If you’re a in High school and you ask about life afterward, you’ll probably get told you’ll have to find a real job. Do you like video games? Same answer. Chances are you’ll be told that the cycle is something like this: Go to school, get a ‘real’ job, raise a family, and stay at your company for 40 years until you retire. It’s the ‘secret to success’, and all you have to do is pick a career in a boring industry to last a lifetime. Makes total sense.
Well…that’s not really how things work anymore. In the game of life, there are a lot of steps that you have to take but they aren’t all so cut and dry – especially if pursuing a job in the games industry is your goal. Life is a lot like that board game called Life that you might have played in your childhood. We take turns spinning our wheels, and traveling around the board. Much of what happens in the game is out of our control, but one decision that you do get to make is whether to attend college or get out into the workforce. Much of this depends on your ultimate goal. Do your aspirations take you all the way to the top of a big game publisher?
We don’t live in the world of our parents and grandparents. College is expensive and spending your entire career at the family business isn’t feasible anymore. So where do you start? How do you decide which path to take to get where you want?
Most people will tell you that getting a college education is the first place to start. For careers in the gaming industry, this can certainly be an important element. A college degree is required for the vast majority of programming, visual design, or writing positions. Depending on your aspirations, it might be helpful to keep in mind that most top game executives have bachelor’s or master’s degrees. If you’re talented, you can certainly gain attention. For artists and writers, a portfolio that demonstrates your abilities is a must.
The two cutting-edge fields with the most growth and salary prospects are technology and health. Of the top ten jobs in America, Software Development was ranked as number one. Software Systems Analyst and Web Developer also made the list, and each have important roles to play in the industry. Make a career plan that includes where you are and where you’d like to ultimately be. Take every opportunity to participate in ongoing training programs in the field. These training programs are a great place to network and build up vital contacts that could land you the job of your dreams in the future. Connecting with experts in the industry can help you to build up your own expertise.
Remember to put in your hours in the field. If you plan to make it to the top of an organization, you will need several years of work experience in lower-level positions. It’s all a process, and you have to crawl before you can walk, and walk before you can run. Many gaming companies require college degrees in entry-level salaried positions, which are the baseline of your time with the company. Starting as a tester can provide valuable insight into the process. Applying for internships can help too.
When you have time and experience on your side, you can choose to continue your education. There are many options and possibilities that will allow you to get a leg up on the competition and climb the corporate ladder. Some of these options include advanced degrees, company training programs, certifications, and development programs. There are many paths that you can take toward your ultimate goal. Remember that anything you do can provide valuable experience as long as you are willing and ready to learn. This needs to be represented on your resume. Even relevant experience gained on a volunteer basis is valuable and should be included – it can be the difference between getting an interview or being passed over.
Above all, start with the end in mind. Choose a career path that plays to your strengths and passions instead of doing only what others expect from you. Forty years from now you can look back on your career in the gaming industry with satisfaction and fulfillment at a job well done.