In this 8-part guide, I will take you through best practices for every step of the journey to getting hired as a compositor. ➜ Part 2 is about where to find the right people to connect with, and how to go about it professionally.
You can find the first part of the guide here: Part 1: Set Powerful Goals
Why You Should Network
Before you even start applying for a role, it’s a very good idea (I would even go so far as to say it's a must) to work on expanding your professional network. You should start making connections in the VFX industry while you are still in university or while you are still employed at your current company – for the same reason you don’t wait to plant a crop until you’re hungry.
Investing time in networking before searching for a job will often pay dividends. Someone you connect with today could be the person who leads you to a job offer a few months or years down the line. And vice versa, you may be able to help refer someone you know for a role. Networking is mutually beneficial. If you become someone who others can turn to for help, you'll find that they will often return the favour.
There are a few ways to go about networking. The easiest way is on LinkedIn. In the search bar at the top of the page, type in recruiter, talent acquisition, hr, or similar search phrases, and then click on People.
Connect with all the VFX recruiters you can find, even those hiring for companies you don't necessarily want to work for. Just as you are likely to move around companies, recruiters move around, too. Later on, they might be hiring for a great company that you are interested in. And then you will already be connected, and will see their recruitment post or get a private message from them.
💡 Make sure your LinkedIn profile is professional and up to date. Have a look at Part 4: Write An Impressive CV of this guide for tips. Choosing the correct industry in the Intro part of your profile should also help narrow your search results down to the most relevant. I have mine set to Motion Pictures & Film.
Recruiters are usually keen on connecting with you, and so it’s often enough to just hit the Connect button next to their name. Though, it doesn’t hurt at all to personalise your invitation with a short and friendly message.
I wouldn’t phrase the message in the invitation as a question they’d have to answer directly, however. People can have a tendency to delay or outright avoid accepting the invitation if they don’t have an answer there and then. Make it as easy as possible for them to connect with you.
You could write something simple such as:
I saw that you are recruiting compositors for [CompanyName] and I thought it would be great to connect with you to stay up to date with your job openings.
Obviously make it your own, but write something short that is non-demanding, non-urgent, and just easy to say yes to.
There are hundreds of recruiters out there posting VFX jobs on LinkedIn. Try to connect with a significant portion of them. You can also search for the Head of Compositing or Head of 2D at a VFX company you want to work for, or someone with a similar role who is involved in hiring, and connect with them to get on their radar.
Build up a large network and you’ll start seeing more and more opportunities come your way.
Other Recruitment Sites
LinkedIn is the biggest platform out there but there are other websites you can check out as well, such as Zerply, Google Jobs (search for compositor recruitment and click on Jobs to get to this page), Total Jobs, or Indeed. For a list of several VFX companies and their careers pages, have a look at UK Screen Alliance.
Use these websites to connect with recruiters, discover job openings, research what companies are looking for, and find out what the rates are in your area.
💡 Speaking of rates, Glassdoor is another useful website for researching that, as well as looking into each company’s culture and reputation. (As always, take what you read with a grain of salt and look at overall trends for guidance).
The websites above are UK-focused and so if you are in a different country please search for similar VFX recruitment sites local to you.
Another great way of networking is to attend industry events such as FMX or SIGGRAPH. There, you can engage with VFX business professionals in a setting where people welcome new connections. Look up which events are happening near you and if you can, attend them.
Similarly, if your school or university throws a showcase event or organises a VFX company visit, go ahead and attend those. Or, you may find there are social events being held near you, such as the Bring Your Own Animation in London. There may even be an online webinar coming up which you can attend.
💡 Dress smart at these events. Give firm handshakes – this is such an old piece of advice, and yet people still don't do it. You’ll physically make people feel they are in safe hands if you do. Use an open and friendly body language so that others feel comfortable approaching you. Simply smiling and being positive will attract people.
Do your homework. Check to see if companies you are interested in will attend the event you're going to (they often post on social media if they are), and find out who is going. Look them up, research the company, and you will have more thoughtful questions to ask when you meet.
Make sure to bring along your showreel and CV. A laptop or tablet is great for playing your showreel to recruiters. It’s all about being prepared and making it as easy as possible for them to look at your work.
It’s natural to gravitate towards people that you already know at such events, but networking is also about meeting people outside of your circle. If you’re a bit shy, try to consciously push the boundaries of your comfort zone. Introducing yourself and striking up a friendly conversation, or extending an invitation for someone to join a conversation you’re already part of will go a long way.
Networking is a long term pursuit, and so attend events regularly if you can, and follow up with the people you talk to. It’s about building relationships and trust – which usually doesn’t happen overnight.
At the events, avoid standing in the doorway. Give people some time and space to breathe as they enter and let them go to the bar and get a drink first. A good place to stand is near the bar area so you meet people after they’ve got a drink in hand and are ready to mingle.
Standing in line is also a great opportunity to chat with people. It can be a springboard for a productive conversation. And should the conversation happen to stagnate, there is a natural point to break it off once you get your drink or snacks. Avoid staying and hovering around the buffet if there is one, though. Let people get their food, and rather meet them near the tables or out on the floor.
Break the ice. The person you want to talk to may (also) be nervous and will appreciate you approaching them. Remember, everyone is usually friendly but you have to go first. It might feel awkward to begin with, or sometimes you might feel rejected, but that is part of the learning curve. It gets better with practice. It can be helpful to bring a wing(wo)man and/or prepare icebreaker questions beforehand.
Prepare a short and compelling description of yourself and your background, and be ready for when people ask you about it. It doesn’t need to be a super rehearsed, slick story, but it’s good to think of some talking points. Unprepared people will often ramble on, or give a staggered response with lots of umms and ahhs, trying to get to an interesting point. That will lose the other person’s interest quickly.
Be authentic. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not and take on a different personality. Just be yourself – the best version of you. If you’re naturally introverted or a bit shy, just listen more than you speak. As long as you are interested and ask thoughtful questions, people will still feel they had a great conversation with you.
Try to remember people’s names. Most people don’t and so if you do, you’ll stand out. A good trick is to connect their name with one of their unique physical features or traits. If someone is called Esmeralda and she has distinct, bright green eyes, you could for example link emerald eyes with Esmeralda to remember her name.
You can also write their name down on your phone after meeting them, along with a couple of notes about the conversation. Don’t stay on your phone for too long, though! It closes you off to people who might want to approach you.
It’s not only about you. Listen to other people and what they are looking for. Actively ask them questions and genuinely show interest in them. Paraphrase them to show that you understand what they are saying. Networking is a two way street. You may be able to help them as well. And you’ll find that you can learn a lot by just listening. Each person you meet is a vault containing a wealth of insight, knowledge and experience. And interestingly, the more interested you are the more interesting you become.
Avoid only approaching people that you perceive to be directly useful to you. Try to meet with a diverse group of people. They may expand your ideas, and you may really enjoy spending time with them. You’ll avoid getting stuck in an echo chamber, and will build more interesting and pleasant relationships.
Be a good guest. Behave (don’t get drunk), avoid sitting in a corner by yourself, and make an effort to reach out to people. Take advantage of the great opportunities to connect that you have right in front of you.
After the event, connect on LinkedIn with the people you met and follow up with them. I would do it within 24 hours so their memory of you is still fresh. Send them a thank you message if they gave you advice, or invite them to continue the conversation. At events you might not get the time to delve too deeply into a subject, as everyone moves around and speaks with multiple people throughout the day or evening.
Proactively share information that you think would be useful to others. If you know of a role someone might be looking for, or a tool or tutorial for a technique you discussed with them, share it. It’s a great way to get in touch with people, and to provide value to their lives.
Building relationships with people you already work with can help you grow in your current role or help you step into the next one. You might even find a mentor, or become a mentor for someone else.
Networking doesn’t always have to be about expanding outside of your current work situation, there is often value to find within. And since you and your fellow employees are in the same boat, it’s easy and natural to connect.
Keep in mind, pretty much everything covered in the Events section applies to work as well, though it will be less formal. You are essentially making friends and helping each other out.
Speaking of events again, really make efforts to attend social work events. It’s a fantastic way of getting to know the people you work with and strengthening your relationships. I’m still really good friends with a group of people I worked with seven years ago, and we all still chat pretty much daily in our Whatsapp group, even though most of us are at different companies now.
Small Freelance Jobs
If you are just starting out, you can also network by searching for small freelance jobs online and offering your services. These mutually low risk jobs can be a great way to get your foot in the door, and can lead to more work later on.
💡 Clients are often more open to hiring recent graduates for these projects.
As an example, early on in my career I applied to work remotely for a Dutch company on a small project which then led me to working on six freelance projects in total for the same company.
The pay might be a little low to start off with but it gets the flywheel going. I would not advise you to work for free, though, unless you are starved for showreel material and the project is small and won’t take too much of your time.
Whether it’s at university or via a short training course, meeting like minded people with a common interest in VFX is a wonderful thing. In a natural setting like this you can learn a lot from each other. Help each other to progress and to understand different subjects and techniques. You’ll have similar goals and a lot of common ground. Take advantage of that and build each other up.
You may end up working together with some of your classmates later on. How great would it be if you were already good friends and could support each other?
Keep in touch with your teachers, too. If you made the effort to do well in their course, they may recommend you for a role. One of my teachers ended up getting me two different freelance jobs after I finished university.
And again, pretty much everything covered in the Events section applies to courses as well, although it will be much less formal, even less than at work.
If you have friends in a VFX company or know someone related to it in some way, there is no shame in asking them for help with providing a recommendation. Many companies have an internal referral system which can help highlight you as a candidate and fast track you to an interview.
The VFX industry is a small world and you will likely run into the same people several times throughout your career. Being a nice person and building a reputation for being a great compositor will get you far.