ handle.
Most recruiters prefer resumes with only one page, but some recruiters prefer two pages. So I just keep my resume one-page.
If you want to send a resume to a company that you are applying for, always tailor the resume to fit the company. One company, one specific resume. Look for the requirements for the position you are applying for on the company's website, and make sure they are the first things on your resume. Also, do not forget to include an objective line that states the position you intend to apply for.
In addition, prepare a generic version of the resume. This way, you can show it on your website, and present it at the company booths in the expo hall at GDC.
Personal branding is optional, but it is a powerful tool if done right.
I put down Long Bunny, a little character I designed, on my business cards, resumes, and my website.
At first, I designed Long Bunny just for fun, because I love bunnies. Then, I thought I could fill it in the extra space on my business cards and resumes. This turned out to be the right thing to do, and Long Bunny became my personal branding.
On a Sucker Punch company day at DigiPen, I gave the recruiter my business card and resume. The next time I talked to her at another company day one year later, she did not recognize me at first. But after I showed her my business card, she instantly remembered me, saying it's because of the Long Bunny. Also, in all my follow-up emails (a separate tip that will be covered later), I start with "Hi, I'm Allen Chou. My business card has a long bunny on it." Most people would remember me because of my personal branding.
The W Hotel Lobby
At GDC, it is well known that many attendees who want to socialize and do not have a party to go to will hang out at the lobby bar of The W Hotel. If you want to meet people from the game industry at GDC and have no party on your list, then The W Hotel is the place to go. My friends and I usually come back from the afternoon GDC activities to our hotel and chill out until 8pm. Then we would head out to The W Hotel's lobby bar. That is where we meet new people from the industry and introduce ourselves. We usually stay there at least until 11pm, and would stay longer if we are in a long conversation.
Starting A Conversation
The hardest part to meeting people is to start a conversation. The first time I went to GDC, I was too shy to walk up to a stranger and start talking. This is a skill you must practice if you want to meet people.
There is really nothing scary about opening a conversation. Almost everyone at The W Hotel's lobby bar during GDC is in the game industry, very laid back, and welcomes conversations. Just pick someone that does not seem to be occupied, say hi, and introduce yourself. I usually start with what I do and then ask what the other person does, and then at some point casually ask for a business card exchange, either by saying "here's my business card" or "hey, do you have a business card?" It's that simple.
If you feel like the conversation needs to be ended, either because the other person appears to be not interested in talking any more, or you are running out of things to say, say "nice meeting/talking to you", "I'm gonna take off", and leave. No hassle.
Following up with an email is very important after obtaining contact information. After the person that has given you his/her business card leaves, write down notes about the conversation you had and reminders for sending the person your work or resumes (if asked). Within 48 hours, write an email to re-introduce yourself, make comments on the conversation, and thank the person for talking to you. This shows that you care. Also, be sure to connect with the person on LinkedIn if you can find his/her page.
I always bring a tablet with me to GDC, loaded with demo reels. I actively look for opportunity during a conversation to pull out my tablet and demonstrate my work. I also upload the demo reels to my phone, just in case my tablet runs out of battery.
Notepads & Pens
It's convenient to carry a mini notepad and a pen with you at all times. GDC is quite a busy event, and people can quickly run out of business cards. When you give someone your business card and the person is out of cards, you can ask the person to write down contact information on your notepad with your pen.
I hope these tips will help you prepare for the upcoming GDC this year. Go meet people and have fun!