My name is Madeleine Laforest. In January of this year, less than two years after my graduation from the Media Studies program at the University of Guelph-Humber, I secured a position as the newest and youngest member of Scholastic Canada’s Marketing Division, as the Marketing and Publicity Coordinator. Working in a four-person marketing team at the national level, my responsibilities include the creation of catalogues, securing events and publicity for our authors, and taking care of our promotional materials. I am both honoured and excited beyond belief to embark in a role I love and for a company that shares my values in education and the promotion of creative expression.
My journey between graduation and full-time career was one of the scariest and most exciting times yet! It is a tough job market out there and discouraging at times, especially in an era of social media that seems to focus on highlights of peoples’ lives and seldom their struggles and self-doubts.
I am hoping that by sharing my experiences, I can help you set your own expectations and prepare you for what is in store.
Securing the first job in your field is a combination of hard work, perseverance and luck.
My journey began in my final year as I started sending out resumes to potential employers for my co-op and hopefully, a full-time position afterwards. For every 10+ applications I sent out, I was lucky if I heard back from one. I found that an interface with today’s social media could be an advantage, or disadvantage for you. It is critical that you stand out from the rest, add a personal element to your portfolio to increase your chances of being seen, and don’t allow yourself to be swallowed up by it.
You want to get that interview and meet with the employer to convince them in person that you are the right person for the job. I was one of the fortunate students who received a few responses to my applications and was given an opportunity to be interviewed by more than one company. In the end, I was able to secure internships at Scholastic and the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
Both of my internships at Scholastic and at TIFF were the result of me seeking out a direct contact at the company, and explaining my school requirement for co-op and my desire to work for them.
I first came to Scholastic as an unpaid intern during my co-op in my fourth year. At the time I was working as a Junior Graphic Designer in the Creative Services Department. When my term ended, I did not want to leave as I had grown madly in love with the company and had formed many valuable relationships. At the end of my co-op I was told not to get my hopes too high for a full-time position, as they were on a hiring freeze, but I made myself a personal vow that I would not let this dissuade me.
Fast-forward almost a year later, I came back in the role of receptionist after being tipped off of an opening by one of my co-workers who I kept in touch with. The opening was for a 4-month contract due to an internal change. At the time I was still working part-time as a Parks and Recreation Youth Program Leader, but when I received this message, I jumped on the opportunity with no hesitation.
I was interviewed on the Friday and was asked to start the following Monday. I said yes, knowing that my contract may or may not go longer than the promised four months, but regardless it was a foot in the door.
After four months, my contract was extended, and I was offered a transfer to Scholastic’s Trade Department as Trade Sales and Marketing Assistant that I held for 8 months prior to securing my full-time position as Scholastic’s new Marketing and Publicity Coordinator. I was the fastest turnover from receptionist to an internal position.
How did this happen? During my four months as receptionist, I showed my eagerness to learn and worked hard by taking on as much overflow from departments as possible. Hence, in the fourth month, I was whisked away by one of the departments and my contract was extended!
It is important that you never give up and that you continue to pursue your dream. Before securing a full-time position, I had applied to more than five internal positions; many of which I had come so close to acquiring. Despite the crushing disappointment of not getting one of these positions, I continued to apply as opportunities became available. I also agreed to take on more responsibilities to gain as much experience as possible. Then one day an unexpected resignation occurred, and there I was, the most qualified and eager person ready to fill the role! In the end, this marketing role was the best fit for me.
Don’t worry if you don’t get where you want to be right away, everything worthwhile takes time.
As you can see, even within my current place of employment it was quite a journey to get to where I am now. Since graduating I went from being unemployed, to being partially employed, to freelance, to finally securing my current position. So many times I could have thrown in the towel, but instead, I continued to strive forward and prove my abilities above and beyond everyone’s expectations, even my own.
You learn that you can’t take it personally when things don’t work out. More often than not, you are competing with people who are equally or more qualified, or the position just isn’t the right fit for you.
One of the biggest challenges I had to learn was to be patient with myself.
It can be easy to lose confidence in yourself when things don’t fall into place right away. While I was looking for a full-time job, I was able to work part-time and at the same time, work on several other projects to gain additional experience.
As anyone who knows me knows, I have a passion for the video world. As part of the very first Emerge Conference, I was the head of the unit that won the first-place prize for best video for my sizzler reel. During the summer I also took on a position as a Videographer for the Georgian Bay Land Trust. When the end of summer (post graduation) came around, I quickly realized I was not going to land a job in my field right away. I knew I needed to create work that would keep my resume current.
Always take advantage of slow periods by seeking out more experiences.This was about the time I started talking to an old collaborator about joining him and his co-director for a short film they were creating: Michael Was Here. After meeting for coffee and hearing the story pitch, I was sold on it and I left the meeting agreeing to come onboard as the film’s producer.
This was a role I had never been in before, but I was convinced it fit my skillset. I discovered just how exhilarating, and how many months of hard work making a film could be! I was there from the initial stages, script revisions, scheduling and casting, creating Kick-starter pages for funding the project, and finally, shooting a film that was predominately filmed outdoors in what was one of the coldest Canadian winters yet! The people I met and the experiences I gained through this project kept me involved in this industry. In addition to this I volunteered at various film festivals while searching for full-time employment.
Then, TIFF 2014 rolled around. I took the entire week off to attend industry press conferences and screenings. Also, by keeping in touch with the team I worked with during my internship at TIFF, I was able to get a job as a videographer during the 2014 film festival. This year I plan on submitting Michael Was Here (https://vimeo.com/80317875) to the 2015 TIFF short film selection. There’s no reason why you can’t pursue more than one of your dreams at a time. Every experience builds on another!
I have made great friends and connections through my projects as a volunteer. I also found great solace in reaching out to professors; they are mentors who know the field. I always found them more than willing to give advice and guidance. Don’t ever underestimate the connections you’ve made at Guelph-Humber. The intimacy that you have in a small university community is a bonus. Network and connect with people! These are the stepping-stones to a successful career.
With that said, be sure to take full advantage of every opportunity!
Invest your time and effort in your internship and learn as much as you can. Take every opportunity that comes your way to gain and apply the experience. Put yourself out there and try new things, meet new people and network, because every connection made is an opportunity in the making!
With permission of the University of Guelph-Humber