Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Pokémon Go and Your Job Search/Career Plan

by Jen Davies, Manager, Career Development, AA&CC, UTSC

Like many young people, I have become hooked on Pokémon Go this summer, and I have begun to see parallels between effective job search strategy, and effective Pokémon Go strategy. So, for those of you who are confident in your Pokémon hunting skills, but less sure about your job hunting skills, let me lay out how you can apply what you know about catching digital monsters to finding real opportunities.

I would like to acknowledge Polygon’s strategy guide as a resource in writing this article. Check it out at http://www.polygon.com/pokemon-go/2016/7/19/12213196/advanced-strategies-guide

Manage Your Stardust, and Your Time

In the real world, your stardust is your time. It’s the one thing in the whole world that you can never get back, since for humans, time only runs in one direction. Manage your time so that you’re using it well. For example, it’s easy to get lost, spending hours and hours browsing through job boards, and never actually applying for any jobs because you have run out of time. Pokémon Go players know that one of the easiest ways to collect stardust is to catch Pokémon's and transfer them to the professor – one of the only ways to get a job is to tell people that you’re looking for one (by applying to many job ads, or through networking). You should automate your job board searches through the use of the email alerts that every job board offers. Spend time applying and networking instead of searching! Wishing will get you nowhere.

Maximize Your XP, and Your Professional Reputation

There are some easy ways to gain big XP points, for example, by evolving any smaller Pokémon into a bigger one. Likewise, there are some easy ways to gain big “bonus points” in your career, and one of these is to be visible in only professional-looking ways, on the internet.

Maximize your professional reputation by being online. Your online presence never sleeps, and it’s working for you (or against you if you haven’t put any thought into it) 24/7/365. Make your online presence work in your favour by creating and updating a LinkedIn profile, and ensure that your other social media are either used strategically (ie, you Instagram only things related to your field of study, like a biology student only posting images of plants and animals), or used surreptitiously (ie, use a nickname on your accounts, not your real name).  Bonus: If you use LinkedIn, and you don’t mind having a professional Twitter account, your posts in LinkedIn can go straight to your Twitter! Two in one!

Turn the AR Off, and Find a Focus

I work with a lot of young people who, when looking for a summer job, tell me, “I’ll do anything.” I have never seen a job advertise that says, “Seeking an Anything” or “Candidate must be willing to do anything.” When you don’t have a focus, even a broad one, like “I’d like a job where I’m working with computers,”, then you don’t know what to say on your resume, and the employer who receives your totally-general resume doesn’t know what to do with it – so they shred it. Just like turning off the camera function when you’re catching a Pokémon helps to steady the image and lets you zone-in on the catch, so does having some kind of focus in your job search.

Always be Hatching

In Pokémon Go, you should always have an egg incubating, because the system tracks your movement via GPS. Every step you take contributes. Likewise, every job and volunteer experience you have is contributing to your career. Once you reach university, there should not be a year that goes by that you do not have a volunteer commitment (could be a community organization, could be a campus club) or a part-time/summer job, or both. The lifelong skills that you can develop by serving on a committee, or helping or organize events, or working at a sales job, are exactly what employers are looking for at the other end of your education. I cannot tell you how many students I meet, who just convocated, and who never did anything but study. Not only do they have nothing to talk about on their resumes, they don’t know what they’re good at either because they have never tried anything. Do stuff!

Lucky Eggs, and Planning Ahead

One of the fastest ways to level up in Pokémon Go is to use your lucky eggs. If you collect a bunch of low-level Pokémon's that are easy to evolve, start your egg, and then evolve them all, you will gain levels super quickly! But the preparation is key. This is true in life as well – if you are prepared, when you encounter an opportunity, you will be more likely to gain from that opportunity. For example, I often meet students who want to apply to graduate or professional school (Med School, Law School, a Master’s program), and they need letters of reference from two professors – but they have never spoken to a professor. They have never visited office hours, or volunteered/worked in a professor’s lab, and they hardly ever raised their hands in class, even the small classes. They have made no attempts to build a relationship with any professor. So how can a professor write them a reference when they have no relationship? We might say someone who has got to know their professors as “lucky,” but in the immortal words of Obiwan Kenobi, “In my experience there is no such thing as luck.”

Time Your Gym Usage (and Job Search) Strategically

If you want to earn things at a gym, you need to be there when a) your team is in control or b) nobody’s there and you can just fight with the AI. You will notice that the gyms near you have rhythms. Get to know the rhythms at your gym to maximize your time – you should also get to know the rhythms of hiring in your desired field of work. For example, if you are interested in a summer job doing research at one of the hospitals downtown, you have to start looking for those programs and apply long before – many of those applications are due in November/December, and the interviews are in January! Some industries hire cyclically as well: there is more hiring in accounting in September and October, and less hiring in accounting in the months of January-April because there is just too much accounting work happening, nobody has time to do interviews. Learn the rhythms of your field!

The Nearby System

In Pokémon Go, you can see which Pokémon's are nearby, and the number of footprints underneath them, and their order in the list, tell you which ones are closest to you. The only way to figure out which direction they are is to start walking, and watch how the list/footprint count changes. This is like planning your career direction as well: you won’t know if you’re going the right way unless you watch for signs, or even ask people. This feature makes me think of informational interviews – these are opportunities that you create for yourself to get advice from people who work in your desired field, or who do the job you think you’re interested in doing. They can give you much better information than I can about how to get your first job in that field, what it’s really like to do that work, and what the next steps are after the entry-level role.


There are some great lessons for career planning and job search in Pokémon Go! If you’ve learned the strategies you need to succeed at Pokémon Go, I encourage you to figure out ways to apply these strategies to your career direction.

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