5 things I wish I had known when I started CMPW.

Author walking through shallow water.

Rhyanne Beatty is a recent graduate of the Communications-Professional Writing program at Centennial College. She is currently working as a Communications Advisor with Cuso International in Condega, Nicaragua.

A year after graduating university, my life wasn’t heading in the direction I wanted. I had a stable job with benefits, time off, and a pension plan – the whole package. But as a stereotypical millennial (cue eye roll), I wanted to change the world. I craved a job that fulfilled me and a career I was passionate about. After living in Mexico for a year on exchange during my undergrad, my dream was to work in communications in Latin America. I wanted to help NGOs bring their message to their target audience. Yet with only a Bachelors Degree, I lacked the practical skills and professional confidence to make this dream a reality.

That’s when I found the Communications – Professional Writing program at Centennial College. This jam-packed graduate certificate program at the wonderful Story Arts Centre campus promises to get students career-ready in only two semesters. Despite being eager for a change, I was still apprehensive about going back to school. Casting my anxieties to the wayside, I moved from the east coast to Toronto and buckled up for what ensued to be the most valuable academic year of my life.

Today, I’m writing this blog from Nicaragua. Before finishing my internship – one of the many highlights of the program – I applied to Cuso International, a Canadian international development organization that connects skilled volunteers to local NGOs in developing countries. After two interviews and a five-day training session, I boarded a plane and arrived in Central America in June. I’m on a one-year placement as a Communications Advisor for a small NGO and living modestly through funding from the Canadian government.

If you would have told me a year ago that I’d be building an NGO’s internal and external communications strategy from scratch right after graduating, I wouldn’t have believed you. But the CMPW program gave me exactly what I was looking for: a solid set of practical skills and empowering professional confidence. Since arriving in Nicaragua, I’ve worn many hats – everything from photographer and videographer to report writer and content manager. Soon I’ll be developing the NGO’s website and social media channels. I love absolutely everything about my position and I’m hoping this is just the beginning of a long career abroad.

To the CMPW class of 2018, congratulations on finishing Content Bootcamp! You have a challenging and rewarding road ahead of you and I’m cheering for you from the sidelines. I hope that this program gives you everything that you’re looking for and more. From a student who was in your shoes a mere twelve months ago, here are five things I wish I knew last September:

1. Criticism is invaluable

Although it’s natural to be defensive of your work, I had to learn to put my ego aside and embrace the advice of the instructors. Every time I did, it was worth it and my projects were always stronger in the end. The instructors are preparing you for a career in a creative field – soak up everything they say.

2. Quality work matters more than grades

Speaking of the work, know at the end of the day that the quality of your portfolio means so much more than your grade point average. Although you should still strive to pass all your courses, this mindset is crucial for managing the stress.

3. Project topics matter too – so choose wisely

My biggest job hunt blunder was that I brought a B2C social media calendar to an interview with a non-profit organization. While the interviewers loved seeing my portfolio samples, one of them politely said the calendar wasn’t appropriate for their work. If you have your heart set on a specific industry, don’t shy away from tailoring your portfolio.

4. Experience is king  

One of my best decisions was seizing the opportunity to get involved with the Urban Worker Project. Beyond giving me paid communications experience to put on my resume, I learned valuable lessons about what it means to be responsible to a team outside of school. In hindsight, I should have quit my part-time retail job and sought more writing gigs on the side.

5. Positive self-talk is crucial

With an impressive skillset, killer portfolio, and valuable internship experience, you’re going to be a dynamite applicant for so many jobs. But getting called for an interview is only the first step. The last obstacle is believing in yourself and knowing the value of your work. If you can accomplish that, you’ll be unstoppable.

Above all, enjoy every moment of being a student – you’ll be graduating before you know it. And with that, I wish you the best of luck!

Header image courtesy of the author.

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