Do You Have To Be Outgoing To Work In The Industry?

by Justin Sevakis,

Tyler asked:

One thing I've noticed with a lot of anime fans is they're either extremely extroverted or extremely introverted—there's very little middle ground. I know a good number of voice actors who claim to be introverted, yet they attend cons that would pound the life out of the average introvert. Is it a matter of willingness? Are they obligated to attend conventions? Or do you have to be extroverted to a certain degree?

I think that, honestly, you can't really judge how introverted or extroverted people are by just seeing them briefly. Plenty of people, myself included, go in waves: they can "turn it on" and be super social for short bursts, but find doing so for long periods of time to be exhausting. Then they need some quiet time to recover.

Being "talent" -- a voice actor, singer, or social media figure -- often involves having to be paraded in front of fans and interacting with them. Many people who go into these fields are already at least somewhat social, and that's part of what makes them a natural fit for the job. If you want to get invited to conventions, you HAVE to interact with fans, you HAVE to be friendly and project a nice aura. Not doing that (or at least, faking it really well) is simply not acceptable. Nobody wants to meet their favorite voice actor only to see them slumped down in their chair, avoiding eye contact, and retreating into their cell phones. Someone having that experience would be bad for business.

In fact, if you work in consumer marketing, being able to turn on the sunshine and radiate positivity for the sake of your company, making people feel good about buying your products is, in fact, the whole reason your job exists. Some people are naturally charming, others have to work at it.

Not everybody is successful. I remember years ago, back when I was first working at Central Park Media, our VP of Sales would be the worst person you could ever bring to work the convention booth. A con-goer would stop by, thumb through our VHS selection, hold up a tape, and ask, "what's this about?" Said VP would glower at the fan and respond, in his husky chain-smoker voice, "READ... THE BACK... OF THE BOX." This guy wasn't always like this -- in fact, he was once so persuasive that he got Blockbuster Video to first start stocking anime. But by this point the guy was exhausted and had come to hate his job, and he left not long after. Meanwhile, my bosses started sending me to more and more conventions because I would exude an enthusiasm and excitement for anime and our products that fans could identify with and appreciated. I don't think I could do that anymore.

There are plenty of other anime industry jobs that are not consumer-facing, and often don't even involve going to conventions. In fact, most jobs are like that. Accountants, video engineers, graphic designers... In fact, literally every job that's not a voice actor or marketing. Those people don't need to be extroverted at all. And in my current job, wherein I sit in my home office and make Blu-rays and write Answerman columns all day, I seldom have to talk to anyone. (I do sometimes get a little crusty when I write my column, but luckily my editor keeps these articles from reading like the Nihilist Arby's twitter account.)

There are many people "in the middle," trying their hardest to be friendly and succeeding in various degrees when they have to. Many Japanese creative staff I've met are pretty shy and clearly more than a little uncomfortable with all the attention they get. Several voice actors I know are like that too. But during a convention, we all have to get over our dislike of people and turn on the charm. It's simply part of the job.

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    Justin Sevakis has worked in the anime business for over 20 years. He's the original founder of Anime News Network, and owner of the video production company MediaOCD. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.

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