October 1, 2014

SPARKS: Moments of Creation Vol. 6

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
- Benjamin Franklin

Mentoring is a true act of selflessness. It takes years of experience and breaks the boulders sized obstacles into gravel then uses it to pave a much smoother path for followers to travel - and that's just what this month's featured guest does.

He is CEO and Founder of YouTern, a social community for college students, recent graduates and young professionals that Mashable calls a Top 5 Online Community for Starting Your Career.

Apart from that, he looks a bit like Alec Baldwin. When I mentioned that I agreed with others about that, he said "Alec Baldwin just threw up somewhere," so you can see he's as humble as he is passionate about helping build bridges for the next generation headed into the workforce. I'm excited to introduce you to:


How did the idea for YouTern come about? 

For a decade before we launched YouTern, I had worked with two start-ups in the online recruiting space. The first was an amazing experience; we were all focused on our disruptive mission and the potential of our company. The second, from the top-down, was a total disaster.

And yet through both experiences there was a common negative: all candidates had to do was click on the ‘Apply Now’ button on our job boards and something good would happen. No need for networking, relationship building, soft skill development, or mentors. At YouTern we saw our economy going in a direction where those things mattered again – and we wanted to be out in front of that. We, in a nutshell, wanted to put the “human” back into “Human Resources.”
How does it feel to be working on something you're passionate about?
I can’t imagine it any other way. A couple times in my life, including that second start-up experience, I went to work for all the wrong reasons. Now, as schmaltzy as it sounds, I – and my entire team – get to wake up every morning knowing that today we’re going to help someone.
How did you know when it was time to launch? Were you apprehensive? Any doubts?

When we launched, we were scared to death! The site wasn’t quite what we’d imagined, but it was time to go. Thankfully, a mentor of mine shared Reid Hoffman’s quote: “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late.” So, off we went to be embarrassed, and we were – and to some point still are!

Thankfully, 4 years later, we’re about to launch the new version of YouTern – and we couldn’t be more thrilled. We’ve learned so much about what our community wants and needs from YouTern, and the new site is packed full of those features.
What has been most rewarding for you personally?

I love seeing the tweets and posts thanking YouTern for helping a young careerist nail a job interview, secure a new internship, or get that job offer. Even better: I love seeing what those tweets do to the YouTern team and community. Once those flashes of encouragement are shared we are re-energized and ready for more.
What challenges have you faced?

The economy, certainly. When we launched in 2010 at the height of the Great Recession everyone thought we were nuts. And I guess we did too. 

Another great challenge, and also a source of tremendous pride, was learning social media, blogging, and community building as we went along. We didn’t always get everything right. But we learned so much… and we keep getting better every day.
 If you had to do it over again, what would you change?

Well, monetizing YouTern much earlier would have been ideal. Our focus, however, was providing undeniable value and building a community where college students, recent graduates, and young careerists could go to talk about the professional environment without any kind of fear; where they could – some for the first time in their lives – ask the toughest or most embarrassing question and know they’d get a straight answer. Not always the answer they wanted to hear, perhaps, but the one they needed to hear.

Also, I personally would have gone after the helicopter parents and higher education institutions that were teaming up to send unemployable graduates into the world much sooner. In a job interview there is no trophy for eighth place; there is no guaranteed job just because you earned a degree. Today’s talent must be ready to compete, and many of our parents and universities are barriers to the success of our young talent.
Where would you like to see YouTern go in the future?

Right where it is headed now! I’m thrilled with the direction YouTern is going. The community grows every day. We’re on more and more college campuses. We have two books coming out in the next few months
to help move our mission forward here at YouTern and our sister site, SwitchandShift.com: A World Gone Social with Ted Coine and The Ultimate Guide to Internships. And we’ll soon be launching ForwardHeroes.org to help our military veterans make a smooth transition from their service careers to the civilian workforce. All-in-all, we’re making our dent in the universe – and I am so proud of the work we’re doing.
What advice do you have for someone who has a dream that they haven't taken action on yet?

While displaying humble confidence, go all in. Obliterate your comfort zones which are nothing but self-imposed prisons for your potential. Avoid the divas, drama queens, and trolls who will suck the life out of you. Instead, fill your time and mind with quality mentors, friends and colleagues who understand your mission and passion.

Most important: every day, focus on getting sh*t done. Don’t settle for a higher number of new followers, superficial kind words, and-or making some arbitrary list that says how great you are. Ask yourself: "Did I move my mission forward today?" "Who did I help today?" "Where did I make a difference?"

Focus on those very human things, and you’ll find the energy to get up and do it all again tomorrow.

FANTASTIC advice Mark! Thank you so much for taking time out at a very busy intersection for you to share with us what you've learned! 

You can connect with Mark through any one of the links below. See all that he's doing to contribute. It might light a fire for you and help you discover or jump into your own passion!

Mark Babbitt is CEO and Founder of YouTern, a social community for college students, recent graduates, and young professionals that Mashable calls a Top 5 Online Community for Starting Your Career. A prolific blogger and speaker, he is also President of Switch and Shift and a co-founder of ForwardHeroes.org  Mark also joined with Ted Coine to write ‘A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive’ – now available on Amazon and at your local Barnes and Noble. Mark is the father of five and a grandfather; he and the woman who tolerates him (barely) call Seattle home.

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