Category Archives: careers

Why I Want To Do My Own Music Marketing

This past semester, I took my first two music classes at Duke in Electronic Music and Music Composition. Since then, I’ve been creating my own beats and with enough practice, I hope to become a full time musician.

But until then, I need a day job to pay my student loans; part of the reason why I want to pursue a career in marketing and sales. As I mentioned in my blog post yesterday, I’ve got goals that I want to accomplish, and two of those goals are being an expert ad salesman and social media marketer.

I am passionate about both fields but of late I’ve begun to notice an ulterior motive for why I am pursuing a career in marketing.

Let’s say I were an aspiring musician growing up in the 90’s. I would have to send out demos and play at local clubs and bars for the chance of getting a record deal and becoming a star.

Sure, I could have good music, but that didn’t necessarily guarantee that I would make it big. What did guarantee stardom was the record labels and their marketing power.

They could get me on the radio, television, and print, and then I would be a star.

Record labels still can do this, but in today’s digital age, you and I can become sensations all on our own.

I read a post today on Social Media Today titled, “How Emerging Artists Use Social Media“, and it talks about 18 year old Travis McDaniel, a young musician and songwriter who is using social media to grow and build his fan base.

But the author cautions that it is not easy to build an audience; it takes a lot of effort.

I would agree. Just like it’s hard to build a dedicated following on Twitter, or get a lot of subscribers to your blog, creating a rabid fan base using the internet takes time, dedication, and effort.

Which is why I am pursuing a career in marketing.

You see, I could probably launch my music career now. Except that 1) I’m not that good yet, and 2) I’d much rather wait until I have marketing experience to do so.

By waiting until I have the requisite experience, I can ensure that I when I do launch my music career full-time, I’ll know what I’m doing and won’t have to pay anyone else.

By then I hope I’ll have built relationships with the blogs and other press, and I’ll have the marketing know-how and connections to plaster my name across the internet.

When I launch, I want to do it right, I want to do it professionally, and I want to do it myself. I could pay someone to do it for me, but where’s the fun in that?

The fun comes from working hard and seeing yourself succeed. At the end of the day, I want to be able to say that I’m responsible for my own success. #selfmade



How I Spent My Spring Break (It Was Not In Punta Cana)

You know what’s really frustrating?

Being on Spring Break and seeing all the annoying Facebook and Twitter status updates that read, “Puntaaa Cannaaa”, and “We About to Get Loose!!!”, and “Shots, Shots, Shots!!!!”

Or something like that. Either way it’s been pretty annoying.

Or maybe it’s just sour grapes on my part because I didn’t do something wild and crazy for Spring Break. (Senior year I know right?)

Anyways, I decided to be productive and make some moves on my life after Duke.

While at home I reformatted my resume and wrote cover letters for a few job openings, but the single most important thing I did over Spring Break was network.

And my emphasis on networking yielded some fantastic results.

A week ago I met up with an older friend who works for the social media marketing agency M80, owned by media agency Mediacom.

It was probably one of the coolest experiences I’ve had to date.

I really loved the casual environment of the place. It was how I imagined a media agency to be.

Wide open spaces. Free food. Everything was laid back. There may have been one guy in a suit. Foul language was encouraged. But apparently not when using a brands Twitter account 🙂

ESPN was there doing a Lunch and Learn. (Foolishly I did not stay for lunch)

But those are just semantics. The real important part was talking to the employees. I was fortunate to have someone come up and talk to me and explain exactly what it was like to work in a social media marketing agency.

Here are some things I took away from my experience:

1. Think about using social media from a brand perspective.

When I first sat down to talk to my friend’s colleague, the first question he asked me was, “Why do you want to work in social media?”

I paused and thought for a moment. Why do I like social media?

I couldn’t really come up with a satisfactory response so I said, “Because I love connecting with people?”

Apparently this was not good enough, and I got a harsh reality check.

Just because I have a Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin account does not mean that I know how to utilize social media effectively. There is a big difference between using those channels for personal use and using them professionally for a Fortune 500 company.

Although to my credit, when he began telling me about their sentiment analysis tool, I brought up Dell’s social media command center and how difficult it was to measure sentiment. He was impressed.

2. The social media space is still evolving.

After getting thoroughly grilled, I was able to ask some questions of my own.

“What is the typical workday like?” I asked.

“Typical?” he responded. “There is no typical workday. Every day is different.”

I loved that answer. Basically what he meant is that there is currently no rulebook for practicing social media like there is for traditional marketing. These guys are making it up as they go along, seeing what works, what doesn’t, and adjusting accordingly.

Which is incredibly exciting (at least for me) because I can pave my own path to success in social media.

Which leads me to the third thing I learned,

3. Pick an area of expertise, and dominate it.

I wrote a post last week about finding a niche and owning it, and the same advice seems to keep popping up. It doesn’t matter what it is, it could be real estate or medicine.

By practicing social media in your own niche, you’ll be able to see what works, what doesn’t, and then you’ll be able to apply what you learned if you ever get hired as a social media marketing manager or whatever.

Why Cover Letters Suck

For me, writing cover letters is hard.

It’s not that I don’t know how to write a good cover letter (I was able to get a couple interviews for internships last summer) or that the stakes have changed (applying for a job is a lot different than applying for an internship IMO).

Writing cover letters is hard because cover letters suck.

Well, at least the traditional cover letter.

The traditional cover letter is outdated – a remnant from the stone age when people actually wrote letters and mailed them at the post office.

They’re dry, they’re formulaic, and they suck.

You start out by listing your name and address, and the employer before writing this:

Dear Mr. Smith

I am writing to express my interest in…

You then proceed to briefly talk about your past jobs and experiences before requesting an interview at the end.

Dull. Boring. And more importantly, sucky.

Where’s the room for creativity and personality? How am I supposed to express myself when I’m boxed in by custom?

Sure, you can add a little bit of creativity and personality here and there, but the traditional cover letter just isn’t optimized for it.

I’d prefer to write my cover letters like I write my blog posts – conversational in style and tone, with a good story to draw the reader in.

This way I can show off both my skills and my creativity to a potential employer.

Although blog writing my cover letters might not work for every job I apply to, I think it can work for certain employers.

Take this cover letter I wrote recently. Instead of starting out by explaining my interest, I began by telling a story.

When a job posting shows up in my Google Reader with the title “Marketing Assistant” or “Account Executive”, I’m inclined to pass them by.

The jobs themselves might actually be interesting, but you wouldn’t know it from the title.

If I write a blog post with the headline, “Improving Your Writing Skills”, readers are less likely to click on my post than if I said, “10 Sure-Fire Ways To Improve Your Writing Skills!”

So when I saw a post asking for a “Creative Social Technologist”, I thought to myself, Now that sounds like a cool job!

This is only the second time I’ve written a cover letter like this, so for me to suggest that you throw all caution to the wind and write your cover letters this way wouldn’t make much sense. Unless you hate them as much as I do.

But if I do hear back from those two employers (fingers crossed), I’ll be able to make that recommendation.

I guess the only downside is that I can’t just copy and paste from cover letters I’ve written previously. But it will be all the more better when I hopefully hear back from employers requesting an interview.

What do you think of the traditional cover letter? How do you write yours?

The Case For More Internships

If I could go back to the first day that I began college, the first thing I would have done was to get an on campus job or internship.

From my freshman year up to my junior year, I was both too lazy to seriously apply for a job or internship, and didn’t realize that internships were crucial for experience.

Luckily, I learned just in time for the summer after my junior year that I needed an internship if I was ever going to get a job after college. After all, I had no skills, just some knowledge in my head and a couple unformed ideas.


My Internship Experience

So I got an internship in DC working for a nonprofit. It wasn’t the most glamorous position but it taught me many lessons, including that a life in politics was not for me.

Returning to school for my senior year, I was hired for two on campus jobs that I believed would pay huge dividends for me. I figured these two internships, plus the one I completed over the summer would give me enough experience and make me competitive for jobs in 2011.

I was right – sort of. Even with those three internships, many of the jobs I see all over the internet still seem to require many things I don’t have – whether it’s 3-5 years of experience in an agency setting or some skill that I couldn’t possibly be proficient in at this point in my life.


Do I Need More Internship Experience?

But on the bright side I’ve seen many internships that would be perfect for me; from digital and social media marketing internships to music internships.

Many of them want a future college grad like me who has experience creating and running a campaign, managing a presence across social networks, and building and maintaining relationships online.

This makes me happy because to be honest, I don’t really think I’m ready to be tossed into the fire just yet.

An internship for a few months while I got to learn the ropes could do me well before a full-time position.


Keeping An Eye Out For Those Internships

So while I apply for full-time jobs I will also actively be looking for internships to help me gain experience.

But if someone wants to hire me for a full time job after graduation, I probably wouldn’t complain too much.


How many internships have you had? Have they been good or bad experiences? Share them in the comments below.

Networking Key To A Successful Job Search

I’ve stated a few times on this blog that one of my goals is to have a job lined up before I graduate in May.

While I still want this to happen, I wouldn’t be too disappointed if I did not have a job until a few months out.

The reason? I just know that I will find something that I enjoy doing eventually; it’s just a matter of hard work, luck, and networking of course.

That last bit is the one piece of advice that I keep hearing over and over again: that networking is absolutely crucial to finding a job.

Before I started my job search, I never really took this seriously. Sure, I’ve networked before, but it wasn’t anything near as strategic as what I am doing now. I’ve been sending out emails, using Linkedin and Twitter, and talking to my brother’s friends.

The best part is that I’m not networking for the sake of finding a job (ok maybe it’s in the back of my mind but there are other reasons as well).

I’m networking because I am really and truly lost in this mess that is the Web.

As I started my job search, I became more and more frustrated because there were so many interesting and rewarding career paths for me to focus on. I’m interested in Social Media and the Web, and those two industries right there mean a dozen different jobs. What about marketing? Do I focus on a job in Internet Marketing, Mobile Advertising or Digital Public Relations? Or do I go a different path and pursue my love for Music? Or maybe I should start my own company?

Another reason this is all so confusing is because many of these fields are new, and haven’t had time to fully define their true roles yet.

Which I’m OK with because I do enjoy watching them develop, but currently it is incredibly frustrating.

So my solution to all this confusion and uncertainty is just to network my butt off and learn as much as I can people who have done it before me.

Networking removes pressure because even if I’m not writing cover letters or researching companies, I am still doing wonders for career. Not only am I learning, but eventually through the connections I’ll have made, I’ll be able to find a job that suits me.

How is networking helping you in your job search?

3 Motivations For Finding A Job After College

Like the majority of college seniors and recent college graduates, I want a job and I want it now.

This is rather, obvious.

I mean we work our whole lives to be successful; we get good grades in high school so we can get into good colleges so that we can pursue careers that are rewarding financially and intellectually.

As I embark on this job search, I would like to share with you 3 things that are driving me:

1. Having a job means not being broke anymore.

Or at least slightly less broke. I understand that I probably won’t be making much money coming out of college (hopefully $40 grand), but that doesn’t mean that I can’t get excited about some disposable income.

There’s so many ways I could burn a couple thousand, it’s not even funny.

I could think of a few products I might buy: an iPad, and iPhone (on Verizon) and and a Macbook Pro.

I’d be set. 🙂

2. Having a job means not having to learn any more useless facts.

What was the impact of the Treaty of Versailles on Western Europe?

I’m sure I’ve been asked that question at some point, and while the answer does interest me somewhat, I have to feel that my time in the classroom could be better spent.

When I have a job, I won’t have to worry about coming home to write a paper analyzing the colonization of the West Indes (sorry if that’s your thing).

I could think of so many things I’d rather be doing: blogging, resting, watching TV, eating, running, writing, and learning (things I actually want to learn).

3. Having a job would make my parents proud.

This is the motivation that is really driving me. By securing a job, that means that I’ll be repaying my parent’s investment ($45,000/year adds up) in me. I know how hard they’ve worked to get me to where I am today and I am thankful for that.

There’s a second part to this as well. Having a job means no more cleaning up my room or shoveling snow out of the driveway.

Instead, I can just sit back and read a nice book, and not have to worry about my parents hollering at me to do something.


These are just some of the ideas that motivate me to find a job after college. What motivates you?