Wondering what would motivate students to sit inside SVA’s Fine Arts Department on a balmy 71° degree Saturday in New York City? Simple, an opportunity to network and learn from speakers at companies like BBDO, Behance, Google, FourSquare, LinkedIn, NBC Universal, Skillshare and Tumblr at NY Creative Interns’ “Find and Follow Your Passion” conference. The brainchild of former Hofstra students Emily Miethner and Reb Carlson, now run by Miethner and Community Manager Marny Smith, NY Creative Interns mission is “enabling college students and recent grads to find internships, mentors, and inspiration through networking and meetups,” a mission that these dynamic young women are well on their way to accomplishing.
The organization, which celebrated it’s one year anniversary in December has already become one of the largest and most active groups of interns in New York City previously hosting events of over 1,400 people and now over 1,650 with a host of well known sponsors. Aside from the organization’s early success and the relatively young age of the founders, part of what makes NY Creative Interns unusual is that it is what was frequently referred to at the conference as a “side hustle.” Surprisingly, Miethner, Carlson and Smith all have day jobs, Miethner at RecordSetter “the new home of world records,” Carlson at digital marketing agency 360i and Smith as Customer Support Manager at Challenge Post.
After checking in and grabbing the prerequisite conference tote bag I found myself at the threshold of a bright room packed with young faces, all armed with laptops and iPads eager to get started. As the crowd waited for things to get underway I talked with Ian Perry, a junior from Cornell studying engineering science who has his sites set on a future CTO role with a tech start up and other students. As they answered my questions about what prompted them to attend the conference, where they were at presently and future ambitions I couldn’t help thinking that these weren’t the impassive Gen Yers portrayed in news articles, they were students actively engaged in shaping their futures.
As the conference commenced Miethner’s comments set the tone as she said “you’ll get 100 times more work done when your inspired but nothing without hard work and long hours” encapsulating the core proposition of the event which community manager Marny Smith described as a “new breed of conference.” Keynote Josh Siegal, Supervising Producer/Writer at 30 Rock expanded on the theme of passion only being part of the equation, describing his experience of being a young writer coming up through the ranks he said “The extra mile is the first mile you have to be thinking about” and advised attendees not to think of following their passion as “an inward journey of happiness and rainbows” but like “an assassin, that you stalk from the rooftops, follow into a dark alley and pistol whip into a career” which, Siegal explained “is why they call it breaking in.”
Although the conference was aimed at students and recent grads there were a number of experienced professionals looking to transition to a new career, industry or both. Despite the different attendee backgrounds questions revolved around similar topics of what employers are looking for, how to stand out in the job market and especially in the case of transitioning professionals how to contextualize seemingly disparate experience. Responses were varied in the four sessions I attended but all had the following in common: be authentic, go beyond/hustle, be prepared, and have passion and commitment.
All the speakers spoke with candor, humor and grace but some highlights that stood out for me were in the “L-O-L to J-O-B: How to Harness Social the Power of Social Media in your Career” session, when Matthew Knell, Social Media Director at AOL talked about the importance of “being open, transparent and available” to deepening social media connections and Teresa Wu, Community Manager, Google Docs advised attendees to “craft a story, or picture of themselves beforehand;” in “Finding the Right Fit: In-house, Start-Up, Freelance, or Agency” when photographer Sarah Kehoe spoke about the importance of potential interns/hires being “hungry” and Dave Brown, Director of Digital Strategy at MKG referenced character Max Fischer’s lines “The secret, I don’t know… I guess you’ve just gotta find something you love to do and then… do it for the rest of your life.” from the movie Rushmore; when all the speakers Viktoria Harrison, Creative Director, Charity Water; Dan Rollman, Founder and President RecordSetter; Matias Corea, Co-Founder & Chief Designer Behance; shared their biggest failures in “Discovering Happiness, Why Taking Risks is Worth the Reward” and last but not least, in the session “Transitioning to the Top: Knowing How and When to Take the Next Step” when Antonio Neves, Founder, THINQACTION and Adama Sall, Planning Director BBDO responded to a question about lessons they’ve learned. Antonio replied, “Ask yourself, who makes you better? Who supports you, holds you accountable, challenges you and empowers you. These are your ‘allies of glory.’ Cherish and welcome them into your life.” and Adama Sall, Planning Director, BBDO NY advised “Force people to care about you and mentor you—be bold about it.”
Ultimately “Find and Follow Your Passion” delivered beneficial advice and expertise not just for interns or recent graduates, but graphic design job seekers at any level. For those who missed it, five of the sessions can be viewed via livestream here. To find out more about NY Creative Interns, become a sponsor or get involved visit www.nycreativeinterns.com