New CS grad, crossroads, panic
tl;dr: I have a CS degree and not much else, I'm interested in breaking into games or at a minimum I'd like to do software, and I've been lazy, and I'm ready to repent for that. Which way should I go from here, FIEA (grad school for game programming), non-software work and programming in my spare time, or devoting all my time to programming and looking for coding jobs whilst being unemployed? Or something else?
Much more elaborate:
So I took 5 years to get my 4 year BS in CS, the first couple years were devoted to dropping classes and playing Warcrack while the last 3 were me changing my major to CS and swearing off Warcrack and spending all my time devoted to getting my necessary credits. Maybe I'm weak, but I seemed to have to devote most of my time to studying in order to come out with good grades in the full course load I was taking in the school year and summers (I seemed to have an easier time with classes than the other students, but they had stuff like real jobs and projects and networks and such). Unfortunately I made no time for internships or personal projects, and now I'm trying to figure out what to do with myself.
I want to get into the game industry as a programmer, but all I have is a decent GPA and a couple console applications in C and C++ from school. Getting a job as a programmer, not even in the game industry, looks bleak for me. I've been getting ignored/rejected where I've been applying over the last month. I don't have the experience or the skill set, for the most part.
Further, on offering to review my resume on the way out, one of my professors yelled at me for not having a job or being on my way to grad school out the door. According to him if I don't find something to explain my new period of unemployment quickly, I'll be labeled as unemployable in the future. I'm not sure how true that is but I'm feeling more anxious day by day.
So, what I've been doing with my time (aside from packing and applying for jobs and some days sleeping in because I'm kind of depressed right now) is teaching myself C# and .NET, not so much for getting a job in the game industry but it seems like that stuff is in demand right now in general. I plan on making a multiplayer browser game using the Silverlight API once I get learned on this stuff. That'll be good to have in a portfolio to get a job either in game or web development, I believe.
I don't live far from UCF, and I see they have that FIEA program. I know you're basically paying to work, but they're supposed to have a high placement rate (according to their website). If I get cracking I can get a code portfolio together, take the GRE, and start looking for housing and a loan, and possibly get in the Fall 2009 class. Does anyone know if that program is worth pursuing or is it a joke like Fullsail?
Or, I have a family member that can get me work at a computer repair place back at my hometown. I can spend a year or two working on that browser game and learning a game engine that uses C++ and making a few projects in that. Or maybe make some projects using XNA. Or maybe pick some open-source projects to contribute to. Also I could try getting work through Rent A Coder or Craigslist or the like. Anything to build a real portfolio and experience while I'm keeping myself from having employment gaps. And honestly, I really just want to get back to working, it helps me get out of bed in the morning.
Or, I can try and hold off from grabbing a job immediately and work on projects like above and keep applying for programming work. I don't know which is worse, being a job hopper or being unemployed for extended periods, but I personally don't like getting hired somewhere if I'm not going to commit at least a year to the employer.