Career Wisdom 4 You Series Session #6: Insight from Erik Rydholm

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Career Wisdom 4 You Series Mission: To serve invaluable insider-wisdom to college students across the globe as they work towards having an impactful & healthy career.  

Featured Guest For Wisdom Session #6: Erik Rydholm, Owner,  Rydholm Projects Inc. . He is the executive producer and creative force behind some of ESPN’s most popular programs –Pardon the Interruption, Around the Horn, Highly Questionable and the TV simulcast of The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz. Erik is also Co-Founder of the award-winning and highly popular multimedia financial services company The Motley Fool.

(Disclaimer: The expressed opinions below are solely Erik Rydholm’s and not of ESPN or previous business partners.)


Question 1: You have created and executive produced shows millions have enjoyed for nearly two decades. How would you describe the art of creating and sustaining great content??

I trust that there’s nothing more fascinating to one human being than another human being. Everyone longs for connection. Find compelling characters who see the world in interesting ways and are great at expressing how the world looks through their eyes. Then, build around their particular strengths and idiosyncrasies, trusting that their originality will, by transit, make the show you’re creating feel original and special.


Question 2: What skills and personal characteristics do you feel contribute most to success in your industry?

Not sure I can speak for the industry, but for me, I think so much comes down to judgement. TV producers are faced with thousands of small decisions each day. You have to be able to make good choices, healthy choices, and be vulnerable enough to ask for help when you don’t know which way to go. Finally, it’s trite but true: the only thing you can control is your effort. I love to work.


Question 3: How should students best maximize their internships?

Internships aren’t just resume-boosters; they’re opportunities to challenge yourself and grow. And we’re rarely happier than when we’re growing. Learn as much as you can about the company by reading ahead and asking around. If you know what the company’s goals and values are heading in, you’re more likely to be able to provide value. Go in with an enormous curiosity. Literally, make lists of questions for which you want answers. Everything from “where’s the bathroom” to “why are we here?” You don’t have to ask all of them, but should be on the lookout for answers. I think there can be a tendency in internships to stay out of the way – and there are times when that’s necessary — but the experience is ultimately what you make it. So ask questions, develop relationships, and know that if you make meaningful contributions to the team, the team is more likely to want you to join if a position opens up.


Question 4: What are the biggest early-career mistakes to avoid?

Your first job isn’t going to define your life. Treat it like a class you really want to take. Get as much out of it as you can. And then if you want to take a new class, do it. Honoring your own true curiosity is essential.
As a young man, I spent way too much time comparing myself to my peers. I  found myself always lagging the success and satisfaction that I projected upon them. And so I constantly felt miserable about where and who I was. I craved a cool job because if I got one, then I thought people would think I was cool. But no one ever gave me one. So one day, tired of being rejected, I just made a list of things I wanted to do that no one could say no to (write a column, learn to invest, swim a mile, among others). Pursuing these things reminded me that my identity was bigger than a job. They changed my patterns and brought new people into my life. For instance, my best friend’s brother taught me to invest, and then the three of us decided to start a small newsletter together for family and friends. That ended up growing into an investment idea company named The Motley Fool. I learned that going for the big thing really didn’t work out for me, but that taking risks on little things can lead to big things.


Bonus Wisdom: What final piece of advice do you have for students?

There can be temptation and tendency to compartmentalize things into your personal life and your professional life. Once you check the boxes in both, you’re fulfilled, right?! Alas, I wasn’t. So I stopped drawing the hard boundaries. I realized that I’m happiest when I’m creating, growing, giving, and loving, and I can do those things in everything I do, whether they’re traditionally defined as personal or professional.