Tips For Creating Your Own Startup Post Grad | #RoadFromRyerson

I think every student at one point or another envisions bringing their own personal dream project to life, and as a media production student I’m constantly seeing all the amazing initiatives my classmates come up with, whether it’s their own YouTube channel or production company.

When researching successful alumni, I came across Studio Bud — a creative initiative that uses the power of play to foster blue-sky ideation between Gen Z youth and organizations. I talked to Ryerson graduates Marijana Miric and Jamie Kwan who founded the company, as well as their co-worker Naomi, to get some insight on how to bring a passion project to life and the advantages millennials have when it comes to applying for jobs.

Q: You all ended up in very successful companies post grad. Would you have advice for upcoming graduates that are aspiring for the same type of job?

Jamie: Network, network, network: don’t expect opportunities to simply be handed to you after graduation, or even be there waiting for students. I’m in a different type of situation and industry, but I ended up pitching my position to my current employer as a cold-call, when they weren’t looking for any help whatsoever. To be honest, I had zero work in the first month of my job, so I used that time to network within and prove my value.

It’s great if you’re applying to openings at companies, but don’t feel confined to just those postings on LinkedIn. Prove why a company should hire you, and what gaps you fill in the company’s current capabilities or culture. Ryerson gave me the entrepreneurial and creative confidence to do so.

Naomi: I agree with Jamie – it’s all about putting yourself out there and having conversations. Both my jobs after MDM (Master’s in Digital Media) were a result of a conversation, not submitting a resume. Always make an effort to find out more about the people you’re mingling with, instead of talking about yourself — unless they ask then keep going and sell yourself! But there’s a balance of selling yourself and genuinely discovering more about the people you meet. Read ‘How To Win Friends and Influence People’ by Dale Carnegie — an old business book with solid principles.

Marijana: My biggest piece of advice here is to identify what success means to you. Does it mean being financially successful? Does it mean being happy with your job? Constantly being inspired? A ladder of growth regarding your skill set? There are a number of things that contribute to this definition but I find that most of the time when we don’t self-identify this definition we question our next move and push ourselves in the direction we think we should be going in. Make sure your values align with the values of the company you want to work for. I highly recommend the book ‘Thrive’ by Arianna Huffington. She does a great job of making you ask the right questions in terms of figuring out how to ensure your definition of success matches what you’re looking for in life.

Q: How did the idea for Studio Bud come about? Did you create a plan for it when you were still at Ryerson?

Jamie: We first developed Studio Bud while students in the Masters in Digital Media program at Ryerson; we teamed up for the Social Innovation Summit hackathon — a weekend-long design sprint to develop ideas that would generate social change. We joined purely for a fun thing to do that weekend.

We were inspired by the passion youth have in their communities, but lacked the platform. Studio Bud grew out of connecting youth to the real-world community to collaboratively develop new creative ideas! We didn’t end up winning or even placing in the hackathon (we actually got torn apart by the panelists), but we submitted it to Canon Canada’s social innovation competition a month later. They loved it so much that they ended up sponsoring our first pilot project, to help us get off the ground. The rest is history.

Naomi: I’ll add to Jamie’s response and say the coolest part is that we all recognized that we wanted to create something that gave back to society, added value & made a difference. This was the common force that united us!

Q: What advice would you give students that have changed their mind about their major and passions and want to follow a different career path?

Jamie: As someone who has switched career disciplines, only to return into the same industry — one of the best advice I was ever given in my early career journey, was to embrace being a “wonderful weirdo”. Every experience is a learning experience, and every path is a path forward. There’s always something to take away and pitch from a past job, whether directly or indirectly related. Embrace multidisciplinary thinking and practice, as that’s where the future lies!

Naomi: Learn as much as possible from people doing the thing you eventually wanna do, seek mentors & then go for it! Nothing’s wrong with switching paths but you’ll need support especially if its different from what you pursued in school or in previous jobs. I just made a switch to pretty much full-time music and even though my parents are musicians, I’ve never actually worked in the space and there’s so much to learn. I’m taking the ‘lean start-up’ approach to my music career versus having everything perfectly together — however, I’m not afraid to reach out to people in the industry for quick words of advice because I need it!

Marijana: Go for it. There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind about what you want to do — most of the time it’s preferred simply because of the change in mindset. Often enough the biggest issue with being in a specific industry is that many people share your same mindset so it forms a collective group-think approach toproblem-solving. That being said, I agree with Naomi — reach out to people who do what you eventually want to do. We tend to glamorize specific companies and positions, so it’s always great to get insight knowledge and figure out if that’s something you’re truly interested in. If you have a good relationship with someone, ask them if they can connect you or even if they can help you find a potential opportunity for job shadowing. Nothing like getting right in the heart of the action!

Q: What advice would you give to students that are trying to pursue their passion projects outside of their 9–5 jobs?

Jamie: Honestly, just do it. However big or small. Don’t think about how people will perceive it or judge you for it. Passion projects are for yourself, and no one else, so there’s no safer place to fail fast. Studio Bud is only one of many of my passion projects — I took up crocheting, writing, mindless doodling…

Naomi: Recognize that this is gonna be a huge sacrifice on your social life — and be ok with it. When you do the math of working full-time plus commuting, you really don’t have a lot of time for your side passion. Which is ok, you can totally do it — but often times the hardest part is ‘trying to balance’ — so I think we have to realize that for a season or two there won’t be any balance. It might just be your passion and your full-time for maybe a year or more. Hopefully, your close friends will understand and will support you and even make a bigger effort to come visit you and spend time with you! You should still be sure to take care of yourself, do things that make you happy but it might mean that you’re not gonna be able to hang every weekend. Maybe once a month or so — or try to do early morning coffee dates with people who are open to waking up early to see you. I’ve found that it was my social life that felt it the most when juggling my pursuits.

Marijana: Just do it. The most important thing about a passion project is that you’re feeding your soul with what you do. Hence the idea behind the term ‘passion project.’ If you’re not completely passionate about what you’re doing, why are you doing it? In the end, no matter what your passion project is or how much time it takes up, make sure you take care of yourself.

Q: What would you say are the biggest advantages millennials have when it comes to applying for jobs? Would you say it’s easier or harder for them?

Jamie: It’s definitely hard applying for jobs, regardless of the generational gap. Every year of graduates has experienced hardships in this transitionary phase of their lives; they’re just different generation-to-generation based on the context around us. I’d say the opportunity has changed for us millennials — we have an access to networks, information, skills, and learning that is unprecedented. Use that to your advantage to make the change in the world that you’d like to see.

Naomi: The advantage we have is creativity, we can use so many different tools to get the attention of our potential employers – videos, visual resume’s etc. Because our generation simply thinks differently. What might be harder is the process of it all — some employers are still skeptical about hiring very young people and so millennials will get shunned and not understand why they weren’t hired. So I think what’s hard for our generation is patience, knowing that as talented & qualified as we may be. We still have to practice a bit of patience because we’re still working with other generations that think differently and we also have to respect their years of work — and their perspective. My hope is that we find a middle ground. *fingers crossed*

Marijana: I agree with Naomi — the biggest challenge for our generation is patience. And this isn’t just something that takes place when applying for jobs, it’s something that’s often found while we’re in our positions (tying back in to my answer to Q.1 about self-identifying your definition of success). Regardless, we’re all in the same boat — applying for jobs is not easy. The best way to combat this is to prove your worth. Don’t tell us why you’re great — show us. This is an example that I absolutely love for an interactive resume — It’s fun, engaging, and definitely makes you want to know more.

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