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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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

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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Why Every Marketing Major Should Toss Their Textbooks In The Trash Kenny Soto

Why Every Marketing Major Should Toss Their Textbooks In The Trash

I have a serious issue with textbooks. As college students, we have to pay for books made 2-3 years ago that decrease in value over time, yet it is still standard practice to teach us with textbooks. My frustration comes from textbooks being used in a particular field of study: marketing. Marketing majors should only get textbooks that cover the history of marketing up to the 1,990’s. After that, there is no point in making books.

They are slowly becoming obsolete

Take, for example, as a college student purchasing a textbook on Facebook marketing. As of right now, you will get information on EdgeRank (Facebook’s algorithm/add hyperlink for more research), best practices for Facebook’s Boost Posts and Ad targeting features, and useful tips on community management on the platform. However, that very same textbook can lose value over a period of just two months. The reason is that like all other social media platforms (let’s not even go into websites in general), Facebook has updates on a weekly basis. Some of these updates are announced beforehand. However, the real challenge the marketing professor who wrote the book faces is predicting the updates that Facebook will implement in response to its competition (i.e., it’s quick update of “Live Video” in response to Periscope). And this goes for Snapchat, Peach, Musical.ly, Twitter, Instagram, and every other platform that is currently used.

What are the next steps?

We need to begin thinking of new tactics in which the education of digital marketing can be deployed to college students that meet the needs of the constantly evolving market. As with business owners, educators need to understand that the market doesn’t give a damn about all the research you conducted while creating your textbooks. If the market shifts from Snapchat to an entirely new app, your textbook on Snapchat still has some value, but not as much as it used to. Our textbooks need to “evolve” at the same pace as the needs of the market, or we will continue to see a continuing trend of marketing students not being prepared to work in their field after graduation.

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Kenny Soto End of 2015

2015 End of The Year Review: The Experiences and Lessons Learned

This blog post is an entry reviewing some of the many experiences I had over the past year and what knowledge I gained from them.


 

First Internship Experience: SCORE

SCORE NYC is a branch of the Small Business Administration (a government entity) that helps small business owners grow their businesses through one-on-one free consultations, workshops, and online webinars.

SCORE NYC was a very special place for me this year for all of the people I was able to meet. I was able to have the opportunity to surround myself with retired business executives who came from industries ranging from corporate law and hedge fund management to digital marketing and construction. I was also able to interact with aspiring entrepreneurs who came to SCORE with questions regarding their businesses and was able to see firsthand the challenges small business owners have to endure just to serve the market. In addition to all of the opportunities to grow and learn that I gained from the people I met, I also learned a lot about two subjects I never really put that much thought into before.

What the heck is the Internet?

The first thing that I learned from my experience at SCORE is that I knew only a small amount of information when it came to what exactly the internet is. Thanks to my mentor, Maurice Bretzfield, I was able to begin to understand the importance of not only knowing the difference between the internet, www, https, FTP, mobile, and wifi but, also identifying the importance of why I should know the differences. The first month studying under him showed me how little formal education had taught me on tools that I use every single day, and it helped me understand why learning about coding, digital design, and digital marketing is vital to how I interact through the internet.

Digital Marketing and what did it have to do with me?

My primary reason for applying for the internship was because under its description it stated that all interns would learn about digital marketing. As a music major, I have learned a lot about song composition, musical theory, and performance methodology, but I did not know how I would survive in the search for a job after receiving my Bachelor’s degree. Digital marketing showed me that it’s an essential skill to at least be aware of in today’s information economy. I learned over the eight months I was at SCORE how many people were having issues just getting their businesses to be known by potential customers. Eventually, I saw that the same concerns that these entrepreneurs were facing correlated with the issues myself and some of my friends at my college where dealing with: how do we stand out from the pack? Through my eight months of diligent work, I am now able to say with confidence that I have a good grasp of Digital Marketing overall and a niche part of it – personal branding.

Buying My Name Online

In regards to personal branding, I believe another pivotal point of this past year is when I purchased my URL and built this website. The benefits of using this website are tremendous. I am now able to google myself and what I want people to see is the only thing that is shown. Controlling my online presence was one of the first things that my mentor Maurice, advised me to do. In addition to this, blogging has helped me question my ideas and develop them even more. Without this platform, I would not have been able to gather my thoughts and had others comment and provide feedback on them. I strive to not only use my website to showcase what makes me unique and why I could be of value to teams but also to help a growing community learn with me. The World Wide Web is constantly growing with pools of both high quality and mediocre content, I want to become someone who contributes to the former. Let’s not forget to mention that blogging has also helped me with my writing and grammar. Finally, it’s helping me create connections with others that otherwise wouldn’t happen. I have had the opportunity to not only interview individuals online about their experience working companies such as Google but, also get good advice on what I should do to get a job after college (which in turn provides you, the reader, with valuable content).

Starting my school year as USG President

Many challenges were thrust upon me this semester. As my college experience rapidly comes to an end, I have the privilege to lead an exceptional team as the president of the undergraduate student government at the City College of New York, and it has certainly been a role that has helped me grow as a person. From improving my time management skills, delegating tasks, making sure the entire team is aligned, managing team stress, etc. I have been exposed to a lot of real life situations that I will have to deal with after college. I consider my experience in this role as an accelerated MBA, learning how to manage a team of people and not only serve them but, serve a whole community of people (the student body) as well. I’ll certainly use the skills I am learning as president in the future, and I will be forever grateful to undergo such an incredible growth period in my life.

Reading “Think On These Things” By Jidda Krishnamurti

Think On These Things Krishnamurti

This book changed my views on our current educational system and helped me understand why it’s important to question all information was given to me, and how to integrate that process into my daily life. It was the first time I ever experience a writer pierce through the veil of what should matter most in life, which is not necessarily the answer to questions we have but, instead finding the reasons to the questions themselves first. This book is a useful resource for anyone interested in getting a fresh perspective on what it means to be essentially a creative individual.

 

As the new year begins I will continue to provide as much valuable content to you, the reader, whenever I can. It helps me tremendously if you provide your feedback and thoughts in the comments section below. Let’s have an amazing 2016 everyone.

 

Cheers,

Kenny S.

 

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