Job Security Question

Greg DAlessandro
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Greg DAlessandro polycounter lvl 5
I plan on owning a multifamily home in the near future (after I get hired), but I'm worried of the possibility that at some point I might be let go, and would have to potentially move to another state. If this is the case, then I don't see how owning a multifamily home would be feasible.  

Do you have to have the mindset that you might never have a permanent home in this industry? I'm worried that I won't be able to settle down in any one location for more than a few years. (I'm also worried that having to move would be very difficult if I meet a significant other) Is this an illogical fear? Thank you.

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  • Dudestein
    You're right to have these concerns. I've noticed some trends over the years that give the impression of a filtration system.

    - Lots of people want to work in games for reasons that are their own, some go to school, some don't
    - Less people are willing to do the work it takes to break in to the industry
    - Less people still are willing to do the work needed to keep leveling up and maintain a fruitful career in games
    - Even less people are willing to do the work needed to become indispensable, either at a studio or in a freelance capacity

    When you reach that last tier, where you're indispensable, you can start thinking about buying a home because you will have some semblance of job security.
  • slipsius
    Job security is a myth. Even when you get "full-time", you can still be laid off at any moment. It happens. Frequently. Even at the large studios that you dont think it would happen at. 

    That said, the best thing you can do, if you want to own a home, is pick a game development hub. A city where there are lots of studios that if you do lose your job at one, you can get a job at another. Some cities only have 1 or 2 studios, so you tend to have to move. But there are cities like san fran, or austin. Montreal, Vancouver. Places like that that have multiple job opportunities. 

    1 thing is for sure. Never buy a home until you are off contract and considered full time. Ive seen people go and buy a house when they got their first job in a new city, just to be let go cause they werent working out a couple months later and have to sell their place and move. 
  • Greg DAlessandro
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    Greg DAlessandro polycounter lvl 5
    You're right to have these concerns. I've noticed some trends over the years that give the impression of a filtration system.

    - Lots of people want to work in games for reasons that are their own, some go to school, some don't
    - Less people are willing to do the work it takes to break in to the industry
    - Less people still are willing to do the work needed to keep leveling up and maintain a fruitful career in games
    - Even less people are willing to do the work needed to become indispensable, either at a studio or in a freelance capacity

    When you reach that last tier, where you're indispensable, you can start thinking about buying a home because you will have some semblance of job security.
    what is generally considered indispensable?
  • Joost
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    Joost Polycount Sponsor
    I've seen people who were basically forced into early retirement after being made redundant because they got too comfortable working at the same studio for years. Working from home and living in a cheaper area seems to be the safest long term choice, in my opinion.
  • Synaesthesia
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    Synaesthesia greentooth
    There's other industries beyond games that require the same skill set as well. Military simulation, as an example. In many sim companies, it's the same pipeline and the same tool sets with a guarantee of work for the duration of the company's contract with the government entity it's working with. It doesn't have the same sparkle that working for a game studio does, but it's definitely a very stable field of work.
  • Polygoblin
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    Polygoblin greentooth
    Yourname942 said:

    what is generally considered indispensable?
    It's a huge subject. Basically, you have to prove you have so much value, your employer can't afford to let you go. This book changed my life, but there's tons of other resources for 'how to'. 
  • Kevin Albers
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    Kevin Albers polycounter lvl 12
    Job security is a thing of the past. I think the closest you can get to it is creating your own job and being self-employed.

    I lost money by buying 2 different houses in the past, thinking that I'd be able to stay in the house long term. Nope.  Of course, you might have a quite different outcome. I certainly know people who have been working for the same employer in the industry for a long time, and a few people who have managed to stay in the same city by finding new employers (not always staying in the game industry).
  • Eric Chadwick
    I've been living in the same city for 15 years now. Concord, Massachusetts. Near to Boston, with a few game companies. Not a huge hub though. We bought a house when we moved here from San Francisco.

    It's not been easy. We've stuck it out through some slow times. Having some savings in the bank has saved us. I've branched out from game art into additional industries that need 3d artist skills: military, medical, architectural, VR. I've taken on freelance work in addition to the more dependable full-time work.

    It definitely ebbs and flows. I have to be on top of my career. I never just sit back and relax in my day job, because I know that steady work is ultimately an illusion. And going 100% freelance as a career is pretty difficult actually, at least at the beginning. But even after a couple years there are still some slow times.

    It can be done. Just make sure you have a cushion saved up, because you'll use it!
  • Dudestein
    what is generally considered indispensable?
    From what I've seen it typically comes down to having skills that are rare. Esoteric technical know-how, or even art skills that are light years beyond what 99.9% of people are capable of. Things that are hard-won, that most aren't willing to work hard enough to achieve, and that the company critically needs. The sort of things there are no tutorials for.
  • Tidal Blast
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    Tidal Blast polycounter lvl 5
    I've seen many people getting laid off after they reached a certain salary that would be considered higher than average. People we could replace with 1-2 juniors instead at entry level salary.

    Some once released an article on gamasutra saying that it can become difficult to find jobs after having several years of experience in the industry. Mainly because of two things. High salary and  lower tolerance for bullsh** because more experienced employees know how things should be done, etc. Not that they are harder to deal with, but more that harder to take advantage of. Something along those lines...
  • Kwramm
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    Kwramm greentooth
    Joost said:
    I've seen people who were basically forced into early retirement after being made redundant because they got too comfortable working at the same studio for years.
    Getting too comfortable is a danger for senior people. When we introduced Substance some of the seniors were the worst to pick it up. Some were over-confident in their year-long experience with Photoshop and just laughed at Substance and ignored it as another fad. Others didn't like the idea that in Substance they were not better than junior artists and fought the company wide adaption. Others didn't like the effort of learning something new. Some argued that they were much faster in Photoshop (of course. As a beginner you're never fast. But it will improve in time!). I saw something similar when ZBrush became wide-spread. Some older artists just refused to pick it up.

    The junior people, in comparison, were as a whole much more eager to dive into learning something new.

    Having to spend your own time is just something you have to do in most IT and art related positions. We're often at the forefront of entertainment technology - VR, PBR, 4k, Procedural workflows - just think of the stuff that became really common in the last 24 months. Other than art principles and management principles there is very little we can learn that will stay with us with little change for decades.
  • passerby
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    passerby polycounter lvl 8
    Job security is a matter of your ability to get work when you need it. Doesn't matter where you work there is a chance you could get let go.
  • vertex_
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    vertex_ polycounter lvl 2
    passerby said:
    Job security is a matter of your ability to get work when you need it. Doesn't matter where you work there is a chance you could get let go.

     Nailed it!
  • PixelMasher
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    PixelMasher polycount lvl 666
    I've seen many people getting laid off after they reached a certain salary that would be considered higher than average. People we could replace with 1-2 juniors instead at entry level salary.
    hahah this is one of the stupidest things a company could do, almost akin to sabotaging their own production. A friend of mine is on a team comprised with a lot of new juniors and without fail most of their work required tons of polish, re-work and they need to be monitored constantly in order to get the desired results. Not to mention the "junior ego" that comes into play after about 6 months of being in the industry where they think they know best and argue almost every valid critique with some type of attempted justification or excuse. Not everyone is guilty of this but it is very common. 

    so say a company fires a senior artist with a salary of about 80k and hires 2 juniors at 35-40k a year. I would say that senior would out perform both of those newer artists and require far less hand holding, re-doing work and training to get ramped up to a level where the value to output ratio is far exceeding 2 new artists. Time is often the thing productions need to maximize and I really pity a team whos management has the idea that 2 juniors =  1 senior artist will save them time and money.

    On the other hand there are some senior artists who just coast after a few years and really provide no additional value to back up their seniority, but it is always a case by case basis. If you are providing real value then a high salary is just a minor detail to most successful companies.

    Back on topic of job stability:

    I watched a video of advice from a multi-millionare buisnessman where he breaks down the difference of how most poor/average people think and view money and jobs vs how wealthy people view it. its super long but ill sumarize his main points:

    To him, being an employee is one of the riskiest things you can do. Most people think having a "good job" at a company is safer than building something for yourself, but at any moment that company could collapse and you could be made irrelevant because instead of constantly learning new skills, you have stuck doing the same thing for 20 years and can no longer find a job. 

    also, what is the potential downsides. Say you make 50k a year salary. Your downside is 50k. thats the most you can lose if you get laid off. whats the upside? usually around a 2-5% raise a year. Now say the same person quits to create a business on their own. their downside is literally the same, losing 50k a year salary, while their potential upside for growth and expansion is unlimited in todays world. the potential upside rewards vs the similar low risk is insane. But most people are to afraid to do that because society told them doing anything on their own is scary and risky. 


    On the subject of buying a house, he talks about how its one of the dumbest things the average person can do, because a mortgage is such a huge liability. not only that but over the 30 years or so of paying your mortgage, you literally pay double for the property thanks to interest. So you have lost your freedom because you are tied to one place, you have a huge financial liability and banks leeching your cashflow and on top of that, the market could crash at any time and you could lose a shit ton of money. The main argument here is wealthy people simply don't put their money into liabilites, and thats usually how they became wealthy in the first place. But once again, the social narrative most people are bombarded with is the standard 2 cars, house and 2 kids.

    He argues that it is better to rent and just save cash on the side until you can buy a house flat out, even if it takes 30 years. You will have the freedom of movement, you can give your notice and go travel, move to another city, do whatever the hell you want in a short period of time, and you avoid giving the banks double whatever you were going to pay in the first place. His argument is mainly for freedom and that having the most value of all.

    Some food for thought anyways. 
  • MagicSugar
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    MagicSugar polycounter lvl 10


     So you have lost your freedom because you are tied to one place, you have a huge financial liability and banks leeching your cashflow and on top of that, the market could crash at any time and you could lose a shit ton of money. The main argument here is wealthy people simply don't put their money into liabilites, and thats usually how they became wealthy in the first place. But once again, the social narrative most people are bombarded with is the standard 2 cars, house and 2 kids.

    He argues that it is better to rent and just save cash on the side until you can buy a house flat out, even if it takes 30 years. You will have the freedom of movement, you can give your notice and go travel, move to another city, do whatever the hell you want in a short period of time, and you avoid giving the banks double whatever you were going to pay in the first place. His argument is mainly for freedom and that having the most value of all.

    Some food for thought anyways. 
    Uhmmm, you could buy a property or properties and rent or lease them out.

    If you know what you're doing with investment properties, you and your family could be living in a cheaper country while getting income from your renters in expensive cities in your home country.  You could hire property managers to maintain and take care of billings.

    And when local home market rebounds then you have an option to sell.
  • vertex_
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    vertex_ polycounter lvl 2
    @PixelMasher excellent post.

    I may be departing from the topic at hand, but true wealth is knowing you could buy that car, you could buy that house, you could leave your full-time job if you really wanted or needed to without driving yourself into debt.

    Think of when you're at the checkout line in a drug store, you've picked out your items and you're ready to pay - but then you see that pack of gum that you'd like to have! Most people don't consciously think about whether or not they can afford that pack of gum, they know they can take the $1.99 hit to their finances without losing sleep over it. That is wealth. Multi-millionaires have the same state of mind only on a greater financial scale. Most millionaires don't need to worry about the $3,000 metallic paint surcharge on their new Porsche, they get what they want and remain wealthy.

    To touch on the original topic: if you really want to work in the industry and own a house, have children, big commitments, then you're almost certainly going to want to work in a city that is a hub for game development. Developers pop up and shut down all the time, you don't want to be in a situation where you're forced to move all over the country to hold down employment. Also, as a 3D artist, you must be aware that the industry is highly competitive and you'll need to put a fairly substantial amount of time into portfolio development if you want to keep current with the constantly evolving technologies and community.
  • PixelMasher
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    PixelMasher polycount lvl 666
    Uhmmm, you could buy a property or properties and rent or lease them out.

    If you know what you're doing with investment properties, you and your family could be living in a cheaper country while getting income from your renters in expensive cities in your home country.  You could hire property managers to maintain and take care of billings.

    And when local home market rebounds then you have an option to sell.
    No doubt. the key there is "if you know what you are doing". Most people have no idea and just go with whatever their bank tells them is a good deal, which is almost always not in their favor and laughable. That combined with the average persons lazyness where they cant even be bothered to read a book or 2 on the subject, or invest any time into really digging deep into understanding the market, the economy etc, or hell, even putting the energy into arranging a rental property, managing it and making it a great passive income stream.....most people are just fucked. and its entirely their own fault. I totally agree with you that having a rental property can be a great asset, or investing into something like a REIT. 

    This also assumes people have common sense, which given what happened in the US housing market back in 2007/8 shows that a lot of people don't. people had 3,4,5 houses etc and when it all imploded as every market tends to eventually do....there is no option to simply hold the property and wait for the rebound. This is exactly what is primed to happen in vancouver and toronto on an even more epic scale. 
  • Eric Chadwick
    Let's not diverge too much from the OP's subject. Stay on target!
  • PixelMasher
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    PixelMasher polycount lvl 666
    Back on topic! the best way to have any type of job security is to make yourself so valuable that tons of people are bangin' on your door constantly to try to hire you. This increases your market value and gives you a greater sense of security. You have the option to leave your current job for a better deal and you know it, and chances are you employer will know it as well. 

    you can do this is many different ways. Have an insanely good portfolio, a unique/specialized skill set in a niche set of software (houdini destruction and vfx artists are always in demand). Boost up your social and networking skills. Go out of your way to work with new members joining the team and become the unofficial "knowledge base guy". All these will help 10x your value and in turn up your job security as much as possible within a company. Keep in mind even huge game companies have crazy layoffs or can implode at any time and blindside anyone. But doing stuff like what I mentioned above can increase your matrix bullet dodging skills and keep you off the chopping block.

    By being a linchpin in your studio by having a ton of tools knowledge, having a strong voice in the team (in a good way) and contributing value whenever you can, you are already miles ahead of those who simply come to work and coast. Its like out running the lion, just don't be the slowest and you should be ok. Like almost anything in life the more you put in, the more you should get out of it. Constantly learning and improving yourself has many benefits, not just job security. Thats where the real treasure lies....(CHEEEEZY)

    But in the end, unless you are working for yourself, job security is mostly an illusion. Just do whatever you can do stay relevant. McDonalds workers must be sweating right now with the rise of robot workers.
  • GeorgeCrudo
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    GeorgeCrudo polycounter lvl 2
    @PixelMasher If you have a link to that video I'd love to see it. You made it sound really interesting :)
  • PixelMasher
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    PixelMasher polycount lvl 666
    its a bit long, but the housing part i was talking about starts at 17 mins in, and the part about job security starts at 37:28. But the whole thing is pretty mindblowing in terms of giving an insight into his world view. I try to re-watch it every few months to remind myself of some of the principles.

  • Blond
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    Blond polycounter lvl 4
    Amazing topic and thread. Very interesting replies also.

    People always say, the hardest part is breaking into the industry but I'm pretty sure, staying consistently good as competition progresses is very important, it's not much talked about...

    Those who can't keep up, don't update themselves end up as teachers hahah
  • Two Listen
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    Two Listen polycounter lvl 10
    Not going to pretend I'm much experienced regarding this, but from my experience the best sense of job security you'll have as an artist is as passerby said - your ability to get work.  I also agree with Joost that working from home, in an area with low cost of living is probably more secure than trying to get in with a company you expect to carry you through the future.

    Being real, I'm not sure trying to become "indispensible" as an artist at a company is particularly viable.  It's just not the nature of the work.  Tons of people want to be artists, from what I've observed the people generally considered to be "indispensible" are the ones with enough general, or technical knowledge of how things are built and run.  The character artist, no matter how good, probably isn't going to be as indispensible as the guy who knows the engine inside and out, or the person who's been managing the client code base for the past 10 years, or the producer who overlooked the flagship title for god knows how long.  ...granted, nobody's saying you can't be a phenomenal artist...who also has familiarity with some of those other things, to increase your value.

    You also have to keep in mind - your job and how good you do at it can have absolutely no impact on how secure your job is!  Even if you work for a company that makes boat loads of revenue, one that could sail into the future at its current pace without a care in the world... you know what happens to companies that are successful, that make a bunch of money?  A lot of times, they get bought.  And getting bought can change everything.  Suddenly you, who were an indispensible senior artist are now no longer needed as your new parent company has talent they're familiar with, who they prefer.  Suddenly your company, which kicked all kinds of ass and never missed a beat - well your new owners have decided to move the studio to a bigger city, where they can acquire even more talent and unless you plan on moving - that means that's where you get off the train.

    At the end of the day, I'm not sure job security exists.  The key is to ensure your life, and the things in it that are important to you, remain secure regardless.

  • unit187
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    unit187 polycounter lvl 5
    "Indispensible" is not always a good thing. I think more often than not "indispensible" people are those, who are super proficient with in-house tools and pipelines of particular studio. The problem surfaces when you realize those skills do not directly (or at all) transfer to your next job. For instance, at some point I worked for 3 years at a mocap studio. I knew how to operate equipment, how to use specialized software etc. I had higher than average salary, because there were nearly zero people on the market with my skillset.

    Then the studio closed. Turns out there is no another job available where I can apply my skills. Literally, zero jobs. Means 3 years of experience are not really helping in finding new job. So, long story short, don't try to be "indispensible", just be really good. If you will be laid off, you can easily find new job. One must always be prepared for this, keeping his or her portfolio up-to-date, gathering references from people they worked with, networking, etc.
  • Jonas Ronnegard
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    Jonas Ronnegard Polycount Sponsor
    Same thing has probably been said above but I'll join in.

    I think the ideal thing you can do is just work hard on what you do, you don't have to think too much about being indispensable to one company, just be great at what you do, live in a hub city or close to one. If you have the skills but still lose your job for various reason you will get a new one, and if you are good at what you do you won't have a problem finding well paying freelance jobs during the wait that might occur.
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