One of my favorite Industry quotes of all time came from Josh Bass, Art Department Director at Rockstar in San Diego, "If you want to be in the games industry, be prepared to be a full time student for the rest of your life."
Here is the harsh reality: no matter how good you are, there will always be more to learn. The way you go about your business will determine your longevity in the industry. How you present your opinions and ideas is important. Having opinions is alright, but being overly opinionated is not.
A hot shot programming student I know landed a great job prior to graduating and immediately went to work at a high profile studio. He had a great reputation as a good programmer, but people considered him "kind of a tool" because he wanted them to know just how great of a programmer he was. I met up with him a year later, and he told me something that I thought was awesome. He said, "Man, I was kind of a jerk when I left here. I have learned so much since I started working and realize now I don't now S#%@!" I thought, what a great and humbling statement to make. It took him a bit to learn this great lesson but not before it was too late.
I repeat, your professional reputation is your strongest currency! It will mean the difference between a job and a career.
How you frame your opinions and get along with others is crucial. We work in an incredibly creative medium and ideas are constantly being bounced around. A sense of confidence is important, but a sense of humility even more so.
Don't be overly argumentative or opinionated. Be willing to listen to the other side and not only heed the suggestion, but look at it objectively and learn from it. Collaboration is essential. It's also what makes our life in games so much more fun and rewarding.
So, let's recap.
Dream Big - Have A Plan - Work Hard - Make Friends - Don't Be A Tool!
When you interview with a company, the number one question they have and are trying to determine first and foremost is, "Would I be able to sit next to this person for eight hours a day and not want to punch him?" Lead with good character, and you will be given an abundance of opportunities to show off your technical skills.
Questions? Comments? Have at it here or @RobCoble @GameJobNetwork
I look forward to hearing from you.