What’s Your Niche?

By Joseph Yates

My name is Joseph Yates and I graduated from The Art Institute of Washington in the Fall of 2013. I majored in Advertising (the least of known majors of The Art Institutes) but just as creative as the others. I’ve had my fair share of success stories and my share of failures both, that came to me under pure surprised and terror. My ups and downs have played a huge role in how I have become the young professional that I am today. In high school, I was seen as a leader by my peers, loyal role model to the adults, and a success story to my family. I was Drum Major of my marching band and Co-Band President senior year of high school. Music was my everything but, I knew that studying music in college would not be a “marketable” degree for me. Although I loved music, I was not ready for the music overload that college instrumentalist would endure. So, I decided to take a risk and see what the “artist” in me had in mind.

You would think that an artist meant that I could draw or paint but it was quite the opposite. I couldn’t do any of those things at the time. I literally walked into college blinded. I chose Advertising for my major as soon as I saw what the school had to offer. It seemed to be the least of the majors that required much previous skill (I was so naïve). Advertising 101 was a struggle. We learned about media buying power, marketing research, consumer behavior, product placement, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and a bunch of other lingo that I struggled to keep up with. It was like I was sitting in foreign country. I studied that textbook night after night and the information wasn’t clicking. Does the color of someone’s toothbrush really tell you about a their personality? At the time I would have said “NO”. I know better now.

After a long fight and a streak of C papers I finally spoke to my professor and told her that maybe I chose the wrong major. She asked me “Joe, what is it that you believe is your strongest character trait”? I stuttered for a bit, and I told her that I didn’t know. She looked at me and asked me “What was my greatest achievement in life so far”? With a raised eyebrow and my eyes pointed to the ground, I said “Being Drum Major of my marching band”. She smirked and asked me, “Why”? I looked at her with pure confusion and mumbled “I wasn’t the most musically qualified but, everyone trusted me to lead them. I would help everyone with their music, talk to them when their upset, understand how to turn their bad situation into a positive one. I genuinely cared for them”. My professor looked at me and said “That’s advertising. Communicating a problem and offering a solution in a creative manor”. It hit me. How have I missed it? Why couldn’t I see that communication is my strongest trait?

From that moment on I started looking at every challenge as one big communication opportunity. As an Advertising student we had to take classes in photography, graphic design, fashion management, videography, drawing, and art history so that we are well versed in understanding every form of visual communications. While I was in each class I realized that art speaks to you. No matter what the art form is, it all has something say, and it may even say different things to all of us. That is what I loved about music. Being able to take someone from feeling sad to happy all just by blowing air into a wooden instrument and moving my finger around was astonishing. I thought I would never feel that way again, until I discovered that it wasn’t just the music that moved me, it was love for communicating a feeling.

In conclusion, college is not about the struggles, humiliation, the partying or the grades. It is about finding what you can bring to the world that no one else can. I owe my professors everything and much more for seeing my potential and pushing me beyond my limits so that I can achieve the success that I have today. As of now, I have Interned at The Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington D.C. where I’ve had many of my newspaper, online, outside, and print advertisings published for the world to see. I am truly thankful for the professors, the school and the opportunities that were allowed to me all because I took a risk and explored an education beyond high school. I have found my niche in the world. Are you ready to find yours?

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