Interviews, Editors, News and Networking

friends-coffee-workLooking back, I think I stumbled into journalism with more curiosity than career drive. I’m the kind of person that always needs to ask, and runs up a phone bill because I crave talking. Journalism began as a way to keep myself busy and my writing sharp but evolved into a love of storytelling. When my boss found out about this, she raced over to my desk and told me that she was going to connect me to the McGill News Editor, Daniel McCabe.

She emailed, I emailed, he accepted, and I was genuinely impressed at how it all happened so quickly.

The McGill News, if you haven’t heard, is an alumni magazine featuring prominent McGillians at the forefront of success. While the print edition comes every so often, there is a monthly online that keeps up-to-date with the innovative drive at McGill. All of this is managed by McCabe, who devotes countless hours to finding content, contacting freelance writers and maybe interviewing an award-winning researcher or two. He mentioned, in our discussion, that a virtue of writing about McGill is that we’re really almost as good as we say we are. Nobel prize winners, Rhodes Scholars and billionaire entrepreneurs love connecting with the old alma mater. In a word, McGill’s got news.

Overall, the meeting gave me a lot of perspective on the work I want to do in writing and editing. I love the idea of exploring a variety of careers and sometimes it’s easiest just to go out and ask a professional what it’s like to be a professional.

My simple advice?

  • Research. Take the time to check this person out. Get familiar with a bit of history, pick up a few talking points, know some general interests of theirs. If this is a professor, you should definitely be familiar with their research, but maybe it’d be interesting to know if they have a strong twitter following or check out their LinkedIn to see where they’ve worked before. Case in point, McGill Prof. Daniel Levitin worked in music producing with award-winning artists and famous rockers before ever teaching at McGill. I’m sure you might have a question or two about that.
  • Prep your questions. I understand that this is an obvious piece of advice but not everyone follows through with that little extra step. Especially true in more casual situations like a networking coffee, where casual conversation might need more of a push.
  • Practice your questions. Odds are that, once the ball is rolling, you’ll continue naturally from topic to topic. Holding on to your questions like a life raft may hold you back but at the same time they’re a good tool to keep the talk on track. If you’re familiar with them, it’ll be easier to integrate them in smoothly without constantly referring to a premade list. You’ll look more confident and knowledgeable overall, which is always a plus.

Though many would see these tips as an obvious point of courtesy before meeting, sometimes it’s easy for life to get in the way and to think you’re too busy to dig deeper. If you’re planning to meet with them, plan to spend time preparing to meet with them tooI am not the first person to get caught at a dead stop in conversation and definitely not the only person that’s read right off a sheet of paper in near panic.

I benefited a lot from asking about even the small curiosities. McCabe admitted he was never really a math and science mind but ended up loving math and science writing, something I can relate to and am now excited to try. He’d written a review on The Bonjour Effect, and now I’m looking forward to checking it out.

Overall, there was so much to the job that I couldn’t imagine doing as one person. From content to editing to photos and making sure everyone gets paid- you’d need a strong sense of time management and prioritization. It was enlightening to see the magazine firsthand and I appreciate the time he took to meet with me.

While I was given this wonderful opportunity by my boss, McGillConnect is a new platform that reaches out to alumni and students every day. Based out of Toronto start-up, Ten Thousand Coffees, the point is (quite literally) to meet for professional networking coffees and learn something new. I highly recommend joining and seeing what opportunities might await!


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