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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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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No degrees of seperation Kenny Soto

There Are No Longer Six Degrees of Separation

What introduced me to this concept.

The idea of the Six Degrees of Separation was first introduced to me in a book by Malcolm Gladwell called, The Tipping Point. In it, Malcolm talks about three types of early adopters one must build relationships with to bring a product or service to the mass markets (the mainstream). Of the three types, one of them has the particular ability to leverage their networks to spread general news via word of mouth called connectors. I was then reintroduced to the idea of connectors in Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success by Shane Snow when he mentions super-connectors in the film industry and how they leverage their networks not only for themselves but, for other people as well. Being altruistic with your network helps build it faster. The more you help others below you grow to be even better than you, the more attention you gain during longer periods of time (this is how I interpreted Shane’s chapter on the subject).

The six degrees of separation as I see it.

The six degrees of separation is a concept closely related to connectors and super connectors, the idea that you can know and potentially be introduced to anyone in the world by the maximum separation of 6 people within your network (everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world). For example, someone I know on my Dad’s side of my family possibly has 3-4 friends that they know from their friends, who just so happens to know President Barack Obama. At max, it would only take six introductions for me to have an encounter (however small) with President Obama. But, after careful thought and thinking about how this idea can be challenged, a couple of months ago (around early 2016), I had a conversation with my mentor in which I mentioned that I don’t believe these degrees of separation exist anymore, and here’s why.

The Internet is an environment with 0 degrees of separation.

I’m currently reading The The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge by Doc Searls, which is about how customer relationship management systems (search Hubspot or Salesforce for examples) don’t truly help businesses have relationships with customers/users. For this to occur, customers need their own Vendor Relationship Management systems. In a chapter titled, “Net Pains,” Doc Searls quotes Craig Burton, a Senior Analyst with Kuppinger Cole, who describes the Internet as:

“…[A] world we might see as a bubble. A sphere…The distance between any two points [within said sphere] is functionally zero, and not just because they can see each other, but because nothing interferes with [the] operation between any two points (page 102, Searls).”

Sphere diagram

Because of the Internet, if I want to contact Obama, I can now just go on Twitter and tweet at him directly. Now, the chances of me getting an actual response from him are dismal, but, if I wanted to contact any other person in the world—I still have the ability to do so if they have access to the Internet.

Why I think this change is important and must be discussed further.

The majority of us now rely to some degree, on the Internet and its protocols for our work. The ubiquity that the Internet provides for us to communicate conveniently with anyone, about anything, regardless of geography is astounding. It’s what allows us to do business across the globe and spread ideas and content like wildfire. But, I still believe that we have continued to hold onto old self-imposed limitations (that’s what they are at this point) regarding who we think we can and cannot contact. We can speak to anyone we want today; that’s the main point here.

Keeping this in mind, I believe we should begin thinking about all the new opportunities we are not currently exploring—regarding meeting new people and exposing ourselves to new ideas. Let this article serve as a short rant that should compel you to create a list of five people you’d love to talk to about anything—and then, contact them! You’ll be amazed at what might happen.

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