How to Use Quidditch to Start Your Career Without Sounding Like a Complete Nerd
Earlier this week, Major League Quidditch published an article I wrote when I was trying to convince people to join the Argonauts staff this summer. I’m not going to repeat anything I wrote there. I just want to expand on it because not everyone wants or can apply for an MLQ position.
If you’re reading this, you probably have some quidditch volunteer experience. You’ve probably wondered if it’s worth all the time, effort, and risk to your sanity. Will quidditch actually help you get a real job?
Yes. Maybe. Depends. But it’s not impossible.
First, some backstory
This time last year, I quit a writing “internship” with a startup and kicked off my summer of funemployment. (read: I was overworked, underpaid, and worst of all, not doing much writing. ah, #startuplife) I graduated without notice during the previous winter and then dropped out of the teaching credential program that spring.
I went from being someone with a plan to being completely adrift. It was terrifying.
Not that you would know about my post-graduation crisis by looking at my resume; I was still USQ’s West Regional Coordinator then and I used that role to keep me from having an embarrassing hole in my work history. (The startup is nowhere to be seen; I only lasted a little over two weeks.) One year later, I have a real job that interests me, is relevant to what I studied in college, and pays well enough to afford a comfortable lifestyle in Silicon Valley.
Quidditch came up in my interview, it takes up some space in my resume, but that’s not the first thing my current employer cared about. It wasn’t the last, though. Quidditch didn’t get me a real life grown up job; it just helped.
Know your audience
This is something every writer has drilled into them. Even if you’re not going into a writing intensive field, if you’re sending out resumes and cover letters, you’re a writer for the time being. Welcome to the club.
Some volunteer roles are just unpaid versions of real jobs. Looking to go into event management? You should definitely play up your tournament director experience. Trying to get a job in communications, social media, or public relations? I hope you spent time trying to make your team’s Twitter as good as Maryland, Rochester United, or the Gambits. Team officers are middle management in the making. Etc, etc.
Unfortunately, not every career path is quidditch related. Sometimes you may need to settle for making your volunteer experience a bullet point under “leadership experience” or “college organizations” and call it a day.
Make your cover letter relevant
Okay, so you think quidditch can help you begin the journey down your career path of choice. Great. But you can’t just say, “I played quidditch! Hire me for my ~whimsy~ kthxbai!” in a cover letter. You have to make your quidditch experience relevant to the job you’re applying for.
In fact, you should make your cover letter relevant to the job you’re applying for, period. if you’re sending out stock cover letters for every job, they will know.
Here’s the cover letter I used when I applied for the editorial internship I landed last fall. A real internship this time—one where I had bylines and learned skills that I now use as a professional writer.
I’m applying for this editorial internship because I have been looking to put my writing skills and editorial experience to use. I’ve spent the past three years promoting something that sounds more like fantasy than reality: SJSU Quidditch. Explaining, let alone recruiting for, a full contact sport on broomsticks to both San Jose State’s jocks and nerds was a unique challenge. It sharpened my ability to make the impossible sound possible to anyone regardless of background.
I hope quidditch got your attention. While I love playing my sport, working for US Quidditch has also given me the opportunity to work with players from over thirty teams across five states as well as the league’s upper management. However, I wouldn’t have done any of that had I not co-founded and been the editor-in-chief of West Valley Voices, my community college’s literary magazine. There’s very little difference between a team of athletes and a team of editors. My time as Reed Magazine’s Lead Poetry Editor allowed me to put my obsessive need to organize and schedule to good use: I’ve never faced a deadline I couldn’t meet. However, it’s important to be flexible too, as my Portuguese students have taught me.
This editorial position calls for someone who can do more than just write. This position needs a someone who knows how to reach out to others, choose the right facts to emphasize based on their audience, and pitch in and be a team player while meeting their deadlines. I know I’m that person; I hope you give me the opportunity to prove it.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
Because I was applying for a writing job, I bent my quidditch experience to fit the job. Other than one blog post, I hadn’t written much about housing. What I did know was how to change my pitch to fit an audience.
But as the letter goes on, I talked about quidditch less and less while bringing up my relevant experience more and more. I didn’t just yell at people running around on brooms while I was in college; I worked on two magazines. I wrote, I met deadlines, I worked with other writers. That experience was far more relevant to the position I was applying for.
By the end of the letter, there’s no mention of quidditch at all. It did the work of being an attention grabber. I might have been “that quidditch girl” to whoever read this, but I was that quidditch girl who already knew a thing or two about editorial and how to pitch a story. That’s why I got that internship.
Volunteering is a job
I didn’t spend my summer of funemployment slacking off at my parents’ house, navel-gazing and waiting for a job to show up. Though I wasn’t getting paid, I was still working. Not only was I job hunting, I was thinking about ways to make the conference I started better and getting ready for West Fantasy that summer.
You know, the event I caught hell for moving to NorCal because I couldn’t find a reasonably priced LA venue. The tournament I blew my stack over when I found out it was going to conflict with an MLQ series while I was at the Shark Tank watching the Penguins wreck my Sharks in the Stanley Cup Finals. That West Fantasy. That was work.
That’s why that role lives in my work experience part of my resume.
US Quidditch — West Regional Coordinator
September 2015 – October 2016
I coordinated and communicated with schools, teams, players, and leaders from over thirty teams in the states of Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, and Utah. I provided information about league deadlines, news updates, and rule changes. I represented the region’s needs to the league. I supported the sport in regions of heavy team concentration (the SF Bay Area, the Greater LA Area, AZ, Salt Lake City) as well as nurture team growth in areas where teams are only just emerging (Hawaii, far Northern California, the Central Valley). I ran the @WestQuidditch Twitter account and moderated the USQ West Region Facebook group.
Honestly, this is a little padded. I’ll probably go back and cut this down for concision sometime soon. But when I wrote this, this was my job. Like it or not, it’s far easier to get a new job when you already have one. Since this role sat at the top of my resume for a while, I needed it to sound serious so that I would be taken seriously.
Say you do get a call back from a potential employer. That’s great! They’re asking for professional references. Do you have any? Well, speaking as a former Regional Coordinator, I treated my role like a job. If you were ever a team captain, tournament director, referee, or any other volunteer that worked with me and got your shit done without needing me to use a Shame Nun meme on you: I am happy to talk about what a good little worker bee you are to any future employer.
I used my immediate supervisor at USQ (hi Eric!) as a reference and he got to tell HR all about how organized, communicative, and professional I am. Those are things I also say about myself in an interview, but it carries more weight when the people you’ve worked with say it to the people you want to work with.
Maybe you’re trying to get a job at a company where another quidditch person works. Employee referrals are a big point in your favor, so maybe don’t be a dick on the pitch and ruin your chances of networking later in life? Just saying.
It’s graduation season and a lot of you are out looking for your first big kid jobs. I wish I could say that it’ll be easy. I wish I could say that people care about quidditch as much as we do. But that’s just not true.
I spent a lot of time in college doing quidditch things, but that’s not all I was up to. Quidditch is just one part—granted, a pretty big part—of the whole package of Elizabeth Barcelos, Young Professional Person.
As my career continues, I’ll need to depend on quidditch less and less. And that’s okay. It got my foot in the door for the editorial internship I needed to start my career in my field of choice. Sometimes that foot is all you need.