I’ve noticed something in my last term at Concordia - the closer I get to graduation, the more people have begun to ask me about my future. “What are your plans for when you’re done school? Have you lined up a job yet? What is it you want to do exactly?” These are all common inquiries from professors, friends, and family.
Being a journalism student makes these questions even harder to answer. Do I want to pursue a career in print or broadcast journalism? What about public relations? Would someone hire me over one of my peers? Are there even any jobs left in the industry?
A friend told me about Concordia’s Dinner for Eight. I had never heard of the program, but after some research, I learned that it was established in February 2009 by Concordia’s Advancement and Alumni Relations with the goal of having the university’s alumni share their professional experience and advice with students over (free!) dinner. When I saw that CTV News anchor Mutsumi Takahashi was on the list of alumni, I knew that I couldn’t pass up the chance to meet her and talk about careers in journalism.
On a Tuesday night, I arrived at Da Vinci, a lovely Italian restaurant, with my friend Alyssa who is also in the journalism program. We met the other students who had signed up for the dinner and were surprised to find there were no males in the group and that we were the only two journalism students.
When Mutsumi arrived, we went around the table introducing ourselves and began talking over appetizers of bruschetta and minestrone soup. Everyone was eager to know why Mutsumi had chosen a career in journalism and how she had become one of the most recognized news anchors in Montreal. Her photo is, after all, hanging in the entrance of the restaurant beside the likes of A-list Hollywood celebrities and NHL players.
Mutsumi explained that she did not study journalism in university; in fact, she has an MBA. This led to perhaps Mutsumi’s most important piece of advice for all of us — find a way to make yourself stand out. This applies to any field of study and work, but especially to the ever-competitive field of journalism. She told us that while it is great to be generally knowledgeable about many topics, having an expert knowledge of something, such as politics or business, can really give someone an edge over the competition.
Mutsumi talked about her experience working at CTV News and even gave us some tips on how to perfect our on-air appearance — everything from dressing the part to watching ourselves in a mirror to see how our faces move when we speak.
The night ended with an invitation to visit the CTV studios in the coming weeks to watch a news broadcast — an invitation we all readily accepted.
This year, there were 17 Dinner for Eight alumni hosts, and Concordia’s Advancement and Alumni Relations is already planning a spring 2013 dinner. Rose Wangechi, alumni officer of Student Programs in the Office of Advancement and Alumni Relations, told us at a mandatory information session that seats at the dinners are reserved on a first-come-first-served basis and they fill up quickly. So if you think you are interested in the attending next one, don’t hesitate to sign up.
Thinking about the future may be daunting, especially if you are graduating and entering an unstable field. Meeting with professionals in that field may be even more anxiety-inducing. But you will walk away with a new contact and invaluable career advice, and that is an opportunity for which every young professional should be grateful.