Category Archives: On the way to the Top

Developing a Killer Personal Brand

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I recently started a new job, and on the first day my boss told me that what separated me from all the other interview candidates and ultimately won me the position was my online brand.

Whether you’re on the job-hunt, launching your own business or looking to establish yourself online, it’s important to invest some time and thought into the business of you. By effectively developing and marketing your online reputation you’ll be in a better position to target your personal and professional goals.

Get Recognized and Be Consistent 
Determining who you are and what you do is the first step in creating your personal brand and an online marketing strategy for yourself. Think about your strengths, skills, experience and interests, and ask yourself what you can bring to the table that will set you apart from the competition. Do you have a knack for graphic design, or are you a makeup artist experienced in bridal looks? When you know your strengths and passions you can highlight them by creating a personal brand that’s consistent with your objectives. Whether your audience is hiring managers, peers or potential clients they should be able to get an understanding of who you are, where you’ve been and what you can offer when they connect with you.

Dream Job

Decide your core message and start building your profiles. It’s a good idea to use the same username across all platforms so you’ll be easy to find on every network. Using a site like Namecheck you can search to see if your name or chosen brand name is available across all major social networks and then claim them for your use. is a great tool to build yourself a splash page that will lead your audience to all of your social pages and websites from one place.

Google yourself and take note of what already exists about you online. Take the time to go through the privacy settings on your Facebook account and remove anything you wouldn’t want a potential boss to see. You’ll also need a headshot of yourself to use across all your channels. Make sure it’s simple, professional and easily recognizable so your peers can pin point you when you’re networking in real life!

Know Your Niche
Trying to be something or someone you’re not online won’t benefit you in the real world. Thus, it’s in your best interest to be honest and realistic with what you know and what you like rather than faking it in an attempt to win influence and recognition. Select your area of focus based on the industry you work in, your skills and experience and what you are passionate about. This will let your true self shine through online and get you connected with others who have similar interests.

Dream Job

Share Who You Are
How will you communicate your personal brand to potential clients, peers and hiring managers? Knowing the right social platforms to use to get yourself heard will ensure you’ll stand out from the crowd. A photographer might want to promote themselves online with a digital portfolio or Flickr account, while a stylist might want to share outfit posts on a blog and connect with other fashion enthusiasts via Twitter. Make sure you are present in the channels that will connect you with your target audience. This is your opportunity to leave a memorable first impression and leave your audience curious to learn more about you.

Life Quotes

It may not happen over night, but thinking through your personal and professional goals and aspirations to put together your personal brand and marketing strategy will lead you on the path to a future of endless possibilities.

Tell me: How have you used your online brand for career success?

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Giving Students and New Grads a Voice

You know I’m all about networking, seminars and interning to help you make the way towards your dream job, so it’s no surprise I would be all on board when I heard the country’s leading online career resource spot,, was launching an awareness campaign to fight Gen-Y under-employment.

The platform is called Student Voice, and it’s mission is to give students the opportunity to voice their school-to-work transition concerns, experiences and wishes to Canadian employers. Each day students and new grads will be sharing their career-related stories, and so far almost two-dozen young professional have contributed.

And of course I was one of them. You can check out my story about something that is near and dear to me: unpaid internships. Read: Attract and Retain the Best Talent by Offering Paid Internships.

If you are a student or new grad with a positive career experience story or wish the job hunting process was a bit different for young professionals, I would encourage you to submit your story to this great campaign. We all need to work together to voice our opinions if we want things to get better for our generation!

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Open for Business

Well I finally did it! This week I officially launched my freelance writing business, The Writing Concierge. I am excited for this new venture and looking forward to working with some great individuals and companies. Thank you to everyone who has already shown their support. I am always looking for advice and feedback, so if you have any for me I would be most appreciative. And of course if you or anyone you know are in need of writing services be in touch!

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A Flattering Shout Out

Like many young professionals and aspiring writers today, I’m all over Twitter.

Love it or hate it, Twitter has become one of the best social media tools out there and has the power to start trends, make you laugh and maybe even help you land your dream job.

One of my fellow writers, Erin,  over at Talent Egg recently posted an article about the benefits of Twitter for students and recent graduates. As I scrolled down to read her advice, I was surprised to see my face and twitter bio as part of her piece.

If you're not following these Tweeters, you should be!

If you’re new to Twitter or looking to make the most out of your 140 character entries, I would suggest reading Erin’s advice. Remember to have fun, be creative and put your best self out there. You never know who may be retweeting!

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Let’s Bond over Cocktails

Lately, my favorite word is networking.

In my quest to meet new people, find more job opportunities and grow as a professional I’ve been attending a variety of networking events in the city. Through one of these events I met the creator of Toronto Business Casual, and was asked to join the promotional team for their next event.

On September 29th TBC will host Cocktail Couture: Manhattan at Pravda Vodka Bar in Toronto. Urban young professionals will be sipping on designer cocktails and grooving to the classic sounds of Sinatra as they meet their peers.

I’m excited to be a part of this very Mad Men-esque soiree, and I know i’ll be meeting a ton of go-getters.  If you’d like to check out the event or know someone who would I encourage you to spread the word.

Tickets are going fast – check out the Facebook page here for updates on early bird and regular ticket sales.

Hope to see you there!

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The Intern Diaries: Volume IV

As I mentioned earlier, I will soon become an intern for the fourth time.

I’ll have to admit, I hoped I was done with this stage of my career but I’m still looking forward to another great learning opportunity, and a possible gateway to the working world. Unlike my pervious intern gigs, this one won’t be strictly editorial. I’ll be spending part of my time in the fashion closet sorting clothing and accessories, calling PR companies and designers and getting organized for fashion shoots, and the other half contributing to the fashion blog (It may sound glamorous, but I assure you it will be hard work). I’m super excited to get to experience the daily happenings at one of the country’s leading fashion magazines and I’m sure I will be meeting many talented people in the magazine industry along the way.

Stay tune for more additions to the Intern Diaries in the coming weeks for updates.

But before this all goes down, I’m off to the city that never sleeps for my own little adventure. I’ll tell you all about it when I return, and don’t worry I won’t keep you guessing about the exact magazine I’ll be interning at for much longer.

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Good Advice to Give and Take

Some of you may know I have been a member of the Professional Writer’s Association of Canada (PWAC) for a little over a year now. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made as a newbie freelancer, and I’ve really enjoyed meeting members from across Canada and hearing how they got their start.

Well, a little while ago I was asked to share my experiences as an intern at Pinellas News for the London chapter’s newsletter. I was a bit surprised to be asked to give advice to other members, especially since I am one of the youngest and least experienced of the bunch. Still it was great to get my experience down in writing, and as I wrote the piece I was reminded all over again what an incredible learning opportunity the entire internship was.

As I prepare to embark on my fourth stint as an intern (more on that soon) I’ll be making sure to read over this piece and make some mental notes to bring with me to the next publication.

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An Ode to J-School

We are the future!

You can thank my nostalgia and my excessive free time for this post. In what I hope is not the last tribute to J-school, here are the top five things I learned as a journalism student this year:

1. If your mother tells you she loves you what do you do? You check it out!

I know this probably sounds pretty weird to most people, but essentially it means that as a journalist you must be skeptical of everything. I’m not saying you should never believe a word you hear, but you should always be curious and the information you are told and the source it came from, and check, check and double check all the facts! We’ve been taught that as reporters, our first obligation is to provide the public with the truth. It’s not enough to publish information and check it later, we must make every effort to ensure the information we have received is valid before we share it with the public.

Think of the Balloon Boy fiasco last year: Did anyone in the media question if there REALLY was a little boy floating around in that balloon? Maybe if someone stopped to think about it for a few minutes before they quickly posted the story online and broke the news all over the TV, the hoax would have been discovered sooner.

So next time your moms tells you she loves you, make sure you have at least two other valid sources to confirm this statement before you go tell everyone. Accuracy is key.

2. Don’t use a $10.00 word when a $5.00 word will suffice.

This one came from my time as a co-op student at the London Free Press. Having the opportunity to sit down with the editors and go over my work was a great learning experience, and I will be sure to use their tips and advice every time I approach a new story. A problem facing most writers, including myself, is learning how to be as concise as possible. When you are writing for a newspaper especially, space for each story is limited and sometimes you will be given only 500 words for a story that you think you need 700 words to tell. This is why it is important to write clear and concise.

Remember all those long and fancy words you would use to fill up those academic essays in undergrad? You need to throw them out the window and stick to simple sentences. This was quite a struggle for me to get used to after all those years of writing 4,000 word papers, but the best thing to remember is just to tell the story as you would explain it to a friend or family member.

3. Canadian Press Style Guide is the Bible.

First, I must say I owe everything I know about grammar, spelling and editing to my professor Mary Doyle (thanks Mary!!). I may not practice it perfectly all the time, but the rules have definitely been implanted in my head. You can’t be a good journalist if your work is riddled with spelling and grammar errors, and editors will be much more happy if they don’t have to spend all their time making your stories comprehensible. This is why you need the latest edition of the CP Style Guide as well as Caps and Spelling to get the job done right.

All semester if anyone would ask, does this word have a hyphen? do I need to capitalize this? what’s the abbreviation for that? we would all say CP STYLE! It’s hard to even explain how valuable this book is for a writer, and it was definielty the best purchase I made all school year.

4. If it bleeds is leads.

Sounds pretty gruesome and sensational but it’s true (and if you start paying close attention to news coverage it will become more apparent). After writing countless practice news stories about house fires, shootings, dead bodies and car accidents you find there is a hierarchy when it comes to reporting events. It goes a little something like this:

  1. People
  2. Money
  3. Stuff

If a person (or an animal) dies or is hurt it must be the first thing you report on in the story. If a large sum of money is stolen or lost that goes next. And finally, if anything is destroyed or badly damaged (house, car, building etc.) that would go after you report on the other two. Not exactly the best types of stories to cover, but somebody’s gotta do it.

5. Good things come to those who work really, really hard.

Sure I had to pull my weight in undergrad, but grad school I tell you was a whole other story! When we first began the year I remember being told, “you will get as much out of this program as you put into it” and boy did I take that to heart. There never seemed to be enough hours in the day to work on all those assignments, sit through hours of class and be involved in extra-curricular opportunities but I tried my best. When things weren’t going my way I wondered why I ever decided journalism school was a good idea, but when things turned out great all those worries melted right away.

Whether it was searching for story ideas, interviewing sources, editing a podcast or putting the final touches on a video clip I can honestly say I have never worked harder at anything in my life than I have in the last 12 months. But all those long nights and wasted weekends spent in the North Campus Building computer labs to get everything done just right was well worth all the stress, tears, hissy fits and bad hair days. It made me stronger, it made me wiser and most importantly it made me realize that with enough dedication and persistence anything is possible.

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Hand me my Green Jacket

The end is not near, it is HERE.

After five years of post-secondary education at The University of Western Ontario, I am finally entering that place everyone keeps talking about: the “REAL WORLD.”

What's it like?

No more staying up all hours of the night writing essays, eating greasy pizza while doing group projects on the weekends, studying for exams with my “Zen Calming” iPod playlist, or showing up for class hungover. Damn I’m going to miss that last one.

I am officially a Master. A Master of Arts in Journalism to be exact. If this was the PGA tour, I’d be getting a beautifully tailored green jacket that I could wear with my fave strappy heels and bauble necklace.

I'm still trying to master photoshop

Instead this is the “REAL WORLD,” and now –gasp– I’m back living in the suburbs with my parents, waiting for a sign from the Divine, or more like a call from one of the countless places i’ve applied for employment telling me my dream job is waiting.

My feelings about this transition are mixed to say the least.

Sure, I’m proud of all my hard work over the last five years and the fact i’m finally graduating. I don’t really want to spend the rest of my life in school (at some point I will no longer be able to pass for 21). And I really want  to start my career so I can make some money and establish myself as an adult in a fabulous Toronto condo overlooking the Lakeshore (or at least pay for my own cell phone bill).

But when you’ve been a student all your life and you’re used to all the privileges and excuses that come with being in school full-time, how the hell are you supposed to know how to function when you no longer have the word STUDENT following the comma after your name? And how do you decide your next move when you want to do about a million different things at the same time? It is the ultimate identity crisis if you ask me.

For now I’m just trying to put all these thoughts on hold for a few weeks and do something you hardly ever get to do…NOTHING. But it’s harder then one would think spending your days with your hair in a bun, organizing the clothes in your closet by colour and sleeve length. I just have to keep telling myself to be patient and use my time to read, relax, think about my next move and spend time with some great people.

Hopefully, when the day arrives for me to don my last cap and gown at Alumni Hall (June 14th), I’ll have a better idea of where I’m headed– even if it’s just for the next couple of months.

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You can never have enough shoes: This weekend at the London Free Press

Photo By: Morris Lamont/London Free Press

After a relatively unproductive weekend, I took a day shift Sunday at the London Free Press. As I rode the bus downtown I went over the list of potential story ideas in my head that I could pitch. I arrived in the newsroom prepared for one of the city editors to okay one of my ideas and to spend the afternoon looking for sources and making phone calls. Instead I was greeted by one of the photographers, Morris Lamot, who told me I would be going along with him to cover Slush Cup at Boler Mountain.
As the day panned out I realized many things, one of them being that I seemed to be the only person I knew who had never heard about a Slush Cup before. (If you don’t either the best you can do is watch this video).
Check out the story from the London Free Press here.
Here’s my two cents from this weekend:
1. Always be Prepared: So I may have ripped this motto from the Boy Scouts, but I think journalists should start adopting this practice too. As a reporter you never know where the day might take you, and where you might end up to cover a story. You may need a raincoat and some wellies, or you may need some heels and a blazer. Case in point: On a fairly warm Sunday (about 6 degrees) I found myself going to a ski hill. When I got dressed that morning the last thing I was thinking as I starred into my closet was, “I should wear something warm incase I spend the whole day outside.” Not going to lie I was more concerned about coordinating my cardigan with my bracelets. But luckily at the last minute I wore my boots instead of my converse, and my wool pea coat instead of my short leather jacket. After the first hour at the hill my feet were already numb (these boots are nice but not designed for trekking through snow all day long), and I was wishing  my outfit plan included a scarf. The photographer on the other had pulled out a pair of Sorel winter boots from his trunk along with a hat and an insulated jacket. “You never know where they are going to send you, and if you aren’t prepared you can’t do your job the way you need to,” he said. Now the next time I take a shift at the paper I don’t plan on bringing a small duffel bag with different outfit options, (not that I wouldn’t enjoy that) but I will for sure think about versatility when I access my choice in the mirror.
2. Multi-tasking is an Art: My job for the day was simply to interview some spectators, contestants, and a representative from Boler so I could write a colourful story about the event. The photographer on the other hand had to shoot video for the web and take photos that would appear in the paper, as well as in an online photo gallery. I watched him as he shot some clips with the mini-cam and then quickly turned to his digital SLR to snap some stills as all the action was going on and people were moving all around him (don’t forget he was standing on an uneven snowy hill!). On top of that he even made it a point to run over to every contestant after they came down the hill to get their names for the photo captions. I was having trouble just conducting interviews while keeping track at how many people had come down the hill. Luckily we worked together back in the newsroom, sharing names and going over the facts for the story, but I realized that’s not always going to be the case. The realities of the job today are that I might be sent out somewhere without another reporter/ videographer/photographer to share the work with. This means I will be expected to step up my game and make sure I cover all the major points of the multimedia story––  even if it’s just covering some crazy teens skiing into a pond of freezing water.
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