The Tip Jar: Nakia Swinton, VICE Media Communications Assistant

Tip Jar

You know the drill, folks! This week’s Tip Jar features media savvy superstar Nakia Swinton.

nakia2You’re currently a Communications Assistant at VICE Media. What types of responsibilities do you have with this position?

I mostly work with VICE’s digital channels and VICE Magazine. When one of the channels has an interesting story or video I contact writers (depending on the subject) and ask them to write about VICE’s content so the company can receive press. I also set up interviews for our writers on mostly radio and sometimes television. I assist at company events and ask writers to attend as well as being the intern supervisor for the department.

What do you like most about the work you’re doing?

I’ve always wanted to work in media so I am super excited I received that opportunity right out of college. I like working with different people in the company and understanding their roles such as the writers, editors and publishers. I also enjoy having a chance to look at the content before it becomes live.

Where did you intern during your college years and what did you learn?

My first internship was with the programming department at BET where I learned a lot about ratings and the importance of competitors’ schedule and a target audience. I then interned with Diversity & Inclusion at NBCUniversal where I learned a lot about internal employee programs for inclusion. My senior year I interned at a music public relations company called Press Here Publicity and the communications department at VH1. Those internships taught me a lot about the PR world, working with talent, writing press releases and pitches and the difference between doing press for TV and music.

You were also a DJ and host for your college radio show “Overnight Delight.” What was that experience like?

That was probably the best decision I made in college. I joined the radio station my first week of school and had my own show as a freshman and for four years of my college career. My radio show helped me land my first internship at BET, which led to all my other opportunities. I also met my best friends at radio and I got to do a show with them once a week, which was great. The show helped me on my producing and hosting skills as well as interviewing with local artists.


Who was the coolest person you spoke with?

I got the opportunity to work with a lot of different underground artists in the North Jersey area with radio. The coolest one I spoke with is a rapper named Shwiggy. He is super talented and he was on the show multiple times and dropped one of his mixtapes live on air.

What professional experience or moment are you most proud of thus far?

The professional moment I am most proud of is landing a media job before graduation because so many people made it seem like it was impossible. I actually started working at VICE before I graduated and still managed to graduate cum laude.

Where do you see yourself going from here?

I either see myself working in the government or in a more creative role within the industry such as producing or programming.

Do you have other hobbies or passions?

My hobbies include doing pilates, going to comedy clubs, freelance writing, hanging out with my friends and family and of course getting a chance to watch TV. My passion is to work with the media and the government to get people educated on important issues and truly make a difference in the world.

What advice can you offer young professionals trying to pursue media careers after college?

My advice would be to take advantage of every opportunity you have in college as well as network as much as you can. A lot of students don’t understand that the media industry is very competitive and is mostly about your experience and whom you know. You can also stand out by doing simple things like tailoring your resume and cover letter to the job, arriving on time and sending a thank you email after your interview. It’s surprising to see how many students don’t do simple things.

Is there anything you’d like to add? 

This is so cliche for a reason but everything happens for a reason and everyone’s journey is different so do not compare yours to others. Just work as hard as you can and you will be rewarded.

How can others connect with you? 

I’ve had students reach out to me on LinkedIn and there is a 99% chance I will answer because being a recent graduate I understand the position they are in. You can also connect with me on Twitter (@kia_swinton) and Instagram (@kia.swins).


Read Nakia’s published work here:


The Tip Jar: Marisa Russell, Johns Hopkins Social Media Specialist

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17160730_1579130808793688_1766018743_nFinding an entry-level position is a challenge. Many times, graduating seniors are walking across the stage without jobs lined up and fearing the worst. This was not the case for Hofstra U Alum Marisa Russell. After securing a full-time position weeks before graduation, it became clear Marisa had mastered the college to career transition. She has kindly passed on some of her key ingredients to success for all soon-to-be graduates.

What is your current position?

I’m the social media specialist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. I help manage all of the school’s flagship social media accounts (@JohnsHopkinsSPH) and I also work on the accounts for our school’s daily global health newsletter, Global Health NOW. My world is pretty much a constant stream of digital & social media, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You landed this job before graduation. Walk me through the process that brought you from college to career.

To be honest, that’s still a total shock to me. Going into my last semester of college, fall 2016, I knew that my biggest goal was to walk the stage knowing I had a job waiting for me on the other side. Being a journalism major many people tried to talk me out of the high standards I’d set for myself, afraid that I would be devastated if I didn’t achieve them. One of my mentors had always told me that if you didn’t ask, the answer was automatically no, so everything in life deserves a shot, so I persisted.

The process of landing a job before graduation didn’t start in that last semester, it started on the very first day of my freshman year. When I started applying to jobs I had 11 internships under my belt and I had even more extracurricular activities to add to it. College wasn’t a time where I just sat around, slept all day and sometimes did my homework, I worked every second of every day to get to where I am now. I’m not saying this to brag, I’m saying this so you know what’s realistic and how much work it does take to make it in the “real world.”

Logistically, I started sending out applications about two months before graduation. I kept a detailed spreadsheet of everywhere I applied, I wrote custom cover letters for every single application and I spent hours preparing for interviews, when I had them. I had job alerts set for multiple job titles in various cities and if I saw something that peaked my interest, I jumped on it immediately. Waiting is not your friend when you’re applying to a job, the longer you wait, the less likely you are to be called for an interview.

What was the biggest challenge throughout the entire search?

Keeping my head up was probably the hardest part. Job searching isn’t easy and it’s exhausting, and there were times where I felt like I was never going to get a job or I was never going to be fully prepared for that interview. It was hard to remember that I could only do as good as my absolute best, and after that, I had to let things fall into place the way they were meant to.

What key elements are essential for success? How can a potential candidate stand out?  

I think it’s important to make your cover letter specific to every job you apply for. I know many people who say sending something generic is okay if you change the company name, etc., but I’ve always tried to make it personal to each company. I’m a firm believer in telling a story with your cover letter, and making yourself stand out in a good way.

It’s also crucial to stay organized. Knowing who you’ve sent applications to and when will help you avoid sending an application to the same place twice, and it will remind you when you should follow up to places you haven’t heard back from.


What college activities/involvement prepared you for your future?

For three years I worked on my school’s newspaper The Hofstra Chronicle, and that helped teach me how to write and edit in a setting where I could make mistakes and learn from them. I’ll always be grateful for my time as an editor on the paper. I was also a member of and then president of Zeta Phi Eta, a professional co-ed communications fraternity, and joining that was by far the best decision I’d ever made in college. Working alongside and leading some of the school’s most dedicated, passionate and amazing people in the field of communications helped me become a better professional.

What advice can you give to those who will soon be graduating and hoping to enter a competitive job market?

Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something, or that you’re not qualified enough for a certain job. It’s also crucial to proofread everything multiple times before you send it off to a potential employer. Spelling their name wrong, addressing the wrong person or even making small typos could mean the difference between job interview and no job interview. Last, stay organized and take some time to yourself as well. Your last semester of college is supposed to be fun, don’t overwork yourself and spend your last few months miserable, go out with your friends, watch a movie and have some desserts, it will all be okay.

What’s next for you? Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

My biggest goal right now is to get my Masters. After that, I really hope to use the knowledge I’ve gained in my professional life to teach, that’s always been one of my passions.

Career-wise I’d say what’s next for me is really up in the air. I hope to stay in social media, but eventually I’d like to work in social media for a non-profit. It’s always been my dream to start my own business as well, so maybe in five years I’ll be running a social media/branding consulting firm and landing some big clients. For now I’m just going where life takes me, and working my butt off to make sure I’m successful.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Don’t settle for just anything. Make sure the job you take, or what you apply for, is something you’re passionate about. If you don’t have at least some passion for someplace you have to go to work everyday, you won’t be happy.

How can people connect with you?

You can visit my website at, or you can connect with me on LinkedIn ( – I’d love to chat! And, if you want to follow what I do every day, follow @JohnsHopkinsSPH on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.     

Thanks so much, Marisa!


The Tip Jar: Kirt Gittens, Software Engineer

Tip Jar

k3After two short years at Hofstra University, Kirt Gittens packed his bags and stepped through the threshold of full-fledged adulthood. He accepted his first full-time position at the age of 19 and has been happily working in the tech industry ever since.

Walk me through your career path. What experiences have led you to where you are today?

Before I graduated high school, I had already been involved in working on my own personal software projects as a hobby. Since I had some experience and wanted to get started early, while I was in my first year at Hofstra, I took an internship at a company called Dealertrack. My internship went pretty well and it definitely seemed like the kind of work I wanted to keep doing, so I decided to talk to my manager to see if I could work part-time there during school. They ended up ultimately deciding to bring me on as a full-time employee there a few months later. I worked there for about 2 years as a Software Engineer before I moved on to my current role at

What has been your most memorable professional experience and what did you learn?

I spoke at a tech conference last year and that was definitely one of my most memorable career experiences. It was incredibly stressful submitting and preparing a talk, but it felt like a great accomplishment to finally be able to present the information. I feel like I learned a lot about how to give an effective presentation.


You also have a passion for music. What experiences have you had with that?

I haven’t had the chance to do as much with music as I would like. My only recent substantial experience was a small performance for an event at Hofstra, but I’m planning to do more in the coming months. You can find my music here.

Looking back, is there anything you wish you’d done differently?  

I would definitely like to finish school, and I do sometimes think that it might have been better to finish first.

What would you look for in an intern or entry-level employee?

I’m not a hiring manager, but I would say that based on my own experience when looking for internships, I think demonstrating that you’re interested in learning and excited about what you’re going to be doing has been key to moving forward.

What advice do you have to offer for those graduating in the next few months?

My career situation is definitely very specific, but I would encourage anyone graduating to further their career knowledge outside of the traditional classroom settings, and if applicable, work on your own personal project that demonstrates your career skills (it’s useful for both learning, and your portfolio).

How can people connect with you?

Twitter: @its_regz

Websites: //

Thanks for the great advice, Kirt!

The Tip Jar: Maddie Michalik’s Toy Story

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Imagine sharing an office with hundreds of toys and games. Better yet, imagine getting to play with all of them on a daily basis.

For Maddie Michalik, this dream became a reality when she landed the job everyone grows up wanting to have. I had the pleasure of interviewing Maddie to learn more about her toy-tastic career, so take a look at what may be the coolest job ever:

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Where do you work and what is your position?

“I work at Adventure Publishing Group as an assistant editor. I write, lay out, and edit articles for leading trade publications The Toy Book and The Licensing Book. I am the lead editor of The Toy Book’s blog and weekly newsletter. I also report on news and trends, and write weekly product reviews for The Toy Insider, an online consumer website for gift givers. We also produce two holiday gift guides, an online spring/summer gift guide and a print holiday guide in Family Circle magazine. Last, we host two events, Blogger Bash and Holiday of Play, which connect press and digital influencers with the brands they love most!”

The Tip Jar: Elisa Tang, Today Show Production Associate

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This week’s Tip Jar comes from Elisa Tang, a recent Hofstra University graduate working as a Production Associate for the Today Show. You can view her online portfolio here: 


How did you end up at the Today Show? What’s your story?
I interned at Today during the 2014 Fall semester of my senior year. I worked really hard while I was there, even if it meant getting up at an ungodly hour that I was definitely not used to! It was worth it. I would go into the Today studio or newsroom everyday, and constantly ask the producers and staff, “How can I help? I am open to working on any project.” I stayed in touch with my supervisor and some producers, and when a Production Associate position opened up just a few weeks shy of my graduation, I jumped on the opportunity. While at college, and through my internship experience at Today, I learned that I wanted to produce not just news stories, but human interest features, and entertainment stories. That’s why I felt that the Today Show would be the best place for me to grow.

The Tip Jar: Professional Portfolios in the Entertainment Industry

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The entertainment industry is all around us. Whether we’re watching the latest season of “American Horror Story” or listening to a Spotify recommendation, entertainment influences us in ways we don’t even realize. This influence however, doesn’t come out of nowhere. There is immense brainstorming, planning and coordinating that brings our music, television and film desires to life.

This is the first of a series of posts dedicated to getting a behind-the-scenes look at professionals in the communications and entertainment field. Every few weeks, I’ll be interviewing a range of communications professionals and getting feedback on their lives in the television, music and film industries.

Jade Williams is a recent graduate from Hofstra University and is currently working at Total Assault, a digital and social marketing company located in Los Angeles, California. She specializes in digital marketing and public relations for different musical performers around the United States. Here is Jade’s story:

Interntips for the Aspiring Professional

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Let’s talk about the subject that inevitably brings stress to the average college student: Internships.

Graduation seems to be just around the corner and you’re wondering what the hell comes after that $200,000 degree is in your hands. Trust me, I get it. These are the fears that nightmares are made of, but it is possible to line up something great before that day comes. For the aspiring professional, getting a foot in the door to a field of interest means everything. Unfortunately, this task can seem somewhat daunting in the beginning. So here are a few interntips to keep the real-world boogeyman away and to get the most out of your college life.