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.

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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.

Author: ri de rege

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