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#7: Erin Bury – Don’t equate experience with ability

“When I was in Carleton University’s journalism program, I didn’t really understand how difficult it would be to get a job when I got out of school, and I certainly didn’t understand the value of networking and how much it mattered to career success.”

Erin Bury, B.A. Journalism, Carleton University

When I was in Carleton University’s journalism program, I didn’t really understand how difficult it would be to get a job when I got out of school, and I certainly didn’t understand the value of networking and how much it mattered to career success.

I was attending school in Ottawa while living in Toronto during the summers, so it was difficult for me to find relevant summer positions in my field. This resulted in a string of fun summer jobs, none of which had anything to do with my goal of securing a job in public relations, journalism or communications upon graduation.

Luckily, my mom worked in public relations and she was able to set up some informational interviews for me during my fourth year reading week. This was the best thing I could have done, as it got my name out there and gave me a feel for what life at a PR agency was like.

One of the interviews I had, at Environics Communications, resulted in my first post-grad full-time position. But that wasn’t until October and I graduated in April.

Those few months in between were really difficult. I applied for jobs constantly on sites like Workopolis, but it was like sending your resumé into an abyss.

I didn’t have a good network in place, so I often relied on family contacts to get me in the door. While I appreciate the help my mom gave me, I hated that I was getting interviews based on nepotism.

Now I realize that most people land jobs based on referrals, and that you have to take help whenever it’s offered to you. While my contacts may have gotten me in the door, it was my smarts and ambition that got me the job.

I’m thankful that I got a full-time job shortly after graduation, but it certainly wouldn’t have happened like it did without some pre-graduation networking, and introductions from trusted contacts.

Where I am now

I’m now working as the Community Manager at Sprouter.com, a small technology startup focused on providing expert answers to entrepreneurship questions. I handle all of the communications, PR, marketing, social media strategy, events, and a whole whack of other stuff. It’s been an amazing experience. I advise any new graduates to get a job at a small company. You’ll get so much experience, and you really get a sense of accomplishment and contribution.

My recommendation for employers

The one lesson I’d like to share is that you can’t equate a person’s experience with their ability. I worked at a PR agency for just over a year and, although I have a journalism degree from Carleton (regarded as the best journalism school in Canada), I was mostly tasked with administrative work: compiling lists, covering the mail room and reception, and media monitoring. I know I could have contributed more to overall strategy and content creation, but it wasn’t at my level. Don’t get me wrong, I knew I was starting at the bottom and I was happy to do whatever it took to move up the ladder. But I feel the agency and corporate structure doesn’t give lower-level employees a chance to shine.

When I moved on to a smaller company I was given the chance to take on a lot more responsibility, even though my boss knew I only had a year of experience. She trusted in my abilities, and I think it worked out well for both of us.

This #StudentVoice belongs to:

Erin Bury
Graduate
Bachelor of Arts, Journalism
Carleton University

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