Working Remotely + Internships: An Effective Pairing for Valuable Learning Opportunities

By Siobhan Pretty

In the early spring of 2020, as pandemic precautions came into effect and we all retreated into our homes, our relationship with technology became more significant, meaningful, and dare I say, essential. It’s allowed people to stay connected to others, to continue their jobs, and, for my classmates and me, it provided the ability to complete the PWC program’s summer internship.

When the process of preparing for internships began, the concept of a remote internship hadn’t crossed my mind. In all honesty, I didn’t even realize it was a possibility. The notion sent my brain into overdrive with worries and questions. Questions like, “how can an internship be successful without actually meeting people?” (Though the introvert in me celebrated the fact that I could still complete the credit without leaving my home.)

With time and information from Humber and the PWC staff, I prepared for phone and video interviews and to work from home. (And, of course, by searching Google for answers to all of my what ifs.) After putting this prep work to the test, I was thrilled to be offered a content writing intern position with an organic skincare company. I realized very quickly how well suited the tools and skills we learned in our classes were for remote working and being successful in the writing and communications field. 

The internship set-up allowed for feedback on tasks like blog posts, product descriptions, social media posts, and product catalogues from my supervisor by phone and email. Which meant I could improve my communication capabilities, learn new skills, and successfully put together completed projects. The internship turned into so much more than I was expecting when I was offered a full-time position at the end of the work term. 

Initially, my worries became fears that a remote internship wouldn’t be as valuable as an in-office internship. That I wouldn’t learn as much or create any real work connections. But this experience has proved me wrong — much to my delight.

Siobhan Pretty completed her internship in Humber’s Professional Writing and Communications program in the summer of 2020.

6 Tips from a Former University Teaching Assistant to Being a Better Writer in School and in Life

By Arisa Valyear

Photo by the Author

Being a Teaching Assistant is a lot like working in the dish pit of a restaurant—lots of grunt work and none of the glory.

I worked as a TA while completing my master’s degree in 2016. Since I worked in the arts discipline, a lot of the coursework involved essays, and students usually wound up in my office hours to discuss these essays (mostly to contest their grades).

In a lot of these student encounters I found myself repeating the same script. I was like one of those annoying automated voice messages you hear when you call into your cell phone provider. You know the ones where you have to sit through an hour-long spiel just to choose one option from the menu? Yeah, that was me. Except in my case, there was no menu because there was only one option, and students got it whether they chose it or not.

This isn’t because I was a bad TA and had nothing else to say, by the way. Trust me. I have a lot to say. Usually I can’t shut up! But in each encounter I kept identifying the same, increasingly worrying, problem: most of my students did not know how to write.

Not in the literal sense—they could put pen to paper (or hand to keyboard). But they were lacking several of the fundamental pillars of good writing. Clear writing. Effective writing.

To remedy this alarming problem I dutifully recited the same six tips. Sometimes the order varied and other times I focussed only on one or two, but I always relayed the same information in some form or another. While I initially wrote these tips specifically with academic essays in mind, I have since adapted them to be suitable for any type of writing.

  1. Think about what you want to say before you start writing.

Oftentimes we think we know what we want to say, get halfway through a draft, and realize we have no idea what we’re talking about. Yes there are words on pages, but they really say nothing of any value. Usually this happens when we lack clarity on what exactly it is we are trying to say. This is why it’s essential to define one central idea, opinion, or argument before we begin writing—an anchor to keep us from drifting. While this step usually takes us the longest it’s the most important. If you don’t know what you’re trying to say, neither will your reader.

  1. Craft an outline.

Now that you have a clear idea of what it is you want to say, you can focus on how best to say it. I know this sounds elementary, but starting with an outline will improve your writing experience tenfold. What pieces of information will you use to bolster your claim or idea? You can use anything from quotes to research statistics. Write these down in the order that flows most logically. Use bullet points or pictures in your outline to keep it short and simple.

The benefit of writing with an outline is that it will allow you to find flaws in your piece early on, saving you time and stress in the long run. You’re also making it easier on yourself down the road because the body of your piece is essentially done. All you have to do now is follow your outline and focus on the quality of your writing. Which brings me to my next point…    

  1. Avoid flowery language.

Not only is it distracting, but it usually leads to writers using long and complicated words out of context and results in clumsy writing. Maybe if I just thesaurus a bunch of verbose and intelligent-sounding words, I’ll write better… right? Wrong. All this does is make it harder for your reader to understand your piece. Focus getting your point across in the simplest most efficient way possible. Imagine yourself writing for a twelve-year-old. I’m serious. Write as if anyone could pick up your piece and understand what you’re trying to say. Your writing should be strong enough to stand on its own without having to hide behind complex and convoluted words.

  1. Always have a dictionary on hand.

Said ravenous but you meant radiant? Don’t know the difference? This is why you should always use a dictionary. As a Mac user, I always keep the dictionary icon in my dock, and have it open at all times when I’m writing. If ever I use a word and am unsure if it accurately conveys what I’m trying to say, I’ll look it up. If the definition does not exactly match what I was attempting to elucidate, I’ll use a different word. Know what you’re saying, and use the right words to say it.  

  1. Your first draft will never be your final draft (so start early).

I don’t think anyone in the writing industry has ever felt that their first draft was good enough to be their final. And if they did, I’m sure their editor disagreed. This is because good writing takes time, effort, and patience. Be prepared to go through several drafts before your piece reaches peak quality.

  1. Don’t let the dread of finishing keep you from starting.

It’s common to put off writing because you just can’t see how you’re possibly going to cram a bunch of information into a nice, neat, well-written package. You think of all the things that have to fall into place for the writing process to go off without a hitch, and this often stunts the development of the piece and prolongs the process entirely. Let yourself start, and understand that you will get it wrong a few times before you get it right. Even just writing a title or a few words will get the ball rolling, and you’ll find your piece unravelling and evolving a lot quicker than you ever thought it would.


Arisa Valyear is a writer, communicator, and content creator currently enrolled in Humber College’s Professional Writing and Communications graduate program. She holds a master’s degree in history from Queen’s University and is looking to build a career as an established writer, one article at a time. While she is interested in writing about current events, Arisa also enjoys writing about education, music, and culture

Holiday Helper: Picking the Perfect Christmas Tree

Family of 7 infront of a selection of green christmas trees
Remy Martino and Family picking out their tree

Holiday Helper: Picking the Perfect Christmas Tree

By: Remy Martino

December is just around the corner, promising a month of festive family fun. Make sure your little elves are ready to pick a Christmas tree worthy of Santa’s Workshop with these easy tips and tricks.

For many Canadian families, picking a Christmas tree signals the start of the holiday season. Though it’s fun to whip up batches of gingerbread cookies or binge on festive movies, Christmas will never be complete without the warm glow and fresh scent of an evergreen, nestled nicely in a corner, waiting for Santa. By following these steps, you and your family can have a tree worthy of the season.

Step One: Pick a Location for Your Tree

Take a look around your home and decide where you would like to place your tree. Common locations might be the living room or front foyer. Ensure there is enough space for your tree by checking the height of your ceiling. Don’t forget to get out the tree stand, as that certainly adds a few inches! Also consider the height of your star or angel, and have a salesperson cut the tip of the tree to accommodate the topper.

Step Two: Tree Types

There are countless Christmas tree options out there, and all of them are guaranteed to make someone happy. But, what kind of tree does your family want? If there are small children waiting to shake some presents, you might want to avoid a Norway spruce, as the branches may be sharper than those of other trees. If you want a tree that fills your home with the fragrant scents of the season, a Douglas fir might be the tree for you.

Step Three: Pine Fresh

This tree needs to last more than twelve days, so make sure it is a fresh one before you strap it to the roof of your family car or shove it in the Uber. The freshness of a tree can be determined by checking the trunk for sap: you want it to be sticky. If it’s too cold to take off your mitts, you could also take a needle straight from the tree and break it like a pencil. Did you hear it? That’s a good sign!

Step Four: Green as the Grinch

A healthy tree is a green tree! If some of the trees on the lot are faded in colour, they are thirsty; these will not last until Christmas. Try to find a tree that is truly evergreen!

Step Five: Oh, Christmas Tree

If you think you’ve found the tree of your dreams, have someone cut the stump. This does not hurt the tree, and it makes absolutely sure the tree will be able to absorb water once it’s secured in your stand. You will want to water the tree as soon as you can!

Step Six: Smile for the Camera

The best part of the holiday season is making memories with the ones we love. Make sure to take a family photo before leaving the lot!

Step Seven: Tip Top Shape

To keep your tree healthy and happy once at home, remember to water it. The sun will dry out the branches, and the needles might fall off, so direct sunlight is not good. Nobody wants to clean up that mess!

Bonus: A Perfect Fit

Christmas trees are personal. As long as you follow the care instructions laid out here, the shape of your tree is up to you. Pick a tree you know everyone will love from the first day of Christmas to the last.

University of Gloucestershire’s Creative and Critical Writing Program: An Inside Look

By Jodre Datu

After graduation, I was faced with the career inconvenience of a global pandemic. I had this romantic idea of obtaining a job right after my internship and, you know, beginning my life, convinced that the last thing I needed was another degree.

But plans change. After an internship of landing pages, email newsletters and Facebook ads, I felt I had lost some of that initial love that brought me to Humber in the first place: a love of crafting stories, characters and universes.  

Enter University of Gloucestershire’s Creative and Critical Writing MA program, a kind of light at the end of a landing-page tunnel. Through Humber, I was able to skip an entire year of coursework and fast-track to the thesis portion of the program, where I now spend my days reading and writing and thinking about my own novel. And it’s been a dream.

The program pairs you with a professor to guide you through your work, drawing out the theories and inspirations that you (perhaps unconsciously) are using. For my novel—a coming-of-age magic realist storythis means I submit a chunk of my thesis biweekly and we talk about everything from queer theory to narrative structure to Marvel’s Avengers. My professor also gives me feedback (would my main character really say that?). I then write, read, edit and repeat the process again.

As a writer who improvises most of the time, I’m surprised at how much I enjoy the “critical” part of this program, how I’m being forced to infuse every word with intention. Analyzing other texts has helped me become a better thinker as well, one who can make a little more sense of our current catastrophes.

I give this program two thumbs up, perfect for Humber students who have a little more art left in them—and for anyone with a story that needs to be told.

Canadian Stereotypes: Not Always Funn’eh

There are a lot of expectations that come with being Canadian. As an inhabitant of the Great White North for the entirety of my years thus far, I would say that I have grown accustomed to the pressures of belonging to such a country. Those that are not from Canada anticipate us to be proficient in both English and French, overly polite, obsessed with winter and the sports that come with the season, drivers of deer or moose, and addicted to anything and everything bacon or maple flavoured. These are just a few of the very common stereotypes Canadians must face on a regular basis. At times, they can be quite humorous. However, there are many moments where these expected and overused comments become not only repetitive but offensive as well. It makes it difficult for those belonging to other countries to appreciate us for the type of people we truly are. When all they see is a large igloo and hockey stick representing our great nation, what we stand for becomes easily forgotten.

We may be the target of several jokes and entertaining parodies, but there is a bigger issue that arises out of this type of comedic criticism. It is imperative that those living in different parts of the world, belonging to different cultures and practising different customs, do not judge others based off of what they think a particular type of person should be like. Stereotyping is deeply rooted in our society, and Canadians are no exception to it.

I think it is no surprise when I say that hockey is more than likely to be number one on any list of iconic, and if I must say so, annoying Canadian stereotypes. What is even crazier is that if you are Canadian, and are not obsessed with hockey or even Tim Horton’s for that matter, people start to believe that there is definitely something wrong with you. The fact that everyone believes Canadians are hockey aficionados is quite confusing seeing as how it is not even the sport most Canadian adults play. Although many play both, golf is just as popular as hockey for some.

Yes, many NHL players hail from the Great White North, but when you grow up in such frigid and unfortunately, frostbitten weather conditions, there is nothing more satisfying than putting on a pair of skates and playing a good game of hockey with your friends and family. But hockey does not define our nation. Rather, it is something that Canadians feel gives them a sense of national pride. We may know the Hockey Night in Canada theme song by heart, but that is because we simply enjoy the sport and the way it brings us together.

In regards to the Tim Horton’s reference, I cannot say I do not agree with our love for this particular brand of coffee and the delicious treats that accompany it. However, I think it is safe to say that Canadians are addicted to caffeine, no matter where they choose to buy it. Those that are not from Canada may think the classic ‘double-double’ is synonymous with being Canadian but maybe, just maybe, they got it right this time. Nothing can compare to the feeling of being at a rink, with a Timmies hot chocolate in hand, watching your son or daughter play the beautiful game most of us love. For Canadians, that type of moment is not just a simple pastime. It’s home.

The next stereotype is the politeness and passiveness of Canadians. Now, many of us may catch ourselves being overly courteous most of the time, but who knew others viewed that as a bad thing. Why is it that we are mocked for our well-mannered behaviour? We may be polite but that does not mean we cannot show our more aggressive side at times. The larger issue that arises out of this is that others start to view Canadians as, dare I say, pushovers? It is as if people think they can get away with doing something unfair towards a Canadian, such as abruptly pushing them out of the way because, in the end, the Canadian is the one to most likely say sorry. So yes, we may apologize a lot and we may even be sorry that everyone thinks we are, so sorry, but sorry, not sorry. If you do not treat us the way you want to be treated, then do not expect to always receive our Northern hospitality.

The third and final stereotype is the hatred Canadians have for Torontonians, and that Torontonians even hate those living in their own city. I understand that those that do not live in Toronto regard the city’s inhabitants as obnoxious, but with the many wonderful things the city has to offer, such as well-known musical artists, talented actors, diverse street festivals, and historic neighbourhoods, it makes it quite difficult for Torontonians to not be proud of where they live. Many view Toronto as the centre of the country, often overlooking other Canadian cities such as Vancouver or Ottawa, but you can’t help but love and appreciate the Six for what it continuously brings to the table (and I don’t just mean Timbits).

In regards to locals having a strong distaste for one another, I think that is common in every city. How often do people like their own kind? It’s quite rare. There is always something we find to complain about. In Toronto, the suburbs hate downtown and downtowners hate the suburbs. We complain about our commutes, taking streetcars during rush hour, rubbing up against more than a dozen sweaty strangers in what feels like a slow-moving sardine can on wheels, Toronto’s real estate market, raccoons making their way into our garbage cans as if they are buffet tables, and the issues that arise out of municipal elections. It is only natural for us to think negatively about certain aspects of our city, but to say that Torontonians despise Torontonians is not a fair assumption.

With having said all of that, I believe that most of these stereotypes are quite accurate. However, that does not mean I do not take offense to the constant mentioning of them. Furthermore, I am often left wondering why these are the most common beliefs people have of Canadians. Are they simply making this stuff up or is this how we truly are? I believe it’s a combination of both.

Yes, most of us do love hockey and Tim Horton’s, but that does not mean we are mindless, eyes glued to the TV on Hockey Night in Canada evenings with an extra large Timmies coffee in hand kinds of people. When others mock us for loving the things that make us feel more Canadian and tie us together as a community, it is difficult to not regard their comments as negative and hurtful. I believe a lot of stereotyping, no matter of who or what, is the result of ignorance. When you hear someone ask a Canadian if they ride a deer to class or if they live in an igloo, it’s hard to not roll your eyes out of your sockets. Pick up a book and educate yourselves, please.

I must admit, I am a lover of Tim Horton’s and sometimes a frequent user of our well known ‘eh,’ but I have become more self-conscious of liking these things and using these terms because I know other non-Canadians will judge me for the mere mentioning of them. But we should not be ashamed of where we come from. We need to embrace these things. If people want to believe I spend most of my time wearing snowshoes, then let them. I know who I am and what I stand for and I think I am not the only one when I say, I am damn proud to be Canadian.

Cannabis and Creativity : How smoking weed makes me a better writer

Cannabis and Creativity

By Maia Leggott


Every single person who smokes weed believes it makes them better at something.

Painting.

Playing music.

Being productive.

Physical activity.

Making sandwiches.

Solving the quadratic equation.

Video games.

For me, it’s writing. There’s something about the laser focus and naked honesty that puts me in the zone. Ideas that were sitting, stagnant, are stirred to life and suddenly get the boost they need to come to fruition. Hesitant hands start flying across the page or the keyboard, unable to keep up with the flow of ideas.

I’ve been using cannabis for a long time – almost half of my life. The frequency varied, peaking in my early twenties and seeing me through some difficult shit. I always loved the way it helped me to relax, encouraged me to putter with painting, crafting, writing and making.

There was nothing better than sharing a joint with pals and waiting for the stories to start flowing: hilarious commentary on the uncanny ability of The Simpsons to accurately predict the future; contemplations on the universe and how humans fit into the chain of being; tales of appreciating the simple beauty of a walk on the beach that cleanses an aching soul.

It always seemed like cannabis elicited creativity in everyone who used it. Musician friends would jam for hours on a wave of inspiration, artists create a stunning canvas, writers fill a notebook with inspiring prose, and anyone could decide it was time to rearrange the living room on a whim.

Think about all of the famous pot-loving creatives out there — Bob Dylan, Carl Sagan, Lady Gaga (“I have to be high to be creative.”), Bob Marley (“Herb is a plant, herb is good for everything.”), Willie Nelson, The Beatles … the list goes on and on. Would “Rubber Soul” even exist without the inspiration-boosting green herb? I shudder to think.

Science Says

A 2011 study actually suggested that the psychoactive effects of cannabis could “lead to connecting seemingly unrelated concepts, an aspect of divergent thinking considered primary to creative thinking.” This ability to associate in different ways is more likely to generate unique ideas by breaking free from familiar thinking. Morgan, Rothwell, et al. called this ability to make connections between seemingly unrelated concepts “hyper-priming” in their 2010 study.

Dr. Alice Weaver Flaherty is a neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor at Harvard Medical School. Deep brain stimulation is her game, and she is interested in the mechanisms of creativity in the brain. She believes the answer to the cannabis and creativity question may be in the frontal lobe. Highly creative people show more frontal lobe activity than those with less, and cannabis use can stimulate this area. Her most recent research is focusing on how creative types “get in the zone,” she says. And a lot of it has to do with tolerance and dosage: “Somebody who’s trying to boost their motivation to be creative [can go] too far so they can’t concentrate,” she says. “A very anxious creative person may get some benefit from cannabis. In calming them down, it could help their creativity.”

I can definitely vouch for that. It’s not always a matter of being ‘stoned.’ I’m prone to crippling anxiety, about everything I do, and it sends me into unproductive spirals where I end up calling my dad in tears without being able to pinpoint one concrete reason for my distress. Taking CBD oil regulates my anxiety and helps me focus that would-be-nervous energy into something productive. Like overhauling my final project of the semester two nights before its due. Like overcoming the writer’s block that’s been crushing me. Like creating meaningful art.

Astrophysicist Carl Sagan once wrote, “the cannabis experience has greatly improved my appreciation for art, a subject which I had never much appreciated before.” I mean, that seems like proof of concept to me.

Cannabis Creatives

It’s not just scientists who are trying to understand the phenomenon of cannabis and creativity. A search on Leafly’s website reveals the best user-rated strains for sparking creativity–classics Jack Herer, Purple Haze and Lemon Diesel made the list, among many others.

Kevin Smith (the genius screenwriter/director behind Mallrats and Clerks) credits cannabis for getting him out of a creative rut. Alanis Morisette apparently smokes weed to get into the groove of song writing. Bob Dylan growled, “Everybody must get stoned,” and is credited for turning The Fab Four onto the creative benefits of cannabis . In 1988, Steve Jobs declared “The best way I would describe the effect of the marijuana and the hashish is that it would make me relaxed and creative.”

I’ve known many creative types in my life, and a large majority of them turn to cannabis to get the creative juices flowing. I can be a bit of a perfectionist, and when I’m writing I often get caught up in the fears and expectations of sharing thoughts so openly. Taking a break to have a puff or a vape allows me to approach a difficult project with a fresh perspective and get out of my head.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times I smoke a bowl, sit down in front of my laptop flexing my fingers in anticipation, only to stare at the blinking cursor for 15 (or 45) minutes. But the times I wake up in the morning, have a sesh, a stretch and a (meditative) sit and write nine pages in a notebook without even batting an eye, make up for those moments.

Do you use cannabis for creativity? What else drags you out of productive limbo and encourages you to create?

Good Times Are Even Better When They Are Shared: The Importance Of Making Friends In University

Let’s face it. The thought of having to make new friends is always daunting. Up until now, friends have well, sort of just been there. When you look back on your earliest friendships, you know, the ones that consisted of making fake farting noises and eating glue, you can never seem to remember how those relationships formed. It was most likely along the lines of simply sharing a toy or asking if someone was in need of a bathroom buddy where you made your first attempt to be a friend. Of course, at that age, most of us did not think twice about the people we were bringing into our lives. All we wanted was a person to play and laugh with. Seems simple enough. But like anything in life, things never stay so simple.

Now fast-forward to high school. Graduation is slowly creeping up on you, and despite your excitement for the freedom you are about to experience, you cannot help but worry about what you will be leaving behind. Your friends. At this age, you probably have a better idea as to how you ended up in your current social circle. Most of us (if we were lucky) were able to continue on with our same group of friends because they would be the ones to join us in our secondary school ventures. But those times have ended, and now you are ready (not really) to dive into your postsecondary education.

It’s the first morning. You are obviously running behind schedule because you changed your outfit a good three times (you have most likely spent the last four years in uniform, and now is the chance to look your best), and unless you have met some cool peers either at Frosh or first-year orientation, you are as nervous as a deer on a firing range. You start to wonder how you will make it through these next four years, let alone what you will do with your degree in philosophy once you have graduated. Well, there is time for all of that, but right now, you need to face your first university lecture (which you have missed the first half an hour of because you had no idea a basement floor even existed).

You walk in, red-faced, and to your surprise, the only seats left are those in the front row (because no, no, no, nobody wants to be THAT student). So you are stuck, not only in an uncomfortable chair with a desk the size of a calculator but stuck in memories of the past. High school was your prime. You had friends, you knew the building like the back of your hand, books were free of charge, and everything was just a lot easier.

Currently, everything in your life seems so broken, but a wise woman once said that sometimes, good things must fall apart so that better things can fall together. And yes, to all you first-year students, it can and will get better. How?

Well, think back to those times at recess. Think back to those times where you just joined in on a game of soccer and ended up having a blast. Think back to when you shared your cream cheese and jelly sandwich with a classmate that had no lunch. You put yourself out there without even knowing it, and that is what you have to do here. You have to put yourself out there. Be the first one to say hello, or in my case, be the first one to make someone laugh. If there is one thing I had learned during my six (yes, six) years of undergrad, it is that good times are even better when they are shared.

I must say, Bill Withers sure had it right. We all really do need somebody to lean on. University can be tough, and I cannot stress enough how important it is to make friends in your first year, as it will make all the difference.

So yes, friends are great to have a laugh or share a few coffees with, but they are even better to have around if you need some advice or help when it comes to the academic side of things (unfortunately, it can never be just one big social). With how fast paced everything can be, you will want that one classmate to send you the lecture notes you may have missed or to go over an assignment’s guidelines with. When you make those connections in the classroom, you will actually look forward to going to class. You will have acquired some sense of security in the unfamiliarity of it all because you know that there is someone you can relate to. There is someone else that gets it.

However, if you find that you cannot make a friend in class – because it can happen and is totally fine when it does – try a different approach to meeting new people, such as joining a club or two. Sure, there is the obvious benefit of expanding your social circle when it comes to joining a student society, but what is also important to note is that with clubs, the opportunity to acquire new skills and broaden your knowledge of certain topics is also if not more beneficial, as these things are surely advantageous when it comes to future employability.

Employers want to see that you have had positions of responsibility, and as a member of any student association, whether it be your university’s student council or rugby team, you can definitely use your experience to show that you have communication, organization, and team building skills. If you take this step to join a club in first year, not only will you become more comfortable in your new school environment, but you will also be more inclined to join other student organizations as you move further along in your postsecondary studies.

With all that being said, I am almost certain that one final question is lingering in your mind: How do I make the first move? Well my fellow peers, the answer is quite simple. Just do it. You need to be okay with being uncomfortable. You need to put yourself out there.

I must admit, when I started university, I was not as outgoing and sure of myself as I am today. There are students that are extremely reserved and I understand that. But now is not the time to be afraid. Now is the time to seize each and every opportunity you have. Now is the time to grow and to learn who you are and who you want to be.

So when you walk into your first day of classes, remember this: Everyone is in the same boat as you, so put on a lifejacket and prepare to set sail. University might be difficult, stressful, and sometimes just downright awful, but it is sure to be one heck of an adventure.

Sabrina Atzori graduated from Glendon, York University’s bilingual college with an Honours BA in English before entering the Professional Writing and Communications program this year. She is passionate about writing, editing, and communications, and is looking forward to strengthening these areas during her time as a part-time post-grad student at Humber. When Sabrina is not ins school, she is working part-time as a sports monitor, binge-watching videos of adorable animals online, watching or reading anything thriller/mystery related, and adding to her collection of body art.

 

It’s a New School Year!

blank-brainstorming-business-6357

Ah, September. The month of new beginnings, lingering summer weather, and Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

When new students fill the hallways, attend all their classes, and get themselves acclimated to new teachers and new friends. It’s also when the Humber PWC program welcomes a whole new batch of writers into the fold.

This year promises to be a great one, so stay tuned for more posts thought up and written with love by our PWC students, Faculty, and a few of our veteran’s.

Cheers, and happy writing!

-The Humber PWC team.

 

Remote Work: A “Dream-Turned-Reality” for a Millennial Writer

macbook pro on desk

When I first realized I wanted to be a writer, something everyone seemed to tell me was that I could write from anywhere. If I wanted to travel, I could write in different cities. If I wanted to move across the country, or the world, I could write from there. I always thought this was wishful thinking. Only now, a year later, am I truly understanding that I can make this dream a reality.

I know I’m not alone in having the desire to travel, make money and be successful all at the same time. In fact, according to Inc, 82 percent of millennials say they would be more loyal to their employers if they had flexible work options. We’ve grown up around technology; why wouldn’t we rely on it to work remotely?

As a recent graduate of the Professional Writing and Communications post-graduate program at Humber College, I’m required to complete at least 400 hours at an internship placement within the professional writing or communications field. Funny enough, I scored two remote, part-time, placements in communications. During my time at both of these placements, I got an awesome taste of what it would be like to work remotely. From crafting social media calendars, writing blog posts, entering data, managing internal/external communications and attending virtual meetings, I didn’t ever have to be in a physical office.

My first placement didn’t have an office; everyone worked from home. My second placement had a head office about a half hour from my house, but my position was remote. I thought this was interesting because I had never been exposed to a remote working environment before. After conducting some research, I realized how common remote work is in 2018.

The potential for remote work is only just beginning

The reality is, remote work is the way of the future. The concept of working 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. is outdated by 200 years, says Forbes.  Who’s to say you can’t work perfectly well at night as opposed to the morning? What’s wrong with starting your day at 11:00 a.m. instead of 9:00 a.m.? As long as you are able to complete quality work, collaborate when necessary and meet deadlines, it shouldn’t matter where you are nor what time you’re getting your work done.

According to Totaljobs, 28 percent of employees would move jobs if they were not allowed to work from home. Specifically, with millennials, there has been a huge shift towards prioritizing working remotely when looking for a new job. Businesses must appropriately tailor their remote working policy to attract top talent.

Not to mention the myriad of benefits that comes with workplace flexibility. Everyday expenses such as transportation and food can be almost completely eliminated. That’s less wear and tear on your car, less junk food intake on lunch breaks, and most importantly, less damage to your wallet. Yearly savings can range between $2000 to $7000, says Forbes, depending on how often you buy lunch and/or coffee and how far your commute is. However, time is money and the savings in time from remote work are phenomenal.

Take a doctor’s appointment as an example. You don’t need to stress about having to leave work in the middle of the day if you can only get an appointment at 11:00 a.m. on a Wednesday. As long as you don’t have an important meeting at that time, why not wake up a little earlier and use that time to make up for your appointment? Or, spend some time after dinner finishing up anything you weren’t able to because of that commitment.

In my opinion, the biggest benefit is to be able to wake up, turn the coffee maker and the laptop on, and start my day. No need to drive in awful, bumper-to-bumper morning traffic; no need to stress and count the minutes until you arrive at work; and no need to worry about whether you have time to brew a coffee in the morning or pick one up on the way. It also translates to more time I get to spend with friends and family, and for that, I am grateful.

According to Upwork, about 63 percent of companies today have remote workers and we are only going to see this number increase. Why? Simple. The benefits are endless for not only remote workers but also for employers.

Employer benefits of remote work

Offices can consider going virtual, or at least cut down the need for a large office space, which leads to thousands of dollars in savings. The benefits to the environment are even greater, as fewer employees need to commute to work every day.

“Companies that refuse to support a remote workforce risk losing their best people and turning away tomorrow’s top talent,” says Stephanie Kasriel, CEO of Upwork, and I couldn’t agree more. Why restrict your talent pool to strictly those who are within commuting distance from your organization?

Thanks to new and improved video conferencing solutions out there, employees can connect from all over the country or the world and still feel like they are in the same room as one another. Collaboration and productivity are made possible no matter where you are. There isn’t a need to have in-person meetings because video conferencing is more convenient and, arguably, more productive.

Research shows video calls lead to higher retention, better knowledge transfer and better collaboration. According to Human Productivity Lab, we remember only 20 percent of what we hear from an audio call but combined with video conferencing, knowledge transfer rates jump up to 70 percent. According to Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, 93 percent of communication is nonverbal, which consists of body language and tone of voice. From my experience using video conferencing, it really does create an authentic and transparent emotional connection between you and the person you’re talking to—even if you’ve never met before!

The only drawback to remote work…productivity!

How can you use your time wisely when there is no supervisor watching you? How can you get your work done when there is always a list of housework accumulating around you? It’s important to have time management skills and to give yourself regular breaks to maintain productivity.

If you are someone who needs to feel pressured to get things done, try going to a local coffee shop to get your work done. Perhaps the busyness of that environment may motivate you to be more productive.

Try getting dressed in the morning as if you are going to an office and sit in your designated home office space. It’s important to have a workspace so you know you need to be in “work mode” when you are sitting there.

I sometimes go for a short run during my workday. Whether it’s during the morning or afternoon, this is a great way to get some fresh air and increase your productivity, especially when the majority of your work involves staring at a computer screen. Whenever I feel myself getting a little stir-crazy, I go for a run and once I get back, I am rejuvenated and ready to tackle what I need to complete for the rest of the day.

Final thoughts

Working remotely has heaps of benefits over drawbacks. There are so many technologies out there to make you feel like you are in the same room as another person that there isn’t a need to collaborate in a physical office, especially when you can collaborate just as well remotely.

Of course, remote work is not plausible for all industries; take the retail or service industry as an example. Typically, any position where you spend the majority of your time on your computer or in meetings, your job can be done remotely.

Productivity is critical to doing your job well, so experiment with a few tips and choose whichever method helps you to become the most productive.

Remember to get acquainted with this reality because remote work is only just beginning to become the new normal!

Carla Haddad is a content writer and recent graduate of the Professional Writing and Communications program at Humber College. She obtained her undergraduate degree from McMaster University in Justice, Political Philosophy and Law where she read voraciously within the field of philosophy. She will begin her master’s degree in Rhetoric and Communication Design in September where she will further study the art of language, philosophy, communication and persuasion. In her spare time, you can find her reading, writing, running or baking healthy, gluten-free snacks. 

Not All Things are Written in Stone: How to Find Flexibility in Your Writing Career

By Risa de Rege

The summer after I completed all my coursework for Humber’s Professional Writing and Communications graduate certificate was pretty representative of how my life has gone since.

armchair book books browse
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I finished an internship that offered me a few cool opportunities scattered through three months of boring ones and, after a too-brief visit to England to perform, went back to school part-time at UofT. I have a BA in history, art, and medieval studies, and always wanted to learn more sciences and anything else of interest. After spending a few months convincing myself that if it was what I wanted to do, then it was worth it, I went for it. It’s been great.

So since graduating, I have balanced a bit of school, a bit of opera, and a lot of work. I am living out the millennial dream of working three part-time jobs, but it actually works well for me. I have more flexibility in my schedule, more diverse work, and more time to myself. When doing my internship I found that a Monday-to-Friday, nine-to-five office job is not for me. I like a bit of interaction and variety. I don’t want to get bored, and by only being at a job ten hours a week (times three), I can mostly avoid the downfalls of being full-time while still earning enough.

To answer the question I would obviously have asked former graduates if I hadn’t been in the first cohort to graduate from the PWC certificate: yes, I did find work in my field after graduating. Thanks to a combination of talking to the right people and focusing on the right skills, I have been editing professionally for about two years. I initially went into writing and editing because there are opportunities to cover so many different areas and interests (these days I edit for the condo industry, but I still hold this statement to be true).

(A side note about working from home, for anyone considering it: it’s what you’d expect. It’s great to have flexibility in your hours and to be able to work wherever. But sometimes it’s hard to find the motivation or to have to cancel plans because you let yourself get behind and have deadlines the next morning. Generally, I like it and it works for me, but I’m not enough of a self-starter to make it work full time).

One of my jobs is editing, but the other two are at libraries. Earlier this year I made the decision to pursue this field more seriously; I’ve worked at UofT libraries for the better part of the past six years, but to land any real full-time work in the industry you either need credentials or to have been born well before the early 90s. I considered applying for a master’s but decided, for now, to do my library technician diploma instead. There is lots of merit in both, but the diploma program offers a more hands-on, technical approach than a master’s – and the tuition is much more affordable. After graduating university I actually almost went to Seneca for this program, but ultimately chose Humber – in part due to its close location and gentler schedule.

I don’t really see this as a career change from what I studied at Humber; all of my communication skills are transferable, and there is more crossover in course material than I expected. Library workers (and, arguably, most workers) won’t succeed if they aren’t good communicators.

I never wanted to be the kind of person who used the metaphor of a “career path” unironically, but I can’t emphasize enough how it doesn’t have to be a straight line from education to an entry-level job to a better job in your field that you work at until you retire. For most people, that’s not a realistic expectation these days, anyway. And for someone like me with more interests than I know what to do with, it’s boring! It’s worth it if you can manage it, to try new things, learn new skills, and see what works for you (and, equally important, what doesn’t). Every experience will be worthwhile, one way or another.

Risa de Rege is a Toronto-based copy editor/student/library worker/musician. She is a graduate of the University of Toronto (BA, history, art, medieval studies) and Humber College’s Professional Writing and Communications certificate. Interested in the intersections of technology, culture, and information, she is now studying digital humanities at UofT and working on her library technician diploma through Mohawk College. An active classical soprano, past roles include Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance, and Leila in Iolanthe at an opera festival in England.