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Written by James Payne

Friday, 12 March 2010

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reviewGreetings and welcome back to the third installment of my series that discusses how to get a job in the cigar industry. We are not talking about your normal picking tobacco leaves, moving around big stacks of future cigars. We are talking about the realistic, everyday jobs that people like you and I could get. Jobs that come with air conditioning, benefits, and a decent salary. So, if you want to love what you do and do what you love, step inside and see if you qualify for this next job.

So far in this series I have discussed what it takes to be a writer and what it takes to be an artist. We talked about the education for both of these fields, the tools you would need, a little bit about pay rate, how to build a portfolio, and the different types of jobs for each field (ie; as a writer you could write freelance cigar reviews, have your own blog, work in-house for a cigar ad agency, and so forth). With these two jobs, and really any creative job, the way you break in is very similar. These aren’t end all be all guides, but instead a gentle push in the right (or write ha ha more puns!) direction. So if you have an artistic or literate slant, you might want to take a peek at them. Had I known the information presented in them, it may have made my journey a little quicker.

This episode we are going to take a peek at another job. This one is part creative, part technical. It is one of those funny jobs that you can have by training yourself or by getting a good education, and how good you are at it really depends on who hires you.

Like the other two jobs, this job is also part of my freelance tool-pack. I know more about it than graphic design, but less than I do about writing. Of the three, it can be the most frustrating. Okay, enough suspense…what is it?

Web Designer and Web Developer

The economy can play tricks on jobs, and perhaps none more than technical jobs. For instance, when I went to school to learn to program computers and repair them, my degree could get me a high paying job. By the time I finished school, I could work at a local computer shop making the same as a barista.

As the economy shrinks and grows, so does the labor force. Where once it was okay to know a single programming language and be a specialist in it, when the economy shrinks, suddenly you need to branch out and learn more languages and take on more responsibilities. For that reason, a web designer, in my book, no longer needs to just design website. In my book, you have to know how to program, design, work on search engine optimization, and do virtually every job involved in the running of a website. The more you can do, the better off you are.

Education

As I said before, education is tricky. You can go the self taught route if you are good at it, but keep in mind they are teaching basic html and web design in high school now, so if you are old enough to be reading articles on cigars, then you are already behind the curve.

Whether you go to school or not, here is a list of languages and skills you will need:

HTML – This is the syntax of a web page. It isn’t a language technical, but it is how you edit and build web pages.

CSS – CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets and for many it is a pain in the butt. CSS allows you to create – you guess it – style sheets. These style sheets define the way elements such as headers, paragraphs, and so forth appear in your web pages. They are a powerful tool that help keep sites clean, professional, and consistent.

JavaScript – JavaScript is often confused with the programming language Java, but they are different entities. JavaScript is a simple scripting language you can use to build applets, store cookies, create pop-ups and counters, and so forth.

The three above are a good start for a web designer. You will want to HTML and CSS really well and JavaScript at least enough to understand what is going on when you look at it. Do you NEED all three to design a site? No…HTML alone will do, but remember the more skills the better. In fact, if you try and get a job at a shop with just these languages under your belt, chances are you will be laughed out of the room.

So what else do you need to know?

Here is where a lot of people split differences. For truly functional websites, you are going to want to learn either PHP or ASP.Net. These languages are powerhouses, and truly give you control over a site, allowing you to create custom features and allow users to experience a truly interactive site.

Most people choose PHP. It is an open source language and does not require you to purchase software as does ASP.Net. It is in its sixth incarnation, and highly stable.

Ideally, you will want to pepper in XML (another markup language like HTML), and AJAX. AJAX is a great pseudo-language that is basically a blend of JavaScript and XML. With it, you can do things like update information on a webpage without having to reload it. Heavy stuff in terms of page load time.

Finally, I would learn a little bit of Adobe Flash. You have no doubt heard the name bandied around. Basically it is used to create those crazy interactive animations you see all over the place, though in truth that is just the tip of the iceberg of what you can do with this program (and its affiliated language, ActionScript).






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