Alumnus shares career insight, advice via Skype with music class
Tom Mullen ’00 paid a ‘virtual’ visit May 7 to students in Clay Stevenson’s Survey of Music Business class.
Wanting to make it big in the music industry, Tom Mullen headed to New York City after graduating from Elon in 2000—although he was unsure of what the future would bring.
With only a couple hundred dollars in his pocket, a few suitcases and a friend’s couch to sleep on, Mullen, a broadcast communications major, had three job leads.
“Two offered salaries and benefits,” Mullen recalled. “The last one was hourly with no benefits.”
He went with his instinct and decided to take the latter and joined the digital marketing staff at Cornerstone Promotions/The Fader. Though Mullen would only stay at Cornerstone for a few months, the experience eventually helped him land his current job as director of digital marketing for Sony Music.
While his career path hasn’t been easy—hardly having time to sleep—Mullen said the lessons he’s learned along the way have been invaluable. He shared some of those lessons via Skype with students in Clay Stevenson’s Survey of Music Business class on May 7.
As an undergraduate student, Mullen was heavily involved with the Pendulum, WSOE radio and ESTV. When he was not in class or at work, he was attending as many shows as possible. With each experience, he said, he expanded his network within the industry, something that continues helping him to this day.
He emphasized the power of networking with a story about how he got one of his first jobs. The person who ultimately recommended him was actually a reference for someone else competing for the same job.
“He told my [future] boss, ‘Forget about him, you need to hire Tom,’” Mullen told the class, adding that selecting the right references is also important.
As a student, Mullen structured his own learning experiences to reflect his specific interests in the music industry. “I did it on my own,” he told the class, “but you have great opportunities,” adding that Elon is the perfect fit for students who want to get involved.
Stevenson said the Department of Music now offers a music production and recording arts program designed for students who are interested in recording, music production and working in the music industry. One of his class' goals, he added, is to educate students on various occupations within the industry.
He purposely built-in time and space in his lesson plans for video-chat interviews with professionals, including alumni. “When the students hear from successful alumni, it boosts their confidence,” Stevenson said. “It shows them the attainability of getting into a relative field or occupation.”
For senior Alex Nuesse, a vocal performance major, Mullen’s chat gave her a glimpse into the sacrifices and efforts that come with trying to break into a very competitive field.
“I’m not going to be able to live the same way I’m living now, the way I’ve lived for the past 22 years,” she said. “I’m getting ready for that now.”
Stevenson said today, more than ever, having the right connections could be the springboard students need to get an interview in their desired fields.
For Mullen, half the battle is loving what you do.
“It’s fun when you work on your passion,” he said. “Be patient and good things will come.”