For an early to mid-career professional, why should you take the leap into a graduate program? Should you know beforehand exactly what your objectives are? And, how can an experiential project turn into much more than a project?
These are some of the questions I asked Nichole Yates, who graduated from the Corporate and Organizational Communication master’s program in 2019 – and is now embarked on a doctoral program at Northeastern. Nichole is the Talent Acquisition Director, Executive Recruitment at City Year, which partners with 29 communities across the US. City Year is a member of the AmeriCorps national service network and is supported by the Corporation for National and Community Service, school district partnerships, and private philanthropy from corporations, foundations and individuals.
From the onset of my graduate career, it was important to me to draw parallels between my professional life as a public affairs officer for a federal government agency and my continuing education. Not only did this approach help gain the support of my colleagues, but it also underlined the connection between my work to my studies. So, without hesitation, I chose a capstone project that proved to be as enriching professionally as it was academically.
My goal was to develop a resource guide for my public affairs colleagues, especially the newcomers. What I had no way of knowing was how the project would morph into a major networking opportunity.
Ed Powers and Carl Zangerl had the pleasure of interviewing Emily Wong, who is graduating from our program in May. Emily, who is originally from Hong Kong, describes why she selected Northeastern’s master’s program – “amazing experiential learning opportunities” – as well as her capstone consulting project, during which she was able to translate what she learned in the program to a Boston nonprofit’s public relations challenges.
She also shares some terrific job search tactics that have resulted in a job at a strategic business and communications advisory firm serving the life sciences industry.
During my studies in the Corporate and Organizational Communication master’s program, I had the pleasure to meet Kathleen Anderson. A young, inspiring woman from Edinburgh who came to the States to pursue her graduate degree. In 2016, she returned to Edinburgh not only with her degree, but also with a book. A book she wrote herself. I couldn’t miss the opportunity to ask her all about it and was more than excited when she agreed to have a spontaneous chat with me about her journey.
First of all, congratulations on your book launch! This is awesome. Tell us, how did it all start?
Thank you, it’s been a crazy few months. This whole project started when I submitted my capstone project for my Masters in Corporate and Organizational communications in April 2016. Never did I think it would take me on this adventure.
I chose to research a fitness organization called November Project which I had been a part of during my time in Boston. The morning before I found out my course grade, I was at a November Project workout; other members had remembered I was submitting it on the Friday and spent the morning congratulating me and giving me big hugs. Many of them, of course, had remembered as they had been involved in my research through interviews and surveys. I was incredibly passionate about the organization which I think showed in my work. I spoke to my professor, Carl Zangerl, and we both thought I could do something with this, and it could be so much more than just a thesis.
At what point did you decide that you want to make a book out of your capstone thesis?
Carl put me in touch with Patty Goodman, another faculty member, who was extremely passionate about the idea of turning my capstone project into a short book. We discussed everything from academic publication to an e-book. We even looked into how I could incorporate my blog about living in the United States. Patty and Carl’s excitement and encouragement made me realize that this could be a possibility. I could write a book!
I know from past experience that a professor in the UK would never encourage a masters student to write a book, but in the United States I believe they all have a little more positivity. I left the meeting with Patty almost in a state of shock, as I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I called my dad and said “I think I’m going to write a book.”
How did you ultimately turn your thesis into a book?
At the point I decided I was going to go for it and try to write a book, I only had five weeks left living in the States. Those five weeks were full of traveling, but the good thing about traveling is you have a lot of time on planes and in airports, which for me is a great opportunity to write.
The first step was to edit my capstone project to give it a more conversational tone. Then I decided to add in a few blog pieces I had written to give my personal story of how free fitness changed my life. Through this process, a chapter structure organically appeared. It evolved into what I now call ‘Sweaty Hugs’, an amalgamation of my thesis, further interviews, and my personal story of living in the United States as a Brit. It tackles everything from mental health to community building, homesickness to achieving your goals, using the November Project fitness movement as a case study. Once I had the first draft I had to find an editor who was willing to take me on, which was a lot easier than I expected. From there it was editing, editing, and more editing. One of the best things I did was research. Taking time to speak to other authors gave me a realistic viewpoint of how this project could go and how much time I would have to dedicate. Then in February 2017, exactly ten months after my meeting with Carl and Patty, my book was published.
Is it true that you gave up your job recently to promote your book full-time?
I did! It was a scary leap to take, but a necessary one. Promoting a book takes a lot of time, effort, and most importantly passion to be a success. Therefore, I made the decision to take a leap of faith and dedicate the next six months to this project. Before I left my job, I had already started scheduling, networking and spreading the word of Sweaty Hugs. But I knew that was only the beginning.
I didn’t know if it was going to be the right thing to do, and I knew that if I didn’t give it a go I would always regret it. But so far it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.
How are you promoting your book and in which countries is the a book available?
I do not have a publishing agent; therefore, I am doing everything myself – social media, events, website, promotional materials, networking, everything!
Currently Sweaty Hugs is only available in the UK, but over the next month we should be available in Europe, US and Canada. I hope to be over in the United States promoting the book in autumn 2017.
In the meantime, I have a great six month schedule of events across the UK, everything from fitness expos to book festivals, TEDx speaker appearances to bootcamp events.
One of the best partnerships that has happened is between Sweaty Hugs and Lululemon. They are hosting our events across the UK and the United States later this year. Having the support of a prestigious brand like Lululemon has been unbelievable as it has given Sweaty Hugs credibility in the fitness world and a much larger online reach. I couldn’t be more grateful for their support.
What’s your best advice for somebody who wants to write a book?
Stop! – Deciding the time to stop editing and finalize your manuscript is very difficult. You have to be strict with yourself, when you say stop, really stop. I learned this the hard way and it set the whole project back by a month. So step away from the manuscript when you are finished because there will come a point where you can do more and shouldn’t do anymore.
Don’t be too harsh on yourself – it is so easy when you are writing on your own to be hard on yourself. You need to keep momentum up and be positive. At times I would forget why I was doing this and think of giving up but luckily I didn’t. Taking time away from the manuscript helped, particularly as my book has a lot of humor in it. I started to think it wasn’t funny anymore but actually I had just read it too many times.
And remember you’re never going to be able to please everyone with what your writing. I was listening to the Tim Ferris podcast the other day when he said “I don’t know the sure path to success, but the sure path to failure is trying to please everyone.” Keep that in mind when you are having one of those days.
To find out more about Sweaty Hugs, check out the website: https://www.sweatyhugsthebook.com/