I recently sat down with Alanna Fallis (@lanifallis), a communications professional who has just recently made a move in her career. Below is a summary of our interview, in which, Alanna highlights how taking on new challenges and building her network has allowed her to grow in her career, as well as some advice for others who are considering a transition into a new role.
1. Tell me a bit about your education and career path so far.
I completed my undergraduate degree in Communications Studies at York University in 2011. I loved the smaller fourth year tutorial courses I took and it increased my interest in communication theory. Thus, I felt encouraged to continue learning and exploring, and applied to graduate school programs in Ontario.
Between third year and fourth year undergrad I did a summer placement at GCI Group, a mid-size public relations (PR) agency in Toronto, where I was introduced to the PR industry. I didn’t know quite what I was getting myself into, but enjoyed every minute of it. At first, when I overheard PR jargon in the office I had to Google it at my desk later in order to keep up with the team. Over time, I thrived in the role, and loved participating in new business brainstorms and learning the media databases used to track coverage.
Before attending Ryerson University for post-graduate studies in 2011, I completed another summer internship with GCI Group. The work was tougher and projects were bigger, which was great, as it meant they trusted me more! I had gained confidence during the placement that turned into a steady growth period personally and professionally. I was able to make media calls, write pitches and send clients media monitoring reports. My career path became clear to me, I would work in an agency after graduating Ryerson as I truly felt it was a place that I could learn and grow, constantly.
I then completed Ryerson’s Professional Communication Master’s degree program in 2012. This was a fantastic experience full of combined professional and theoretical learning.
After graduating, I returned to GCI Group as an Account Coordinator. Daily interactions with bloggers and writing pitches became second nature. I took advantage of every opportunity to take on new tasks, even if they were above my level and beyond my job description. I tried to prescribe my role based on the work being done above me; therefore, dismissing what level my job title indicated I should be at, and working at the level of the job title I wanted to move into. This proved to be beneficial for my growth, as I received a promotion to the Consultant role. Several peers of mine were instrumental in my growth, allowing me to face challenges head-on and learn new skill sets.
Because of this fantastic experience, I was able to explore a new opportunity at Ryerson University in a communications and event management role, where I would be directly involved in the branding and strategic communication planning in the Dean’s office in the Faculty of Arts. The new adventure started in July 2014 and I anticipate it will be full of continuous learning experiences and professional growth opportunities.
2. Transitioning from one job to another can be nerve-wracking for some people. What tips would you give to make the move easier?
Never stop learning, exploring or experimenting and be willing to share your knowledge from your previous experience with the team at the new organization. I also think that an open-mind and the eagerness to try new things can help to smooth the transition.
3. Would you say relationships are important in helping to shape your career path?
Indeed. Networks are a key element of shaping one’s career. Some relationships can veer your career towards a path they may not have considered otherwise. Relationships are a key resource in the “career toolkit”.
4. What advice would you give for expanding your network and professional relationships?
Be yourself and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, for example, connect with former colleagues, or cold-email people you’ve never worked with before. In my experience, more times than not, there is someone willing to help at the other end of the email you’re sending, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
Also, leverage your strong relationships and introduce people in your network to each other. For example, if Bob at Bell wants to know Roberta at Rogers, offer an introduction and help them build their professional relationships. Chances are it will likely help you expand your network too!