“Interest in politics” certainly wasn’t a requirement listed in the Vimeo Senior Analyst job posting. So how did Damon Mok — a wonk with a creative bent who hadn’t studied math since high school — find himself loving this data-driven position at one of the most popular video sharing sites on the internet? By becoming his own teacher.
Welcome to How I Landed My Job, a series of stories about graduates who took an unconventional approach to landing a job they love. As part of Fifth Third Bank’s Brand of You campaign, $1 million in one-on-one career coaching scholarships is being given away to recent graduates. Head here to learn how you can enter for the chance to win job search training, worth $1,000.
Damon started college like most freshmen: with no way of predicting his career path. So he followed his fascination with policy-making and landed on an International Relations major. “I thought I wanted to pursue a career in global affairs,” he says. His first foray into politics didn’t go so well. When he didn’t get a summer internship in Washington, D.C., he began to rethink things — politics was too cutthroat. “I realized how my personality just didn’t lend itself to a career in politics, government, or diplomacy,” he recalls.
While many would consider this a sign of Damon’s good character, it also meant he had to reconsider his professional muse. Luckily, his interests weren’t limited to congressional hearings and foreign policy. He also harbored a creative side and studied visual arts. “It was a conscious choice borne out of a desire to not lose touch with my inner artist and also maintain some sanity while studying [politics].” Art might save him from a career he didn’t want, but did it offer a viable alternative?
Damon went exploring. He picked up some design work on campus and landed a few internships in the field. But as graduation drew near, he had to accept that his design experience was still limited, especially compared to those graduating with creative degrees. Damon needed yet another source of direction. This time he looked outside his own personal interests. “My parents are both business owners, which definitely made an impression on me,” he says. “And the tech scene in New York was also starting to take off in 2011 when I graduated.” Now he just had to find a creative job where he could develop his own entrepreneurial spirit. Turns out, there aren’t a ton of those.
After graduation, Damon followed the allure of entrepreneurship and landed a series of jobs in New York’s burgeoning startup world. He was still interested in design, but remembers, “There was a point where I had to accept that I just couldn’t compete with design grads from art schools, unless I went back and completely re-did my portfolio,” he says. “Once I came to terms with that, I started opening up to different opportunities.” The startup gods were ready to provide him with just that.
One day Damon’s boss approached him with a request: the team needed someone to cover analytics for a project. Damon was shocked — he had no relevant experience, and hadn’t even studied math in college. But he dove into the task anyway. As he worked, his natural affinity for numbers came flooding back.
“I realized that data had this explanatory power,” Damon says. “That really satisfied the more scientific part of my brain.” So he shifted his professional sights yet again — and yet again he had to overcome a lack of experience. Now used to pushing beyond his comfort zone, Damon pumped himself up for a task he (like most of us) truly dreaded: networking. “I didn’t have much experience, so a lot of my interactions just involved me asking a bunch of questions.” But Damon had to make up for lost time, so he plowed ahead, shaking hands, sending awkward emails, and setting up informational interviews — he even went to meetups and networking events. He connected with alumni from his university, professionals a few years ahead of him career-wise, and people with similar backgrounds who had also found careers in analytics.
Damon’s fear of being an outsider began to dissipate. “It got easier over time as I became more comfortable listening and less concerned about having to prove myself to others...Most people genuinely enjoy talking about themselves,” he says. That definitely helps.
Damon’s commitment paid off. “If there was one thing that really helped me establish myself,” he says, “it was becoming a part of the community. [Networking] helped me figure out what I needed to learn, topics and ideas I should be able to speak to, and how I could be a productive member of that profession.” He’d been looking for connections, and had found mentorship. Next, he needed to build his skill set.
After soaking up advice from others in his desired field, Damon began filling in the blanks on his resume by teaching himself fundamental skills like SQL and core concepts in relational databases. “The ability to teach myself helped a lot in getting my foot in the door,” Damon says. This trait was especially desirable in the professional settings he felt most at home in: startups. “They don’t have the resources to provide structured training,” he explains. “Everyone is expected to perform with a degree of self-sufficiency.” His enthusiasm had grown into a competitive resume supported by a professional network. All Damon needed was an opportunity, and he could put it all to work.
While searching job listings, Damon came across an exciting position at an intriguing company: Senior Analyst at Vimeo. “I’d known about Vimeo for a while, having used it during one of my on-campus jobs,” Damon says. “I saw that they were hiring an analyst specifically dedicated to experimental designs and evaluations. It was exactly the discipline I’d wanted to focus on.” Damon applied for the job and prepped for the multiple rounds of interviews. He emphasized his experience with Vimeo and his fascination with experimental designs and evaluations. “Demonstrating an interest in the company and some sort of intellectual curiosity definitely helped me,” he says. The Vimeo team was impressed — Damon landed the job he now loves.
Damon is proof that your professional direction isn’t dictated by your initial curriculum — you have to be willing to experiment and teach yourself. “What I really gained in school was self-awareness,” he says. “That allowed me to find a profession that brings me a sense of fulfillment every day.”
You’ve heard Damon’s story — now it’s time to share yours. If you could do it all over, would you choose a different major? Did your education lead you in the professional direction you hoped for, or did you have to rethink your approach? How many different professional directions did you experiment with before finding a fulfilling career? What’s the craziest thing you ever did to get an interview, make an impression, or land a job? Share your career stories in the comments!
As stories like Damon’s prove, a college degree doesn’t guarantee a full time job offer. Most graduates don’t know how to develop and promote their strongest asset: their personal brand. That’s why Fifth Third Bank teamed up with NextJob to create the Brand of You campaign. As part of this initiative, Fifth Third Bank is giving away $1 million in personalized job search coaching to help recent graduates navigate the job market as they deal with paying student loans.
All it takes to enter is a simple Tweet. Visit 53.com/BrandofYou to learn more about how you can win a job search training package worth $1,000, or tell us why you deserve a scholarship by posting a Tweet with #brandofyou and #53enter for a chance to win. Fifth Third Bank. Member FDIC.