"Why did you do 4 years in Comm?"
"Why did you go to graduate school?"
"Don't you just want to start your career?"
My response: Why do I have to choose between being a student or being a professional? Can't I do both?
Well, we can. We can take our education beyond the classroom. On that note...
I am originally from Toronto and I did my undergraduate degree in Political Science and Sociology at Queen’s University. I moved to New York City about 10 months ago to pursue a Masters of Science in Public Relations and Corporate Communication. After having an internship at my local Chamber of Commerce in PR, I realized that this was an industry I wanted to pursue as a career.
Why graduate school?
Graduate school was something I knew I always wanted to do. I’ve always been a school-oriented person. I see the value in constantly wanting to learn more. Ultimately, I think it helps to expand your knowledge on various subjects that you can apply to your practical experience. My decision to go into PR was something that came as a result of a lot of self-reflection. I knew I loved to communicate, write, and help others in managing their businesses. Everything that I was passionate about pointed to a career in PR.
What was your inspiration for One Heel Ahead?
The inspiration for One Heel Ahead came from really wanting to share my writing with people. It was also a way for me to work on my writing, while still generating content that people could use and refer to in their careers. With so many blogs out there, I wanted One Heel Ahead to stand for something that would encourage people. I wanted the name of the blog to reflect that encouragement, to remind my readers to always stay motivated and to keep going even when your career gets tough.
What is the importance of branding yourself?
In my opinion, personal branding is extremely important. There is so much “noise” out there in the web that makes it difficult to convey to people who you really are as an individual without seeming repetitive. Developing a personal brand allows you to easily convey your identity through your blog, portfolio, or even in an interview.
What advice would you give to students about building a good brand?
The advice I would give to students about building a good brand would be to think outside the box. I write about PR, but I didn’t add that in the name because I wanted to be different. You need to stand out, and differentiate yourself in the market. Also, it’s important to not limit yourself. You may specialize in a particular industry, but also have the incredible capability to write about topics that might not necessarily pertain to your career. Allow yourself some “creative wiggle room”, if you will.
What advice do you have for students looking to build their writing portfolios?
If you’re passionate about it, write about it. I think most people underestimate their writing abilities. There are so many greater writers out in the world that can make anyone feel intimidated. I’ll still pick up a Hemingway piece and think, “Boy, I have a LONG way to go.” However, I think we all have a unique personal voice that can show through when we’re extremely passionate about a topic. Students who want to build their writing, simply just need to write more. Even if it’s a travel journal or a quote book, it’s really just about putting pen to paper in a habitual manner. Once you make this a regular occurrence, start sending pieces off to different sources and see what gets traction. Work at it!
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced when balancing graduate school One Heel Ahead?
Being consistent. I try faithfully to post every Wednesday or Thursday. A blog can easily take a back seat if you aren’t committed. I think that as your readers begin to grow, you become more dedicated to providing them with new and interesting content. I view them as an employer who expects work from me by the end of the week. If they stick with me, I have a duty to them to produce something they’ll enjoy reading. It takes dedication and efficient time management to balance school, work and a blog.
How do you think your life and future career would be different if you chose not to attend graduate school?
I wouldn’t have the same self-fulfillment. I knew from a very early age that I wanted to get my Masters. It’s something I’ve had in my head for years. I didn’t know what exactly I’d get the degree in, but I’ve always been a firm believer in the power of knowledge and education. I don’t think I’d be as happy as I am if I chose not to get the degree. I think it has also been a great networking opportunity. I’ve learned a lot from professors and fellow colleagues who work in the field. Ultimately, I don’t think I would have had the same opportunities if I didn’t pursue graduate school.
Any final advice for current students considering graduate school?
I If it’s something you want to do, then do it. You can read blog post after blog post about weighing the pros and cons for pursuing a degree in X industry. You can get guidance from people in the field too. My immediate advice would be to stop relying on the opinions of others (in this scenario). The decision you’re making isn’t going to be answered in a blog post. It’s going to come from self-reflection, and really being aware about what it is you want to do with your life. I think people get into trouble when they want someone to just give them the answer. Everyone will give you a different answer, but the only person who can make the decision is you. If it’s something you want, go for it.
Graduate school isn't for everyone. Neither is a four year undergraduate program. Many outstanding programs exist to get you in and out in two years or less. In communications especially, a field that doesn't necessarily require certification, people wonder why I've stayed in school. ComBeyond honors people working hard to balance being a student and a professional.
A Boston girl via Toronto. University of Toronto, Sheridan College, and Boston University alumna. Passionate about ending domestic violence. Hoping to never go a day without carbs or chocolate.