Jason Lake is one of the true greats of esports, having founded and run Complexity Gaming since 2003. Over the last 17 years in esports, Jason has developed countless Championship winning teams and built an organization that ended up being bought by the World's biggest sports brand, the famed Dallas Cowboys, in late 2017.
So naturally when Jason talks about esports, we all listen. And when he talked about how to get a job in esports, as a CEO who has hired people for esports positions for almost two decades, we thought it was worth sharing with all of our readers.
Below is Jason Lake's guide to landing a job in esports, so if that's your goal we recommend you read through it.
This content was originally shared on YouTube and is intended for anyone who is early on in their esports career or just about to embark on it.
Jason posts other awesome content and we highly recommend that you go and subscribe to his channel.
My advice for landing a job in esports
Without a doubt, one of the most common questions that esports veterans get asked in their day-to-day lives is: “How do I get a job in esports?”
There is, however, never going to be a simple or straightforward answer to this question. In fact, some esports veterans will probably have different advice or answers to give you.
The last thing to keep in mind is that there are countless factors at play when it comes to landing a job in esports. These range from personal capabilities and qualifications that you have control over, to industry trends and standards that you have to adapt to.
1. Start with some perspective
Ambitious people, who are passionate about esports, often want to just jump right in the thick of things and prove themselves.
But the fact that you're passionate about esports isn't the golden key, it's only the beginning. Passion isn't a magic elixir, it's only the start and almost everyone that tries to come into this space has it.
You have to remember that it's not about what you want, it's about what I need.
It's about the organization's needs
People often come to me and say: "I want to learn how to coach a team", "I just really want to be in esports", "I want to...".
Frankly, it does not matter what you want. And I don't say this to be mean.
You have to remember that I also have a job to do and it comes with problems to solve and needs to fill.
I love that you want to participate in this industry and I appreciate that you want to learn, but it won't be on my dime.
All that matters, is the need from the person hiring and when you gain that perspective, you'll already be one step ahead many applicants.
Do a personal inventory
Be introspective and honest with yourself. Acknowledge the things that you are good at, recognize that there are some issues that you need to work on, and accept that some areas are simply not your strong suit.
As you do that inventory, think about where you might best fit into an organization.
Let's imagine that you're a really talented photographer but have a dream of becoming a coach.
Please do not apply for that coaching job on the merits of your photography.
You have to be honest with yourself, and understand that just like you put in the time and effort to become a photographer that's good enough to get paid, you must do the same for coaching before someone wants to pay you for it.
The good news is there's an abundance of opportunity to learn and develop yourself.
If you are new to the esports industry and don’t have a solid skillset to stand on yet, then you may need to intern or volunteer for a while to get your foot in the door.
The majority of people I know that created a career for themselves, especially from the earlier years of esports, came in and worked for free, or spent their own money to develop projects that weren't necessarily a profitable endeavour.
It goes without saying, that if you have both experience and a resume then you shouldn't be working for free.
But if you're young and looking to get into esports you might have to volunteer to get your foot in.
2. Work on your attitude
Be intentional about your attitude and your general day-to-day behavior. What this means is that you should:
Loose the entitlement
You are not entitled to a job; you need to earn it. It's that simple.
Always be optimistic
Yes, everyone has bad days but make an effort to not be negative or showcase toxic behaviors. I pay a lot of attention to this one because I know how a toxic attitude can spread easily which can have severe consequences for the team overall and damage the health of the business.
Pride and ego are not your friends
Recognize that there is a fine line between pride, ego, arrogance and confidence. Confidence is awesome but avoid attitudes that are centered around ego, pride, and arrogance – I don't owe you anything and you're not entitled to anything
High work ethic and hustle is mandatory
Understand that your effort is one of the few things in life that you can control. You can’t expect to achieve true success if you're not willing to fully invest your life into something. Set daily / weekly / monthly goals, for instance if you're a writer you can put out 3-5 articles a week. Esport doesn't sleep and you're going to have to work hard to achieve your dream, there is not shortcut.
Be a well-rounded person
You must strive to lead a balanced life. Keep your mind sharp (training, therapy, etc.), keep your body healthy (fitness, nutrition, etc.) and keep your soul virtuous (altruism, spirituality, etc.). This is a marathon and not a sprint, so if your only focus is to work hard then you will crack overtime.
3. Have a (flexible) plan
If you are lost in the wilderness, your chances of survival greatly increase if you take stock of your skills and formulate a plan. Getting a job in esports may not be as life-and-death as that situation but the same principles apply.
A solid plan can greatly increase your chances of success in any industry and most importantly you must be flexible enough to adjust that plan when you learn that "Plan A" didn't work out as intended as it rarely does (don't let that be an excuse to not do it in the first place).
Here are a few things that you should keep in mind:
If you're not motivated enough to work for yourself, you're never going to be motivated enough to work for me. Even if you do make it through hiring, your lack of motivation will shine through eventually and lead to a bad outcome for both you and me.
Understand the ecosystem and where you fit into it
Look at what kinds of jobs are out there, find one that interests you and draw a roadmap for yourself of how you're going to land that job. Don't just send out copy-paste emails and cover letters and spam them to every possible organisation.
You wouldn't believe how many emails I receive, where people even forgot to insert "Jason Lake, Complexity" and instead addressed it to some other company – that's an instant no and shows you don't give a damn.
Finally, you should build a logical path towards the position you're applying for. Like I mentioned earlier, there's no smooth transition from esports photographer to team coach.
4. Do your homework
I can't stress this point enough.
You have to spend time doing research and educating yourself, in order to give yourself an advantage when trying to find success.
I personally haven't job hunted for a while but I have been looking for investors.
In 2017 the company I founded, Complexity, was acquired by Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys and John Goff, a local real-estate investor here in Dallas, Texas.
Complexity had been around for many years but I decided we needed investment to remain competitive. I spoke with sports teams, venture capitalists, media companies and many other groups for about a year and a half.
And every single time I contacted any of these companies, I would have already spent a minimum of 8 hours researching every possible angle of their business and their people.
I wanted to know everything I could get my hands on so that I was prepared if I got the opportunity to sit down with any one of them.
You can do the same when applying for a job.
Research all angles of the organization and the people who you are going to be meeting with. Examples of this include:
- What’s going on their social media?
- What is their financial situation like?
- What type of struggles do they have?
- What are their goals?
- What type of people are they?
It can be insulting to approach an esports company – that is full of people that are passionate about what they do – and not know basic things about their organization.
5. How To Make Contact
First and foremost, you need to understand that most hiring managers only actively seek to hire when they identify that their organization has a need.
As someone who is trying to land a job in esports, you need to first find a way to rise above the endless sea of noise and show me how you can fill my need or how you can fill a need I wasn't even aware of.
Yeah, that's right - you might be able to show me something I didn't even know I needed and now that you were the one that made me aware of it chances are you'll be the first candidate that we take a look at.
With that in mind, three quick pointers that can help you make contact:
- Start with mid to low tier managers. If you're a photographer, figure out who manages content for your dream company and build a relationship with that person. As a CEO, there's a greater likelihood that I will listen to a recommendation from one of managers than read an application in DMs.
- Show passion for the company you're applying for. Understand what the company is doing and reflect back how it connects with something that makes you personally excited
- Be a positive force in your dream company's community: Engage on twitter and discord, show up at events in person (no stalking, that's not cool) and generally engage in any activation that your company is doing in order to become a familiar face
One of the key aspects of landing a job and rising through the ranks of any career has always been networking. However, nowadays it is extremely easy to do so with the advent of the internet and the popularity of social media.
In the esports industry, it cannot be emphasized enough just how important it is that you be active on Twitter and Facebook (and other relevant social media platforms). This is especially important if you are actively trying to get your foot in the door and make a name for yourself.
That being said, face-to-face interactions are still an important part of the esports industry. Even if you are operating on a tight budget, make an effort to attend as many events as you can. Introduce yourself, make friends, as questions, and collect (or exchange) business cards.
I actually hired Jordan Deaton after becoming aware of him because he took this exact approach. You can hear his story below.
Oh and it almost goes without saying, conduct yourself online as you would in real life. You're entitled to your own opinions but know that a hiring manager will analyse your public posts to gage your character and see if there are any read flags.
7. Make Some Noise
If you are young or new to the esports industry, one of the main things that you may need to focus on is building a body of work. No one is going to take your seriously if you don’t show that you are serious about turning your passion into a career.
You also need to ensure that while you are building out your body of work and fleshing out your resume, you are also contributing to the community in a positive way.
This helps you to stand out from the crowd and showcase your passion in a favorable light. This positive noise that you are making can either draw organizations to you or it can serve as a testament to your aptitude when the interviewer is doing their research.
For example, if you're looking to become a shout-caster or announcer, go out and found a VODs of a recent match, record yourself casting it and upload them to your own YouTube channel.
8. Professionalism And The Interview
On the surface, the esports industry has always been a casual place. However, one of the most valuable skills that you can have in the industry is knowing when and how to be professional at the appropriate times.
Your favorite casters, players, or journalists, in the industry may not be dressed formally at all times when they are on the job but it is likely that they have an understanding of what is appropriate and what is not in certain settings.
A good rule to keep in mind is that it is always better to be overdressed instead of being underdressed – this is especially true for interviews.
Punctuality is also important. If you can’t be on time for the interview for a job that you are supposed to be passionate about, how punctual are you going to be once you are hired?
You made it to the interview, now what?
I could give you a laundry list of items but let me just make it short and simple. If you pay attention to each of these tips below, you'll already be ahead of the game:
- Dress to impress. Clean up and look the part - if this is an important day to you, show it.
- Show up early. Think you need to leave 30 minutes early to beat traffic? Leave 60 minutes early instead and wait in the lobby. Do. Not. Be. Late.
- Body language. Don't slouch, yawn and avoid eye contact. This kind of body language creates disconnection
- Listen attentively. This can be tricky, but try your best to get out your head and really listen and understand what the hiring manager is sharing with you.
- Be your honest self. Be genuine and excited. This is a fine balance, arrogance is off-putting but if you're too timid it also gives off the impression that you don't think you belong in the role you're applying for. Find a balance in between.
- Display your homework. Slip in nuggets of your knowledge during the interview that shows your passion and understanding of how you can contribute to the company's goals
- Smile 😊
9. Final Thoughts – Perseverance And Persistence
Trying to land a job in esports is no different than job hunting in other industries. Chances are that you are going to be met with a considerable amount of disappointment before you can get your foot in the door and experience true success. A few things that you should always keep in mind are:
- Brace yourself and prepare for disappointment. Even if you are a highly talented prodigy, the road to success will never be a smooth one.
- Don’t be a pest, instead be patiently (and politely) persistent. There is a fine line between being annoying and being persistent, always remember that you are dealing with an interviewer that is seeing dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of candidates.
- Don’t sell your soul or compromise your morals to land a job or move ahead in your career.
- Your employment status or your position within an organization is not a reflection of your self worth.
- Don’t marry a game. Both the gaming industry and the esports industry are constantly evolving. It is important that you are able to both adapt and make compromises.
- Never give up. If having a career in esports is something that you are truly passionate about, then it will eventually come to fruition if you consistently work at it.