Monday, October 23, 2017

How to Get a Job at Crunchyroll.

I'm pretty sure everyone has That One Question they get asked a lot, kind of wish they didn't, but at this point they've gotten used to sighing and just attempting to answer calmly when it inevitably comes their way once a week. Mine used to be "Why do you look so pissed off all the time?" but in the last year it's been replaced with a monthly (or more) query about how I got my job writing for Crunchyroll -- which, more often than not, is actually the person trying to figure out what steps they should take to do the same.

Occasionally it really is just someone being curious, and I get that. It's kind of a funny job to find oneself in. But that's rare and usually only comes from outside geek circles. The usual approach is people who are bloggers or writers on their own time, see that I'm doing it, and want the scoop.

The fact of the matter is, my real answer as to how I got my job is not what people want. I got an English degree, worked as a news editor for a major news website for ten years, then spent a few years in the anime industry doing subtitle editing and QC for anime and games. I was first approached to do a couple of guest spots, and then eventually asked to join the news team. I did not come to them; they came to me. And there's no quick path or secret handshake.

You can always keep an eye on Ellation's jobs page, but again, that's probably not the answer you want. Fact is, I can't give you that answer because it doesn't exist. But I can give you some tips to get you in a better position to find yourself in that job eventually.

Any job worth having is like this, incidentally -- and very, very few have a back door and a special knock.

Be a good writer.

Y'okay, this sounds like a no-brainer, but it's not quite what you think. As much as solid writing from a talent standpoint is valued for a news and features writer, you don't have to win a Nobel Prize to turn out news stories on maid cafes. I don't mean talent. That's always handy. I mean from a technical standpoint, you have to know the structure and the craft.

With the advent of self-publishing (both books and blogs -- yes, like this blog), the concept of editing often goes out the window. It's nice to be able to get your thoughts up without a middleman. And, really, if your goal isn't to make money or work for a certain company, it doesn't matter too much if your technical skills aren't A+.

But if you're writing for a professional company, you need to be able to turn out a story and have it fly unedited. I'm not saying there aren't editors. But I am saying that the most anyone should have to do is check that you're on-brand and give it another set of eyeballs. Not a complete overhaul.

Whenever someone asks me how to become a Crunchyroll writer, provided they're chill about it and don't try to blindside me into a business consult, I do go and check any links they may have in their social media. Because while I'm not a job-giver, I do work for a lot of sites and someone somewhere might ask me where to find a good new writer.

Sad fact is, nine times out of ten, the writing is not technically sound. And that's what keeps me from putting people in my Rolodex. If you're a writer and want to move beyond your own blog, improve your writing. Make sure you can follow basic journalistic styles, mind your commas, etc. It makes all the difference in the world.

Learn the difference between self-promotion and badgering.

THIS. IS. DIFFICULT. And for a lot of reasons.

First off, self-promotion is difficult. We live in a culture where we're taught that we need to be humble about our accomplishments and wave off compliments. It's no wonder we all tend to choke up when it comes time to assemble a resume or portfolio -- we're suddenly being told we have to write a three-page paper on the one thing we've spent our entire lives being told not to do.

And if you've got impostor syndrome? Good luck there.

But it is extremely important to get used to promoting yourself and putting yourself forward, especially if you want to work in a field like this. You have to be unafraid to push your work, speak well of yourself, and shop yourself around to a variety of places -- not just the one you want to work for. More on that later.

But this is a double-edged sword. Just as it's hard to do at all, it can also be hard to do right. I've had my fair share of run-ins with people who very much want to work in one of the fields I've found myself in, and they're obviously putting themselves forward to do so. But they come across to all around them as pushy, self-centered, and badgering.

This generally comes from a low-key mindset -- not necessarily a conscious one -- that the people you're interacting with are here to make something happen for you, and that's the end of it. And it can be easy to think that way. But that kind of mindset leads to being ingratiating, obsequious, and -- between you and me -- being talked about only insomuch as people wish you'd calm down or go away.

Approaching these encounters with the understanding that everyone here is in the same position you are, regardless of notoriety, is helpful. Even the most famous writer still wants publicity for their latest project. It's a system of give and take, of talking and listening, of being promoted and promoting.

This may be the subject of a post for another time, but for now, just know that it behooves you to find the willingness to shop yourself around while understanding that the people you're approaching are also doing the same in their own ways, and more will be accomplished if you do for them what you'd like them to do for you in kind.

Be ready to take your hobby less seriously.

The toughest part of being a news and features writer is that you can't always pick what you write about. Some days you'll have to write about a show you hate. Some days you'll have to write a game you've never heard of in all your born days. Someday you may have to sit through all 26 episodes of that one show you said you would never watch because it's a travesty.

But that's the breaks. And one of the great ironies of working in the anime industry in any capacity is that you begin to take your hobby less seriously.

I still love anime and video games as much as I ever did, if not more. But I have also found myself saying "anime was a mistake" about three times a day -- because the more deeply immersed you are, the more you have to leave your bubble. You can't just watch Only What You Like, and you can't just decide you're going to ignore anything that doesn't suit you because frankly that might be this season's Big Hit and You Gotta.

One of the best things you can possibly do if you're interested in writing for a major site that focuses on any one thing is -- ironically enough -- take that thing less seriously. Joke about it. Allow yourself to see the silliness of it. Try to detach yourself from whatever fan rage you can. (You won't lose it all. We're not superhuman here.)

Be ready to be wrong a lot.

The down side to being on a site where everyone sees you is... well... everyone sees you. And thoughts and opinions -- and even facts -- that you had no problem expressing before are going to attract some very angry sorts.

In my year at Crunchyroll news, I've been attacked by strangers from all corners of the globe. Generally types who couldn't follow the advice in the previous heading. If there's a typo because I was tired, suddenly that's all that matters. If you got a factoid wrong because Google Translate was acting up, be ready to not only be corrected, but also see yourself dragged to hell and back and have the quality of the site questioned.

And sometimes, guess what? You really are wrong. And that's the point when you have to put your pride down, remember you're reporting news, and just make the correction and move on.

Don't limit yourself.

The most counterintuitive thing I could say in a blog post about things you need to know to work at Crunchyroll is "let go of the idea of working at Crunchyroll." But it's true. And really, it's true of anything you want to do.

The minute people decide "I want to do such-and-such," they often close out any other options. I know of a person who decided they were going to go to a very specific school for a very specific career, without acknowledging that said school has an acceptance rate of less than 1%. Had this person acknowledged that they could go through one of many other schools, despite the fact that it wouldn't align with their Dream, they could potentially be on their way to the career they want.

Write for wherever you can. If you have a blog, continue to improve it. Write for other blogs that take open calls. Pitch to anyone who's taking pitches. Often, people write for Crunchyroll because they've written somewhere else of note first. S'how I did it.

If it's your goal to have stories appear on Crunchyroll, that's great. But only if you understand that rarely, if ever, is something like this an A-to-B process.

Be kind.

This goes for any career you want.

I know -- knew -- a person who used to be a big-time writer. Probably on things you've heard of, depending where you're from. In recent years, the jobs started dropping off, and said person is having an extremely hard time getting contracts. It's nothing to do with their talent, and everything to do with their attitude.

If you're "fighty," don't take criticism well, or anything else that would make it difficult to work with you in a work setting, you won't get where you want to go. You may get partway there, especially if you're particularly talented. But there will come a point when people decide it's just not worth it.

Note that being kind doesn't mean being a pushover or keeping silent if you are done wrong by. Never let anyone treat you poorly or unfairly in a job, even if it's a job you really want. No job's worth that. But when it comes to the attitude you exude and the way you interact, you will be more likely to get where you want to get if you're pleasant to be around.

And considering Crunchyroll is populated by a bunch of goofy nerds who like sending each other bad memes and dog photos, that's also kind of a prerequisite.

The final point is one you've probably already gathered -- you can't just do this overnight. I have no set of tasks that, when completed, will score you the job. There are no Twelve Trials of Crunchyroll (that I'm aware of). Getting anywhere in a field you love takes work, self-improvement, self-promotion, kindness, character, and a great big sense of humor. And patience. Lots of patience.

If you have all of those, keep writing and keep being vocal and active, and you'll have a far better chance of getting there.