Event Recap: Speed mentoring for new communicators: Personalized tips from industry leaders

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Laurie Dawkins, director of corporate communications, Vancouver Coastal Health, shares her personal story about overcoming adversity

November 8, 2016 marked an exciting, first-of-its-kind event hosted by International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and CPRS Vancouver called: Speed mentoring for new communicators: Personalized tips from industry leaders.

Laurie Dawkins, director of corporate communications, Vancouver Coastal Health, kicked-off the event at Mahony & Sons by sharing three stories with a full room of communicators, one of which highlighted how a personal life experience influenced her communications career.

During Laurie’s teenage years growing up in Penticton, Laurie’s mother encouraged her to enter a beauty pageant to which she reluctantly agreed. While at first glance it would be hard to see how speaking in front of an audience of 150 people in nothing more than a swimsuit would result in anything other than sheer embarrassment, she would later learn that this moment would prove to be a defining moment in her life.

“You know that phrase–what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” asked Laurie, “I imagine it looks a lot like this.” As she wrapped her sash around her waist and gently placed her tiara on her head, the room lit up with laughter.

Laurie then took us down her path to 15 years later when she explained that, “eventually the day came when no one else was available and I had to do my first, live, on-camera interview.” In that moment she affirmed that if she could compete in a beauty pageant then she could do anything, including successfully handle a live media interview.

The lesson of Laurie’s story was to embrace all your life experiences as you never know when they may apply to your career. In closing, she left us with one question, “what is it you want to be courageous about and how can I help you get there?”

Her story set the tone for the evening, which provided everyone with the opportunity to take part in both one-on-one mentoring as well as guided breakout groups resulting in opportunities to have interactions with over a dozen senior communications professionals.

During one of the breakout groups, participants tuned in to glean the latest resume writing tips from Catherine Ducharme, communications recruiter with Smart Savvy & Associates, a firm that specializes in placing communications, marketing and sales talent. As a recruiter, she looks for clear, easy-to-read resumes that show a logical progression of roles that demonstrates a candidate is driving their career forward with intention. In addition, recruiters are also looking for movement from one organization to another. “It’s tough to sell someone who has only been at one company,” advised Catherine, “however jumping around too much is also not good.” From a recruiter’s perspective, two years seemed to be the ideal length of time to contribute to a company before making a move.

The most common questions for the mentors were related to social media presence, interview skills, education and specific work-place challenges. However, what really stood out during the event was that everyone (from students and seasoned professionals to those looking to switch careers) was comfortable with asking honest questions and engaging in meaningful conversations.

As the evening came to a close, Christine Marks, director, corporate communications, Goldcorp Inc., observed, “people who attended are in various career trajectories yet everyone shares an interest in continuous learning.”

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