“At 24 years old having 61,000 followers on Twitter, people always ask me if there’s something profound I did to make that happen and my answer is always no. I just showed people that I cared.” – Emily Thomas
In our new blog series, we’re interviewing students and recent graduates who have taken their studies and done something profound with them. Some are doing great work at home, while others have traveled to far off destinations to help communities in need. Whatever path they’ve chosen, these inspirational Students of Change prove that being young and recently graduated are never hindrances to doing what you want to do.
Take the subject of our first interview for example, Emily Thomas. Emily is 24 and just recently graduated from Seattle University. Her writing has been featured on Huffington Post and she’s currently involved with a number of PR projects, the biggest of which is #standwithme, a campaign for a documentary about the issue of child slavery. She’s a social media guru with upwards of 61,000 followers on Twitter. We at eNotes believe that she exemplifies the ideal eNoter through her upbeat attitude and never ending quest for knowledge. Read on for your daily dose of inspiration.
You’re a self-proclaimed do-gooder, what does this mean to you and what led you to aspire to this identity?
I got the phrase “do-gooder” from one of my favorite quotes by Minor Myers which is “go into the world and do well, but more importantly, go into the world and do good.” While being an established writer and successful social media strategist is important to me, I always remind myself that true success comes from two things: doing something that makes you happy and doing something that makes the world a better place than when you found it. The truth is that we aren’t going to live forever, but we have the ability to forever make the world a better place by choosing our actions wisely.
Before I embark on any social media campaigns, I ask myself if it’s a project that I feel is going to make a difference in the world. What I have found from working on projects like #standwithme and Snap2Live is that my ability to use social media strategy helps companies tell their story in the best way possible through cyber space. I know that my efforts with these two projects are affecting more lives than just my own.
You recently began working on the #standwithme campaign. Can you tell us a little bit about this campaign and the cause it supports?
Back in December I was contacted by Patrick Moreau, one of the Founders of a film company called Stillmotion that is based in Portland. I had seen some of their work prior to #standwithme and was aware that the film company had won 4 Emmy’s for one of their more recent documentaries. Patrick contacted me via Twitter (of all places) and offered to send me a screener of the film, which completely blew me away. I was so moved by the story that I knew I had to be a part of it.
#standwithme is a documentary film that is focused on raising awareness about child slavery. Today, there are currently 30 million people living their lives as slaves—a majority of them are children. The documentary tells the story of a 9-year-old little girl named Vivienne Harr who was so moved by a photo of two boys in slavery that she wanted to make a difference. Her goal was to free 500 kids from slavery in the only way she knew how—by selling lemonade. Over a year later she wound up raising $150,000 through her company Make-A-Stand by asking people to “pay what was in their hearts.” What is so powerful about #standwithme is that it shows people that it is possible for one person, like Vivienne, to make a difference by using their voice to stand up for those who don’t have one. Stillmotion hopes that #standwithme will inspire people to go out into the world and do what’s right and also be more aware of where they are buying their products from to ensure that we can bring an end to child slavery.
What are some of the most valuable things you’ve learned from your work on different social media platforms?
Some of the most valuable things I’ve learned may come as a surprise because they really are so simple. Social media is called “social” media for a reason—because it requires engagement from you to make something happen. As we move more and more into a more “social” business model, it is crucial for companies to show people that they care. At 24 years old having 61,000 followers on Twitter, people always ask me if there’s something profound I did to make that happen and my answer is always no. I just showed people that I cared, I interacted with people who tweeted me, I shared links and blog posts from writers that I admired which then in turn caused them to take an interest in me. I also learned how powerful it is to ask for what you want.
I wish that all the people in the world have enough to eat today, and that they’re healthy. #standwithme
— Emily Thomas (@emitoms) April 10, 2014
There were so many things I wanted to do but I was too afraid to ask for, but when I finally did I was surprised at my results. I asked for contact information from some of my favorite writers and asked them how they got to where they are today—something that has impacted my professional career greatly.
How did you get your start as a writer? Did anyone in particular influence you?
Writing is something that has always been a big part of my life. Before I started doing social media strategy as my career, I used to post Facebook updates daily that received a lot of positive feedback from my family and friends. It made me happy to know that I could use my thoughts and my words to make someone else’s day a little brighter. When I started using Twitter and having a bigger audience, I realized that through writing it was possible to make a difference in thousands of lives in a matter of minutes.
Aside from my parents, I would say that I have had several people in my life that have had a big influence on the writer I am today. One of those people is my mentor, Sean Gardner, who makes his living doing what I do at a grander scale. He was the person that constantly pushed me to pursue bigger goals and to put myself out there in front of people so that I could be seen. There will never be enough words to thank him for what he has done for me.
What advice can you give the students that use eNotes about pursuing their dreams?
For college students looking to pursue their dreams there are many pieces of advice I could give that I probably don’t have room for. I would tell them to pursue what you love and to pursue what makes you happy because you only get to live your life once. As a Sociology major, I can’t even begin to count how many times people told me that I couldn’t do anything with my degree—that I wouldn’t have a job upon graduation and now here I am juggling 3 different jobs at the same time. I had a strong passion for what I wanted to do and I believed that I could make it possible. Though I am still a work in progress of course, all of the things that have fallen into my lap recently weren’t because I was lucky or because they came at the right time—it was because I worked hard for them every day. I would also encourage students to recognize that there is no such thing as a “self-made” man/woman and there is always going to be someone who helped you up along the way. Never be afraid to ask for guidance from people who have been to where you want to be and make sure you are surrounding yourself with people who believe in you and support your dreams.
Where do you see yourself in five years? What long-term goals do you have set?
In five years I hope to have my own consulting company. I love the work that I do and I am getting a lot of interest from different businesses that want me to help them tell their story through social media. An ultimate dream of mine is to write my first book—something meaningful that will change the way people think.
Everyday eNoter Questions:
The Everyday eNoter’s bookshelf is always full, what’s your current favorite read? Why?
One book that I’ve been really into lately is The Success Principles by Jack Canefield. This book has taught me multiple things, like how to increase my confidence, how to tackle daily challenges, and how to live with passion and purpose. This book taught me how to fully embrace my ambitions and outlined a clear strategy about how to make them a reality. Definitely a must-read!
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received from a professor or teacher?
One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received from a professor was from Jodi O’Brien—a sociology professor at Seattle University. I remember my senior year I was overloading classes in my last quarter on top of being really involved on campus, which meant that I lost a lot of sleep. Although it seems simple, Jodi taught me the importance of taking care of my body and living a balanced life. She usually wasn’t pleased when I would show up to class the following day having spent all night working on a paper and told me that I should always take my health into consideration. Balance, I learned from her, is a key component to success and a happy life.
If you could change one thing about the education system, what would it be? Why?
One thing I would change about the education system is how much emphasis we put on getting good grades. While I think doing well in school is important—I graduated with a 3.4 and I’m doing just fine. I think it’s important that students really focus on “educating the whole person” by being involved on campus and not neglecting the things that make you excited. I would like to see more students be rewarded for their creativity, their passion, and their actions that are making a difference in the world.
Looking back, what advice would you give your freshman self?
One piece of advice I would give my freshman self is to not be afraid to be insanely passionate about the things you love OR to not be afraid to not enjoy what the majority enjoys. When I first got to college in Santa Barbara it was a big party scene—something that never really appealed to me and I felt bad about it. I thought something was wrong with me because it wasn’t something I enjoyed, but now looking back a realized that it’s ok to not enjoy those things and still be happy. I would tell myself to not be afraid to stand alone and stick my neck out and try new things—it’s so important!
What’s your go-to music/soundtrack for homework or writing?
I usually can’t listen to things with words because then I start singing along—so any Pandora station that has relaxing music for studying is my go-to.