Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gals We Admire: Caitlin Kelly


Caitlin Kelly was born in Vancouver, raised in Toronto and Montreal , and has called New York "home" for over 20 years. Find out what the accomplished expat, who is also the author of Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail, has to say about life as a freelance writer and professional speaker.

Name: Caitlin Kelly
Profession: Writer, Speaker

Describe your typical work day, from start to finish
There’s no typical day, really. I read three newspapers every morning, New York Post, Wall Street Journal and New York Times and then jump into a variety of tasks, from lining up speaking engagements, talking to my agent, working on book proposals or freelance articles, meeting with possible interview subjects or business partners interested in Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail, the book I wrote about working retail. Some days I attend networking events to meet new people and get the word out about my skills. I don’t have kids, so I tend to be work-focused.

When you were a kid, what did you want to grow up to be?
A writer or a radio host.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love digging up and telling stories that others have overlooked or told poorly. I like seeing patterns in our economy and culture and drawing those threads together into a narrative. I love meeting and talking to such a wide variety of people – in my work, I’ve met or spoken to everyone from Queen Elizabeth to convicted felons.

What do you find to be the biggest challenge in your profession?
It is changing as I write this, and the old models just don’t work for most of us anymore. Jobs in print journalism are very hard to get and freelancing demands a lot of hustle.

Do you believe you had a "calling" for your profession?
Absolutely. I’ve considered other professions, but know that this is what I do best.

What are the three most important pieces of career advice you would give to other Canadian Career Gals?
Never give up. I left Canada for the U.S. in 1989 – and arrived in New York City for the first (of three in 20 years) recession. I did not have job and knew no one here. It was not easy to re-invent myself, but I have. If you have talent, drive and good people skills, you’ll make it anywhere.

Know your strengths and play to them. My best writing combines deep reporting and analysis with emotional truth. I’m not a political or science or health writer, even those are all very good jobs. By staying focused on what you do best, you’ll stand out from the pack.

Assemble and use a "board of directors" to help you work best. I’ve used a career coach, six agents, therapists , lawyers and others to help me stay focused and to resolve tough issues as they arise. None of us have all the skills we need to succeed – but find good, smart and reliable people to augment yours.


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