Playing 'Fallout 4' helped me with my job search
After being let go, Kate Kemp buried herself in her favorite game—and came out the better for it. This is the third in a 13-part series on her life after a layoff.
In January, Kate Kemp lost her job as a creative director in New York due to a corporate restructuring. Monster asked her to chronicle her life after a layoff (we’ve all been there, right?). This is the third in a weekly series that will chronicle how she went from crying into a hot dog in Times Square to moving cross-country for a new employment adventure.
On day three of unemployment, I woke up a little less stressed than I had the day before.
Having been pink slipped on Tuesday from my position as a creative director at a New York agency due to a restructuring, I spent Wednesday freaking out over how I would pay my rent after my severance ran out. But by Thursday morning, my previously empty calendar now showed two promising interviews: a call with a Seattle-based agency later that afternoon and lunch with the executive creative director of a New York-based agency the following week.
So, after spending a few hours preparing questions for both meetings, I decided my stress-addled brain deserved a break.
Some people clear their heads by doing productive things like running, gardening or knitting.
I am not one of those people.
Since I was old enough to hold a controller, I’ve found solace in video games. For me, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a solid streak of virtual headshots. That’s why I loaded up Fallout 4, stocked up on ammo and headed into the Commonwealth.
For those unfamiliar with the Fallout franchise, this totally addictive series offers open world gameplay, which means you can explore whatever you want, however you want. Set in post-apocalyptic Boston in the year 2287, Fallout 4 lets you blast radiation-filled beasts with customizable weapons, build and run Sims-style settlements, and dive into about 400 bajillion other activities that take your brain far, far away from the stresses of unemployment.
Typically, this game is one I think I’m going to play for 30 minutes and, when I check the clock to see 3 hours have passed, I’m shocked. But today, my go-to game would not offer a full escape. Despite my attempts to disconnect from reality, I couldn’t help but think about how perfectly three ways to master Fallout 4 mirrored three ways to succeed in the business world.
1) FIND ALLIES IN EVERY GROUP
IN THE GAME:
From robots to super mutants, you have the opportunity to befriend a slew of companions from wildly different backgrounds. Gain their favor and they’ll not only fight alongside you, they’ll also grant you exclusive perks designed to get you ahead in the game faster.
In the beginning of my career, I stuck close to the other creatives, rarely connecting to anyone in other fields of expertise. It didn’t take long, however, to learn that surrounding myself only with those who shared my skill set limited the “perks” I could unlock.
So I began offering a helping hand to other departments whenever I had down time. You’d be amazed how far the phrase “Is there anything I can do to help?” will take you. That simple question helped me land a coveted position in a new business group, led to me getting the funding I needed to build my own team and created a support network of super-fans I could call any time for advice.
And I when I had to go into the unemployment battlefield, these were some of the first people I reached out to. In fact, tapping into this network helped me land a freelance gig—ahem, this one—shortly after I’d cried into a hot dog.
Kate at 4-years-old playing a TI99/4A home computer game system
2) TAKE CARE OF YOUR SETTLEMENTS
IN THE GAME:
One of the most common cries for help from game characters is to defend their weak settlement from baddies who want to destroy it. If you save these settlers from destruction, they’ll reward you with full control of their land and thank you so much it becomes mildly annoying.
But they won’t praise you forever.
Each of your settlements has a “happiness meter” that can only reach 100% when you provide and maintain a solid mix of support and entertainment.
As a natural introvert, I had to remind myself daily to check on my teammates’ “happiness meter.” While I’m much more inclined to stay at the office perfecting a pitch deck than head to a company happy hour, I know that some of the most important conversations happen outside of the office and off the clock. Of course, this is true of job searching also. So, even though it can be physically exhausting for me, I’ve had to suck it up and head out as often as possible.
3) EXPECT TO MAKE SOME ENEMIES
IN THE GAME:
My main goal in this play-through was to form alliances with every single faction in the game.
One group believed that new technology would corrupt the city and that all androids should be eliminated. The other believed these same Synths deserved total freedom.
As I prepared for the final battle, both groups insisted I eliminate the other and refused to compromise. In the end, the group I rejected hated my guts and tried to destroy me the rest of the game.
As much as I’d like to believe that everyone can and should get along, the truth is, they won’t. I’ve learned to let go of the ludicrous idea that everyone will think I’m awesome. (For example, if you’re the type of person who shies away from new technology, approaches and processes, you’re probably not going to like me very much.)
If I spent my time trying to make sure everyone was OK with every decision I made as a leader, I’d never be a leader. Sometimes doing what’s best for the company as a whole means pissing some people off. And that’s OK.
This same attitude applies in job searching, too. If the hiring manager doesn’t seem down with what you’d bring to the role, don’t waste your time trying to fight a losing battle.
While it might not be the most conventional approach to exercising good employee muscles, playing Fallout 4 was a great way to remind myself that I still knew how to play the business game despite being recently asked to leave it.
But more than that, it was good therapy. I thrive on action and drama; I need conflict to feel productive. It’s hard to feel constantly industrious in a job search—it’s not like there are enough relevant new jobs posted each day to keep you busy from 9 to 5. So the game actually helped me relax by channeling my need to be productive into controlling settlements filled with feral ghouls and the like.
Best of all, my Fallout experiences became fodder for conversations at two separate job interviews. My experience helped me connect with those hiring managers—both who ended up offering me a job—and proved that (despite what your mom may have told you) you can earn a living playing video games.
Read Part 2: This is what it's like to wake up unemployed
Kate Kemp is currently the Group Creative Director at HackerAgency in Seattle.