By Amari D. Pollard
The world may be simultaneously fascinated and annoyed by the younger generations, but Kate Beckman has created a career for herself by understanding them. Before stepping into her content manager role at RippleMatch, a website dedicated to helping young professionals find their dream jobs, Kate founded FreshU, a site specifically for college freshmen, during her first year at Syracuse University. We asked her to tell us more about her entrepreneurial spirit, becoming a Gen Z expert, and her opinions on the state of media today.
You went to graduate school to give yourself more time to work on FreshU and to gain more knowledge about media management. So why did you transition away from the site?
There are two college students that run it now, so I passed the torch on to them. There were a lot of people who were getting value out of it and we still have a partnership with Teen Vogue, so I didn’t feel like it made sense to shut it down. At the end of the day, FreshU wasn’t able to raise money to turn into something that I could pay myself and others to do professionally. But I’m still glad that I did that year of grad school because I knew that I didn’t want to go straight into an editorial assistant role or a paid internship. I think that I had more experience than that—but because my background was magazine journalism and I was just graduating, I felt people would view me in a certain light, like I had to do an entry-level role because that’s just how it works. I didn’t feel like it would be utilizing everything that I had learned and everything that I had established.
How did you get involved in RippleMatch and can you describe your role within the company?
The Chief Technology Officer reached out to me because he had seen what I had done with FreshU and was interested in chatting. They have a blog for students and they wanted to see how I built the network for FreshU. Just chatting eventually turned into the job that I have now. I run the social media accounts and manage the student-facing blog—and something I did recently was publish a big report on Gen Z in the workplace using data from RippleMatch. So I took all that data and I analyzed it, taking advantage of my storytelling ability to create a long article. That was cool to be able to use my skills in writing, analyzing, and researching.
What would you say to the people who have solely focused on magazine and newspaper jobs about the prospect of working at other companies?
Once I decided I didn’t want to be an editorial assistant in a traditional media job, I thought that meant I had to say goodbye to content. I thought I couldn’t write and I would have to focus on business operations and startups. But I came to this middle ground where I saw that there’s a big need for people who are good at storytelling; people who would look at a magazine job and realize they could do something like that for a company, but honestly get paid more and not necessarily have their job be in jeopardy because Facebook changed its algorithm. There’s sort of a stigma around doing content for a brand, especially if you’re going to do a media job for any company that isn’t specifically media. I think that’s a really narrow view to not consider media jobs outside of that. Every single brand needs someone that can run their Instagram, that can tell the stories that they want to tell. Brands also have realized that they don’t need to go through media companies any more to tell their stories. While that’s taking away revenue from media companies, which is unfortunate, those are also new job opportunities and the chance to tell stories with a brand. If you want to tell stories and you’re a good writer and you’re good at communications, it’s not selling out to look at the job opportunities with brands and startups that aren’t specifically in the media space.
So you get the best of both worlds.
Exactly. Plus if you’re working for a brand and there’s no conflict of interest, you can still write [for other publications]. I think it’s also important because these brands are going to pay more than the jobs in media. It’s interesting to see people on Twitter talk about unpaid internships being so bad, but it’s not just unpaid internships—it’s the fact that even when those internships become paid, they’re going to college graduates. The media’s turning paid internships into entry-level jobs, while brands, tech companies, and startups are offering more value to people. And if it’s the difference between being able to afford an apartment and live in New York versus struggling and not being able to afford the opportunity, I think it’s something to consider. Not everyone can afford to work a six-month fellowship where you get paid $13 an hour with no health insurance. Media companies are going to lose out on talent because brands and startups are able to offer people more.
You juggle so many things. How do you keep yourself motivated?
When I was in college, I did FreshU, wrote for Cosmopolitan.com regularly, worked the help desk on campus, and did school work too. I think it’s just a priority thing. I won’t act like I had this super robust social life. You have to know that if you’re going to do all of this stuff, then your weekends might look a little different than your friends’. So that’s definitely something to realize—you can have it all, but you do have to make sacrifices and prioritize what’s important to you.
Where would you like your career to go?
I had always envisioned myself as being a founder or CEO of a company, and who knows, maybe I will start another company some day. But I’m interested in the Chief Content Officer role, the person who makes those big content decisions and has that team below them. I realized when I was doing FreshU that as the CEO, I wasn’t great at making money, but I liked the content and brand-building aspect.
What kind of advice would you give to people looking to step into a more entrepreneurial role or just trying to have a broader career in content?
Don’t be afraid to create on your own. It’s great to join school organizations and publications, but if you have an idea for something that’s different and it’s something that you’re passionate about, go ahead and do that. The work you create through your own initiative is extremely valuable. Whether or not you start something, whatever you’re involved in, just take initiative. In my two internships with Cosmo, a big part of why I was able to continue freelancing was because I took initiative. I kept asking if there was anything I could help with or if I could take on another project. I think taking initiative is a key thing that will help you stand out because it can be easy to be complacent and just have tasks given to you rather than look for more.
Amari D. Pollard is the Social Media Editor for The Week. She has written pieces for Parents, Popsugar, Elite Daily and Inside Lacrosse. She’s a news junkie obsessed with her collection of glasses, vintage shopping, and brunching. Check out her work at amaridawn.com and follow her slightly above average life on Instagram and Twitter.