Working It. My Life in Paycheques.

You want a hot body? (well a relatively non-flabby one) You want a Bugatti? (had to Google that, it's a car)
You want a Maserati? (no, I hate driving) You better work b**ch (agreed)
You want a Lamborghini? (no, I repeat, I hate driving) Sippin' martinis? (vodka sodas, but ok)
Look hot in a bikini? (I'd accept looking not terrible in a bikini) You better work b**ch
You wanna live fancy? (always) Live in a big mansion? (I'm okay with my pretty townhouse, but I get your point)
Party in France? (haven't done that but I have sipped wine in Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina, Uruguay, the Caribbean, Austin, New York City, Washington DC, Miami, Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, Winnipeg, Montreal and so on)
You better work b**ch, you better work b**ch
You better work b**ch, you better work b**ch
Now get to work b**ch!

---The every-brilliant Ms Spears

Job 1 - Britney Forever

Talking to Christina Aguilera's mom about the nastiness of a sex-tape rumour targeting her daughter used to be part of my job.

My first real, post-university job was at Canoe.ca in 1999, the early days of the Internet when it was all about purple hyperlinks. I looked after AllPop, an online entertainment channel devoted to the pop stars and WB/CW shows of the late 1990s/early 2000s. I reviewed Britney Spears concerts, did a live webchat chat with Mandy Moore (the nicest celeb I met during that experience) and wrote weekly Buffy the Vampire Slayer recaps. It was truly bliss.

Once, a disgusting jerkface sent me an email, claiming he had a sex tape of a then quite-young and super famous Christina Aguilera. I tracked down her lawyer and shared the email. My decision to try to get the facts and to help fight jerks like this, meant Aguilera's mom agreed to do a long, honest phone interview with me about her daughter and their lives before fame.

(I found it online to share with you now! And then I realize it has super gross typos in it. I'm so embarrassed - "tones and tones" - let's pretend I did that as some sort of music pun. Anyway, despite my embarrassment at the typos, I'm sharing it with you: http://www.canoe.com/AllPopShowbiz/feb8_christina-can.html .)

The job was thrilling, everything we did was new. We were coding new kinds of pages and tools, we were taking DIGITAL PHOTOS at concerts, running back to the office late at night, and creating online photo galleries. We were constantly trying new things. That first job was also where my friend and colleague, Paul taught me the best saying ever "that sounds like a YP not a My P". Translation: that sounds like your problem, not my problem. I try to always remember this when I'm freaking out about something. There's no reason why my work fire needs to be someone else's work fire. Everyone has their own problems to deal with.

 Here is a photo of Christina Aguilera I took a long, long time ago.

Here is a photo of Christina Aguilera I took a long, long time ago.

Job 2 - The TV Newsroom

When the we're-all-gonna-get-rich-off-the-internet bubble burst a few short years after I joined Canoe, I found myself working at Pulse24, an all-news channel belonging to CityTV and housed in the same building as MuchMusic. My job was to write A LOT of short news stories based on the stories reported on TV and transfer the television segments to the web. It was a busy job and I was surrounded by a newsroom frenzy that included lots of unhappy people, general yelling and other nefarious activities I can't write about. I spent a lot of my time at that job afraid - afraid of making typos (guess what, I NEVER made typos at that job like I did at Canoe for fear of the yelling), of not working quickly enough, of missing out on a big story and of accidentally walking in front of the camera when the show was on air.

 I got fast. I could whip off a 500-word news capsule and have it posted online with a photo in 30 minutes max. I got accurate. I proof read my work tones and tones (just kidding). I also gained a lot of weight on that job, working early and late shifts, eating at weird times and generally consuming my feelings

Job 3 - You've Got Mail

A friend took pity on me and helped me land a job at AOL Canada and brought me back into the fold of online entertainment writing, editing and reporting. I liked it there. I spent a lot of time making Hot or Not red carpet galleries and writing about salacious gossipy things.

I was good at this job. I did what was expected and delivered the traffic my channel needed. Mostly I spent this era losing the weight I'd gained at my previous job and socializing with my co-workers. When I got headhunted from AOL to MSN Canada, our big boss at AOL at the time told me something I've never forgotten (after he terrified me first by saying he did not accept my resignation). This is paraphrased, but he said something like "I know this has been easy for you and you could probably get all the work you're doing done before lunch every day. As you move forward in your career if you want to advance, you'll have to speak up and ask for it and step up and work".

Job 4 - Bill Gates Was My Boss, Technically

I went to MSN Canada. I was hired as the entertainment channel editor, but my responsibilities grew. In addition to writing and posting content, I was tasked with looking after the technical platform the channel was hosted on and working on the complicated relationship with our partner organization. After an initial few months of feeling freaked out, like I didn't know what I was doing, I settled in. I loved my time as MSN and learned valuable skills including how to optimize headlines and stories to generate more traffic, how to manage and assign work to freelancers and how to pull wicked pranks on coworkers who left their computers on so I could sneak into their email and send office-wide messages from their accounts.

Oh! I also did lots of fun entertainment work at MSN. I covered the Toronto International Film Festival, met Viggo Mortensen (and found myself totally mute in front of him), attended a Brad Pitt press conference (just as hot in person!) worked with our marketing team to do a TIFF sponsorship (so fun, also learned about marketing) and went to MSN headquarters in London, England to take in a workshop on online news reporting (fantastic).

 Loving London with MSN. I thought this outfit WAS GREAT at the time. Now I do not.

Loving London with MSN. I thought this outfit WAS GREAT at the time. Now I do not.

But after a while, my personal life changed dramatically. The city of Toronto lost its lustre for me and I was sick of everything. I was tired of the subway, of my job and mostly of my personal life. I wanted to be closer to my family. So I did that thing most maritimers do at some point in their lives. I moved home.

Job 5 - Will Write for Food

I moved without a job, or anything that could be construed as a lead that could become a job. But I also moved with a lot of close professional relationships intact and a portfolio of work to my name. My friends and colleagues hooked me up with several freelance writing gigs (I will forever be thankful!), which kept me afloat.

 I loved sharing the style winners and losers freelance writing job with Christopher Turner. I miss you, Chris! Weren't we supposed to have our own talk show by now?

I loved sharing the style winners and losers freelance writing job with Christopher Turner. I miss you, Chris! Weren't we supposed to have our own talk show by now?

About a month after moving east, I got a job. How? I let everyone I still knew in Halifax that I was back and that I was ready to work. The local paper featured me in a story about Maritimers returning home and I said "yes" whenever someone asked me to attend an event. At one of those networking opportunities, I met the head of a small website development agency. He hired me right away. Zing!

Job 6 - You're in the Agency Now

My transition from being in the online entertainment and journalism world to agency life was hard at first. Recording my time? Gross! Dealing with clients? So challenging! But I learned. I learned that agencies need you to painfully enter the hours you work so they can bill clients and you can, you know, get paid. I learned about client service, about doing what it takes to make clients happy and about pushing back when it was time to offer them new and better ideas they hadn't considered. But being at such a small company was a-chafing me. And I missed the quick pace of work I'd grown accustomed to.

 Made super amazing friends at my first agency job in Halifax.

Made super amazing friends at my first agency job in Halifax.

One day, I saw a job posting for a Content Strategist. With only a vague understanding of what that job title meant, I wrote an impassioned cover letter about my affection for words, for online stories and for website strategies that considered the reader's needs and interests above all else.

I got the job. 

Job 7 - The "T" is for Technology 

When I started at T4G, I went through my typical new job cycle: Excited! Love it! Terrified! I am no good at this! Oh God get me out of here! Help! Hate it! Oh, I can do this, this is fine.

 At an agency awards bash in Halifax.

At an agency awards bash in Halifax.

Job 7.5 - Let Bylines be Bylines

Meanwhile, keeping a byline was still important to me. So I took opportunities to freelance for CBC's Definitely Not the Opera, Bell and the Chronicle Herald while I was working full-time. Here is my official Chronicle Herald headshot. Oh! So fancy! (I wish they'd photoshopped me more. I wish I'd worn lipstick. I wish more people had read my Life Online column. Sigh.)

 Look at me! I'm a serious writer!

Look at me! I'm a serious writer!

Balancing freelance writing and a full time job meant getting even firmer about deadlines. When other people missed their deadlines, which meant I had to catch up on mine in the evening or during the weekend, that cut into my freelance time, which made me super annoyed.  It also made me efficient. I got into the habit of breaking my days into chunks in an effort to stay focused and productive as much as possible. Before breakfast became (and still is) my working out time, then I have my full-time job time and so on. (I wrote a whole blog post about how I chunk out my time if you want to read it.)

For the first several years, life at T4G was challenging and fun - my two favourite things. My team specialized in user experience, which meant our entire focus was on how to design digital tools, websites, content and applications that made those things easy and interesting to use, navigate and consume. 

Probably the best part of my experience at T4G was the opportunity I was given to keep learning both formally and informally. I was lucky enough to be supported by bosses and leadership who understood that employees need to keep their skills up-to-date. I took online courses and attended conferences that inspired new ways of thinking and doing. I can NOT say enough good things about learning stuff. DO IT! IT FEELS SO GOOD! (I'll probably write something about that another time.)

Just past the five-year mark, my work at T4G started to feel repetitive. I loved the people I worked with and my clients and I was good at my job, but I felt like I'd been down every project road before. I felt a bit stalled. I wanted to feel that deep dark panic and self-doubt a new job inspires. To me, that's always a sign I'm about to (painfully) learn something new.

Job 8 - The NATIONAL Way

And so, I made a big move, to NATIONAL, a PR company with offices across Canada, the US and parts of Europe. My time at NATIONAL was the closest I'd felt to the rush of EVERYTHING IS NEW, LET'S TRY THINGS sensation I'd grown addicted to at CANOE all those years ago. We were constantly thinking of ways to infuse traditional PR with new digital thinking, with content strategy and marketing and with new tactics to bring stories directly to the audiences who mattered most to our clients. We did smart things, creative things and ridiculous things (a weekly Facebook Live Show!). 

I got to work with strong, talented women who claimed leadership positions and were dedicated to ensuring their colleagues succeeded.  It was inspiring. 

At NATIONAL, I also got thrown into many presentation situations that made me sweat copiously and kept me up at night. But I got better. I learned how to read a room of executives and understand how to adjust my tone, style and thoughts to meet their needs. I watched colleagues I admired and learned how to seem confident and poised even while I was internally panicking. I dressed up way more than I was used to and learned to always keep a couple of blazers and a few pairs of nice shoes in my office for last-minute client meetings. 

 Professionals LIKE COFFEE A LOT. Here is my grown-up NATIONAL headshot, courtesy of super awesome photographer Scott Munn.

Professionals LIKE COFFEE A LOT. Here is my grown-up NATIONAL headshot, courtesy of super awesome photographer Scott Munn.

NATIONAL was the first job I had where I'd find myself looking behind me as though "surely someone more senior is going to step in now and deal with this" only to realize it was up to me. I'd reached the level where you have to stand and deliver on your own. If I had to pinpoint a place and time where all of a sudden I understood what it took to succeed professionally, it would be right then, that moment at NATIONAL where I stopped waiting for other people to direct me and stood up on my own.

It was there, at NATIONAL, where I also came to learn one of the most rewarding things you can do at work is help other people succeed.

In case you haven't figured out that I like to be the centre of attention by the fact I HAVE A WHOLE BLOG DEVOTED TO MY OWN THOUGHTS, I'll just tell you: I like to be the centre of attention.

Up to this point in my career, I liked to be the focal point. I was concerned mostly about my own career path and training opportunities and who was going to look after ME! ME! ME!. I wanted to be the smartest one. I wanted to have the good ideas. But at NATIONAL, that changed. Look, let's be real, I still liked it when people laughed at my jokes and I obviously still wanted to get discovered and have my own show, but nothing felt as good as watching someone who'd once lacked confidence get up in front of a big room and present her case like a superstar. It felt good to teach other people how to do things. I felt proud watching the youths come up with the best ideas. 

So why did I leave?

Job 9 - Leaving on a Jet Plane

It's 2.5 weeks into my new job. I have that "oh God I hope this works" feeling in my stomach. The team is big, the ask is large. Around me are people I've worked with before. I trust them. They're smart. 

When VERB Interactive came knocking, I wasn't sure I'd go. I mean, I loved NATIONAL (in case that wasn't obvious in the gushing above) and I was doing well. Why mess with that? 

For me, the opportunity at VERB is the chance to put into place the best of what I've done and learned. We specialize in the travel and hospitality space, building sites, social, content and paid strategies for the types of clients I never dreamed I'd have the chance to work with from Halifax.

So the work is sexy, yes. But it's more than that. There are smart people here. Really smart. And there's potential in the youths.

I feel like I know what works, what I want to tackle and what's possible and I want to make it all happen.

Wish me luck.

Steph's Job Success Tip List

1. Proofread. Everything. Always. For the love of God.

2. There is never an excuse to miss a deadline. 

3. Be nice. This world is small. You will come across former colleagues, bosses and associates throughout your entire career. Maintain relationships with them.

4. Be clear about what you expect, want and need. Nobody is going to come up to you at work and say "wow! you're amazing, let me shower you with raises, training opportunities and praise". Do a good job. Do more than what is expected of you. Then go into formal reviews with a list of your accomplishments and goals for the future. Be reasonable, but confident in what you ask for in return.

5. Learn new stuff.

6. Work is not high school. Avoid the temptation to whine and gossip about others. Guess what? Your boss always knows who's complaining and who's in a fight with whom. Always.

7. Be okay with the fact you will have to work more than 40 hours a week. This is called having a career. Yes, we all strive for balance in our lives and I'm not condoning endless cycles of 60-hour weeks, but now and then you will need to put in extra hours to get the work done. We all do. This goes double if you're starting your career. Make a good impression by putting in the time you need to do the best job you can.

8. Develop and nurture interests outside of the office. Get a hobby. Exercise. Volunteer. This will make you a more interesting person and give you new perspectives and relationships that will ultimately help you at work.

9. If you're at a job and it doesn't work out, for whatever reason, leave professionally. Thank your boss for the opportunity and try to avoid the temptation to bad mouth the organization. Why? See point #3.

10. Do not expect your boss to be your babysitter, your mom/dad or your guardian angel. She or he is your boss. Your job is to make your boss's life easier by doing your job exceptionally well and looking for the appropriate time to get feedback and advice. Your boss's job is to support you when you need it and to give you the respect and space you need to do your job. 

Wow. That was long. Are you bored of me yet? I'm bored of me. If you're wondering how this whole work odyssey thing came about, you can read more about my educational background in a previous post. It's much shorter.