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Code Mole

Getting an entry level Programming Job

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I graduated from college with a bachelor''s degree in Computer Science and was wondering what do developers really look for in a new programmer straight out of college with no work experience. My experiences so far in trying to land a job leads me to believe that right now there are alot of programmers in the entry to mid level positions with experience looking for work, thus making it hard for recent grads, like myself, to get work. I really want to stand out and above the rest and would really like any input on how to do so. So if any game veterens out there that would like to spend a few minutes explainning what they would look for in a young programmer please post here and tell me, as well as other young programmers, your thoughts and experiences. thanks ~code mole~

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quote:
Original post by Code Mole
I graduated from college with a bachelor''s degree in Computer Science and was wondering what do developers really look for in a new programmer straight out of college with no work experience.
Your lack of work experience is a bit of a red flag. It suggests that you weren''t motivated enough to look for at least an internship throughout your college career - definitely a bad thing. If, however, you were working to support yourself or something like that, put that on your resume - it''s valid work experience! So what if it was at Al''s Neighborhood Bakery and your job was moving machine-kneaded dough from the conveyor belt to the cutter in a tub with a broken wheel? It shows initiative, responsibility and dependability, which are far more important than raw skills (because you''ll get retrained on most jobs anyway).

quote:
My experiences so far in trying to land a job leads me to believe that right now there are alot of programmers in the entry to mid level positions with experience looking for work, thus making it hard for recent grads, like myself, to get work.
True.

quote:
I really want to stand out and above the rest and would really like any input on how to do so.
Do you have a portfolio of software you''ve developed on your own time? You lack work experience (didn''t you have any internships?) so that''s really the only measure you can point them to. Other than that, you''d simply have to be an amazing person who could make them react favorably to your personality, apparent work ethic and general knowledgeability.

quote:
So if any game veterens out there that would like to spend a few minutes explainning what they would look for in a young programmer please post here and tell me, as well as other young programmers, your thoughts and experiences.
If you specifically want advice for the gaming industry, I can''t really help you. I will say that you might find it advantageous to apply for QA positions, and then move up the ranks to programming. I hear it''s easier once you "get your foot in the door," so to speak.

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I''d agree with everything that Oluseyi posted. I too, am a young programmer. After finishing my studies, I found getting a job to be very difficult indeed. It really was the work experience factor that hampered my chances.

For example, I applied for a job within a local Compaq technical branch. I got to the interview stage and was told it was between myself and another person (I was 20 at the time). I had no experience, but he had 5 years worth. So, we both ended up submitting aptitude tests. Apparently I beat him hands down in it, but they still took his work experience as a much more positive thing, so I didn''t get the job.

Eventually, I did get a job and ended up as a Lead Web Developer for 3 years, although this was partly due to the fact that I decided to take on some NVQs (even if it was a step down) because you cannot undertake one without having a job, which they help you find.

After completing the NVQs (5 in the end) and leaving that position, I decided I needed a more involved programming direction, so I started studying again; this time an MCSD with core programming routes in C++ and C#.

The company I''m studying it with, are supposed to help me find a job at the end of it. How true that is, I can''t really say, but I am hoping not to have the jobseeker blues again.

The only other thing to mention, is to never give up hope. Keep trying. Eventually, someone has to realise your potential and give you a job. Even if it''s not exactly what you''re looking for, the experience all counts.

Good luck, and let us know if you get something.

-hellz

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If you know you want to work in the game industry, you should know that it''s (in my opinion) becoming more and more like the movie/TV industry. I agree with Oluseyi that it''s all about getting a foot in the door, and be prepared to do some simple, menial tasks before you are asked to contibute to the next hot game :-)

You could try looking for positions of a "Production Assistant" type, at my company we have several of those and personality is definitely a more important factor than work experience when hiring them. One of our PA''s is actually starting to get some programming tasks, he has showed that he is really interested and that he is willing to work hard and learn the necessary skills.

We also take in temporary testers whenever we are about to release a product. Event though the jobs are temporary, it would give a chance to show your face and charm people with your energy and enthusiasm, then you never know... :-)

Of course it''s hard to find these positions, but spend a lot of time browsing the job-posting websites (we often advertise positions on Gamasutra) and you''ll find something eventually.

Hope this helps,
D

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Thanks to everyone who posted a replied.

Just to follow up on a few questions aimed at me. I didn''t have an internship, since I went to school 60 hours a week. I went to a private school called DigiPen, that is focused on teaching video game programming, as well as 3d animations. I took the programming course, which was 4 years (it really should be 6 years since some semester you have to take 7 or 8 classes to be able to graduate in 4 years) the school was not easy, most of the classes are project based and its the norm to have 4 projects due at any given time (think that you have on average 21-25 hours a week of just class/lecture: 20+ hours a week on your team project game: homework is done on your own time (if you have any time left) ). the main projects class of the school is working in teams of around 6 programmers to produce a ''profesional'' game by the end of 2 semester of when you start (1 game due every 2 semester) the school has a 75% drop out rate, since you can not slack at all.

The game that I worked on my senior year is called Crazy Cross, it was a student finalist at the 2003 GDC.

During the summers I did product testing at NoA, about 5 months worth, spread out in 2 summers. I also tutored and graded at the school since I really needed money (so add 10 hours into my weekly schedule).

I''ve had about 7 phone interviews for entry level jobs since graduating, but I never land the job since I have no experience. I''ve been thinking about interning (even for free) so i can get some experience under my belt. However, most places won''t take interns unless they are still in school.

I would like to test again, for any company, however I live in Michigan and I really need to relocate to an area with more software companies. I''ve been working, saving up money to move, but I''m not making much, plus I''m paying back loans so its gonna be awhile before I save enough to relocate myself. I know most companies that need testers only look for people that are local.

so during all this time, I''ve been working on my own project trying to iron out any coding problems I still don''t have down. I would like to make contacts with people in the industry. Not even for a job, but just to learn what they did to get where they are and to just learn from them (I''m always ready to listen when it comes to free advice).

man, I''ve just been running on here, I guess that about does it. thats my story. oh I hope to get my own game done in time for GDC 2005 (i have an artist working for me for free, I met the guy at GDC 2003, showing him Crazy Cross) Its a bigger challenge then I first thought, but It keeps me learning.

oh, so if anyone else would like to share how they got into the industry or any advice, please keep the posts coming!

~code mole~

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Oh, you went to Digipen? Sweet! I remember dreaming about going there when I was just in High School. Was it pretty cool?

Hey, I thought that place sets you up with an entry level job when you graduate... at least that''s what I took from what I''d read about it when it first opened up. I guess they''re not doing that anymore... suckfest. =(

You''ll want to make a portfolio out of the stuff you did at Digipen... and especially stress that Crazy Cross game. Independant work like that shows even more initiative than work at an actual "job", as the former offers no immediate benefit while the latter is generally money motivated. It sounds like, though the Crazy Cross game was for credit in class, you put enough extra time in it that you could consider it an independant project as well.

Focus on that, and you should be able to land something I''d imagine. If not, then we''re all in trouble aren''t we? =)

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DigiPen was cool. I know from people who dropped out and took programming courses at other colleges, were doing things we did our first year at dP. Its alot of work but you end up in total submersion (if that even is a word) of programming and its like you do it 24/7. Its like learning a language, the more you speak it, the better you become at it.

DigiPen never hooked up any grad with an entry level job. When the school openned its doors in ''97, alot of the programmers were getting entry level job offers from companies in the seattle area (where the school is located) since companies really needed entry level programmers back then. Also Nintendo Software Technologies (NST) right next door to dP, was picking up the artist grads, since they really needed artists, but thats pretty much all done with.

The school doesn''t help getting your foot in the door, and they explain that to you when you sign up for classes freshmen year. Its not a surprise when you graduate from there. I went to school there when it really started to get press, its amazing how writers will just add in what ever they want to the facts to spruce it up. so my advice is never fully believe what you read or see on tv

which brings me to ask: "has anyone read the rolling stone article on DigiPen, in an issue about a year ago?" Cos that article focused on 3% of the student body and just made the school look silly. The writer spent a full day with my team, while we recorded the voice acting for Crazy Cross. We sat down with this guy and explain to him what the school was and how our lives were while attending dP. None of that made the article at all.

well i guess now I''m ranting on, so I''ll stop

once again I''ll ask peeps to keep posting their advice here and maybe one day we''ll have a nice good history here that will help everyone get prepare for job hunting!

thanks everyone

~code mole~

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After junior high, I was faced with the decision of going to College or trying to enter the work force as a programer, I really hated school so i figured four more years of it wasn't what I wanted. I was confident of my programing skills, so instead of going to a standard highschool i enrolled in a technical highschool, they didint have a computer course though, so i went into graphic arts. This school allowed you to do work study (one week of school one week of work, on off on off...) durring junior and senior year, durring junior year i participated in a robotics competition, and through my competancy was elected team captain, i was able to network with many engineers, and through one I gained an interview with a online health company, and landed a part time job as a programer while in school, so once highschool ended I had a full time job waiting for me and i've never looked back.

If you ask me it has to do with your drive to suceed you have to get out there and make contacts and show employers you have what it takes, a killer portfollio exhibiting a few pieces of your best work is a must. For my interview i provided a CD which contained a sample of source code, graphic art samples, and a few compiled *game oriented* programs. Even though most of the content wasnt geared twoards health it showed my competancy in programing above and beyond what would be required of me in such a position.

so, aproach interviews with confidence and convey to them that you can get the job done, it's all that will save you in the absence of no experience.

Hope that helps, it worked for me=)



Raymond Jacobs,

www.EDIGames.com

www.EtherealDarkness.com



[edited by - EDI on March 24, 2004 4:37:05 PM]

[edited by - EDI on March 24, 2004 4:40:28 PM]

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As with anything, I'm sure it can be learned in a book. Maybe these would help:

1) Game Developer's Market Guide (Game Development)
2) Break Into The Game Industry: How to Get A Job Making Video Games
3) Game Plan: The Insider's Guide to Breaking In and Succeeding in the Computer and Video Game Business

Now you didn't specify what programming job you wanted, but this is a GD web site right?

Also, doesn't your college have a career placement department. Even if you have already graduated, I'm sure they still offer this service to you.

You need some credentials and a demo. Why not just start applying your knowledge and create something big. What do you have to lose? Also, you could join the open source community and work on a project. Or you could even start your own open source project (a 3D StudioMax clone would be nice ).

Some say it's not what you know, but who you know. Try going to job fairs and network. Join well-known communities (IGDA).

You could check out these sites:

1) U.S. Department of Labor (if you live in the US)
2) GameJobs.com
3) Monster (a lot of people say this site really works--but who knows)

The job market is not the best as of right now (hope it gets better by the time I graduate) so maybe it's just a matter of waiting.

According to CNN Money:



So you're definitely in the right area. Just keep flooding HR departments with you resume and work on your demo or project so that when you get that interview, you have something to showcase your skills/talents.

"Do not flame people you don't know in a public forum. Only amateurs do that. Professionals in the industry know they will run into each other over and over. The person you flame this year may the person you want to do business with next year. Don't burn your bridges," (Diana Gruber, http://www.makegames.com/chapt6.html) .

[edited by - DIRECTXMEN on March 24, 2004 5:41:58 PM]

[edited by - DIRECTXMEN on March 24, 2004 5:42:48 PM]

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quote:
Original post by VThornheart
You''ll want to make a portfolio out of the stuff you did at Digipen... and especially stress that Crazy Cross game.


That, my friend, could certainly boost your chances of employment a great deal. That one item about GDC, makes yourself stand out from the crowd, because it''s something different.

Definitely work on producing a portfolio including that, and I think you''ll find employment will be a lot more likely to come around.

Again, good luck!

-hellz

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