Jeffrey Vallis is a freelance writer and communications specialist living in Toronto.

Thoughts and reflections on my life and work.

Thoughts and reflections on my life and work.

Career advice from culture connoisseurs


When I saw the poster for the second (annual?) Culture Workers Unwind event at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema in Toronto, featuring a sassy martini glass with a call out to culture workers, I knew I would fit right in. After all, who doesn’t enjoy unwinding over cocktails with peers from time to time?

Chris McDonald, president of Hot Docs, moderated the discussion and speakers included:

It was so inspiring to sit in a room with some of the most influential figures in the Toronto arts scene and bask in their passion and creativity. Each speaker shared advice and insights from their career, and I furiously took notes so I wouldn’t forget a word. I’ve included some of my favourite gems below.

In talking about what she looks for in talent, Heather Conway said:

“Curiosity is the opposite of ego. Someone who is curious knows they don’t know everything."
“You have to have resilience and optimism, or you won’t survive.”

Heather had a lot of interesting points. She said she’d learned so much about leadership in her career and the most significant lesson is that leadership is very different than management and if your employees are failing; it’s your fault.

Stephan Jost shared a life lesson from his grandfather, which reinforces the idea that you don't need to know or be good at everything.

"In most things in life, it’s OK to be second to last. Don't be last because it attracts too much attention, but it’s OK to be second to last."

Josephine Ridge emphasized the importance of speaking up and having your say.

“Have the confidence to say anything. All of our opinions matter. Never be frightened of putting your different perspectives on the table and demanding to be heard. The people I notice are the people who make me notice them. The people who go the extra yard, use initiative, and ask questions.”

And a couple of final things to think about when applying for a job or going for a job interview.

“At the end of the day, I want to know you’re the most interesting person with the most interesting future. Curiosity is a big factor.” - Stephan Jost
“Be willing to stand in a space no one else is willing to stand in.” - Olivia Nuamah

Do you have any career lessons or insights to share?