I had a great Thanksgiving break. I spent most of my time baking macarons, watching TV, playing board games and doing jigsaw puzzles (I’m really cool.) For a whole week, I just did what I wanted, when I wanted to do it, and didn’t think about all the work and other stress in my life. I had fun. At Stanford, we don’t get a lot of time to do that. Those who know me will tell you I make time for TV, but puzzles and board games? They kind of fall by the wayside. In college, our version of fun becomes beer pong and frat parties, but what I miss is the fun we enjoyed as children, where we could play games and dress up in funny costumes — basically, we could lose ourselves in the imaginary.
At Stanford, we are so grounded in reality that sometimes we forget about good old-fashioned fun. And with this whole job-searching thing, I feel like there’s less fun in my life than ever before. Now I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to be a timecard-punching, tax-lamenting adult. Much like my friend Peter Pan, I won’t grow up, so I started looking for jobs that would let me have fun and keep in touch with my inner child. What I found is the job of play consultant, and it’s this week’s topic.
A play consultant isn’t where you dress up in your dad’s work suits and pretend to be a consultant — you actually consult on playing. Essentially, companies will hire you to help them use games, play-acting and other fun activities to improve group dynamics and motivation. The fun activities you organize also lift morale and make the workplace less miserable. And as anyone who has worked in an office will tell you, it can be pretty dull. As a play consultant, you will not only get to enjoy getting paid to play — you will also get the incredibly rewarding experience of bringing a little bit of fun to someone else’s day-to-day life.
Play consulting is done exclusively through freelancing, so you will have to be flexible about your lifestyle and travel schedule. This also means compensation varies widely, depending on who you’re working with and how much work you’re doing. This lifestyle isn’t for everyone — I’m far too neurotic to handle that type of instability — but for those of you who are more adventurous and easy-going, you might really enjoy it.
While there aren’t many educational requirements for pursuing a career in this field, it takes a specific type of person to be a successful play consultant. Organizing these games requires a lot of energy and people skills; you will most likely be working with unwilling participants, and it’s your job to get them interested. A lot of the activities will involve improvisation, such as play-acting and well, improv, so a background in this would be helpful. Lastly, you have to be good at having fun. I know that sounds silly, but one of the most important aspects of your job will be boosting morale and team spirit, and if you aren’t having fun, there’s no way those corporate folks will.
Unfortunately, there is one major difficulty you will face should you choose to become a play consultant. Because the field is made up entirely of freelancers, it’s much harder to get an internship or go work for a company to learn about the biz — you will most likely have to start your own company, and that’s not an easy thing to do. My recommendation would be to start with a job in a related field, such as teaching or being a camp counselor, to build up a skill set and reputation that will allow you to eventually make it on your own.
Play consulting may not be the most serious job in the world, but it just might be the most fun. And more importantly, you’ll be doing what you love and making money doing it, and what could be better than that?
Do you like to have fun? Schedule a play-date with Amanda at aach “at” stanford “dot” edu.