So You Want to [insert career here] Design Video Games…

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.

Here’s an ad currently running on the DS Volition website:

A few things to note:

  • “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.

“I Don’t Want a Desk Job”

#WOCintech chat

English and creative writing majors figuring out a career path often start with what they don’t want. “I don’t want to teach” is the first filter, often followed by “I don’t want a desk job.” Sometimes it’s more specifically, “I don’t want a corporate job.”

There are jobs that don’t involve desks, but they can encompass everything from freelance copywriting (and putting your laptop on whatever surface you choose) to being a transportation manager for Union Pacific (yes, the train company; yes, they employ English majors.)

There are jobs that don’t involve being employed by a corporation, but they can involve everything from being a case manager for an addiction treatment center to creating branding for a political campaign to running an afterschool program. Continue reading

How to Conquer the Business Career Fair as an English/CW Major

  1. Know that not only is the fair open to all majors, but many employers come hoping to meet majors from all over the university. If you’re inclined to go,  you should go. If you’re not sure whether you’re inclined or not (you’re unsure about whether “business” is for you), you should go–talking to employers is a great way to find out.
  2. Prepare.
  3. Prepare.
  4. Prepare.
  5. Prepare. Having a plan is the difference between a traumatizing Business Career Fair experience and a useful one. Going in unprepared pretty much guarantees that you’ll conclude that you’re unemployable. A little bit of preparation will show you that you are not only employable, but have choices about your employment. Continue reading

Teaching English Abroad

Do you love teaching? Are you interested in teaching English abroad? There are plenty of opportunities in East and Southeast Asia, and the Middle East.

Every year China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE and some other countries in Asia and the Middle East, recruit a number of English teachers with a preference given to native speakers of English. Searching the keyword “English” in Handshake will bring up any number of these opportunities.Many offer good packages in terms of remuneration, health coverage, and accommodation. With a bachelor’s degree in English, anyone who is a native of an English speaking country can apply for these positions.

Is Teaching English the Right Path for You?

The best way to find out if you enjoy teaching second language learners, before you renew your passport and invest in a plane ticket, is to give it a try — which can also help you get experience that will help you land a position. Champaign-Urbana offers many opportunities to get some experience of working with non-native speakers of English.

  • The Intensive English Institute. Each semester the Intensive English Institute hires a number of undergraduate students for internships, and these positions are paid.  You can also volunteer to be convopartners of international students at the institute, which will require you to spend one hour each week with ESL students. This will give you the opportunity to exchange culture and experience the world from another perspective.
  • Illinois International Hospitality Committee. You can also volunteer for English classes through the University of Illinois International Hospitality Committee.
  • Project READ, Parkland College. Volunteering at Parkland College can give you exposure to adult language learning. Project READ, a not-for-profit literacy service in Parkland College, provides free tutoring to adult learners seeking to improve their reading, writing, and/or English as a Second Language skills. Volunteers are needed throughout the Parkland College district. All Project READ tutors attend 12 hours of formal training to earn certification in tutoring adults. Tutor Certification Training is offered on a monthly basis at various locations. For more information about finding a tutor or to become a volunteer tutor, call 217/353-2662

Formal Certification in TESL?

Some programs for teaching English abroad require certification in teaching English as a second language. This credential can be obtained from the Department of Linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The Department of Linguistics offers a Certificate in TESL for undergraduate students. Undergraduate students may pursue the Certificate in TESL as a stand-alone certificate, through a Minor in ESL, or Teacher Education Minor in ESL. For the certificate, undergrads need to take six courses three of which are compulsory and the rest are elective. Those pursuing the Certificate in TESL via a Minor in ESL must declare a Minor in ESL at the beginning of course work for the minor.