Sometimes dreams really do come true when you wish upon a star. Long-time Disney fan Harper Yi, 22, graduated from the College of William and Mary with a B.A. in psychology and minor in marketing. Today, she runs her own lifestyle blog called Harper Honey, which has allowed her to grow her professional skills, while also providing a platform for her interests in musicals, thrift store shopping, intersectional feminism, figuring out adulthood and finding the beauty in life.
Her current job blends marketing, advertising and entertainment, and she gets to work for her dream company. I met Harper when we both wrote for another large media company and wanted to check in with her on what cool things this dynamic twenty-something is doing now.
Feather Magazine: Hi, Harper. Could you tell me about your blog and why you started it?
Harper Yi: My blog Harper Honey is a lifestyle blog where I talk about things that matter to off-beat young professional women like myself—it’s a blend of geeky things and a big mess of topics that fall under the umbrella of “adulting” which is basically taking care of yourself mentally, physically, financially and spiritually. I started the blog back in high school and it had a different name and focused mostly on things I bought at thrift stores, but I realized about a year out that it was too narrow. I wanted to talk about many different parts of my life instead of one small snippet of it. I renamed my site and worked on incorporating more of myself into it. It’s followed me through a lot of life changes, including my transition into and now out of college.
How has having a successful blog helped you on your career journey?
It’s been a great way to build skills. I’ve been able to practice things like writing on my own terms, instead of just for assignments in school. I have learned things like SEO, social media skills, HTML, design skills and most importantly, I think, I have learned what I don’t know. I think that in many cases, especially now with the Internet, we don’t really have to be experts on things. We just have to know enough to be able to ask the right questions, and find the answers we don’t have. Being someone who wanted to work with the Internet, being a blogger was a really important step because not only had I materially demonstrated what I knew—I also knew enough to know what I didn’t know, and understand how to ask questions, and not work off assumptions about how the Internet, or online content, or social media worked.
You’ve had some great internships that led to other opportunities. Could you tell me about those internships and what you learned from them?
My first internship was at an e-commerce start-up owned by a major media corporation. It was local, though being in the DC area meant a harrowing commute. I learned a lot there and the projects I did ranged from pretty repetitive and menial to very big and important—I liked that. I liked learning from others, and if putting stickers on a couple hundred boxes meant I got to sit in on meetings and get a better understanding of the business that seemed worth it to me. It was also a great opportunity to quite literally work at a start-up AND a mega-corporation at the same time. I got to directly compare the two, see what I liked and didn’t like about each, and also consider the disconnects and obstacles that naturally occur when two such organizations are joined.
My second internship was at a financial services firm in New York City, where I worked on social media. My main objective was to get to New York City, and to do that, I needed a paid internship. I had told myself that I never wanted to work in finance, but I did want to work in social media. I took the job because I saw it as a massive learning opportunity to do something I had never done before, to see if I could be satisfied doing work I liked for a company or industry I wasn’t particularly excited about, and also to try out living in New York. I learned a lot from that job too, and it was the first time I felt highly competent as a professional. But ultimately, I learned that I couldn’t work for a company that I wasn’t excited about. My career is very important to me, in that I imagine a very significant portion of my happiness depending upon my satisfaction and fulfillment at work, and I learned that I couldn’t be satisfied and fulfilled by work that I, personally, ultimately couldn’t find meaning in. I am so proud of the work I did and I met a lot of great people, but it just wasn’t right for me. I did really like the city though, and that lead me to interning there again.
This time, the third time, I was at a tech start-up doing marketing. Between my hiring and my start date, the company ran into some delays that caused many of the projects that they had envisioned me doing to be put on hold. I was excited to be in the tech space, and excited to be surrounded by people much much smarter than myself. The thing about people who work in technology, though, is that they are basically living in a more wild west framework. Finance was all rules and regulations and suits. Technology was T-shirts and unlimited snacks and being weird. It was a complete 180. I enjoyed the fun and the freedom, but I ultimately realized that in certain respects, structure is very important to me. I’m not someone who enjoys working a problem for hours and days for the sake of doing the work—I like to know that I’m going somewhere, and I have a limit as to how long I work on something before I decide to reprioritize. (This is why I deleted Candy Crush after a month stuck on the same level.) There was a lot of excitement and progress being made at the company on the engineering side, but since I had been working in marketing a yet-under-developed product, I felt lacking in direction and focus. Sometimes it seemed like the only measure of success I had at work was how much other people seemed to like me, and that’s not at all how I like to operate. I liked it a lot, but like my finance internship, I was glad I only committed to a summer there, and not a year or more.
My last internship, which I landed the summer after I graduated, was in digital entertainment, helping Internet stars work with advertisers so they could make a living doing what they love. I had always wanted to work in the business side of entertainment, and as the Internet stretched into more and more different facets of our lives, I became more interested in working in digital entertainment. I was actually hoping to land a permanent role, but the internship was all I could get my hands on after having set some very high expectations and some very narrow parameters for myself, and having the pressure of needing an income as quickly as possible. My first month at that internship, I was living out of a suitcase, sleeping on a friend’s couch that I shared with another friend. Needless to say, post-grad transitions suck. I loved my job, but between work and rent (sky-high in New York, especially on an intern’s wages) and trying to figure out how to get my life together, it was really, really hard. I got hired on after my internship, and that’s where I am now!
Thanks, Harper! What advice would you give to young women who would like a similar career?
Challenge yourself to learn more about yourself, and then be honest with yourself about what you want. I think we all trick ourselves from time to time into thinking we want what people have told us to want. Parents, teachers, society at large may have ideas of who we “should” be but the only thing we should focus on is who we already are, and how to up-level that person. Once you are honest with yourself about what you want, you can more seriously pursue those things—whether that’s blogging, or knitting, or making weird claymation videos or whatever. Give yourself the gift of purpose by finding clarity in what you want/need to pursue. Purpose gives you the fuel to consistently pursue something even if other people try to slow you down.