Getting Your First Job After DigiPen
March 2009So you're a DigiPen Senior, graduation is approaching, school's coming to a close, and your professional career is about to take off. That's some scary (and exciting!) shit. Here's some advice from someone who's gone before you.
There are a few things that I cannot stress enough so I'm going to hit them first.
First, be confident in your skills. Read that sentence again, but with more emphasis. You've gone to DigiPen for the last four years. You made it through Sophomore and Junior year. You've worked your ass off to make it this far and your reward is that you're coming into the industry with a very solid skillset to build upon. You're good at math. You're good at programming. You may not think so, but if you made it through the classes without cheating then you've demonstrated that you can handle these things fairly well.
Next, don't undervalue yourself. If a company makes you an offer and you think it's too low - don't tolerate it. Salaries in the game industry are notoriously low as it is. Don't let them get you for cheaper than they should. You may be thinking that if you don't take the offer they'll just give it to the next DigiPen graduate who comes running through the door and you'll be out of luck. Here's the thing you're not thinking about though. By asserting your worth you're saying to your potential employer that you value yourself - and so should they. You're demonstrating that you will speak up when things are amiss. They will respect you for this. And if they don't, you probably don't want to be working for them to begin with.
Alright, moving on. You're going into your first interview, you've probably done a mock interview or two, you've got your resume, maybe a personal website with your projects on it, everything's in order. Now it's time to execute.
How should you dress? Honestly, this one's up to you. There is certainly such a thing as overdressing though so keep it simple. When I was interviewing I would wear my normal clothes. After I got my job a friend I'd made at the company told me he thought I looked like a hippie when he was interviewing me. I still got the job, but my fashion choices certainly didn't help me get it. I've given you some bounds to work with here, just wear something you'll be comfortable in. Nice clothes can give you confidence too, so keep that in mind.
What should you bring? It's good to bring a couple copies of your resume, something to write with, all that normal junk that everyone talks about. What I'd really recommend bringing along with you is a laptop with your games on it. If you don't own a laptop borrow a friend's or the school's or your little sister's. The people interviewing you aren't going to care where the thing comes from or who it belongs to. Having it with you gives you the opportunity to show off your work. And not just screenshots of it, but three or four actual games that you have actually worked on and finished. And look! They're right there running, and you can point out the things you worked on or problems you had. Suddenly you've got this cool thing to talk about because you poured yourself into the damn project for a year and you know everything about it. Your passion is going to permeate the room because you're talking about your babies. That's powerful.
What should you expect? You probably already know the answer to this question but you're just not sure. You're going to be asked about programming and math. You're probably not going to know the answer to every question you get asked. 'I don't know.' is a perfectly valid answer to a question and is certainly better than trying to bullshit your way through something. The trick is that you need to follow it up by actively trying to solve the problem. The sooner you can admit that you don't know something the sooner you can move toward figuring it out.
That's most of it. As a DigiPen graduate one of your biggest strengths is that you've worked on four teams four years in a row to build games from the ground up. So talk about it! Talk about your teams and how your experiences varied from year to year. Talk about the project that ended up suffering because the team didn't work well together and what you learned that year. Talk about your favorite project, and your favorite feature you programmed. Talk about how the design for your project changed over the course of the year and how that impacted the final game. Talk about what each project taught you and how you applied that to the next project. Your experience is what makes you valuable, so get it out there and prove to them that you know what you're doing.
Never forget why you're in this industry to begin with and never stop learning. If you keep those two things in mind you'll do fine.
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