Some “how to succeed” advice from business newbies

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

By Mark G. Auerbach

When I produced a 10-part radio/TV series about how the pandemic was impacting people, from artists to teachers, I included an interview with Ben Jacek, my part-time colleague and employee, who is going to college full-time, working as a first-responder EMT/Firefighter almost full-time, and who handles social media for my clients in between (without missing a beat). The segment got a lot of attention, and many contemporaries of his commented that “no one ever asks us how we’re coping with the pandemic or trying to move forward.” I took that message to heart.

We’ve heard adults describe the upcoming generation’s response to a socially-distanced, remote work and school life, a lack of closure without proms, graduations, and other events. But, when “the kids” speak out, we learn that they’re resilient, confident, and able to roll with the punches, even though they miss college life or the opportunity to gather, network, and connect. So, here are three of their stories. We adults, as we learn technology from the up-and-coming workforce, could take home a lesson or two from their coping strategies.

Matthew Jones

Matthew Jones

Matthew Jones graduated from Manhattanville College with a double major in Political Science and Global and International Studies. With a working knowledge of Hebrew, an interest in the Middle East, experience studying in Israel and an internship with the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for The Advancement of Peace in Jerusalem, he had high hopes of heading to Washington, DC to work with a think tank that could use his skills.

The pandemic got in his way. “My plan was to take a gap year before pursuing my Master’s, so I could save money and gain valuable work experience. While I am able to do both right now, they are not the opportunities I had in mind upon graduating,” says Jones. “Yes, the lack of job and internship opportunities has complicated things. Living in Springfield, MA, as a Political Science major with an interest in the Middle East is not an ideal situation.”

So, he’s working as a lifeguard and doing volunteer work with a Congressman’s re-election campaign. He had hoped to boost his computer programming skills, but he’ll have to wait until either the lifeguard or campaign season ends.

Jones has learned from experience that he can work remotely, but “I prefer to work face to face with other people. I had the opportunity to go canvassing in person for the political campaign, and I enjoyed the human interaction a lot more. One of my goals is to increase my fluency in Hebrew, but I learn a lot better from in-person teaching.”

Jones’s road ahead is challenging at this time, and he looks for connections and a mentor. But, he offers good advice to his contemporaries. “Get the most amount of experience you can during the next few years,” he says. “Job experience, internships, and especially connections count for a lot and will lead to confidence in your own abilities as you search for a job.”

Matthew Jones is on LinkedIn at

Jason Martins

Jason Martins

Jason Martins, a third year student at Western New England University, wants to be an actuary, and he’s majoring in that and minoring in Finance. The Chicopee, MA, student balances several roles. He’s a financial advisor intern for Northwestern Mutual Insurance Company. He has been doing work for my company in social media, and he’s got several lifeguarding jobs. He knows how to network.

“I got both of my lifeguarding jobs by referrals from my lifeguard instructor. I got my social media jobs through people I know from my lifeguarding job. I got my Internship through a connection from one of my friends at WNE.”

“I think the biggest thing I learned to do during this pandemic is how to manage my time because my internship and social media work can be done anywhere at anytime. I can definitely sufficiently work remotely from my laptop or phone. It is nice to be able to do work in flexible locations, but I find it hard to motivate myself,” says Martins.

“I had to adapt to online schooling. I found it hard to concentrate and work at home at first but then got used to it. I found it much harder to learn than in a normal classroom environment. I did not enjoy it, but as everything in life I did adapt to it,” he says. “I think the most important skills to have during this is to have good time management skills and to have the ability to self reflect.”

Martins offers some good advice from his experiences. “It’s not about what you know; it’s about WHO you know. I would not be where I am I today without the connections I have made throughout life. Be nice and welcoming to everyone you meet because you never know who someone is and who they know. If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, make one today and start building your connections!”

Jason Martins in on LinkedIn:

Mariel Picknelly

Mariel Picknelly

Mariel Picknelly, a Longmeadow, MA, native, is better known as musician and influencer Mariel Darling. She’s been working at her music since she was nine years old, and she is a communications major at Western New England University. She is a social media influencer and brand ambassador for numerous companies with her music and lifestyle brand. She represents on-trend clothing, footwear, beauty, skincare, and culinary brands. Since the influx of screen time due to the pandemic, her online presence on her platforms is mutually beneficial for her brand and those she promotes.

She has been active on social media platforms for about eight years, and she launched her work through Instagram, and pushed her music through videos on the app, which is now known as TikTok. She gained over 230,000 followers, and for a year, live-broadcasted on’s sister platform every Sunday night, reaching viewers in the millions.

Picknelly had a plan. “There is no luck involved. My passion has driven me to where I am today. It takes hours a day to keep up and stay motivated. During the pandemic, I have sharpened my skills on creating content. I have learned a lot about graphic design work, editing, and the visual aspect of my job in music and social media.”

She has learned to work remotely. “I have learned to be more independent and self sufficient during this work from home phase. I am a people person, and I love my team. But, my team is spread out around the country therefore we are forced to communicate virtually. I do like it, but prefer being hands-on in the studio making music with my producers.”

Going to school remotely was something else. “For my senior year of high school we were on ZOOM. To say the least I disliked it. I recently just finished a Journalism 100 course that was online. I benefited greatly from this course and learned so much about the field.”

Picknelly says, “Being a young female musician in the music industry is daunting.  Having the skills to be self-sufficient and independent is something that is going to set me apart and propel me to my goals. I believe I have what it takes, but practice makes perfect.”

She has been mentored by many amazing producers and high executives in the music industry. “Networking is one of the most important things, it’s all about who you know,” she says. “Working with producers like Aaron Reid, son L.A. Reid music mogul and label executive have taught me a lot. Everyone that I work with I have grown from.”

Mariel credits her success to hard work. “You have to work to get to where you want to go, especially in times like these. You have to go the extra mile, have passion, be involved in everything you can get your hands on.”

For details on Mariel Darling:

Look to the next generation for skill sets that will help them (and us) move forward. Coach them, mentor them, and hire them. When there are new ways to “business as usual,” there are new ways to succeed in small business.


Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn. Mark also produces ArtsBeat in print in The Westfield News, on radio for Pioneer Valley Radio and on radio/TV on WCPC15 and 89.5fm/WSKB.

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