While his knowledge session was largely interactive, Sang (pictured with interns at top and below) opened by sharing details of his professional journey. Sang was a pre-med major who had life all figured out -- he was all set to go to medical school -- when he ended up in New York City helping a friend pass out her resume in mid-town. Serendipity intervened, as they walked by The Ed Sullivan Theater and his dream to be a cameraman on Late Show with David Letterman flashed in front of him. He boldly entered the building and three interviews later he was a CBS page. The rest is history. He describes his current role as “a professional goofball who is lucky enough to ideate, make and take pitches for truTV,” not surprisingly a destination for comedy.
Sang encouraged the interns to approach their careers with the same confidence, intelligence and fearlessness that he did. He advocated that they do whatever it takes to get a foot in the door, make connections, try everything, find out what they're good at and passionate about to succeed.
His career advice and insights were rock solid. While Sang targeted his comments to the 1st Five, they are universally applicable. In the spirit of Letterman, here in no particular order are my Top 10 takeaways from Sang that I believe will help to ensure career satisfaction and success.
Top 10 Guide for Career Satisfaction and Success
- Pursue what you love to do; stay true to your passions.
- Don't underestimate your value. (Sang said that everyone in the room is a writer and a producer. All have genuine stories unique to them with the potential for mass appeal.)
- Be authentic; know thyself and be honest with people. Tell them what you want to do.
- Be unafraid; approach everyone, try everything, become indispensable, volunteer, be scrappy.
- Make stuff; lots of stuff, until you figure out what you're really good at.
- Cultivate your personal network, talk to as many people as you can. Connections are everything; if necessary, stalk the show credits to make connections.
- There are no rules; seize the day.
- Become a utility player.
- Be bold and find a mentor. (Sang asked Vinnie Favale, the Vice President of Late Night Entertainment at CBS to mentor him.
- Be clever in your presentation.
During the Q and A, Sang explained that pursuing a career is no different than producing a TV show: You must know your audience and be true to yourself and your POV. He cautioned the interns to be aware of the type of organization they are looking to join to determine whether they are seeking linear (e.g., a square peg in a square hole) or utility players.
As the audience wanted to know all about the ever changing TV ecosystem, Sang answered a question about how truTV plans to compete with Netflix and other OTT programming. He explained that truTV is just beginning to stream funny content online. If it's on message and authentic they are confident that people will find it. Netflix and others competing for original programming just make the pitch process all that more compelling for Sang and his colleagues.
He advised the group to trust their gut as he does; he can sense authenticity a mile away. He used the example of Adam Conover who genuinely loves to ruin everything on the truTV series Adam Ruins Everything. People get it; it works because it is authentic, Sang said. Another truTV series, Impractical Jokers, also rings true.
Sang ended the session by answering a question regarding diversity from an intern at NBC. His response was fresh and on-point: To avoid any preconceived notions, he sometimes reviews scripts without knowing the name or background of the creator. Sang noted that everyone in the room has a POV and a unique background, and if they present their ideas with authenticity, a tight concept that is brand appropriate may be selected to be cultivated further. In his opinion, diversity breeds more “cool stuff.”
Sang embodies the notion that great things can happen when you get a foot in the door and encouraged the interns to do just that.
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