A wise and learned man (i.e. my dad) once said that in the end, every career ends up coming down to managing people. Even the most solitary jobs or lowbie entry positions often end up evolving through promotions and reassignments into full blown leadership of a team or coordinating between clients and managers. So chances are that all of us, even the most solitary writers and night watchmen, will find ourselves in a position where we have to unite people and direct them in some sort of capacity.
The idea of being a leader can be very intimidating to a lot of geeks, this particular geek included. But a lot of us may not realize that we’ve had more leadership experience than we know. Our favourite fandom pursuits are often a great way to learn people management skills and be a leader, to say nothing of gaining confidence. Whether you’re a shy nerd who’s happiest on the computer or a geeky social butterfly who’s constantly in the spotlight, chances are you’re already a bit of a social, political and professional mastermind… and you don’t even know it.
Sadly, a lot of geeky leadership experience isn’t the sort of thing you can put on a resume; I’m still bitter about the fact that my years of working as a guild leader in WoW isn’t good for at LEAST a CEO position! But even if you might not be able to confess to your interviewer that you are an expert mediator of internet flame wars, you can still take satisfaction and confidence in your own accomplishments and skills. So next time you’re nervous about applying for a job that might demand a lot from you, or even just feeling down about yourself, take stock and think about how your experiences have made you a better leader.
Me? A leader? Yeah right…
Think about it:
- Have you ever GMed a roleplaying campaign? Have you ever helped organize a session? Have you been the one hosting a game, calling people up, arranging the food and timing and everything?
- Have you ever been part of an anime club (or gaming club, or sci fi club, etc) in university? Have you ever been part of the executive (e.g. President, Secretary, etc?) Have you ever been in charge of showings or events?
- Have you taken part in a geek convention? Have you worked as volunteer staff or as one of the committee? Have you directed volunteer and staff teams?
- Are you part of a guild or clan in an online game? Are you an officer? Do you lead raids or assist guildmates? Do your fellow players look up to you like a leader?
- Are you active on fandom and geek forums? Do you serve as a moderator in a forum, even in an unofficial capacity? Do you like being in charge of threads and keeping the conversation on topic?
- Are you part of a modding, scanslating, fansubbing or other creative team? Are you part of the decision process on what your next projects are?
- Have you ever hosted or organized a LAN event or other geek event? Gotten the word out? Talked to people, made bookings, gotten the whole thing going?
I bet you’ve done at least one or two of those, or perhaps a few that aren’t on the list. And every one of them is an example of helping direct people and working as a leader to accomplish a goal. And you thought you were just another pretty face!
How can I turn this into a career?
As you can probably guess, a lot of this geek leadership would be a hard sell on a resume or in an interview… but not all of it. Convention experience in particular can be a great sell in terms of event management and dealing with teams, and executive leadership of university clubs can also be a good example of leadership experience an employer might find useful. The key thing to remember is to emphasize your skills in a way that will appeal to a company. In other words, dwell less on the “geekness” of your background and more on the specific tasks and responsibilities you had, such as what you organized or what you were in charge of. For example, rather than emphasize the fact that you were Head of the Klingon High Council of Con Security at your local Star Trek convention, point out that you assisted congoers and guests as well as security volunteers, ensured the safety of the venue, and coordinated with a team to keep security running smoothly. It’s up to you how much emphasis you want to put on it – you could mention it in Extra Curricular, Volunteer or Hobbies – but think about the job you’re applying for and figure out how best to present yourself… just like everything else in your resume.
But the most important thing isn’t the resume, it’s you and your own confidence. Don’t let yourself think that, because you’re a “geek”, you’re bad with people. Chances are that you’ve already been a great manager in some form or fashion, and even if your employers may never know your secret geek mastermind persona, you know… and that might help give you the personal boost you need to try for that next promotion, or apply for a job you might not have thought yourself “worthy” of.
And for the record, I would *totally* hire a Head of the Klingon High Council of Con Security.
How has geekiness and fandom made you a better leader?