Raphaela Mandel is a Publicist for eCompliance and is based in Toronto, Canada. She has experience in fashion, sports, entertainment, and non-profit PR. She graduated from McMaster University and completed the Humber College PR program.
Connect with Raphaela: LinkedIn
How did you break into the communications industry, and how did you advance to where you are today?
My goodness. It’s a little terrifying to look back and see how I broke into the industry. I truly owe it to hard work, my relentless attitude, constant support from my friends and family and one special individual—Solmaz from The Curious Creature. She reached out to me when I was a wee little student in university and DM’d me on Twitter saying: “I saw your profile said ‘Aspiring #PR pro’. Do you want to help out with an event?” Naturally, I said yes.
My path was incredibly… different, I would say. After graduating from Humber PR, I moved home and decided to take a chance on working in sports. I worked for the OHL Niagara IceDogs for a full season and it taught me many things, both personally and career-wise. I ended up taking a part-time gig during the playoff season with Sportsnet thanks to a wonderful lady and gentleman, Storie Serres and Taylor Shold.
I then took a leap to work in an agency and truly didn’t love it. I took another leap to the SaaS safety technology industry. Looking back on a few months ago, I am so glad I made the decisions I did to end up where I am today.
Did you find your education provided a helpful background when you started your career?
I believe my education both from McMaster University and Humber PR did help when it came to starting my career. But nothing compares to the real deal. While studying at Humber, there’s a crap ton of pressure and there’s help when you need it but they also teach you how to be resourceful and to trust yourself. Both very big lessons in and of themselves. I would say that they both gave me a strong foundation and I wouldn’t be where I am without it.
What was your first job after graduation and how did you land it?
My first job was at rock-it promotions inc. where I worked as a Publicity Intern and let me tell you, it’s a downright amazing team. Deb is a fierce leader and I still consider her a role model. She leads the team with such grace and poise and she’s honestly such a wonderful human. The team I worked on fueled me to become who I am today. I remember looking back and thinking, “Wow, who the heck was I before this?”
Shout-out to Michelle Easton, Mary Dunne, Kate Makinson, Sheri Clish and literally the whole team. You all inspired me in one way or another. And of course, I hold a special place in my heart for another lady, Dinah Deif. We’re still in contact, she’s been a serious inspiration, and was there when I needed her most. Thank you.
So how did I land it? I worked my butt off and networked until I was blue in the face. I reached out to Michelle Easton, a Humber PR alumni, and said, “Can we grab a coffee? I want to learn more about rock-it.” The rest is history.
What has been your approach to networking?
My approach to networking isn’t cookie cutter. It varies based on where I am, who I’m talking to, what position they hold, how casual the event/location is and how much I may or may not know them. The best approach I usually take is to be my genuine self. This is who they want to see; not some fake version of who you’re trying to be.
Take big leaps and don’t be afraid of the outcome. Want to talk to that CEO of a company you’re eyeing? Do it. Craft the best email. Get their attention. I’ve done it. It works.
What is your best piece of advice for someone who is about to begin working for a PR agency?
Keep an open mind and know you don’t have to stay in agency if you don’t want to. It takes a specific type of person to work in agency and it’s not for everyone. But I do encourage people to consider it as a part of their career path.
What are some important lessons you learned while job hunting?
First, don’t give up hope. It’s tough as heck, let me tell you. I’ve cried a lot and I’ve almost given up many times. It’s important to remind yourself why you started in the first place. Second, be open to new opportunities and new areas. I never thought I’d work in the SaaS industry specializing in safety technology. But here I am, loving every minute of it.
What is something a PR newbie can do to bulk up their resume?
Something they could do is to reflect on every volunteering gig they’ve done involving the PR world. Showing you devote your free, and usually unpaid, time shows you have what it takes. It shows you care about the world of PR and you’re doing what you can to learn more.
What advice do you have for a new graduate who is having difficulty finding stable employment?
Two words: you will. At one point or another, you will get there. Everyone has a different path. Do not compare yourself to other people—it’s the thief of happiness. Keep going, no matter what.
What have you found to be the most important thing to keep in mind when working in a team environment?
Always remember your opinion isn’t always the right one. Be open to ideas. Take constructive criticism and don’t take it personally. Remind yourself you have an opportunity to be inspired by wonderful teammates who want you to grow.
What is the greatest professional challenge you faced and how did you deal with it?
The greatest challenge for me was figuring out what I wanted to do and where I wanted to work. I thought working in sports was my birthright. I was wrong. I thought I wanted to work in fashion and entertainment. Wrong again. I went through a lot of professional growth simply trying to find what made me happy. I realized it’s okay to not know where you’re going and to just roll with the punches.
Is work-life balance possible and how do you achieve it?
I think there’s no such thing as a true “balance.” Everyone has a different definition for everyone. For me, I devote my commute time to doing what makes me smile. Whether that’s listening to a podcast, catching up on Game of Thrones or other shows, or listening to music. I try to remind myself my time is precious. I make time for myself when I’m home as well. Instead of just jumping on the phone, I put it down and spend time with my pup or my family.
What’s been your most rewarding career accomplishment thus far?
Thus far? I’d probably say having our team, eCompliance, be ranked #101 on the Growth 500 list in 2018. Getting that email was truly a highlight of my career to date. It was a huge team effort but knowing I had a hand in the process made it a little more special. Being a part of this amazing team is a highlight of its own but the award was the cherry on top.
When do you know it’s the right time to move on from a job?
I say this to anyone in any industry. If it’s no longer challenging you, you’re not learning anything, and you dread coming to work—move on. Point blank. I don’t take any “Oh, but this happened and it’s great!” There’s always going to be the “but this” type of situation and you’ll never be truly happy.
When you make a mistake at work, what steps do you take to fix it?
First, don’t freak out. Remind yourself you’re human and you make mistakes. Second, evaluate what the problem is, what your plan is to fix it and how you plan to inform your management team about it. Don’t approach it with: “I messed up”. Approach it where you present the solution to an issue versus starting with the problem.
How do you see the communications landscape evolving? What are the future trends?
The landscape literally changes every single week, it feels. The media world is always changing because of how technologically advanced our generations are becoming. Yes, I said generations, because it’s everyone. I see it continuing to evolve in the tech space where everything is online and print, unfortunately, becomes a smaller market.
Future trends definitely involve how we’re tracking PR efforts. I see teams not only tracking UMV numbers but also what percentage of sales are due to a PR influence. Understanding the ROI of PR from a sales perspective is huge and the more external teams understand our influence, the more they understand its importance.
Describe a typical day of work for you. What are your key responsibilities?
This truly makes me laugh because every day is honestly so different. I say this all the time and all PR people will say the same. It’s different. It’s dependent on what’s going on with a campaign or with a launch. My key responsibilities include checking emails (they never end), checking incoming PR opportunities and reviewing Google Alerts, checking in with our social media channels for engagement, engaging with members of our online Safety Nerd Community and of course, trying to breathe.
What are the best ways to stay up-to-date with industry trends?
There are so many ways I struggle to keep up! Twitter is my best friend. Read the paper, online or in print. Do your research and subscribe to websites/newsletters from PR News Daily. Be curious! Take some time to read about what social media channel is doing what. It’s usually pretty cool. I also encourage people to read Strategy Daily—they have some amazing campaigns they review and it’s very inspiring.
Is there anything else you can tell us about yourself, your career, or the PR industry that would be interesting or helpful to students and new grads?
I’ll finish this with one thing I mentioned earlier: everyone has a different path and it’s okay to not be on the same one. Don’t compare yourself. Be the best possible version of yourself. Be true to who you are. Follow your gut and follow your dreams, no matter how difficult it may be. My path was quite… wild.
I went from working in fashion and entertainment to sports to a coffee shop to an agency to SaaS safety technology. There’s no “right way” or “wrong way”. Do what makes you happy. It’s your life. No one else’s.