Elisabeth Rosario: Doing Career and Life Her Way

This is a part of our Making It & Staying True to Yourself interview series with young people making their dreams a reality.

Elisabeth Rosario has an eye for the future. The public relations professional is a self-starter who understands that today’s job landscape will look drastically different in just a few years as technology and media continue to converge and evolve.

Rosario recently made the switch to working for herself while finding ways to pursue her passions on and off the job. She is paving her own path with a story that is a relatable to all young professionals. Here, she talks about what it’s really like to go out on your own, how to quit comparing yourself to others, and how to be resourceful while tackling personal finance.

I’d rather be in a role that allows me to be creative, constantly keeps me on my toes, and also allows me to pursue personal passions and interests on the side — while getting paid what I’m worth.

You went from working full-time in the Public Relations industry to becoming your own boss. What made you decide to take the leap? 
Taking the leap was an experiment for me so I can’t say it was something I always planned — but it does make so much sense now that I’m doing it. So far it’s been 10 months and I still have no plans (yet) to work for someone else — but that may change at some point in the future and I’m totally open to that. I am a self-starter and really enjoy what I do, as well as figuring out all the logistics of being self-employed. Once you get a taste of that, it’s hard to let it go.

There is this self-inflicted pressure on young people to make something big happen — to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Brit Morin all before age 30. Can you talk about your own journey?
I’ve learned that no one else’s path is your own and it’s okay to experiment a bit with your career and life.

Plus, the future of work is changing! One of my favorite studies shows that by the year 2020 more than 40% of the American workforce — that’s 60 million people — will be independent workers — i.e. freelancers, contractors, or temp workers. So that stat, combined with the reality that the tech landscape and media industry is evolving so quickly, means that your job as it exists today might not be around in 3-5 years. Don’t put pressure on yourself to know exactly where you are going to be in a few years — and be open to different paths.

So while I set a high bar for myself I’ve also learned to not compare myself to other people and instead focus on what makes me a better human and a more productive person. I’ve learned that job titles and huge salaries aren’t as important to me if a job is going to make my life a nightmare. I’d rather be in a role that allows me to be creative, constantly keeps me on my toes, and also allows me to pursue personal passions and interests on the side — while getting paid what I’m worth.

A lot of people say they want to start their own business or go freelance, but many fear failure so they never do. What was the scariest part about going out on your own? How did you fight through that fear to make it happen?
The scariest thing about going out on my own were the logistics of getting set up. It’s not something you are taught in a typical workplace — whether it’s figuring out how to set up a business bank account or credit card, what to use to invoice customers, how to find an affordable lawyer to help with contracts, or finding a great accountant or CPA. I was involved with a few supportive communities of entrepreneurs and fellow consultants that were able to make recommendations and help me out. I wasn’t afraid to ask others for help and made sure I returned the favor.

For most freelancers or consultants, the scariest thing is figuring out where your next paycheck is coming from. I’ve been fortunate to have a great referral network that I built over many years. But if you haven’t built up a network that can send you business, then I do not recommend jumping right into working for yourself without another source of income.

I love talking about transferrable skills. Just because you are in one area does not mean you are limited to just doing that for the rest of your life. How did you draw on your PR background to step into the role of entrepreneur?
I’ve always been drawn to joining scrappy teams and companies, and I have been something like the 3rd, 6th, and 10th employee and the first communications hire. I was always attracted to roles that allowed me to take on extra work — whether it was marketing, business development, or mentorship and hiring/talent development. I’ve never wanted to join giant, well-established companies for that reason.

This mentality works really well when you’re self-employed because, ultimately, you’re going to be the one doing everything for awhile, whether it’s payroll, accounting, business development/marketing yourself or doing the client-facing work. If you don’t like feeling that discomfort of being thrown into the deep end than being an entrepreneur is probably not for you.

In addition to your work, you travel for industry conferences and find time for side projects. What do you find most helpful in managing it all?
You have to figure out where you get your energy and what you are motivated by.  I realized that while I prefer to work alone when I actually need to get things done, I also get a lot of energy from being surrounded by new people and learning new things.

So I try to prioritize hours of time to work alone during the week and then set aside days where I’m catching up with people face-to-face. In terms of conferences, I attend only a few events throughout the year that I find either inspirational OR I know I’ll get to catch up with a lot of people I haven’t seen in awhile. And furthermore, to quench my need to learn and try new things, I’ve started taking classes on the side – like a six-week product design course that I took earlier this year or a three session hand-lettering course I’m taking now.

NYWICI talk elisabeth
Rosario speaking on a New York Women in Communications panel, Investing in Yourself at Every Stage of Your Career.

Let’s touch on something all young professionals are going through – managing it all with a rising cost of living and abundant student loan debt. When we first met, you just moved out after several years of commuting from home. Why did you feel living at home was the best decision for you?
I just didn’t have the option to move out yet. I paid for college with student loans and scholarships, so I had to work nearly full-time while attending school. By the time I graduated I had thousands of dollars in student loans I needed to pay off, plus other living costs.

After graduating, I initially got my start in communications by interning (for free, when that was still the norm) for 2-3 days per week at a small PR firm, while also working the other 3-4 days a week at a bank.

Once I was able to get a full-time job offer in communications, I then spent a few years paying off my loans and saving money until I advanced enough in my career to have the salary that made it possible for me to move out. I even sold my car to get the upfront costs for my first apartment.

No one’s journey is exactly the same and these days going to college is so expensive and a job isn’t even guaranteed after graduating. You have to be resourceful.

Now it’s time for some fun! What is your favorite…

  • Item in your bag right now
    I have to carry my laptop with me everywhere, so I highly recommend the new 12-inch Macbook, which only weighs 2 pounds.
  • Way to decompress
    Reading every night before bed. I’m currently in the middle of reading an awesome sci-fi novel called Dark Matter.
  • Guilty pleasure
    I don’t have cable so I do a lot of binge watching. Some of my favorite shows right now include Las Chicas del Cable (Netflix), Riverdale, Insecure (HBO), Grace & Frankie (Netflix), and Mozart in the Jungle (Amazon Live).
  • Travel spot (I know you’re a big traveler!)
    Traveling is one of my favorite things to do. My favorite city, EVER, is Barcelona. I often daydream about moving there.  I’m currently in the middle of planning a trip to visit Peru and do the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu.
  • New app or technology (a young professional has to be in the know, after all!)
    The Hopper app lets you track airfare prices by tracking specific dates and locations. I have like 5 searches going on at a time so I can get travel deals.

Visit ElisabethRosario.com for her full bio and what she’s currently up to, and follow along on her adventures on Twitter

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