by Brittney Ashley
Olivia Yu never thought sourcing a cow for an event would be part of her career in corporate communications. But she says being able to laugh and have fun is essential to success in her field. “You get called in to do a lot of crazy things,” said Yu, a graduate of Centennial’s Corporate Communications and Public Relations program.
Yu needed a cow to roam a life-size roulette board for a 4H club fundraiser. “We were selling tickets like a 50/50 lottery. Wherever the cow went, that was the winning number,” said Yu, a consultant at Environics Communications in Toronto.
Yu’s sense of humour has taken her far since graduating from Centennial in 2002. From her internship at Direct Energy, to the financial services team at Environics, Yu depends on the skills and advice she received at Centennial.
“I think the biggest thing I took from Centennial is network, network, network. Every single job I’ve had has been from networking. I didn’t believe it as a student. But, seriously, you have to do it,” says Yu.
Yu made important contacts as a volunteer on the Canadian Public Relations Society student committee. Volunteering, which is stressed at Centennial, can also help budding public relations professionals gain valuable skills.
“Volunteering counts because people want to know, ‘What have you done?’ And, if you respond, ‘I’ve been a student,’ that’s the wrong answer because you could always volunteer,” said Yu.
Charities are happy to let students gain experience writing news releases, a skill Yu uses all the time.
She credits Centennial with her knowledge of other useful skills, such as graphic and web design. “Just knowing terminology, like what a pixel is, puts you on better footing with suppliers. You can talk on the same wavelength. You know what you’re asking for,” says Yu.
Pixels and HTML may seem foreign to some, but Yu says it is crucial to remain open-minded in the corporate communications field.
Yu never thought she would like working at a PR agency. But she began craving a fast-paced environment. “So I went to an agency and I thought, ‘This is kind of cool,’” said Yu. “Don’t shoot down opportunities that you think are so not you, because you never know what you’ll like until you try.”