Building confidence through Twitter
Zaniub Amir UA’17 and Jim Stellar
Zainub is one of our most successful students, now a senior. The university has featured her on our posters placed on campus. It wrote a piece about her tweeting for the artist Taylor Swift. She just finished a major New York Women in Communication Inc. (NYWICI) internship in New York City, and has written for the Huffington Post since 2014 when she was in high school. MTV even did a piece about her growing up as a Muslim woman in the USA. She seems like a young woman of confidence and optimism who is simply succeeding in college and life, and she is. But what we want to write about here is confidence. One administrator told me that confidence is what higher education best teaches in a changing world. So how did Zainub develop the confidence she now has? Later we will get back to what higher education can do about it.
In high school, I didn’t have a lot of friends and tended to be shy because I didn’t think I belonged to any group. I did not go out to parties or engage in the gossip that fluttered the hallways. It is not that I was anti-social, but I did not resonate with a lot of the people I was constantly surrounded by. Instead, I opened myself to social media platforms and diversified myself within specific communities that I related to – one of them being: the Taylor Swift fan community. I built a twitter page nonchalantly tweeting my support and love for Taylor Swift daily, garnering over 20,000 fans. Little did I know Taylor Swift’s team was watching, waiting for the moment to recruit me as one of the people to ask her questions for her upcoming album news release. I believe it was not until campaign promotions from various companies she was associated with started reaching out to me did I realize how I have turned my passions and where I felt I belonged into something I knew I wanted to do for my career.
That is a great story and I can see how it launched you into your college experience. Let’s take that same approach to your NYWICI fellowship that was really your internship last summer. What did you do and how did it help you to grow.
My internship at Weber Shandwick was an incredible opportunity that came from earning a NYWICI scholarship that was sponsored by Interpublic Group. It was my first real experience in the world of public relations, where I joined the crisis management practice. I dealt with Fortune 500 companies as clients, but also had the ability to dive into research for new businesses and various startups. It was an exciting atmosphere as everyday was different. I think this allowed me to grow as a person though since there was versatility in each new day. Weber Shandwick understood that I am an individual with a unique background, as is every other one of their employees, and allowed me to make the most of my time however way I wanted. It was my first time interning in New York and excitement of being able to jump and explore different practice groups that had piqued my interest: digital, creative, financial, strategy, and consumer had fueled my energy in commuting a total of five to six hours on the train each day. It’s what gave me the strength to end my day at 11pm just to begin again at 4am. I was finding myself through exploring these different interests that compiled itself into one agency – I was meeting people who shared my self-driven motivation for the first time. I was surrounded by an atmosphere of people that understood what it means to go above and beyond. It made me more confident and independent talking to like-minded individuals – some who were top executives, who were ready to hear what I had to say during team meetings or brainstorm pitch sessions for big clients.
That is quite some work schedule. Yet it is not uncommon for dedicated professionals who are inspired about their work. Focusing on inspiration piece, you seem to have gone from one point of self-developed inspiration (Twitter) to another and I know from looking at your LinkedIn profile that you are into so many other things – almost a dozen with 8 listed as continuing. From that record, I would say you are living on inspiration. How important is it to you to be inspired and when did you recognize the importance of inspiration?
It is really important for me to constantly be inspired by someone or something. It is what motivates me to keep going in life despite any difficult obstacles that may arise. This has been something that has always been a part of me, but I do not think I realized the importance of inspiration until I got to high school, when there were some defining and personal challenges I was going through where I had to step up my role in the family. I think it is also important to remember that being inspired should be the same as following your passions because when you sync those two together, you become invincible. I would be nowhere if I did not chase after the things that made me truly happy. I am also grateful to have the support from my family, who keep me humble and grounded throughout all of my success.
We agree that motivation in creative people is key, like today’s students who are using college to invent their future careers. Daniel Pink wrote about it in his 2011 book Drive that discusses what he calls motivation 3.0. Motivation 1.0 is basic survival, and motivation 2.0 is the classic salaried position that was really invented in the industrial revolution for work on the assembly line where the pay was the motivation. Today, in addition to pay, our students are after careers that satisfy them, give them a chance to use their talents, have intrinsic reward as well as the paycheck – motivation 3.0.
To do all that, it seems to us that one has to be inspired by identifying one’s passion and thus grow in confidence. Here is where experiences outside the classroom can be really useful to complement what is being learned in the academic program. These experiences could be an internship, like ZA did, or it could start earlier as it did in ZA with experiences on Twitter. Done well, the interaction of academic study and experience can create a virtuous cycle for the student in which they grow in passion, inspiration, and confidence. Then, we all end up with a college graduate who knows her stuff intellectually and how to deploy it outside the classroom.