Carmichael Lynch Spong
You work as a social media specialist. How is that different from traditional public relations?
Social media is any digital application where people are sharing ideas and information. That could mean a blog or a traditional social network (like Facebook or Twitter), but it can also mean ways in which a traditional website is social.
There’s actually some debate as to whether social media falls under PR, advertising or marketing. In general, I think it’s brought those three disciplines together in cool ways. In social media, everybody is at the table together. What I like about social media is that it’s always evolving. Every few days, something new pops up that can be very powerful for affecting culture and business.
How do you spend your day?
I advise companies on how to use social media to sell their brands and businesses. A lot of what I do is educational. The millennial generation is familiar with social media, but for upper management it feels brand new. I also help create meaningful content for these brands to distribute via social media and I do analytics—tracking online chatter about what customers are saying.
What’s most satisfying about your work?
I love being able to help people see things in a new way. I say, “What if we could do this?” and the light bulb goes on. That’s a great feeling. Secondly, I love to write. And I love to write my opinion and know it will be heard.
How is this job a good match with your skills and personality?
For a long time, I thought I wanted to be an editor or publisher. But I enjoy interacting with people and I couldn’t stand the thought of just reading and writing in front of a screen. I came to this conclusion after an alumni-sponsored internship at a publishing house in their publicity department. I was really excited to check out publishing, but when I got there, I realized that while I loved writing, I needed more interaction. PR became the perfect marriage of the two—being a people person, but also writing, writing, writing.
What attracted you to Carmichael Lynch Spong?
It actually reminded me of Williams when I first went to interview. The president of the company calls his employees like-minded achievement addicts. Everybody works hard and plays hard. And we don’t take ourselves too seriously, just like at Williams.
Your first job out of school was as a teacher in the Mississippi Teacher Corps. What attracted you to that program and how did your experience prepare you for what you’re doing now at CLS?
I was attracted to the program because I wasn’t sure what career I wanted to pursue—my internships helped show me things I didn’t want to do—and because I’ve always loved working with kids and giving back.
My experience teaching helped me prepare in so many ways for what I do now: it taught me to think quickly on my feet; and it helped me build my public speaking skills, my confidence, and my humility—all characteristics that are critical in a fast-paced public relations and advertising environment.
How did Williams help foster your intellectual curiosity?
A liberal arts education fosters intellectual curiosity simply by offering a huge range of choices. I wasn’t tethered to any one major, so I took some classes I may never have explored elsewhere. Also, because there are so many creative, intelligent minds at Williams—and it is perfectly acceptable to exercise that intelligence and creativity outside the classroom—you get exposed to a huge breadth of interesting conversations, viewpoints, and issues…and that keeps you curious.
What are some of the ‘real world’ benefits of a liberal arts education?
A liberal arts education gave me freedom. Rather than driving me down an ever-narrowing career path, it forced me to realize that, as a well-rounded (and well-studied) individual, I am capable of pursuing any field at any time. I didn’t major in education, but I worked in that field professionally for two years. I didn’t major in social media, public relations, advertising, branding, communications, business, or computer science, but I dabble in all of those areas daily. Would I have landed in this spot had I not gone to a liberal arts school? I’m not sure. I certainly could not have specialized in my career field… there were no “social media” courses or majors in 2007!
Do you have any advice for seniors or recent graduates?
Don’t stress about finding the job. Once you find a job, there is infinite ability to switch paths, start over, slide up or to the side. Your first job does not determine your career.
Also, don’t be afraid to take an unpaid internship or a volunteer position to gain the workplace skills you need to be hired. Sure, you may have to live out of your parents’ basement for a few months (as I did while interning), but valuable skills often come from simply trying something, no strings attached.