Stereotype-Fu: Find the Positive

So when confronted with people stereotyping you on the job there are many ways to turn it to your advantage.  This is a necessary strategy to learn as:
A) People will use stereotypes – often with no malice.
B) You're a geek, fanboy, fangirl, otaku, tech-head, game fanatic, etc.  As of this writing people like us do get stereotyped.

One method you may use, when you realize an interviewer, client, or co-worker is accidentally stereotyping you is to dive straight into the stereotype – and find the positive in it.

This may sound odd, but many stereotypes you'll face are often done by sheer accident, and often are mixes of positive and negative.  A game geek may be a stereotype indicating obsessiveness – but also focus.  An otaku may be seem as odd and interested in strange foreign stuff – but also understanding of other cultures.  A Trekker may be the ultimate fan stereotype – but can also be seen as a positive futurist and someone with sense of history.

So when the stereotypes come out, see if you can turn them to a positive focus – in a positive way.  Disarm the negatives with the positive.

So on an interview a client wonders just why you like paranormal romance – with the obvious hint you may not have a life.  Find the positive side of your fandom and turn the discussion to how you enjoy the interesting and unusual and of course you're an admitted romantic.

A co-worker thinks your interest in Japanese anime is weird – turn it positive.  Maybe you can note how you like anime over boring mainstream stuff ("Well, you know what most television is like).  Maybe you're into Japanese culture and history as well ("I'm interested in all sorts of things Japanese.  You know, there's this great restaurant .  .").

Does a potential employer question your video game interest?  Play on the positive aspects of it.  You like a mental challenge and it beats Sudoku.  You enjoy the social aspect and like the team play.  Those hours you spent playing World of Warcraft are going to suddenly look different to said employer when you mention you and your fellow gamers form a heck of a team.

Finding the positive in stereotypes – be they neutral to slightly negative – is another way to turn them to your advantage and help people see you in a positive light.  IT helps short out their usual ways of thinking about you, helps them see you differently – and connect with you easier.

– Steven Savage