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You are a Free Agent and That's Not Bad News

Feature Focus: Careers in association with
You are a Free Agent and That's Not Bad News

Fri 28 Feb 2014 3:29pm GMT / 10:29am EST / 7:29am PST

Nobody is going to manage your career but you. Fortunately, recruiter Mary-Margaret Walker has a little advice to help with that

Mary-Margaret Walker has been an industry recruiter for 18 years. Her job is providing companies with quality candidates for hard-to-fill and high priority positions, but she describes her vocation as teaching people how to influence and manage their own careers, to teach them real skills and have a positive impact on as many people as possible. As part of GamesIndustry International's Feature Focus: Careers coverage, Walker agreed to share some advice for anyone in the industry today.

Do you have a job, or do you have a career? If you work in the games industry, then you probably have a career. It is unlikely you are working in this industry by accident, or that you think of your life as a series of jobs.

So if you have a career, are you managing it yourself? If you are employed now but have ever experienced a crisis related to a job search, then you need to start making changes now. If you are on the market today and you don't know about the current buzz around hiring with metrics and valuing past performance over education, grades or the ability to ace an in-person interview, step up and take charge.

"From the time that employers and employees stopped having lifelong contracts, every individual has been a free agent. Understanding that your success rests solely with you is critical."

It is becoming more and more important that you understand you are a free agent, and that's not bad news. If you are at the beginning of your career, it's important to manage your career. If you're in a profession where there is a higher number of people seeking a position than there are positions, it's important to manage your career. If you are not highly skilled or if you are at an executive level, it's important to manage your career. Can you see that this list includes almost everyone at any point in their career?

From the time that employers and employees stopped having lifelong contracts, every individual has been a free agent. Understanding that your success rests solely with you is critical. This is true regardless of the hiring climate. Right now hiring is going back into a state of frenzy but there will still be people who are struggling to be seen, to get their resume noticed, to get an interview or the career opportunity they are looking for to meet their personal goals.

Being a free agent and taking charge of your career isn't bad news and it isn't about being a mercenary. It's good news. It means that you get to make your own choices. The more you practice the maintenance of your career as you do your body--through valuable networking, keeping a strong online profile, having an updated resume and staying trained in your field--the more valuable you are to your current employer, the more savvy you are to your value on the street, and the more prepared you are for a planned or unplanned job search.

"Too many people do not know how to advance their career by finding a job on their own. If you can do this through networking, self-education, and perseverance, you will be ahead of many others."

Grab the reigns and take control of your own career. Once you do, you will leave behind the tunnel vision and anonymity that you may have fallen into in previous roles. You will realize that bad managers can become merely an annoyance and can often be managed up. Once you recognize every individual has a personal responsibility for their own success and happiness in their career, you will probably understand why companies and many individuals in your company are not going to step up and take care of you. The brilliance of getting the highest revenue from a well-managed company with happy employees is the exception and not the rule. You already know that within a poorly managed company, innumerable factors can contribute to burnout, poor work-life balance, layoffs, more layoffs, and company closures.

Too many people do not know how to advance their career by finding a job on their own. If you can do this through networking, self-education, and perseverance, you will be ahead of many others. You will know how to conduct a job search yourself. You will know your worth and the value of staying informed in the market place.

Create yourself and your path. I hope to see you sharing what you learn along the way if you end up having as much fun breaking down the puzzle as I did in my two very difficult job searches. The first search ended at Origin Systems making video games when I couldn't find a "real job" after completing my MBA. The second search ended at The 3DO Company after I became hooked on this industry. It also became the start of my database when I dusted it off several years later to become a recruiter.

Whatever you do, I hope you will think of your career as a ladder with one hand on the next rung (your personal goal) and the other hand outstretched to help someone else reach their next rung.

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