by Erica Moss
If you don’t already know the name Betty Who, you soon will.
Many people were first exposed to her music when a choreographed proposal at a Home Depot went viral with her song as the backdrop, but before and since then, she’s been pounding the pavement, spreading her dreamy pop-synth vocals both here and abroad.
And not only is she a phenomenal artist with an energetic stage presence, she also has a lot to teach us about what it means to build a career from the ground up — lessons in savoring the small stuff and unabashedly following your dreams.
Don’t Be Afraid to Start Small
Music artists don’t get to play Madison Square Garden right out of the gate. Betty has played everything from Pride festivals to hotels to private company events. She understands that, in the beginning, it’s imperative to share your voice with anyone who’ll listen — and hope and pray that word-of-mouth begins to work its magic. (She’s opening for Katy Perry this fall!)
What this means for you: Love fashion? Start a blog. Start a blog that will have five readers, including your mom, for the first six months. But know that you’re laying the groundwork for something bigger and establishing your credibility and point of view.
You’ll then be able to use it as a portfolio to help you break into what is a super competitive industry. You might find that brands start to send you their products for free, just for a chance to gain exposure on your blog. It’s normal to want to be considered a thought leader right out of the gate, but putting in this extra effort from the get-go will ensure long-term success.
Celebrate Little Victories
Just because someone isn’t handing you a Grammy doesn’t mean you have nothing to be thankful for. Betty understands that mini milestones are valuable in the grand scheme of things, so you’ll often hear her geek out over hearing her song in a TV show or on Sirius radio, being featured in a particular publication, or even gifts she’s received from her fans during live shows. We, as fans, share in her excitement, and it makes us feel like we’re a small part of the story of her career.
What this means for you: When you’re chasing your dream, you’ll have days where you’ll want to throw in the towel. It’s important, in those moments, to remember things that have gone well, certain accomplishments and other little things in your wins column. Perhaps you want to run your own PR firm one day — but today you work for someone else and just scored a placement in a major magazine. Allow yourself to celebrate this moment and appreciate the confidence it instills in you to chase that next mention of your client — the better you get at it, the better equipped you’ll be to take the reins someday.
It’s All in the Details
Because she’s still a relatively new face, she’s been able to create a deep bond with her fans (affectionately known as the Who Crew). And she does so in a variety of ways, including favoriting and responding to tweets (It’s funny to watch the recipients lose their minds a little bit.) I also speak from personal experience when I say that she seems genuinely excited to meet us in person, and her warm, inviting personality makes it feel like you’ve been friends for years.
What this means for you: Want to stand out from the pack and potentially get a leg up in your career? Focus on the details. Sending someone a handwritten thank-you note to express appreciation for their help on a big project or picking up the phone to congratulate a co-worker on a recent promotion goes a long way — and people will remember it.
Find Something You’re Passionate About
Betty started out at a very young age playing the cello. Later on, she discovered her true passion for songwriting and decided to pursue that full time at Berklee College of Music. And, let’s be honest: There’s nothing safe about this type of career. It means long hours, hard work and hearing “no” a lot before doors start to open up (and sometimes they never do). If she didn’t believe in what she was doing 150%, the challenges may not seem worth it.
What this means for you: Just find your passion. Easy, right? More like easier said than done. Not only is it completely normal to meander a bit and not latch onto anything you deeply love at first, it’s something that helps you both practice different crafts and make mistakes that will help you grow as a professional and as a human being.
The best way to figure out if something you love is a simply a hobby or something you could pin your entire career on is to simply do it every day. Because, ultimately, when something stops being something you do in your spare time and starts being something you rely on for your livelihood, the game changes a bit.
When you’re gathering all of the building blocks necessary for long-term success, you need to make a name for yourself by starting small, recognizing a job well done, being detail-oriented and chasing after the thing you can’t imagine your life without.
And if you get stuck in a rut and you’re not sure where to turn, just ask yourself:
What would Betty do?
Erica Moss is the community manager for MBA@Syracuse, the online MBA program offered through the Martin J. Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University. This AACSB accredited online MBA prepares students to become leaders in today’s global business environment. In her free time, Erica enjoys all things pop culture and connecting with people at @ericajmoss and Google+.
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