About a year ago, I made a bold prediction that everyone probably wrote off as just more hot air from a daydreaming Magic player. If you didn’t read that article, you’re probably wondering what I’m talking about. I’ll keep it short and sweet. Last year, I stated that I would one day work at Wizards of the Coast.
Obviously, I have not yet fulfilled that claim, but I wanted to share some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I found writing out my thoughts to be incredibly motivating and meditative, and I think you will find many of these points useful if you have a similar goal. Whether or not you are interested in working for Wizards of the Coast, these are good points to remember for any venture in life.
Be Bold, Be Big
There are thousands of us who want to work at Wizards of the Coast. What makes you think that those people hiring for those select few spots will even take notice of you?
Now, that could easily be read as being very negative, but it isn’t intended to be—it’s just practical. There is no way for people at Wizards to know why you are better than John Smith from Chicago. You both love Magic, and you both just finished up graphic-design programs at well-known universities. What will make Wizards hire you instead of him? You need something to make you stand out.
Being bold means doing something that will get you noticed. Do not be afraid of an idea just because it is different or could be seen as weak, strange, silly, or [insert negative sounding adjective here]. Take that idea and run with it. Employers like to see applicants who aren’t afraid to step out on a limb. Read pretty much any of Mike Linnemann’s recent articles to see some crazy ideas being thrown out there.
You have to show devotion to the ideas and paths you follow. Don’t just state some crazy ideas that have potential and then forget about them. Follow up, delve deeper into them, and keep presenting your updates in the public domain. Like Gavin Verhey’s Overextended format, you have to be willing to make something your own and be proud of it.
Devotion—or passion, if you will—is what sets apart the best from the masses in any domain. Why do professional athletes practice every day for years on end? Sure, they’re getting paid millions of dollars for it, but very few people in the world would go through that just for money. They love what they do, and they are willing to do whatever it takes to be elite.
Build Your Own Brand
It’s getting old and cliché these days, but the basic meaning behind the phrase cannot be ignored. Projecting an image that sums up many of your ideas and projects can do wonders for how people—and companies—evaluate you. If people have trouble describing your work, art, or image, how are you going to stand apart from others? Even enigmas like Lady Gaga can be summed up in a few words.
It’s okay if you don’t have a brand to sell immediately. Sometimes, it takes a bit to build an identity. Just keep your eyes and mind open, and keep reevaluating yourself as you go. It will come to you if you do.
Alternatively, you can pick an image and work on fitting into it. While that’s possible, I don’t necessarily recommend it, since it is much harder to support a brand you don’t wholly believe in. It took a good six months for me from when I began writing to when I finally understood my own brand, and it took another six months for me to fully get behind it.
It seems like such simple advice, but we all forget it from time to time. It does not help that Magic players often have lower self-esteem to start with. Magic stereotypes aside, it’s amazing what being confident can do for you.
Love him or hate him, Jon Medina uses his confidence to power his way through trades, games, and conversations. Of course, you don’t have to be as abrasive as he is; you can follow the path of LSV or innumerable other well-known Magic celebrities. Don’t waste time and effort letting the detractors bring you down. Do what you love, and results will follow.
Watch What Others Are Doing and Find Out What Those Before You Did
Three months ago, I left Japan after living there for three years. The organization that had hired me—and thousands of other foreigners in similar roles—provided an orientation in February about taking the next step, whether that was in life, a career, or our own personal goals.
The majority of the orientation was filled with small, one- to two-hour workshops from leaders in various fields and positions of power, and we had the additional opportunity to sign up for a one-on-one consultation with the speaker of our choice. The man I chose, Ryan Hart, said something that hasn’t left my thoughts since: “Find out what those before you did before they were in the position you are now shooting for.”
Looking at how current members of Wizards got to where they are now can provide numerous case studies for you. Perhaps you’ll take a player’s route like Mike Turian did, forge a writer’s path like Tom Lapille did, or clear a trail through old-fashioned methods like Doug Beyer or Mark Purvis did. The point is to understand how these people came to work at Wizards so that you can modify your own plans accordingly. If no one has gotten a job at Wizards by being a world-famous juggler, chances are that you might not want to go down that route.
If I might be so bold (see my first point), perhaps I can add a secondary suggestion to Ryan Hart’s advice: Contemporaries are just as important as Wizards employees. For example, I have been keeping an eye on Gavin Verhey ever since he started his work on Overextended because it is giant, image-defining projects like Overextended that can grab the attention of Wizards. After he was hired as an intern earlier this year, I also went back to reread Billy Moreno’s articles on TCGPlayer and SCG to learn more about his history, since I had only read bits and pieces of his work. If you open your eyes to what your fellow Magic fans are doing, you will be able to spot future Wizards employees and learn from them.
If nothing else, you might just find some good ideas that you can borrow, modify, or re-create as your own. How do you think artists get a lot of their ideas? Companies? The world is full of inspiration and people feeding on each other, directly or indirectly.
Be a Gamer
My final piece of advice might seem obvious at first glance, but it is something I am still working on. You might need to take a second look at it as well. Each of you who is reading this article can say that you are a “gamer.” You play Magic! But I am talking about being a gamer.
What does every single person at Wizards have in common? If you answered, “They like Magic,” you’re wrong. The majority of employees at Wizards play Magic, yes, but not all of them do. What all of them have in common is that they love games. It’s a requirement for every open position they post.
Wizards isn’t just looking for a fan of Magic. They are looking for someone who loves all kinds of games. The more games you like, the better. Like an artist, architect, or writer, it’s not enough to specialize in one area or genre. You have to be aware of what’s going on in the rest of your field. (I would also argue that you should also be aware of creative endeavors beyond the field.) The more games you play, the more experience you have to draw on when it comes time to develop a new mechanic or create a new world in the Multiverse.
Go Out and Do It
I hope that this has helped you in some form—even if it’s just to motivate you to follow your own personal goals. Getting out there and just doing it is always the most important and hardest part of any activity. Once you start something you truly enjoy, it’s hard to stop, and that’s when things really get rolling. Best of luck in your ventures!
Note: I just want to finish with congratulations to GM’s own Trick and Adam Stybs. Both of them go above and beyond the points mentioned here, and both of them truly deserve their recent “promotions.” They are inspirations to all of us who are aspiring to become more involved in the Magic community!