Three job success stories

These go-getters landed jobs last year. Use their experience to your own advantage.

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From unemployed blogger to music supervisor

Jarrett Cato, 25, music supervisor at The Tap Music
Jarrett Cato's love of music took him past the first round of American Idol season seven, but it didn't lead to a dream job at a record label straight out of college. In an attempt to fill his excessive free time, he started blogging about the frustrations of unemployment. The blog gained followers around the world, and Cato put himself through Internet boot camp: He learned how to monetize the site through online ads, write HTML code and promote his site via social-networking tools. Still, he had never stopped hunting for that elusive music-industry gig. And by the time he found a job listing for a music licensing and placement consultant who had deep knowledge of Web 2.0 and HTML, he was able to win over his future boss away with his ideas for how to conduct more business online, ideas that sprung from his own Web experiences. Now he uses social media to interact with major music labels (like Sony and Universal), artists, managers and advertising executives to match the perfect songs to commercials. Cato is gaining more experience than he would have in an entry-level role at a big-time label; recently, he produced and directed the music placement and licensing for a national Mitsubishi Outlander campaign, and he spends his days listening to new tracks and developing his company's website, thetapmusic.com. Cato's advice: "Blogging is never a waste of time, even if it feels like it is." It also helps to put your blog on your rsum, especially if it applies to the gig you want.

 

From HR grunt to headhunting consultant

Stephanie Stallard, 25, consultant at executive headhunting firm Carrington Fox
At just 25 years old, Stallard tripled her income this year, and she's on track to start pulling in six figures by this spring. A few months ago, she had a low-paying human resources job at Teach for America, but she decided she could do better in a recruiting position. "To make a lot of money without a J.D., M.B.A. or economics degree, you need to go for commission-based jobs without a capped salary," says Stallard. But her major tax-bracket leap almost didn't happen. After applying for the job through Craigslist, she went through a rigorous series of interviews. Toward the end, the tide seemed to be turning against her: "They didn't think I was aggressive enough," she says. Luckily, Stallard was ready to fire back; she had read everything she could find about the company and had compiled a list of 25 reasons why she was right for the job; one of them argued that she could be aggressive when necessary. At the interview, she answered the concern with an anecdote about how she'd wrangled a deposit back from a reneging landlord, along with other examples of warranted assertiveness. Stallard's advice: "You really have to fight for the jobs you want," Stallard says. "Preparation gives you the ammo to do that."

 

From restaurant manager to food-world publicist

Maya Zisbrod, 25, junior account executive at Hunter Public Relations
You never know what contacts you might already have. Last tax season, Zisbrod was a manager at Union Square Cafe, when her accountant mentioned that his wife once worked in food PR. Zisbrod's ears pricked up. After a phone conversation with the wife, Zisbrod followed a lead to the Susan Magrino Agency, which has an extensive roster of culinary clients. Impressed with Zisbrod's restaurant experience and Danny Meyer connection, the firm offered her an internship. "It can be a little awkward to be a 25-year-old intern alongside college sophomores and juniors," Zisbrod admits, but she sucked it up. For four months, she interned two days a week and managed the restaurant the other five. When she started applying to full-time positions, the PR firms took note of the Susan Magrino job on Zisbrod's rsum, and in the end, she landed interviews at several agencies before she accepted a position with Hunter. Zisbrod's advice: "If you discover your dream job a little late, you need to make a change fast. Don't be afraid to take a leap of faith and start at the beginning."

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