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Emerge Magazine

Crisis managing your way to confidence

I worked in a number of work-study positions at the University of Guelph-Humber, including being a START and FYE leader throughout my years of study from 2015 to 2019. I really loved the sense of community and the work environment I experienced, and that’s what led to me to apply for the Communications and Public Relations Internship in the fall of fourth year.

It’s kind of funny, but the week of my interview for the position I actually met the person interviewing me (who’s now my boss) at the Ontario University Fair and we bonded over gluten-free cookies and talking about how the fair had been so far. Because of the fair, she remembered me at the interview, and it wasn’t as scary trying to talk to her.

I was hired a week later and have been with the department since, having taken on more responsibility and opportunities.

I hit the ground running. As the Communications and Public Relations Intern, I worked closely with the manager in a department of two, so the work required was a lot of very fast hands-on learning. I ran the social media channels, did media monitoring for the university, created graphic designs for internal and external communications, supported the development of the brand guide, assisted in running a few events on campus and represented the university at meetings with our partners at Humber College and the University of Guelph.

It’s hard to describe what a typical day in the life would be like because I don’t think I had two days that were alike in the role. I started most days by with creating a social media report to share with our other university social media channels, highlighting anything of interest as well sharing social media awareness days or hashtags the other channels might wish to use. After that, I would post relevant content to our social media channels and monitor them throughout the day.

Some days the focus was on managing editorial calendars and planning out social media content; other days it was graphic design and creating promotional materials, sometimes it was copy writing and coding on the website or running an event in the atrium.

There was never a dull moment and that’s why I enjoyed it so much. One of the most memorable moments was when I had the opportunity to manage a crisis communications situation.

My manager had left for the day–and was actually about to board a plane to go on a vacation–and I was left at the office alone for the first time. Then a main water pipe on campus broke, and it went from a ‘Don’t worry there is nothing to see here’ situation to a ‘We need to get everyone off campus ASAP’ one.

No one really knew who I was–I just was an intern–but because I was the only one in the department, I had to coordinate the communications. I worked closely with our counterparts at Humber College and the staff at UofGH to get messages out quickly to students and staff so everyone could get off campus safely.

It was a small moment or blip for a lot of people that day but for me, it’s where I feel like my career officially launched.

Before my internship, I always had doubts that perhaps I wasn’t good enough for a demanding role, and questioned whether media and communications was the right career path for me, but problem-solving the broken pipe crisis made me realize that I was and could. I realized that I had the skills needed to be successful in this industry.

My advice to undergraduate students would be: don’t be afraid to try. It’s scary to go after your dreams – but it’s scarier to constantly wonder “What if?”

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Jamie Vergara (she/her) is a multifaceted creative who combines her love of the arts and writing into her career in communications. She works full-time as the Communications and Public Relations Assistant at the University of Guelph-Humber and is also as a proud Media Studies alumna who graduated in 2019 with an area of emphasis in Media Business. She was the public relations coordinator for Emerge 2019's memorable "Through Media to Justice!" symposium event. Even when the work day is over, her inspiration to create never takes a day off and she can be often found writing poetry, making music and Youtube videos or smiling at a good cup of coffee. Feel free to say hi via her Instagram @_heyitsjai.

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