This summer has indeed been a blessing in many ways I can’t begin to explain. I interned at HOT 97 — the biggest hip-hop station in the country — and Hip-Hop DX, a popular hip-hop news site. I also got to volunteer for a celebrity-studded charity event that talk show host Wendy Williams held for her birthday for people struggling with drug addiction. And two weeks ago, I was at the annual Black Journalists’ convention and got to meet professionals (some of them for the second and third time) who work for Buzzfeed, VIBE Magazine, NBCUniversal among others. After having several interviews and offers from places like Sirius XM, iHeartMedia, Sony Music, Atlantic Records, I finally made my decision on where I want to intern. And this fall I will be interning at VIBE Magazine which also under the same umbrella as Billboard Magazine, The Hollywood Reporter & SPIN.
Many of my friends and peers who are also media/communication students ask me how I get all these hook-ups to meet some of the biggest celebrities and industry players. (first of all, I don’t take it for granted). They also ask how I score all these opportunities for internships, freelance gigs and everything in-between. So I want to share some tips with you. People will always say it’s “who you know, it’s who you know” the gag is that there are a million ways to get to success.
Mainly it was the endless hustle within me, and what I did and being fearless. There have been people that I made connections with that helped me land gigs and interviews, but that wouldn’t have happened had I not put myself out there through organizations and networking events.
I’m from a small town long island and probably like many of you reading this; I don’t have family members who work in the media/entertainment. So I had to start from scratch.
But enough about me, here are my tips to get your foot in the door …
1. what do you want to do? (no shade, but be realistic)
When I say be realistic, I mean something you are wholeheartedly good at. Something that people (from friends to family to strangers) tell you that you’re GOOD at. If you can’t rap/sing or if you’re not comfortable being on-air, there are plenty of areas you can go in where you are behind the scenes. However, once you identified what you are good at, continue honing in on that skill (even in your free time). It also helps to show your well-roundedness. And another piece of unsolicited advice, don’t go for a particular career because it’s gonna get you cool points or more clout with your community, cause then it’s going to show. As vapid as people have always seen celebrity gossip/culture, it’s been my affinity since I could remember before anyone gave a shit about it. Now everyone eats up whatever The Shade Room throws to their news feed, but I’ve been consuming People Magazine & PerezHilton.com since I was 12. I’m waiting for the day that I can interview a big-named star (and do my research the night or week prior). Answer yourself this question: can you see yourself in the profession for the next 30+ years and adapting with the times??
2. invest in yourself
I can’t stress this enough. However, I will acknowledge my spoiled child privilege. And I grew up with a single mom and although she spoiled me as a kid & still does on certain occasions), she taught how to get things on my own and be independent despite being spoiled.
But whether you’re like me or must rely solely on your hard-earned paychecks from your campus job (or a combination of the two)….you need to invest in yourself because it’s going to carry you far in the future. I go to college in southern Connecticut, almost a 2-hour ride on the metro north from NYC’s grand central and while the fare for the railroad is expensive… I always kept the futuristic vision in my mind when deciding to travel back and forth for networking events and meetups. If you live near or in a major city — you need to take advantage of the what it has to offer to your future professions. Save some of those coins for a happy hour networking. Some may be free, some may cost $, and u might want to stick with glass water or soda if you can’t handle your liquor — this business, you’re not here to have a good time.
Another part is you have to realize…YOU’RE A COLLEGE STUDENT!! and with that comes paying much less for membership fees of an organization that could help you land an internship or gig. here are organizations that can lead your foot in the door
Grammy U – $50/year
New York Women in Communications — $95/year
If you’re producing and curating media, you’re gonna have to open your wallet for services (or utilize the programs your school offers) — cause honey it ain’t cheap. SoundCloud pro is $15/month if you’re trying to take podcast/radio seriously. Final Pro X is $200. Adobe creative cloud is $21/month for students. Also, try to find discounts or finesse some of these for free. Recently I discovered a website that might be beneficial. Patreon allows content creators such as me to get paid by running a membership business for your fans.
Be fearless…it’ll be a financial strain, but in the end, it’s all gonna pay off.
3. You: “but I’m an introvert.” Vivica A. Fox: “put that where? back there!!”
if you are:
- not a people person
- anti-social on-campus (barely in any student involvement)
- “but I’m introvert, ” I’m awkward.”
- Not competitive,
- not itching to go out to happy hour networking events on 8th ave.
Then this industry is not for you! Find another occupation. And this coming from someone who does have awkward social tendencies… I get it…when I’m around new people. I get shy….especially when you’re at places like NABJ convention where it’s busy AF….however worry less about your social anxiety and bring your best self-forward — here are some hacks via Forbes on how to combat introversion.
Regarding being a student, this is your time to get involved in organizations and student media as much as possible — whether it’s the clubs that organizes the annual spring concert or your campus radio station/newspaper. Or create your youtube series or podcasts. But don’t sit and expect things to fall in your lap right away. which leads to tip no. 4
4. your 4.0 GPA…nobody cares sis
Before I continue: if you have scholarships to maintain or if you have parents that will crack your skull for bringing in a 2.9 GPA, then do what you gotta do but still hear what I gotta say. also, I can only speak for media/communication/entertainment students (i don’t know how grades come into play for other careers)
Making dean’s list is good, and all, but NETWORKING & A ROLODEX OF EXPERIENCE WILL GET YOU A JOB FASTER THAN YOUR DEGREE WILL. So you got to have more than just a high GPA!! I’ve watched many friends & former classmates graduate from college, and they are either unemployed or working as a barista at Starbucks or their local grocery store. For the ones who are spending $100k in student loans for college, you need to get what you came for, and that’s a job in your field. So your hustle starts now…..
5. if you’re a woman, POC, or queer … you have more opportunity than ever
If you’re a marginalized person — a woman, a person of color, or a queer, there is no excuse that you can’t go out there and make your dream happen. I’m a student member of the national association of black journalists ($43/year), and since I joined in December, it’s opened up an array of opportunities that I otherwise wouldn’t have had. many media companies are reaching out to companies like NABJ as they’re looking to add more people of color to their staff (whether it’s interns or full-on employees) in the age “we need diversity, or we’re gonna look racist as fuck.” I’ve been able to visit companies like Buzzfeed & Google because of the New York chapter that I’m apart of that holds meetings once a month.
And I got my first paid freelance gig and the opportunity to internally apply to different companies thanks to the several GroupMe chats tailored for black people who aspire or work in the industry (Young, Black & Professional, Millennials in Media, Melanin Digital Content Creators). Recently, Viacom held it’s first Multicultural Media Summit born out of “the purpose to bring together college-level students from multicultural and diverse backgrounds to showcase the media industry and Viacom as a first choice place to build their career.” Here are some places you can join that further help you polish your skills and network:
- National Association of Hispanic Journalists
- NLGJA – The Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists
- Asian American Journalists Association
- African American Film Critics Association
- GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics
- National Association for Multi-Ethnicity In Communications
- Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN)
- American Black Film Festival
- The Black ERG Collective
- Music Industry — Career Networking Group!
5. your resume (and your social media) is always going to need the zhoosh-up
Your resume is super important when it comes to applying for internships and jobs. And since we’re media/entertainment folks, we have more freedom than fields other fields to be creative with your resume, hence mines. As for your social media.. make it friendly to the profession that you want to have! make sure you have a professional looking bio on your Instagram and Twitter page so that people know that you mean business…AND UTLIZIE LINKEDIN TO THE FULLEST. IF YOU DO SOME DEEP DIGGING BY CLICKING THROUGH FILTERS YOU CAN POSSIBLY FIND ALUMNI FROM YOUR SCHOOL OR SORORITY SISTERS/FRAT BROTHERS THAT WORK AT THE COMPANIES YOU’RE TRYING TO APPLY TO … USE YOUR INNER RESOUECES. I was able to learn that two people who attended my college — one is a booking agent for 21 Savage & Post Malone, while the other one worked at iHeartMedia’s Power 105.1 for 14 years as a program/music director and on-air personality — even recruited Charlamange the God (my career hero) for the Brekafast Club.
What website do I use? Canva.com and it’s FREE to use. Whenever you have a new position that’s related to what you want to make sure it’s on your resume. If you heavily involved on campus, make sure that’s on your resume. Your GPA (over 3.0), awards, relevant courses, freelance work. Make sure you have an online website/portfolio and a place where people can click on to your resume. And make sure you have it on your LinkedIn page. YOUR RESUME SHOULD ABSOLUTELY NOT BE MORE THAN ONE PAGE!! THE AVERAGE TIME RECRUITERS LOOK AT YOUR RESUME IS SIX SECONDS. So START PUTTING THE REMIX ON IT. AND MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR DUTIES & RESPONSIBILITIES ARE TO THE POSITION YOU ARE HOLDING OR ABOUT TO HOLD.
6. stepping out comfort zone (location)
Depending on your financial situation (cause certain cities are expensive) or your dream professions, you might have to seek employment in markets outside of wherever you live. If you live in Minnesota and want to work in the music industry, you might have to live in the Nashville, New York or Los Angeles where the majority of the music industry jobs are. If you want to be the most prominent radio personality, you have to start from the bottom up. No one starts off on-air in new york; even your favorite has started off at small-in-the-cut markets….and at the age of 21, 22…you want to be able to be in a lively city where all the action is happening…
7. don’t listen to anyone — not even your family & friends (not everyone has your best interest) !!
Whether you grew up in a multicultural household, a small town of in-the-cut America, or a woman who dreams of paving the way for other women in your future profession, it is not going to be an easy journey to where you want to be.
Along the way to your destination, you’re gonna have people who don’t believe you’re your vision. Those who say a career in media/arts/entertainment is not realistic or a viable way to support yourself. Don’t let anyone get in your head and steer you in another direction when you know what’s in your heart. Not your family. Not your teachers. Not your friends. Not even your brothers & sisters. Be fearless. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have my own shares of insecurities. But if I listened to what everyone told me I should say and do, hell I wouldn’t even in college right now, doing the damn thing. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am capable. I can do it. Because I did. (and I still have a long way to go !! ) and so can you…