Shortly after graduating from the University of Alberta in Nursing, Noreen Flanagan took a 12-month trip, which she mostly spent asking people what they did for a living and whether they loved it.
On her journey, Flanagan met a journalist in the back of a rickshaw in Nepal. They were writing a story about a health clinic, where Flanagan later volunteered. Shortly after, she returned to Canada inspired and went on to become ELLE Canada’s Editor in Chief.
On Jan. 14, Flanagan sat down at Union Gallery with MUSE Magazine’s Editor in Chief Abi Conners, ArtSci ’16, for a live Q&A with aspiring journalists and fashion forecasters amongst the Queen’s community. Conners described Flanagan as easy to work with and eager to be there.
“She definitely blew me out of the water with her elegance and her eloquence,” Conners said.
“I felt like my conversation with her was really authentic and I hope that came through to the audience and if it did I would say the event was very successful.”
— Noreen Flanagan (@Noreen_Flanagan) January 15, 2016
The two discussed Flanagan’s circuitous path, her experiences with ELLE Canada and her break into journalism.
“For me the biggest takeaway was to lead an authentic life and to grab opportunity wherever it may present itself,” Conners said.
Flanagan’s path to ELLE Canada winded through a small newspaper on Vancouver Island, router sales in Toronto and eventually Flare magazine, along with another 12-month trip.
“Every family needs someone who is not so practical,” Flanagan said. If it seems hard to imagine the Editor in Chief of one of Canada’s largest fashion magazines as the impractical one, Flanagan’s brother is Queen’s own Dean of Law.
Still, Flanagan’s path is perhaps more practical than she let on to the room. Although a degree in nursing may not be necessary for a career in journalism, Flanagan described her experience soliciting stories from emergency room patients as surprisingly useful.
“That’s the thing about life,” Flanagan said. “As you wend your way along, experiences that you’ve had that you think are completely irrelevant can be extremely helpful.”
Flanagan ultimately broke into the magazine industry as a health editor at Flare, leaning on both her healthcare experience and enthusiasm for excellent storytelling. Since her move to ELLE Canada, Flanagan has integrated their print and online teams, which she considers her biggest professional accomplishment.
All this from the girl who felt like an imposter sitting in her first journalism class and telling her peers that she’d practiced nursing, instead of English.
Although Flanagan didn’t endorse a blind or careless attitude towards one’s own future, she advised relaxing our grips on our “five-year plans”.
Flanagan’s parting advice to the room: “A little bit of tumble-weeding and a little bit of planning will serve you well.”
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