Advice from a Corporate Communications Guru

Advice from a Corporate Communications Guru

By: Christie Atkins
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Starting a new co-op position can be stressful and overwhelming at first. What got me through this transition period with ease was learning from my co-worker Melissa Fast.

Melissa Fast graduated with an Honors BA in Business Communications from Brock University. Being in the right place at the right time, she came across the opportunity to work for Hydro One. A technical department was looking for someone to fill a new communications role and having worked the four summers prior to her graduation from Brock at Enbridge Gas Distribution, Melissa was familiar with the utility environment.

“Having experience at a utility company got my foot in the door with Hydro One. Enbridge allowed me to have an understanding of the culture and the industry,” said Melissa. 

When she was hired by Hydro One, Melissa began her career in the Engineering and Construction Services department. Her role mainly consisted of corporate reporting. Because of her previous work experience and her strong writing ability, she was able to understand the language field workers used and effectively translate it into jargon that office staff could comprehend.

Knowing that her passion lay within communications, Melissa took on anything and everything that would give her experience in her field. She took on additional responsibilities such as writing a newsletter for her department, helping to put together a workplace harassment training program, and preparing presentations for her superiors. 

While working in this department she supplemented her additional tasks with a certificate from the University of Toronto for Business Communications. Melissa knew she wanted to end up in the Communications department and thought the best way to get there was to gain as much practical knowledge and experience in the field as she could.

After three and a half years of work in the Engineering and Construction Services department, Melissa took on a rotation in Corporate Communications. Since then, she has continued to build upon her skills as she has made the department her permanent home at Hydro One.  Currently, Melissa manages the company’s internal site, HydroNet. She also builds and executes communications plans for different lines of business within Hydro One and goes out in the field for a variety of projects such as a recent corporate video initiative aimed at promoting employee engagement.

As Melissa continues into her seventh year with Hydro One she expresses her love for the company and the career she continues to build for herself. When I asked her to provide some career advice for hopeful communications graduates, she had a few valuable tips to pass along:

1. Always think of your work in terms of transferrable skills.

If you learn how to use a new computer system, you can use it as an example of how you are comfortable with a range of computer software and are able to learn new programs effectively. “Sometimes people ignore these types of skills because they think a program or system was specific to a certain job or role or something they did as a student. Don’t sell yourself short on these skills, they show adaptability and quick learning that can be applied to many different positions,” said Melissa.

2. The first job you obtain after graduation does not have to be the job you stick with for the duration of your career.

“Take a job that will help you get the experience you need for the company you want to work for or doing the job you really want to do. If you don’t know what that is, you might figure it out with the experience you gained from that first position.”

3. Having a good attitude and a willingness to take on a diverse range of assignments goes a long way.

Skills and abilities are always requirements for a job, but some people forget how important personality can be. She says, “If your coworkers enjoy working with you they will be great advocates for you and want to see you succeed. This can be especially helpful when looking to transition from a co-op position to a permanent role.” 

 


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Posted on August 27, 2014