How I managed to sell my esports career failures as personal successes

For the past few months, I have been between employment in esports. I have been unemployed 5 times since 2013 and it’s simply the nature of working in risky start-up esports endeavours. However, with each new search for new roles and opportunities, I’ve come to understand better on how to sell my candidacy and abilities. With each year, my esports experience, range of projects and roles has widened. This makes the search for new work easier but not without its challenges and constant shaping of my profession and character.

Within this article, I will highlight some personal thoughts I’ve learned over the years in search for new work and moving on from past ones. This is not to say that my approach will work for everyone, but rather someone can make a career going bust with six different companies, yet still find work.

My Background

If you haven’t visited my LinkedIn Profile, you can receive a basic summary of my roles, work and projects over the years. In short, my 9 years of esports can be summarized as the following:

  • 9 years of esports experience working with companies representing in major regions including North America, Europe, Russia & CIS and Korea
  • During my university years: (2010-2012)
    • General Manager for over 5 professional StarCraft teams and 50 internationally achieving players.
    • Helped organized over 10 community and competitive event projects.
    • Writer for a variety of esports and mainstream gaming outlets.
  • Professional Experience: (2013-2019)
    • Launched one of the first esports major studios, digital magazines and live-streaming platforms.
    • Managing Director of an esports press company, reaching 1.5 million monthly readers and among the top 10 most read esports media sites.
    • Head of Int. Strategy & Development for an esports Holding company, acquired by Mail.ru Group and provided expansionary strategies for its current holding’s brands.
  • Personal Projects (2010-2019)
    • Launched three different esports clubs and many community events across Montreal, helping establish its esports presence.
    • Created the Dota 2 Hero Builds Project, accumulating over 350 Million subscriptions, 83% of the playing population and collaborating with the developers to create an in-client UI for user-generated in-game guides.

From an initial glance, it reads impressively but it becomes easy to immediately scrutinize and find holes in my experience. For example, all this was done in 9 years, 6 of which are full-time positions. That would mean that I have been at a job for maximum a year (my previous position being two for the first time) and none of the companies are currently still standing (something any hiring team should do a background check on).

This is your first challenge and during your earlier years, when you are working for companies that no one will never heard of (which is most of the start-ups I’ve worked for), you need to shape your CV (resume) to highlight your personal achievements, especially in the face of professional failure.

Curriculum Vitae

To the left is a Curriculum Vitae from a professional resume company I hired for $500. To the right is my personal version I’ve been refining over the years. Different CVs for different companies and who you are speaking to.

For many people, a CV is something that is very easy for them to create and keep it professional. For others, the basics are lost and don’t quite grasp what they should be highlighting and what information they should omit. In short, always highlight your achievements, actions and consequences and results. In both CV versions, you see not only the range of my roles but the results that were due to my involvement.

Only one out of the many companies I’ve worked with have generated a return worth mentioning. This is the nature of start-ups, especially in an industry where even leading companies are earning a loss of 30 million or more a year. But there are other KPIs that matter, that show your strength and ability: viewership, readership, reach, engagement and interest are quantitative traits you can display on your CV.

Customize your CV. This is something I fail to do but you should always be adjusting your CV according to your target role. Between the two CVs, I use the one I had professional made for corporations that use filters to get rid of certain CVs or lack certain keywords. For my personal CV, I often share this one within my network as it is more readable and concise for the average company who typically don’t have a human resources team.

Lastly, avoid why a company failed as a whole and focus more on the reasons you got it to where it is. Seems obvious to not put why a company failed on your CV but at the same time, a lot of people don’t put certain achievements or work on their resume simply because the company didn’t work out (rendering the actual work useless for the company). Just because it wasn’t as useful for the now-defunct company, doesn’t mean it wasn’t useful for you. The skills you’ve accrued will be valuable for future companies.

Exposing Yourself

The primary reason I created this site over 6 years ago (2013) was to better expose myself and abilities. Everything I do is in search of what I can do and expose what I feel I have to offer. In fact, my first three full-time positions came from professionals reading my thoughts and opinions. With each professional failure, you’ll come away with a lot of lessons, opinions, knowledge and blame. While you should always share the first three in whatever space or capacity you can, try and avoid blame. Blaming only distinguishes you as someone bitter and resentful, rather than hopeful and accepting of elements outside your control. Start-ups will come and go, dwelling on part work serves no purpose when you are trying to seek your new role and with new people.

Though some of my opinions back in the day may have not held up, they were of sound logic (for the most part) enough for companies to consider my candidacy when my own CV had no prior full-time professional experience. Whether they were right or wrong to hire me I leave to them to determine in retrospect, but to have been able to convince someone of more experience and leadership than I, to consider hiring me, I consider an achievement at the time.

In short, always be doing something. Be proactive in creating awareness about yourself in a way that promotes what you have to offer. In my spare time, I update a project called the Standard Hero Builds and for its first 6 years, I did not earn a single dollar from its strenuous work. However, through this passion, it has allowed me to meet and get acquainted with so many great people and expanded my network into a competitive scene I’ve personally loved but had yet to be involved in professionally.

Your Network

Your network is not about how many people you know and can reach out to but rather that you are surrounded by the right people who you know you can rely on. If you have a network of acquaintances of whom you can refer to as a friend but cannot privately ask for assistance, then your network is just posturing. I often found that having a network of pro-players or talent proved to be less valuable (beyond a good discussion and some great games of Dota, CS, League, etc.) than making friends on those who work behind-the-scenes. That is not to say that a network is a group of people you can use but rather a collective of professionals of where you can comfortably help them and vice-versa. A streak of connections where an exchange of knowledge, advice, friends of friends can be handy. Lastly, I often found that sticking with people who love to work in esports rather than the people who love to say they’re in esports is a good indicator if you are surrounded by genuine people.

In recent years, a lot of previous work opportunities, consulting roles and friendships have come from people who I met at my first jobs. They’ve continued to succeed and we’ve continued to build on each other’s successes to get where we are now. Professional relationships are gardens, they need constant tending to and care for their growth and life. Give the attention you seek to those who aren’t as vocal about their struggles or search for help. To quote an old motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar: “You can have everything in life you want, if you just help enough other people get what they want.”

You Don’t Have to Work in Esports

After every job, I always consider leaving esports. That my professional failure may be a sign to move on to more traditional industries where I’ll earn a good wage and find stability in exchange for a job that may be less exciting. I think this personal honesty is good rather than trying to force one’s self back into esports. You may end up taking a low salary and a role beneath your actual expertise. Esports is a small industry. There’s a lot of turnover at the lower levels and even nepotism in certain parts of this industry. Giving up in esports doesn’t mean you failed, it means you want something else in life and esports doesn’t quite fit that expectation: that’s completely fine and understandable.

***

I am not a particularly unique candidate when it comes to finding new work. In fact, for a variety of jobs, I’ve been passed over for candidates more recognized, especially during my earlier years. That said, over time, I’ve become particularly interesting to companies because of my range of experience in esports both in terms of sectors of this industry (sponsors, tournaments, teams, publishing platforms and start-ups) and in esports regions (having worked with or in CIS, North America, Europe, Korea and China)

However, before all of that: the simple fact that I was willing to move to Europe, did not need a visa (since I am a Swiss citizen) and could read/write in English was all it took to start my esports career. To this day, my flexibility to move and comfort working in start-ups has built me a foundation of experience that I can now sell as a personal success. Yet most of all, this foundation has also taught me how to accept professional failures and seek new endeavours each and every time.

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