28 : Emily Miethner

We sit down with FindSpark CEO, public speaker and educator Emily Miethner to share her journey and share tips for young professionals seeking to build their professional network.

Length: 24:49

Host:  Zach

Find out more about FindSpark here: https://www.findspark.com/

Learn more about Emily here: http://www.emilymiethner.com/

Connect with us: https://linktr.ee/livingcorporate


Zach: What’s up, y’all? It’s Zach with Living Corporate, and yes, you’re listening to a B-Side. Now yes, we’ve introduced the purpose of a B-Side before, but every episode is someone’s first episode. So for our new folks, B-Sides are essentially random shows we have in-between our larger shows. These are much less structured and somehow even more lit–that’s right, more lit–than our regularly scheduled shows. If you don’t know what I’m talking about when I say more lit, watch this. Sound Man gonna give me some air horns right… here.

[Sound Man complies]

Zach: And then the beat’s gonna change and drop right… here. Now, look, this particular episode we have a very special guest, okay? This guest is named Emily Miethner. Emily is a public speaker, a networker, social media subject matter expert, a consultant, and perhaps most notably she is the CEO of FindSpark, a certified women’s-owned business enterprise that connects employees to top diverse early-career talent and has produced more than 250 career programs and cultivated an online and active community of over 30,000–that’s right, three zero, 000–young professionals and top employers including HBO, BuzzFeed, NBC Universal, L’Oreal, Showtime, Grey, Bustle, Ralph Lauren, and Univision, inspiring career optimism in diverse young professionals around the world and empowering them with actionable career changing tips and tools. Now, listen folks, before I even get Emily on the show, you heard me say all those names. You know I’m gonna get at least a couple of those names with Living Corporate. This is crazy. You see these names? Y’all hear these names? Anyway, Emily, welcome to the show. How are you?

Emily: I’m doing really well. It’s Friday, so I can’t complain too much.

Zach: That’s right. Now Emily, talk to us about FindSpark. Where did the name come from and how did y’all begin?

Emily: Absolutely. So we actually went through a name change. So our initial name used to be NY Creative Interns way, way back in the day, but that gives a little sneak peek into the inspiration behind starting it. So I was a creative young student myself at one point, and really during my college years is when I realized that there really weren’t a lot of great career resources out there, especially ones that focused on networking and building relationships. And I found that to be immensely powerful and important in my own career even just starting out looking for internships and my first jobs, and so I knew that I wanted to create something that really emphasizes the importance of creating a strong network for yourself early on and also to create actually fun and enjoyable experiences in ways for employers to connect with talent and doing it in a very inclusive way where everyone can feel welcome, whether it was their, you know, first time networking or millionth time networking. And so I took the skills that I had in then planning and social media, and that’s what I really used to start FindSpark and create these experience for people of all different backgrounds to get a better understanding of all the different types of career opportunities that are out there and get, you know, better access to them, regardless of, you know, where their starting point is.

Zach: That’s amazing. So as I mentioned in your introduction, and I hyped it up, but I don’t really think it was hype. You’ve been able to connect with some fairly major names. So first off, major props to you and air horns are gonna be placed right… here [Sound Man throws ’em in] because of all these crazy amazing brands, but secondly, how did you do it? And wait, before you answer the second question, my third question is how can you hook up Living Corporate with some of these amazing names? ‘Cause these names are crazy.

Emily: Well, you know, I think the best place to start when you’re building anything is, you know, with whatever semblance of a network that you do have. And so, you know, really I–when I was starting FindSpark, I talked to as many folks as I could that I already knew – friends, mostly friends from college, the people that I had met at events, you know? As you could guess, I’m a big event geek and I really–you know, really, really love events and personally go to many of them, and so I’m pretty–I was always putting myself out there, and when I had the idea for FindSpark I would just really talk to as many people as I could about it, and I think that’s something that a lot of people get wrong when they’re trying to start something is they think, “Well, I don’t want to talk about it yet,” or “It’s not perfect yet,” or “I don’t want somebody to steal my idea,” and things of that nature, and I think it’s good to talk to as many people as possible because you never know how they might be able to help you. And so I really started by doing small events, inviting people that I knew or just inviting people that I found through my own research online, and, you know, when you have a really awesome mission of, you know, taking something that’s usually really crappy, which is networking, and, you know, saying that, like, “Hey, this is actually gonna be enjoyable. It’s gonna be a really great group, and you’re gonna connect with folks who maybe are outside of your normal network.” It’s a pretty carrot to put in front of people, and by always–by always creating a very welcoming and inclusive environment from day one, we’ve just built an extremely diverse crowd and, you know, in the broadest sense. You know, not just gender and ethnicity, and so that really got the attention of employers, in addition to employers seeing that, like, “Wow, they’re creating these really fun ways to connect with these candidates,” and when I started it was I would say definitely more of a–it was harder to get jobs when I started FindSpark, you know? It was, like, right around–you know, off of, like, the 2008 tough times when it was hard for really anyone to get a job, but now it’s really switched I think to be more of a candidate’s marketplace, and so, you know, employers need to be competitive in terms of, you know, showing candidates why they’re at the best place to work and have the best opportunities and opportunities for growth. And so that’s–you know, that’s what they really come to us for is to show that they’re, you know, investing in, you know, new and different ways to connect with talent and not just going to, you know, the same top ten colleges and posting on their job board and, you know, getting referrals from people that, you know, they’re going above and beyond to create experiences and opportunities for talent to connect with them.

Zach: Was there ever a moment while building FindSpark that you said, “Wow, this is pretty special?”

Emily: You know–well, I would say going back to, you know, all of these great partners that we’ve been able to work with, these great employers, I mean, I think every time we get to do something incredible–and, you know, whether or not it’s a huge employer like, you know, Grey Advertising or NBC Universal, I mean, even the smaller companies where, you know, you probably haven’t heard of them because they’re not a consumer-facing name, but we know that they have incredible opportunities. And, you know, those moments where we are building something that’s going to connect folks to, you know, a career or a life-changing, you know, opportunity or connection. I mean, those are always the best moments, and luckily they happen fairly often. So those are–yeah, I would say those moments where we’re, you know, building these partnerships, getting them off the ground, and then also just, you know, the positive aftermath of them when, you know, you get the follow-ups of folks who have made positive connections and who you’ve had an impact on. I have a very wonderful starred inbox full of folks who, you know, have shared their successes, and that’s always really, really exciting and rewarding.

Zach: I bet. So, you know, you made mention earlier about making connections, right? You said it’s a candidate’s market and how, you know, employers are seeking to really–to get and acquire true talent. So I’m curious, what advice would you give organizations who are seeking to be more inclusive and diverse by hiring ethnically diverse millennial talent? And what have you seen work?

Emily: Well, you know, I think one important thing is to realize the difference between diversity and inclusion, right? They’re often paired together, and we even talk about–you know, at FindSpark we talk about how we support diversity and inclusion, but they are two different things, and so, you know, for us, our ideal clients and for the employers we’re working with, we really want to make sure that they have the inclusion side down before they start partnering with us in an external way that’s more focused on diversity. And we also do DNI consulting, and we’ll work internally as, like, an adviser as well if they’re at that, you know, internal stage because there’s no point in attracting diverse talent or talent that might not be representative of, like, how your company make-up is as a whole if you’re gonna get them in the door and then not be providing the support they need to thrive and to grow, because then they’re just gonna leave. So, you know, doing those internal sort of audits first of what is the, you know, climate of inclusivity. Are your hiring practices or your interview practices and your onboarding practices as inclusive as they can be? You know, and really getting all of that back-end structure set up first before going on the external side. And if you have all of that, you know, internal stuff, you know, set up and you have that going, then in terms of the external side I would say, you know, of course it’s inserting yourself into communities and places where there is–where there is diverse talent or talent that’s not coming from the most obvious places. You know, FindSpark is a great partner because we have so many different schools represented in our community, and we focus on what we call early-career talent, so that’s folks with about zero to five years of experience. So you’re either (in repping?) current attendants of different schools or, you know, have graduated from them, but, you know, it can be easy to focus on just a few schools with, you know, a few top programs and that sort of thing, but, you know, you have to think beyond the obvious. And I would say the other thing is to give opportunities to folks on your team, to a diverse range of folks on your team, when it comes to thought leadership, when it comes to creating content, when it comes to having a say in what sort of partnerships or recruiting practices that you are doing because that’s really important too for people to see externally that folks who are in your company already from diverse backgrounds are elevated and have the opportunity to, you know, make significant contributions and that sort of thing.

Zach: No, absolutely. It’s funny that you–it’s interesting that you bring that up because, you know, to your point, it’s not just about having black and brown folks in the audience. It’s like, “Okay, well, who actually has the decision-making authority and power,” right?

Emily: Right, mm-hmm.

Zach: So if you see a bunch of–I mean, not to be–like, not to be too crass, right, but, like, if you look at in the 1800s, like, plantations were very diverse, but they weren’t inclusive, right? Like, you had black folks everywhere, but there was only so many–there was a certain group of people who were only in power, right? So it’s like, how do you figure out and how do you include and make sure that people who are–who are not necessarily the majority still feel involved and empowered with the decision-making of what’s really happening around? So to your point around the thought leadership and actually being able to say, “Look, I was able to contribute to something. I was actually able to point to something and say I actually had a hand in driving that.” That’s so important. So as you know, Living Corporate focuses on the experiences of under-represented people and groups in the workplace. In my experience, so much of networking is built off of who you know. Like, if you’re a first-generation immigrant or if you’re a black or Latinx person or et cetera, your social circles are drastically smaller than your white counterparts. What advice have you or influencers within FindSpark’s network given to people of color as they seek to grow their network and navigate their careers?

Emily: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I also–in addition to FindSpark, I’m also an adjunct professor at a couple of colleges, and I teach career and social media courses. And they’re different courses, different types of students. One is senior computer animation students at SVA. Another is a mix of different types of students at FIT, different grade levels, but an assignment that I give to both of them is to reach out and–reach out using only social media and the internet to get an informational interview with someone who you admire, and it’s so simple, and as, you know, older folks, you and I–not too old, of course–but, you know, we understand that concept and that it’s important and that you can do that, but younger people, especially younger people who might be coming from families who don’t understand what they want to do or have, you know, no connections in the world where they want to go, it’s not obvious that “Oh, I can just find someone whose work I admire and say hi and, like, ask them for their time?” Like, “What? I didn’t even–what?” Like, “Really? Are you sure?” You know, especially younger–you know, at FIT a lot of my students are on the younger side. They may be, like, freshmen or sophomores, and, you know, they don’t learn that kind of thing in high school. Like, they’re not teaching the importance of networking. They’re learning, like, how to take an SAT test and that kind of thing, and so they don’t realize, like, how important it is to learn from other people and how open people are. And they’re used to using social media for joking around with their friends and, like, being doofuses, and, you know–which I think is another misnomer that older people have, like “Oh, young people, they know all about how to use social media to do anything that they want,” and yes, it’s true that younger people are more–they are more digital natives in a sense. They know how to use the tools, like, logistically. Like, they would, like, more intuitively understand how to use different apps and Snapchat and all that kind of stuff, but that doesn’t mean that they understand how they can use it professionally. And, you know, they have this whole other layer of–you know, a complete additional layer or many different layers of etiquette that they have to deal with. Like, “How do I present myself on all these different platforms to my professors, to my peers, to potential employers or mentors?” Et cetera, et cetera, and so just really empowering them that yes, you can use the internet, which is so amazing that you can reach out to so many different types of people so easily to connect with folks and really take ownership of building a network and getting them into the mindset that, you know, most people will not respond to them as well.

Zach: Right.

Emily: Because I–which, you know, I’m not just like, “Yes, the internet is magic, and you can get all of the people you want in your network so easily, and it’s no big deal.” Like, no. You know, I teach them it’s possible, but it takes a lot of effort and it takes time, and of course you want to be creating great work on your own and show them that you’re someone worth investing their time in because of, you know, your work ethic and things that you’ve created and done and that sort of thing, but that, you know, yes, a lot of people–most people will not respond to you or not get back to you, and that’s okay, but the important thing is you try and you try in an authentic way, you know? By reaching out to people who you truly admire, you’re gonna send better notes, you’re gonna have better meetings because, you know, you truly admire them versus, like, “I’m gonna send the same message to 20 different people at Viacom ’cause I just want to take any job at Viacom,” right? Like, that’s not gonna work. So again, especially if you’re not coming into a career with a built-in family network or a strong network from college, because maybe your campus is not one that companies come to and that sort of thing. Just knowing that there are so many people out there who want to help you and guide you and support you, and so it’s just a matter of finding those people, you know? Looking across different platforms, and focus on people who have already shown an interest in helping others. You know, so those would be like people with podcasts or people who have blogs or people who are actively posting on social media or people who put their emails in their social media bios.

Zach: Right. They do that for a reason.

Emily: Yeah, and still people will be hesitant to reach out, you know? So focus on those types of people, people who do speaking engagements, who have written books. You know, there’s different levels of that sort of thing, but those people are just more likely to be responsive as well. And so if you are someone who is from an underrepresented background as well, I would say, you know, it’s important–well, really for anyone to just make yourself accessible to folks as well as being able to pay it forward.

Zach: So again, I’m not trying to be a fan or too starstruck, but I see those names you’ve been able to connect with. How much of that has to do with you stepping out of your comfort zone and just putting yourself out there?

Emily: Yeah. Well, I think it’s huge, and I think what makes it easier is really knowing and having–knowing that you have something of value to offer, and also just really understanding why it will be valuable to, you know, the company or the person because, you know, at the end of the day everybody’s got their own problems, and they want to look good, and they want to help their company grow. So, you know, when you’re approaching anyone, whether it’s for a partnership or you’re just a person, like, looking for a job, you know, it’s really understanding what their needs are and how you can help with that need and help solve that problem and, you know, ultimately make the person who vouched for you–again, whether that’s the talent acquisition person or the person who’s, you know, bringing on your company as a partner–you know, making them look good. Like, making them be like, “Wow, I’m so happy that I made this happen, that I brought this person on,” or, you know, brought this partnership to life.

Zach: Okay, so I don’t want the interview to get too far away from us before I ask about what FindSpark has planned in 2019 and you letting us know where we can learn more about your organization and why professionals and employers alike should engage your platform.

Emily: Awesome, of course. So, I mean, in terms of our plans, like, we have created so many incredible programs over the last year and are gonna be doing more and more in 2019, so, you know, we’re doing a lot of custom partnerships with employers. One of my favorite recent examples is we worked with Grey Advertising to create a free eight-week portfolio school for aspiring creatives who have not already been through some sort of formal advertising program, whether through an official portfolio school or a well-known advertising college or university. So we brought a really, really diverse group of students who all had to apply to attend–apply to be a part of it. It was very competitive, and they had access to this incredible education from top creatives at Grey. They got to present final projects, their final campaign projects, to the chief worldwide creative officer at Grey. I mean, like, this was an incredibly, like, career and life-changing opportunity for those selected. So doing more and more programs like that where we are able to create these really meaningful connections and educational opportunities as well, and also we’re doing more to support the inclusion side of employers and their initiatives as well. So our NBC Universal partnership we just did, not only did we bring in–create an event where we brought in 40 curated FindSpark members and candidates essentially, but the event also–they invited 40 folks from their young professionals network at NBC to come to this event as well and hear from this panel of incredible ad sales professionals at NBC Universal. So, you know, not only was it a great way to build a pipeline of potential candidates to bring into NBC, but for–you know, NBC has tons of employees with tons of potential too, and so curating, you know, a great group of those folks to also learn and network with the folks we brought in was really exciting. So again, doing more programs that also support that internal–like, we talked about, like, inclusion and providing opportunities for underrepresented talent inside and outside of the organization to excel and grow is, you know, what we’re doing more and more of. And so in terms of where folks can learn more, definitely follow us on Instagram, and I know that’s how we connected, so gotta give some shout out to the gram.

Zach: That’s right, shout out to the gram.

Emily: We’re at FindSpark on Instagram and every platform, [inaudible] make your Instagram feed a little bit more productive. But so fun, and then if you go to FindSpark.com/newsletter, if you’re a young professional, an early-career professional, you can sign up to hear all about our opportunities, and FindSpark.com/employers is where you can learn more about partnering with us to connect with our [inaudible].

Zach: That’s awesome. Now, look, before we go, do you have any shout outs or final words?

Emily: I would say always be connecting with people who you find interesting, and do it in a genuine way. And don’t just connect with them, but always make sure that you’re also creating time to maintain those relationships by practicing what I like to call unforced follow-up, which is, you know, when you see something, whether it’s an Instagram post or an email or an article and you think–and you think of someone in your network, most people do that and they just think about them but then they move on with their day. If you take a couple of minutes when that happens to actually take the time to send it to that person or tag them in the post, send them an email with no intention other than just saying, “Hey, I thought of you,” “This is the thing that made me think of you,” that sort of thing will really help you maintain your network as well, which is super, super important.

Zach: Always be connecting. I like that. We might have found the subtitle for this podcast, ’cause see, I think the episode–and tell me how you feel about the title of this podcast. This episode is gonna be Finding That Spark with Emily Miethner.

Emily: I love it. Perfect.

Zach: Okay. All right. Well, look, that does it for us, y’all. Thank you for joining us on the Living Corporate podcast. Make sure to follow us on Instagram at LivingCorporate, Twitter at LivingCorp_Pod, and subscribe to our newsletter through www.living-corporate.com. If you have a question you’d like for us to answer and read on the show, make sure you email us at livingcorporatepodcast@gmail.com. This has been Zach, and you’ve been listening to Emily Miethner, CEO of FindSpark. Peace.

Kiara: Living Corporate is a podcast by Living Corporate, LLC. Our logo was designed by David Dawkins. Our theme music was produced by Ken Brown. Additional music production by Antoine Franklin from Musical Elevation. Post-production is handled by Jeremy Jackson. Got a topic suggestion? Email us at livingcorporatepodcast@gmail.com. You can find us online on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and living-corporate.com. Thanks for listening. Stay tuned.

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