Five years ago, I had a shiny new master’s degree—and a minimum wage retail job.
It was the height of the recession, but I never thought that would affect me, the summa cum laude graduate with all the awards and scholarships. The real world hit me like a brick.
Don’t worry, this snobby academic got exactly what was coming to her. I’ll never forget the day the register was acting up and I had to apologize to customers for taking forever to ring up their orders. One patron wrinkled his nose at me and said, “No wonder you’re a cashier.”
Every day I would go home and rewatch Welcome to the NHK, the only anime that reflected how empty my life felt, and applied to jobs like crazy. After applying to 30 jobs in 30 days, I finally got a position as a Web developer in the city, but only after making some big changes:
“I’ve decided to take my anime and video game experience off of my resume,” I blogged in October 2010. “Because I’ve had more than ten face-to-face interviews, and still no job.”
I’m reflecting on my own career’s beginning in order to suppress my knee-jerk reaction whenever somebody asks me if they should keep the “geeky stuff” on their resume. You know, experience volunteering at cons, articles about nerdy topics, columns on geek oriented sites. Today, as a fandom blogger for Forbes with nerdy bylines on CNN and Anime News Network, it’s easy for me to sit on top of my established career and say, “Of course you should!”
But as usual, the answer is far more complicated, and hinges on one question: what are you looking for in your career?
If you’re looking for something just to pay the bills, geek experience doesn’t matter. In 2010 I was desperate for skilled work. Removing geek stuff from my resume helped me to widen my possible options. With a general resume, I appeared to be a ready applicant to a larger group of jobs. I was less of an individual and more of a website-building tool.
If you’re looking for lasting happiness, put geek stuff on your resume. Geek stuff will weird some employers out, but they’re not the ones you want to be working for if you want a lasting career where you can be happy. I hated my developer job, because it had nothing to do with my interests. I eventually left it to cover fandom and subculture for the Daily Dot. I took a paycut to do that but it was a small price to pay for work I believed in. Then again, it’s a lot easier to be choosy about your career when you can finally afford to move out of your parent’s place.
Everything’s gone full circle, however, with my new Web portfolio. I decided to revive Lorsini.com with a showcase of my design work 1) because my government clients don’t care or need to know about my life beyond my competency level and 2) frankly, because design work pays well. And when I get paid well, I can create more stuff for Otaku Journalist.
Do you see what’s going on here? I once again have a non-geek resume, because in this particular situation, I only care about paying the bills. My work as a writer fulfills me as a geek, so I don’t care whether I relate to the subject matter of the websites I build.
You will have different goals at different points in your career, and I believe that means you should always be reassessing. If your resume is too general for your goals, change it. Or, since I’m a huge proponent of having multiple jobs for increased stability, you can have two resumes. Nothing’s permanent, including your interests, and your work life can reflect that.
How did you get your current job? Did your hobbies or interests play into it at all?
Photo by Zhao on Flickr