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Career Coach: How to Win the Game

The Career Coach pontificates about how general gaming skills can be applied to advancing your career.

This month many videogame devotees will gather in San Francisco for the Game Developers Conference.

In a videogame you advance by solving puzzles, overcoming obstacles and as your skills improve, you advance to the next level.

Your career can be compared to a videogame. You acquire and sharpen your skills, use your experience to solve problems, and advance to the next level of your career.

In a videogame, the objective is clear you know what you have to do to score points and ultimately to win. In your career, your objectives should be as clear. You should have specific career goals. Your goals will influence your game plan and how you play.

In the game of your career are you playing at the same level you started at or are you advancing to higher levels? If youve been a modeler for 10 years and are content, thats terrific. But if your ambition is to become a visual effects supervisor, you will need to acquire additional skills and seek out opportunities to apply them to attain your goal.

Are you starting over on the same level every time you change jobs? A compositor skilled at using only flame is limited to companies who use this software and is at a disadvantage when applying for positions with companies who use other software packages. Acquiring new skills and improving your skills is necessary to advance to the next level. This includes taking classes, regularly updating and adding quality material to your portfolio and demo reel, and seeking opportunities to use all your skills. A person who regularly increases his knowledge and expertise is prepared to play the career game with confidence. The more you know, the more skills you have and the better prepared you are to play the career game.

Gamers consult others on playing strategy and get insider tips to get ahead. Just as in videogames, savvy gamers in the career game gain knowledge, information and tips from other players. This is called networking. Just like in games, you can get a lot of information from people who have played before and are good at it. Tap into advice from others. There are tip books for gamers insiders advice on how to win.

For the career game, there are plenty of books about career development covering everything from résumés and cover letters to interviewing. Add others expertise to your information arsenal. Be proactive in asking for tips and tricks from others. Expand your network to get valuable information and be willing to share whatever tips you might have.

To advance and win in a videogame, you cant just sit there you have to take action. The same is true for career advancement you must be proactive. No one is going to hand you a promotion or seek you out, unless they know about you. You have to promote yourself and your talents, and market your skills and abilities by every means possible and in the best way. If you are an artist, you will need a résumé, portfolio and demo reel.

In a videogame you may play by yourself or be in a multiplayer environment. In the career game you are always in a multiplayer environment. In a multiplayer environment, there is a competition. In the career game you compete with others for work and jobs. The only way you can advance in the career game is by being a team player. You collaborate and interact with clients, bosses and colleagues. Being a team player is vital. Being a team player means working well with others.

You cant control other players and what they do. You have control only over your own skills and abilities and what you do with them. To get a job, you use your networking and interviewing skills. Once you are working with others, youll use skills in communication, negotiation and motivation. A positive attitude and enthusiasm for the work is vital to staying in the game.

You must know the objective to advance to the next level. In the career game, its important for you to know what the ultimate goal of your employer or client is and focus on helping that employer or client to achieve that goal. If you can anticipate their needs and deliver what they want, they will be more receptive to helping you attain your goals.

The career game can be fun but also treacherous. Be careful that you dont alienate others by failing to deliver or spreading negativity. Youll be able to overcome any setbacks and advance if you keep your objective (goals) in mind, recognize that there may be many paths to your objective and be willing to explore alternative paths if you encounter too many obstacles on one path, and continue to add skills and experience and be ready to help others with a positive attitude and enthusiasm.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is a recruiter/hiring strategist and career coach. Her most recent recruiting clients include Paramounts feature film Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Toybox, a Canadian visual effects company. She speaks regularly on career issues at colleges and universities.