Does playing poker count as job experience?
June 27, 2011 11:58 AM   Subscribe

How can a professional poker player turned college graduate transition into a "real" job?

My little brother has paid his way through college at UT Austin by playing online poker. (!) He finished school in May with a Bachelor's degree in Government. His interests are primarily in the public and social service industries. Almost any nonprofit or government jobs could be of interest to him. He does have a particular interest in nutrition and health. (He was once quite obese and has lost a substantial amount of weight in college by cooking healthy stuff so I think that sparked it). Starting off though he'd be happy enough to get into the social or public service industry at all.

The problem is he has NO job experience other than poker! I'm sensing his growing frustration with the job search, and it doesn't help that he's never had a "job" before. I think at this point he'd do most anything that paid 10 dollars an hour.

What can he do to maximize his employability at this stage? Who's hiring in Austin?
posted by powerbumpkin to Work & Money (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A form of this has been asked before (although I don't think it was online poker) so you might want to check out that thread and dutifully ignore the finger-wagging from people who clearly don't understand the breadth of skills a professional poker player develops.
posted by griphus at 12:01 PM on June 27, 2011

Finding a job is about networking. I know it sucks but that's really the only time-tested way to get a job. Your brother needs to come up with a 30 second elevator pitch describing what he can do for a potential employer.

If your brother really was able to finance an education by playing poker, he must have some decent math skills. I'm sure there are other related skills.
posted by dfriedman at 12:02 PM on June 27, 2011

Oh, duh, you might also want to follow up with the Asker to see if she and her husband have any wisdom to share.
posted by griphus at 12:03 PM on June 27, 2011

And he might want to focus on the commercial space. I think Govt jobs are going to be much more rigid in checking off the 5 years experience, degree, and other checkboxes before even considering somebody for an interview. Personally, I'd interview somebody with that background in a heartbeat just because it's different. Once he has some more traditional experience he might find the transition to government work easier. Also, now is not a good time to be looking for government jobs anyway.

So I agree with above. Network, network, network. Also, don't apologize for the poker, but take more of a "fuck yeah I financed 4 years of college playing poker" attitude. It was more interesting and flexible than a traditional part time job, and allowed me to utilize my skills in....

I would think the tech start up community in Austin would be generally more receptive to a professional poker player. Some of those guys likely bought groceries the same way while they were working on their start ups. So tell him to hit the tech networking events in Austin.
posted by COD at 1:04 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your brother should definitely cite his poker background when he's networking his way to employment. Before he does so, however, it might be a good idea to formulate a version of the story that emphasizes whatever traits he thinks will be more valued by his prospective employer.

His background alone would probably get interviews at private sector companies where an ability to correctly assess risk and profit from it is rewarded. He should talk to people employed in the government positions he covets about their own values--my perception is that government tends to be fairly conservative, so he may want to downplay the risk in favor of explanations along the lines of "if you understand the odds properly and don't get greedy, it's not so risky..." (Assuming that's true... I have no idea.)

I find the "professional poker player" background to be really compelling and if the resume was totally free of errors and had the basic qualifications, I would give him an interview just so I could hear his story. And that's a really potent edge over competitors.
posted by Hylas at 2:35 PM on June 27, 2011

"Oh, duh, you might also want to follow up with the Asker to see if she and her husband have any wisdom to share."

Sorry, but we haven't solved the problem yet either. :(

My husband is still playing poker and still in school. Our current plan is for him to enter the evening MBA program once he finishes his Finance undergrad degree and hope that will provide him opportunities to network with and impress his classmates who have normal jobs.

Fortunately, we do already know a few people with normal jobs via a private advantage gambling forum, and one of them is high enough up in his company to get my husband an interview once he finishes his Bachelors. So that's a possibility.

So yeah, all I can do is Nth the suggestions to network.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:04 PM on June 27, 2011

Oh, we're also working on a poker-related website, and started an LLC for that, so now he'll be able to put small business owner down on his resume to cover a few of the years.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:06 PM on June 27, 2011

When I graduated from college I had NO job experience except for temping and working in a couple of museum bookshops. None of which has anything at all to do with my post-college career. At best you could say that the temping gave me general office skills which I was able to draw on in my first film industry job (lots of time on the phone, making copies, sending faxes). But those are not particularly marketable skills or in any way difficult to obtain.

As far as I can see, he has two options -

1. Start out with temping or some other low-stakes office/admin type job. From here he will gain said office skills as well as some stuff to put on a resume. He can then parlay this "I can do general administrative type stuff and have degree X" into an entry level job in field X or related field Y or whatever he's interested in.

2. Start out like all the jerks whose parents put them through school and who have basically zero relevant work experience. I look at entry level resumes all day from people who graduated circa 2010 who have a resume which consists of an internship or two and maybe one (menial) paid job with no relevance to the field in question. At least three of them are getting jobs on my show - many based on the criteria of "when can you start". And this is in a very "elite" field where it's supposedly extremely hard to break in.

Also - I'm no expert, but isn't Austin a somewhat difficult place to get a job straight out of college, simply due to being an awesome college town where people typically want to stick around? Is there any possibility that he could relocate to a place where the field is less crowded with underqualified entry level folks?
posted by Sara C. at 6:04 PM on June 27, 2011

I suspect most online poker pros could learn how to be computer programmers pretty well. (I'm a professional programmer, was an amateur online player.)
posted by callmejay at 12:09 PM on June 28, 2011

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