This is part of a larger series called the Vox Creative Grad Guide.
KAMRAN DRAEGER, 2015 GRADUATE
Back in high school, I would spend most of my time playing video games and watching countless shows and videos online. I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do with myself, but I had a passion for all these things, and I wanted to turn that into a career. Something that stuck with me was a quote by Burnie Burns I heard about 10 years ago: “If you’re going to waste your time doing something, you might as well make money off of it.”
While I hadn’t the faintest clue about which job was right for me, I knew working in digital media was the place to be. I started viciously seeking out internships, part-time jobs, and work experience placements. With every role I took on, I gained a better appreciation for the industry, and how I could apply myself. As part-time gigs transitioned into freelance work and ultimately full-time jobs, I reached a point where I understood my strengths, and gained a critical eye for the things I am passionate about. I continued to spend most of my free time consuming digital media (and playing video games when I could), but had come to recognize why the creators and publishers I admired were not only entertaining, but distinguished from others.
It’s this understanding that has brought me to a career at Vox Media. I look up to the talent I’m surrounded by, and am proud of the work we put out here. As a Creative Strategist I’ve found a job that matches my strengths, while allowing me to work on the things I love to obsess over.
KEENYA SCOTT, 2005 GRADUATE
Some of the best advice I’ve ever received was from my uncle, a Dean at Tufts University, over Thanksgiving vacation one year. I see a lot of my extended family once a year and I’m sure every time they saw me I had a new job or career direction, probably because I did. Finding your calling or something you’re passionate about, that you can see yourself doing for the foreseeable future is quite a big commitment and one I was certainly having a hard time with. The advice I received that stayed with me was the ability to see the good and purpose in everything that you do. It’s easy to see where you want to be, but what is most helpful is to understand the skills you gain from your current situation. Everything that you do, whether it’s a part-time job, being a teammate on a team, or just volunteering your time, all of it has a purpose that will help shape you as a person — and potentially your future.
What I personally took from this tidbit of advice is that life is a journey and so is my professional career. The jobs that I liked the least and thought would serve me no purpose all taught me valuable tools and took me one step closer to my overall goals. Being here at Vox Media, I’ve gotten the chance to actualize so many of my professional goals because of the skills I gained from past experiences — and some of those jobs at the time I without a doubt thought served no purpose and didn’t align with my professional aspirations. Although that is the point, everything has a purpose. Your career is full of twists and turns and ups and downs but remember along the entire way what your goals are, and remember all the moments along the way are helping pave the way to your ultimate professional greatness.
CHRISTOR JENKINS, 2012 GRADUATE
A few weeks ago, I was playing the game Hot Seat and was asked a deceptively difficult question. “If you could go back in time four years ago and tell yourself one thing, what would it be?” Vague, get-rich-quick answers popped into my head: Powerball, Bitcoin, March Madness brackets. Predictable. Then a voice came in loud and clear. “I would tell myself, ‘You are good enough.’”
In the first few weeks at my first job, I scheduled some ads in Adwords to fire at the wrong time and an entire campaign was down for half the day. The second half of the day was spent on client calls explaining how it happened and why it would never happen again. At that point, it was the worst day of my career. The difference between “&” and “and” made me fear that I was inadequate and inept. That fear is magnified when you’re young and a minority, because whether real or perceived, we often feel the burden of being exceptional. And in the embarrassing learning moments, when self-doubt grows but confidence shrinks, it’s important to remember that you are indeed good enough. As you gain experience and responsibility, you’ll find yourself in new rooms, with important people, having big conversations. It can be easy to lose your voice. Navigating rooms with big personalities and politics, while also wanting to feel like you can contribute, is difficult. Internal doubts can keep you quiet. On those days it’s important to remember that not only are you good enough, but you may very well be the most qualified and insightful voice in the room. This is a fast, challenging, but always interesting industry. A lot will go wrong. There will be blowups and hard conversations. But a lot can go right, too.
ALIYA KARIM, 2012 GRADUATE
Video Writer, Explainer Studio
I joined Vox Creative in January to write scripts for Explainer videos — content that dives deep into fascinating topics while weaving in a brand. This is vastly different from any writing I’ve ever done. It’s challenging, and I’m still learning. That’s exactly what I signed up for.
As an avid reader, I’d formed a passion for writing and had been set on becoming a reporter since high school. I learned the foundations of journalism from veteran reporters in the nation’s capital. But I was disappointed that my first college internship wasn’t reporting for a news organization and instead I was communicating on behalf of a think tank.
I ended up enjoying it.
Journalism stayed at the top of my mind. I got a master’s in strategic communication, thinking I could use knowledge of the other side of the podium to become a star reporter. Never in a million years did I think the persuasion of comms would work on me, but it did.
I took my communication skills to a nonprofit, where I interviewed those impacted by hunger, and the humanitarians working with them. I created multimedia content to tell their stories. I engaged with tens of thousands of supporters on social media. And it still wasn’t enough. I craved more writing opportunities, more storytelling, more creativity. That’s how I found my way to Vox Creative.
My first months in the branded content world have been tough. Writing for video is hard. Writing for a brand is hard. But, writing in general is hard. I’ve realized this is all a continuous learning process. My career is not what I thought it would be, but its underlying foundation has been my love for the written word. Branded content is a new beast I’m wrangling with, but I’m building on skills I’ve always been passionate about.
ALEX CHEUNG, 2017 GRADUATE
As a recent graduate myself, I’ve only been on the “other side” for a short amount of time. Despite that, I’ve learned quite a bit about myself and my own journey. Ironically, graduation feels a little like being a freshman all over again. As you adapt to a new environment and start to figure out your career, there are a lot of things that can help you start off on the right foot.
Stay true to your interests and passions, but don’t be afraid to take risks in things that you may not have a lot of familiarity with. Remember that graduation does not signal the end of learning. Like a freshman, you should be constantly looking for opportunities to grow both professionally and personally. A good place to start would be to look for a mentor/role model and once you’ve found someone who is willing to help you, don’t take it for granted!
Use your own time to refine and expand your own skillset. I’ve often found that your own personal growth can mirror professional success. Also, be a good human. It’s a fast-paced world, so it’s paramount to remember the little things: Be punctual, be kind, be helpful, be a team player, and be yourself! Whether it’s in an interview or your first day (or any day, really), it’s important to strive to treat people the right way.
Lastly, remember to take a breath. Everyone’s post-grad experience is different, so enjoy the unique journey you’re on.
TINA BRAZ, 2015 GRADUATE
When I started my bachelor of arts in film studies at a university in South Africa, I didn’t expect to find myself — 10 years later — working in branded content for a major media company in New York City. Each step on my journey grew out of an unexpected opportunity to which I responded, “Okay, I can definitely try it.”
It began with the opportunity to apply for the limited entry screenwriting program recommended by one of my professors, which exposed me to producing — essentially organizing, which I really love to do. When the opportunity arose to pursue a graduate degree in the U.S., an MFA in producing felt like a good fit. As I neared the end of the program with plans to go into narrative film producing, I took an internship at a feature film production company in South Africa that happened to have a commercials division. At the end of the internship, there was a production coordinator position available in commercials, which I decided to try until I could get something in features. It turned out that I loved the quicker turnarounds and more outrageous creative concepts. I loved the power of advertising too — its ability to affect you emotionally, to inspire you creatively, to engage you imaginatively. Producing in advertising was hard work but also so much fun.
Sadly, I couldn’t ignore the reality that most advertising is avoided, and that in the digital media age especially, brands have to work harder and smarter to create something that not only promotes their product but gives the viewer something valuable in exchange for watching. Enter branded content — a way to give the people interesting, entertaining, informative content that is paid for by a brand (and may incorporate that brand or its ideals) but is still valuable beyond the brand’s integration. A friend recommended me for a role as a project manager in the branded content division of a media company in New York — far removed from coordinating in South Africa, but sure, I could try it! It was a whole new experience, but my organization skills grew tremendously. And after a year of project managing, I was promoted into my current role as a branded content producer.
You would not believe what you can do if you just open yourself up to trying it. Sure, it might not be what you thought you wanted, it might not be what you expected when you signed up, it might not even be something that you ultimately can do or enjoy doing — but you’ll never know if you don’t try it. When you try, and give something your all, you’re so much less likely to fail. It’s so easy to build yourself a plan when you begin — laying out exactly which steps you need to take to achieve your “dream” — but in trying things that aren’t necessarily part of that plan, you might just find something else wonderful. And even if you don’t, at least you tried.