Use career-minded networking to become an insider.

Networking For The Career-Minded Student

Interview with Audiobook Narrator Suzie Vail

What's your pre-business background? I was born in New York. I attended the University of New York at Plattsburgh, from which I received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Broadcast Journalism.

What's your business background? It's varied and mostly to do with journalism, television, or business services. I've worked as a field news reporter for a newspaper, reported for trade newspapers, served as an on-air reporter for cable news, produced and served as on-air talent for news stories for a nationally syndicated show, and served as Sales Account Manager for multiple digital-printing operations, strategizing the development and servicing of high-end clients. Along the way, I picked up a Telly for my TV work, got married and had three terrific kids. For the last several years, I've gone back to my broadcast roots as a voiceover talent. My voice has been described as 'friendly, trustworthy and conversational', and I've done everything from commercials to public-service announcements to training programs to phone messages.

How did you become interested in narrating audiobooks? A professional colleague narrated an audiobook and enjoyed it, so I decided to audition for something that really interested me. Luckily, I did and was selected by Linda Hewitt from among several others who auditioned for Networking for the Career-Minded Student. It's my first audiobook, but it won't be my last. Given that I served as producer as well as voice talent (I have a recording studio in my home), the process necessary for a top-quality product was demanding, but ultimately satisfying. I'm definitely doing it again.

What's required to narrate an audiobook so that the listener will hear what the author intends? Given that this was my first time, I put a lot of thought into my approach. First, I think you must consult with the author to make sure you understand the nuances of what's been put on the page. Next, you must develop a reading approach and tone that serve the material and your interpretation of it. Finally, you must maintain consistency of voice strength and attitude throughout the entire book, which can be hours long — in this case almost 5-1/2 hours. Audiobook narration is definitely different from short-form voiceover work, more challenging in some ways and yet totally satisfying when you reach the end and realize you achieved what you set out to do.

What drew you to the topic of student networking? As I mentioned earlier, I have three children approaching middle-school age. Young as they are, I must admit I've already started wondering what the job market will be when they're graduating from college. I find alarming the prospect of their facing a job market as fragmented and unpredictable as the one we've known the past decade. Beyond making sure my children understand what's expected in the workplace and also that they have the best possible preparation for what they decide they want to do, however, I didn't see that there was anything else that either they or I could do to give them a headstart on having a satisfying work life. After reading Linda's book, I understand that the student-networking activities described in it can easily become an important part of their job-market preparation once they're older. I see, too, issues about which I need to be thinking even before they reach that age. The ideas in the book excited me, and this struck me as the ideal title for my first audiobook project. I'm looking forward to sharing the ideas to which I've given voice with other parents and also with students.

Has networking been a major part of your school or business experience? I don't know that I would say major, but I have definitely been given job ideas by teachers and colleagues. I wish I'd known more about the importance of networking as a student when I was in high school and college. I can see how it would have saved me time and effort when I was in the first years of my career.

What is the primary idea that you got from your reading of Networking for the Career-Minded Student? Several issues definitely gave me food for thought, but if I have to pick one, I think it was that it's never too early or too late for parents to consider ways they can help their children explore more productively how they'll spend their working years. If I were the target audience for the book — that is, students between the ages of 17 and 24 — I think the primary idea that would stick with me is that people I don't know, successful people who probably won't give me the time of day in a few years if they don't already know me, will be willing to help me as a student, even an unknown student, achieve a goal.

What was the most-surprising fact you read in the book? That the typical college graduate who goes into the work force at age 22 and works until age 65, taking off the usual vacation time, and holidays, will spend over 70,000 hours of 'the best days of the best years of their lives' at work. Given that, it's hard to justify not putting some serious thought and effort into making sure those hours are spent in a way that truly satisfies the student and the adult that he or she will become.

Do you think very many young people will undertake the purposeful-networking process, or will they be discouraged by the amount of work and preparation involved? To some extent, that probably depends on the part of the country in which they live and the nature of what they want to do with their lives. I live in the Northeast, within an hour's drive of NYC, and things are very competitive here. Young people in this area with the wish to succeed beyond the average are going to have to do anything they can to get an edge.

What do you think the future job market will be like? I don't see it settling down. I think it's going to be as unpredictable as it's been in the last decade. For most young people starting their careers, I think it'll be hard to get a good job, and things probably won't get any easier for the foreseeable future, if ever.

So you think what's traditionally called the 'middle-class job market' won't recover? Seriously, I think it's pretty much gone. When I compare my generation's career experiences with those of the generation to which my parents belong, I can see a big change that is generally negative. If the experiences of the generation to which my children belong follow that pattern, they're going to be facing what could well be a 'catch as catch can' situation throughout their working lives. I don't think there'll be any more business as usual. This is offset to some extent by the opportunities that, thanks to innovation, exist today that didn't a few years ago. There are new job fields and technololgies that allow you more independence, especially in your geographic location. I can see some real quality-of-life improvements.

What do you mean 'quality of life improvements'? Whole work processes are being positively impacted. This audiobook is a good example. Linda and I were talking about it just the other day. She's in northwestern North Carolina and I'm in New Jersey, close to New York City. If we had done this audiobook project together even ten years ago, we'd have needed physical proximity, so one of two things would have happened - one of us would have traveled to the other's location and we'd have booked recording time in a high-end audio studio, or we'd have chosen a point somewhere in the middle, say Baltimore or DC, and booked a studio there, where we would have spent several days just doing the recording, after which we would have turned the raw material over to an audio specialist who would have done all the things that must be done to audio files before they're ready for release as a finished audiobook. Now, we are able to manage this process so that no physical proximity is required and there is much more flexibility. There's more about this elsewhere in the Online Press Kit.

To what degree do you feel that student networking helps to level the playing field? I can see how its impact could range from helptul to critical, and the more elevated a student's ambition, the more critical student networking is. When I began my career, I'd loved to have known what student networking could have taught me. Also, I think it would have been good practice to have become proficient at purposeful networking as a student. Coming to the concept as an adult, I can see how it might be hard to incorporate that way of thinking about careers and the job market without a total shift in perspective.

I've listened to your narration of Networking, and I think the brisk tone you set is what the topic calls for. Thank you. It was an approach that I worked out with Linda. Our goal was keep up a good information flow without allowing the narration to lag. We had a very productive collaboration.