Getting the J-O-B Part 3: Professionalism in Animation…or Anywhere

This is the third post in a series of getting a job storyboarding professionally. I started with Training, then Building a Storyboard Portfolio and now it’s on to Professionalism.

Here is Karen J Lloyd’s official definition of professionalism:

Show up. Do the work. Don’t be an ass.

Patent pending. πŸ˜‰

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? But I’ve seen people in animation school and on their first jobs (and beyond) violate one, two or even all three of these principals. It boggles the mind. When you get that first job, great. Now you have to keep the job.

Mind you, this could apply to any industry or job. I mean if you were an employer, wouldn’t this sum up what you’d expect at the very least out of an employee?

Let’s break it down, shall we?



When I was teaching, students would just saunter in 20, 30, or in the rare cases over 60 minutes late. No excuse. No guilt. Some would think because they ‘worked late’ the night before, it was justified. Well, it’s not. And let’s face it, some of them were probably playing video games all night.

The instructors are there for a reason. To lecture, give assignments and offer feedback on your work. If you’re not there, how can you get any valuable feedback? You should be getting as much as you can. That’s how you really learn.

And don’t think instructors don’t take mental notes. They do. I know I did.

It’s not about ‘attendance’ and getting booted out of the school either. To me, it was a reflection of their professionalism. If you can’t show up for a three hour class, will you show up for an eight hour work day? I saw way too many talented people blow it because they were just too lazy, too flaky or simply didn’t care enough to make it to class.

If you’re in school, treat it like a job.

Now lateness and sometimes not showing up at all, happens in the studios too. Some people come in late every morning, leave when they feel like it or don’t show up and don’t let anyone know where they are.

Unless you’re a freelance artist working on your own time frame, you shouldn’t do that.

Just because you work in animation, it doesn’t mean you have free reign to come and go as you please. This is a business like any other. How long do you think someone working in a bank would last if they did those things?

If you’re on a job, have the respect to inform someone that you might be late. When there’s a good reason for it. I know ‘stuff happens’ that might be out of your control now and then. That’s just reality. I’m talking about people who are late frequently, all the time or just don’t come in.

It really just boils down to arrogance. Knock it off and show up.

Hmm, this might be turning into a rant…



I saw other students over the years be the first ones to show up and the last ones to leave each day. But they spent most of their day chatting and wandering around. Everything else but the assignments.

Sorry, but you don’t get brownie points for showing up if the work isn’t being done.

I’ve seen new employees waste tons of the studio’s time. Playing video games. Watching YouTube. Chatting with friends. Posting stuff on Facebook. Sounds like a blast to have all that freedom in an animation studio, doesn’t it? Yes, many studios give their employees perks like access to games and such. You can work long hours and of course you can have a creative block. I get that. And it’s nice to blow off some steam now and then.

But maybe you wouldn’t have to pull multiple all-nighters if you cut down on those activities. Hey, I have my own share of procrastination…it’s an artist thing. But I work at home (better that nobody sees you procrastinate πŸ™‚ ) and meet my deadlines. The work gets done and it’s solid.

In the end, that’s all they really want from you.

The studio is trying to meet a deadline. You were hired to help them do that. That’s what they’re paying you for.

Some people feel resentful of the studio and moan about how they’re not getting paid enough. Fine, maybe you aren’t. But that’s the money you agreed to when you signed the contract. No one forced you. And I’m sorry to say, they may not feel you’re as important as you think you are.

When you’re in the studio and you ‘do the work’, they take notice. If you freelance, meet those deadlines (and if you’re running a little late, tell them and don’t lie about it). That is how you get more work (and hopefully, more money). When you finish assignments on time in school, they take notice too. You’re building a reputation for being dependable.

That’s priceless.

And these days, it can really make you stand out from the crowd.



Oh, the stories.

The one who demanded their portfolio be seen right then and there at a studio when they just dropped in. The endless nasty emails when someone didn’t get an answer right away from the swamped Human Resources person. The one caught sleeping under their desk by the ‘big boss’. The one who drew curse words into a background and it was the client who discovered them (that one might be classified as ‘bad judgment’). The newbie caught using the director’s computer to check their personal email. The guy on his first job breaking his contract and leaving the studio (and his fellow artists) in the lurch.

I could go on and on.

It doesn’t matter how talented you are…no one wants to work with a jerk. Lesser talent and ‘great to work with’ will win out every time. Be cool.

Animation is a very small industry. Students talk to other students. Students talk to instructors. Instructors talk to other instructors. Instructors work in studios. They talk to other people working in studios. Workers in studios talk to other workers at other studios. Those workers talk to supervisors. Supervisors talk to other supervisors. They change studios. And talk to those supervisors. People date other people in the industry (we’re the only ones who understand each other!) and they talk….bla bla bla.

Getting the picture here?

Show up. Do the work. Don’t be an ass.

Then people will want to work with you again. That’s professionalism.

It’s really that simple.

If you want to see what I might rant about next, subscribe to the RSS feed or by email…and I’ll try not to disappoint.

UPDATE: Here are the other posts in this series.
Getting the J-O-B Part 1: Five Key Things You Need to Storyboard Professionally
The Live-Action Go-to-Guy’s P.O.V. on Training
Getting the J-O-B Part 2: Building a Storyboard Portfolio
The Live-Action Go-to-Guy’s P.O.V. on Portfolios
The Live-Action Go-to-Guy’s P.O.V. on Professionalism
Getting the J-O-B Part 4: Contacts in the Industry
The Live-Action Go-to-Guy’s P.O.V. on Contacts in the Industry
The Live-Action Go-to-Guy’s P.O.V. on Contacts in the Industry-Part 2: Unions and Film Commissions
Getting the J-O-B Part 5: The Right Attitude
The Live-Action Go-to-Guy’s P.O.V. on the Right Attitude

17 thoughts on “Getting the J-O-B Part 3: Professionalism in Animation…or Anywhere

  1. the nudie ;)

    Tell it like it is! πŸ˜‰ This is all very good advice KJL, and from my own personal experiences in studio HR, would say this should be required reading for every new entrant into the animation business… Awesome advice!

  2. KJL Post author

    Well thank you very much and welcome Mr. Nudie! πŸ˜‰

    Always a pleasure to meet a new reader. I hope you come back and share some of your HR wisdom.

    …now go put some clothes on, will ya?

  3. Debi

    Nudies and duck asses!! My eyes! My eyes!!
    What kind of blog are you running here anyways Karen?

    Great advice not just for storyboarding, but for life in general. We could sure use a lot less duck asses in the world.
    (If you haven’t noticed…I’m loving the picture choice πŸ˜‰ )

  4. KJL Post author

    Hee hee…duck butts just put a smile on your face don’t they?

    I’m kind of digging the ‘animal theme’ I got going on. I’ll probably continue with it here and there.

    And I guess I have to confess that ‘the nudie’ is my boyfriend. πŸ˜‰
    I told you we date our own! Otherwise, I think I would have been a little creeped out by someone calling themselves that.

    More debauchery to come Debi…

  5. Koni

    These light-hearted exchanges are quite refreshing!
    Haha! Thanks KLJ for letting me visit your blog (and your friend’s sites too).

    On a more serious note, as usual, another great advice! Feeds my mind and soul to have the drive to continue. Someone has told me I cannot go back to storyboarding because I’ve been away too long.
    I will still try anyway.
    Have a : ) day!

  6. KJL Post author

    Don’t believe them Koni! You can do anything with the right drive, talent and attitude.

    Like I told you, I started in this career later than most and I’m doing just fine. And how can it be ‘too late’ to be an artist?

    So you keep at it! πŸ™‚

  7. Debi

    Been away too long!? That’s crazy talk. Listen to Karen. She’s 100% right. I remember a news story on an 80 or something year old man who just published his first book. It’s never to late for your dreams.

  8. Koni

    Wow!! Thanks Karen and Debi too! Great morale booster which I need these days. Today is International Women’s Day so I wish you both all the best in your fields of endevours! Go girls!!

  9. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Hey Chris and welcome! Glad to have you.

    You’ve got some pretty solid work on your blog…nice stuff. Thanks for the feedback. Lots more to come!

  10. Pingback: Inside Vancouver Film School - Behind the Storyboards

  11. AvnerAngelo

    Very nice advice..yes its true..i’ve been in the industry for several years but i love being freelance instead of inhouse employee..animation is a small world for an artist they knows everything of thier own backyard. its that better to be a being simple, cool & job well done. so were many studios & director will track you for being profesional & good profile in the industry of animation. anyway, what can you advice about 1 minute or more on cinematic story board? what is a good composition i can do? Tnx:)

  12. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Hi Avner and welcome!

    Yes, being professional and being great to work with is a huge asset in this very small industry. It can get you further than you think! Once people like you and your work, more work will come.

    I guess I’m not quite clear about your last question about composition. You can email me (check the contact page) and if you give me more details, maybe I’ll be able to answer you better. Thanks! πŸ™‚

  13. XiaoLi

    Hey Karen, your blog is a great find as I am just trying to start a career in the industry πŸ™‚

    I just finished film school and had 2 days work experience at a studio as part of the school’s program. I did some storyboards and previs, which they really liked.

    However, afterwards I got a call from the studio saying they can’t find one of the scripts they lent me to work with, and asked me to check if I have it. I didn’t, and I probably left it sitting around in a different department as I was showing others what I have done.

    But now I felt like such an ass now πŸ˜› I shoulda been more careful with this sort of sensitive document. Does this qualify me as being an ass in their eyes?

  14. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Hi XiaoLi and welcome. πŸ™‚

    I wouldn’t say it qualifies you as an ‘ass’. If you didn’t do it on purpose, then of course not! At worst, maybe just a little ‘flaky’ (kidding).

    They knew you were pretty new and if you came across as trustworthy the whole time, I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

    Just use it as a lesson learned. But yes, you should have been more careful with it. Studios don’t want their scripts getting out and especially with the internet, you can understand their concerns. It was a good lesson to learn at this early stage in your career.

    But don’t beat yourself up about it. As long as you didn’t keep it, that’s all you can do now. πŸ™‚

  15. Franko

    Hi-hi Karen

    Since I last posted, I seem to have developed a stutter in my salutations AND I’ve got an animation job.

    My first real animation job will be teaching animation in 3D. I must have done OK as a student, I guess.

    So here’s the bite.

    In 2008 I was a student. A tardy student. No-one else is listening are they?

    In 2009 I am an animation teacher giving out alarm clocks to the class to make sure they turn up on time.

    It’s like being turned inside out. Thank goodness for this blog post! And the “Show up. Do the work. Don’t be an ass.” mantra that I will brand onto their student brains.

    Oh, by the way my former animation teacher has made your blog an essential resource link on his animation resource blog (linked to my name over there on the left) and another former teacher (now a teaching colleague) has just discovered your blog and linked to the “working for free” post.


  16. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Hi-hi to you Franco,

    Hey, good for you and congrats! Now you’ll see the “other side” of things and start asking yourself “was I like that???”

    And yes, spread the “Show up. Do the work. Don’t be an ass.” far and wide. It can’t hurt, right?

    And I noticed the link from your former teacher. Cool! I have his blog in my resources section as well. Great to hear about the other link too. Love the linky love. πŸ™‚

    Good luck on the new job!

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