By Marina Zarya, ’11; G ’13, Time Inc., Video Producer, Branding + Culture
Now that I’ve got your attention with my very-catchy headline, I’ll warn you that the actual advice part of this post will be underwhelming.
My advice to you, eager Syracuse University student, is BE KIND.
Yes, that’s it. The job you’ll have soon does not exist yet, and your skills will keep evolving to meet market demands. What won’t change is how you should treat people. And if this is the part where you’re clicking off the page, that’s OK, you’ve read the most important part and I hope it sticks. If you’re enjoying my snippy prose, you’ll be pleased to note that I’ve prepared a few examples to illustrate what I mean.
/bē/ verb; Exist
/kīnd/ adjective; Of Kin, gracious, congenial, altruistic, accommodating
Put the two words together and they mean to exist in empathy, act with integrity, humility, and grace. This is a way of being. A state of mind that everyone is capable of tapping into and effectively living in. Please don’t misinterpret this as a suggestion to be lovey-dovey 100% of the time or to let people walk over you.
“Be Kind” doesn’t mean “Be Nice”. Nice guys (or gals) finish last for a reason. Niceness is short-lived and stems from a need for immediate approval (and therefore comes from insecurity). Niceness implies an alternative (usually selfish) agenda, and is a disingenuous approach to relationships. Kindness is being aware of others; their feelings, needs, and time. It means being confident in your ability to empathize, or help if need be. It means adding value to interactions and relationships, not taking away from them by being self-serving. Here are a few ways to do this.
- To *everyone* you meet.
As far as your career is concerned, you just never know where you’ll see the person again. Every single job or freelance gig I’ve ever had (including the one in which I decorated cupcakes in a bakeshop window during a summer in high school), I got because I was kind to someone, not realizing they held a key to my future employment.
My favorite quote on this subject is one that I learned of in grad school by the great Dr. Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Be kind to your teammates. People love working with kind people, and certainly remember them when other co-working opportunities come up.
As I’m sure you’re well aware, networking is the utmost important part of finding work. Interpret this as your chance to be kind. For one, be kind enough to get the person’s name and position right when you email them. Be kind to follow up, to demonstrate that you appreciated a new connection’s time. Be kind and do your research – understanding the person’s background will lead to a productive conversation and no wasted time. Mostly, be genuinely interested in what they’re doing, and don’t start the relationship with “I’m looking for a job at your company”.
- To yourself.
I learned the hard way. As the former reigning queen of caffeinated all-nighters in Bird Library and Newhouse Photo Labs, I can attest to the severely negative impacts of disrespecting your body’s needs for sleep, healthy food and exercise. I won’t preach too much on this point, for fear of sounding like a hypocrite. Part of being a productive adult is learning to manage the fine balance of your own well being, whatever combination of factors it is for you. This is probably harder than finding a job, but is crucial to your success. Science (and Arianna Huffington) suggest that getting enough sleep is the most important thing you can do to take care of your brain.
“Be kind” applies to negative self-talk, too. Yes, we all fall back on deadlines, procrastinate doing laundry, or forget to send emails. These things happen. Guilt-tripping yourself over past indiscretions or behavioral patterns that you may have inadvertently formed will not help you change them. In fact, bad-mouthing yourself in your head activates your brain’s reward center, making your biological self think that you’re having a great time beating yourself up – making the feedback loop of negativity a “fun” habit.
Just because you don’t see the person you are writing to does not mean that you don’t have to be kind. Write carefully thought-out emails that get right to the point, and if something is too long for an email, pick up the phone (old school, I know). Being kind online also means being kind to your image online – when you’re job-searching, recruiters will rifle through your tweets, Instagram posts, and anything really. Do yourself justice by portraying your professional self accurately.
4. To your community.
In the near future, you’ll be in a position to offer career guidance, or recommend a classmate for a role you see opening up at your company. Be kind. Pay it forward.
Speaking of which, current juniors and seniors should apply to my company’s (Time Inc.) Summer Internship & Fellowship Programs. The preferred deadline is December 1, which is sooner than you think.
Graduating seniors and grad students should check out the Careers page. We’re constantly looking for new talent to join the company.
Marina Zarya works at Time Inc. as the Video Producer for Branding + Culture. She did both her BS and MS at S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, in Advertising and Multimedia, Photography and Design, respectively. While at Syracuse University she was General Manager at WERW Real College Radio, an Engagement Fellow, Remembrance Scholar, News21 Fellow and Bayliss Scholar.