Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When it comes to following your heart, Kial Afton knows firsthand just how important that can be. After studying Communications, Philosophy, and International Studies at Boston College, Kial pursued a role as an NBC page by continually applying for a position and networking with as many people as she could. Her persistence paid off. Kial spent time as a Page and worked her way up the corporate ladder, and she is now the Corporate Events Manager at NBCUniversal.

While in college, Kial spent time studying Greek mythology, archaeology, architecture, and culture at The Athens Centre, in addition to spending a summer studying art, architecture, and philosophy at Venice International University. Though she didn’t know what to study at Boston College, she took advantage of the core curriculum required for freshmen and discovered topics that she loved and would ultimately major in.

We are inspired by Kial’s drive, her positive energy, and the advice she would share with her 20-year-old self: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Turns out that when you follow your heart, great things can happen.

Name: Kial Afton
Education: B.A. in Communications, Philosophy, and International Studies from Boston College

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Kial Afton: Saying yes to every opportunity that presents itself. Stepping out of your comfort zone. Realizing it’s OK to be wrong – so long as you learn something from it.

CJ: You studied Communications, Philosophy, and International Studies at Boston College. How did you decide what to study?

KA: I didn’t. Boston College has a strong liberal arts, core curriculum required for freshmen, and this was extremely valuable to someone like me who wasn’t sure what to study.

Some of my favorite classes in the core curriculum—philosophy of existence, cultural communications, international conflict and cooperation—laid the foundation for what later became my majors. I took more advanced classes offered by my favorite professors in a few different areas, including those abroad.

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CJ: You’ve spent time studying Greek mythology, archaeology, architecture, and culture at The Athens Centre. You also spent a summer studying art, architecture, and philosophy at Venice International University. These experiences sound incredible! What were these experiences like and why did you choose to spend time in Athens and Venice?

KA: I absolutely studied some very interesting topics in Athens and Venice. What I learned the most from these experiences, however, happened outside of the classroom. Studying abroad for me was less about the topic than learning to understand the environment in which you’re living, growing to understand and respect different cultures, and making interpersonal connections with people you would never otherwise have the opportunity — from Alberto who sold me my daily gelato, to Caroline who had a similar major at her university in Munich!

CJ: What did your career path look like when you graduated from college?

KA: I followed my heart, which was the opposite of sensical. I spent senior year applying to NBC’s Page Program, but when I never got called to interview; I did the “responsible” thing and lined up a Boston-based Public Relations position to begin immediately following graduation. I was not excited for it or inspired by it.

When my sister in New York called to tell me her roommate was moving out, I did the least responsible thing I could image and moved to New York without a job—or at least a steady one.

I landed a part-time PR position immediately, but had to supplement my income and fill my free time with any odd job—extra work on 30 Rock and Law and Order, nannying, foot-modeling, and lastly as a “promotional marketer”—a fancy term for “passing out flyers on the street.”

All the while, I continued applying to the Page Program and networking with anyone in NBC who could stand another informational with me. Finally, it paid off.

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CJ: You spent some time as an NBC Page. What does being a Page mean, and what did your duties involve?

KA: If you’ve ever seen 30 Rock, an NBC Page is a real life version of Kenneth. Wearing Brooks Brothers’ uniforms—adorned with a name badge, pocket square and peacock pins—the primary job of a Page is to proudly lead countless studio tours and coordinate audiences for shows such as Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live and The Dr. Oz Show. Pages work six days a week, twelve-plus hours each day and practically sleep at 30 Rock.

So why did I try so hard to become a Page? As Stuart Epstein, NBC’s CFO in 2011, told me on my first day, “The grey suit has the power to open any door.” And he was right. As a Page, you also have the opportunity to apply for 3-6 month assignments. I worked as the TODAY Show Green Room Page, and in marketing for NBC Sports & Olympics.

The Page Program exposes you to an array of opportunities and introduces you to some exceptional and influential people.

CJ: You are now the Corporate Events Manager at NBCUniversal. What does your role entail? What do your daily tasks look like?

KA: Building relationships with marketing, sales and top NBC Executives to gain a working knowledge of their needs and their clients’ needs in order to advance key initiatives. Once the parameters have been set, I’m given the creative freedom to research, develop, manage and execute special events across all NBCUniversal properties on a national and international scale.

CJ: You’ve been involved with events such as the Superbowl and the Olympics. What does the process look like for organizing these big events?

KA: One might think it would take an army to organize a 2,000+ client hospitality program. In actuality, it requires significant lead-time and having complete faith in your team and vendors. And adrenaline!

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CJ: What is the best part about your job? The hardest part?

KA: I work with amazing people. Blaise Cashen leads the Corporate Events Team, and is very selective in the hiring process. The team is therefore lean and mean and comprised of some of the most talented and devoted people I know.

The hard part—the hours! Finding work-life balance is challenging in any demanding company or career.

CJ: How do you stay organized and manage your time?

KA: Lists, lists, and more lists! Shared calendars, outlook reminders, a notebook by the bedside, and more post-its than I’d like to admit keep me organized.

CJ: What are some books, resources, and websites that have influenced you – either personally or professionally (or both)?

KA: I look to sites like Pinterest and BizBash for inspiration. Developing vendor relations and networking with others in the industry, however, provide the building blocks needed to further my career.

CJ: When you are feeling overwhelmed or having a bad day, how do you like to unwind or reset?

KA: My calm is Murphy, my Dad’s rescue dog. Early mornings in Central Park and late evenings at Tomkins Square Dog Park keep me calm and grounded.

CJ: Is there a cause or issue that you care greatly about? If so, why?

KA: I’m a member of Friends of Animal Rescue (to help others like Murphy) the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (to support my sister, Laine) and Planned Parenthood (I strongly support their mission).

CJ: What are you working to improve upon – either personally or professionally – and how are you doing so?

KA: I’m working to build the professional confidence I’m capable of projecting but have a difficult time actually feeling. I’m working to remove the inner monologue, and never apologize for my opinions—I now have the experience to have both earned them, and stand by them!

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

KA: Don’t sweat the small stuff. It always works out and fretting about it only gives you grey hair (seriously).

Kial Afton Qs

Images by Carpe Juvenis

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

It’s one thing to watch TV and enjoy it. It’s another to watch TV, enjoy it, AND write awesome articles about the shows. Samantha Rullo does just that. She spins television shows and celebrity topics into articles that are spot-on and too much fun to read. Yes, her job requires her to watch television shows and write about them. So, how does one become an entertainment journalist and acquire cool internships like this? Read on to find out!

Name: Samantha Rullo
Education: B.A. in Journalism and Cinema Studies from New York University
Follow: Bustle | Twitter

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Samantha Rullo: I would define it as both taking advantage of youth in the sense of having fun and trying new things that you probably couldn’t experience later in life, but also taking steps to set yourself up so you can seize the rest of your life and have the foundation you need to be happy and successful.

CJ: What did you major in at New York University and how did you determine what to study?

SR: I’m double majoring in journalism and cinema studies. My freshman year I went to USC where I was a PR (Public Relations) major, and then I had some experience at a PR internship and I also had experience writing for USC’s online newspaper, and I really liked writing, so when I decided to transfer, NYU didn’t offer PR but they had journalism, I figured I would do journalism and I fell in love with it. I picked cinema because I want to do entertainment writing and I figured it was the best compliment.

CJ: Where have you interned and how did you go about securing those internships?

SR: I have had four internships. My first one was for a PR company based out of New York that I found through a USC alum who was my supervisor there. She had sent a posting to the USC journalism school’s career advisers and I was always looking for anything that was in New York and I applied and got it. I attained a lot of press research experience and skills that I still use.

By the time I applied for my next internships, I knew I wanted to do journalism and I started looking for a magazine internship because I like magazines and digital writing. I also really like weddings, so I interned at The Knot, which I believe that I found either through NYU or ed2010.com. That internship was half writing and half fashion so I did research and put together lists and did stuff for the website, as well as some fashion closet stuff which involved a lot of wedding dresses.

Once I knew I wanted to do entertainment, I applied to TV Without Pity, which is an NBC brand that does reviews, interviews and other news about TV and movies. I think I found that on ed2010.com, too. There I wrote a lot and did some social media. I also did some of their daily features and slideshows. I learned a lot and it was a really great experience.

For this summer, I found Bustle.com, which at the time didn’t even have a name, it was just listed as ‘journalism internship.’  I applied and said I wanted to do entertainment writing, and I sent them samples of my writing and an edit test. I had an interview with my now-supervisor, and I was able to start there in June and I stayed on in the fall because it’s been an amazing experience.

CJ: You are an Associate Entertainment Editor at Bustle.com. What is your writing process and how do you come up with story ideas?

SR: Since I’m in entertainment, a lot of it is pegged to entertainment news. For coming up with ideas, I go through Twitter, Tumblr, and I follow all of the media I read so I can see all of the headlines. If someone got engaged, I’ll do my own take on it, or if something in general is being talked about a lot, I will come up with my own story based on it. For example, when Breaking Bad was a trending topic, I came up with my own spin that no one else has covered. I wrote a piece called “How to Watch Both ‘Breaking Bad’ and the Emmys,” so I try to tie my stories with topics that are being talked about a lot.

Or, I come up with a story in my mind and hope something happens with a celebrity so I can write about it. My writing process has a pretty quick turnaround. I do at least three articles per shift, up to five sometimes. I find all of my media first, so if I’m including images, GIFS, or video, I’ll find those first and make sure those are pulled because that’s going to shape what I’m writing about. If I want to say something but I can’t find the GIF, I can’t write about it. I pull any media and sources confirming what I’m saying, and then I start with a lead and pull my unique angle together and then fill it in and edit and make sure it all works.

CJ: Where does your interest in entertainment journalism come from?

SR: I’ve wanted to work in the entertainment field for a while. I really like television and film, but I don’t necessarily want to make TV or film, and I realized journalism and writing was a good way to combine the two. I started doing TV reviews for my school’s newspaper and I got good feedback so I took it from there. When I got into my second major I got really into it, and it was a great way to combine my interests.

CJ: What advice do you have for youth who want to be entertainment writers? What can they do now to get a head start in journalism?

SR: Try to write as much as you can to start. It’s really important to have writing samples because if you don’t have samples for some internships, you can’t even apply. Published samples are really good, so get your writing out there – through your school newspaper or through your own blog or website, for example. For journalism, I would never let an opportunity pass because of school. I’ve had situations where I worried I couldn’t do as many internship hours while taking classes and homework, but I still ended up doing it and you figure it out along the way and your experiences with your internship are usually just as worthwhile as whatever class you were also taking, and you just might have to stay home some Saturdays to make up homework. At the end of the day, having internship experience on your resume is best.

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CJ: How did you balance interning and being a college student?

SR: Like I said, stay home sometimes. It’s tough sometimes. I try not to take too many hard classes at once. I try to have a mix of classes I really enjoy and classes that require a lot of reading and papers. I take a class that is more hands-on so I’ll have more free time. I had to stop doing a club at school because I couldn’t attend the meetings. Just prioritizing is important.

CJ: What three traits have helped you succeed as an intern?

SR: I try to be really friendly always. I try to have a friendly relationship with co-workers and my supervisor, so that they get to know me and get to know what I’m most interested in. Just being driven and offering to do something that other people don’t want to do and taking advantage of every possible opportunity. I try to be honest about things. If I need help with something, I’d rather ask for help and have the project turn out well than not ask and have it turn out bad.

CJ: Where did you study abroad? What was your big takeaway from studying abroad and do you think it was worth it?

SR: I didn’t have time for studying abroad since I transferred. I would have liked to if I had the chance. I would have liked to go to Italy, but hopefully I can go on my own, eventually.

CJ: What was the college transfer process like for you?

SR: It was like applying to college again so it was annoying. But I’m from the East Coast, so I just had to get readjusted and figure out NYU.

CJ: What activities were you involved in throughout high school? Were there any experiences that were most memorable or life changing?

SR: I wasn’t super involved in high school. If I had known I wanted to go into journalism I might have done more activities related to journalism. We didn’t really have a big school newspaper. My senior year we had to do a service project, so my friends and I helped kids with special needs and it was really memorable because it was rewarding and I’d never had the chance to be as involved with charity work before. I hope I do again because it was very rewarding.

In college I have been very involved with Washington Square News. I went to a meeting my first week at NYU, started as a writer and now I’m a senior editor. I wouldn’t have gotten internships if I didn’t have the writing samples that came from working on the newspaper.

CJ: What was your experience like going to college in New York City?

SR: Expensive. But I like it, and I wouldn’t have had any of the experiences I’ve had if I weren’t in New York. I’m so lucky, because if you’re in the middle of nowhere, what can you do? There are a lot of opportunities here. It’s also really fun just to be around everything and I have a chance to go to events and report on them and interview cool people, just stuff I could never do anywhere else.

CJ: What do you wish you had known before attending college?

SR: I wish I had known less because I feel like I went in with super crazy expectations. People will give you their own opinions and advice, and I would be thinking, “Oh, am I supposed to do this because that’s what they did?” I eventually became open to it and just made my own experiences, but freshman year I struggled with what I’m supposed to be doing and how I was supposed to handle things, so I wish I didn’t have any preconceptions and that I just went into college not knowing what to expect.

CJ: Who is your role model?

SR: I’ve worked with a lot of women who have been great role models and I’ve always had someone I could talk to and whose career path I’ve really admired. They still love what they do and I hope I’m like that when I’m older. I also really like Tina Fey and Giuliana Rancic, especially the journalism side and she uses it to be a breast cancer advocate. I’m reading Lean In right now, so currently Sheryl Sandberg is a big role model.

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

SR: I do wish I had known I was going to get into journalism. I do it more now, but I would tell myself to not be afraid to try new things, such as a broadcasting class. At 15,  I was too afraid of what people thought to step out of my comfort zone, so I would say to not be afraid and try new things.

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