Building Confidence in Students Entering the Workplace

Inspiring future generations to take up space, set dream career goals, and succeed in their industries

Mount Saint Vincent University’s Public Relations program prepares students for the realities of the PR industry by offering both traditional and innovative options to explore in the field. Through practical skill-building in the classroom as well as a co-operative education work placement, students leave MSVU with applicable work experience and developed skills that they can immediately put to good use in their chosen career. Graduates of this program can work as event managers, crisis communicators, social media influencers, advocates, spokespersons, community relations officers, media managers and in many other communication roles.

Recent graduate Liz Duff says the PR program isn’t a traditional bachelor’s degree experience, but  she wouldn’t have it any other way. Between content shoots before sunrise and caffeine-driven events that last days, Duff dove headfirst into the life of a PR practitioner. 

It’s become more important than ever for storytelling to take the driver’s seat in marketing and media.

The program isn’t easy, but “it sets you up for the workforce with a levelled expectation of what you like, and more importantly, what you don’t like to do,” explains Duff.

The rewards of the PR program don’t present themselves in one grand gesture. Rather, Duff says, they creep in during  memorable moments, like while she was volunteering at tapings of CBC’s This Hour Has 22 Minutes. Starting in her first semester, this was Duff’s first taste of working in production, one that was made possible by the connections MSVU gives its students. The opportunity to stay with the show for five years, and her experience working with the team in the university’s Digital Media Zone, proved to Duff that she was leaving MSVU with the skillset and confidence that she needed to make it in the industry. 

This confidence was built not only through experience, but also through the university staff’s devotion to students. “Support staff remember moments like the big interview and are the first to ask you how it went,” Duff elaborates. “Every step of the journey, I knew I had people in my corner who not only wanted me to succeed but took the time to learn and remember what I wanted to achieve.”

Another aspect of MSVU that Duff didn’t realize she would appreciate so much was how the university was founded with the goal of advancing women in education. “That legacy feels very ingrained in the academic culture of the school,” she says, “and I loved learning from so many professors who supported and encouraged feminist thinking. It provided great perspectives to enter the workforce with.” 

Now Duff is a producer at TechTO, Canada’s largest tech community, where people learn, grow and support one another through shows. She reflects on everything she’s learned in her degree, and sees that even in a post-pandemic world virtual shows and media will always have a place in the landscape. Strategizing on what that evolution looks like, and being able to bring a PR perspective to the table that is grounded in community building, has been incredibly rewarding for Duff. 

“It’s become more important than ever for storytelling to take the driver’s seat in marketing and media,” she says. “PR practitioners have a very specific skill set for telling stories that matter to the people they matter most to.” 

Duff currently shares her experiences from the PR program and her professional life on TikTok @producerliz, where she circulates the various goals and ambitions of young women in PR, in hopes that she can inspire the next generation of women to take up space in upcoming conversations about career goal setting and pursuit.