Path to Success: Michelle Sibley

Michelle Sibley

Michelle Sibley
VP, Entertainment Marketing, Citi

2010. A period of transition, following the massive economic hemorrhaging of 2009. A deceptively calm year, one which was short lived. Jobs were still scarce, but it seemed as if things might get a little bit better. Yet, people were still cautious. College students were anxious to enter the “real world” where the harsh reality of a public debt crisis and large-scale economic recession was a reality. Students were encouraged to “differentiate themselves” and to fit as much onto their resumes as possible to survive postcollege. This may not have been the climate across the US, but at Lehigh University, where success was not an option for many, the daunting and ever-nearing “real world” was only quelled by college internships, shadowing positions, externships, and whatever leadership/club involvement they could tackle. The goal: prove on a resume that you deserve a job above everyone else. This stressful mentality was omnipresent at Lehigh, encouraged by a generation of overachievers from upper-middle class families in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. In 2010, I was one of those overachievers.

I was a senior majoring in sociology and social psychology, an area of study I truly enjoyed learning about, which was a welcome change from the harsh and unfriendly academic climate I endured at my college prep high school. Yet, as much as I felt engaged in my major, I knew that academically it would lead to few job opportunities. It wasn’t like finance or accounting, which had a defined end goal. Sociology was a bit more fluid in terms of the jobs it had available. And for me, I was still figuring out my end goal; my passions; my career options.

A few months before, pressured by the daunting realization that my major led to few defined job opportunities and that I would need to create my own job opportunities, I launched the Business Careers in Entertainment Club with a friend of mine, who stumbled across BCEC during a Google search of: “How to go into marketing and still have fun.” Starting BCEC, and becoming President of the club, was a way for me to define my interests beyond the walls of my sociology classrooms and I had hoped it would give some direction to my career path postcollege.

Perhaps I didn’t realize until I was already knee deep in BCEC, but it became much more than just a resume enhancer for me. Through BCEC, I realized that my interests in the entertainment industry had actual career potential, something my major couldn’t offer me directly. The club helped me put “2 and 2” together to understand my interests and how they could be applied to a career in the entertainment industry. I don’t think I realized until a few months in, but it was because of my truly organic passion for the entertainment industry that I dedicated so much time to the well-being of the newly-formed club and that I actually enjoyed dedicating my time to this cause.

While my peers were basking in the freedom of senior year, I was spending hours every week on BCEC. I became personally invested in every meeting, every event, and every speaker. We had speakers and workshops from all aspects of the industry; sports, television, and music. All were equally inspiring to me, and all I considered to be an opportunity to network. I came to realize that networking in the entertainment industry was the most important gateway to a job and to a career. Every time we had a speaker come in from a company I found intriguing, I networked my heart out. And I was good at it. I’m still in touch with many of these people, but the most valuable networking contact I ever made was at a networking event for others. In January 2011, I planned an exclusive networking trip to Manhattan for select club members to interact with influential members of the entertainment industry. We visited MTV, HBO, Disney, Madison Square Garden…but the most lifechanging visit for me was with Live Nation.

I recall entering Live Nation’s Irving Plaza, listening to my brand new “interview pumps” clicking and sticking to the hardwood floor as I walked, no doubt picking up some warm beer residue from the venue’s most recent concert. The silence of the 1,000-person ballroom was deafening, yet it was simultaneously screaming with concerts from the past. The speaker Live Nation sent that day truly changed my perspective on “real life.” His passion for the music and entertainment industry, and for his position at Live Nation was clear, and it resonated with me deeply. As a second semester senior with many job prospects and even a few job offers in front of me, nothing had truly excited me yet. I was terrified to accept a job that I wasn’t passionate about, but I had no idea where to find such a job. Like most college seniors, I was terrified to leave the most amazing four years of my life behind for a boring, “9-to-5” job. If I was going to enter the “real world” with open arms, I wanted it to be for a job I loved. And a job at Live Nation seemed like something I could love.

Needless to say, I wasted no time networking with my contacts from that BCEC Live Nation meeting. A month later, a result of my networking, I was sitting in Live Nation’s office, wearing those same “interview pumps,” at the desk of the EVP of Live Nation Networks. I remember interviewing my heart out that day. It was truly one of my best interviews. I left the office knowing I had done spectacular. Even if I didn’t get that job, I knew I had found the spark I was looking for. The daunting thought of the “real world” was a bit less daunting, because I found a job I could truly be passionate about. Even if I didn’t get that exact job, now I knew jobs like that existed out there. It opened up doors for me, and I was completely renewed.

It turned out Live Nation didn’t have any job openings for me, but my interviewer was so impressed he passed me along to his counterpart at Live Nation’s entertainment access partner: Citi. Citi and Live Nation had – and still have – a long term partnership which grants cardmembers with exclusive access to Live Nation concerts. The position I interviewed for would work directly with Live Nation to provide cardmembers with this entertainment access. It was as close to a job at Live Nation as I could get. And it was equally appealing. With the blessings from my interviewer at Live Nation, I took four interviews at Citi and was offered a Vice President-level position soon thereafter. Four months later, I was moving my entire life into a small one-bedroom in Manhattan, eager to take on the world of entertainment.

Now, in 2012, it’s hard to believe I’ve been working for Citi for over a year. I truly love my job which is something many people can’t say. I wake up every morning excited to go into the office which is truly precious to me. So many people go through life simply “satisfied” with their jobs, or – even worse – hating their jobs. I look forward to the challenges of my work, and feel incredibly lucky that I get to do something I love every single day. I am also in a wonderful position where I am getting exposed to influential people across the entertainment industry. This exposure is invaluable and has the potential to open so many doors for me in the future.

My story is a common one. A college student who knew what she enjoyed, knew what she liked, but never realized how to turn that into a career. What is uncommon about my story, however, is BCEC. Succumbing to the pressures of an unstable economy and unwelcoming job market, I started the club to add color to my resume. But that club became so much more to me than just a conversation piece during interviews, or another bullet point on my resume. BCEC truly opened my eyes to the career possibilities out there, and allowed me to turn what I thought were simply interests into a full-blown, exciting, engaging and passionate career in entertainment.

Connect with Michelle Sibley on LinkedIn

Speak Your Mind