This year we’re taking you behind the scenes to see how PWC operates and hear from key people on the team. In this post, we connected with a member of our program advisory committee (PAC). Our PAC is composed of writing professionals who advise on what kinds of content we should be including in the program in order to stay current with industry standards. See our list of PAC members here.
Sharon Aschaiek is an experienced writer whose company Cocoa Media serves the higher education sector. She is online at www.cocoamedia.ca
What do you do as a member of the PWC Program Advisory Committee?
Together with the other members of the committee, I help shape the content and format of the PWC program by sharing my knowledge and insights as an independent communicator. Drawing on my experience of running a communication business since 2004, I share my perspective on the key expertise students need to know to excel as a professional freelance writer or communicator. Collectively, our PAC focuses on ensuring the PWC program is current and relevant, and optimally prepares students to succeed.
What are some industry aspects that the advisory committee discusses more regularly?
Writing and communications is a vast career area that touches on almost every type of sector and organization. This means the profession can be affected by a variety of forces and trends. Among the aspects of writing and communications trends and issues PAC members discuss are:
– how new and social media affects writers – how they gather information, how they market themselves, and the new kinds of employment opportunities available to them
– the strong need for writers to be able to translate complex research findings into easy-to-understand content
– in an employment environment that in many contexts features contract, part-time or freelance work, the value of having entrepreneurship skills
– the importance of effective storytelling not only in journalism, but in communications for all types of organizations
– how the evolution of the English language, particularly as influenced by social media and mobile technology, affects the way writers work
– how the shift in the format of communications to including more images, video and audio affects the perceived value of written communications, and the way writers do their jobs
– the importance for writers to understand how to be compliant with Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
What do you think is the benefit of having an advisory committee?
A program advisory committee helps ensure a program teaches the knowledge and skills students need to excel in their field. The PWC PAC provides guidance on how communications activities take place in organizations, what employers expect from their communications staff, what are the core elements of effective communications, and how writers can navigate and take advantage of the range of work opportunities in communications. The PAC is essentially like a direct connection to industry that offers insider information and insights on trends and opportunities in communications in order to best prepare students for the field.
Why did you agree to help out?
I enjoy being part of the PWC PAC because it’s very rewarding for me to help people succeed in a field that has been so good to me. I have been writing professionally since 2000, and have been freelancing since 2004, and my writing career has been deeply satisfying in many ways.
As a writer, I find storytelling to be a fun challenge, and I like being able to share important or inspiring stories that can influence how people think and feel. As an independent communicator, I enjoy the flexibility of choosing my clients, projects and hours. Being part of the PWC PAC allows me to share my passion and expertise for writing and communications, and to provide up-and-comers in the field with a strong foundation for their career.
You’ve also been a guest speaker in the program. What is your best advice to students as they enter the writing world?
As with all things in life, persistence is key. While there are many writers competing for jobs, there are also many opportunities, so keep job searching, prospecting and networking, stay current on trends in writing and communications, and keep practising your writing skills.
Market yourself and your strengths as a writer by consistently blogging and sharing your posts on social media. This not only helps promote your abilities as a writer, it allows you to practise your writing skills.
Whether or not you want to work for an organization or be a freelancer, it helps to have a specialty. Having a niche in an area of communications, e.g. in health-care writing, internal communications or email newsletters, allows you to stand out among employers. It can also help you command higher fees, since you have a specialty not everyone else has.
No matter where you land, be professional. Show up on time, complete every project according to word count and by deadline, be cooperative and helpful, share your (good) ideas, and go beyond your job description. Even if you aren’t (yet) the strongest writer, these qualities can help make you indispensable.
Consider working for yourself. It’s sensible to start your writing career at an organization to gain experience and contacts, and to see if this working style suits you. If it’s not your bag, remember that freelancing is a viable option that is less scary than you may think. Running a writing business lets you practise the skill you love on your own terms and enjoy potentially significant lifestyle and financial rewards.