By Erin Annis, WorkStory Ambassador at University of Guelph
One of the most inspiring quotes I have heard in regards to careers is “You’re most powerful where your passion is.” Erika Faust has followed this guiding light to grasp her personal career success.
Erika is currently the Corporate and Internal Communications Assistant at Toronto Community Housing. She is also a freelance writer and editor. The path to follow her dreams began with her love for reading and writing. Throughout school – at the University of Guelph-Humber – she had recognized her passion for writing and began editing her friend’s papers (even later on, editing her friend’s university thesis!). Recognizing her love for editing, Erika became the go-to editor for her friends and family for whom she reviewed reports, resumes and more.
Her writing and editing skills became a key part of Erika’s career journey during her fourth year at Guelph-Humber, where she took Media Studies. During that year, she landed an internship in the Advertising department of her hometown newspaper, the London Free Press. Her boss recognized such talent in Erika that when she left to start her own communications firm, she hired Erika right away to do freelance writing and editing for her (and has been doing so ever since!)
Prior to working at Toronto Community Housing, Erika worked both as a staff writer for the Fanshawe College newspaper “Interrobang” as well as an Internal Communications Coordinator at Goodlife Fitness. These roles gave her integral skills pertaining to her career. Her job as a staff writer allowed her to gain management experience once she was promoted to editor, managing a team of 20 students. Her experience at Goodlife was a refreshing change as it involved duties such as administering the intranet site and even some event planning.
The game changer for Erika was the big move from London to Toronto after her husband found employment there. Although this involved “abandoning” the place she grew up in and jumping into a situation of uncertainty, Erika viewed this experience as a “big adventure”. During this time, she didn’t lose sight of her passion and continued to do freelance writing as she searched for a new job.
Periods of unemployment are a major struggle for young people. As Erika put it “It’s scary not knowing if you’re going to be able to find a job, and it can be really disheartening.” Here is what she focused on to combat this period of unemployment:
• Networking with people with interesting jobs. “I set up informational interviews to get advice from different people. We chatted about my options and they told me what they thought I could do to shine as a job seeker.”
• Continuing education. “I tried to use the Duolingo app to learn French – I didn’t get very far with it, but I did practice every day during the summer! I also attended several communications-focused webinars and took an online class in WordPress through Udemy.”
• Doing some freelance and part-time work. “It kept my skills sharp, expanded my writing portfolio and gave me something to talk about in interviews.”
• Volunteering. “I signed up to help out at some local events, and I became a regular volunteer at a local museum. Volunteering helped me get acquainted with my new city, and I got to meet lots of like-minded people – people who just like to help out and get involved.”
Starting September 2015, Erika began her current communications role with Toronto Community Housing. One of the most rewarding parts of her job is the non-profit environment. “Toronto Community Housing serves about 6 percent of the population in Toronto. I really like knowing I am part of an organization that helps so many people.”
Erika’s key to success? Making connections!
“My boss during my London Free Press internship gave me my first paid writing and editing gig. Connections I made while working at Fanshawe College have hooked me up with freelance work. A reporter I met while attending an event in 2013 eventually became a managing editor at Metro newspaper in Toronto and gave me a part-time copy editor job. My mom – who is truly a master networker – has introduced me to some really fabulous people who gave me a ton of insight and helped prepare me for future job interviews.”
Reaching out can be the most difficult, yet beneficial, move that you can make to enhance your career- but it is 100% recommended.
“If you see someone on LinkedIn who works at a company you admire in a role you’d love, reach out to them! It may seem a little awkward at first, but I promise, it gets easier every time you do it. People are usually flattered when you ask them for advice, and they often want to help you out – maybe their company isn’t hiring, but maybe they know another great place that needs someone with your exact skill set. Even if the connection doesn’t help you find a job, it can be a really valuable learning opportunity.”
The ability to put yourself out there is integral for making the best out of your career journey. Erika is an exemplary model having followed her passion, staying open minded and continually making important career connections.