Advice From Montreal Alums

One of the benefits of being a student at Champlain College is that our alumni often stay very well connected to the college and the student body. I was reminded of how beneficial this trait can be this weekend when a few alums working in Montreal decided to visit us study abroad kids and pass on advice, share stories, and eat pizza. It was quite a bit of fun, and very informative. I myself am majoring in game programming, and while no alums showed up with that specific background, I still acquired plenty of useful nuggets of general intrigue, and some nuggets of specific intrigue that don’t really apply to me directly. So rather than sit on this knowledge and let it rot, I decided to share the alums sharing with you all. As anyone who’s played a game of telephone or forgotten formulas from a math course knows, knowledge rots both over time and as it travels across people, so be warned: the advice given here may well differ slightly from the advice I actually received two days ago.

First, when applying for a job, make sure you seem highly competent at the specific thing you’re applying for. Make sure that the points on your resume all match the points required by the job description, instead of showing broad knowledge over many topics. This is in part because HR people who do the initial reviews are looking for key points on your resume, and they want to make sure you match all of the points they’re looking for. This means that sometimes they may not even know what the heck a “C++” or a “3ds Max” is, but those words had better show up on your resume if that’s what the job description asks for. Besides the HR communication, though, you will look like a more focused, useful candidate if your resume just screams “Talented Environment Artist” from all sides instead of “Creative Everyman.”

Next, be sure to watch out for out-of-touch managers. The alums shared anecdotes about the managers they had dealt with who seemed to completely misunderstand every step of the video game creation process. They had tales of managers confusing terminology, making impossible demands with regard to time, and dictating the minutiae of the game that would be better left to the designers, before they finally realized that all these stories were actually about the same person. Still, it seemed reasonable that these stories would all feature different stars, since we’re all so used to hearing stories like this in the games industry. It’s a problem that seems to be getting better, slowly, but we still have a ways to go. Do your best to minimize the headache you’re likely to receive from management for your first job.

Finally, and certainly most importantly, be nice to everyone you meet. This can really only benefit you the more you apply it in your life in general, but for those of us working or hoping to work in the games industry, it is simply vital. The games industry is a deceptively small place, and having the right friend or the wrong enemy can make all the difference in where you end up working at your next job, or if you have a job at all. Indeed, “being nice” seems to be an important trait even for hiring managers (and rightly so, in my opinion), as the alums told us stories of hiring managers who would walk by the interviewee as he entered the building, just to see how she or he would react. Needless to say, smiling and giving a friendly greeting never hurt anyone’s odds of getting a job.

Hopefully, this is a faithful enough explanation of what I learned that fateful day in Montreal. I hope to have served you well with this advice. Take or leave these suggestions, they are yours to do with as you please. Except for the last one. That one’s mandatory.

Scott Barrett, Game Programming Major, Official Blogger, Fall 2014