Selena Soo: [00:00:01] But I really like this idea that your dream job doesn't exist, and you have to create your dream job actively.

Andy Molinsky: [00:00:12] Welcome to From the Dorm Room to the Board Room, a podcast where we provide insights, tips, and inspiration for college students and young professionals, so they can make a really successful transition from college life to the professional world and beyond. My name is Andy Molinsky, and I'm your host. I'm also a Professor of Organizational Behavior in International Management at Brandeis University's International Business School, where we record and produce this podcast.

Andy Molinsky: [00:00:48] Okay. Today's guest is Selena Soo, who is a publicity and marketing strategist for entrepreneurs, experts, and authors who want to reach millions with their messages. She's helped clients and students get featured in places like O, The Oprah Magazine, Forbes Inc., and also land interviews on popular podcasts and national TV. In fact, many of Selena's clients have become industry leaders with very successful businesses, fan bases, and hundreds of thousands of followers. Her signature approach, which I think is really interesting, comes down to building powerful and long-lasting relationships with influencers and the media in a thoughtful and authentic way. And so, Selena has lived in New York City for 18 years and just recently moved to Puerto Rico. And right before we started this, she showed me through video a great image of where she is. And it's beautiful out there. Anyways, I, especially now, thank you for taking this time, Selena, to speak with us.

Selena Soo: [00:01:55] Thank you, Andy. I'm so happy to be here.

Andy Molinsky: [00:01:57] So, tell us a bit about what you do. And I guess, tell us, for people who don't know who influencers are or why someone would want to work with you, just give us, sort of, like, a basic sense of what your job is.

Selena Soo: [00:02:13] Sure. So, I work with entrepreneurs - in particular, people who are experts, authors, coaches, consultants - who are doing great work in the world, and they want more people to know who they are because maybe they're working with a handful of people, but they know that what they're offering is so important that literally thousands, if not millions, of people could benefit from that. And so, I help them get the word out about the work that they're doing. And I, also, teach them how to get clients and really how to design their business, so they can scale and impact more lives. So, that's in the form of, sometimes, it's coaching or consulting. Other times, people would join me in an online course or an event. But yeah, I'm really passionate about helping these entrepreneurs who are doing amazing things go from feeling like this hidden gem that no one knows about, and then becoming a household name in their niche.

Andy Molinsky: [00:03:02] Wow! And so, just a moment before we get into how—sort of, your story and your education-

Selena Soo: [00:03:09] Yeah.

Andy Molinsky: [00:03:09] ... what about this, sort of, is particularly meaningful for you?

Selena Soo: [00:03:14] Yeah. I mean, I guess, it does actually connect to my story a little bit. So, when I was in my mid-20s living in New York City, I had this quarter life crisis. And, things were okay on the outside. On the inside, I just felt so miserable. I felt like I was dying. I became clinically depressed. And I discovered this woman's life coaching group because I was desperate for a way to start feeling better. I was just feeling confused with my life.

Selena Soo: [00:03:37] And through that life coaching group, I learned about all of these amazing experts, and authors, and thought leaders. And I just felt like more people need to know these people exist because, oftentimes, when we're suffering, and we're in pain, we can actually get ourselves out of it. And I felt like there was nothing more motivating than having these thought leaders show us like there's another way to—there's a way to find your purpose, to heal your health, to start a new job, to go for your dreams, to find the relationship that you want.

Selena Soo: [00:04:06] And so, initially, I was just like very passionate about getting the message out about people who are doing work that could transform people's lives. And so, I started developing the skill set to help them, and I just started helping people for free initially, and making connections, getting them media opportunities, get connected to clients, and things like that. And so, I think it's so meaningful to me because I think that a lot of people are suffering, and they don't have to be. And I think that when these amazing entrepreneurs, experts, authors can share their work with the world, I really think that the world can be a better place.

Andy Molinsky: [00:04:40] Yeah, that's interesting. So, you're kind of a bridge builder in a sense. You're helping-

Selena Soo: [00:04:44] Oh, I love that.

Andy Molinsky: [00:04:44] You're helping people in need find people who can help them.

Selena Soo: [00:04:47] Yes, exactly.

Andy Molinsky: [00:04:49] So, tell us about—so, let's rewind because I know some of the listeners are probably in college or, if not, recently graduated. Where did you go to college? What did you major in? And what was your first job?

Selena Soo: [00:05:03] Yeah. So, I went to Columbia University in New York City. I majored in East Asian Studies and concentrated on Women's Studies. And I just would find myself always writing articles and school papers about women and gender issues, social justice, and things like that. And then, I also had a passion for fashion and marketing. I mean, there are so many different things. My very first job out of college was working for a beauty company that was really focused on empowering women. And I was really drawn to that company, specifically, because of their messaging around empowering women, and their foundation, and things like that. So, yeah, it was a PR assistant job at a beauty company.

Andy Molinsky: [00:05:46] What did you do? Like, what was your day like?

Selena Soo: [00:05:50] I basically—it wasn't very intellectually stimulating, but we would send out physical products to the media. So, it was like stocking the product closet. Like there are times that I felt like I was like a worker at Duane Reade, like putting like a cream on a shelf or that kind of thing. I don't even remember all the specifics because it really wasn't very intellectually challenging. But also, I wasn't even particularly good at it.

Selena Soo: [00:06:18] Fortunately, I was planning a conference at the same time. I had graduated from Columbia in December, I had taken a semester off, and I had a conference that I was launching in April. And it was Columbia University's first undergraduate women in business conference. And so, that was really what got me excited and charged up. And I was using more kind of entrepreneurial skills bringing together 300 people and student leaders from 30 different top universities and recruiting speakers and sponsors. And so, actually, as that really—that conference took off, there was a speaker there who wanted to hire me for her organization. So, I stayed at the beauty company for just a couple of months, but I was—unfortunately, I was not a star there. I was not very good at, like, the admin stuff.

Andy Molinsky: [00:07:08] I think that—I mean, I think it's important to note because in college, people or students are exposed to all sorts of big ideas. They might even have leadership roles in clubs and have amazing opportunities like you did to arrange a conference like that. And then, you hit your, sort of, entry level job, and there's a bit of a reality check. So, I am glad you mentioned that.

Selena Soo: [00:07:30] Yeah, it was really hard for me. I mean, I guess I was much better at doing more of the advance high-level working group. Coming up with like corporate sponsorship strategy, and getting on the phone, and recruiting sponsors, and attracting like high-level speakers, and writing persuasive copy, and doing like the lower-level admin work, what was low level, I just wasn't good at it. And yeah. So, it was good to be able to do multiple things at the same time because I think that it can really affect our self-esteem if we're doing something, and we realize like we're not that good at it or we don't feel good doing it.

Andy Molinsky: [00:08:05] So, what was the job that you had right before you started to do what you're doing now?

Selena Soo: [00:08:12] Right before I started my own company. I was in graduate business school. And before that, I worked at a nonprofit. And that was the—it was a really good experience, but I was definitely very hard on myself. I feel like one of the things that I was—I've always been this hard working, intellectually smart person that I was lacking, sort of, in, I guess, like maybe social and professional skills. Like I took—I got hurt very easily. Like if I didn't do something perfectly, if my boss had feedback for me, I would take it so personally and get so upset, but anyway. 

Selena Soo: [00:08:44] So, I did end up learning those skills, and you kind of have to, but it was wonderful. I was working at a nonprofit, and I was doing marketing and fundraising. I was recruiting people to be paid annual members to support our programs for underprivileged girls who are looking to advance in their schooling and in their careers. So, it was great organizing events, rallying people together around a common cause. I had an opportunity to be really creative, to develop some leadership skills. And I would also say that working in a nonprofit where you have very limited financial resources and human resources, it forces you to be creative, and entrepreneurial, and just then make things happen. So, it was actually a great place to be before I started my business.

Andy Molinsky: [00:09:29] That's interesting. I've never heard anyone talk about the benefits of working in a nonprofit, sort of, vis-a-vis entrepreneurship, but I can see that. And did you-

Selena Soo: [00:09:37] Yeah.

Andy Molinsky: [00:09:37] And from there, did you, sort of, move from your non-profit to, you said, business school, or what was the connection-

Selena Soo: [00:09:46] Yeah.

Andy Molinsky: [00:09:46] ... between that and what you're doing?

Selena Soo: [00:09:47] Yeah, exactly. I went to business school because I had felt like I hit a glass ceiling at the nonprofit. It was also a very small organization. So, the next level up would be to, basically, run the New York office, to be the managing director. And I just felt like there was something out there for me. I didn't know what it was, but I wanted to discover what that would be. And I felt like business will be a great way to be exposed to more opportunities, more people, to really find myself. So, yes, I went to business school for that.

Selena Soo: [00:10:18] One of the things I quickly found is that I personally felt different than a lot of people. A lot of them were pursuing traditional corporate jobs. And I had become clear that I don't want to be at like an investment bank, or consulting company, or a consumer package goods company. I wanted to do something a little bit more kind of startupy and entrepreneurial. So, I think it was helpful to be amongst several hundred other students and to kind of see how you're different because it makes it clear, like, what your strengths are, what your weaknesses are. There are things I had to learn in business school that I found to be extremely difficult, like finance. And even the type of marketing that they taught in business school, it was very different in the kind of marketing that I do, the marketing that's involved in getting the clients that I get today. So yeah, I found it really challenging.

Selena Soo: [00:11:06] I don't—to be totally honest, I am not really sure how the actual content I learned in business school has served me as a business owner today, but it was one of those experience that was hard and challenging because I was not good at the things that other people were good at. And I think that also grows personal character. I mean, you still manage to get good grades. I'm always a good student, but it was hard for me. But I did have a lot of time during business school because I wasn't looking to pursue the traditional career path. And so, I ended up working with an entrepreneur who had a successful business, and I worked alongside her. And I just got to see how I could really contribute to someone at her level, and it helped me uncover my potential. And through that and through relationships and networking, that really kind of got me set out to eventually feel confident in starting my own business.

Andy Molinsky: [00:12:02] It sounds like you started your business, sort of, with a bit of serendipity, right? You said earlier that you were having some personal challenges, and that you-

Selena Soo: [00:12:13] Yeah.

Andy Molinsky: [00:12:13] ... found some of the work that people out there were doing was helpful for you, and that you wanted to try to make these bridges, and that sort of started early on. Was it a business or were you just sort of kind of—I mean, to tell us about that.

Selena Soo: [00:12:26] Yeah.

Andy Molinsky: [00:12:26] This is like the real seeds, the real origins of the business idea.

Selena Soo: [00:12:30] Yeah. So, also, for me, it might be helpful for your listeners to know that I've been on the—I just got my green card after being in the US for 22 years. So, back when I was in business school, I was still on visas, and I didn't think that I actually could start my own company. I later learned that I could start a company for a year while I was on my optional practical training as a student. And then, I could—the company could sponsor me, but I would need to be bringing in certain amount of revenue and all of that. So, that really opened up my eyes.

Selena Soo: [00:13:05] Yeah. I mean, when I started my business, I was helping people with publicity and marketing execution work. So, someone had a book launch or needed to get into the media. I would help with that. And then, eventually, I worked with a coach and a program, a Mastermind Program, where there's other people in the group, and you brainstorm, share ideas, feedback with each other, and then also get expert feedback from the coach. And she really encouraged me to go from doing purely execution work to doing publicity coaching. And so, I did that. And then, I also-

Andy Molinsky: [00:13:40] Let me pause, though, because this is really interesting. How did you do that? So, what—you say—so, you said that in business school, you didn't necessarily learn anything that transferred directly. I guess, you haven't had—I'm imagining, in your story, you haven't told us that you had sort of publicity coaching or training. How did you do it? How did you know you're good at it? How did you do it? How did you help people and so on?

Selena Soo: [00:14:09] Yeah. So, I actually did not really have publicity coaching training. I mean, I worked in PR briefly at the beauty company, but I was doing the lowest level work. I think, for me, I'm that kind of person, like when I'm really passionate about something, I want the whole world to know about it. And I'm really good at connecting people, and understanding what people need, and how to get their attention. So, it was definitely a little bit self-taught in the beginning, but I would just start helping people. And it was like I had the skills to help people.

Selena Soo: [00:14:37] And so, when I was in business school, I was supporting, like just helping for free different people that I admired. And they really believed in me and saw me as like the best at what I did. So, that actually gave me confidence I didn't have before. So, that is how I started my business. And then, I took various online courses. One of my main mentors, Ramit Sethi, had a variety of different courses, including one of them called Earn 1K. It was all about how to earn $1000 on the side and set up a business as a freelancer. So, I went through that course and really followed exactly what he said. And it was like those, kind of, online courses, and the courses that I've also, now, create for my students. But those are the things that really helped me.

Selena Soo: [00:15:25] I also joined certain online courses where there were Facebook groups. I got to connect with other entrepreneurs. As they learned what I was doing there, they're like, "Oh, I could use your help with that." And because I had supported so many people, in many cases, for free and gotten them big results, these are quite famous people in my space, then they wanted to offer me—when I reached out, they were willing to offer me a testimonial endorsement. And people are like, "Wow! All these people, well-known, notable people are endorsing Selena. I want to work with her." So, that's kind of how the business started off the ground.

Andy Molinsky: [00:15:59] Oh, right! And before I move on, I just have to ask, you mentioned that you're not from the US. Where are you from originally?

Selena Soo: [00:16:05] Yeah. So, I grew up in Hong Kong, and I have a New Zealand passport. So, my family spends time between Bahamas and Canada. So, lots of different places that I'm connected to.

Andy Molinsky: [00:16:18] Wow! You're a cosmopolitan.

Selena Soo: [00:16:19] I guess so, yeah.

Andy Molinsky: [00:16:22] So, stepping back from all of this, what misconceptions do you think college students have about careers or about entering the workplace?

Selena Soo: [00:16:34] Yeah. I mean, I think one thing is that, like, with your first job, this doesn't sound great, but kind of accepting that it may not be your dream job. When you're in university, like you get to choose a lot of things. You get to choose all the courses you take, the exact professor you want. You get to choose which activities you're involved in. You can create your own projects, initiatives, whether it's like, I don't know, some festival or fashion show. There's just like so much room to be creative. And then, on your first job, you're going to be learning but in a different way. It might not just be like exactly what you want to do. So, I think it's like just kind of understanding that a little bit.

Selena Soo: [00:17:14] For me, I really believe—I mean, I, kind of, advocate entrepreneurship. I know it's not for everyone, but I really like this idea that your dream job doesn't exist, and you have to create your dream job actively. In some cases, it will be like getting where you can really add value to the company, and maybe seeing if they can mold your job into something that feels great for you, and that you're making a difference. Other times, it's to create it on your own and start your own thing.

Selena Soo: [00:17:42] But it's one of those things where you can't be passive because you'll get a job, and they'll give you certain things, and, oftentimes, it may not be the things that really light you up. But for me, personally, I'm the kind of person where if I'm not happy in my job, I'm not happy in life. I know that's not a good thing, but that's just kind of me. Like I want to do meaningful work. And so, not being passive and really making sure to advocate for yourself, getting clear on what you love doing where you can add value, and trying to make that your reality in your professional career.

Andy Molinsky: [00:18:13] What keeps you up at night as a young business—or you're more experienced. But, actually, how about this, what keeps you up at night—what kept you up at night as a young business owner when you first started? And then, how about today?

Selena Soo: [00:18:27] Yeah, I mean, I'm really ambitious. So, I'm always looking to achieve big goals. I was always looking to like double my revenue every year and hit certain huge milestones. That was kind of how I'm going to do it. And also, I do a lot of launches in my business. So, they're like specific events, where I'm doing a promotion or that kind of thing. And you never know how the promotion is going to do. So, yeah, what will keep me up at night is just, I guess, concern about whether I'm going to hit my big goals.

Andy Molinsky: [00:18:58] Yeah. And how about—you've talked actually quite a bit about mentors. It sounds like you had a mentor who is an entrepreneur who you worked with early on. You mentioned that entrepreneur whose courses you took online. Talk a bit about the role of mentorship into guiding a career, especially a career that you didn't necessarily anticipate having.

Selena Soo: [00:19:21] Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think mentorship is one of the most important things. When you're—whether you are starting your first job or looking to launch your own business, there's a million things that you literally do not know. I do think it is valuable to actually have multiple mentors who can help you with different things. Also, sometimes, people who are mentors could be people that you never actually talked to, but you read their books, you listen to their podcast, you learn from them. And so, I've had a combination of paid mentors where I've hired people, so I can have access to them and ask them specific questions. Other times, they are unpaid mentors. Sometimes, it's colleagues of mine who are just a couple of steps ahead of me. So, yeah, I always make sure to stay connected to other entrepreneurs who can support me and who I can support as well.

Andy Molinsky: [00:20:11] What do you think makes for a good mentor? How do you know if someone would be a good mentor for you?

Selena Soo: [00:20:18] Yeah. There are many different kinds of mentor. I think a good mentor is someone who is a good listener. I think a lot of times, there are people who are like, "Well, this is how I did it. So, this is how you should do it." And I do think that everyone's path is a little bit unique, and there's different considerations. I might not do what you did because we don't have the same risk tolerance, or they don't enjoy the things that you do.

Selena Soo: [00:20:39] So, I think a good mentor is someone who's really good at listening, and, also, really good at asking questions, and helping you form your own answers versus saying, "This is the way you must do it." I mean, it can be valuable for someone to definitely share specific strategies, and advice, and things like that, kind of more as a consultant. But I think a mentor, there's that fluidity where they're really empowering you to, I guess, essentially be your own coach to make the best decisions for yourself.

Andy Molinsky: [00:21:08] It's interesting. I was—on a different note, I was looking at your website before we talked, and I noticed that you describe yourself as introverted. And gosh, if I'm listening to what you do, it sounds like the most extroverted, sort of, niche of the world you could possibly imagine, like promoting, and getting yourself out there, hustling for clients, and so on. I think that might be inspirational to people who are listening who are introverted. Tell us a bit about that, because I think that's interesting.

Selena Soo: [00:21:43] Yeah. Well, one thing I will say is I'm definitely someone who is a go-getter. I think that you can be an introverted and even naturally shy or socially anxious person, but still be someone that has big dreams and is willing to take the actions to make them happen. When it comes to the publicity work I do, because I do have a handful of people that I will help them get publicity, when I'm putting myself out there, I'm doing this outreach, it's really coming from a place of passion and place of purpose where I think their work is so important. And it's the passion and the difference I can make in the world that's really fueling me. It's like the ideas versus the, "Oh, I want to be around people." But if I was at a party, and there's like eight people in a circle, I would definitely be the quiet person that doesn't say a word and listen. So, yeah.

Selena Soo: [00:22:29] So, it is interesting. One thing I will say that is that with my work right now, and to have my business, and to kind of hit the milestones I have because I've been in business for seven years right now, and we've crossed the multiple seven-figure mark in revenue, which kind of blows my mind because when I was working at a nonprofit, I was making about $40,000 a year. And now, we bring in a lot more as a business. Obviously, there's a lot of expenses, but even to achieve those things. And a lot of it has been doing things to get out of my comfort zone.

Selena Soo: [00:23:04] And so, I kind of—it's like a mindset that I understand how important it is to do the things that scare you. And there are times, there's like things that totally terrify me. I kind of feel nauseous. My body freezes up. My mind and heart are racing. My knees are shaking. My legs are getting beat. Like I feel like my body is breaking down. I feel that in my body. And as soon as I wish like, "What are you so [indiscernible], Selena," but it is what it is. And then, it's like I do it anyways because I know it's the right thing.

Selena Soo: [00:23:31] So, as an example, when I started my business, one of the scariest things for me to do is public speaking, but I had a vision of bringing people together and helping them with branding, and marketing, and really elevating their work in the marketplace. And part of it was because I had benefited from being a part of this women's life coaching group that changed my life. And so, it was weird because on the one hand, when I was in business school, just right before, and I had to introduce myself to like a group of five people in a circle, I could — like I was nervous, I cannot listen to what everyone was saying, like, "What am I going to say? Am I going to sound like a fool?" And yet, I had like decided to launch this two-day workshop where I'd be teaching for two days. And like even like 10 seconds was terrifying.

Selena Soo: [00:24:14] So, I think there's an interesting thing that I did develop. And I think we all can where it's like — well, one is doing the thing that scares us but, also, just really focusing on what do you really care about? What do you want to create? And just going out there, and doing it, and knowing that you're going to be terrified, and maybe you're going to make a fool of yourself. But you literally just do it anyways.

Selena Soo: [00:24:35] I know it sounds like weird because it was such a scary thing, but there's so many things I've had to do that are very terrifying to me, but those are the things I'm most proud of and have contributed to my growth. Like there's no way that I would have a multiple seven-figure business if I only did the things that were comfortable and easy. I do think that we need to focus on our genius self, and maybe we spend 80% or 90% of our time on our genius self, but the other 10% or 20%, you really want to grow as a professional in the workplace or as an entrepreneur, and you do have to challenge yourself.

Andy Molinsky: [00:25:08] So, that's a great note to end on. Very inspirational, insightful. And I really appreciate your coming on. If people want to hear and learn more about you, where can they go?

Selena Soo: [00:25:19] Yeah, I would love for them to visit my website,, where they can learn more. And I have different articles on my blog that I think they'll enjoy. I have an article called Confessions of a Highly Sensitive Entrepreneur. Another article about 37 lessons I learned in my 37 years of life. And I really try to open up and be really honest about the journey of entrepreneurship and doing what I can to create the best life for myself and others.

Andy Molinsky: [00:25:46] Excellent. All right. Thanks so much, Selena.

Selena Soo: [00:25:49] Yeah. Thank you, Andy.

Andy Molinsky: [00:25:53] Thank you for listening to From the Dorm Room to the Board Room. If you're interested in learning more about the work that I do in helping people step outside their comfort zones and transition successfully into the professional world, please visit my website, That's A-N-D-Y-M-O-L-I-N-S-K-Y dot com. And, also, feel free to email me directly at with any feedback or ideas for guests for future podcasts.

Andy Molinsky: [00:26:24] This podcast is brought to you by Brandeis University's International Business School. By teaching rigorous business, finance, and economics, connecting students to best practices, and immersing them in international experiences, Brandeis International Business School prepares exceptional individuals from around the globe to become principled professionals in companies and public institutions worldwide. Thank you so much for listening.