6 Lessons For My Career That I've Learned From Being A Gamer Kenny Soto

6 Lessons For My Career That I’ve Learned From Being A Gamer

This article was written with contributions from Malik Christopher.

Video games are more than entertainment

It’s been over six months since I’ve found the time to play video games. I used to be obsessed, sometimes playing until 2:00 AM on weekdays. I find it hard to believe that I’ve entered a stage in my life where games are slowly leaving my schedule. As I reflect on the lessons I’ve learned from playing them, perhaps one of these will resonate with you too.

No matter what you do to level up, books are your best friend

Taking a page (pun intended) out of The Elder Scrolls: SKYRIM, one of the most important lessons I’ve gained was learning how to level up faster by using books found throughout the world. In the game, there are various skills that you level up to create a fully customized character. An easy way to level up a skill tree is by finding the hidden books across the land. When you acquire a book, your character automatically goes to the next level of that related skill.

The importance of this is that even in video games, education is stressed. Learning how you learn and setting up a way to control your education so that you can level up your skills will always be relevant.

Related: Creating Your Own Curriculum For Self-Education After College

When you accept too many side-missions, you can get off track

Among other challenges, time management in games is critical to your success. Now, gamers define success differently when it comes to specific games. Not all games have an end point, one can play an open world/sandbox game such as Grand Theft Auto and never progress through the main narrative. Time management in video games is important because it determines how fast you beat the game, what achievements or trophies you want to acquire, and how much can you brag to your other friends who play the game. Also, there’s the conundrum of having to decide how to split your time up if you want to play online or not.

The challenge of time management and the lessons I started to gather myself, became readily apparent when I encountered the particular issue of having to play games that have endless side quests & missions. Open world (or sandbox) games are distinct in that they allow the player to step outside of the main story and interact with the world freely. As players, we have the control to do whatever we want for hours on end. The benefit of doing side-missions is that the player gets rewarded with bonus content, prizes, and they most likely help to create a richer gaming experience.

What I took away from playing side missions specifically from Grand Theft Auto is that there are both pros and cons. The negative aspect of side missions is that they can pile on if you’re not too careful and if you’re like me, you get frustrated because one of your main goals is to complete the game. This observation has prompted me to think about the number of projects I take on in real life and how I decide which ones are worth my time. Sure, there could be some list of benefits for taking on new projects, but one must ask themselves, “Does this take away from my primary objectives?” In addition to time management, video games certainly help with creating better decision-making skills if you’re consciously auditing what you do while playing.

Don’t chase money, chase skills

There are video games designed to let the player win if there is certain amount cash to acquire as the main objective. However, most of the games I’ve played require you to focus on your character’s base attributes or if you’re playing online — you need to incorporate talent and skills to be the best. There tends to be a currency system in most role-playing games as an example, but the goal isn’t only to acquire virtual wealth.

Putting a focus on actually developing your character so that they strike terror in the face of the enemy is usually your best bet. This maps on well to life in general. Often, we think about gathering short term gains. Even if it’s relatively short in real life, there is still a considerable amount of time that one has to commit to growing your character’s skills. The skills are what make the game easier, even if you have the best “gear” or items Having a character with a skillset that allows you to adapt to any scenario is what actually matters. It’s the same with who you are in your life. Skills acquisition will always be more important than money.

Related: Accelerating Your Professional Growth By Working For Free

There are no cheat codes in life

If there is one thing that I’ve noticed for both video games and my personal life is that: I’m usually heading in the right direction if things start getting harder. Especially if I start getting more haters/enemies over time. There’s a natural progression in video games, as your character grows in power and skill, so do the enemies you encounter. Life is the same, and if you try to circumvent that by thinking you can game the system, you’re sadly mistaken. Using “cheat codes” in videos games makes them boring over time. When you do it in real life, it can damage your reputation and hurt you in the long term (even if there are short-term benefits).

An example of a cheat code in real life is lying on your resume. Sure it’s a faster way for you to get your foot in the door but, you will be found out eventually. No one ever got bragging rights by using cheat codes to beat a hard game. You only get the right to be proud of yourself when you tackle your challenges head on and when you’re patient with your growth.

There will always be someone better than you

Lastly, the most important lesson I’ve ever gained from video games (specifically playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3), is that there will always be someone better than you. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t consistently try to be the best at what you do, more so that you should be aware that surrounding yourself with people that are more knowledgeable and skilled than you is more than ok — it’s essential to your personal and professional growth.

There is no way you can grow to your fullest potential in whatever you decide to do in life if you don’t have other people to put your current skillset into perspective. I personally want to be a great blogger, so I’m constantly comparing myself to others at the top (like Seth Godin). Not out of envy, but out of admiration and for study. I’m a big believer that imitation is one easy way to test new things and see what’s successful.

Being beaten by people better than you is how you learn how to play the game. It’s how you get better, especially if the competition is significantly past you in years of experience. And most importantly, it keeps things enjoyable. Because who wants to have a boring experience playing video games let alone in life? Competition breeds growth and constant challenges.

Playing with a team is the “name of the game”

In competitive games such as League of Legends or Overwatch, each member of your team is assigned a certain role that has specific objectives that they need to be accomplished during every match. When a mistake is made in one of these roles, whether big or small, it becomes detrimental to the entire team with the potential losing the match. It isn’t as costly if one plays on their own (casual gamers do this), but in the professional atmosphere (eSports) such as the Championship Series for League of Legends, a prize pool of millions of in-game dollars have easily been taken out of a team’s reach because of one mistake.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link”, rings true in situations like these. If one person falls behind, you’ll easily be outclassed by a team that’s more on top of things. What usually follows is frustration, blame, and a decrease in skill overall. The ability to help those you work with by providing constructive criticism is crucial. A concern for their weaknesses, should be tackled with the appropriate feedback. Slowly, you’ll notice not only improvement in them, but also in yourself as a leader and team player. And in the professional world, we all work in teams.

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Working for free kenny soto

Accelerating Your Professional Growth By Working For Free

Working for free has its own value

Since 2015 I’ve been volunteering my time at SCORE NYC, a federal nonprofit that helps small business owners with free & confidential business advice. Through my two years of experience volunteering my marketing services, I’ve begun to see the value in working for free.

As I reflect on the lessons gathered from my experience, I invite you to consider finding ways to give back to your community. Hopefully, this article will convince you that it’s worth your time.

 

Working for free helps you learn faster

Ever since I’ve graduated college, I’ve been obsessed with self-education. How do I take control of my professional growth? How do I increase my value to the people I currently work with and those who I will work with in the future? How do I fan flames of my curiosity on a consistent basis? These questions have plagued me for quite some time now, and I’ve begun to realize that through my volunteer experience, I’ve been able to find suitable answers.

Professional growth (as far as my limited perspective allows me to define it) is the rate at which your acquire new skills and knowledge that brings credibility to your personal brand. We all have a personal brand associated with us, and we have to find a balance with both promotion and actually creating value for others. I find that my professional growth continues to accelerate because I work for free.

It’s easier for me to put myself in situations that challenge me because the cost of investing in me is just the other person’s time. Because I’m not charging anyone for my services, I can experiment more and find new ways of approaching my craft. This is allowing me to build a body of work that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. Also, by consistently practicing my craft, I am finding ways to expand on ideas that I learn through reading, podcasts, and video. The best way to learn something is ultimately by doing it.

Related: Creating Your Own Curriculum For Self-Education After College

 

If you work for free, you’ll realize if the work actually makes you happy

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has a fear of working in a job that doesn’t bring enthusiasm and more importantly, brings forth curiosity every day. To be great in our work, we must first start off with making sure we’re happy while doing it.

Is the grind worth it? I believe this answer can come to you faster if you give yourself some time to do the work for free (with the ultimate goal being that you eventually get paid for the value you provide).

I run the digital marketing program for SCORE NYC, primarily because it allows me to truly know if I want to do marketing in the future. If I don’t enjoy doing this now, how can I possibly enjoy it later? As time goes on, my learning curve in this subject will begin to plateau, and I will need to put in even more effort to continue. It’s important for me to know if I want to invest a decade doing this, before I actually do so. I believe that volunteering your services for a year can help all of us in the process of finding what we love to do.

Worst case scenario, working for free allows you to taste a lot of things. It gives you the opportunity to see where your talents lie and remove the illusions you may have about your skill set.

 

Working for free helps you build your network (faster)

Another great perk of volunteering your time is that your list of contacts grows at a faster rate than if you were to charge for your services (or just relying on your 9-to-5). I’ve become a big believer of delaying gratification if it leads to more significant gains in the future. However, even if you’re not getting paid with money, you can still find ways to bring value to yourself, both in education (as previously mentioned above) and in meeting people you wouldn’t have met otherwise.

The barrier of entry is met with less resistance and friction from others when you are providing your services for free. People will be more receptive to what you have to say and contribute because they will be judging your value based on your commitment to helping them. Of course, price does play a factor on judging someone’s skill but, as a young professional, I find it appropriate not to have a price for my services right now.

It’s a means to end if I can meet people that will help me 5, 10, even 15 years from now. Just keep in mind, you still have to be good at what you do to maximize the value that can be extracted from your interactions and your growing network. You can certainly volunteer your time but, people will discontinue your working relationship with you if you are wasting their time and can’t bring results.

Related: The Best Networking Tip For Young Professionals: Host An Event

 

Doing the right thing always pays off

I understand that working for free isn’t always practical. We all have obligations and responsibilities that must be met. However, if you can’t volunteer your time now, try to make an effort to do so in the future.

Giving back to your community has many benefits, but the ultimate one is the gratification that comes from helping people. At the end of the day, no matter the industry and the role you play in the teams you are involved in, the exchange of value will always be prevalent. There’s just a distinct sense of gratitude you find from someone you helped out of the kindness of your heart says thank you, as opposed to it coming after the exchange of money.

Again, I’m not saying that working to get paid is a bad thing. Just consider adding some time to volunteer into your schedule. I can guarantee that you’ll gain something from the experience.

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Self education Kenny Soto

Creating Your Own Curriculum For Self-Education After College

“Knowing what you don’t know is more useful than being brilliant.”

 

Self-education changed my life

Let me preface this article with the story of how I am starting my career in digital marketing. I didn’t study marketing in college (besides that one elective course I took during my junior year). My major was in music theory and composition. The only reason I was able to jump into the marketing realm after graduation was because I took the liberty of supplementing my education with an internship that then developed into my own curriculum.

I will admit that none of this would have been possible if it weren’t for my mentor, Maurice Bretzfield. However, at the end of the day I had the understanding that the only person who was in charge of the trajectory of my career was me. And if I didn’t take the initiative to leverage the resources that all of us have at our disposal, I would still be looking for a job. More importantly, I would still be looking for a pathway to growth, that is designed by someone else.

Self-education means moving forward with calculated purpose

Most of us who undergo formal education have all learned how to follow systems. These systems help us to align our dreams and daily actions with the whole of society, making use accustomed to daily routines. One thing that is good about our formal education is that it helps us gain the core competencies needed to join the workforce and contribute to our communities. However, our current system of education is limiting us.

Graduating from the standard educational path of elementary school, high school, and then college is a good starting point but, we eventually have to take control of our intellectual and mental growth when becoming young professionals. In the age of information, we now have the ability to create our own curriculums and learn associative skills that increase our value. Curriculums that can further enhance our education and provide more control over the direction our careers take.

 

Being prepared as opportunities arise

Creating a curriculum of self-study can help you prepare for opportunities as they present themselves. There comes a time when a potential client or business partner will ask for help on a project and if you don’t have the necessary skills to execute on it—the opportunity will pass you by. We no longer have to give ourselves excuses when it comes to learning the necessary skills we need to have as we develop throughout our careers. Going back to school to supplement your education will always be an option but, this is no longer the only route one can take.

We now have the possibility of using the Internet to learn new skills that can increase our value for little to no cost. Online courses, networking events, and finding mentors online can be great substitutes to a formal education in graduate school. At the end of the day, people get paid to think. The more useful your thinking is to the right people, the more value you will gain throughout your career. Find people who are just as hungry for knowledge and spend as much time with them as you possibly can. Part of setting up your own curriculum is having partners that can hold you accountable over time.

Related: “People Get Paid To Think”

 

Learn how you learn best

The Internet is our best friend when wanting to learn something new. However, one can waste a lot their time if they do not know the most efficient way they can acquire knowledge. Understanding whether or not we combine several media formats such as audio, written, video, or physical practice is a vital step in self-education.

Personal resources I currently use are as follows:

Written content – For online resources, I use Medium and Feedly to organize my blog subscriptions. For physical books I have h a list of books I plan to buy on a Amazon on my wish list categorized by fiction, business, and law. The way I retain what I learn from each book is by cataloging my lessons as book reviews.

Podcasts – The podcast application I use is the one that comes with the Apple iPhone however a great alternative is the Stitcher app. Below is a list of my top podcasts:

Video – For video content I primarily use YouTube however, a new platform I’ve been using to educate myself using video content is the LinkedIn Learning Center, available to users with a premium subscription.

I mainly gravitate to reading for my education, the reason I know this is through the audit of my own performance in school. If I read something, I soak up the information faster. Also, and more importantly, it’s easier for me to find appropriate uses for the information I am acquiring. But everyone is different, and experimentation is critical.

Fitting self-education into your Daily schedule

No matter what your professional goals are in life, if they aren’t tied to tangible daily, monthly, and quarterly learning goals, you will hinder your growth. There is no reason why we can’t set aside, at the very least, 30 minutes each day dedicated to learning a new skill and learning new habits. Whenever we aspire to reach the next level in our career, we want to establish what necessary skills we need in order to get there. This becomes clearer if we also begin to consider how are we going to design a curriculum so that we can take charge of learning these skills.

If we don’t set realistic deadlines and self-examinations for the skills we need to acquire, we won’t get to where we need to go. Time management plays a significant role in this. Try to set some time aside to do an audit of how you’re spending your week. What urgent tasks do you usually tackle that aren’t immediately relevant? Think about things you can delegate, defer, and deny (saying no is an essential strategy in saving time). Once you have made space in your schedule to set aside for learning, start considering how you want to break up your curriculum. What are the several stages of learning the skills you want to obtain? What are reasonable time periods for achieving them (sometimes this can be as long as 4-5 years so take this into account)?

Related: Time Management: A 6-Step Guide For Millennials

You can reach out to any expert you want to learn from

Another tactic to consider, as you venture off into new avenues for personal growth, is seeking knowledge from those who have created their own paths. A way to do this with the smallest amount of effort needed (if you’re an avid reader) is to buy books from notable experts in your industry. However, I find this to be limiting if your only approach for learning from experts is to read their literature or to consume their content (videos and podcasts). We now have the ability to reach out to anyone we want to. There is nothing separating you from your idols and heroes.

If you are looking for mentorship, seek it out and start off small. Try reaching out to the top 100 industry experts and work your way up to the top. We use social media every day to connect with our friends and family, why not use it to connect with people who can point us in the right direction?

Sure you might not be able to get Evan Spiegel to reply to your tweet on starting a business, but with enough research and effort you can find his team members online and reach out to them. There is no excuse for you not to start creating conversations with other industry professionals. They are people just like you, and if you can find a way to make the conversation you are seeking valuable to both parties, you will win. But that comes from trial and error. Try to consider what criteria they use to determine whether or not the conversation may be of use to them. Ask yourself, “how do they qualify other people who ask them for their time?”

Creating your own curriculum for learning is difficult but, the effort taken in investing in your personal growth will pay tremendous dividends over time. Every notably successful person never stops learning, why should you?
The bottom line is, graduating from college is only the first step in your learning experience.

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Kenny Soto Expand Your Network

The Best Networking Tip For Young Professionals: Host An Event

Why networking sucks

I can still remember the most awkward greeting I ever gave someone at the first networking event I attended in 2014.

Person: “Hi there! My name is…”

Me: “I apologize for saying hi…uh, my name’s Kenny Soto.”

Needless to say, nothing came from that exchange.

Networking can be tough, especially for young professionals who are just starting their careers after graduating college. We don’t have a list of accomplishments that we can use to impress notable veterans in our respective industries. The reason most of us are going to networking events is so we can find job opportunities, so coming up with a reason as to why someone should care about us can be difficult.

This year I’ve discovered a sure-fire way of getting the attention of people who can help you grow in your career. This networking strategy has been staring me in the face for quite some time now, and it is easy to pull off. It is all about hosting an event.

 

The advantages of hosting an event

In most scenarios, networking events that I have attended follow pretty much the same format:

  • 30 minutes of general meet and greet
  • A panel or roundtable discussion
  • Q & A for the speakers
  • Closing remarks
  • 15 to 30 more minutes of general networking

 

Whether or not the event has a panel discussion or question and answer period doesn’t matter. What matters most is that during these events there is a set agenda that is followed so that everyone participating can benefit. But do you know who always benefits the most from these events? The host!

When you’re the attendee, you have to make it your mission to go up to others, shake their hands and introduce yourself. When I first started off, my general approach was to meet as many people as possible (which was definitely the wrong approach). If you’re naturally introverted, just attending the event is a hassle. However, when you’re the host no matter what your objective is, it will be much easier because people will naturally want to speak with you.

There will be no friction or awkwardness when greeting others. The attendees came knowing the objective of the event was designed for their benefit as well as yours and if the event is an enjoyable one, they will be more than happy to speak with you.

 

How to set up an event

You want to make sure your event goes smoothly so you can focus on your real objective: meeting people who you can build professional relationships with. To start off, consider who you want to attend your event. This will be a crucial part of your strategy moving forward with both planning your agenda and marketing your event online (more on this below).

Think about who you want to meet, and how you can bring value to them. If the event isn’t beneficial to all parties involved you risk having people avoid any future invitations you send out.

You don’t need to plan your event alone. You can find other like-minded people (who also want to grow in your field) to help you. If you’re in a position where you can’t speak on a particular topic, search on LinkedIn and Twitter for an individual in your space who is also looking to expand their network.

Planning an event takes a financial investment on your part so the more people you have involved, the less the burden will be. If you can have 6-10 colleagues chip in for the venue, food, and speaker fees, the planning will be much easier.

Another concern I usually have when hosting any workshop on digital marketing (the main topic of each event that I host) is finding the right venue. Before committing you want to review the location in person. I suggest that you come with a checklist of everything that you need for the event so that it goes smoothly.

Some questions you may want to consider are:

  • How many people can the venue hold?
  • Is the lighting appropriate for the type of event you’re hosting?
  • Is the venue difficult to find?
  • Do other networking events happen simultaneously at this location?
  • Can food be served at the location? Is there a place to store food?
  • Who is in charge of clean up? Are these services charged separately?

Certainly, there are other variables to take into consideration but, these are some of the questions I wish I had asked myself and my team before committing to venues when I first started hosting events.

 

Marketing it the right way

After you’ve made your full-proof plan to get your event underway, the next step is making sure people come. You want to utilize multiple platforms such as Facebook events, Eventbrite, and MeetUp to get as many people exposed to the event as possible.

If you can, I suggest having a budget of $150-200 to do some Facebook advertising, targeting people who fit the criteria of who you would like to network with (use this handy guide from Buffer to get started). A simple way to set your targeting parameters is to focus on location, age range, industry, and job titles. I wouldn’t go so far as to include interest targeting when you first start off.

Make sure that if you have any guest speakers, you ask them to promote the event on all of their social channels as well. You want to utilize whatever audience(s) they may have to gain free exposure.

When providing the description of the event, always tie back your messaging to what attendees will gain from the experience. They will all know that one of the primary reasons they should attend is to network but, there has to be other benefits besides that. Consider what they will learn from attending, that is always a great place to start. Lastly, always add some verbiage that asks your audience to share the event with their friends and colleagues. Perhaps your event will be beneficial to their friends as well.

 

Following up with attendees

After your event, if you were a good host and attended to your attendee’s needs, you will have gotten more contacts than you can count. It is important to prioritize who to follow up with, within a 24 hour period. Who introduced themselves to you that can you can build a relationship with?

My approach is to always think about what’s the best way I can provide value to the other party? If I can’t find a way to be useful to the person I’m following up with, I don’t bother sending them anything more than a, “let’s stay connected on social media,” or “I hope to see you again at our next event.” You want to make sure you’re maximizing your time after the event, ensuring the people you follow up with can give that return on investment that you’re looking for.
Hosting an event does take more effort on your part but, if you don’t do it alone and with careful planning, it can expand your network and help you create genuine relationships over time. And you have a greater chance of avoiding the awkward greetings that come when you first start off.

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surviving life after college kenny soto

5 Tips To Use When Surviving Life After College

Surviving Life After College Isn’t Easy

I recently started the journey of living life as a college graduate and one day something dawned on me. As I was in my room thinking about all of the hard lessons I had recently experienced I got the inspiration to create a series of articles logging the insights I’m getting to make life easier for anyone who is a recent college graduate or just someone starting their 20s. As time goes on, I’ll be creating separate articles on each of the subjects discussed below. I’d love your feedback in the comments section after reading this (or you can reach out to me on social media as well). The more feedback I get from you, my audience, the more useful these articles become!

Getting A Job: Using LinkedIn & Networking Events

  • LinkedIn

It’s the best platform to apply for jobs. With a click of a button, you can send over your profile and resume to countless organizations who are hiring. When I got my job at ThomasNet, I submitted 162 applications in a day to get the opportunity for an interview — all through LinkedIn. And that took me only an hour and a half to do.

  • Networking

Networking is essential to getting a job. While you’re prospecting online, don’t forget also to put yourself out there in the real world. Opportunities come from your network, and if you’re not growing it — you won’t have any opportunities presented to you. I still get freelance gigs offered to me on a monthly basis because when people think of someone who can help them with their social media marketing, I’m one of the first names that come to mind. Below is a list of tips you can use when you begin networking.

  • MeetUp & Eventbrite are your best friends. Use these platforms to make your event search easy and manageable.
  • When going to networking events, have a clear objective. Who is that you want to meet? People have the issue of wanting to speak to every single person in the room, and that’s not the approach that leads to results. Having 1-2 meaningful conversations with people that you’ve done research on is what you should be aiming for. Look for group organizers and search for them on LinkedIn to find out more about what companies they are associated with. If you can’t connect with them at the event, thank them on LinkedIn after, letting them know you enjoyed the event and that you’d love to follow up and speak to them personally.
  • Have a clear way to follow up. No connection works, regardless of who exchanges their business card with you, if you don’t have a clear “to-do” so that both of you follow up with each other. Grab a cup a coffee or grab lunch with them.
  • Connect online, either on LinkedIn (preferably) or on another social media platform.
  • Networking doesn’t work if you only meet with them once or twice. You want to see and connect with them at multiple events.
  • DON’T ASK FOR OPPORTUNITIES. Seek to learn from your connections, the opportunities come from the growth of the relationship you create with your new connections.

Budgeting: The Best Way to Keep Your Sanity

Don’t learn this the hard way. 40% of every paycheck you get should be allocated to your savings and assets. I won’t go into too many details as far as which savings account would be right for you, but I would recommend using Acorns and Robinhood for your assets. Acorns allows you to save money based off of cents you allocate from purchases that get rounded up to the nearest dollar and Robinhood allows you to invest in the stock market by giving you specific companies to choose from. I always follow the rule of — only investing in companies that I am a customer of.

As far as creating a budget that works for you, I suggest just having money set aside for these essential categories (ordered in priority):

  • Rent
  • Savings
  • Food
  • Personal Care
  • Phone Bill
  • House cleaning products
  • Wifi
  • Gym or Yoga Membership
  • Student Loans
  • Credit Card
  • Misc Expenses – Books, Movies, Bars, etc.

The online tool I use to track all of my expenses is Mint. They have a mobile app that can help me not only see if I’m spending too much money on one particular category, but it also gives me reminders of when my bills are due so I can plan ahead.

Food Shopping & Cooking: Do It The Right Way

Never go food shopping if you can’t get at least one item on sale, coupons are everything when it comes to saving money. Another great tip that is often overlooked is NEVER GO FOOD SHOPPING IF YOU’RE HUNGRY. You end up shopping with your eyes and ignoring the essentials on your list. I usually only purchase groceries to last me two weeks. Often, if you buy too much food, you can let things go to waste.

For cooking, regardless of what you’re making for dinner, one money saving tip I use is setting aside a portion of what I make in a Tupperware for lunch the following day. This is a habit I picked up from my Mother, and I don’t regret doing so. It’s helped me save 15% of my total food budget, which I’ve now allocated to my emergency fund.

Finding A Place To Live

I have come to the conclusion that there are only two rules you need to remember. The context for finding a room or apartment is different for everyone, but I find these two tips to be extremely applicable, regardless of the situation:

  1. See the apartment in person before discussing the logistics of payment.
  2. Move in with people you know or that a friend/family member can vouch for (saves you the stress of worrying whether or not your roommate is a crazy person).

Living With Roommates

As far as living with roommates goes, I suggest three things.

  1. Have a rotating chore list so everyone does their fair share of the housework.
  2. Always let each other know when you’re having guests over so there are no unpleasant surprises.
  3. Have a shared budget for groceries, it decreases the burden of having to worry about food.

The reason I haven’t put any advice in regards to living on your own in this article is simply because I don’t have that experience yet to give anything of value. Once I cross that bridge, I’ll create some content around that.

Recommended articles:

  1. Time Management: A 6-Step Guide For Millennials
  2. Getting a Job After College, Spec Work is The Best Method
  3. The 8 Health Habits Experts Say You Need in Your 20s

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The internet is high school

The Internet Is High School: Personal Branding & Influencer Marketing

Where do I sit?

With sweaty hands I walk, thinking about how I make a good impression. Who do I sit next to? What will they say when they see me? Will they like me enough to sit next to me tomorrow? All of these thoughts spun around my head as I entered my high school’s cafeteria for the very first time. Ah, the woes of a freshman — trying to make a mark in a war of popularity, gossip, and food fights. Not much has changed in the last decade.

Social Media will always remind me of high school. 

I find myself today, like many people within my age group, trying to make something of myself as I enter my professional career. I still have that sense of yearning, of wanting people to acknowledge me. Except now, the environment in which I deploy my tactics of grabbing people’s attention have nothing to do with finding my table amongst a sea of acne-filled teens (the cause of many existential crises back then).

Today, I try to grab the attention of my peers and professionals within my field on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and LinkedIn (Twitter as a platform has died for me already, I’m not too confident in its survival as a company).

These social channels we use are the new tables in the cafeteria. Each has its own group of people, speaking in a different context from the rest. These social channels — much like the social environments we found ourselves in during our high school years — are full of gossip, misinformation, great stories, and the occasional fanfare of congratulating your friends on their accomplishments. And the popular kids of today (social media influencers), instead of getting all the superficial attention that goes away right after graduation, get paid over $200k just to make a 6-second video.

How is this relevant to you?

Whether you’re like me, just starting your career trying your best to stand out from the crowd, or a seasoned veteran in your field — attention is vital to your professional growth. I’ve used personal branding to constantly grow my clout in my “tables.” The practice of promoting what makes me unique as a potential team member online, has paid off for me and continues to do so to this day.

Your goal doesn’t need to be becoming the next YouTube sensation or billionaire entrepreneur to consider personal branding as an important part of your life. If you are just looking to get a new job or a new promotion, producing content on a consistent basis can help you tremendously in the long run. Personal branding, if taken seriously, can lead to opportunities of becoming a social media influencer. Using influencer marketing can give you other chances to grow your brand into an asset that pays itself over time.

Consider personal branding and influencer marketing as ideas that can be applied to all professionals within any industry. Anyone who can grab the attention of their peers has a strategic advantage over those who don’t.

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What can we learn from social media influencers?

Influencer marketing and cultivating your personal brand go hand in hand. Think of influencer marketing as one form of how to use personal branding in your career. Your brand can align with other companies marketing campaigns because of the communities you engage with and that can lead to an alternative means of income. But as mentioned previously, even if these are things you don’t want, influencer marketing tactics can help you in your career.

One other example is using your personal brand to market your ideas to your coworkers outside of team meetings. Producing content and sharing it with them on LinkedIn can give you other opportunities to engage with them in meaningful ways. It certainly puts the conversations you have to offer in a less competitive atmosphere, fostering a higher quality of collaboration amongst you and your team.

How did I use personal branding & influencer marketing tactics?

I’m a firm believer that there are no longer any barriers between you and the celebrities and inspirational figures that you follow. If you want to talk to your favorite football player, a local politician, or celebrity — you can through the computer in your pocket. Keeping this in mind, the way I’ve personally used influencer marketing by experimenting with one tactic that influencers use to grow their audiences in a meaningful way — starting conversations.

We often forget that the foundation of social media is all about being social. What I’ve been doing currently, is reaching out to ad agencies I consider to be leaders in the marketing industry, not to get a job or to pitch them a partnership, but simply to learn from them. I’m not asking them to consume my content; I’m asking them questions relevant to their work. These questions lead to meaningful exchanges that have allowed me to grow my following, specifically on LinkedIn, by over 100 people in just seven days.

I’m personally still learning how to use my personal brand to propel myself forward into a meaningful career. As I continue to discover different ways to incorporate influencer marketing tactics (and other marketing strategies) to help me gain new opportunities — I invite you to consider the idea that popularity contests aren’t always bad. Especially because if you win, there a lot of great things that come from it.

Author’s note: I purposefully decided to avoid giving a list of influencer marketing tactics so that I can create a separate article about it in the future. Stay tuned.

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Recommended Articles:

How to Get a Job at Google: Answers From an Ex-Googler.

How to Use LinkedIn to Get Interviews

The Beginner’s Guide To Influencer Marketing on Instagram

College

A lesson I learned in college: civics should be a core subject.

College is filled with life lessons. 

You learn about yourself about other people and ideas, discover who you are going to be in society, and find out more about what interests you in an intellectual and professional capacity. Of the many lessons that I was able to learn, there is one that stands out the most, after recently graduating earlier this year.

“Ignorance of the law is dangerous for both those who govern and those who are governed.” 

The most important lesson I learned in college, was learned during my involvement in student government. Students didn’t know their bylaws—they had no knowledge of their rights and what they were paying for with their tuition. Students were unfamiliar with the laws that their student government, faculty, and administration were operating under. They didn’t know:

  • How their tuition was distributed and used.
  • What their rights were.
  • What resources they had access to.
  • How student government’s actions affected them.
  • How faculty made decisions regarding their curriculums.

And this is just 10% of the information that students should have known, but only a select few paid attention to. Only those who governed had access to this information. Information about what was going on at a macro level.

The challenges students faced could have been avoided.

I often think about the ideal scenarios that could have been designed if I were to go back and work with my team again. What problems could have been solved or avoided altogether? How could we have served our student body in a more efficient way? What steps could we have taken to affect the student body for the next 5, 10, 15 years?

The one thing I believe we could have done differently, the only thing I regret from my experience in student government, was setting up education the student body could have access to, about their bylaws. Whether it would have been easier using content marketing: 5 minutes, 10 minutes, even 15-minute videos about the operations of the college.

How do I operate after college with this information in mind?

I’ve taken these lessons as an indication that my responsibility as a citizen should be to know both federal and local laws that affect me. I should rely solely on my representatives to interpret and administer laws on my behalf and take matters into my hands in understanding them myself.

How I take these lessons and incorporate them into my life after college.

  • I made myself familiar with the constitution of our nation as well as, New York State’s constitution.
  • Civics have become a serious subject for me. As a direct result of this, I now conduct research on who represents me locally and what they stand for on a regular basis (monthly).
  • Even if it ‘s hard to keep up with current affairs, I try my best to at least know how those affairs are affected by current rules and regulations.

Law = code

I’ve come to associate laws to code that one would find in any app or website. If you don’t know how your ecosystem works (how it affects you as a user), how can you expect to improve it and adapt to its changes over time? I’ve come to understand a lot more about the way I interact and how I’m affected by the apps and websites that I use because I’ve learned more about how and why they were built.

Just as it’s important to know the basics of coding and how apps that you use are made, it’s just as—if not more—important to understand the laws that govern and affect you. Ignorance isn’t bliss; it’s a disadvantage we as individuals can’t afford <italics>. The price of not knowing how you’re affected by the actions of those who govern us is too steep, and it’s too expensive for my tastes.

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Two documents I recommend reading:

  1. Constitution of the United States of America.
  2. Constitution of the State of New York (for my friends who live here).
doing spec work kenny soto

Getting a Job After College, Spec Work is The Best Method

What is Spec Work?

I’d like to preface this article with where this idea came from—Gary Vaynerchuk. I have been following Gary for exactly over a year now, and one of the very first doubts about him came when he talked about doing spec work (free services) for people. This work is supposed to be for the purpose of business development and expanding your network.

Spec work is any kind of creative work, either partial or completed, submitted by designers to prospective clients before designers secure both their work and equitable fees. Under these conditions, designers will often be asked to submit work in the guise of a contest or an entry exam on existing jobs as a “test” of their skill.”

I decided that instead of just taking what he said and accepting it, that I would test it for myself (which in retrospect, is what he wanted his viewers to do when he talked about the subject in the 1st place). The story below is how it all happened and how it can help you if you’re still in college or just graduated, and you’re looking to grow in your industry.

Finding a need and getting the client.

Now, this article focuses on the context of my particular skills—skills in digital marketing (SEO, web development, and Social Media Marketing) that I used to get spec work. Although this may not apply to all industries, if your skills map to working on being creative and providing services for a client that don’t require a license or specific certifications, this can work for you. The first step I had in this process was to find a customer that needed my help. I knew from the start that I’d be doing this work for an exchange outside of financial compensation, perhaps a referral to a job after college or something else.

While I was at my college’s local bar, Grill On The Hill, I felt the need to have more of my college friends become more aware of what the bar offered. It was an excellent place that was just starting out, and whenever I went, there were a lot of locals but, not enough college students. One evening, while hanging out with my fraternity brothers, I saw one of the bar’s owners outside. I walked to him, introduced myself and what I do, and told him that I would market his bar online—for free.
Obviously, there was a catch. I was still figuring out what that would be myself—when I was pitching to the owner. Several days later I was hired as the bars digital marketing consultant with a small monthly budget to do Facebook marketing and to create their website with the help of one of the bartenders there. It was my second time creating a website and creating any paid media on Facebook.

What did I get in return from the experience?

Besides gaining valuable experience in doing Facebook ads (the bar was my second client at my time), I was able to learn more about my craft holistically. I began to understand that marketing doesn’t work without tying your campaign goals to actual business goals that drive revenue—it’s not enough to promote a bar’s event to everyone then, making sure you promote it to the ideal customers (people who spend money and drive revenue). In return, besides getting experience, the bar gave me a free beer (and occasionally a free meal) once to twice a week for eight months. This showed me that even if you aren’t making an income for the work you do for someone, there can always be an exchange of equal value for said work. That’s the main message I want to drive home, especially for college students, doing work someone doesn’t necessarily need to equate to you making money.

The hidden value in working for free

It is often taught that the work we do has to produce an income, but it doesn’t. Work can help you build your network. Work can help you expose yourself to new ideas and possibilities. Instead of focusing on monetary gain, focus your job for skills-based learning. It’s because of my experience working at Grill on the Hill that, it gave me the opportunity to see what marketing services I could pitch to my college and try my hand at making them my first paid client (you can find out more about that story here).

I’d love to know your thoughts on this article. Do you think work should only be done for monetary gain/income? Have you done similar work in exchange for services, experience, etc.? Let’s chat in the comments section down below!

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  1. 6 Reasons An Unpaid Internship Is Absolutely Worth Your Time
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How Landed My First Paid Account as a Consultant at 22 Kenny Soto

My 1st Client as a Digital Marketing Consultant at 22

Believe it or not, I was able to convince my college to hire me. I’m not talking about work study, being a bookstore stockboy, or being a research assistant for a professor. I’m talking about closing a deal for thousands of dollars. In this post, I’ll provide some back story as to how I was able to have the opportunity to even come up with the pitch, the pitch itself, and the lessons learned from the work. As a small disclaimer, as a student I respect my university tremendously—as a consultant, I learned from them what it means when people say large organizations are “slow.”

It all starts with finding a need.

How did I come up with the idea of even pursuing this pitch? It all started with accessing the problem my college had—we had severe budget cuts during the fiscal year. The only reason I was privy to this information was due to my role as student body president. During the first few meetings with school administration during my last academic year in college, I learned that our college, along with other CUNYs, hadn’t met their goal that the Board of Trustees set for getting more students.

The lack of increase in tuition was one of four factors that contributed to the millions in budget cuts that we’re going to occur. After sitting down and actually contemplating on why this particular problem was occurring, it dawned on me that I should check out the college’s social media & paid search marketing efforts. Low and behold, they weren’t launching any paid ads or producing content of any value to potential students or the parents of those students. This was my in, the opportunity I was looking for.

Devising the pitch.

Coming up with something of real worth to present to school administration wasn’t easy. It took me two weeks just to have the stones even to share this idea with my Fraternity brothers for feedback. After carefully thinking about what I learned from both my internship and doing pro bono digital marketing for a bar near campus (I still got something out of it, free food and free beer which wasn’t a bad deal if I do say so myself) I came up with a 43-slide deck for my presentation.

The reason why this deck was so long, and by all means I don’t recommend doing something this long for any presentation, was because I knew I wouldn’t have been taken seriously (at the end of the day, I’m too young to be taken seriously for anything right now). If I didn’t make sure I showed both school admin and the marketing department that not only I knew what I was talking about—but, that I also put it into the context of their specific needs, none of this would have worked. Also, I had already assembled a small team of two other student government members that would help me in my efforts; this increased their confidence in my ability to not only create a sound project but, also execute on it.

Negotiating the price.

The two most important lessons I gained from the overall experience was:

  1. Always write the service contract yourself.
  2. Bid high for a high price.

If it weren’t for a close friend of mine, I would have left a considerable amount of money on the table. I believe the main reason why the college administration agreed to pay my team and me as much as they did, was because the labor was relatively cheap in terms of industry standards and we wrote the whole contract ourselves. It also helps that they didn’t go through the hassle of signing it but, that’s beside the point. If a client is willing to pay you without signing a contract for whatever reason you still want them to do so, it puts both of you in a position where each party is fully committed to each other’s success. I believe this was the first sign that there was only going to be so much we could have done for them.

The challenge I’m glad I faced early on.

The biggest challenge with working for any big client as a digital markeitng consultant is this—the internal communications process is slow as hell, meaning that you’re going to have to plan at least two weeks ahead to get anything approved for launch. I lacked experience in this one aspect of doing digital marketing consulting; I didn’t anticipate that the one deterrent to my success would be not preparing for slow communication in between tasks. Although, I wasn’t successful in fully executing on the marketing plan I was at the very least, able to show the importance of why their efforts should be focused primarily on social and search advertising and not on subway or television ads.

Other lessons I learned were:

Your client, regardless of their size, will want all reports on a consistent basis. It’s important to let them know early on that marketing is a marathon and not a sprint. Metrics don’t improve overnight. You want to at least report on new ideas you’re working on so they can add their insight into the mix.
Have a dedicated team member to set up phone calls for Q & A whenever needed. If you’re this person, you have the hardest job. Client retention is key to recurring income. My biggest regret is not giving enough attention to thinking about building a long term relationship with my college so I could have had them as a client after I graduated.* Your team’s size should reflect the size of the account.

This is something I’ve debated with my colleagues for quite some time now. I still believe that we could have done a better job if we had at least three to four more students on our team. A team of three college students wasn’t enough to solve the problems a big institution like my college had.

Moving forward.

In the end, although I wasn’t successful in the execution of my first account, I at least learned how to get one. That experience has proved invaluable as I continue getting new clients and building my team at digiquation.com, the startup I work at now. Whether it’s in digital marketing or any other consulting practice, it never hurts to start early. Regardless of your age, there is something that you know; that is intrinsic in the experiences you’ve had that can be of value to a client. You just have to figure out how to successfully communicate that—and then have the team and knowledge to execute the plan you’re being paid to do.

*The experience gained from this one part of my collegiate career was the most valuable by far, and I am forever indebted to the City College of New York for giving me a chance to help them. If you check their Facebook page now, you can see the ads they are launching to get more attention. A special thanks to Tammie and Safiyyah, without your help, none of this would have been accomplished.


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    1. How I Got Employed After Two Weeks Of Graduating College.
    2. Emoji As a Professional Language
    3. A Digital Marketer’s Most Important Asset: Their Curiosity
6 steps to time management Kenny Soto

Time Management: A 6-Step Guide For Millennials

The first lesson I learned after graduating college…time management is your key to success.

No one will tell you how to structure your week, which is why time management has to be a focus on your mind starting today. If you’re lucky to get a job as soon as you finish your collegiate journey—you’ve gotten past the first of many hurdles. However, I’m sure the job you get will only be a placeholder as you take the first steps into building a name for yourself and advancing in your career. So, what’s missing? What do you need to take into account as you move forward and begin the next phase of your life?

1. Manage your weeks by setting monthly goals.

Part of the challenges that many of us face is that once we finish college, we are completely in control of our schedule. Sure, we may have a job that we have to take into account, but odds are, you won’t be working more than 40 hours a week, leaving you 128 hours in a week to prioritize your time.
We can’t think about prioritizing our time through a system of personal task management, though. This is what we’ve made ourselves accustomed to for quite some time, and it’s a paradigm that we have to shift out of very quickly. Thinking about goals that you have on both the micro (daily & weekly) levels & the macro (monthly & annual) levels is the first step in creating a system for ourselves in managing our time. I’m sure we all have goals that we want to see ourselves achieve but, if we aren’t consciously creating the infrastructure to get ourselves there—we are doing a disservice to our future-selves.

2. Make “No” a part of your toolbox.

Using no as a tool for time management Kenny Soto

One of the challenges in creating your time management infrastructure is learning that within your limited amount of time, other people want you to spend time with them. Whatever the reasons may be, everyone we know who we interact with wants us to invest our time in them. Family, friends, and employers all want us to allocate time into what they and realistically speaking we do need to comply—but not all the time.
There are certain times for example when we need to forego our instinct to please those we love and sometimes those we even work for, to focus on our self-development and goals. Not only that, we need to take into account that we need to say no to ourselves as well. Delaying gratification to get the things we need to get done on a daily basis is paramount to creating successful habits for when we are older. If we are always procrastinating, we will consistently see it as a thing that is permissible in our lives, when it certainly isn’t.

3. Focus on File/App Management.

This is a lesson I would have learned if it wasn’t for a fraternity brother of mine. There’s very little your mind can do when reacting to a cluttered desktop. The effects of poor file management are insidious, to say the least; they aren’t as harmful to your productive in from a mobile environment (doesn’t mean that the following advice doesn’t apply). If you want to speed up the process in which you work on your computer—keep it organized. This means that there should be folders and necessary subfolders for all aspects of your digital life. I’ve saved at least 20 minutes of every day ever since I took my friends advice, and I schedule every Sunday morning to file/app management just to keep clarity on my screens.

4. Screw your notifications.

This goes hand-in-hand with number 2 but deserves its section. We are bombarded with notifications daily from a whole slew of platforms. One of the main things that deter us from concentrating on our everyday tasks is the need to view and respond to every notification that comes our way. This is a big mistake, and it can cost hours during each month.
When creating the self-discipline to say no to others, you also have to say no to people online. Everyone else is being bombarded with notifications as well, so if you take 5-6 hours to respond later, it won’t ruin their day—half of the time they won’t even notice. This relates to not only your emails but, also with your social media notifications and especially your texts. I use Hubspot’s Sidekick Gmail extension to schedule all of my email replies every morning, and I won’t check my inbox until two hours before I go to bed.

5. Keep simple things, simple.

Not all of our tasks have equal importance in our daily affairs. Somethings obviously more to us than others. It’s why we all have to create the habit of selective-slacking, creating a system of putting minimal effort in the things that don’t require excellence. It is easy to make things complicated; a true challenge is making certain tasks simpler. If we can put minimal effort in things we don’t want to do, and most importantly, tackling those tasks at the very beginning of our day—we’ll have more time to do the things we want to do.

6. Schedule your sleep.

Sleeping as a habit for time management Kenny Soto

This seems obsessive but, it is an essential step to creating an effective time management system. Not only are there studies out there that mention the health implications of getting a lack of sleep, but it’s also a part of our culture as young people in our early 20s-30s to forgo our sleep to be more productive and get work as much work done as possible each day. This is getting in your way. The typical college habit of breaking night to finish a paper isn’t going to fly after graduating. People are most productive when they get 6-8 hours of sleep and even then, 20-30 naps in the middle of each day are highly recommended.
As someone who used to play video games late into the night (sometimes sleeping around 3 A.M. & waking up at 6 A.M. several days in a row) I can attest to the fact that ever since I’ve followed a rigorous sleep schedule I’ve become much more efficient in everything I do. I can concentrate more, execute tasks faster, and I am beginning to notice a greater sense of alertness ever since I had started two months ago. One of the most important factors to a healthy lifestyle is getting enough sleep, and it is a vital part of building the foundation for good time management.

If you adopt at least one of these steps into your life, I guarantee there will be a massive amount of upside on both your productivity and ability to create free time. Because, at the end of the day the best perk of establishing an efficient system of time management is, you get a lot more time to do the things you want to do—for me, that’s taking even longer naps.

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