Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hip + Urban Girl of the Week: Melissa Shin

I met Melissa 2 years ago and we instantly clicked. She reminded me of myself when I was 27... dedicated to climbing the corporate ladder, focused on personal growth and ready to conquer the world with a master plan. So when I found out that she won the Canadian Women In Communications Award, I wasn't the least bit surprised. Watch out world, Melissa is a rising star!

Tell us more about the CWC Awards. You are the youngest recipient (27 years old!) to be recognized for Excellence In Leadership, congrats!

Thank you! Canadian Women in Communications (CWC) is a national, bilingual organization dedicated to advancing women in the communications sector. They do this by providing professional development opportunities, such as a mentor pairing program; and holding networking events and educational workshops. The CWC Annual Awards honour those who have demonstrated outstanding achievements, leadership and support in the communications and technology industries.

I won the 2012 award in the Emerging Leader category, and accepted it April 16 in Ottawa.

How does one get nominated?

I asked my boss to nominate me. No one’s going to take control of your career for you, and sometimes you simply have to ask for what you want. Thankfully, he said yes.

He’s an industry veteran, and has been willing to mentor and teach me. He’ll walk me through his critiques of my writing, which is rare -- many editors (and bosses) just make changes without explaining them. I’ve learned a lot as a result. He’s also encouraged me to mentor my staff members.

When thinking about changing jobs, consider not only the company and the work, but also for whom you’ll be working. I took my current role because I could tell my boss cares about my professional growth.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

As editor-in-chief of a business magazine. I also plan to do more board work. I’m currently the treasurer of Point of View magazine. Within five years I want to join an environmental NGO board; within 10, a corporate board. Clara Shih, a 29-year-old Silicon Valley entrepreneur, just joined the Starbucks board, which really inspires me.

Boards are powerful, yet few contain a representative mix of men, women, youth, and people of colour. I want to change that, not just because boards should reflect the populations they serve, but also because studies show diversity increases business competitiveness.

Where are your favourite places to shop in the city?

I’m petite, so grown-up clothing choices are limited. Style blogs like Extra Petite and Alterations Needed emphasize the importance of clothes that truly fit. For instance, I’m finally buying size 33 shoes (until a year ago, I was swimming in size 35s).

Now, I carefully consider purchases, and factor in alteration costs. I shop the children’s section at Payless for flats (bonus: no GST!), but I have to order heels from Pretty Small Shoes in the UK. I get work clothes from H&M, Dynamite, and Club Monaco. For casuals, Aeropostale’s jeans fit off the rack, and Spoof on Queen St. W has cute dresses. I’d love to support local designers who make petite-friendly shoes and clothes.

I cook a lot. I shop at Loblaws at Queen and Portland, Lucky Moose in Chinatown, and Bulk Barn at Yonge and College. I also joined a CSA called Black Sheep Farm, which will deliver me organic, local veggies this summer!

Tell us about your neighbourhood and what you like best about it.

I live between King and Queen West. I’m close to great shops and restaurants, and nicely sandwiched between several streetcar lines. I can also walk 15 minutes south and be at the lake. I walk or take transit everywhere, which lets me discover intricate street art in alleyways or pop-up markets in parks.

What did you study in university and if you could do it all over again, would you do things differently?

I studied international business at Schulich at York University, and I’d do it again. A business degree is a great foundation for any career, including journalism. I went on exchange in Paris for four months, and joined the student newspaper, which allowed me to discover my passion.

I would’ve met more people in different circles. In a professional program, you’re often isolated from others on campus. Luckily, I lived in a residence populated by science and kinesiology students, and the people I met are some of my closest friends today.

University should broaden your perspective, which can’t happen if you’re always reading textbooks or hanging out with like-minded folk.

What advice do you have for hip + urban girls trying to break into "serious" journalism?

The lines between “serious” journalism and blogging/social media/crowd-sourcing are blurring. So, break in by being a meticulous researcher and a strong writer, and understanding new media. If you can write code, shoot video, or edit podcasts, as well as craft good stories, you’ll be in demand.

Read voraciously: fiction, non-fiction, modern, classic. Challenge yourself to write something every day, be it in a journal or blog.

Write about something you understand. Business journalism isn’t glamorous, but I’ve become an expert a lot quicker than if I were a general reporter.

Write for pay as soon as possible. Avoid serial internships, because employers will wonder why you aren’t pursuing professional growth.

Apply for fellowships and awards even if you think you don’t have a chance. Join listservs and associations (e.g. Toronto Freelance Editors and Writers; Canadian Journalism Foundation). Follow up with influencers you meet; I often offer to help aspiring writers, and it amazes me how few keep in touch after first contact.

And once you have influence, help others. As Madeleine Albright said, “There's a place in hell reserved for women who don't help other women.”

Finally, use your experiences to create a brand for yourself; you’re pitching it to everyone you meet. You never know when you’ll meet someone who can give you that big break.

Follow Melissa on Twitter @melissagshin @advisorca and find her on LinkedIn

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