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Stop Pretending to Work and Read This Blog: How Chico State Helped Me Get Hired at BuzzFeed

Jeff Barron, behind a laptop covered in social media logo stickers
Photos courtesy of Jeff Barron)

Jeff Barron and a baby goat.By Jeff Barron (Business Information Systems, ’15)

You know when you’re at a family function and the dreaded, probing questions start to come up? The ones where everyone asks you about what you’re doing with your life?

A bead of sweat drops down your brow. You panic and think about what you’ve been doing in school or at work. “How do I make this sound not lazy?” you think to yourself. You give an answer with confidence about all the work you’re either doing or pursuing but really, inside, you’re completely stressing out. You’ve watched as people around you move into more career-oriented work and here you are just trying to do your best to hold the shards of your life together.

Alright, maybe I’m going a little overboard, but the point is it is OK to feel this! You are not alone. Whether you’re a student, an alum, or just a regular ole Joe—this identity crisis is something everyone has experienced.

Most people don’t know what they want to do when they get older. For some, this uncertainty doesn’t leave you until well after college. I know it didn’t leave me. Generally I felt that I had a pretty good handle on what I was good at—or what I would at least like to do. Animation of man looking at a laptop while colleagues zip around in the background.But if you asked me a year ago, I would just shrug and probably mumble something about video, IT work, and maybe going to Korea to teach English. Graduating with a business information systems degree left me with lucrative options. But the question I kept asking myself was, “Do I actually care about this?” I knew what I was good at. But it wasn’t always something I saw myself making a career out of.

In my time at Chico State, I wore many hats. I played the role of a system administrator for an SAP project. I worked as the video editor at The Orion. I was the social media intern for Chico State. I worked freelance, doing motion graphics and videography. I ran a tech podcast and blog with a friend of mine for well over a year. And now, as an alum, I’ve been a staff writer for BuzzFeed for the past seven months. Of all the paths I could have taken, I never thought this was the direction I would turn to.

Barron filming a 360-degree video during the Giants' baseball opener in San Francisco.
Jeff Barron filming a 360-degree video during the Giants’ baseball opener in San Francisco.

In my short time at BuzzFeed, I’ve found that nearly all of these odd roles I’ve taken on have come into play in some form. I’ve shot 360° video during the Giants Opening Day, written long-form reviews on consumer tech products I care about, made a Neko Atsume Facebook live video with kittens, eaten absurdly expensive San Francisco toast, and of course compile the lists that BuzzFeed is so well known for.

BuzzFeed is not like any other job I’ve worked before. When I visited the New York office it felt like it was some insane Wild West of creativity. I was surrounded by other passionate content creators, people who had created so many of the posts I’ve seen shared on Facebook a thousand times. I got to pick the brains of some of the producers behind the Nifty and Tasty videos. I got to finally meet and hang out with the writers and editors on the DIY section. In a world where I didn’t always feel like I fit in, I finally felt at home with all of the odd and interesting folks at BuzzFeed.

Animation of a man holding charging cable rolling on the floor
Jeff Barron demonstrates the usefulness of 10-foot charging cables for BuzzFeed.

Being a well-rounded person with a variety of skills is extremely valuable at BuzzFeed. I’m not amazing at everything that I do. Not everything I work on reaches the level of polish that I want it to. But I’m able to take on most any role, easily contribute to other BuzzFeeders’ projects, and have the autonomy to put something together by myself without having to collaborate if I feel so inclined.

The idea of doing something you’re proud of is something I feel isn’t addressed enough. People talk about dream jobs and what would be “nice to have.” But when you’re in college, you become very goal-focused. You must get X thing so that you can achieve Y job at Z salary. That is what most people are shooting for. But what gets lost is the question you should be asking yourself: What do you actually enjoy doing to feel like a more complete person? Really pause and think about this. When someone asks you what you do for a living, what do you want that answer to be? What is that passion that will make you answer directly and confidently without pause? I’ve worked jobs where I hesitated to answer. That’s a surefire sign that you either hate what you’re doing, or you’re ashamed in some way. I know I was proud to work on The Orion. I know I was proud I was a social media intern. And I know I was proud that I worked freelance videography. And now I’m proud to be a writer at BuzzFeed, despite of all the flak that BuzzFeed can get. I’m doing what I really enjoy, which is to create content for a huge audience. None of this would have been possible were it not for my experience, work, and the friends that I grew extremely close with during my time at Chico State.

College is all about exploration. If you’re a Chico State student reading this right now—or any college student—I urge you to look around for opportunities to take part in. These experiences don’t guarantee you that future job, but what they do is tell you is what you may NOT like. And that is just as important as knowing what you DO like.

You can find me at @jeffreyabarron on Twitter and of course on BuzzFeed.