For Natalie Kim, founding We Are Next—an open resource for young talent in marketing and advertising—was a necessary step in empowering new and soon-to-be grads, and normalizing diversity in the industry. Natalie spoke with Squarespace about what fair opportunity actually looks like for graduates, and how We Are Next is providing support to young people who are starting their job search in a particularly challenging—and mostly remote—economy.
SQUARESPACE: What motivated you to create We Are Next? How has it evolved since it launched?
Natalie Kim: When I was working as Director of Strategy at a creative agency in NYC, I started being invited to speak at universities. And no matter what type of school I visited, I saw the same thing: students feeling anxious, confused, and doubting their ability to start their careers in advertising and marketing. When I looked at what the industry was providing to help students through the transition from school to a full-time job, I didn’t see anything that was truly open to anyone, no matter where they went to school, what they qualified for, or what they could afford.
We Are Next started as a weekly email about career advice, and has since grown into the go-to platform and resource for young talent in advertising. In addition to a podcast, job board, resource index, and in-person and virtual events, it has evolved into a community—the next generation of the industry, ready to learn, grow, and support one another.
SQSP: We Are Next’s mission includes representing a diversity of voices in marketing and advertising. How does this mission inform your organization’s approach to career guidance?
NK: We are very intentional about whom we have as guest writers, guests on the podcast, and speakers at our events. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to make sure that we’re elevating representative voices across all the axes of diversity, but not calling it out or choosing them solely for their identities. At its core, We Are Next provides career guidance, but being deliberate about who is providing that perspective and advice helps to both normalize diversity and make tougher subjects more digestible to everyone.
SQSP: Many graduates are entering a challenging job market during the pandemic. What tips and resources are available for them through We Are Next?
NK: My tips would be:
Think about this time not in terms of what’s been taken away or made more difficult. Think about it as additional and valuable time before you start your career. It won’t be easy and there will be things outside of your control, but how you use this time will ultimately determine the outcome.
You don’t need a full-time job or internship to gain experience and show off your skills. Whether that means spec work, a creative side hustle, volunteering your talents to a small business or organization, partnering with other young talent to create something—find a way to keep building your resume.
Build a strong industry network before you even start your career. Use this extra time to reach out to those in roles you want, and to connect with other new grads outside your school.
We Are Next dedicated its homepage to resources created in response to Covid-19. Alongside Virtual Recruiter Roundtables and a Portfolio Roundup, we launched a networking initiative called Coffee at a Distance, in which 350+ industry professionals made themselves available for virtual coffees with young talent. The response was huge, and we’re working on launching a V2 in the near future.
SQSP: What was the best advice you received early on in your career?
NK: “Do what you think is right until someone tells you otherwise.” Instead of waiting to be told what to do, trust your instincts, because they’ll usually get you 85% of the way there. The other 15% will come from outside guidance and course correction. The advice really helped me be more proactive at the beginning of my career, and it’s something I still remind myself whenever self-doubt rears its head.
SQSP: What do you wish you’d known when you entered the job market?
NK: Everything that you do—even things outside of the industry—will be additive to your career. I had a very narrow view of what I was looking for in my first job, because I thought it was the only way to succeed in the industry. But so many career paths are winding, and all those turns make you a stronger candidate. I’d encourage young talent to keep themselves open to different opportunities, and focus more on finding companies that will support and grow them.
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