Would you bet on a pro gambler?

An interesting enquiry just came up on a careers email list I subscribe to.  An adviser at another institution has a client who has been a professional gambler and she wondered how – or even if – he could sell this experience on his CV.

This reminded me of a mistake I made which has annoyed me ever since, so now I can set the record straight.  Some time ago, a colleague in a training planning group I was part of proposed an event about the gaming & betting industry (both on-line and ‘real’).  The suggestion was batted down by colleagues who were uncomfortable about being seen to promote the industry.  At the time I went with the flow, but I later came to regret this enormously.

Even though I don’t like gambling myself, the fact is that it’s a legal, legitimate commercial sector and a source of entertainment for a huge number of people.  It’s also an industry that gives a lot of people jobs.  There can’t be many among us who have never so much as bought a lottery ticket or joined an office sweepstake, at least.  While certain individuals and groups will have a serious objection to the industry and that opinion should be respected, cutting out everything related to gambling is unfair.  How much different is it to drinking?  Or to smoking?  Tobacco and alcohol product advertising may be (rightly) restricted, but I’m not aware of any Careers Services blacklisting job adverts for companies involved in those areas.  On reflection, I was annoyed with myself for joining in with what boils down to a middle-class judgement call about what is an appropriate career.  It’s really not for us to decide, after all.

So, if this were my client, I’d suggest that he can and should make the best of this part of his experience.  It’s different, it’s eye-catching!  Moreover, he can just as easily demonstrate a range of important and desirable attributes from this as from any other kind of work.  I would be willing to bet – no pun intended – that making a profit at this requires research, commitment, planning, calculation, managing risk (definitely!), coping with pressure, decisiveness, competitiveness, maintaining calm, resilience…. He could draw out many different skill areas, plenty of which could be usefully applied to marketing and advertising.  Admittedly, there are also skills he won’t have developed or demonstrated as a Pro Gambler, but when it comes down to it that much is true for any job. 

Some employers may be sensitive or resistant to this kind of experience, but doesn’t that say more about them and their pre-conceptions than it does about our successful gambler?  Like everyone else, the trick he will have to master is in selecting which particular pieces of his experience can be useful to employers and putting those forward positively (obviously a great skill for marketing in itself).  You can never include absolutely everything you’ve done in your CV and you’re not really supposed to.  The aim is simply to provide enough information to convince the reader that you have what they need, nothing more, nothing less.  It’s my firm opinion that ANY kind of experience can be presented in a way that appeals, as long as you’ve done your research and know what’s required.

Finally, I’d like to mention a famous gambler I admire.  If you read the Guardian or Observer or are partial to particularly fiendish TV quizzes, you may well know Victoria Coren, presenter, writer, journalist and the sister of Giles, daughter of Alan.  She is something of a pioneer in the world of professional poker, as she was the first woman to win a major event and has been champion several times.  It hasn’t done her career any harm….neither did producing a porn film and writing a book about the process!  Achievements should be celebrated, whatever arena they’re in and I want all my students to be proud of themselves.  I hate to think of young people starting their career and feeling they ought to hide things.   Although I wouldn’t expect everyone to aspire to Victoria’s specific career trajectory, let’s remember the old saying:  horses for courses.


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