Creatives: You Have a Real-World Job

A lot of my friends and former colleagues in tabletop gaming worry about what they’ll do for work when their jobs dry up for whatever reason. I’ve had several say “I don’t know how to do anything else” or even “I don’t know what real-world job I’d do.”

Creative friends, you have a real-world job right now.

You hold to deadlines. You produce material for public consumption. Maybe you manage other creators, or at least frequently collaborate. Maybe you have a weird, cutesy title because your company tries to sell its whimsy as an asset (which in turn actually hurts your ability to move onto another job). Ignore that and look at all the things you do day-to-day.

Here’s some stuff I wrote on the resume that got me my technical writing job. For the opening section I titled “What I Bring:”

  • Ten years of experience writing and editing on-task text that engages and educates users
  • Demonstrable mastery of disparate skill sets with the technical background and creative ability to develop captivating text and diffuse technical challenges
  • Ability to collaborate closely across projects, platforms, and product lines to create an innovative user experience

The points I wrote for my staff editing job:

  • Serve as an integral part of the publishing juggernaut that produces a worldwide best-selling tabletop roleplaying game
  • Provide expert editorial oversight on over 180,000 words per month across ten product lines
  • Balance the technical aspects of game writing with creative prose, taking complex information and articulating it clearly for readers
  • Combine knowledge of software scripting to develop innovative workflow shortcuts and aids that have increased the productivity of the entire editorial staff

For “Game Writer, Editor, and Developer” as a freelancer:

  • Write and edit both technical rules and descriptive prose for award-winning games such as [game titles]
  • Provide editorial services—from high-level developmental treatments to nitty-gritty copy edits—for notable tabletop game publishers including [company names]
  • Manage conflicting priorities and timelines to successfully produce high-caliber products, even under pressure

I briefly worked with a recruiter, who told me to make some Problem-Action-Result statements about stuff I’ve done. Those were really hard to do, and they forced me to really think not about my day-to-day but about the effects of my efforts.

The following statements relate to my game work. I didn’t end up using these as-written, but they helped with in-person interviews.

  • Created and maintained style guides covering dozens of product lines, increasing quality of freelance contract writing.
  • Brought on to manage a 450,000-word project with eight-person writing team that was a year late, bringing the project to completion four months later, which won numerous industry awards for writing and production.
  • Outlined and organized complex consumer instructions in a 250-page manual into discrete sections, writing overviews, examples, references, and a index, surpassing expectations and creating loyal users.
  • Managed dozens of writers on anthology projects, synchronizing articles and rewriting them in order to sound like one unified, consistent voice.
  • Created indexes and glossaries of back catalog material while editing three monthly periodicals alongside several seasonal product lines while creating an index and glossary of back catalog material, saving editorial time in looking up past statements for language and factual consistency.
  • Created multiple versions of documents to perform A/B testing to determine clearest explanations and directions, resulting in accolades from consumers describing their confidence in our product.
  • Managed relationships with intellectual property holders to adapt their material to other media, keeping projects from becoming delayed in approval and revision processes.
  • Devised strategies for incorporating feedback from over 100 users—via surveys, focus groups, and interviews—in design and document revisions, cutting projected revision time in half.
  • Negotiated solutions between writers and publisher to bring a year-late project to publication, avoiding the project’s cancellation and the company’s financial ruin.
  • Coached writers into how to work with with editorial process, creating a stable of numerous reliable freelance and in-house writers.
  • Collaborated with art directors and graphic designers to design books from foundation up, saving significant editorial and art time as fewer revisions are needed.

(Oh, and I added all of my writing and editing awards on my resume, because that was weird enough to grab attention.)

The skills and results of game jobs map to other jobs, because a game job is a real-world job. I’ve been in my technical writer career for eight months, and my boss is pretty happy with my work. She praised my ability to work independently, manage multiple clients, and handle some internal tasks that weren’t being done before I came on. That’s because I already know how to handle things that come up because this isn’t my first rodeo.

The hard part of job hunting and potentially switching careers is knowing how to talk about your jobs and skill.I guarantee you know know to walk the walk. Work with recruiters, resume writers, and friends in hiring situations to figure out how to talk the talk.