How Video Games Can Help You In A Job Hunt

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Generally when you're on a job hunt, experts will advise you to stop wasting time playing video games. Your time, they'd argue, would be better spent honing your resume, crafting your cover letter, and stepping up your overall networking skills. They're not wrong, but they're also not right. New research shows video games can provide surprising advantages. It's possible they can also serve you well in a job hunt, but only if you're willing to learn some of the logic behind successful games.

I was first introduced to the value of video games in a mesmerizing TED talk by Jane McGonigal on how video games can give you a longer life. I followed her personal story of resilience and theories on health care empowerment on her site SuperBetter, built entirely on principles she learned as a game developer. She describes SuperBetter as, among many other things, a system to:
  • Build up your core strengths - physical, mental, emotional and social
  • Help you through a tough time, or with a difficult change
Who doesn't need those attributes when on a job hunt? I certainly did, and in the process gained new
respect for video games and the skills they can help us attain in landing our next new opportunity. Here are a few of them:It's about leveling up. In any great game, you gain skills at each level, and slowly move up to higher levels with more difficult challenges. In a job hunt, no one gets a resume right on the first draft. It's a skill that needs honing, both in format, language, and tone. All you can do each day is try again to get a little better at the resume and job hunting game, and slowly, but surely, you will. Calls will start coming in--if not at first, then when you've hit a certain level of aptitude. Look at each challenge in the job hunting game as a new level to be mastered, and don't beat yourself up when you haven't won a particular level on a particular day. There's always tomorrow.

It's about epic wins. Gaming, according to McGonigal, is based on solid scientific principles, including the concept of "epic wins"--the achievement of great things you never thought possible. In the work world, Jim Collins, author of the business best-seller Good to Great, is the undisputed expert on greatness. He defines epic wins as BHAGS -- pronounced "Be-hags." The acronym stands for Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals, and the value of them is perhaps best described in the book's subtitle: "Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don't."

His website is an easy place to quickly learn some of his most famous ideas, including:

"Whether you prevail or fail depends more on what you to do to yourself than on what the world does to you."

Powering Up. In the world of video games, what you do to yourself can be defined as "powering up." In a game, you're likely to face monsters, villains, rabbits eating your valuable carrot crop, or any other assortment of challenges. Great gamers know they have to sometimes slow down on a level to gather strength from charms, gain points to be banked for difficult levels, or get help/extra lives from available resources, including fellow gamers.

In the job hunt world, the same principles apply. You have to know when to rest, when to exercise, how to stay sober and calm, and when to ask for help. No successful job hunt is done totally alone, hence the emphasis many place on networking, job coaches, and job clubs.

Relieving stress. I became addicted to the infamous Candy Crush Saga when I was employed, not unemployed. It was a time when I was horribly stressed and needed to quiet my mind from the daily grind at work. A wiser person may have learned to meditate. I learned to play Candy Crush.

Looking for a job is considered one of the top five stress inducers in life. But when you're stressed, it's hard to have a great interview, write powerful cover letters, or put hiring managers at ease that you're a great team player. One of the most important skills to master in a job hunt is the ability to calm down, including how to assume the Wonder Woman pose, advocated by Harvard scientist Amy Cuddy, just before a job interview. It works. I've tried it.

Earning the prize. In Super Mario Bros, the small and unlikely heroes need to climb mountains, jump gaps, and persevere through untold challenges in order to save the princess. In a job hunt, the prize is a job, not a princess. But like the brothers, you will have to jump some amazing hurdles to reach your mountaintop. Success is a combination of believing it's possible, being patient, repeatedly working your way over barriers, being courageous, and constantly moving forward.

No one would argue that a job hunt is a game. It's a serious endeavor to secure a sustainable livelihood. But if you can find the wherewithal to approach your job hunt much as you would a game, you might just enjoy the entire process a little bit more. At the very least, you may learn some valuable lessons about social science, game theory, and gameplay that will serve you well not only in the job hunt, but in your next job, where epic wins really are the basis of being a valued star employee over the long haul.
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