We've all heard that joke:
My boss said 'Dress for the job you want, not the job you have', so now I'm sitting in a disciplinary meeting dressed as Batman.
Cosplay is a secret identity all of its own. Have you told your boss that you cosplay? Have you ever mentioned cosplay on a job application?
If you’re an established professional with lots of work history behind you, or you’re applying for a ‘serious’ job or internship, telling prospective employers you dress up as a superhero at the weekends might not be the best career move. But if you’re just starting out in the world of work and cosplay experience is all you have, how do you make the skills you’ve developed through your hobby work for you in a reputable and appropriate way?
Is the job directly related to cosplay?
It’s likely that the field you’re interested in working in will overlap somewhat with your hobbies, and it might be easy to find a skills crossover. Some obvious examples might be a fabric shop, a haberdashery or art supplies shop, a hands-on craft workshop, or a hair/make-up artist, but you’ll find just as many useful skills that can be applied to roles in customer service and events.
Pro tip: Don’t forget that cosplay is more than just constructing a costume but wearing it as well; you’ll have plenty of experience in embodying a character to talk about if you’re looking for a role as an actor, drama facilitator, or children’s entertainer. I remember writing about the public speaking experience I’d gained from delivering panels as a cosplay guest when applying to be a tour guide – And I got the job!
If you’re applying for something not so obvious, like HR, administration, or tech support, it’s time to think outside the box.
What relevant skills do you have?
What skills would help you succeed in the role you’re applying for? Scour the job description for the employer’s ‘essential’ and ‘desirable’ skills and experience and start brainstorming some examples of each. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of skills you might have developed from cosplaying and conventions:
- If you’ve spent months sourcing reference photos for a costume, or learned historically accurate construction techniques, you’ve demonstrated research skills
- If you’ve tracked down a screen-accurate wardrobe piece for a costume, or judged/placed at an accuracy-based masquerade, you’ve demonstrated attention to detail
- If you’ve planned a costume for a specific convention and completed it in time you’ve demonstrated time management
- If you realized you weren’t going to get your costume finished in time and had to decide which elements to prioritize, you’ve demonstrated problem solving
- If you’ve made a cosplay to a strict, often small, budget, you’ve demonstrated budget management
- If you’ve given a panel or conducted a workshop at a convention, or performed a skit on stage to an audience, you’ve demonstrated presentation skills
- If you’ve booked convention tickets and hotels, made travel plans for you and your friends, created packing lists, and showed up to the convention well-prepared, you’ve demonstrated organizational skills
- If you’ve contributed to convention programming as a cosplay guest or helped to crew a cosplay zone, you’ve demonstrated event planning
- If you’ve recorded or cut together an audio track for your stage performance, prepared a lighting plan, got behind the camera to film, edited your own photographs, or even participated in an online convention during the pandemic, you’ve demonstrated AV/digital skills
- If you run a cosplay Instagram/Facebook/TikTok/blog to engage with your audience, you’ve demonstrated social media management
- If you’ve entered a masquerade as a group, you’ve demonstrated teamwork
- If you’ve made new friends and talked to strangers about your interests at a convention, you’ve demonstrated you’re an outgoing ‘people person’ with good communication skills
- If you’re a cosplayer, you’ve demonstrated creativity, confidence, and an open mind.
You might not have all these skills, but when considering what unique experience you have that might make you a good fit for a seemingly unrelated job, it’s a good place to start.
Pro tip: Remember to give strong examples, eg. ‘In 2019, I organized for myself and three others to perform on stage at the UK’s largest pop culture convention. I coordinated ten group rehearsals over six months, prepared costumes, booked tickets, travel, and accommodation, and communicated with the stage management team at the event to deliver an award-winning performance.’ Lying on your resume will always get caught; if you can’t give an example, don’t include the skill.
How can you develop your skills?
It’s a classic conundrum: Employers don’t want you without experience, but you need the job to get the experience. The easiest way to break the cycle and get that experience is by volunteering.
Pro tip: If you’re volunteering for a big convention company, they should compensate you at least with a free ticket and a glowing reference for your future employer. Just because you’re working for free, don’t let yourself be taken advantage of.
Check out your local convention’s website for available volunteer positions; they’ll be delighted to have another pair of hands. Perhaps offer to deliver a panel, workshop or meet-up, or, if you’ve a bit more experience, put yourself forward as a cosplay guest. Ask a photographer pal if they need an assistant on any of their shoots, or reach out to the moderators of your favorite Facebook group or Discord channel to get involved. All experience is good experience!
How do you describe what you do?
Although cosplay is having its day in the press, it remains a fringe subculture; most laypeople who hear the word ‘cosplay’ won’t have a clue what it means. Unless you’re absolutely confident that the hiring manager will understand specific terminology, shoot for more general phrasing like ‘recreating costumes from movies, media, and pop culture’ and descriptors like ‘sewing’, ‘dressmaking’ and ‘multi-media crafting’ instead.
Pro tip: If you’re struggling to come up with what jobs and careers you might enjoy, think hard about what parts of cosplay and the convention experience you particularly like. If you’re good at organizing photoshoots and fan meets, perhaps you’d like event coordinating or duty management. If you’ve found you really enjoy reviewing conventions, look into journalism or social media marketing.
In general, exercise caution when adding any hobby or interest to your resume; ensure it enhances your suitability for the job and doesn’t give a prospective employer any cause for uncertainty. Unsurprisingly, the creative industries are likely to be more understanding towards a weird and wacky hobby than more traditional professions, like science, law, or teaching.
Cosplay is a unique conversation starter of a hobby, and cosplayers are some of the most dedicated creatives, overflowing with talent, ambition, and enthusiasm – You can be proud of the skills and confidence that cosplaying has helped you develop. If you think cosplay belongs on your resume or in your job application, then it absolutely does. If you’re part of this welcoming, diverse, and passionate community, I’m certain any employer would be lucky to have you.