“Stepping out of your comfort zone can be the catalyst to discovering new skills and talents – or even passions – and lay the groundwork for the next step in your career.”
By Lisa LaFlamme
As a journalist for almost 30 years now, I’ve had the great privilege of a front-row seat to history on so many world events. With that privilege comes the responsibility of conveying the impact of these events to Canadians – of sharing the deeply personal stories of the people directly affected by these events, fairly and accurately. Those people, many of whom have never had a voice, put their trust in me and it is a responsibility I never take lightly.
For me, the dream of being a journalist started in grade school. I knew early on that I wanted to be a reporter – and more specifically, a foreign correspondent. I am grateful to have enjoyed a rich and rewarding career so far. The broadcast industry, like so many other businesses today, is facing a tectonic shift as we work to connect so-called ‘legacy media’ with the digital world. It’s a challenge that keeps things interesting and fluid – the exact reasons I chose this career in the first place. My best advice to anyone trying to find their own path is to choose something you love. If you chase your passion and not a pay cheque, it will pay off in the end.
Some other career advice I would offer includes:
The first news story I ever covered was a psychic fair in my hometown of Kitchener Ontario. I had been working part time as a radio reporter, doing the 4 a.m. shift on Saturdays and Sundays. At the time, TV and Radio stations were in the same newsroom, and the TV assignment editor asked if I could pull a TV shift that evening to cover a sick leave. Until that point, I had never done anything on TV before. The nerves helped me and I never looked back. (the psychic, btw, saw flags of the world in my future which played into my dream of foreign correspondence!)
Stepping out of your comfort zone can be the catalyst to discovering new skills and talents – or even passions – and lay the groundwork for the next step in your career. Be prepared and willing to step up, put your hand up, don’t be afraid to work hard, and take on some risk.
As a journalist, I know I’m very lucky to have an outlet for the curiosity I was born with. In any career path, curiosity can help transform everyday tasks into interesting and enjoyable experiences. Using your powers of observation inevitably helps in making connections with others, and can bring discovery and even joy, to the work you do.
Inspiration is everywhere
I was in and out of Afghanistan between 2006 and 2011, spending a lot of time with the most oppressed segments of the population: women and girls. I’ve met so many young girls who risk their lives every day just walking to school. To the Taliban or any other oppressor, education is a threat. Grade school girls know that if they live long enough to graduate, it will be against all odds. But it’s a risk they have to take. Their stories have made a real difference in my life. Pay attention to the people around you. Listen to their stories and ask questions. Finding out about the challenges other people face can teach you something important about yourself.
More than ever people lead busy, stressful lives. But no matter how busy you are, the most important thing you can do is to give back. Motivation is “an inside job.” When you volunteer your time and talent to a cause you feel passionate about, it can have the restorative effect of reframing your perspective, and help you grow as a person. I try to spend time every year working with an aid organization like Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), a dedicated group of journalists who work with local reporters around the world to mentor, train and help overcome significant obstacles – from a lack of basic resources to government intimidation and corruption – to report their stories fairly and safely. Last year I traveled with JHR to the Democratic Republic of Congo and worked with young female journalists who face unspeakable daily threats. These women live in fledgling democracies, handcuffed by a corrupt system where war defines the way of life, and where sexual violence is commonplace. Each time I work with JHR, I am reminded why I got into this business – to shine a spotlight on those darkened corners. The people I’ve met have provided me with some of the most defining moments of my life, along with some of my most humbling and inspiring life experiences.
Interested in getting access to role models like Lisa? Visit our upcoming events page and see what speakers we have lined up this season!