There are jobs for English/CW majors at campus career fairs. It helps to know what you’re looking for, though.
ONE option (there are others — we’ll get to those in future posts) that English/CW majors should know about: management development programs. Sometimes called “leadership development” or “rotational programs,” these opportunities involve a one- to two-year commitment to a mid-size to large company. During that time, the new employee rotates through several different departments, learning how different parts of the company operate, trying out different skill sets, and and getting the big picture that will eventually help him or her flourish in a particular role. Here’s a post about one English alumna who is in the midst of such a program at Cintas.
If all goes well, at the end of the program, the employee is hired into a permanent managerial role in whichever part of the company is the best fit.
Thinking about a career writing for video games? It’s a hard field to break into, but it is a thing people do. We have a post about it here, with some resources to explore.
In considering any career path, a useful step (whether you’re just starting out in college or about to graduate) is to look at some ads for entry-level jobs in that field. Use those close reading and critical thinking skills to learn about the field and its threshold for entry.
“Temporary.” That may mean that they have a project underway that requires some extra help, or it might mean that they don’t want to commit to a full-time hire at this level until they’ve had a chance to see someone do the job for a while. Entry-level jobs in creative fields are often provisional this way. Either way, it’s experience that will help you prove yourself to future employers — even if that employer is not DS Volition. Also, rapid turnover is characteristic of video game jobs. If your goal is a stable, permanent job with one company, gaming is not a good career path.
They don’t stipulate previous years of experience (that is, after all, what makes an entry-level job entry-level), but they do want “Sample Work.” Many employers in creative fields are less interested in what you’ve studied or what qualifications you have than in examples of how you use your creative skills. They are often particularly interested in things that you’ve created in collaboration with other people.
They don’t stipulate a major — it’s on you to demonstrate how your college coursework is “a game relevant discipline.” Note that the ability to be “Proactive in seeking feedback and resolving issues” is baked into success in a Creative Writing workshop-style class. Video game developers who interview a lot of engineers may not know this — but you can tell them.
There’s some industry jargon here: “level-design,” “scripting,” “iterate gameplay,” “AAA project.” If you are not conversant with these (and other) terms, then you have a goal for future networking. Find people in the field that you can talk to until you get to a point where you can drop these terms into conversation without feeling self-conscious.
The “Qualifications” section mentions a lot of soft skills. Phrases like “self-motivated with a strong work ethic” and “Ability to think creatively and analytically” often sound like white noise, but employers mean something by them and take them seriously. Consider the things that you can point to a resume, or anecdotes from your life that you could bring up in an interview, that would demonstrate that you have these qualities.
Bottom line: if you’re passionate enough about the inner workings of video games to start creating a portfolio and seeking out industry professionals, then you will be able to make a case for yourself as a candidate for a job like this. If thought of doing those things just makes you feel…tired, then gaming might not be the right industry for you. That’s okay. Look at some entry-level job ads in other fields. Read them with the level of care and attention demonstrated here. Look at lots of ads, in a wide range of fields. Talk to people about what they do and why they like it. There are many paths open to you.
It’s the time of year when you’re getting bombarded with information about internship opportunities. Here are a few things to know:
Internships can be useful, but they’re not a magic bullet. There are majors that position students to go into specific kinds of industries, and for those programs an internship with the right company is the key to success after graduation (think engineering, computer science, accounting, finance). English, Creative Writing, and Teaching of English don’t work like that. These majors equip you to excel in a wide range of internships, but an internship may not be the best path to a career that interests you.
Internships are a great way to get experience, but they’re not the only way. If your goal is a job in management or consulting with a large corporation, then a paid summer internship with the kind of company you have in mind is a great first step. if your goal is a creative career in screen-writing or TV production, you might be better off spending a summer working a retail job that will give you time and energy to hone your skills on your own independent film project. The secondary education program here has a built-in internship in the form of student teaching — there’s really no need to seek out an additional internship unless you want to explore other career paths.
Volunteer work, paid part-time employment, and RSO leadership are also important ways to explore your career interests and gain experience — and depending on your career path, some of these might be more helpful than an internship. If you are interested in publishing or editing, for example, most paid internships (and even unpaid internships with prestigious organizations) will expect you to have experience already — which you can best get by working on a student publication (high school experience has a limited shelf life once you’re out of high school), volunteering your editing skills for a nonprofit organization, or getting a part-time job with a communications component to it.
Not all internships are the same. Some are paid, some are not. Some give you hands-on responsibility, some give you the opportunity to watch from the sidelines. Some organizations have a lot of experience working with interns, others craft the internship position as they go along. Some internships serve as a pipeline to a full-time job after graduation, some do not. Some employers expect applicants to relocate and provide housing, others leave you to your own devices. Some internship programs are thinly-disguised schemes to get low-cost labor, others are equivalent to well-paid part-time or short-term jobs.
You have time, and you have choices. If you’re not sure what kind of internship you’d want, or how an internship might fit into your future goals, it’s okay. Look at the information you get about internships as it comes your way and see what piques your interest or sounds like something you might want to try. Read up on the employers offering summer internships at the the campus career fairs this fall, and go talk to a couple just to expand your sense of what’s possible. Find ways to get involved around campus. If you need to work while you’re here, think about how your choice of part-time work can help you build some relevant skills. As you get more familiar with what’s available and what you like doing, you’ll find it easier to sift through the possibilities and seek out the things that can help you.
Students ask me a lot about networking. Everyone knows they need to do it. No one quite knows what it is. Many people are pretty sure they’re not going to enjoy doing it. They often seem to be imagining a scenario like this Kids in the Hall sketch:
Never fear: networking looks nothing like this. Really.