Passion is a powerful thing. When given channels it can lead to miracles and amazing achievements. Admittedly it can lead to terrible things, as any surfing of obscure movies on Netflix reveals, but let’s focus on the good stuff for the duration of this column, OK?
We’re fortunate to live in an age where so many of us can leverage our skills and creativity on our own to create wonderful works, to manifest our passions. Well, by “on our own” I mean through software and services like Photoshop, Lulu, Amazon, Bandcamp, etc. But you get the idea; we can do publishing, composition, programming, etc. that we never could have a few years ago, and in ways that would be unthinkable a decade or two ago*.
Thus you can put out your book. Thus you can put out your music. Thus you can make an indie game. Thus your passion has form it could not have had in the past without a lot of negotiations, deals, contracts, and agents.
This is an age of geekery, where enthusiasts can create and manifest.
These works we create say a lot about us, and we may want to share it professionally. I am a big advocate of using your side works, your fan works, and your various geeky creations in the search for jobs, to promote your business, etc. To share what we do is to share us, and it builds a good brand, impresses employers, and truly shows what we can do.
Or more bluntly, who are you going to hire, the person who’s hobbies involve just watching the tube, or the person who can, in their spare time, write and publish a cookbook? I’m going with the guy with the awesome curry recipes.**
That critical fan work, that time spent at a convention, may be the finisher that gets you the job, the contract, the opportunity. That critical work may tell people about you and show your skill in a way nothing can. These creations, our self-made novels and our indie games, show both passion and ability, and who wouldn’t want to use that to show off.
Maybe. The problem is that passion/ability thing.
See here’s the critical point – just because you’re passionate doesn’t mean that the works you make are worth showing off professionally. It may not be appropriate. It may not be professional. In some cases, they may just be bad, no offense.
You may, in short, really suck.
That’s fine. It’s OK your indie game is kind of lame, it’s OK if your self-made music is derivative. It’s better you make stuff and improve than never try. It’s fantastic that your passion comes out and becomes real – because it means you can truly do things, you can complete things, and you can grow.
I don’t care if your art is terrible, at least you’re doing it.
Your lousy novel at least shows you have the ability to get it done, and that’s amazing.
It’s just you have to ask, seriously, if your display of creative or technical passion is something worth showing off on your job search.
That’s a tough call, and one that isn’t easy to make. You don’t want to be arrogant. You don’t want to avoid showing an employer something that could land you the job. You don’t want to look incompetent. You want to show off how you’ve grown.
You can go round and round in your head on this issue. Here’s a quick guide to snap you out of it:
- Does the work say more good than bad about you? That website may be a bit slow but it’s still impressive, the music may not be original but it’s professionally made, etc. Your work may not be perfect, but the benefits of talking about it in an interview outweigh the risks.
- Does the passion outweigh the competency? This is a dangerous line to treat, but for some employers or clients, the fact you do something is equally important to how good it is. If you’re doing some crazy experimental fiction piece or a similarly ambitious project, the sheer fact you’re doing it may make it’s level of “good” less important or even irrelevant.
- Do you have good feedback on it? If you have good reviews, good feedback, a good community using your work, then chances are it’s worth showing off – as long as you’re sure there’s some actual objectivity there.
- Can you communicate about it good and bad? If you’re iffy on showing off one of the works you made in this age of creative empowerment, ask if you can communicate about it properly. If you can’t truly show it’s good sides, and acknowledge any bad sides (“Yeah, it’s pulp adventure, but it’s fun”) then you may be better off not talking about it much anyway.
- Does it show growth? Even if you’ve got some questionable works, if they’re part of a larger portfolio, it can show growth. Your masterpieces of lesser competency can even speak to your development (unless they’re so bad they’re shocking).
- Is it any good? Well, that relates to #3, but still.
Yes, we live in an age where gamers and artists and writers can bring their works to life with ease. Yes, some of us make things that aren’t good – and there’s nothing wrong with that, because we all do. Yes, our passions are important.
We just need to ask what we communicate about them when. Keep doing what you’re doing, just ask yourself how you want to be seen when you hand someone that resume. You might want to keep your mouth shut.
Or you may want to shout to the heavens.
Just think first.
Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach. He blogs on careers at http://www.fantopro.com/, nerd and geek culture at http://www.nerdcaliber.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at https://www.stevensavage.com/.
* Why didn’t all those near-future SF authors get stuff like Lulu right?
** I’m biased.