Look for the open doors!

By Rachel Gardner

Rachel Gardner headshot.jpg

Hashtags, Twitter handles, video editing and Facebook posts are a part of my daily job at the Council of Ontario Universities (COU). My path to this career was not straightforward, but I am certainly glad to have ended up where I am today.

COU is a membership organization for the 20 provincially-assisted universities, advocating for policy issues such as research, accessibility, jobs, and graduate studies. As the Communications and Public Affairs Officer with COU in Toronto, I wear multiple hats, doing everything from updating social media to managing the organization’s website and editing news releases, reports and government statements. It is a rare occasion indeed to find some spare time in the day!

The journey to get here has been not been without its twists and turns – I graduated from Mount Allison University in 2012 with an honours bachelor of arts in international relations, and a double minor in economics and environmental studies. I was interested in everything, but especially loved writing, editing and journalism. I had spent two years on staff at my student paper, The Argosy, first as the political beat writer and then as the news editor, and loved the thrill of chasing a story. By the time of my graduation, I had accepted an offer into the master of journalism program at Carleton University.

The summer after the first year of my master’s program, I took an internship with the Council of Ontario Universities, using my journalism skills and knowledge of the CP Style Guide in a role as a communications intern. Though I had originally intended to spend my summer in a newsroom, I had difficulty landing a paid journalism internship and decided to learn more about what a career in communications would be like. My employers gave me a number of projects to spearhead, including the launch of a student career site, creating short videos and managing the organization’s social media. At the end of the summer, they offered me a full-time job with the organization. Despite it being a tough decision, I decided to put my schooling on pause and have now been happily with the organization for just over one year. No regrets!

If I could give one piece of advice to students searching for their own career path, it is to be open to new opportunities. Get involved in student clubs and extra-curriculars to explore the areas where you are most passionate and find the greatest challenge. See where your talents best fit with those of others. Be open to trying something new, and don’t limit yourself.

There are lots of possibilities out there – look for the open doors!