I moved to NYC in 1998. My husband was transferred to NYC with his job and I literally jumped for joy. How awesome for a small town girl from Halifax to have the chance to move to the Big Apple!
I took the first four months off to explore the city, get my bearings (many moments gazing up at large buildings wondering where I was). Drawn to a fast-paced approach to life, I applied for positions at all the top PR firms.
After going through the interview process, I lucked out by being offered a position at Ruder Finn, a privately owned, family-run international PR firm with an excellent reputation. I joined when Ruder Finn had just started a corporate reputation group. At the time we were three people (today, the group has over 50 members). We had big goals and targets. I worked 24/7 for the first few years and I was given a ton of opportunity. I got to know the office well and our growing team became my NYC family. It was fun and the PR skills I learned have shaped my career. The fact that I was Canadian made me “likable” with colleagues, clients and the media.
We moved back to Toronto seven years ago, having had three kids in NYC. My husband was a banker traveling all week long and I had a very busy career. We lived in a small apartment and knew that we would return one day to bring up our kids in Canada (Toronto), in an urban environment, where we could live downtown but in a house with a yard.
I dreamed of water fights in the backyard, a trampoline, and good old Canadian BBQs. The pace of life in NYC was so fast and fun, but also overwhelming for a good old Maritime gal.
As a working mom, it was great to have the flexibility to realize that you can work remotely, with little effort. After having my fourth child, and taking a bit of time off (well at least a few weeks), I then started my own consulting practice, MEG Communications. My hard work and experience paid off. Working for a large NYC-based agency was excellent training ground. It was sink or swim for sure, but my experience was fantastic. There were large budgets, and a ton of work, giving me the opportunity to show my smarts and truly learn from the best.
I think having international experience pays off. Having worked in the US, I worked on large accounts with international exposure that opened my eyes to the world. I came back to Toronto feeling confident, knowing that I had skills that would translate easily and give me a competitive edge when re-entering the Canadian PR world. I was right. I think the one thing I returned with was the ability to take risks, look outside of my boundaries and go for it.
PR agencies are looking for experience and they love to know you’ve worked abroad. NYC is the mecca for PR and as a hub, the bigger agencies have international clients. It’s definitely cut-throat, but if you’re smart, hard working and driven, you will garner a tonne of experience that will translate when you return to Canada.
Martha Grant is now the chief communications officer at Public Inc.