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Lunch & Learn Recap: Getting Your Next Gig

Kim Fay / May 24, 2022

Lunch & Learn Recap / no comments

Cartoon male at desk with laptopOn May 18, TAG Members Coordinator Jackie Huang moderated a Zoom panel on getting your next job with three TAG members:

Christine Le: Storyboard Revisionist (Craig of the Creek, The Fungies, Rugrats)

Danny Ducker: Executive Board Member, Cartoon Network Shop Steward, and Storyboard Supervisor (We Bare Bears, Amphibia, Fionna and Cake)

Mira Crowell: ShadowMachine Shop Steward and Color Supervisor (Adventure Time, Craig of the Creek, Little Demon)

The trio answered questions and offered advice—based on their own experiences—about what to do if you have a job in the industry and you’re looking for a new one.

What are some of the reasons that have caused you to look for a new job?

  • Layoffs from a show being cancelled or coming to an end naturally. (Ducker estimate a 50/50 ratio for the jobs she has worked on.)
  • Very unhappy in the job and want to look for something else.
  • With the current state of streaming, many jobs don’t last as long as they used to. Le has worked on six shows in the past three years.

How much notice do you usually receive about a job ending?

  • Typically, when you start a job, you are told what the length of that job will be. If you aren’t told this—ask!
    • Even if you are given an end date, consider it an estimate, since sometimes jobs run longer than expected. Calculate up to an additional two weeks to a month buffer.
    • According to the TAG contract: “If an employee is laid off, the Producer shall provide either five (5) days’ notice or five (5) days’ pay, provided that the layoff was not occasioned by an act of God or other occurrence beyond the Producer’s control.”
      • Crowell has never received less than 40 [work] hours’ notice, and Ducker says she has never had the agony of being told on a Friday that her job is over Monday.
    • Le says that once she finds out a show she’s working on hasn’t been picked up for another season, she starts putting out feelers for new jobs.
    • It is acceptable to check in with your producer a few months before your estimated end date to ask if they would want you to stay on in the event of a season pick-up.

If you know your show is ending, when do you start looking for a new job?

  • Le says she starts looking as soon as she knows her end date, while Ducker says that months out from her end date on a show, she starts talking to people she knows on other shows and finds out what’s coming around the bend.
  • Crowell shares the best advice she’s ever been given: Start looking for your next job on the first day you start your job.
    • Always hustle for your next job, even if you’re on a long-term project.
      • Ducker advises that the only way you’re ever going to get a raise on a long-term job—unless you’re working on the miracle unicorn—is to have another offer on the table.
    • You should try to do freelance to expand your range and portfolio, and to network.
    • No job lasts forever.
  • In regard to freelance jobs, Duckers says she can never say no and its “bitten me in the butt.” Working all the time, without breaks between jobs, can cause burnout. Try to line up your next job while you’re still working, but also try to schedule a break between the two jobs.
    • Crowell tries to schedule at least a week break. Ducker prefers a month. This isn’t always possible, but if it is, go for it. And feel comfortable telling your new job that time off is a priority for you before you start.

Do you owe a production a certain amount of time before leaving a job?

It depends on the situation.

  • Crowell says that if a show is a bad fit, you need to do what’s best for yourself.
    • If you can, finish out the season.
    • If you absolutely can’t, give as much notice as possible and offer solutions.
      • Recommend people to fill your spot.
      • Ease the transition period as much as you can because it’s hard for a show to replace someone in the middle of production.
      • Be professional and respectful.
    • Le offers to do freelance work to transition out. She also offers to help wrapping while starting her new job. She says, “Always leave on a good note with the people you work with.”

When show isn’t a fit, how do you handle that?

  • First, try to find a way to make the situation better. If this isn’t possible, you can start looking for another job.
  • You don’t owe loyalty to a studio, but you should work to maintain good relationships with the humans you work with. Ducker keeps positive relationships with her past co-workers and supervisors even after she’s moved on.
  • Le notes that what exemplifies good leadership is wanting you to grow in your career.
    • It is easiest for a supervisor to support your move when you make an upward job move.
    • You can tell your producer that you are getting a raise; producers understand business moves.
    • While you can tell your producer you got a better offer, if you are leaving a studio you are not obligated to share anything about your new job.
      • In general, lateral moves are not an issue when moving from studio to studio.

If you do get new offer while working on a job, how much notice should you give?

  • Mira suggests that if you’re giving more than two-weeks’ notice, you could have a verbal conversation with your supervisor to see when they would like you to turn in your official resignation letter.
    • This conversation benefits you in the long-run because you’re helping the production.
    • Turning in a letter too early can backfire. You may be asked to leave your job immediately.

When you’re looking for a new job, how helpful are internal studio recruiters?

  • It depends on the studio.
  • Fewer studios are hiring recruiters and HR personnel, so there are fewer people dealing with more job seekers.
  • Recruitment teams have high turnover.
  • Crowell feels like recruiters have been reaching out a lot more to potential job seekers in the last couple years—the “talent wars.”
  • Le has had mixed experiences with recruiters and notes the general lack of communication.
  • For finding recruiters:
    • Crowell recommends checking LinkedIn.
    • Ducker suggests asking on the TAG Discord.
    • Le notes that she asks her friends in the industry.

All panelists agree that producers and peers are your best connection for getting your next job.

How frequently do you reach out recruiters when you’re looking for work?

  • Crowell says that if she’s not working and actively looking, she will reach out and send a recruiter a link to her portfolio—opening the conversation and asking for feedback. If they have any tips, she will make the adjustments and reach out again to show she takes their notes seriously.
    • If the recruiter says they don’t have anything now but check back at X date, wait until that date.
    • If the recruiter says they don’t have anything now and aren’t sure what’s coming up, wait for at least a month but better two to reach out again. When you do reach out, make sure you’re pushing the relationship forward—have something new to show or offer.
  • Le notes that recruiters are very busy, and she finds that she only talks to the ones who she’s already established a relationship with, perhaps from a portfolio review or meeting in person.
  • Ducker notes that it’s fine to have a professional relationship with a recruiter without feeling like you have to have a personal relationship with them—she approaches this from a business perspective.
  • When you reach out, keep it professional and concise. It’s okay to offer a personal message, but get to the point. Too many words are a turnoff.

Has the definition of networking changes these days?

  • Ducker notes that the pandemic has definitely changed networking.
    • In some ways people have become more accessible:
      • Reliance on Discord and Slack means you can meet people you might not have otherwise met.
    • In some ways networking is more difficult:
      • Without being in an office together, you don’t necessarily know all your co-workers. You might leave a show with good portfolio pieces but no meaningful connections.
      • Le notes that networking is about building relationships, and you might have to be more intentional. You can’t just stroll past a co-workers desk or office and stop for a chat.
        • If you come on a show with no Slack channel or group chat, suggest this to your producer. These channels can help everyone feel like part of the team.

How important is it to show up and participate in in-house work events?

This is tricky with the pandemic. It’s not fair to expect everyone to come to social events in person. It excludes a lot of people for various reasons.

  • Ducker feels that it’s the responsibility of the supervisor to create a virtual space for people who can’t go to in-person events.
  • Le suggests doing virtual coffee chats. Invite a co-worker to log onto Zoom and just have coffee for 15 minutes and connect.
  • If you’re not in a supervisory position, it can feel lonely not having a social outlet for work. Talk to your supervisor and push for virtual events or ways to connect; feel comfortable offering to help:
    • Supervisors are busy and are most likely happy to have help with this.
    • Supervisors don’t always see the situation from other positions, so it’s helpful to (politely) bring this to their attention.

Does social media play a part in networking and have any of you found jobs on social media?

  • “Big time,” says Crowell. “TAG Discord is huge.”
  • Ducker feels that Twitter and Instagram play a role in meeting new people and building relationships.
    • Be careful with your social media. Keep your professional/work accounts separate from your personal accounts.
    • Social media like Twitter and even Instagram weren’t built to benefit artists, so don’t count on them to serve as your professional portfolio.
      • That said, Crowell uses her Instagram to show her daily sketches and personal art; she keeps her professional art on her website.
      • Le feels Instagram is the opportunity to show off your individual voice with your personal art; people used to showcase that they were a Jack-of-all-Trades, but these days there is a push for individuality.
    • Ducker feels that the way you use social media depends on what stage you’re at in your career. At her stage, people in the industry know her personal voice so she doesn’t need to post that; but earlier in her career, posting personal art got her noticed and hired.
  • In regard to being hired:
    • Crowell says she’s had people reach out to her through Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, but she doesn’t count on it.
    • Ducker says the most important thing you can invest in is a website.
      • Use your website to showcase your best work, not all of your work.
      • Spot check your links regularly.

Head over to the Keyframe website to learn more about marketing your animation portfolio online.

Is it effective to post: “Hey, I’m looking for work.”

  • It can be if you’re not obnoxious about it.
  • Ducker notes that if you don’t have a ton of industry experience, these posts are necessarily bad, but they can do more harm than good if they’re up for too long. People will wonder: why is this person still looking for work?
  • Use posts to notify your network of people you already know—people who are familiar with your work.
  • Don’t use a post to give people a taste of your experience; direct them to your website.

Job resources

  • Check out TAG job postings. Forward them to friends you know who are looking for work.
  • TAG has an Airtable where you can submit your availability. 
  • TAG’s Writers Committee has an Airtable for animation writers to list their expertise, experience, contacts, etc.
  • Join the Unofficial, Volunteer Member-ran TAG Discord group—open only to TAG members. This is a great place to connect with others in your same role and ask for advice. 
    • Queer TAG Discord is open to non-TAG members.
  • Non-TAG Groups
  • Recruiters at the studio where you work. Studios are doing a big push for artist retention.
  • Make sure to be clear/specific about what kind of job you’re looking for.
  • Le says to “speak it out into the universe.” No one knows you’re looking for work, or what kind of work you’re looking for, unless you say so—even if you just mention it in during a coffee chat or hangout: “Hey, so, I’m rolling off my show …”

Please keep in mind that all Discord Groups are unofficial, volunteer member-run servers. While members may share Guild-authorized information, this does not mean all information shared on Discord has been authorized. Any response received through these Discord channels is not authorized by the Guild. If you need an answer to a question, please email or visit FAQs for answers to commonly asked questions.

In addition, follow the trades: Hollywood Reporter, Deadline, Cartoon Brew, Animation Magazine, etc. Keep an eye on announcements for new shows and movies.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to people. Others feel just like you do. We’re all looking for our next job. Be intentional about building relationships. Be up front about your wants and needs for your career. This way the person you’re reaching out to know if they can (or want) to help you.

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