Today’s Notable Young Professional is Jeff Blay, an expert in all things public affairs who’s been published everything from The Hockey News to The Globe and Mail. We caught up with him to find out what inspires his work and what advice he would share with other young professionals…
Describe what you do in less than 140 characters. Go.
I specialize in digital and public relations at Enterprise, a public affairs firm in Toronto. I communicate, advocate, strategize and promote.
What was the inspiration for your career route?
I’ve always had an interest in writing and current events, so it was a natural choice for me to take media foundation and journalism in college. I did a lot of blogging and social media work during that time and really got into the digital side. I spent a few years working as a multimedia journalist and I enjoyed experiencing the shift to social and digital storytelling.
That helped me in my decision to take a post-grad program in public relations. It may be the dark side, but it’s similar to journalism in a lot of ways. With the firm I’m at now, I get to work in PR, government relations, issues management, and digital with many different clients. Writing has always been the core inspiration for me, but whether it’s journalism or public affairs, it’s the variety, the new experiences, and the people that keep me inspired.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career so far?
Having my writing published in The Hockey News or The Globe and Mail has been pretty memorable, but recently it’s been the personal milestones – seeing how I’ve developed over the years and knowing that I’m part of a great team at my firm. Again, it comes down to the experiences and the people and I like where I’m at right now.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years?
I’d like to stay in agency for at least five years. You learn a lot and meet a lot of interesting people in this setting. In 10 or 20 years, who knows. Eventually, an in-house PR/communications role, ideally in an industry I’m passionate about: craft beer, hockey, sports… Those would be the dream jobs.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Work hard. Be open minded. Be loyal. Be social and network. It sounds cliché, but to be successful, you have to put in the time, be open to taking on new tasks and challenges, commit to people who take chances on you and make new friends and contacts whenever you get the opportunity.
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is it (or they) important to you?
I’ve supported different charities over the years, but lately I’ve been donating to the Movember campaign for men’s health. Two guys I got to know well during my time working in hockey battled testicular cancer (thankfully, they both recovered from it) so it’s something I’ve been close to and it’s an important issue to bring attention to.
What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
Getting into journalism at a major transitional period in the industry was challenging. I got to know a lot of great people who were impacted by newspaper cutbacks and eventually, I was one of those people. But I took it as an opportunity to go back to school for PR and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I love my job now and I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for my experience in journalism.
What does the word notable mean to you?
For me, notable means being recognized or respected for the things you do, the work you’ve done and the people you’ve impacted along the way.
Where is your favourite place to wine/dine in your city and why?
I’m a foodie who’s also obsessed with craft beer, wine, bourbon and coffee, so I’m always trying new places around Toronto. But my go-tos have to be Boxcar Social for all of the above and amazing charcuterie, The Comrade and Hoof Cocktail Bar for cocktails, and Grand Electric for tacos, beer and bourbon.
What’s the most visited website on your Internet browser? The most played song on your phone?
Probably Twitter. I pretty much live on there, monitoring for clients. Frank & Oak for online shopping. During hockey season, NHL.com. Most played song? Right now, probably something by Father John Misty.
Who’s one person you think everyone should be following on social media?
Jennifer Keesmaat, Toronto’s Chief City Planner. Maybe it’s just the nerd in me, but outspoken tweets about urban planning never get old.
What’s your favourite country to visit and why? And what’s the next one you plan on travelling to?
Country? Hard to say. But my favourite city is San Francisco. The history, music scene, food, craft beer, coffee, parks, nearby wine region… And my favourite sports teams – the San Francisco Giants and San Jose Sharks. Next trip: Maui, Hawaii.
What gives you the greatest FOMO?
If I don’t get to try the latest feature bag of coffee at Boxcar Social.
What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Shopping. No question.
What’s something you wish you didn’t spend so much money on? What’s something you wish you spent more on?
Less money: Rent. More: Travelling, or if I’m being responsible, saving.
And finally, what does success look like to you? Work, play, or otherwise…
To me, success is happiness, making the most of your time, doing the things you love and surrounding yourself with the people you enjoy. If you can find a career that accomplishes those things too, you’re laughing.