Inventing at ThinkGeek. Animating at Valve. Translating at Funimation. Writing at IGN.
If you’ve ever dreamed of getting a job working for a company with a lot of geek cred, the best way to get your foot in the door is the same as in any other field—snagging an internship.
I recently got an email from a family friend who is applying to a call for interns at a comics studio. Given my public propensity for nerding out, my parents recommended she ask me for advice. After all, before I became a professional geek, I was a geeky intern for a couple of places.
Probably the nerdiest internship I’ve had was at Kotaku, Gawker Media’s gaming, anime, and fandom culture nexus. I interned there back in spring 2010. The way I got it was kind of unusual: editor Brian Crecente had just sent out a call for interns, and I had the perfect way to stand out. I had just been to Anime Boston and scored an interview with games composer Nobuo Uematsu during his first visit to the United States. I told Kotaku that they could publish my article if they’d make me their intern. They accepted—the published article is still up here.
I know I lucked out big time in that case, but the truth is you don’t need to nab an exclusive with a celebrity in order to get the internship of your dreams. You just need to be your smart, geeky self, with only a little more polish. Here’s what I advised my friend:
Be knowledgeable, but not gushing.
Nearly everyone who applies for an internship at a video game company or comics studio is already a big fan. So to the hiring manager, that becomes the default instead of a perk to them.
Just like with any job, the ideal applicant is going to be familiar with the company’s lexicon and well versed about its products. But they’re probably not going to want to hear what a huge fan you are, because to them, fans are a dime a dozen.
But be down-to-earth.
I’ve found that working at a company where people don’t have to pretend to like the company’s products, people tend to cut the crap out of other interactions, too. A major question the interviewer will be asking herself is, “Do I think I can work with this person?”
Geek companies are often less stodgy than say, banks, and so they’ll want to make sure you can fit in with that vibe. You can drop in some geek jargon in the first or last sentence of your cover letter, but restrict it to that. In fact, last time I was job hunting, I quoted Batman in my cover letter, and got an interview simply because the hiring manager thought I’d fit in with their easygoing, laid back office.
Bring something new to the table.
Your fandom can make you a fun person to work with, since likely the people who work at geeky companies are also big fans. But what else makes you unique?
Think about a technical skill you could offer, like HTML, social media, or especially competent Excel spreadsheet creation. These don’t sound very special, but what sounds like a basic computer skill to you as a student might not be as common among veteran employees. And if you’re asked about a skill you don’t have, by all means say you’re willing to learn!
Be creative in your internship hunt.
Working in a nerdy sphere, I’ve gotten job and internship offers in some strange ways, like over Twitter and being asked point-blank during an anime convention. Likewise, the methods for getting a internship manager’s attention have also opened up.
You could follow the manager on Twitter and (politely) reply and converse with her before sending along a cover letter. Or you could send an especially unique cover letter—for example, if you’re applying for an artistic internship, why not draw it instead of write it?
Finally, take my advice with a grain of salt since I’m not a professional Geek Career Coach or anything. However, I do know one! Longtime readers have seen my many references to Steven Savage, an author and panel presenter who has strongly influenced my own geek career. Check out his relatively new blog, Muse Hack, for advice on applying your passions and hobbies. If you write to him, he might even answer your question on the blog.
What is your dream internship? How are you planning to achieve it, or how did you if you already have it?
(Photo of Cherry MX RGB Keyboard by Corsair. Unfortunately, not for sale yet!)