“Come as you are, leave inspired.” I remember seeing this quote printed on the t-shirts that the Duke Career Center handed out to participants of the “Fannie Mitchell Career Conference.” The Fannie Mitchell Career Conference is an annual event for Duke students and alumni to meet and network with each other in many different fields. I felt this way after my weekend at DEMAN. DEMAN, in its third year at Duke, aims to help students specifically interested in the Entertainment, Media and Arts industry. Needless to say, I was very excited for this event. Duke students often assume the university is mainly interested in helping those who follow paths in finance, consulting, law or medicine. However, this past weekend at the DEMAN event, Duke made it clear that the entertainment industry is just as important as every other career Duke students may pursue.

DEMAN was a complete success. The talented Kara DioGuardi kicked off the event and treated eager students to a wonderful, passionate speech. Her lesson for us all was the right of “freedom to fail.” I think all students should have been there to experience DioGuardi’s inspiring speech. Those of us who plan on following a career in the entertainment industry must remember that this is NOT an easy field to break into. Kara is one of the most successful Duke alums in the entertainment business, yet she struggled for many years to make ends meet after graduating from Duke. After all, in the entertainment industry every individual starts off on an equal playing field. Just because you may have a law degree, graduated at the top of your class from Harvard or maybe just ended a jail sentence – everyone must start at the bottom (whether that be as an intern, mailroom worker, assistant, freelance worker, etc) and work extremely hard to move himself/herself up the totem poll. DioGuardi is living proof of the importance of hard work and persistence.

On Friday evening, students and alumni participated in a panel at the Nasher Museum. Various successful entertainment alumni talked to their audience about the struggles, risks and rewards of working in the entertainment industry. I learned from John Harwood that print drives the media train and I learned from Brandt Joel that work ethic is more important than background. On Saturday morning, I attended a panel with Dave Karger and Jim Rosenfield. Both were open to answering student questions and helpful in sharing their experiences with the crowd. For example, Karger believes media is so niche oriented and one must think outside the box when applying to entertainment companies. When writing a review for Entertainment Weekly, Karger must use the third person critical eye perspective and not show personal bias. Rosenfield suggests students continue to find ways to make themselves “relevant” in the industry. Taking his own advice, Rosenfield is currently spending some time at Duke University to further develop his skills as a reporter and anchor.

One may think I’m naïve for being extremely excited about starting my career in the entertainment industry, yet I see it a different way. I’m eager to work on projects, meet people who are successful in the industry and I’m ready and willing to work long and hard hours. I want this career and I’m thankful Duke has given its students this source of knowledge that will help us as we step into the “real world.”