It’s now June and Comic-Con is officially next month! For most, plans are underway involving hotel, flights, packing, making lists, scouring for the latest panel news and deciding what events to attend. For a smaller group, Comic-Con represents an opportunity to pursue your dream job in your dream industry. Like my earlier post on Finding Your Mission, a handful of you are going into San Diego with the lofty goal of discovering a new career. Some may have set up formal interviews and others of you will be hoping for a chance encounter with fate. It may be very specific, like being a comic book artist, or it might be undefined- but you just know you have to try something. Whether it’s at a company’s booth, at a party, or over drinks at a hotel bar, the right conversation can land you a new opportunty. So with 37 days and a few hours in change, here are 10 skills to master in order to find a job at Comic-Con.
1. Pick Yourself
Bottom line- If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. It doesn’t matter what job you are pursuing, confidence goes a long way. Being desperate and insecure are two totally different traits. The first shows drive, willingness, and commitment to do whatever necessary to get a job. The second shows that you don’t know what you want- which makes you an unsafe bet. Get your pitch down, practice, and be 100% sold that you are the best candidate.
During a brief interview, usually it’s providing information requested by the interviewer- but that rarely wins anyone a job. The key is know what you want to say regardless of what is being asked. Meaning, bridge the question to an area you want to highlight about yourself. One of the best ways to do that is by telling a story. A short, powerful and compelling story tells a lot about you (your heart and passion) and does something that no facts will- create an emotional conversion. It brings the listener out of their world and into yours. Here is a real excerpt from my own story “My immigrant parents worked all the time and barely were around for me. Alone and aimless, I turned to comic books and discovered values like sacrifice, truth and justice within them. In a way, like foster parents, Superman and Wonder Woman raised me- I owe my life and who I am today to comic books…“. A powerful story creates empathy for the interviewer and at least will make an impression. Be a master (short) storyteller.
3. Think Small
Don’t go for big companies like Warner Bros, DC, Marvel, etc… especially if you don’t have previous experience. They are too prepared for you and the barrier of entry is way too high. Instead think small and go for tiny companies that are actively looking for talent. While large companies are looking for highly skilled specialist, smaller companies are looking for generalists. If you can write, is great with Excel, have great customers service skills, and can build a website, then you are a very attractive candidate for a fledgling company. Once Comic-Con releases the exhibitor list, contact certain companies and request a few minutes at the show. If you have a blog, it’s even easier if you are offering to do an interview with them. No one will resist free press and it gets your foot in the door to start a conversation.
4. Be a Writer
Regardless of almost any industry, it helps if you are a writer. Every company, big or small, needs good content and people that can edit- it’s the continual bane of every producer, marketing director, and content manager out there. It doesn’t matter what role you are inquiring about, if you say you can write (and can back it up) then that puts you way above the competition. Showing that you can write means that you can communicate concepts, instruct, explain, and inspire others. Everyone will consider this as a bonus for candidates. Superman may be able to leap tall buildings but it’s his super typing that pays the bills.
This is a more desperate measure but it’s pretty effective. Offer to volunteer at a company for free- to do whatever. Take out trash, file papers, answer phones, whatever. Like my first point, if you believe in yourself enough, it’s likely you will have a chance to prove yourself once you get into their office. It’s hard to pass up free labor, especially if they are a smaller company. If you want to be really desperate (again, using that term in a positive way), then offer to volunteer at their Comic-Con booth or table for free during the week. Sounds crazy right? Well crazy is what gets you noticed. Maybe if they see how well you represent their booth, they would be willing to give you a shot.
6. Your Most Valuable Skill
Surprisingly, your most valuable skill is not if you can draw, write, or have other office skills. It’s being likable. Surveys have shown that ultimately, bosses want to work with people that they like. Being likable often times wins out over hard skills. This means you have to be passionate, gregarious, funny, comfortable, and engaging. Geez, just smiling a lot and being a positive person will go a long way. I’ve won jobs by being good at this, as well as hired people for doing the same. Tina Fey in her book Bossypants, recalls that Lorne Michaels advised her to hire writers that ‘you will want to see at 2:30 in the morning’. She realized that he was saying to hire people that she liked. Likable is a powerful force. It won’t make up for actual skill but it will help you stand out.
7. Make it Easy
Everyone wants the highly coveted jobs like artist, writer, marketing, social media or some other creative position. Don’t go for the jobs that everyone else is asking for. Why compete with 1000 other nerds for the same position where your chances are slim to none? Instead, pursue the lowest barrier of entry where there isn’t as much competition. Make it an easy decision by going for the job that no one wants. If you can bring value to an organization, then just get your foot in the door and let your performance speak for yourself. Getting a lowly job is really not that hard but once your there, the challenge is figuring out how to leverage it into the position you want.
8. Show Your Nick Fury
Companies win or lose because of a valued commodity- leadership. Everyday, the best products and services in the world lose because of ineffective or small minded leadership. If you have the ability to build teams, inspire, coach, train, or develop leaders than you are in high demand. It doesn’t matter what position you are seeking, if you can multiply yourself (and done so in the past) then you will be viewed differently. This is a skill that a portfolio or screenplay will not reveal so you have to figure out how to work this into the conversation. The most powerful and talented teams like the Avengers, need a Nick Fury. If this is your particular set of skills, you might be an asset.
9. Word of Mouth
In an era (and event like Comic-Con) when there are too many options and not enough time, many employers just choose to ignore. The easiest way to penetrate is to get someone to recommend you. This will be a hard one for most of you. However, if you have some sort of in, then a well timed recommend at Comic-Con can create a few minutes to make an impression. If you don’t have connections but wanted to be shrewd, this is what I would do. Commission an artist at Comic-Con to draw an awesome superhero piece that says ‘please interview me’ and offer it as a gift. Or, ask a celeb to do a video endorsement of you, asking for a chance to interview. Any sort of endorsement might give you a chance to get interviewed. Again, crazy (but not weird) gets you noticed.
10. Your Work
Ok, time to get down to what most people think is most important- your work. While your work is vital, I believe the points I listed above are just as valuable for breaking into a new career. However, you have to have legitimate work in order to qualify for a conversation. Your work can mean your resume, portfolio, script, book, screenplay, art, videos, etc. Ultimately, no one is going to hire you for ‘what you are going to do someday’. This means, be ready to show off work proving that you can ship, get things done, create, produce, deliver, and be ‘Johnny on the spot’. If you want to approach a specific website at Comic-Con, you better have your own site filled with a lot of great articles. Interviewees that can prove they can deliver tend to be the safest bets. If you have a reputation of being a ‘Miracle Worker’ than let them know that.
There you have it. I have employed all these tactics and have been the recipient of them as well. It does work- at least to get your foot in the door. Remember from my Mission article, taking risks is the biggest part of discovering your future. Rarely does anyone haphazardly discover their calling but instead you have to seize it unashamedly. You now have 37 days to figure out your plan of attack. Comic-Con is a land that is rich with opportunity- if you know where to look and how to engage. You may not get hired on the spot but you can make connections that might lead to something in the future. Let me know if these tactics have worked for you in the past and if you are trying for a job at this year’s show. Thanks, good luck and happy hunting!