Introduction and Interview by Caroline Skou, Holy Cross'20
Among the various instructions I was given as a child — “Wash your hands before eating!” and “Refrain from biting your friends!” — “Don’t brag!” was the one that always stayed with me. This could have stemmed from resentment towards my elementary best friend who always boasted about having lunchables (my mom refused to buy them). Or maybe it was because my group at summer camp gloated about having the best cabin to the wrong counselor one year, and subsequently had to hose down the communal bathroom as a result. Either way, “don’t brag” became a commandment in my unwritten guide to life.
During college though, I found that this mantra has one great exception: interviews. I remember sitting in a windowless room across from my interviewer, wearing my mom’s old low rise dress pants, and realizing that it’s not only permissible to hype up your accomplishments in the context of a professional pursuit, it’s encouraged!
That doesn't mean that it’s easy though. But if there’s anything I learned during my most recent interview with Hallie Easley, founder of COMMIT, it’s that professionally advocating for yourself, and stepping out of your comfort zone is truly the key to success. For this edition of the MMXX series, Hallie Easely gives advice on building a personal brand, and how professional relationships are key to achieving success.
I learned that I loved the hard work, and the chaotic and creative nature that comes from it.
To start each interview, I like to ask everyone what was your first ever ‘non-corporate’ job? And what did you learn from that experience?
When I was in 4th grade I worked for my aunt, Catherine Dail; she's an entrepreneur with a fashion line. I remember being in her office, organizing closets, and visiting the storage rooms. I learned that I loved the hard work, and the chaotic and creative nature that comes from it.
Could you talk a bit about your career path. How did you get from Texas A&M to becoming a Co-Founder of Commit?
Before starting Commit, I worked in the nonprofit space with the core of my work focusing on visually promoting good initiatives. I was essentially a photojournalist; I would go to different countries, get stories from people, and bring these stories back to create fundraising and campaign materials.
Doing this, I found that I could never be fully creative because of the politics of the company and opinions of bosses. The problem I had is that nonprofits want to do things slowly, and don't pay enough attention to beauty. But those ideas deserve beauty. Overall, I was frustrated with efficiency and lack of aesthetics.
I left my last job, met my current business partner over breakfast in the East Village, and we decided that we were going to start a new kind of agency. We threw ourselves into it. Spent a year trying to figure out how to do it efficiently, and figured that if we own the process and don't just have the client say a bunch of to dos, it will work.
In the future, how do you see the advertising and branding industry changing as a result of the pandemic? Do you think this will affect the hiring process in the future?
The way we work together is changing, and with the traditional tools and forms of communication falling away, we’re creating a healthier work setting. Everything is getting more poignant, less traditional, and is being done with more intention. This will overall be better for the work. Going forward, people are going to need advertising and marketing people to be nimble, quick, and not terribly expensive. The long term of a campaign isn't prevalent anymore because it's a time suck.
So here's a piece of advice: build a personal brand! Get a website! Figure out something you're about and own that.
With the hiring processes, I believe that there will be a lot more independent contractors. Which is good for this generation because the industry is looking for people who have great personalities and are good with technology. More independent contractors though means long term jobs will be less prevalent. So here's a piece of advice: build a personal brand! Get a website! Figure out something you're about and own that. Build experience and become an entrepreneur. The learning process is not a vacuum; ask how others have achieved this, and learn their process. It seems scary but it's a wonderful life. I believe that you should do what you're passionate about in this world, even if it doesn't seem profitable. Follow your authentic vision, even if you just want to make people laugh, find out how, and go do just that.
A lot of students recently had their internships cancelled for the summer. How would you suggest someone maintain momentum if they weren't able to secure a position for this summer?
You should spend this time building relationships. In this industry, relationships are everything. Foremost they're enjoyable, but for work and success, they're the most important thing. Look for your ideal job, find someone who has it, and pursue them! And if you're afraid to reach out to someone, push through it. People want to talk to you! Tell them exactly what you want, that you love what they’re doing, and that it's your dream to work with someone like them. Describe your skills, create an outline of what you want. Keep up with these relationships, and sometimes the return on investment may take a year or two, but if you’re patient and determined, things will fall into place.
You should spend this time building relationships. In this industry, relationships are everything
It really seems like building a professional community through networking is essential to having a successful career. Could you talk about other communities you were a part of in college? What did you gain from these relationships?
In college, I was really interested in rock climbing. There is a rock climbing gym at Texas A&M, and I became obsessed, and met a lot of wonderful people through doing this. Ultimately I learned what true community is. That community for me was redefined by a group of wonderful, really encouraging friends. For example, when you’re climbing everyone is around you to help you. They’re really cheering for you, and sad when you fall. It's a love I hadn't experienced before.