IT hiring managers want candidates who can think quickly, negotiate stressful situations, strategize, and work in teams. But what if these skills aren't honed within the traditional walls of the workplace, but in the make-believe realms of online games?
The gaming industry is growing, and topped $15.4 billion in sales in the US last year, according to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) -- a stat underscored last week by Amazon's $970 million acquisition of Twitch, an online gaming forum with more than 55 million monthly active users.
As gaming continues to grow in popularity, some professionals credit it with teaching them skills that are translatable to the workplace -- organization, perseverance, and resource management, for example -- with some even including this pastime and lessons learned from it on their resumes. Experts, however, are cautious: You need to know when and where the topic of gaming is appropriate.
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Some gamers argue that the skills learned in virtual realms do have real-world value. Take former Starbucks CIO Stephen Gillett, who said that listing his World of Warcraft achievements on his resume helped him land that CIO role.
Gillett's resume, of course, lists the usual work experience, but it also mentions that he's a level 70 paladin and priest with a focus on healing abilities. That mix of experience, he told CNN, shows leadership qualities both inside and outside the virtual world.
Today's average gamer today has 14 years of experience in virtual worlds, according to the ESA. All that time plundering catacombs and managing guilds could actually make you an asset to any tech team, said Jonathan Feldman, CIO for the City of Ashville, N.C., and an InformationWeek columnist.
"Gamers tend to be strategic thinkers. They understand that resources are always needed to bring the business to the next level, and they have a perspective that the world is an impeccable place," he said in an interview. "Generally, this is a good thing when you're talking about innovation."
But while these skills may very well translate to the workplace, you should be wary of how you list it on your resume, said Doug Schade, principal technology recruiter at WinterWyman.
"Listing gaming on your resume is completely appropriate to put in your interests section along with skiing, bridge, golf, chess, poker, whatever," Schade told InformationWeek. "When you go in for an interview, you want to find commonalities. If a hiring manager happens to be a gamer, too, there's your conversation starter."
No matter how passionate you are about World of Warcraft or Halo, Schade advises against bringing up your hobby during an interview. Instead, leave that up to the hiring manager; you don't want turn people off if they're not privy to the online gaming world.
"If you talk about it, make sure you approach the conversation in a cerebral way, like what it is about the game that makes it work," he said. "Maybe you understand the code and the workings behind the game, which will show a level of sophistication relevant to the job."
And remember to keep it professional, too, Schade said. "It's definitely important to mention that anything you have on your resume is grist for the mill," he said. "Don't put anything on there that you'd feel embarrassed to discuss. Treat your gaming hobby as a conversation starter."
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