From Graduation to Career: Madeleine’s (Scary & Exciting!) Story

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 ( 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

Whale of A Time: Katherine Douglas jumps onboard to protect our marine life

By Geoffrey Boyd

Seeing a juvenile humpback whale breach off the coast of Oregon, or multiple blue whales offshore in Nova Scotia would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many. However, for Katherine Douglas breaching whales are just another part of her job. Watching whales, dolphins and sea turtles, shooting stars and sunsets—hardly a typical desk job. 

 When Douglas graduated from the Gustavson School of Business in 2007 she never imagined her degree would take her to the open ocean as a marine mammal observer and passive acoustic monitor.

 After graduation she accepted a position as a marketing and events manager for a technology association in Seattle, Washington. “It was a wonderful position and I gained a lot of knowledge, however, I decided to take a little time off to travel before I jumped into the next thing.”

 In 2010 a good friend introduced Douglas to the idea of becoming a marine mammal observer, a position she previously never knew existed.

In 2012 she jumped at the opportunity with RPS Group—an international consultancy firm providing advice on oil and gas exploration and environmental management—and hasn’t looked back since. “I have always been passionate about our oceans and animals in general, so I thought it would be a great experience short term while I decided what was next,” she says. But short term has since shifted to long term as Douglas has no plans to leave.

Working with people from all over the world, Douglas typically conducts her work on oil and gas exploration vessels for four- to six-week contracts. Her job has taken her through the Pacific Northwest, the Atlantic Northeast and the Gulf of Mexico.

While on board she is responsible for visual and acoustical monitoring of marine mammals and sea turtles. During daylight hours this entails scanning the water for telltale signs of marine mammal life, such as ruffles on the water or the blow of a whale when surfacing for air.

She also conducts acoustic monitoring during low-visibility hours using a hydrophone cable towed behind the vessel. Pamguard software allows Douglas to identify and analyze low-frequency animal vocalizations as well as both high- and low-frequency echolocation clicks. Using this information, she can then estimate the position and range of particular whale or dolphin species and inform the crew of the correct procedures.

Douglas’s work is fueled by her love of the oceans and animals. For her, social responsibility plays a large part as well. “There is an unbelievable amount of noise being emitted into our oceans today,” she says. “Commercial and cruise ship traffic, military sonar, and oil and gas exploration account for a large amount of this.”

 In the case of oil and gas exploration, large “air gun arrays” shoot pressurized air towards the ocean floor to map geological structures, emitting extreme bursts of sound. These bursts are often of the same frequency range as the natural communication frequencies of marine animals. This can seriously disrupt the animals’ communication, causing disorientation or worse.  

Part of Douglas’s job is to ensure there is minimal disturbance for marine mammals in the vicinity. This is all the more important as many of the animals are endangered species. When a mammal is detected, either by the naked eye or through detection software, photos and detailed field notes are taken to document any behaviour changes and to ensure proper identification. “Mitigation is required if certain animals are within a defined zone around the vessel,” says Douglas. It is in these situations that she communicates with the vessel crew to ensure proper protocols are followed.

 At first glance it would seem Douglas’s choice of degree program doesn’t match her work as a marine mammal observer, but she disagrees. “My degree has been invaluable in both opening doors and giving me the confidence to pursue different paths of interest,” she says. The skills she learned in the Business program allow her to successfully complete her work.

When she adds in her leadership, reporting, advising, training and communication aboard the vessels, the Business program at the Gustavson School of Business was a perfect fit for her work.

 This story, reprinted with permission, originally appeared in Business Class Magazine, a publication of the Gustavson School of Business, University of Victoria.

Meet Mr. Ferrari

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Manny Anzalota, a New York City taxi cab driver was dubbed “Mr. Ferrari” (stylized on social media as “Mr. Ferrarii”) by none other than actor, Tom Hanks! On a fateful day in January 2013, The Forrest Gump star took a ride in his cab after Manny was already done work for the day.  At the time, Anzalota happened to be wearing a Ferrari hat and shirt, so the actor kept calling him, “Mr. Ferrari”. Several months later, when Brandon Stanton, the creator of the street photo blog, “Humans of New York” got into the cab with Mr. Ferrari, he was told the story of how Manny met Tom Hanks:

“So get this. I'm driving down Park Avenue one day and this guy waves for me, so I pull over and I ask him where he's going. He tells me 74th Street, and I tell him that's too far for me, because my shift just ended, so he says 'thanks anyway' and walks away. But then I think about it, and I start feeling bad for the guy, ‘cause hey-- I got a conscience. So I call him back to the cab and tell him to hop in. And he gets in the car all excited, all animated, and he's talking about all these things. But he's got his cap pulled down way over his eyes, so I can't see who it is. But pretty soon I start to recognize his voice..” (Stanton, 2015).

Manny then called out the name of one of Hanks’ most famous co-stars, “Wilson”, which made the actor laugh. After the chance encounter, Manny picked up several people who were in Tom Hanks’ social circle and every time he would tell them to say “Mr. Ferrari says hello.” Apparently his messages were passed along to Tom Hanks, because eventually word got back to Manny that he was invited to Tom’s Broadway show Lucky Guy! Manny even got to go backstage, which left him feeling like he was the “lucky guy”!

Manny Anzalota has been driving a cab for “about six to seven years on and off” but the past two years have been a whirlwind since meeting Tom Hanks and having the experience documented by “Humans of New York” and other media outlets. The post now has over one million likes on Facebook and Mr. Ferrari has appeared on The Today Show as well as inside In Touch Weekly Magazine. Luckily for us, Mr. Ferrari can now add WorkStory to his growing list of interviews!

In reference to Tom Hanks, Manny never expected things to get this Big! “Sometimes it is very exciting, especially when the people know the story or recognize me.” When asked what he loves about his job, Manny replied, I love riding free through the city [and] engaging with the people in my car, especially the older people and the youngest ones —the kids!  They always have the great stories!” Anzalota is now easily recognized by travellers in New York City and “ it creates great conversation.”

In a similar fashion to “Humans of New York”, Manny has begun documenting the conversations he has with people in his cab on his own Facebook page. With his phone, he uploads photos and videos to Facebook and Instagram to provide a unique experience for his passengers, and a look at New York City through the eyes of one of its busiest cab drivers.

Prior to driving a cab, Manny had multiple jobs which interfered with his sleep schedule: “I worked at Sotheby’s Auction House from 7:30am until 10pm. Then [I] went straight to my other job [as a] security guard for Citibank at night in the Bronx from 11pm until 7am. Then back to my day job. Sounds crazy, I know. I was working 129 hours, seven days a week. I slept at Sotheby's during the lunch break. Then we had an evening break [and] I slept some more. Then at my night job, on my lunch break, I slept more. Yes, it was rough!”

After awhile, he was no longer working at all. One day at the gym, he met up with an old friend who was in the cab business making “great money” and encouraged Manny to do the same: “He told me, ‘You should go take the exam. You would do well with people.’ So I thought about it for a minute, and then took my chance. Two weeks later, I got my license.”

That chance has paid off in many ways. Manny has found that the most rewarding part of his experience as a taxi cab driver has been helping others. For anyone who may be having an issue or problem inside the cab, Manny makes sure that they are feeling better before they leave. For example, he has stopped the car for someone who couldn’t wait to get to a washroom. In case of emergencies like that, Anzalota keeps napkins and sanitizer handy. He has also been able to help others in financial need. “Sometimes I give free rides to those that can't afford it. Also, all the homeless people in the streets... I almost feel like I know them. I help them every time they come to my car.” Manny said that he loves the part when the passenger feels so much better than they did before, as well as “having great conversations with 25 to 45 people a day”.

In terms of his advice for others, it’s the advice that is often forgotten: “Treat people the way you like to be treated. Be polite to people. Don't be judgemental—we never know what people are going through. It doesn’t matter what kind of job you have, just do it right. Ignore ignorance and keep it moving.”

When asked what surprised him most on the job, he replied, “how cruel people can be to you sometimes and they don't even know you. That makes me sad.” Fortunately though, another surprise for Manny has been that “the most generous people are the average ones. Also, how lucky I am that I meet great people. I see celebrities and professionals etc. in my car.” Anzalota is unsure which celebrity was the first to ride in his car, but he said, “It might've been Lauren Hutton or Richard Thomas or Anderson Cooper!” One thing is for certain though, Manny Anzalota will never forget the day he met Tom Hanks -- the day he became Mr. Ferrari!

Along with liking him on Facebook and following him on Instagram, Mr. Ferrari requested that you also like the Facebook page for International Tom Hanks Day, which raises funds for .

Works Cited:

Stanton, Brandon. "Timeline Photos." Humans of New York. Facebook, 27 Oct 2014. Web. 14 Feb. 2015.

Rodeo Announcer Keeps Things Interesting

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Joe Scully has worn many hats in his career as an announcer. He is a DJ and has done live commentary for Motorsports and other sporting events. He is also a Race Director, but the hat he is most comfortable in would probably have to be his cowboy hat and his role as a Rodeo Announcer:

“I analyse a performance or competition and find a way to enhance the spectator experience by highlighting storylines as they develop.” Scully says that in most cases, “the competitors are unknown to the general spectator”. So, it is his job to give the crowd a reason to cheer the competitors on “and also [for them] to begin to appreciate the intricacies of what comprises a successful run or ride.”

For Scully, “The ultimate goal is to make this commentary interesting and intriguing for first-time spectators.” He also finds a way to keep things interesting for those who continually come out to rodeos, whether they are participating in, or watching the events.

Joe explains that “the energy” is what he loves most about being a rodeo announcer:

“Through rhythm of commentary and complementary music, one can really bring the energy of the room up and down in anticipation of the action.  It's a challenge to time it right, as there are so many variables, but to be able to enhance a moment and make it a genuine experience, that's a win.  I like to look at the ‘energy’ like how you would drive a race car. You don't redline the whole way around the track, but if timed right, bursts are the difference in finishing at the front, middle or back.  Some of my colleagues will yell for an entire performance, and have hype for every single component – which is ok – but if you want the crowd to stick with you, they can't carry that energy for 3 hours, and neither can the announcer.” Scully warns that announcers can also lose credibility if they give too much “hype” to a participant whose performance is consistently poor.  “So, [you have] to ride the energy and have the right highs and lows. You may be exhausted, but it's exhilarating.”

The path he took may have been “the long path” however it seems to have served Joe well. He was born in the Greater Toronto Area and raised at a roping facility near Guelph, Ontario. He now lives in Grey County but Scully has always been interested in the rodeo environment:

“I was a rodeo competitor and became a rodeo clown in my teens.  I then went to college for Radio Broadcasting, as it was the closest field to being a rodeo clown. [I] eventually got into Radio Sales which took priority over being a rodeo clown.  Soon, I missed the excitement, and then took up announcing as ... another career, and loved the experience.  From there I entered the International Professional Rodeo Association Contract Acts Showcase and won in 2007. [I] then applied for my Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association accreditation and earned it in 2008.” Joe has since worked as an announcer in 13 different states and 4 different provinces.

For anybody interested in this career path, Joe advises aspiring Rodeo Announcers to “get as many gigs as possible, and try something new every time.  I do a lot of junior or high school rodeos, which is my testing ground for sound effects, timing, etc.” In addition, Joe strongly suggests that you “video every second and watch it back. Have the videographer [record] both the action and you, so you can see what you were looking at, and what you missed.  I like ‘eavesdropping’ to hear what people around the camera are talking about.  Often times, it's simple stuff like, ‘her horse's boots match her saddle pad’, which is something that ‘newbies’ relate to. [This] is stuff to highlight to appeal to ‘newbies’.  No performance is the same, learn something or try something every time.”

You can learn more about Joe at and follow him on Twitter @rodeoannouncer! He follows back and he will also “like” your Facebook page if you like his!

A Really Early Start to a Great Career: Tim’s Story

Tim Wong is one of the lucky ones.  He got introduced in high school to something he really enjoys – work as a machinist.

“I fell into machining because I enjoyed playing around on the mill at high school,” says Wong, adding that it was the father of one of his shop teachers who actually encouraged him to look into becoming a machinist.”

Have a look as Shannon Sutherland Smith shares more about Tim’s story