Multiple Jobs, Pieced Together by Passion: Anna-Lise Trudell’s Story

As told to Elyse Trudell, WorkStory Ambassador

Like many of our generation, I have multiple jobs going at the moment, most in the field I am passionate about—the non-profit, violence against women sector. I feel as though it is a process of piecing together one’s career. It’s not about finding it and landing it, but about taking on different opportunities, be they jobs or volunteer positions. Many opportunities, all pieced together, can make up the equivalent of a full time job—helping you to build a name for yourself in your sector, and garner the experience you need.

I am currently the Program Coordinator of ‘Girls Creating Change’, at the Sexual Assault Centre London. Girls Creating Change is our girls’ violence prevention group, where we focus on building a girl’s sense of self-worth, empowerment and a sense of themselves as change makers. The girls meet once a week with facilitators, for a hangout and discussion time on: 

• gender identity and what it means to be a woman

• self-esteem, boundaries and being assertive

• healthy sexuality

• violence, self-harm and bullying

• agency, leadership and taking action (

In this position, I am part PR rep, selling the program to the girls and to community organizations; I am part manager, overseeing a staff of 3 facilitators and multiple volunteers; I am a program developer, partnering with research institutes to help support ongoing research on girls’ programming; and, I’m a fundraiser, grant-writing and budget managing to support Girls Creating Change. Most of these skill sets weren’t taught to me in school---I had to learn them as I went.

I’m also the Project Coordinator for the Coalition Assisting Trafficked Individuals. I’ve coordinated the development and implementation of a training program aimed at addressing human trafficking for over 300 front line staff in our region, writing and publishing a 60 page manual, facilitating 25 training sessions, and co-chairing monthly Coalition meetings where I have developed workplans and responded to over 20 bosses around the table. As is the case for the position with Girls Creating Change, I did not learn these skill sets---financial management, work plan and project development, specific facilitation models---in school. So what did my schooling help me with?

I did an undergrad in Honours Specialization Political Science and Minor in Women’s Studies at Western University. I loved political advocacy, and was drawn to issues facing women. But I hadn’t the slightest idea what this degree could lead me to in terms of a career…..and so I opted for grad school, doing a Master’s of Public Administration at the University of Ottawa. This program appealed to me because it seemed to have a practical application, you learned how government agencies functioned, how a public servant went about supporting government programs, and there was an internship component to the program. This internship was a great opportunity for me, as it led me to be a political staffer on Parliament Hill for one year--a phenomenal experience in political advocacy!

But I missed learning, I missed being surrounded by like-minded individuals pursuing gender issues. And so I returned to school, to do a PhD in Women’s Studies at Western University. I started volunteering at the Sexual Assault Centre London during my second year of the PhD. This volunteer position eventually led me to making the connections I needed to land my jobs with Girls Creating Change and the Coalition Assisting Trafficked Individuals. Both combine my interest and love for policy and programming, along with a focus on gender and social justice. And by making these connections, but seeking out mentors in the women who have been in the field longer than me, I have the fortuitous chance to partner my PhD research with the Girls Creating Change program.

I can’t claim to have masterminded a linear path to where I am today---it is rather haphazard. That is my biggest take away from my story, that we don’t need to know exactly what we ‘want to be’, and have a specific game-plan in mind to get there. Make connections, foster mentor relationships with those whose careers you admire, and be patient.

Rising Star

By Joanne Ward-Jerrett 

Iain MacNeil (BMus’13) thought he’d become a music teacher. And then he discovered opera.

At 19, Iain MacNeil (BMus’13) came to Dalhousie intending to train as a music teacher. Instead, opera found him and set him on an exciting new trajectory. “I grew up around music,” says the Brockville, Ontario native, who started piano at age five and quickly moved on to musical theatre, capturing the lead role in a community production of Oliver! when he was 12 years old. “Everyone in my family—even my grandparents—is into music, be it listening to old favourites like John Denver, or making music themselves, singing and playing piano or guitar.”

Encouraged by his high school music teacher and mentor, Judy Quick, MacNeil set his sights on Dalhousie, imagining that he would fit right into the local music scene at this cool, seaside university. “Judy was such a great influence,” he says. “I wanted to be a music teacher just like her. And she thought I’d like Halifax.”

 But it didn’t take long for MacNeil’s career plans to change direction, thanks to the attentions of accomplished mezzo-soprano and Dalhousie voice professor Marcia Swanston. “Until I came to Dal, I had no idea that I could sing classical music, or that I had any aptitude for it,” says MacNeil. “Suddenly, I was exploring this whole world of layered and textured music.”

A natural bass-baritone, MacNeil cut his operatic teeth on Mozart, whose music he describes as “both the easiest and most difficult to sing.” Within months, the teenager was singing opera in Italy, an experience that cemented his future career aspirations.

 Now 23, MacNeil has emerged as one of the rising starts of the inter- national opera scene. “In the last year, Iain has enjoyed unprecedented success,” says Dal’s Swanston. “It’s all rather amazing for a young singer just emerging from undergraduate studies.”

 Highlights of that success include being one of only two Canadians invited to take part in the Young Singers Project at the Salzburg Festival in Austria; being invited to join the prestigious University of Toronto Opera program (he hadn’t even applied); and touring with Carmen on Tap through the United States with Julie Nesrallah. He is currently proceeding through the rounds of the New York Metropolitan Opera competition in the United States and has just been named to the Canadian Opera Companys Ensemble Studio, Canada’s premier training program for young opera professionals. “Iain actually came third in the Canadian Opera Ensemble Competition,” says Swanston. “He is the second of only two Dal students who have placed in that competition the fall after graduation, so it’s almost unprecedented.”

 For all his successes, MacNeil is surprisingly grounded. “It’s dangerous to let the music business dictate your life,” he says. “Music and performing demand a lot of emotional energy, so I’m trying to enjoy it; to take the highs and the lows and stay balanced.”

 Reprinted with permission from Dal Magazine, the Dalhousie University alumni publication. To read Dal Magazine, click here

A path to make-up artistry…

By Monica Pavez

Goblins. Werewolves. Aliens and beauty queens. Pretty much any character’s look you can think of in any movie (or TV series) has been created or worked on by a makeup or special effects artist. If the job has been right, you won’t even notice the immense amount of work that has been done.

Growing up, like most other people, I didn’t really give much thought to the people working behind the scenes to bring stories to life on stage or screen.  I knew of course that there must be people who’s job it was to make movies, but it seemed like this unrealistic dream job that a few lucky people got to do. Like oyster divers or panda cub babysitters, we can’t all do that for a living. Not to mention, how does one learn those jobs? Do you need schooling, or can you learn on the job? Do you have to know someone who can get you “in”?

Towards the end of my high school career, I, like the rest of my classmates, was feeling the pressure to decide on a postsecondary program.  I had been an artisitic person my whole life, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I would be a good artist. The problem was that when I started to go over the university materials and programs lists, nothing really jumped out at me. I decided instead to enroll in a 2 year art program at H.B. Beal Secondary School in London, where I could take arts courses that were in many cases equal to or better than taking the equivalents at an arts college. After graduating from that program, I worked for a while before deciding that I could see myself doing costuming work for theatre as a career. I applied to the Fashion Techniques and Design Program at George Brown in Toronto, intending to specialize in Costume Design afterwards.  The program wasn’t quite for me, and I ended up dropping out. I spent the next several years working a few different jobs, but still feeling like I was waiting for the next phase of my life to start. I knew I wanted to go to postsecondary school, but I was at a complete loss as to what I should study. 

Around what is now roughly two and half years ago, I began to hear about a school in Toronto called C|MU College of Makeup Art & Design. It was and is a private college that offers courses and programs for aspiring makeup artists. My girlfriend at the time knew someone who was attending the school, and so I booked a tour and info session at the school.  Almost as soon as I finished the tour I knew that I had finally found what I was looking for in a school. It would give the skills, techniques, and contacts I would need to become a successful makeup artist. I immediately applied to the school, and I was accepted into their Complete Makeup Artist Program, which gives you a two-year equivalent diploma and you learn everything from beauty and fashion makeup to makeup for theatre and film, as well as prosthetic and creature makeup. During the program I was able to gain experience in the field by way of the job posting board that the school oversees.

I graduated from the program in early June, and am now in the process of building my freelance portfolio and hopefully a career as a makeup artist for film. If I learned anything over the years while trying to figure out my life, it is that you have to know yourself. Know what you are good at and what you are not; know what you do want out of your career and what you don’t. It will at the very least help rule out what you don’t want to study. I guess most of all, don’t panic, everyone has their own path to take!


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!