Michelle Reed on College, YouTube and Work Life

Sitting in Panera as she patiently waits for her order, this 21-year-old YouTuber emits a very genuine, girl-next-door kind of presence.  Having previously gone by the name ‘Thisissmileyandshell’ on YouTube, Michelle Reed smiles throughout our entire conversation while taking the time to thoughtfully answer each and every question posed to her.  She moved to NYC in 2016 to attend college and currently works at an all-female marketing firm in downtown Manhattan.  Known for her lifestyle and college content in NYC, she discusses everything from fashion advice to budgeting templates - courtesy of her boyfriend, Aidan - in her videos.  She kindly set aside some time to chat with me about college advice, life after college, and what it’s like working at an all-female company.  On behalf of Her Campus, I’m so excited to be able to share this interview with Michelle!   

  1. 1. Why did you choose to work at an all-female marketing firm?

    “I found a profile on the founder of my company, and she had worked at other advertising agencies which weren’t very inclusive of women who wanted to work while having a family and raising kids.  I thought it was really cool to see how she wanted to create a firm that wanted to cater to women. It’s also a lot more flexible than working a regular 9-5 job.  After researching the company some more, I also thought it was really ahead of the curve on influencer marketing.  I think sometimes whenever you’re in the industry as an influencer, you don’t necessarily know how it works on the business end. It was interesting seeing that this agency understood how everything worked, and I liked the idea of working at a small company where I could meet people more and not necessarily be in a corporate environment where you have set tasks every day.  Working at a small company allows you to move and do what you’re really good at - what your strengths align with - and so there are more opportunities for growth in a smaller firm.  Once I started working there, I really appreciated the all-women aspect of my job because everyone was so friendly, smart, welcoming and nice.  They really want you to learn and be the best at your job that you can be.”

  2. 2. What are the advantages of an all-female workspace?

    “It’s nice being with other women because you understand each other a little more, and working in marketing specifically, most of the consumers are women.  As an all-female agency, I think there’s a strength in us knowing what women prefer to buy.  It’s especially helpful whenever we build strategies because, as women, we know what women want.”

  3. 3. What kind of skills did you develop on YouTube that now help you with your current job?

    “A lot of my job involves working with other influencers and pitching brand deals; as someone who’s on the receiving side of those deals who gets emails from brands, I know what subject line and what kind of offer would make me want to say ‘yes.’  I feel like I have a strength in onboarding influencers onto campaigns and getting them to want to be a part of it.  In terms of creating content, I also know what kind of Instagram photos or YouTube videos work for selling products - more so than someone who isn’t as involved in social media.  I also know that people who may have smaller followings but more engaged audiences perform better [than those with larger followings and less engaged audiences] because their followers trust them.  I learned this through YouTube and through building that kind of trust with my own followers.  Talking a lot and creating storylines in my videos have also helped me become a better communicator in my job, and this is really helpful when I have calls and meetings with brands.”

  4. 4. What kind of skills did you develop in college that now help you with your job and YouTube?

    “Doing both YouTube and being a full-time student in college really taught me how to prioritize and manage my tasks well.  Going into the advertisement industry, I don’t think I realized how fast-paced it was going to be.  You work really long hours, so you have to prioritize your tasks and manage time well.  I think doing college and full-time social media really taught me how to do that.” 

  5. 5. What direction do you think YouTube is headed in?

    “Something that’s really interesting that I’ve noticed through YouTube trends is that people are watching longer content now.  Back when I started YouTube, people would on average watch maybe 2.5 minutes of my videos that were about 10 minutes long.  Now, people are posting 30-40 minute vlogs, and the view duration on these are so much higher; I think it goes to show how people are really engaging with content more.  I feel like people used to only watch celebrities on TV or always opted to watch 45 minutes of a show, but now you watch normal people on YouTube for that long.  I think it’s interesting that people are starting to find entertainment through normal people (influencers) versus celebrities.  I watch people’s routines and enjoy watching people be productive, and these are really good things that I think young girls should be seeing.  It makes me happy that that’s the direction we’re going in versus watching celebrities who maybe aren’t promoting the best lifestyle.

    When I think about creating my content, I think about the stuff I was watching when I was 13.  I think it’s really important as a YouTuber to be putting out a message that is positive.  One of the most common responses I get on my videos is: ‘You’re the person I watch to calm down after a long day.'  It makes me happy that that’s the response because I think a lot of YouTube content can end up making viewers feel more insecure about themselves or they end up comparing their lives to someone else’s, and I hope that my videos never make someone else feel that way.”

  6. 6. You mentioned in one of your videos that you work with a lot of data.  What kind of skills are required for that?

    “The biggest thing that has been helpful for me in working with data has been having an eye for detail and being organized; if you don’t have all the data organized or aren’t careful to always input things the same way, you can’t properly analyze it.  Going into my job, I thought it was going to be a mostly creative role, but data is actually a really big part of it.  Once you work on a campaign for multiple months, you start getting numbers that allow you to come up with patterns for what’s working and not working, and it’s neat to see how all of that comes from the small tasks you do every single day.  I’m very much a creature of habit.  I like doing the same thing every day and seeing the progress from my habits, so it’s been very satisfying being in this role.”

  7. 7. What advice do you have for college girls?

    “I think my biggest tip would be to keep in mind that college has an end to it.  I think a lot of people make it out to be the years of your life, and it almost made me feel like I was making the wrong decisions in college when I wasn’t having the best time.  I think the biggest realization I had when I got out of college is that it’s not my entire life; it was a point for me to grow and change as a person, but at the end of the day, life still goes on when you leave college and you get to start making the decisions you want to make.  I feel like I also heard a lot of people say that you can’t really make friends after college, but this isn’t true.  I’ve made friends through my job, and I love hanging out with them outside of work.  College won’t necessarily the best four years of your life, and that’s ok.  If you don’t have a good experience, don’t compare yourself to other people who might have been thriving in college, because there’s still so much more to life.” 

  8. 8. Is there anything that you wish you would have known in college?

    “I think a lot of the focus in college is on developing hard skills, and a lot of people think ‘I can’t go into this job unless I have this major.’  The reason I think this isn’t true, unless you’re going into something more science or technology related, is because soft skills are really important.  I realized going into my first in-person interview that I’m really awkward and I don’t know what to say to these people!  I think that being able to network and being a human is really important too; you should be able to talk to your coworkers about where they travel and what they’re doing after work.  You eventually realize that you have to be a nice person to do well in business.  In college, I didn’t go to networking events or meet people in that kind of setting, so I think that’s something I wish I would have done more instead of hanging out with my peers.”

  9. 9. If you could do college over again, what would you do differently?

    “I was so focused on my grades and said no to lots of social things because I really wanted a 4.0, which I didn’t even have.  Looking back, I realize how unimportant this goal was; my current job didn’t even ask for my GPA.  If you’re going to graduate school, then your GPA is really important.  If not, I think it’s important to realize that you can get a job without having a perfect GPA, and that’s something I wish I knew in college so I could have lived a little more.”

  10. 10. What has been the biggest change from undergraduate life to life after college?

    “I think the biggest change, and this is definitely something really positive that I love, is that I have so much more control of my life and the decisions I make.  In college, your classes are laid out for you, and you have to take certain classes for your degree; you can pick classes here and there, but there’s still a structure you have to follow.  It’s nice being done because you can pick your job - and, to some degree, your hours - and do what you want on the weekends instead of homework.  I feel like your life really begins when you graduate college.  You have this sense of control of mapping out your twenties and what you want to do the rest of your life, and that’s been a really good feeling.”

Thank you again to Michelle for taking the time to do this interview!  You can follow her on Instagram @michellereed and on YouTube here.