I was thinking over my last column on why more people don't have geeky jobs. Something that came to mind that people often forget, and that I left out because I was focusing on personal traits, is this.
Geeky Jobs are HARD.
Want to be a pro writer? Prepare to either make one kick-ass series, build a fantastic reputation, or write on everything under the sun – and then you still have to promote yourself and need some luck.
Videogames? Welcome to odd hours, technical challenges you can't imagine from outside, unpredictable sales, and dealing with widespread outsourcing, dependencies, and other oddities.
Voice Acting? It's considered one of the hardest acting professions to get into by those I know.
Animation? Limited opportunities, limited geographic opportunities, and the need to have a killer portfolio, killer connections, and both.
An ALL of these? You need to network, build skills, produce product, and face long hours and challenges.
I could go on, but I'm restraining myself. Geeky jobs are HARD.
Geeky jobs produce cool things – great software, fun manga, incredible movies, and so forth. The thing is these things come from a lot of effort, knowledge, and some luck. The thing that makes geeky jobs so intriguing – the sheer awesomeness of what you deal with – is why they're also so hard. Awesomeness takes effort.
I usually find that those interested in geeky jobs are not assuming such jobs will be easy. Instead they make three mistakes.
The first mistake is underestimating the challenges faced. It's easy to know something will be hard in the abstract – it's quite another to appreciate how hard it actually is. Worse, you usually don't know until you go and do it – and learn the hard way. Good research can cope with this, as can good experience – talking to others, internships, etc.
The second is being wrong about the kinds of challenges faced. As I've harped on before, your ability to do the core work (draw, act, program, etc.) is only part of a larger skillset (people skills, organization, research, etc.). Good research can help you here – know what you'll be facing.
The third mistake is thinking there's ever a point where you achieve some geek career nirvana and can coast. Sure it happens to some people (or they make a ton of money), but that's rare, and frankly I expect it will get rarer in the decade to come. Careers rarely go on autopilot unless you're lucky, well-placed, and well-organized – and with the changing world economy, my guess is that's a factor as well. Again knowledge and research helps, as does finding ways to do what you LIKE so you don't keep looking for the day you can flip the off switch on your work.
Geeky jobs are worth it. They are fulfilling. But they're work. Coolness requires effort.
If you do it right, you'll make the effort part of your life, you'll enjoy itm, get into it. Even if you work 80 hour weeks, you won't care because it'll be what you care about. That's where Geeky jobs rule – because you care, because others care, and because it's cool, even when it's a lot of work.
– Steven Savage