Fandom As a Transferable Skill

Hello, Wanderers! We know how important it is, especially in the current economic climate, to make yourself seem employable. One of the things employers always like to see on your CV is transferable skills. Wait, wait – I promise we haven’t turned into a job-seeking site. This does lead back to fandom. Give me time.

So, transferable skills. Employers like them. But where on earth do you find these things? It’s all very well to say that you should have acquired these amazing talents at school or work, but sometimes it can be very hard to think of them when the time comes to create a new version of your resumé or fill in the big blank box on that application form. Well… that’s where fandom comes in.

I’m not going to lie, Wanderers. Most employers still won’t accept ‘I’m a huge Destiel shipper and Supernatural fanartist’ as a qualification. But you do have some marketable skills that fandom helps you to hone, and it’s just a matter of drawing them out a bit. For one thing, if you’re an artist, you can actually draw them out – and fanart of a good quality, without any of the strange in-jokes or nudity that sometimes manages to sneak in there, is perfectly good content for a portfolio. Just don’t ramble on for too long in an interview situation about selecting the exact perfect shade of fanfiction green for anyone’s eyes. Similarly, if you’re applying for a job – or a university course – involving creative writing, certain kinds of fanfiction can sometimes fit the bill. It’s your writing, after all!

If it’s not as clear-cut as that, you need to break it down a bit. This applies to most things, actually, but we’re not Most Things Wanderers [Maybe one day we could branch out. –Ed] so we’re going to stick to fandom examples. Alright, so, you read a lot of fanfiction, but you don’t see how that’s relevant. First of all, get rid of the ‘fan’ element and you’re reading a lot of fiction. This is a true thing! You probably read a fairly diverse range of genres (from romance to drama and everything in between), so you’re pretty well-read. Do you review? Great! You’re experienced in giving thoughtful, considered feedback and constructive criticism (your reviews are like that, aren’t they?) – and that’s a good thing to be able to do.

Do you spend a lot of time talking to people about your favourite show? Good. That shows you can work with others, accept different viewpoints, and articulate your thoughts appropriately for the audience you’re speaking to (by which I mean that ‘SQUEEEEE’ is a totally appropriate term to use on Tumblr, but presumably you’ll be a little more eloquent when the occasion calls for it). Do you run a blog or update fanfiction/fanart to a set schedule? Great. You’re self-disciplined, self-motivated, and you’re great at meeting deadlines (unless you aren’t, in which case you might want to work on that). Do you collaborate with other fans? Then you’re a team player, potentially a good team leader, and you probably know how and when delegation is appropriate or not. Sell your work? You’ve got an entrepreneurial streak, you’re a self-starter, and you’ve got a head for business. And so on…

Prospective employers may ask you for specific examples, but that’s not as insurmountable an issue as it seems. Of course, you may not want to tell your employer that you spend your free time uploading explicit watercolours of an AU in which everyone from Love Hina is a pirate – but you can tell them you paint, with particular attention to setting such as pirate ships. You can tell them, instead of ‘I spend my evenings getting meta in fannish excitement’, that you are often involved in discussion groups with a diverse range of people analysing the underlying societal implications of assorted popular culture media.

Want to know the best thing about this, though? All of this stuff is true (assuming you actually do partake in the fandom activities mentioned – though you can apply the same reasoning to many more). There’s no reason to sell yourself short when you can mention all these great things about yourself to, well, anyone who asks, really. If you’re embarrassed about your fandom, or just don’t want to start off on the wrong foot with someone who could well be your next boss, the important thing is not to go to pieces if questioned. Should they want to see your artwork, make sure you’ve got something presentable that you aren’t ashamed to show them (and if they’re a fan of the thing you’ve painted, they won’t mind, while if they’re not they’re unlikely to recognise it). Should they ask you more about your discussion group, tell them that it’s online and that the last thing you discussed was the potential implications of the changes in age between regenerations of the Doctor in Doctor Who – or whatever you’ve been getting excited talking about recently. ‘OMG new pictures of so-and-so’ doesn’t count in that sense, so go for a meatier subject if you can – but discussing new pictures can count for something in some specific industries, such as the media, so don’t forget to tailor it to your audience.

What am I saying, Wanderers? I’m saying you’re beautiful, employable people (with excellent taste in webzines, might I add) and it’s time you admitted it. You’re great! Now go out there and shine.

Eleanor Musgrove (needs to take her own advice and update her CV, now she thinks about it)

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This entry was posted in Fandom As..., Issue Thirty-Eight and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Fandom As a Transferable Skill

  1. Marta Layton says:

    I’d just like to point out another area of fannish activity some people may not have considered, but that to my mind is *very* directly relateable to work in any kind of an office setting: admin work on various awards programs, archives, discussion lists, and the like. For the better part of a decade I participated in a fanfic competition in the Tolkien fandom. At various points I wrote web copy and copy for mass communication, corresponded with site users both to explain site policies and address criticisms they might have, set and enforced policies, collaborated with our web development team to develop website functionality, recruited, set the timetable and ensured it was followed, trained and managed a work team to support our user community, audited submissions for quality control… the list goes on.

    While at one point I was actually the program administrator so I probably did more than most, anyone who’s been involved in this kind of thing has done most of the things you’d get paid to do in many professional environments. And if you aren’t to the point of actually applying for a job, there’s loads of time to get involved. I’m yet to come across an archive, awards program, or listserv that wouldn’t welcome another set of hands, and there’s virtually nothing you could do to support these groups that wouldn’t count as a transferrable skill if presented well.

    That’s not a criticism of this post, which is excellent! I just thought I’d nudge people in that direction, and help out the many people who contribute in this mode already. 🙂

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