CNBC’s “College Voices 2020” is a series written by CNBC summer interns from universities across the country about age, launching new careers and job hunting during a global pandemic. They are finding their voice in a time of great social change and hope for a better future. What money issues are you facing? How are they navigating their student loans? How are they gaining work experience, networking and applying for jobs when so many opportunities have been canceled or postponed? How important is the diversity and values of a company to Gen Z job seekers?
Covid-19 rocked the economy in ways this world has never seen. Many people have found their lives upside down, including students. I know that right now many students are finding themselves in challenging situations. Many are stuck at home, have lost a summer internship or cannot find work. However, even if the way forward isn’t clear right now, it’s important to remember that there’s always something you can do to move yourself forward – even when you’re stuck at home!
Jennifer Frick, a career counselor at the Center for Career and Professional Development at Carnegie Mellon University, suggests using this as an opportunity for students to focus on their professional development. There are many ways for students to go about this. Students can:
- Do research or distance courses to continue their studies. A good resource for this is LinkedIn Learning.
- Write a blog on a topic you’re passionate about – so become an expert yourself, instead of waiting for someone to offer you a chance to become an expert.
- Start a YouTube channel on something you find interesting or enjoyable.
- Contribute freelance articles to online publications.
- Network in online forums for topics you are passionate about.
For me, the choice was a YouTube channel. I decided when I was a sophomore in high school to make my own way – and I don’t expect anything to be passed on to me in college or beyond.
Where to start
I have always been fascinated by consumer technology. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been really excited whenever a new phone or tablet is released, and I do almost anything I could get time to interact with. So the idea of starting a YouTube channel where I come to explore the latest in consumer technology and review it for others to see and learn about, came to me naturally. Especially after seeing other tech enthusiasts like Marques Brownlee and Unbox Therapy find so much success on the platform.
The catalyst was a new printer I received that year as a holiday present. I thought this would be a perfect time to start a YouTube channel where I could talk about the printer and other future technology I might have to receive. So I saw my phone, sat down on the floor of my bed and left the unboxing and setup of this Brother MFC-J450DW printer. You could definitely say I was a newbie!
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But the more I worked on it, the better I got my videos. I saved money from several small jobs and birthday gifts and bought myself new technology for an unbox for the channel. I started to get more and more interested in the production aspect of how these videos are made, and I regretted making each new video look better and more involved than the last. I watched hours of tutorials on YouTube about light, sound, editing and history to try to consistently improve on my craft. This not only allowed me to improve my videos, but also allowed me to build valuable knowledge and experience in the process.
At the same time I improved my production skills, I also improved my SEO (search engine optimization) capabilities. I would like to consistently study the analytics that YouTube has provided on my audience. I learned that the vast majority of people watching my videos were men between the ages of 20 and 34, so I began to find video products and ideas that best served demographic interests. As I did so, I noticed my organic traffic from YouTube’s growing recommendations. I continued to refine and optimize my videos to get as much organic traffic as possible.
I finally knew I was on to something after I did an unboxing video from the iPhone 7 that got 100,000 views in the first month it was alive! I started creating more and more content over time, and I was lucky that a few videos turned out really well on the YouTube platform. I was super excited when last summer, just 5 years after I started the channel, it hit the 10,000 subscriber cap.
Not only am I doing something I love, but my YouTube channel has acted as a kind of live portfolio of my work, and it has been a major factor in me coming to the university of my dreams, landing my first amazing internship , and get my first video clients when I started my own production company, Boxer Video Productions.
My YouTube channel also acted as a form of passive income that gave me the flexibility to focus on my studies and other hobbies like music, without worrying so much about working to fund the station. After years of building YouTube ad revenue, sponsoring, and generating Amazon affiliate links, my channel now draws about $ 15,000 a year that I use to cover the cost of the products I review in the videos as well as to rebuild in the building a film Gear arsenal that I use to make even more videos for the channel and for my company’s clients.
The mechanics behind starting something like this were pretty simple and it’s really a repeatable process for any YouTuber to get started. I’m just:
- I decided what I was passionate about and wanted to make content around it – new technology.
- Set up accounts with YouTube, Amazon Affiliates, and AdSense.
- Ordered an affordable tripod to start filming videos with my phone (This is a good one for beginners).
- I learned to edit in iMovie (a free piece of editing software included with a Mac) through the multitude of free tutorials available on YouTube.
- Shared videos with my friends and family to get into some initial views, which helped the algorithm upload my videos and share it with a larger audience.
- Put Amazon Affiliate links to the products I talked about in the video description to generate some revenue to fund future videos.
It wasn’t until I got really comfortable with this startup setup that I slowly grew to buy more professional film equipment and experiment with different editing techniques. It was a process that took time, persistence, and dedication. This did not happen overnight.
The point of all this is not: “You have to go start a channel like I did.” What I’m trying to say is that you shouldn’t expect someone to give you a chance. And there is no age limit when you can start! Stop it. Find something that interests you and just jump. If it doesn’t work or you don’t like it – you can stop at any time. Trying new things and learning in the process is precious in itself. Whatever you decide to do, never know where it will lead you in the future! At the very least, you have some experience for your resume that you can talk about in an interview. And show that you have initiative. That will stop you from other candidates – and it can just give you a fantastic job.
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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors Acorn.