People always say that in this world, the people you meet are crucial to making your career path. They say that these people could lead you to opportunities, open doors that you could not open so easily on your own. Because of the people that they know and the friends that they have, in essence, your dream could be a simple phone call or email away.
While this is all very true, I feel there is more to gain from networking. During my internship this summer at Mediavest in New York City, I witnessed many interns putting themselves out there and making sure they are known to those in leadership positions, while not reaching out as much to colleagues lower on the command chain. These interns strive to make any sort of conversation, find any tiny connection in order to relate more to the individual and be remembered. All of these efforts are for the mere chance to connect on LinkedIn.
What is often ignored is the insight ANY person in a given company can provide. Whether they have a bigger title or smaller role, everyone has a history of how they ended up there. This summer, I was lucky enough to meet many individuals who had such unique career histories. Even though I may not have been interested in their current roles in their given companies, I was curious about how they ended up where they are.
So, I reached out to them. When talking to these individuals about their career paths (and actually being interested in them rather than their business cards), I felt more connected to them. Furthermore, I learned more about myself, and what I could do with my future based on their choices and experiences. Let me give you some examples (I’m refraining from using real names for the sake of confidentiality, and making up nicknames for the sake of your entertainment).
Scenario #1: Waitress with a Marketing Brain
Waitress works for a different company (not as a waitress, however), but visited Mediavest to talk to the interns. A U of M graduate, she started off her career as a waitress, but used that experience to her advantage. She learned sales techniques, how to market different products to the right audiences, and gained knowledge on customer service and how to interact with consumers. She described herself as an “entertainment enthusiast,” someone who basically watches any show or movie out there. She had numerous jobs in media before her current one, largely because she claimed she gets bored easily and constantly wants to try new things.
What interested me: I could relate to her in that I also love television and movies, I’m from U of M as well, and I get bored very easily in that I refuse to live the same day twice.
What I learned: You don’t have to have knowledge about a particular area to pursue it as your career. In media, you can always hit the ground running and learn on the job, as long as you’re willing to hustle and be confident doing so. I used to always shy away from letting people know how much television I watch, but I learned that I should embrace the title, “entertainment enthusiast.” I really like the sound of that, don’t you?
Scenario #2: Music Whisperer
Whisperer graduated college wanting to enter the entertainment industry; more specifically, the music industry. However, at the time, he found that the industry was in a hiring slump. He had interned at Focus Features and Marvel Comics, but his experiences led him to choose the route of an agency. He felt it was a better fit for him because agencies give a broad perspective on the industry, where you have to understand the drive of clients’ business and goals. Even though none of his internship experiences gave him exposure to the agency side of the media industry, he learned that people will always teach you what you need to know as long as you’re willing. To him, the culture of a company is crucial because if you don’t like the people that you work with, even if it’s your dream job, you’ll be miserable.
What interested me: His entertainment-related internships, his knowledge about the opportunities in the industry, and the fact that he, also, becomes bored easily and has a zest for life. At this point, I started to notice a pattern with people working in the media industry.
What I learned: Taking risks and jumping out of your comfort zone can benefit you. Don’t narrow your dream job too much because you may not be aware of another opportunity you’d love more. Therefore, continuously learn, read, study, and adapt.
Scenario #3: Homegirl from Ho(M)e
Homegirl is also a U of M alumna and has worked at the same media agency for a very long time. Before that, she worked at Disney ABC Television Group. However, even though she worked in two different industries (entertainment and media), her career path focused on one common area: recruiting. She discussed good networking techniques: how to make an impression, how they can help you, but also, how you can help them.
What interested me: She was a U of M alumna as well, she worked at Disney ABC Television Group (#goals) where recruiting is all about the connections you have, and her immense networking knowledge.
What I did: I walked up to her and did exactly what she had talked about in terms of good networking. I brought up U of M (which was a hit, as you can imagine), and outright told her that I was interested in the entertainment industry. She replied with a smile, “Well, now you know me. Send over your résumé when you’re looking and I’ll help you out!”
While I know that the last example wasn’t a great one because I was more interested in the connections she had, I did learn a lot from her, however. She helped me see that people know the difference between when you’re sweet-talking them for their connections and when you’re genuinely interested in learning. Keep in mind, however, they have busy lives too. While networking, we have to figure out how we can help THEM, why helping us will benefit THEM, and why they should even take the time.
I learned so much this summer – not just from what my managers and team had taught me on the job, but also, from talking to them about their past and their future goals. The more I talk to people and hear their stories, the more I learn about myself – and that’s why this internship has taught me more than I could have ever imagined. I had the unique opportunity to work with individuals while also learning about their diverse backgrounds. While it’s a different kind of learning than sitting in a classroom, it’s definitely an exciting one.