Have You Heard?

Career Planning

Fannie Mitchell Executive Director William Wright-Swadel on Career Security

Writing to parents about the career and professional development process is always a challenging thing to attempt—mostly because on almost every topic the conversation is very different depending on the student and his/her academic class year. In a newsletter like this one, 500 words go quickly!  There is however, one issue that students bring to us from parents, regardless of the academic progress of their daughter or son—career security. So let’s look at that issue today.

As the query comes to the career counselor from the student, it is usually about choosing a field that is stable, insulated to a large degree from the vagaries of the economy. It is a field where the companies are well known and prestigious; rarely lay off “good staff,” and where there is a strong commitment to the further education and upward mobility of those they hire.  It is a field that pays well, the employers respect work-life balance, and they have offices wherever in the world one wants to live, but never transfer staff except to where they ask to go.  Finally, the field should be filled with organizations with a set of values that we all can agree are in the best interest of today and tomorrow.

I have exaggerated a bit here, but only a bit.  I certainly understand the desire most parents have to ensure that their daughter or son will choose wisely and well and will be in a field and with organizations that can provide the stable environment many parents covet.  I am not sure this is a truly attainable goal for most students today—or that they share the goal with parents at this stage of their development.

The global market, into which our students launch, is dynamic, even volatile. Change is the constant and it happens with breathtaking speed. Organizations and industries shift to where opportunities exist or they create opportunities by defining new markets themselves. Innovation, entrepreneurship, impact, and the development or acquisition of new products, services, or domains of knowledge are the currency of stability for many organizations. Develop, acquire, define a brand, reflect upon its success or failure, and then adjust, adapt, and learn to deliver something new or something old in a different way. Some believe this is the mantra of the entrepreneur, but I have the same conversation with employers, regardless of size, longevity, domain, or even product.

I submit that stability for the individual student is much the same as described above for employers in the economy of today and tomorrow.  Stability will come from within, not from external partnerships with employers.  Those students who will thrive will be those who learn to learn in interdisciplinary ways, and across several very different domains of knowledge. They will have used the full range of academic, co-curricular, and experiential opportunities to articulate a brand, learn to compete, to adapt, and to reflect and assess outcomes (from successes and failures). They will learn to be effective in environments that are new, challenging, and filled with others quite different from themselves.  They will build a personal board of directors who will know and advise them. They will master the art of networking, initially using Duke alumni and parents. They will stay with an organization only as long as both are benefitting, not a moment longer.  So, they will learn to manage their professional development and their career as if it they were a corporation – as they likely will be!

For those of us, including many parents, who grew up hoping to find an employer who would hire, train, nurture, and develop us, this is a scary looking world. For most of the students with whom I speak it is a world that reflects their experiences and the way they anticipate they will grow most effectively.

It is not only the possession of a degree from a great university, like Duke University, that defines the future—though it is indeed a significant advantage. It is how the student went about getting the degree that most often tells the story of how effectively they will manage their professional life and how well they will create stability for themselves.

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Taking Advantage of Career Center Opportunities

The first week of my freshman year, I received some really important advice from a graduating senior that attended my high school. She told me “one of the best things about being a Duke student is all the opportunities the University has to offer you. It’s your job to take advantage of them.” As a graduating senior myself now, I’d like to think this has colored my Duke experience. I’ve had the opportunity to participate in service and academic engagement programs, attend and met numerous prominent campus figures, and travel abroad twice! I leave Duke confident I’ve made the most of my experience. 

But this advice didn’t only influence my approach to curricular and extra-curricular involvements. This advice was also indicative of my approach and experience with the Duke Career Center. When I was looking for a summer internship my sophomore year, I scheduled an appointment with a career counselor. Not having any idea of what I wanted to do, I went into the appointment feeling very lost. During my meeting I was told about all the opportunity seeking resources I could utilize to hone in on my interest, and connect with alumni in the field. Despite being a little overwhelmed at first, I got myself organized; I did my research, and dove right in.

My search began on DukeConnect; I was able to speak with several alumni to get more information on a variety of career paths I was interested in pursuing. I also submitted applications to various internship programs passed along to me through that initial appointment. I utilized the drop-in advising services to perfect all my resumes and cover letters. Ultimately, I was accepted to the INROADS program, which strives to place underrepresented students in the business industry. I received my first internship through the INROADS process with a pharmaceutical lobbying group. Through the program I was able to receive business and industry training, and interned with the company for two summers thereafter. My internships played a very large role in determining my career interests, and ultimately supported my decision to attend law school. However, I would have never known about the experience if I hadn’t taken advantage of the all the opportunities the Career Center offers to students.

Often times, Duke can seem like a daunting a place and the internship/job search can be as well. The sheer number of opportunities can be overwhelming. But that shouldn’t be a reason to shy away. Instead, in order to take make the most of your four years here, and as I was told my first week here “It’s your job to take advantage of them!”

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Ms. Trezza’s Kindergarten Class, Fall 1999

About Me! Worksheet

I found this worksheet at the back of my closet a few days before I left for college in Fall 2012.  Aside from a slightly better understanding of spelling, nothing much had changed in thirteen years, particularly my aspiration of becoming a doctor.  So, when I arrived at Duke, I was eager to start on the pre-med journey.  I, along with 300 other freshmen, excitedly (and naïvely, as I now know that nothing good can happen for me on Science Drive) walked up the long flight of stairs to Gross Chem to attend Chem 101.

As you may have realized already, I quickly found out that the long flight of stairs to what I thought would be an introduction to my career as a doctor was actually the flight of stairs to doom.  I learned that I couldn’t form any type of bond, covalent or ionic (get it?), with this class.  While my classmates were busy completing reaction equations and others sorts of smart chemistry things that I didn’t understand, I was busy flailing my arms in despair at the thought of continuing to take confusing classes that I was not passionate about for the next four years of my life.  I realized that I would have to look beyond my lifelong dream of being a doctor in search of something different.

Fast forward to present day, and I am now two years older, wiser, and an Economics major (so maybe not THAT wise).  Unlike freshman Lauren, I now have absolutely no idea what I want to do in the future.  I worked up a sweat running around the career fair as I stopped at every booth in every industry, from retail to banking, and I’ve spent many hours talking to whoever happens to be sitting next to me (to the freshman on the C1 two weeks ago: I’m sorry if I scared you) about the giant question mark that is my future.  Luckily, that person who’s sitting next to me has also become members of the staff at the Career Center, who are always there to listen to my latest debacles in my career search before reassuring me that whenever one door closes, another one opens.  I’ve found that it’s important to not be afraid of new opportunities and possibilities.  What I may want to do might be completely different from every other Economics major, but it’s also completely okay to try something new.  The most important thing about my choice is that it is something that I will enjoy, and as long as I am confident in my choice, success—and more importantly, happiness—will naturally follow.

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Duke Intern Influences National Marketing Campaign for Broadway’s Touring Production of Wicked

Q & A about Derek’s internship experience:
Your hometown:  Potomac, MD (just outside Washington, D.C.)

Your graduation date: May 2012 (but I graduated a year early)

Your major (and any minors + certificates): I majored in Political Science (American Politics) and minored in Psychology.

Your current job (title, employer, city, state): Proposal/Contracts Manager, T and T Consulting Services in Washington, D.C.

Student groups in which you participated at Duke: Duke Marketing Club, Duke Library Party, Asian Students Association, Multicultural Center, Center for Race Relations, International House, Leadership Roundtable, etc.

Other internships:
Outreach Intern at The Washington Bus, DukeEngage Program – Seattle
Youth Program Development Intern at Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote, Washington DC
Senate Page in the Maryland General Assembly, Maryland State House – Annapolis, MD
Congressional Intern for Congressman Chris Van Hollen (MD-08) at the United States House of Representatives, Washington DC

Overview of your general DPAC intern duties:
Assist the Managers for Concerts/Comedy and Broadway as integral parts of the marketing team.
Maintain presence for DPAC performances on social networking websites and event calendars.
Assist with media relations and press, including writing press releases and organizing press drops.
Participate in strategic planning and special events.
File and organize marketing settlements.
Help promote DPAC events by organizing promotional efforts both internally and on a grassroots level.

Discuss how you came to think of, create and facilitate your Wicked social media marketing idea. Why and how did you do it? What were the results?
I had the privilege of being blessed with a number of great Broadway shows and Concert/Comedy performances during my internship at DPAC, and supporting the marketing of Wicked was the ultimate culmination and test of what I could accomplish as a Marketing and Public Relations intern. Having seen Wicked on Broadway back in high school, I was already familiar with the show and felt strongly about its core messages. I knew that Wicked would be an opportunity to get people into the theatre, and I had a feeling that it would be many young people’s first experience in the theatre. I wanted it to be memorable. I was driven by how I had the opportunity to bring a diverse group of people into the theatre and enjoy a show that I had loved so much growing up.

My ideas for the viral Wicked social media marketing campaign really stemmed from the intersection of my familiarity with the show, the ad campaigns I had been studying in my marketing course at Duke, and the lessons I had learned leading social media marketing campaigns for previous Broadway engagements at DPAC over the course of my internship. I had the privilege of having awesome internship supervisors at DPAC that really afforded me the opportunity to think big; being part of what felt like a very flat non-hierarchical organization really helped to get the creative juices flowing in brainstorming ideas to engage our online audience.

I came up with my ideas predominately by looking back at the content and the major themes of the show—going through line-by-line and identifying areas where core themes were developed, then using those lines and evolving them into campaign ideas. For instance, the song “For Good” has a line about leaving a “handprint on your heart.” As the emotional climax of the show, it left a strong impression on me since we sang it at our high school graduation; from that, I developed an online competition where we would ask our followers on Facebook to post who in their lives had left the greatest “handprint on their hearts.” The hundreds of stories posted were great, and it was a neat opportunity for people familiar with the show to connect with it—and win some awesome Wicked merchandise and show tickets in the process.

Although my internship ended during the Wicked run, from what I understand, the social media marketing campaign was a hit. Because of its success (both in terms of boosting student ticket sales and fan engagement), the national touring production of Wicked decided to use some of the ideas I came up with in-house at DPAC in their national marketing. They say that imitation is the best form of flattery, and having the national production of a Broadway show I grew up loving use one of my ideas was pretty neat.

(Derek Mong with a fellow DPAC intern, and the cast of Jersey Boys)

Advice you have for other Dukies on making the most of their internship:
Don’t think of yourself as “just an intern,” and treat everyday as seriously as if it were a job interview.  It’s really tempting to think of yourself as an insignificant part of the team when you’re an intern—especially if you’re a part-time intern like I was with a definite end-date on the internship. However, as much as possible, it’s important to get yourself out of that mindset. Now that I’m managing interns at my current job, I can really see how important interns are and how much value they can bring to an organization.  Never forget that.

The second piece of advice I have is to not be afraid to bring new skills or ideas to the table. I came in with experience in video-editing, and, while it wasn’t part of the job description, I brought it up with my intern supervisor and was able to use and refine that skill developing viral videos for the Broadway productions we had that season. Bring everything to the table.

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Five Things About Museum Careers You Need To Know

1. You need to work in a museum before you can work in a museum
This means that prior museum experience is pretty much mandatory even for entry-level museum jobs.  Let’s just say that there are lots of applicants for every museum position, and the ones that have prior museum experience rise to the top of the pile. Volunteering and internships are very important to prepare for a museum career.

2. You will likely have to go where the job is, i.e. be prepared to move
There are a lot of museums out there, but the jobs open sporadically and you never know where one is going to turn up…it may be in a small town in the Midwest or a large city on the East Coast.

3. Size matters
There’s a big difference between working at a small museum with 10 employees and working at a huge institution with 250 employees. The larger the museum, the more focused and specific your job will be. The smaller the museum, the more you’ll get to do a little bit of everything and have more variety…and sometimes that means cleaning the bathrooms (ask me how I know). Also, your benefits are likely to be better at a bigger institution or one that’s part of a large university.

4. Museums are about visitors
You thought museums were about objects, art and artifacts, right? Well, they are, but these days there’s also a strong emphasis on being visitor-centered—making objects/exhibitions accessible and welcoming to the general public.

5. You get to keep learning
At most museums there are new and rotating exhibitions, which means that as a staff member you are constantly getting the opportunity to learn cool new things as part of your job! Trust me—it’s awesome.

Did you know the Nasher Museum offers fall and spring, for-credit internships and paid summer internships? All internships are in the following departments: education, marketing/communications, development, registrars, curatorial, academic programs, special events, and evaluation and assessment. Summer funding is also available to support internships at other museums (including the Peggy Guggenheim in Venice Internship program).

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DPAC’s Promotions and Marketing Manager Discusses Careers in the Live Entertainment Industry

Did you know one of the nation’s best live entertainment venues is right here in Durham? The Durham Performing Art Center (DPAC) presents Broadway, concert, comedy, and family shows throughout the calendar year. Internships are available for course credit every summer, spring, and fall in a variety of DPAC offices including marketing, sales, facility operations, theatre management, tech production, and programming. 

Alan Foushee, promotions and marketing manager for DPAC, took some time to answer a few questions for the Duke Career Center about career paths, networking, and the job search for the live event industry.

What types of opportunities (e.g. career paths, roles, offices) are in the entertainment industry?

There are many different career routes when it comes to entertainment from for-profit to non-profit, music, comedy, musical theater, fine arts, dance, sports, and all things that fall into “live show biz.” There are also separate segments of the entertainment industry closely related to live entertainment that include exhibitions, mass media and the music industry. Potential careers could include roles in management, ticketing, marketing, programming, production, sales, community relations/education or operations/event services at venues (stadiums, arenas, amphitheaters, theaters and clubs) that promote acts or house sports teams. You could also work from various behind-the-scenes roles that include publicists and press agencies, tour promoters (such as NS2, AEG) and artist management.

Describe a DPAC “dream intern.”
Our dream intern is someone passionate about entertainment with an enthusiasm that is evident in his or her work, ideas and goals. We look for self-starters that aren’t just here to complete their hours, but who want to be a part of actively contributing to a collaborative team.  We want a student who can take a task, think outside the box to apply their vision, communicates their needs and can present/enact a plan on a specified deadline.

How can students best utilize their time in college to gain relevant experience in this industry?
I think the best experience you can have is to work in the industry. Whether that takes the form of an internship or a part-time job, if you have a desire to work in live entertainment get your foot in the door and start building connections with the individuals who hold or hire for the jobs you want. Raleigh-Durham has a very diverse arts and entertainment scene that contains a lot of opportunities to volunteer and seek out different perspectives within the industry. Even on a local level, the industry is very interconnected and tight-knit with the national industry as a whole.

Use your resources available to you as a student to learn the trends within industry and start preparing yourself with the appropriate tools and knowledge. Apply what you’re learning in classes and delve into blogs and trade publications such as Venues Today, Pollstar, and Billboard that give you an eye into what’s going on in entertainment as a whole.

What is the best way to network and find great internships or jobs in live entertainment?
Target where you have an interest in working and seek out internships, then use your time as an intern wisely to network with as many people as possible. While in college, I interned for two years at two different departments within the Carolina Hurricanes NHL organization. When it came time for me to leave the Hurricanes, a director from a department I had never worked with lined up an interview that helped me walk into my current position at DPAC right out of college. You never know who is watching you and how they might be able to serve as a resource for you.

The entertainment industry is very inter-connected with competitors utilizing each other to fill positions of all levels. I would estimate that 50 percent of entry-level jobs are never posted externally as organizations seek to hire from their pool of interns or through their network of contacts with in the industry.

What is your favorite part about working in live entertainment?
I love the buzz that comes from working a show-night, regardless of the genre of music. Seeing people make memories that last a lifetime and knowing that I got to have a part in helping them get there is quite fulfilling. My position also allows for a fast-paced and challenging work environment that provides a great deal of professional growth and room to apply a range of strategies and new technologies, so I also never have an opportunity to get bored.

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Student-Athletes: Win Over Employers With Your Experience!

I can’t tell you how many Division I student-athletes I have met who happen to mention that they “have no experience.” Some of these athletes have risen to the top of their sports and are training for the Olympics or are navigating professional sponsorship deals, while others are team captains, leading workout sessions, or simply red-shirting their first year. Every single one is practicing and competing at the highest collegiate level while balancing coursework and a myriad of other responsibilities.

No experience?

One of the best quotes that I heard from an employer on campus last year was that she loves to hire athletes because they “know how to lose,” a sentiment that has been shared again and again by other employers coming through the Career Center.

I get it- losing isn’t the highlight of your sport. In fact, there’s nothing more frustrating than devoting countless hours toward training and practice, only to come up short in a game, match or meet.

But, you pick yourself up and you work harder. If you’re doing it right, the loss energizes you. It’s not an obstacle, only an opportunity. You’ve learned how to move forward.

Persistence, drive, dedication.

Student-athletes balance an incredibly challenging schedule. In-season you are constantly practicing, traveling and competing. You are surrounded by your teammates more often than you aren’t, and you maintain a tight schedule for classwork and other extracurriculars. Off-season you are training, working out, monitoring health, and trying to fit in what you can while you have just a bit more free time.

Time management, goal-setting, work ethic.

You push yourself physically and mentally. You wake up early to work out. You lead practices. You exemplify the power of a positive attitude and you contribute everything you have. Sometimes, you need your teammates to help you get to the next level. You work together.

Leadership, teamwork, communication.

Student-athletes tend to say that they “have no experience” when it comes time to start thinking about internship or job searches, writing a resume and cover letter, or interviewing for positions and opportunities off the field. They compare their years at Duke to those of their peers. They tend to see what they don’t have, instead of what they do.

What many student-athletes often overlook are the skills that they are gaining on a daily basis through their sport. To compete in Division I athletics, especially at Duke, student-athletes need to take both their sport and their academics seriously. They must be competitive, goal-oriented and have a strong work ethic. They know what it takes to achieve and they know how to problem-solve when something doesn’t go quite right. They know how to work within a team and they know both how to lead and how to follow. They know how to take initiative, set goals and to follow-through. They know how to recover from challenge and how to work toward achievement.

Many of the skills listed here have probably come naturally, as they’ve been both an ingredient and product of competing in high-level athletics. Most likely, you have all of these skills and you may have taken them for granted as you’ve focused on more immediate goals ahead.

Together, this compilation of skills is not only “experience,” but an incredible collection of experiences. As you think about your possible career path and your next steps, reflect on your time as an athlete. How will you tell your story? Where have you succeeded, and where have you failed? What have you learned? What makes you unique from your classmates and your teammates? What can you bring to a new environment?

Your time as a student-athlete is one of great value. Reflect upon your experience, identify what you’ve gained and the impact that you’ve made, and start telling your story. Employers LOVE to hear about your ability to solve problems, work hard, contribute to a team and recover from challenges. They love to hear your success stories, and the skills you’ve developed and honed both on and off the field. Even more, they love to hear how you can bring these skills to a role at their company or organization.

As you look for opportunities beyond the field, arena, court, pool or track, remember how much experience you do have, and what it demonstrates about you as a candidate. Recognize and articulate the incredible value of your time as a student-athlete and you’ll keep on winning.

photo by Thomson20192

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Your Career Story: What to Say and When

Think about the best story you’ve ever heard. What were the components of it? Was it the introduction that got you interested? The center of the Tootsie Roll, where the story began to take shape? Or was it the end, when you finally saw what the author intended when setting out the share the story?

I think all the parts are the best. But then again I WOULD, because I have loved every single page (2,464 pages after three books, #nerdalert) of each of the Game of Thrones books I have read and I #cantstopwontstop until I am done with the whole series (And yes, I do know that the series is called A Song of Ice and Fire. Who’s the nerd, here, hmmmm?)

Back to telling your story… Since George R.R. Martin probably tells his editor “Too bad” when encouraged to shorten his stories, he isn’t a good guide for how you should talk about your career questions/plans/second guesses. As you consider the purpose for sharing your career plans, reflect on what it is you’d like to say to which audience. To put storytelling into an extended metaphor related to narrative, here is what you can share when telling…
1. The Twitter story—140 characters to talk about yourself at a career fair or in your LinkedIn summary
2. The short story—a few paragraphs when conducting an informational interview, networking or writing business correspondence (resumes and cover letters, for example)
3. The novella—for when you are interviewing

If you’re wondering how to prepare for ALL of these story-telling scenarios, take 10 minutes to review and answer the questions below. Think of ONE experience, such as an internship, a volunteer activity, an independent study, or a leadership position, and answer the questions with that single occurrence in mind.
Big Picture Questions
• What is the purpose of your particular story?
• What does this story look like, depending on who you’re telling it to and in what setting?
• What have you learned in this experience (i.e. your internship, the volunteering you’ve done, or through serving in your SLG)?
• Were the skills you learned the most critical part of the experience, particularly when you think of what you would take from that story at this point in your life?

Developing & Editing Questions
• What do you say within each version of that story?
• What are your chapter titles, the sections you want to highlight the most?
• In what settings are you demonstrating different parts of your character?
• What is the first line of your story? The last line?
• What is the sequence of events?
• Where’s the conflict? What challenges have you faced? What have you overcome?
• What is important to retain when you condense the story? What do you want to include when to expand your narrative?

When you’ve written out the answers to these questions, begin to shape language for each of the settings mentioned above. Remember that career counselors are here to help you practice what you’d like to say. Through rehearsal and editing, you’ll find the best parts of your story to share. There will be no dragons to get you down, because you will be ready as winter is coming. (Sorry I’m not sorry, I’ve been with HBO Go a LOT lately. The Rains of Castamere is a sad song.)

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Hi, I'm, um...HIRE ME!

[Gearing up for the Career Fair]

9:35: I'm eating breakfast and reading The Chronicle. Kind of. Pancakes at Penn are really hitting the spot, and consequently distracting me. 

9:36: Headed to the Career Fair today. Job. Career. The Future. Watcha gonna do with your life, Elizabeth? Nerves? Nah, it's just the rest of my life starting right now, in a gym that smells like sneakers, at a table, with a stranger who can only be so excited to work yet another career fair... Piece of cake! 

9:37: Advice I read in The Chronicle from the Career Center: Know what you want to get out of the fair. Right. Obvious. Hi, I'd like an internship-that-becomes-full-time-job, please. Preferably highly paid that allows me to eat local and organic. Got one? Great. See you this summer.

9:38 – Know what you want. Ok, seriously. What do I want?

[Walking to the Career Fair]

11:37: Also read in The Chronicle: The Career Center recommends having a 10-second shpeel that you can use to sell yourself. Hmm. Maybe I should have visited the career center for help? They keep saying they can help. But I didn't go, because…I dunno, just don't have a good reason.

11:38: Besides, I've got this. I know myself well. Right? I'm… I'm...

11:39 : “Hi, I'm Elizabeth and I am a current junior! [1s] I'm an Economics and Global Health major and, though I have interests and am passionate like most other Duke students, I, in all honestly, have no idea what I want to do for a career. [4s] ….Employ me!! [5s] ….[8s] ….[10s]”

11:40: Crap I should have gone to the Career Center.

[Arrived]

11:42 – I'm here. It's hot. Not like “fun! a dance club!” hot. Like the kind of hot where a bunch of people I've seen on campus wearing flip flops, shorts and t-shirts are now dressed to kill, and looking totally uncomfortable. And I can see the nerves. Lots of people... Jeez, lots of sweaty people.

Just be yourself. But not.

[Walking Around]

11:44 – Walking around now. That company looks interesting. I'll go over. Ready, set… GO.

11:45 – Wait. Stop. What the hell am I going to say? Hi, nice weather we're having. I'm Elizabeth… uggh.

11:46 – I'll just wing it. Bring it on, recruiters!!! Bring. It. On.

11: 55 – I'm in line waiting to speak to an employer. I'm listening in, getting geared up with my pitch. Ready to kill it. KILL IT.

11:56 -- Girl in front of me: “Hi, I'm [---]! Here's my resume. I'm really interested in consulting.”

11:57 – My turn. To repeat my unoriginal mantra: Bring. It. On. “Hi! ...Here's my resume, too. And I, too, am really interested in consulting.” Wow. I just said that? God my resume better be killer, because that was … well it sucked.

11:58 – At least my mom thinks I'm special.

[One Conversation]

11:59 – Ok, let’s try again with another one. Deep breath. This recruiter says: “You look different than a lot of our applicants.”

12:00 – What I want to say: Different in a good way? Or different in a you're-not-what-we're-looking-for kind of way? Can you expand on that? Should I be offended? Or maybe that's one of those test questions they ask to see how you'll react, like a recruiter psychology experiment. Maybe I should say, "you look different than a lot of our recruiters." But he doesn't.

12:00 – I throw him a curveball right back: “Are your arm-pits as sweaty as mine right now?”

12:00 – Just kidding. What I actually say (awkwardly): “Oh! Well I hope that means I can bring a new perspective to the firm.” Wow. Who talks like that? Me, apparently, ladies and gentleman. How in the world can I get to know about a company and tell them about me in two minutes. My future in two minutes.

12:02: Definitely going to the career center.

[Days Later]

Winston Churchill said “success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” I wonder if he ever went to a Career Fair feeling like his future was on the line. It wasn't, my future that is. But sometimes the pressure gets to you, and it just feels like it. Most of the people there looked like they felt the same way, or worse. (Particularly the sweaty ones.)

And though it might be a bit of an exaggeration to call my career fair experience a “failure,” Churchill's wisdom still applies. I think that success, at a career fair or in life in general, is about maintaining enthusiasm. It's about walking into every opportunity desiring to learn something from it, even if you don't know what that something is. It's about acknowledging that, sure, you might have a potential employer call you “different.” You might trip on your tongue when trying to explain what you're interested in. But that doesn't make the horizon of your post-Duke future any less bright.

Because despite all the pressure to “know” what they're interested in, no 21-year-old actually “knows." We're all just swimming around pretending to know, some of us better than others. And it's funny because every successful professional was, at one point, 20, 21, 22 years old; I doubt they knew much at that point either. So why do we feel all this pressure to have "it" together? I might not have a 10-second shpeel ready, but I do have my passion, my earnestness, my enthusiasm. And for this 21-year-old, for today at least, that feels like enough.

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Experience to dispel assumptions and find what is right for you

“He insists on wearing that Paisley blazer,” the producer announced.

“Oh brother!” the director lamented, understanding that it was just another issue he would have to deal with on the day of the production. “Well he can’t wear it. Let his daughter find a nice replacement for him and we’ll deal with it later.”
The conversation between the two managers went something like that as they tried to figure out how to negotiate with the talent, Earthquake, as he remained steadfast in his attire selection for the night’s performance. The problem wasn’t the pattern itself, it was rather how it would read on camera. No, there was no attempt on the Director’s part to stifle the creative expression of the talent in anyway. On the contrary, he claimed that whatever Earthquake wanted he would get. But the Director had a job too—ensuring the multicam shoot in the Carolina Theatre on Foster Street produced a beautiful image on screen.

Shadowing Director Marcus Raboy in his production for Earthquake’s stand-up on June 28 was very much like the above, navigating through competing ideas to create a cohesive show. When I entered as an intern much of the grease had already been put into it. The pre-production stage took place a few months in advance, where the venue was chosen, the performance times set, the marketing commenced and the general ambience conjured.  Thus as the director’s intern, my task was to follow Marcus around and observe how he managed it all. 
I wasn’t particularly sure what to expect, but I certainly mused that it would be the likes of an over-the-top Hollywood set with cameras at every corner, props and stage gear stationed to transport you to a different dimension, and of course yelling from a neurotic director. None of that was the case however.

The greatest portion of my experience was sitting in on logistic strategizing. Where are we gonna put his teleprompter? Can we lay down the floor to make it look this way? Let’s move the platform ahead so we don’t get the overhang in the shot. The action definitely occurred during the show when the interns, director, producers, and lighting designer were all in the production van surrounded by around 15 different screens displaying the performance on stage. Marcus was live cutting all the cameras, and managing the angles to create specific shots. He had to think on his feet to decide which camera to switch to and how wide the angle should be or whether he wanted to capture the audience laughter in the balcony or in the mezzanine.

As a director, Marcus was extremely professional and experienced. Being his intern allowed me to also find out more about him. He was extremely down to earth and yet decidedly staunch in his decisions of how the layout of the space would be, sequencing of cameras, numbering the equipment, and dealing with the talent’s requests. Even though he had directed on the likes of Friday After Next and the “Waka Waka” music video, he never seemed to carry any sort of hubris with him. He simply wanted to complete his job to his vision. He was very patient with interns and took time to talk to us about his life and how he got to where he was. But he also managed to cut any tension created by our disparate status by giving me a nickname, conversing about his interest in food, and playing tricks on his staff.
All in all, the experience opened my eyes and gave me perspective on what a lower-budget production would entail, while also dispelling assumptions and conceptions I originally had about working on set. I’m not sure if it is indicative of the whole industry, but I would certainly advise landing an opportunity out in the field and see whether it is the right fit for you.

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