Opportunity is everywhere, you just need to look around. Luckily at Northeastern, there are people dedicated to helping you keep an eye out. Thanks to my co-op advisor and a few emails back and forth, an opportunity I never expected was made a reality.
I am just now returning to Boston on a train from New York City, at the end of the Future Now Media Conference at the New School. The conference, having just wrapped on their second year, focuses on the media and the entertainment industry, and more importantly, the tips and tricks for how to enter successfully into it.
Being surrounded by 200 other students, ranging in age from 18 year-old freshmen to graduate students and beyond, made me realize just how many others have the same dreams as mine, and supplied the drive for me to take in every moment of the next two days.
The first day, a full 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. day no less, was filled with expert panel discussions, round table sit-downs with professionals, and workshops for resume building and elevator pitching. Luckily for me, the same co-op advisor who helped me get to the conference also taught me a lot of the same things being emphasized by the professionals, and so these were opportunities to refine my skills and practice what I had learned.
The main takeaway from day one were the connections made, a common thread woven throughout the whole weekend. Having come armed with business card fresh from the printer and a reporter’s notebook full of names to remember, I knew that I wanted to not only gain more knowledge about the industry, but also mentors in the field that someday, I could turn to for job advice and guidance once college enviably ends.
Day two was the day in which to really make those connections, as the first 40 applicants chosen to attend were rewarded with two separate media tours at the top entertainment companies in the country. My top two choices were HBO and VICE, two of my favorite sources for both entertainment and news. At HBO, while they normally do not allow for tours, Ms. Meeka Bondy, senior vice president of legal affairs, showed us around the 15 floor building and her office, overlooking the city. We then got to have more personal panel discussions with three other executives at HBO, including the hiring manager for the internship program.
Having these smaller and more focused conversations with the top tier of an enormous corporation made them seem all the more attainable. While each story varied in details and specifics, they all carried the same tune — all of the executives started at the very bottom, switched career paths at some point or another, and ultimately ended up where they wanted to be.
After a train ride and a quick walk to Brooklyn, my time at VICE was a 180 from HBO. In true Brooklyn fashion the office was a warehouse turned work-environment. The exposed brick first floor had an open floor-plan, rosé on tap, and no cubicles in sight. After a lunch on their roof deck overlooking the water, we took a tour of the rest of the space heading downstairs to the offices. How they fit so many desks down there was a mystery to me, but even though the rows and rows of desks cluttered the space, there was still less of a corporate feel and more of a collaborative environment. Tucked away in booths with just a wall of computers and a chair, programmers sat working away. We later learned that the majority of VICE’s productions are made in-house, an impressive feat for their many programs and websites.
Once back on the roof deck, three more employees came out to speak with us. They were a lot closer to our age, a commonality at VICE as opposed to HBO, which made the connection all the more relatable. Kim Patel, the director of corporate strategy for VICE Media in Brooklyn, lead both the tour and the first part of the discussion. Patel started her adult life in the banking industry, making the switch to media later on. Inspiring us to go for what we want and make ourselves stand out to companies we want to be a part of, her advice to us was simple — research who is in charge at the company you think you want to work for. If their ideas match with yours, go for it. If not, look somewhere else where you will be valued.
After both days at the conference, I logged on to LinkedIn and sent thank you messages to the mentors that I met and felt a connection to. While I learned a lot at the conference and filled quite a few notebook pages with advice, I really want to keep those connections alive. To my delight, many accepted my invitation and even sent me messages back, starting conversations that I hope I can continue as my career progresses and I look for future co-ops and full-time jobs.
On my train back to Boston, I am thinking about going back to work on Monday, the laundry I need to do in my suitcase, and what to make for a late dinner. But my mind is also still racing with ideas for my future, processing just what an amazing chance I had just received to meet people that may one day, if I am lucky, be my future employers and mentors.
I want to thank my current employers and mentors as well, for allowing me to have experiences like this one. To The Boston Globe for letting me take the two days off of work to come to New York; to Michelle Hagopian for sending the initial email and helping me get to where I am; to the Northeastern University Journalism Department for helping me fund my passions; and to the Future Now staff and students for an amazing weekend of learning and self-development.
Sophie Cannon (CAMD ‘20) is a rising junior with a major in journalism and a minor in international relations. She is originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota and is currently on co-op at the Boston Globe as a Living/Arts correspondent. She can be reached at email@example.com or at sophielcannon.com