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“Kickstarting” Careers Through Social Media

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CC: Jason Hargrove

Even though a record number of high school graduates are attending colleges in the U.S., the unemployment rates stands at 4.1% for college grads. With a Pew Fiscal Analysis study finding that college graduates are just as likely to face long-term unemployment as high school graduates, the post-grad job search can be daunting. In such an unpredictable economy, it’s no wonder that young graduates are seeking ways to create their own job security.

That’s where Kickstarter comes in. Launched in 2009, Kickstarter.com is a platform for people to raise funding for their creative projects, which must fit into one of the following 13 categories: Art, Comics, Dance, Design, Fashion, Film, Food, Games, Music, Photography, Publishing, Technology, or Theater.

Kickstarter allows users to set up a page where they can describe their intended project and what they hope will come of it. Users set a financial goal and a deadline by which they hope to receive full financial backing. The site also displays how many backers have donated to the project and what percentage of the financial goal has been raised so far.

Every project on Kickstarter offers backers rewards based on how much they donate to the project. Rewards tend to be rarer or more valuable the higher the donation. Take Chicago-based project Cards Against Humanity, for example. The idea of the project was “a party game for horrible people,” featuring cards that players put down to create awkward or inappropriate scenarios. Rewards for smaller donations, like $5 and $15, include the boxed game and cards exclusive to Kickstarter backers, while rewards for higher donations ($30 or more) include the boxed game with customized, professionally printed cards.

Kickstarter also works on an “all or nothing” basis. If the project succeeds in reaching its funding goal, backers are charged for their pledged donation and receive their corresponding reward (if they claimed one). If it doesn’t meet the goal, backers aren’t charged.

Nearly 50% of people using Kickstarter are between the ages of 18 and 34, the same demographic so affected by the low employment rates that almost 1/3 of young adults in this age group are returning to school because of it. In such a discouraging job market, Kickstarter is especially helpful to these recent graduates and young adults, fresh out of school but with few opportunities to put their degrees and ideas into action.

I spoke with Geena Matuson, who is using Kickstarter to fund the post-production of her undergraduate film/video thesis titled “My Big Bad Wolf.” She says that she first heard of Kickstarter last year in school, by a professor who directed students to the site as a resource for project funding.

This age group’s familiarity with social media has proven to be a valuable asset in promoting Kickstarter projects. “So far I’ve spread the word about my project through emails, Facebook, my blog, Twitter, YouTube and Vimeo, and posting on web forums with similar film content,” Matuson says.

While the site is great for allowing people to follow their creative aspirations, many young adults on Kickstarter create their projects with the hope that receiving financial support and networking with backers can provide a stable source of income as well. “I do hope to make a career out of producing and, hopefully, directing films,” says Matuson.

Indiegogo is another “crowdfunding” site that, like Kickstarter, creates a space for users to explain and promote their project. Unlike Kickstarter, however, users on Indiegogo can promote “fund my life” projects- that is, projects that are meant for personal health or development. One popular campaign on Indiegogo’s homepage is one to raise funding for one woman’s puppy to receive a hip transplant.

The popularity of sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo provide an optimistic alternative for young adults struggling to find the right market for their products and talents. Some people may express doubts over the probability of some of these projects reaching completion, but Kickstarter claims to have raised over $350 million funding over 30,000 projects since its start in 2009. With nearly half the projects that use Kickstarter as a platform reaching success, “crowdfunding” has become a viable option for financial security. That coupled with a proficiency at utilizing social media gives young adults a good opportunity for spreading the word about their creative endeavors.

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The Hub Bub is a collection of articles, videos, audio, photo slideshows, interactive maps and other media produced by students enrolled in journalism courses at Loyola University Chicago's School of Communication. For more about the School of Communication, our award winning faculty, and our state of the art facilities located in the heart of Chicago, visit our website.