Happy Friday Everyone!
I’m so excited to get back into the groove with “Millennials on a Mission”! I really do enjoy spotlighting my peers and the awesome work that they are doing in their personal and professional lives. Today’s MOAM spotlight is particularly special because not only because she’s my beloved colleague and fellow Justin Timberlake stan, but she is also quite the online brand ambassador for companies that she loves. She has built a very impressive personal brand, and believes that above all else, you should always trust your gut because at the end of the day, you can never really go wrong.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Erica Moss.
Hailing from a small town in Western Michigan, Erica grew up obsessing over boy bands, television and movies. Throughout her middle and high school careers, she found that she was very good at writing, and knew that one way or another, it was going to play a huge role into the career path she was going to take. An alumna of Western Michigan University where she studied journalism, Erica worked at the campus newspaper, had some great internships with regional publications, graduated magna cum laude, and set her sights on having a career in the newspaper business. “It came naturally to me to seek out people with interesting lives,” she says. “To ask them questions, and to tell their stories in a really engaging way.”
On what inspired her to make the career switch from journalism to social media:
I had an a-ha moment fairly early on in my career when I was laid off from the part-time newspaper gig I had. I began questioning everything, and it sounds cliche, but truly reached a fork in the road: I could either continue down a very uncertain path just because that’s what it said on my diploma, or I could get scrappy, pivot my skills and transition to public relations and marketing. There obviously wasn’t a huge leap because I had a great communications foundation, but journalism was all I had ever known, and jumping ship felt risky, and in some ways, like I was giving up. But I knew I could still tap into my innate passion to tell stories, and I gained some great experience at a couple of small marketing firms in metro Detroit, where I helped build the voice of local Wendy’s and Buffalo Wild Wings franchises. Using social media to create a brand persona was exciting for me, and I realized quickly that I had made the right decision.
To Erica, it’s important for branding to succeed, and to be used to create a positive, 360-degree experience for all customers. Currently, she is the Brand Manager for Semester Online, a first-of-its-kind program that allows college students to earn real credit from top universities like Boston College, Wake Forest University and Northwestern University online.
On what it means to effectively with an online community, and lessons learned:
First and foremost, before you can engage with any community, you must listen. What are their pain points? What are their passion points? How do they talk to each other? What types of things are they sharing? Begin sharing assets from thought leaders and influencers, and jumping into the conversation, only when you feel confident and where appropriate. By far, my biggest challenge in honing the voice of Semester Online (we need to talk like humans, not robots.) We have to be approachable yet authoritative because our audience is an extremely bright community of top students who want the best possible education. But whatever you do, don’t crash the party by sounding like a used car salesman. Online relationships are the same as IRL ones: They require the same amount of effort. Once you’re “in,” continue providing value. Write blog posts that speak to these peers, join in on Twitter chats and share your best practices, and offer to write re-caps for the moderators (It saves them time, and gives you a few extra minutes of Internet fame!)
On how millennials can leverage certain tools to promote their professional & personal brands online:
Social networks, I think, are the best way to establish yourself as a well-rounded young professional who is passionate about what you do but also capable of demonstrating your personality in a fun way. There is no magic formula that dictates how best to balance that, so that’s something each individual has to decide for themselves. Love photography? Download VCSOcam and start editing all of those amazing photos you’re taking, and share them with your networks. Love to write? Use Twitter to connect with fellow writers, promote their work and eventually they’ll promote yours, too. The possibilities are endless, and that’s what I love! I think the biggest hurdle sometimes is simply getting started (What do I tweet? How much is too much sharing?) My best advice is to jump head-first, and learn as you go.
For Erica, being a Millennial on a Mission means embracing the fact that we have control over our own destinies, that we can be our own bosses if we choose to be, and if not, we can chase that dream job at a company that fulfills us in a really meaningful way. She quotes Carly Heitlinger (The College Prepster) saying, “… Steering a little bit here and there until I arrived at where I am. And, frankly, I’m still doing the steering. The passion is evolving. Because it’s the path to passion that makes everything interesting.”
Erica also thinks it’s important for young professionals to find people to look up to, those who either are doing what they want to be doing, or those who simply inspire them. “Everyone needs a mentor, officially or unofficially,” she says. “This person is someone you can bounce ideas off of, ask for advice on major career decisions and someone who is invested you as a professional. Don’t be afraid to ask — you’ll never get a yes if you don’t.” Finally, she reminds herself daily of how fortunate she is to work for a company with such a strong mission. “2U empowers its employees to work hard and question the status quo,” she exclaims. “I work with a world-class team that challenges me every day to #bebetter.”