A good work ethic is just as important as talent
My siblings and I were raised by a single mother, with a low income, who had to work continuously to support us. In fact, I don’t remember a time that she was not working. She told me her secret to job security was a good work ethic. My mom used to say that the most important elements that an employer wants to see in an employee are reliability, productivity and a good attitude.
As an animator in the entertainment industry I have found that those qualities are just as important in a studio as they are in an office. So many young animation students coming out of school think, “I’ll wow the studios and get a job based on my spectacular portfolio. That’s all the ammunition I need!” And that’s definitely important but that’s not all of it. A strong work ethic is as important for new employers to see as fabulous drawings in an initial interview. Then once you get the job those qualities have to play out day after day. A producer at a big or small studio all want to see an employee that is reliable, productive and has a good attitude.
Be reliable– You show up for work everyday and at the time they expect you. You can be counted on in the small things and the large things. Also, reliable employees get promoted faster.
Be productive– Working on a project in a studio is like working in a factory. Every artist has a job to do and needs to get it done or it slows down the production of the film. At Disney animators had weekly quotas of how much animation they had to produce. The animators that were productive got bonuses, the ones that were not got fired. Ouch! Harsh but true!
Have a good attitude- Animation is a team sport so being able to work well with others is key to success. Most producers believe that life is too short to work with egomaniacs and jerks. Your attitude should be as good as your portfolio.
Yes, you are a creative artist that has to express yourself through your work but balancing that with getting the work done with a professional attitude is important to not only getting your first job but also staying employed long term.
Author of Focal Press’s Directing for Animation