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Getting a Job

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Getting a Job I’m a Computer Science major at a university with the plan of a career as a game programmer. I’m also pretty clueless on how I will get a job once I graduate. How should I search for a company? I think monster would be good, maybe gamedev.net. Once I find a company what steps should I take to apply for the job? Will I need some really good project of mine to demonstrate instead of a resume? Should it be a project that includes all my programming abilities? I will appreciate any information. Thank you all for your time, effort and helpfulness.

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It would be advisable that you try and get a job before you graduate. This will put you well ahead of other new graduates and let you know whether you like the job before its too late. Being an intern is a valuable experience.

I find that Monster.com tends to be a horrible way to find coding jobs. The best source of jobs for me came through my:

1) University's career center
2) Personal friends (Hiring process becomes: "Hey, you want an interview?")
3) "Industry events/gatherings" like the ones held by local chapters of the IGDA

As for what is required: It is some combination of good grades, demonstrated initiative, communication skills etc.

But no one thing is necessarily required.

The idea is simple: To show the interviewer that you are better at the given job than the other applications. So for example you may have piss poor grades, but if you demonstrate you're an awesome coder with great experience that will actually be enough.

Hell, they will be inclined to hire you over someone else if they like you more. When it's crunch time and you're in closed quarters with your coworkers this tends to be important ;)

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Your best bet is to take direct action. Never rely on Monster or other passive job seeking forms unless you have a LOT of time that you can waste.

Search for small companies in your area (use web search tools or phone book). If they're competent, they will have a web page which will have contact information and possibly a job listing. If you see anything, first phone them up and chat with the secretary (or with whoever answers the phone if they don't have a secretary), and then (maybe) send a SHORT e-mail to the appropriate contact. If the site doesn't explain what they do, don't assume they make games. Ask them first to make sure.

Don't bother sending a resume until you know they want one (ask during the phone call or first e-mail if phone call failed). The first person to receive the e-mail will probably not be the one who would be interested in your resume. Ask then to see if they have a specific document template to use for your resume.

Some places will schedule an in-person interview and tell you to bring your physical resume/portfolio/whatever to the interview. Make sure you're available for an interview during weekdays and possible work hours (8am through 8pm).

Make sure you know how to get to the offices on time. It's worth making a 'scouting run' if you live nearby.

If you have any hobby projects worth showing off, bring them to an interview. Make sure you know how to get your project to run on other prople's computers. Don't send them as e-mail attachments unless you've amde sure it's OK. Personally, I didn't show off any of my projects during my interviews but I managed to talk my way into the job.

Aim for the position you're most confident that you could get hired for. Don't worry too much about the 'years of experience in industry' stuff. It's worth trying to get hired even if you don't fulfill every single one of the listed 'requirements' (but don't lie about what you know or don't know).

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- Avoid agencies whenever possible. Apply direct. GameDevMap should help.

- Your portfolio should only show your best work. If there is an area that you want to specialise in, make a demo of that your predominate piece.

- Get your resume/CV reviewed by peers till it is as best as you can get it. There will be differing opinions but it will highlight any classic mistakes.

- Call the company first. Make sure there is a position available and get a name for reference when you send/chase up.

- Use the name for the covering letter, make sure the covering letter is focused to the job and company you are applying for.

- Wait a couple of days, if there is no response on whether they want to take you to the next stage or not, call (not email) again, ask by name and chase up. Continue till you get a straight answer.

- Once you have a confirmed interview, read up on the company. Make sure you know some of their past games and MO.

- Bring either a laptop/handheld/hardware ready to run your demos or have it ready to run from a CD (be prepared to give them a copy of the CD).

- Be prepared for programming tests, technical questions and talking about your projects/demos.

- Go in confident, you want this job, make sure it shows.

- Ask for the dress code, usually it means smart casual but no suits.

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I'm not really sure about the gaming industry. I am currently enrolled in PBCC trying to earn my associates, then i will move on to bachelors, finally I hope to achieve a masters. I decided in February that i was going to get a job programming. Perhaps getting a job programming early on before shooting for the game industry is better. I figure by the time I get my masters i'll have had 6 years of solid programming experience with java, php, and c++/#. Do you think this approach is ok? (BTW I currently work as a PHP Engineer (doing some java/c++ work on the side) )
Thanks,
-durfy

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you WILL want some demo project(s) to show of at least some of your skills (and your dedication).

Without a demo it is hard for a strait-out-of-college programmer to land an actual game programming job (nearly impossible actually ... you pretty much have to start out in either QA, or tech support or other entry areas in this field if you are not already a notably above average programmer).

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I'll second that Monster.com has been pretty worthless, at least for me. Its not that I get no interest from there, but it seems that the interest I *do get* from there is from recruitment agencies who have obviously just data-mined the entire site and picked up on a few key words from my resume, having not even bothered to read it themselves before contacting me.

Case in point -- I was once given a phone interview and all the questions were about very specific and advanced knowledge of win32/MFC details that were not at all what my resume would have indicated as an area of expertise. About 3-4 questions in I stopped the guy and asked what the position was (since he hadn't explained it before the questions) and it turned out to be for lead developer on a large Windows application being created from the ground up. I was just out of college at the time, and while I consider myself a more than competent coder, I certainly had no illusions of being able to be in any lead role on such a project. I asked why I was being interviewed for such a position, and he couldn't give me a reason -- because apparently no one had read my resume at all. I thne told him that I was just freshly out of school and that the position was not my area of expertise and politely declined to continue the interview, not wanting to waste any more of our time.


I've found sites like CraigsList to actually be more useful, but I live near Seattle which is a large metro area with a fairly high concentration of game studios, if you're from an area less rich in opportunity you might want to consider posting your resume to a better geographical location if you're not opposed to relocating there -- but don't hide the fact that you're not from the area.

Also, as has been said -- passive methods are ok, but its generally better to apply directly to the game studios with open jobs listed and to exercise any industry contacts you may have. Make sure to take at least a little time to tailor your resume to the position at hand, it should really only be a tweak if you're already in the ballpark. Its sometimes sufficient to just tailor your Cover Letter though.

Any work experience or initiative you can demonstrate is good. White papers, relevant course-work, personal projects, design documents... Make these things available on a website for download, don't bother including them in an email unless specifically requested.

Finally, if you haven't already built a portfolio, there are some good guidelines for selecting portfolio works. Firstly, don't bite off more than you can chew, your dream game is not a good candidate, pick something small and polish it really well. It doesn't even have to be a game, maybe just a particle system, simple 2D physics engine or some other sub-system. Small and polished looks great; big, clumsy and unfinished looks bad, even if it was more ambitious. Another good idea is to tackle something you're unfamiliar with, even if its not at all gaming related. Maybe study and implement an advanced data structure like a red-black or kd-tree; this can open the door to talk about the learning process you went through to make it happen, and what you overcame, and how you might be able to apply what you've learned to new endeavors.

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