Professionals dish on career advice for new graduates

With graduation nearing, Ryerson students in their final year of their undergrad are looking for ways to jumpstart their career and land that dream job.

In that context, several well-established individuals in various industries say that starting a career is not as simple as graduating one day and working your dream job the next:


(Courtesy CTV Broadcasting Team)

James Duthie is the host of The NHL on TSN, and has worked with TSN for 15 years. He graduated from Carleton University for journalism and before joining TSN, he worked in local news in Ottawa and Vancouver.

How difficult was is it to get where you are today as a journalist?

I was able to get a job right out of journalism school. I was very fortunate to get a job in television in Ottawa — this is 1989 now.  I was very lucky that way, but as far as getting to be a national-level sportscaster, it still took me nine to 10 years. I had to work at local news and local sports beats before I had my opportunity. Things have changed so much. Even back then, in the 90s, you were in to paying your dues. These days, it seems everybody wants to pop out of school and begin hosting some national show. I guess it’s a sign of the YouTube generation. I paid my dues, but I don’t consider it difficult, in a sense that every bit of experience I got along the way was valuable.

What advice do you have for recent university/college graduates who want to become sports journalists?

If you want to go into sports, one of the things I would recommend is to do news. I see a lot of young broadcasters coming into TSN, not necessarily on-air, but one of the weaknesses I see with people is in their writing ability. I think that’s one place where for whatever reason, maybe a lot of the people in some of the programs just do hands-on stuff, they come out great editors, but they don’t know how to write. So, I think the one thing about being a news reporter is every day you come into work and you have to learn as much as you can about one subject, and then the next day it’s a completely different subject, so it really trains you on how to interview properly, how to write properly, andthat’s one thing I would certainly recommend …  Some people just want to anchor right away. Well, anchoring is in many ways the easier part of the business, reporting is the tougher part. So, get out and report and take whatever job you can.

Should university graduates take unpaid jobs to gain experience?

Easy for me to say right? When you don’t have to pay the bills, I would say you do whatever you can. I totally understand that you have to live and you have to eat, and that’s not something you want to do long-term, but if it’s a foot in the door, then for a few months, whether it’s a summer or part time during winter while you’re doing something else, then yes, I would say that it’s a great idea to get hands-on [experience] if that’s the only thing that you can do. It all depends on whether you are or are not being abused by the system where “we’re not paying you, yeah we’ll keep you for three years.”



John Maconachie is the owner of OnTrack Project Solutions Inc., a company that designs and project manages processing systems for the food and beverage industry. Maconachie started the company eight years ago, but has been working in the food and engineering industries for over 30 years. He studied to become a mechanical technologist at George Brown College.

How hard is it to launch your career in the engineering industry and become successful?

You will not graduate and get your dream job. So, the easy way to relax a person’s enthusiasm and ambition — and increase their frustration — is choose 5 or 10 aspects about your career that you feel that you need to learn … For example, for me, I learned how to design heat exchangers in the food industry. I learned how to be a project manager. I learned how to do P&ID (piping and instrumentation) drawings. I also branched off in some plastics and some other areas. I learned how to draw, and so on. There are certain aspects of my position now that benefits from certain experiences I got.

What sacrifices do people have to make to become successful in your field?

Very philosophically, the way I look at it is you decide when you’re going to cash in, because when you finish college or university, that’s just like being a mechanic, you just bought your box of tools. You still have to learn how to fix cars, and you still have to get experience. You’re going to learn faster working, hopefully, than you did in school. You just ripped through a whole bunch of stuff in school, if you don’t put it to any practical use. And you can get a 70 and feel good about it. When you’re working, you can only get a 95 or better. Less you get fired. It’s hard to make a decision when you’re young about what you want to do, so this is why I said don’t look for your dream job. Don’t look for the management job right away, because you’re not going to get a management job. You have to learn the ropes, as they say. And then when I say that cash in point, when you finish learning and now you’re going to capitalize on all the learning that you did through your life. So, I would say that sacrifices that I’ve done are choosing learning over money.



Caitlin Power is a young fashion designer, who has already been recognized nationally for her work. She started her self-titled brand five years ago, and has been redefining women’s wear through fine-tailoring, architectural detail and sharp silhouettes that are confidence-building ready-to-wear items.

How difficult was it for you to build your brand and make it to the point where you are in your career?

Building a brand takes a lot of hard work and determination. It is a huge responsibility and a very large financial commitment. I have been lucky enough to have my mom who has helped me get started, and is my number one support. I started “Caitlin Power” in fall of 2008 and in the past two years really began to perfect my brand and understand my market. You really have to know your brand inside out, be true to it and do everything with your target market in mind. I find myself continuously growing and learning with each new season.

What advice do you have for university grads who want to become successful fashion designers?

Intern, intern, intern. The more you know about every aspect of the fashion industry before you start off on your own, the better. As I mentioned, there is a very large financial commitment involved so you really have to be 100 per cent ready before you dive in.

What can a designer who is having trouble building his/her brand do?

Go back to the basics. Who do you want to sell to? Is the clothing you are making going to appeal to them? Why is it going to appeal to them? Is the price going to appeal to your target market? Once you understand your product and market you can really think about the appropriate branding to suit it. I have created a brand persona. A woman. I know how old she is, what she does, where she lives, where she’s from, every aspect of her life. She is a direct reflection of the brand. It really helps me make design decisions and bring the brand to life.


These three individuals have succeeded in three very different industries, but the path to success for each of them share similarities. They each started from the bottom, out of college or university, and worked hard to reach their current positions. They also got help along the way. Duthie lucked out by getting a job at CTV in Ottawa after he graduated from Carleton. Maconachie worked in various engineering-related jobs before starting his own enterprise. And Power got help from her mom to invest in her career and build her brand.


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