Life After High School: The Self-Starter

Are you in high school wondering what your next move should be after graduation? Maybe you’re currently applying for university or trying to snag your dream internship? Perhaps you’ve been out of school for a little while but now you’re trying to decide whether to go back? If any of that sounds like you, keep reading.

Today we’re talking to Scott, a New Jersey native and entrepreneur who worked his way into a lucrative career. Keep reading to get Gary’s take on Scott’s  journey and his advice for anyone in a similar position. 

The Self-Starter

Relationship to formal education 

I was actually never really a good student…all my teachers sorta gave me the same remarks when I was growing up. “Shows aptitude” and “is able to do the work, chooses not to.” Still, I always liked learning. It probably wasn’t until around fifth or sixth grade that I really started to fall out of love with school. Probably has something to do with puberty, but who knows?

I personally don’t have anything against formal education. Even when I was growing up, the plan was always to go to college. I knew exactly what I was gonna study but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. It probably wasn’t until I actually started working that I got a good idea of what I wanted. 

I don’t want to say school failed me because I really don’t think it was the school’s fault. It was me choosing not to pursue opportunities that were given to me in formal education. I think I learned more by doing and that’s not fair to put that on a school. They can’t say, “Hey, here’s middle-level management [classes] or here’s how to be a creative director,” you know?

What were some of the classes you took that helped you become adept at social media management and video production?

I took a CAS class, which was video production, for four years. I learned more about what not to do than what to do in video production by taking that class. Again, that was just because I brought my own computer to school. I would bring my own camera and find my own ways to solve problems that I was running into. If their equipment wasn’t working or they weren’t offering me  the experience I wanted, I would amend my own learning experience. 

I had a digital arts class that was probably the most influential class I took during high school. 

What else, formally or informally, has helped you build your career?

My parents actually. My dad was in operations management and I would often overhear my mom conduct business meetings with high level companies. I’ve always had a really strong attention to detail and I think most of what I’m good at stems from that. 

Also, I’m always approaching things from a problem solving perspective. It’s not just about, “Hey I would love to see a new video this week. Let’s put one on Twitter” or “Let’s, post something on Instagram this week.” Well, no, that’s not really how I approach it. 

I say, “Well, what do we need to say this week? What do we need to put out there? What do we need people to know?” And then we work backwards.

How did you begin your career as a creative/social media manager?

I want to preface everything by saying that all the opportunities in my life–I’m also extremely lucky that I’ve had two parents that stayed together.  They were in a happy, healthy relationship. I never had issues at home, and I was also born straight and White. So, I recognize that that offered me a lot of opportunities that I otherwise definitely would not have had. I always had this feeling…like, “Well I can explore opportunity and I can explore these other options.”

With that said, out of high school I promised my parents that I would go to college. I signed up for community college but before that I turned 18. Every year, up until that point, I would call Apple and say, “When can I work here?”.

Long story short, I got hired by Apple. I was learning so much–not just about software  and technology, but about customer experience and company values. I worked at Apple for three years. When I was 21, I decided to go into business for myself. 

Over the last ten or so years I was creating pre-roll content, commercial content, social media content, as well as website management and development for a variety of clients–Kean University primarily. That was pretty much it until 2019.

See, in 2018 I met my partner Cat.  She had been doing real estate and she knew I was in social media, video production, and digital marketing. We kind of figured in addition to being partners in life, maybe it made sense for us to be partners in business as well. So I started helping her curate, manage, and create her brand. I officially quit Kean, my main client, because Cat and I are just too busy. We did over 20 million in volume this year and we’re gonna have at least 35 different units this year that we’ve sold or helped people buy.

Is your work experience what made you decide to forgo school?

Yeah, it made going to school really difficult. I hated it. I absolutely hated it. It was worse in college because I was like, “Wow! I’m voluntarily doing this? I’m paying for this, why?” Especially because when I first started in County College, it was all general education stuff.

After literally two weeks at County College I stopped going. 

How did your work experience help you start your own business?

While I was at Apple I met a lot of people who were also into video. I learned a lot more about professional video and like what it takes to be a videographer and an editor. Additionally, I had also gotten my certification in editing in Final Cut, and all these things that Apple paid for, which was part of my training. 

I also had good luck. During my time at Apple I worked with my cousin’s company who does small business marketing, community management, social media management. This was early 2010s so all that stuff was still kind of fresh. There were all these businesses at the time that knew having a social presence and an online presence was important but had no idea how to do it. And my cousin’s company Eighty6, their whole focus was on getting people’s websites to be good looking, responsive on mobile devices, modernizing, and all these things.

So when I left Apple I was also working with him. I wasn’t getting paid much, if at all. But I took on some major accounts.

Then my father got me a contact at Kean. And so for the next eight years, I guess from 2012 up until this year, I was the lead video producer as a contractor at Kean University. They started me off at $32k and eventually after a few years they got me up to 50k and by the time I was done I was making 70k.

How did you support yourself as you grew your own business?

So during the time after I left Apple I had a little bit of money saved up. I had a lot of stock in the company as well (which I still do) and I was still living at home. So I didn’t really have any expenses like rent or anything like that. My parents promised us early ,both my brother and I, that as long as they’re alive we’re always going to have a place to shower, eat, and sleep. 

Luckily I had that security. If I was going out with friends, I would do a wedding video and get $3,500 and that would be enough for me for the month. The only bills I was paying for were subscription services that I had to do my video work. So, it was pretty  low overhead to run my life at the time.

Tips for anyone who wants in on social media?

Again, this was reinforced at Apple. My whole goal is, if at the end of a conversation the person who I was working with was asked, “Hey, would you recommend Scott?” That answer needs to be a yes.

Working at that store, they only care about that one metric and this was probably the biggest guiding light in my entire life. So I just took that and ran with it.

That metric is in everything I do in life now. Whether it’s real estate, video production, social media management, client success, or B2B deals. 

What do you want people to know?

I mean, I think the best advice is to follow your dreams. Again, I say this knowing full well that I am a straight white man with two parents and all the opportunity in the world. 

That, in combination with surrounding yourself with people who are supportive and encouraging, is important. Even if you don’t have that, seeking it out, finding it online, and watching videos helps. I learned a lot of what I did just on YouTube. I’m not an expert or anything, but I think that people in general always need to be receptive to learning and to learning from others.

We’re in a giant melting pot, we all have something to contribute. It’s about how we can use our abilities, our privilege, our knowledge to best help everybody else. And I think that as long as people are coming from a place of caring about other people, you can’t really go wrong.

I never thought about making money, I never thought this is gonna be what I have to do to make the most money. I always just thought about how I can be the biggest service to somebody else? What am I good at that I can help everyone?

And then from what, what I’ve seen of Gary Vee, he’s, he’s the same way. I know he’s very passionate and I think as long as you have that, that’s it.  It’s important, and you can’t force it. You gotta really want it. 

Resources: 

Skillshare Video Editing Classes

Start a Business On A Budget

Marketing AI

High Paying Jobs To That Don’t Require A Degree

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