Every month, we at APEX PR and ruckus digital (our in-house digital agency) will all be contributing to #APEXMonthly – a new blog series that will shine a light on the individuals who make up our amazing and diverse team.
The question for March was: What was your first job and what did you learn that is still relevant today? Read below to find out!
My first job was at Centreville, on Centre Island working across the different food vendors in the park.
I would say my most memorable lesson during those summer months is customer service skills are vital in every positive you have. Being 16 or 27, your ability to interact with people will go a long way and a positive attitude will help elevate not only the customer’s experience but your own as well.
My first job was pumping gas at Max Burry’s Esso in Etobicoke. Neither Max nor the station are there anymore, but during its time it was the local garage, employing three full-time mechanics and an about six high school aged pump jockeys.
We filled tanks with gas and engines with oil in any weather that didn’t come with lightning.
My two greatest learnings from that time:
- In Canada, I prefer to work indoors!
- You can get more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.
Working evenings, most of my customers were coming home from work after a long day. They may have had to deal with a long commute and our station was the last between them and dinner. I learned very early on that a smile could go a long way.
To this day, bringing a positive and proactive attitude to my work has served me well in achieving the goals and supporting the needs of my clients as well as my teams.
I went to Ryerson for Radio and Television Arts (RTA). The economy was in a depression so before I even graduated I was fortunate to land a position in production at Canada’s Oldest Ad Agency at the time, McKim (which was bought out by BBDO after I left). My job description was “to do everything.” Seriously I did everything. Prepped for new business pitches, helped with commercials in various stages of production, find talent, manage budgets, make sure we had snacks, and keep the senior leaders happy. Fast forward 20+ years and I have THE SAME JOB! What did I learn and how is it still useful?
- Get ahead of the curve.
- Remember where you came from.
- Say please and thank you.
- Everyone pitches in.
- There are no dumb questions only dumb answers.
My first job was a swimming instructor when I was 14. I learned that I enjoy working with children, and gained experience in effectively managing client expectations. In this case, the clients were the parents of the kids I taught. My experience in this role helped prepare me for my career in PR by introducing me to the world of client services. I learned how to deliver great news, as well as not-so-great news like whether a child passed or failed a swimming level. These are skills that I continue to leverage in my career and am grateful that all of the years I spent in swim class paid off.
I have worked in PR – on the agency side – from the start of my career 12 years ago. I was fortunate enough to work with a fantasy league-esque dream team when I got my first start in the industry. In fact, I am confident that the confidence this team instilled in me is the reason I am still happy as a clam working on the agency side, over a decade later.
The most valuable lesson I learned from my internship can be summarized in two really powerful words: be indispensable. My supervisor explained to me that at any stage in my career, I would always face competition at the peer level. The way to differentiate myself – even if it went against intuition – over and above doing my job well, was by demonstrating work-adjacent skills. This boggled my mind, but I took this valuable advice to heart and was determined to become the best, well-rounded PR practitioner I could possibly be. So I made it my mission to become a champ at all things PR related beyond core skills: media list and editorial calendar pulls, reporting and building baskets for broadcast giveaways (because, consumer PR). During my internship (and well into the next few levels of my career), I learned how to change toner cartridges, convert recipe measures between metric and imperial like a ninja, and up the ante on developing itineraries for any media tour, familiarization trip or event you could think of.
It might have seemed like overkill at times (and I definitely went overboard – for instance, why did I need to learn every single airport code in North America?) But what’s funny is I get to tap into these skills from my formative days in the industry quite regularly, even today. So I pass that advice on to my colleagues, especially to those I manage. We all have unique skills, some of which may not be LinkedIn or résumé-worthy. But that doesn’t mean they won’t help you get ahead in our careers.
So go ahead and embrace your inner nerd – you can never know too much for any job.
My first job was at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), working at one of the many booths in the convention centre. My job was to approach people wandering around and try to sell as many units of product as I can. It was daunting at first – I was a shy 15-year-old trying to draw passersby in to test and learn more about a product. I quickly developed an elevator pitch that effectively peaked people’s interest enough to want to know more. One thing I learned early on, and something that still resonates with me today, is to have thick skin. Don’t take it personally when someone doesn’t want to try your product. They’re simply not interested in what you’re selling. Instead, evaluate their responses to tweak your talking points and make your pitch better.
The two weeks I spent pestering strangers taught me not to take criticism or setbacks personally, but instead use the feedback to improve – a valuable lesson I still keep with me today.