When starting any new initiative, especially in an employer brand role responsible for championing the people and telling their stories, it’s always thrilling when someone else initiates the conversation. So, when I got the G-chat ping from our Chicago office’s Dan Pecoraro, Advertising Sales Manager, I was instantly excited. As he shared his story, I beamed from ear to ear, inspired by his “10 guidelines for happiness.” Dan’s story is more than just a career journey. It’s a story of following your dreams, learning from the hardships, and defining happiness for yourself along the way.
#1 – To understand your future, you must understand your past.
So, let’s travel back – my career started at 12 years old. It’s 1998, MTV and TRL were all the rage, and pop acts like BSB, Britney, 98 Degrees, Christina, and the iconic *NSYNC, which my brother just so happens to be lifelong best friends with Joey Fatone of the group, were all on top of the world. Through *NSYNC, I had unbelievable backstage access (seeing life at its absolute apex), and at 12 years old, I caught the performing bug setting my sights on being an entertainer.
It may sound confusing, as today I have happiness in my career at Taboola as an Advertising Sales Manager, but like any journey, there’s evolution. This is a career trajectory story of how we often start in one place and finish in another. Ultimately, this is the story of how I learned to define my own happiness and how I encourage you to do the same.
#2 – Have a vision for the bigger picture ahead.
This chance *NSYNC friendship allowed me to tag along and get a glimpse into the glamorous celebrity lifestyle (curtain peeled back). I couldn’t get enough and became laser-focused on the entertainment industry, forming my own music group (which lasted four years), and ultimately led to working as a Live Event MC with Five Star DJs hosting for audiences every weekend (a job I’d hold at various times from 16-36 yrs old). With *NSYNC as the initial catalyst and Five Star taking my passion to a new level, I began to pursue a career as an On-Air Host, similar to Ryan Seacrest or what you’d see on E! News or MTV.
#3 – Explore as many options as possible.
At 18, I enrolled at Pace University in NYC to major in Marketing and landed two internships. The first with Epic Records working in PR for Jessica Simpson, and the second with ad agency GroupM handling media for Colgate Palmolive. During this time, I sent a tape to MTV, and to my shock, I got a call-back to audition at their Times Square studio to be a VJ on TRL.
#4 – Learn how to fail the right way.
MTV was my first real audition. I was super nervous and froze when they asked me the most basic question, “Tell me about yourself.” And just like that, at the age of 18, I bombed my dream interview.
As I grew older, I learned failing is a routine part of life, and learning how to fail the right way (and learn in the process) can sometimes be more helpful than actually landing the gig itself. Despite MTV not working out, this provided confirmation that I had talent I needed to keep tapping into, so I continued on the TV hosting path, landing an agent, more auditions, and was even featured on NBC’s “Deal or No Deal” as a contestant. At 20 years old, I won $129,000 on national primetime TV!
#5 – Block out all voices except the one in your heart.
Upon graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing, I enrolled in the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, studying on-air journalism. I got a job as a radio host for New York’s – Party 105FM. From 22–24 years old, I flew from NYC to LA, auditioning for E! News, Vh1, MTV2, G4, Comedy Central, Fuse, and more. I was getting a few solid hits but also striking out way more (such is life as an entertainer, I would learn).
#6 – Your personal life dictates your professional life.
At 23, I met Natasha, the woman I would go on to marry and have a family with. Over the years together, I started to revisit the idea of being an entertainer. Truth is, as much as I loved it (and still do,) I met all my heroes (including Ryan Seacrest and Bob Costas), and I learned all too well the grind of the road, the relentless schedule, sacrifices, nights away in random hotels, and it just didn’t line up with the type of husband and father I envisioned myself being.
Deciding to venture out, I landed my first marketing role with MEC of GroupM, and after some time, continued along the passionate route into sports marketing for the New York Mets affiliate, the Brooklyn Cyclones (which also cast me as their On-Field Event Host – life imitating art perhaps).
From there, I went on to digital marketing for Turner Sports but was also given an on-air role with their digital property, Bleacher Report, doing analysis in their online sports content (performing was the crazy ex who just kept resurfacing no matter how many times I tried to walk away, lol). At this point, I was part marketing/part performer and held it all together despite logging a ton of hours!
Of course, when I thought I was truly done performing entirely, the dream offer would finally come with WWE, who offered me an all-encompassing role as a play-by-play analyst, commentator, announcer, correspondent, and more handling on-air duties across their properties that would have included Raw, Smackdown, WrestleMania, and more.
#7 – Whenever you feel fear…step in.
The offer with the WWE put me at a crossroads. Everybody there was incredible. The opportunity was exhilarating, and I wanted it badly, but the timing wasn’t right. I made the difficult decision to walk away. After being set on these goals since my first *NSYNC encounter at 12, my life shifted in a way where I had to decide if I would continue pursuing entertainment or look towards something else, which was scary to do.
Instead of letting my decision consume me, I leaned into the skills and experiences I had accumulated throughout the years. In search of fulfillment, I would go on to work in marketing for NBC Sports on the NFL, iHeartMedia on Ryan Seacrest Productions, and SPARK on the Jack Daniel’s brand handling music integrations. Eventually, I’d get my Master’s Degree from Brooklyn College, which led to one of my current roles as an Adjunct Professor of Marketing with Loyola University Chicago, teaching graduate and undergrad classes.
#8 – May you chase your dreams to the point you can walk away from them.
For so much of my life, my mind was set on one thing, but then life happened, and those goals shifted. All the work I put in brought me to a place of ultimate happiness through a journey of ultimate learning, leading me to Taboola, where today, I’m fulfilled working as an Advertising Sales Manager.
Taboola’s team and culture fulfill a lot of the same passions I had as an entertainer, and in many ways, my job here is the culmination of my skill sets across my studies, work, and experiences all rolled into one.
At 37, my life and career have aligned to where I have a family, and I can be there for my wife and tuck my girls in each night, which means everything to me. My daughters, Charlotte & Savannah, are my new definition of happiness and winning.
#9 – Everyone breathes oxygen…do not be afraid to approach anyone, ever.
Working with teammates at Taboola and teaching at Loyola, I share this story to demonstrate that happiness is whatever you want to define it as. As you chase happiness in your own personal endeavors, you must approach anyone and everyone to inquire and learn. Don’t be intimidated by someone’s title or notoriety, as you’ll find that speaking up for yourself is the only way to know, learn, and be given a chance to try something.
Throughout my experiences, I faced rejection and harsh feedback. After the whirlwind journey of chasing my dreams (from boy bands to sports marketing to music and media), I find myself at Taboola, a company that is the culmination of so much of my past but allows me to actually be myself, which is ultimately what I always wanted.
My former boy band
I’ve learned it’s vital to take chances that allow you to “be who you want,” and Taboola has been that company that embraces everything about me. Being at Taboola has given me peace in my career and makes me feel rewarded and valued for my skills and work. Here, I get to be the performer (presentations), I get to implement my marketing degrees (media strategy), and my job allows me the balance to continue mentoring (teaching at Loyola and junior Taboola teammates).
#10 – Fight for what you want from life and never settle for mediocrity.
Not everyone has a linear career or life track. It’s okay to pivot and try something else. Be the leader of your life, take chances, and view your “failures” as a redirection to something else. Eventually, as we search for career and life happiness, we learn, fail, and try again. Like the reunited *NSYNC new single says, we can only hope to be in a “Better Place” tomorrow.