Welcome to our story. We often get asked how we got started and what is the inspiration behind our company. I’ve decided to start outlining our beginnings here and will be adding to it periodically to get us up to present time. Of course, we’ll always be growing and evolving, so check back often to stay updated.
Thanks for your interest in learning more (we’re humbled) and we look forward to meeting you.
To Career Optimism,
When I started college I had no real idea of what I wanted to do, but I picked Hofstra University because they had every major I had ever considered. My first major ended up being marketing, because I thought business was a safe bet. Business people make money, and I was at college to choose a career so I could graduate and find a job that would make me money (of course).
Logically, I decided to join the marketing club. Unfortunately, I just didn’t click with anyone involved. I started thinking that if I didn’t mesh with marketing people in college, would I mesh with marketing people in the “real world?” Should I work in a field where I didn’t enjoy the crowd?
Luckily, I had also been signed up for an art seminar elective and fell in love with my professor, Laurie Fendrich, who convinced me to sign up for more art classes. At the same time I had been going to the career center regularly where I explained how I was struggling with the marketing major and toying with the idea of making a change. My art classes were so enjoyable…but was that a smart career choice? At one point my career counselor said to me, “You know Emily, not all artists are starving.”
With their encouragement and support I decided to pursue a degree in design and found a home in the Fine Arts Department. The program was small but the students and professors were fantastic. One encouraged me to start a Graphic Design club, which I did. Later that year, noticing there were no career center events geared toward fine arts students, we planned the first annual “Not all Artists are Starving, a Night of Networking.” We brought together alumni along with creatives I had met through my internships to inspire our students and help them realize they could find jobs in the arts. There are struggles of course, but it’s possible.
I was hooked. The second year we held the event over 100 students attended and we received coverage in Newsday. At a time when so many of my peers (myself included) were scared of entering the job market, this event was key in helping us form connections and gain insight into what life is really like “out there.”
Throughout my last semester my friend Reb Carlson and I would ride the train together and talk about job applications, resumes, and interviews. We were both the type of students you’d think would have jobs right out of school because of our internship experience, good grades, and extra curriculars, but as graduation grew nearer and we were still without job offers, we got nervous.
Both of us ended up taking internships after graduation (paid and unpaid) and hitting up lots and lots of events. While attending Internet Week New York we ended up seeing one of our professors, Tom Klinkowstein. He yelled at us for talking to each other and not meeting people. The importance of networking really started to set in.
Meeting people. Networking. Scary, right? Although we were awkward and nervous at first, eventually we became comfortable with the idea and it became fun. At one event organized by my then Gawker Internship supervisor, Richard Blakely, I met Adam Gillman, a co-founder of Techies Give Back. Through volunteering our (almost non-existant) social media skills, my relationship with the other co-founder Simon Kirk began, someone who’s introduced me to countless people and events that have lead to tons of opportunities.
All the while, we were still looking for full-time jobs. I was looking for design, marketing, or events gigs. All over the place, right? Something a lot of new grads face. I finally landed at Sterling Publishing in a newly-created role, Social Media Coordinator.
Reb and I started thinking…let’s start something that helps our peers realize how important networking is…and that it’s not a negative thing.
I spent quite sometime struggling over what to call this new project, and at one point I got the advice to start a meetup group. I checked out the site and noticed the names were quite literal, so I figured I’d do the same. NY Creative Interns…makes sense. Turned out www.findspark.com was also available, and thus our name was born. After setting up the Meetup I whipped up a logo and a simple WordPress site. We were up and running.
In October of 2010 Klinkowstein introduced me to the site manager of The Wix Lounge, a free co-working space in NYC supported by Wix.com that had just opened. After I explained my vision for the group she offered us the space to hold our first event.
More of the story coming soon…