In the fall of 2011, I was enrolled in my Master’s program at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg school for Communications & Journalism. During first semester, I met Professor Craig who made it very clear early on that it was about who you know, not what you know. Building relationships, networking and making it happen would get you the job and keep the job.
Post-graduation with my degree and an early start on looking for jobs, I was jobless. I was sitting in the Annenberg lobby applying to jobs during the summer when Professor Craig spotted me.
“Kiana, what are you doing in here?!” He asked.
I explained I couldn’t find a job and, needless to say, I felt lost on my next steps.
“Well, what are you doing in the meantime to show future employers that you are passionate and interested?” He asked
He gave me an assignment to look up places which merged my interests in both social issues and entertainment. The homework really empowered, motivated and introduced me to organizations and people I wanted to learn more about. Talking to him for those 5–10 minutes motivated me more than anything I heard since graduation.
Sadly, I was unable to secure a job in Los Angeles, moved back home to my parents’ house and accepted a job that I hated. Depressed, I channeled that emotion into hard work and effort. I started a blog where I discussed all things culture: food, music, travel, film popular culture, advocacy, race and ethnicity. I was interested in ways of using both my degrees in Sociology and Communications and began to research companies that were using media as a tool for social change and/or saw entertainment as a powerful medium to influence ideologies and discourse.
That fall, I found a small non-profit in San Francisco. The non-profit was a social justice and communications start-up that used film to advance social justice issues through strategic communication campaigns. I decided to reach out to the founder and asked for an informational interview.
About two months later, she wrote back and we set up a time to chat over Skype. I told her about myself, my interests, my research and she gave me insight to her career trajectory as well as the company. It was a great conversation and she offered to write me a recommendation for any job I applied to. We kept in touch. I sent her my blog posts that related to her interests and in return she would give me advice and discuss career opportunities.
I checked back often to see if they were hiring and spotted a job posting I liked. I sent her my information, told her I was going to apply, and she forwarded my information to the Executive Director. I had a phone interview for the position and then was given the proposition to meet the Executive Director in Chicago for an in person meeting while she was there for business. I took the 6 hour train ride to Chicago and interviewed for the position over dinner. I was equipped with my resume, related writing pieces and felt fully prepared as the right candidate. I was offered the position, and was the first person ever hired outside of California. I relocated to San Francisco in 2013, just one year after graduation.
The lessons I learned through my class with Professor Craig and USC helped me in securing what I could call at the time a dream job and company. Informational interviews have become one of my most important lessons from grad school, while networking and creating a space for your passion to blossom from Professor Craig has enhanced both my personal and professional world. Things don’t come easy, but can turn around in due time if you are focused, determined and polish your skills in the interim.
The wisdom Professor Craig gave me still sticks.
“The fundamental takeaway is that you can translate your passion into a career, but first you have to prove it. What’s great is you can. You have the tools, the means, and the network. Don’t wait to get paid to make it happen. I promise, the job, money and career will follow.”
And it did.
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