A few months ago, I attended a convention panel that was all about getting a job in the gaming industry. Leaders and folks from many facets of game development gave talks on how they got to where they were, then fielded questions afterward. After 15 minutes of questions, it was pretty clear most of the inquiries could be boiled down to one big concept:
“I want to make games, and think making games would be fun, but I don’t know how to do it.”
The answer the panelists always gave was,
“Do the thing.”
A few examples:
Q: I’d like to do more coding for games, but my current line of work doesn’t really develop my skills in that space. What should I do?
A: Make time to write code for games outside of work.
Q: I want to write stories for games, but I don’t know how to get better. What should I do?
A: Write more stories. Write stories for your friend’s games. Write stories in other mediums. Just write.
Q: I want to be a community manager, but I don't have a ton of experience. What should I do?
A: Contribute to the community. Gain experience by building your own groups and platforms.
How do you get the dream job that you want? By doing the things that your dream job entails.
Wanting it is Not Enough
It’s important to know what you want. It’s important to identify your desires. That’s how you get started in pursuing your dream job - by figuring out what it is you want in the first place.
However, you can want something with all your being, but until you take that first step and start doing and making and trying, it all doesn’t matter. The difference between a daydream and a career is work.
In other words: listen to Shia LaBeouf.
Don't Wait for Permission
Start doing the thing you want to do today. If you want to be a writer, write. It doesn’t matter if it’s a six word flash fiction, or a sixty-thousand word fanfiction - you’re a writer the moment you start writing. You’re a game designer the moment you start putting together a game concept. You don’t need to be published or hired by a major developer or have an agent to start doing the thing. You’re the thing when you do the thing. So do the thing.
And be okay with the fact that, chances are, you really kind of suck at doing the thing.
When you’re pursuing your dream job, especially in the beginning, you’re going to find you are not yet good at all the skills needed for your dream job. There’s a gap between the aspects of your dream that excited you and your ability to produce - and that's okay.
Don't wait for permission from others to do work. Give yourself permission to do work that isn't great at first.
Ira Glass explains it most eloquently here:
Don't Follow Your Passion
When it comes to career advice, the phrase "chase your passions" is common to the point of cliche.
It's also not great advice.
Don’t buy into the impossible and unfair pressure to identify your “one true passion” in life. Passions are rarely (if ever) an innate thing that resides within you, waiting to be discovered and then followed for the rest of your existence, giving you unwavering clarity and meaning. Passions are discovered through work. Passion is ignited through creation, through experimentation, through a growing excitement and hunger for doing something. Passion emerges as you build the skills and confidence of doing the thing.
Don't just want your dream job. Start doing the thing. Don't wait for permission. Just do it. Don't chase passions. Allow them to grow as you do the work.
The rest will follow.