How She Got There: Natalie Kim, Founder of We Are Next

Don Draper and the cast of Mad Men may have made advertising and marketing mainstream cool, but it's bruin alum, Natalie Kim, who's really doing the jingles. Natalie founded We Are Next, a career resource for interns and fresh graduates entering the marketing and advertising world. We Are Next features a weekly podcast and a website chock full of handpicked internships, tips, interviews and more. Her Campus sat down with Natalie to talk about her transition from Baby Bruin to Boss Bruin. 

Her Campus: Could you state your major, graduation year and involvement at UCLA?

Natalie Kim: I was a Communication Studies major with a minor in French from the class of 2008. While at UCLA, I was heavily involved with the Bruin Advertising and Marketing Team my sophomore through senior year.

HC: What prompted you to start We Are Next?

NK: In my last role as Director of Strategy at Firstborn, an agency in NYC, I started to do quite a bit of guest lecturing. And no matter what school I went to, or what type of program it was, it was clear that students were overwhelmingly freaked out, stressed and confused about starting a career in advertising and marketing. It’s an industry where there’s not one “right” way in, where companies handle things differently internally, and what we make that we call “advertising” continues to evolve, making it difficult for students to see a clear career path from themselves. What was being offered by the industry to support students at the time was minimal, so We Are Next was started to bridge that knowledge gap between school and the industry, and give the industry a platform to pass down advice in a way that’s accessible to everyone.

HC:What are your favorite aspects about your job now? What are the most challenging aspects?

NK: Hands down,the best thing about my job is hearing feedback from students that We Are Next has been helpful to them. On days where I’m frustrated or burned out, there’s nothing more motivating than reading a message filled with hope, gratitude and excitement. Or having someone come up after a guest lecture and tell me they listen to the podcast. It’s such an incredible feeling to know that We Are Next is making a difference.

Ironically, one of the most challenging aspects is managing my time when it comes to questions from our users. When We Are Next was first starting, it was a lot easier to respond to everyone’s questions in a timely matter. Now that we’ve grown so much, it’s near impossible for me to answer everyone, as much as I’d love to do so. At the very least, I try to direct them to others who may be helpful or specific resources they can use. As a solopreneur, it’s tough to balance everything that needs to get done!

HC:Where did you intern while at UCLA and what valuable lessons did you learn there? 

NK: I interned at three companies while at UCLA:Much & House Public Relations, a boutique PR firm, Weber Shandwick, a much larger PR firm and Deutsch, an advertising agency. More than anything, all three internships helped me refine what kind of company would be the best fit for me after graduation. Starting at PR agencies taught me that I didn’t want to pursue PR, and working at a big agency like Deutsch, while amazing, wasn’t the right environment for my first job. So even if your internship doesn’t go the way you wanted it to, you’re taking something away that you can apply to your career later.

HC: What’s one mistake that you’ve made, and how did you learn from it?

NK: When I was just starting my career, I thought finding a mentor was a matter of chance—if I happened to work for the right person who would take me under their wing. Looking back, I wasn’t proactive at all when it came to asking for help or building those type of relationships. I understand now that mentorship is a two-way relationship that you have to actively build as a mentee.

HC: What advice do you wish you would’ve received as a graduating student?

NK: Be open about what your career will be. Too many students (myself included!) graduate with a very specific idea of what their title will be and where they’ll work—and anything outside of that is considered a failure. But you never know where your career will take you—the perfect job for you might not even exist yet! So try not to box yourself in too much at the beginning. It’ll make the journey a lot more interesting (and less stressful!).

Natalie can be reached via her website, instagram, facebook, twitter and Itunes podcast