With her thick rimmed glasses, curly, shoulder length hair and kind grin, Rachel Kellogg walked into a coffee shop in the north end of Toronto where we met for tea and talks in mid-September. Rachel, who is fluent in French, is a graduate of the University of Toronto’s English program and stems from a long line of academic professors, is getting ready to go back to school. Centennial College’s post-graduate Public Relations certificate program is calling the aspiring media mogul’s name. As a former manager at a small travel insurance company who later transitioned into a role at another organization in that same industry, Rachel isn’t changing course because she doesn’t feel she’s good at her job. Instead, she’s going back to school because she wants to be fulfilled.
“I was reading a journal I kept from 2012 and it said, ‘Maybe I’ll do a post-grad in PR,'” Rachel tells me. “I guess I always had it in the back of my mind…When I read my Twitter biography at the time, I realized I was describing myself as someone working in PR, not someone working as a manager at an insurance company.”
A creative type, Rachel had a blog where she would write about yoga, social media and gender issues. Though passionate about those topics, she worried her blog would lose steam, even though she had a love of writing. “I didn’t want any post to be stale,” she says.
Upon her searches for new site content, Rachel got wind of a friend of a friend named Gail Roberts, a professional makeup artist who has been featured in Make-up Artist Magazine and has done work for a major motion picture, set for release in 2014. Though skilled and driven, Rachel says it took more than a resumé for Gail to land her a job on the set of a movie. After hearing of a potential connection, the makeup artist decided to show how seriously she wanted a job, since traditional phone calls and follow-up e-mails failed.
Unable to deny her affection for this story, Rachel got in touch with Gail.
Soon, the social media guru came face to face with her “aha” moment. Rachel learned that she loved to write about career development. The search thereafter began for what Rachel would call her new website where her cool friends could write about the cool things they did, specifically focusing on the unconventional ways they found employment.
“I’ve never applied to a job the conventional way,” Rachel says. “Everybody has gotten me every job and I’ve gotten everybody everybody’s job.” The old “it’s who you know” motto led Rachel to part-time gigs at Baskin Robins and Starbucks as well as full-time employment in the insurance industry.
Thus, The Young Professionals Project (or #YoungProsProject) was born: A blog dedicated to “…super awesome young people [and] their professional pathways, stories, hiccups, triumphs and advice to others.”
With six interviews already on the site and 20 more in the pipeline, Rachel says though everyone she has talked to so far has been meaningful and uplifting, the most inspiring person she’s sat down with is Chet Tilokani, a 26-year-old filmmaker, photographer, entrepreneur and visual artist who isn’t afraid to show his (male) vulnerability. “Chet speaks what I believe in: ‘Do what you love and the money will come.'”
Rachel, who lives with her partner just west of Mount Pleasant Village in Toronto, also recently received her certification to teach yoga. As a dancer up until age 18, Rachel says she could not find an exercise as enjoyable until two years ago when she gave yoga practice a try. With yoga, Rachel enjoys that she can show up to a class and do the best she can, without having to worry if there are others pushing harder or burning more calories. She says, “I don’t need to feel overweight to be moved to work out.”
Once she picked up yoga, Rachel began writing more, publishing at least one post a day about the practice on her old blog. Describing herself as someone with high-anxiety who is also hard on herself, Rachel’s favourite yoga benefit is stress management. In class, it’s nice to hear, “It’s all okay!”
Whether or not her new-found love of yoga and motivation to write are directly correlated to her aspirations to become a communications professional, Rachel calls her new ambitions and achievements a labour of love. “A lot of what I’ve done this year has been unpaid,” she says, talking of the volunteer freelancing she has been doing for small non-profit organizations, like Literature for Life, and indie movies, like Look Again.
“My parents have actually done a lot of free work in political activism so that may have actually had an influence on me,” Rachel tells me in a follow up e-mail. “…Free work and labours of love are definitely things I grew up with.”
Corporate communications and public relations are two industries Rachel may never have thought to find herself exploring, especially since her mother, her father and many others in her family are university professors. Attending French Immersion schools throughout her childhood and teenage years and fulfilling society’s expectation of going to a prestigious university, Rachel thought she would end up in academia. Yet, here she is, “breaking the rules” and building her portfolio of experience to get ahead. This is all happening before her very first public relations class at Centennial.
If Rachel could go back and tell her 15-year-old self something important to help develop her future, it would be: “You don’t have to be an academic. Keep your eye on the Internet. It’s going to be crazy and you’re going to be really good at it. Never stop following your gut.”
For 20-somethings who maybe find themselves in Rachel’s shoes, craving change, she says, “The best thing a 20-something can do is not worry if they’re a little lost. It’s important that if you want change, you talk about it. Your family and friends will have the best advice for you.”
Do you know someone with an inspiring story to tell? Get in touch with us and we will do our best to feature them on A Quarter Young!