Not geeky enough for your job?

Have you every worried you're not geeky enough for your job?

A weird thing to say when many of us don't want to discuss our extensive addiction to Legend of the Five Rings in a job interview, but it's actually a factor.  Jobs like game programmer, artist, writer, reviewer, etc. are positions where you're expected to have a certain level of geek on display.  Believe it or not, people do worry about it.

Think of your geekiness as a way of displaying certain talents, affiliations, and even knowledges and competencies.  There are expectations people have, and you may find yourself actually being NOT geeky enough – or at least worrying that during that vital interview with the guy who has multiple piercings, your business outfit may have seemed a tad  . . . boring.

I've had to deal with this.  I still do in some cases as I'm a Project Manager in IT – I am PAID to be the dull guy with Gantt charts, spreadsheets, and organizational skill.  I just do it in geeky jobs, and need to communicate my passion about the subject matter before I discuss my love-hate relationship with Team Foundation Server.

That's what being "Geeky enough" is – having enough of a passion for your subject matter and showing it.

So, for those moments you must be the pro geek, and display it in an interview, some advice based on my experience:

  1. Be professional first.  You're interviewing for a job, after all
  2. Dressing professionally for an interview is better than trying to be hip.  It's easier for people to believe you're overly straight-laced for an interview only – the inverse is trying to go too casual and they worry you're not serious enough.  In my experience, the latter is more of a worry.
  3. Discuss your interests and history if asked.  People usually will.  If they don't be sure to bring it up – as an advantage for how you have passion for the job.
  4. Have examples – just like examples of skills.  If you want to work as a marketer for a music company, give that example of how you helped your brother's indie band.
  5. Show your geekery is relevant for the job.
  6. Use common interests about the subject matter of the job to communicate with those interviewing you.  It shows you understand them – and the subject of the job, be it music, anime, or computer games.

When you get a job, you may indeed be the least geeky person at a place – don't let it get to you.  As long as you have the right level of it, you'll do fine.  In some cases, you can pitch it as an advantage – "Sure, I work in an art studio – I translate from artist to non-artist!"

Always remember that when you ARE in a geeky job you still have to keep up on this – maybe even moreso.  The sites you visited for casual news are now vital for weekly status reports.  The release of your favorite game now could affect your company's bottom lines.  You may need to become MORE geeky by keeping up on things that were once casual to you.  That takes some targeted effort.

Geekery is something natural to us, but we can understand it, appreciate it, present it, and hone it. Don't let your geek level worry you – just find out how to use it properly.

– Steven Savage