What to expect at your first creative job

So you created a killer demo reel, nailed the interview and your first week at the studio is approaching quickly. This, of course, brings with it a lot of different emotions; excitement, anticipation, nervousness and fear. Sure, you’ve probably had countless jobs prior to entering into the creative industry, but you’re now officially a professional animator, character artist or whatever it might be. It’s almost like going back to your very first job when you were a teenager. You were always worried about not being able to perform the job that is required of you. When landing your first job at a studio these fears are magnified tenfold, but you’re not alone. Let's look at some of the things you can expect in your first week and cover some tips to ensure you remain a valuable asset in the company and continue to excel in your career.

Get familiar with what you'll be doing

With any new job you’re likely going to be going through a lot of orientation off the bat. You may never even get your desk until the end of your first week.

Of course, every studio is different with their employee onboarding. Depending on the studio, you may even spend the first several weeks just learning their proprietary software.

This can feel like you’re in limbo a bit, not quite sure what exactly you’re going to be doing on the film, commercial, game or whatever it might be. However, this is a perfect time to get comfortable with the project before you start working on it.

For example, maybe you’re an animator, and you know the characters you’ll be animating. Even if you’re still going through orientation, this can be a perfect time to get out your sketch book and get comfortable with the design of the characters by practicing thumbnails.

This way you’ll be able to hit the ground running when working on planning and reference for the animation once you start working on the project.

You have what it takes

As a new artist entering into the studio, it’s common to be afraid that your skill level is not up to par even though the recruiters liked your reel enough to hire you. But it’s still a fear that is inevitable.

So you’ve gotten through orientation, and now you’ve been assigned your first task. Maybe it’s modeling props for set dressing or your first animation.

You sit down at your desk, and nerves start to take over, how will you be able to create this? Will the director like it? Are you even good enough to do this? Maybe they got your demo reel mixed up with another artist.

These are all very common fears that can start to boil up inside before you start thinking it’s only a matter of time until they realize you don’t have what it takes. You quickly start jumping anytime a supervisor walks in, thinking, “Ok, this is the time they pull me aside and tell me I’m not cutting it.” You probably think any moment now your supervisors will find out your secret, that you don’t know what you’re doing. While these are thoughts you’re having, and probably every new artist in the industry has, that’s not the case at all.

While these are thoughts you’re having, and probably every new artist in the industry has, that’s not the case at all.

You wouldn’t be at the studio if they didn’t think you had what it takes. It’s up to you to keep reminding yourself that you know what you’re doing, and you can get the project done on time and budget.

And quite frankly, if you keep telling yourself that you don’t have what it takes, you’ll end up believing yourself, and the quality of your work will suffer. Try to go into it with confidence.

Learn as much as you can

One thing that you’re going to learn very quickly is that you’ll be surrounded by extremely talented and very experienced artists. This is a perfect opportunity to soak in as much information as you possibly can. Landing your first job at a studio is very much a learning experience, and you should prepare for that.

If you see an animator creating an incredible shot, go over to his desk to ask how he created it and the workflow he went through. You have the chance to pick the brains of professional artists who you’ve probably looked up to before you started, so take a hold of the opportunity.

It’s very rare that you’ll find someone who doesn’t want to discuss their shot or model; you’ll be surprised how eager artists are to share their techniques. Of course, you don’t want to end up pestering them, making it hard for them to get their work done. But don’t be afraid to ask them out for lunch one day to discuss their work.

Level your expectations

One thing you need to keep in mind is that during your first few weeks and even months at the studio, you’re probably not going to be assigned the most glamorous shots, models or whatever it might be. Say you’re working on The Avengers, your first assignment is probably not going to be the Hulk Buster and Hulk battling it out. Most supervisors want to start you out small, get a feel for where your skill level is, and what type of shots you’re the best at.

You want to approach every project you get, whether it’s a four-second animation or trash can model like it’s the most important part of the film or game. The more you do this, the more your supervisors will notice the effort and passion you put into your work.

Your new team wants to see the passion you put into everything, regardless of how significant the thing you’re creating is for the game or film. As your team leads and supervisors start to build trust in you, the more opportunities you’ll have for more “glamorous” shots and projects. But it’s important not to be disappointed when you’re not given them right out of the gate.

Be open with what you know

It can be tempting when you’re first starting out at the studio to try and sell yourself and make yourself seem more appealing. But you want to be very open with what you truly know because proclaiming prowess in a subject, you may not know much about can end up backfiring later down the line.

You may not be doing it on purpose, which is more often the case, but when asked about what skills you have, it can be easy to fluff it up a bit.

For example, maybe you got hired as a character animator, and your supervisor or maybe just your coworker asked if you know how to rig. You said yes, of course because it might seem like you’re not skilled enough for the job if you said you didn’t know that much about rigging.

Suddenly, ten weeks down the line a project comes up and the team is short on riggers, your supervisor remembers you mentioning you know how to rig, and he assigns you a character to setup. Now you’re in a tight spot. Should  you admit that you don’t know enough about rigging or bite the bullet and play it off like you can handle it, and rush home and watch as many rigging tutorials as you possibly can in one evening?

It’s best just to avoid this uncomfortable situation altogether because if you say you know how to do something, chances are you’ll be assigned a project that requires you to do that task. Try to be open with what you know, and be truthful about it. If someone asked if you know how to rig, simply say something like, “I don’t know as much as I would like, but I’m open to learning it if it’s required of me in the future.”

Another thing you’ll be introduced to are “dailies” which are meetings where everyone on your department presents their shots to your supervisor, director or client. These can be a nerve racking experience.

The subject of dailies and what to expect in them is enough for an article in itself. We’ve created a dailies “rule book” which you can learn more about in this article.

Your first few weeks at a studio can be extremely intimidating, but it’s important to remember that every new artist felt the same way you do. And your co-workers who have been there for years felt the same nerves and fears you felt when first stepping into the studio. Keeping these things in mind will help you be prepared and ready to enter into this new career.