In this series, TalentEgg will be exploring the lives of young professionals who have gone off the beaten career path to find success. From artists to entrepreneurs, their stories illustrate the importance of pursuing your passion.
Social media: almost everyone uses it, but only a handful of people do it well.
With millions of posts being published every second, it takes a special talent to stand out from the crowd. Elamin Abdelmahmoud is one of those few. As the hilarious voice of @BuzzfeedCanada, he has the unique ability to entertain over 100,000 followers with only 140 characters (and some well-placed emojis).
“People are strange and I’m often fascinated by the things that people are talking about.” – Elamin Abdelmahmoud
While Elamin has been working in the social side of the industry for several years now, he actually started his career in a more traditional medium: radio. As a Gender Studies and Philosophy student at Queen’s University, he worked at the campus radio station as a news director. It was there that he first discovered his passion for the field.
“I read a lot and I’m very interested in the issues that we consider news,” says Elamin. “I’ve always had an attraction to what people are talking about, and why they’re talking about it, and I think that’s what drove me into media.”
After graduation, Elamin made the leap from Kingston, Ontario to Toronto to pursue a journalism career. But it wasn’t the smoothest of starts for Elamin, who spent his first two years in the workforce moving from one temporary position to the next.
“My first job with George Strombolopolous Tonight began as a four-week contract that ended up being extended to four months,” says Elamin. “I really really loved that job and it was a lot of fun, but it was also my first introduction to the precariousness of the field.”
Additionally, without a journalism degree, he had the added challenge of having to prove that he had what it took to succeed in the industry. At a time when Canadian media was undergoing unprecedented change, Elamin was at a significant disadvantage. Without this educational background, Elamin had to be incredibly resourceful in order to get ahead in an already hyper-competitive field.
“Luckily, I met a lot of people who were like, ‘okay, we’ll give you the experience but you gotta hustle for it,’” says Elamin. “I would emulate the people I really liked until I got good at it.
In the end, all of those temporary jobs helped Elamin gain the real world experience and confidence necessary to find his footing in the media world. Before landing his current position, Elamin worked in television as an editorial assistant for CBC’s The National, and as an online producer for TVO. At TVO, he got the chance to be at the forefront of establishing the long-running television station’s online and social media presence – a major accomplishment that also shaped the future direction of his career. This breakthrough opportunity at TVO set the groundwork for him to graduate to his current position at BuzzFeed, one of the world’s most progressive media companies.
“I think I’m a pretty quick learner, that so far has been my biggest asset in each of the jobs I’ve gone into.” – Elamin Abdelmahmoud
As the Social Media Editor for BuzzFeed Canada, Elamin has been able to apply what he learned at TVO to a completely different audience. After all, it’s not every day that you see a media outlet cover a federal election with list-icles and GIF posts. However, that’s exactly what makes Elamin’s role at Buzzfeed so unique.
A photo posted by Elamin A. (@elamin88) on
Elamin with some of his colleagues at BuzzFeed Canada.
“We treated it seriously, but were also very conversational – we talked about the election the way you and I would talk about the election,” says Elamin. “It might sound minuscule to other people, but the phrasing you put into a particular link, or the choice between going with a photo or a video to promote a particular piece of content heavily influences it.”
As the journalism industry continues to evolve, Elamin evolves with it. While he’s not sure where he’ll be 5 or 10 years down the road, he’s not too worried. In fact, it’s the uncertainty that he finds most exciting about his chosen career path.
“At the heart of it, working in media is working with the conversations that are most relevant to people,” says Elamin. “Those change day by day, hour by hour, and to me that’s interesting.”
Elamin’s career advice:
- Pay attention to the people who are doing something different. Find the organizations and professionals that are breaking the mold and find a way to connect with them. “From my experience, most people in most fields are totally willing to talk,” says Elamin.
- Be proactive about your goals. If you’re looking to go further in a particular company, or if you have your eye on a position, express it! “Talk to management about whether you have enough experience for the opportunity, so people think about you when something comes up,” says Elamin.