Adrienne Clarke has more than 15 years of commitment to the nonprofit sector. As the Director of Content at United Way Greater Toronto, she leads a team that is responsible for brand management, content marketing, and creative and editorial direction. There, she also led the creative development of the “It Looks Like Me” campaign, which won an Applied Arts magazine Photography and Illustration Award in 2017. She is also responsible for the conception and development of the first-ever national content campaign for the United Way Centraide movement. Previously, she ran her own non-profit consulting practice providing content strategy and writing expertise. Most recently, she launched LocalLove.ca, a magazine-style website designed to help people live well and do good. It is the first content destination of its kind in Canada conceived and developed by a non-profit.
My first job ever was… A donut finisher at Tim Hortons. Seriously. It was a thing. That was back in the day when they still baked the donuts fresh every morning. I’d take the trays of still-warm, naked donuts and fill them with jelly, dust them with sugar, dip them in chocolate. That job taught me a lot about hard work, perseverance, and a commitment to excellence no matter what the work—whether it’s the launch of a new brand or just dressing a donut, you always bring your best.
I chose my career path because… When I look back at the decisions I’ve made in my working life, they all have a common theme and have (haphazardly) created a career path I never consciously charted. Everything I’ve done has always been about telling authentic human stories that mean something to people and inspire them to understand others and to make a difference in the world. I admire women who chart a career path and consciously seek opportunities to get them to their ultimate destination. In contrast, I floated along blissfully bouncing from one thing to another that challenged me, brought me satisfaction, learning and joy. The unvarnished truth is I didn’t “chose” a career path, it chose me.
“Everything I’ve done has always been about telling authentic human stories that mean something to people and inspire them to understand others and to make a difference in the world. I admire women who chart a career path and consciously seek opportunities to get them to their ultimate destination.”
My proudest accomplishment is… That’s a tough one. On a personal level, my kids are a huge accomplishment. But I can’t claim a lot of the credit. They are amazing human beings and that’s because they were beautiful, kind, funny, generous spirits when they arrived. All I did was not ruin them (well, not yet anyway). In work, the creation of LocalLove.ca is likely my proudest accomplishment. It’s a labour of love and I have the tremendous privilege of getting to do it with a completely rad group of women who inspire me and make me feel smarter just being around them.
My boldest move to date was… Wearing white after Labour Day?
I surprise people when I tell them… I never surprise people. I’m too much of an open book. I’m always telling stories, including ones about myself, so there’s never anything left uncovered.
My best advice to people starting their career is… Relax. You’ll figure it out. It’s a long way to retirement.
My best advice from a mentor was… Don’t let perfection get in the way of great.
I would tell my 20-year old self… You do NOT look good in red lipstick. Stop trying.
My biggest setback was… I’m in the business of ideas and sometimes they’re big ideas that I fall in love with. I’m so committed and in love with some ideas and I’m ready to settle down and have kids with them. When they don’t work out, for whatever reason, it’s a killer. It can be soul-crushing when you’ve nurtured the idea, brought others along on the ride and then just as you feel like you’re about to get lift you hit a roadblock and the idea never takes off. There’s been a few in my career that have dealt me some soul-crushing blows.
I overcame it by… It took me a while but I figured out that you need some time to let yourself mourn an idea you’ve loved and then let it go. Ideas are like all the relationships you’ve had in your life that never worked out: they’re great while they last but the timing wasn’t right and after all is said and done you’re a different (and more resilient) person than you were before. The next great idea is out there and when they work out it’s a beautiful thing. Seeing LocalLove.ca come to life has been exhilarating for that reason. It feels like all the stars aligned and I’m walking down the aisle with the right idea at the right time. Did I go too far with the relationship analogy?
“Ideas are like all the relationships you’ve had in your life that never worked out: they’re great while they last but the timing wasn’t right and after all is said and done you’re a different (and more resilient) person than you were before. The next great idea is out there and when they work out it’s a beautiful thing.”
Work/life balance is… Unattainable. Balance would suggest there’s a fulcrum point that you can find on which all things weigh equally on either side, as if I only expend 50% of myself at work and 50% is reserved for “life”. As if! You’ll always jump from one side of the scale to the other but I don’t believe you ever truly find balance. All you really do is figure out when to jump.
If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… Anything about me, but you’d probably find out a lot about a botanist in Australia with the same name.
I stay inspired by… Listening to smart people talk about big ideas. I’m a total podcast junkie. Right now, I’m obsessed with Still Processing from the New York Times. I feel smarter just downloading it.
The future excites me because… Beyoncé, Hillary Clinton, Samantha Bee, Robyn Doolittle, Melinda Gates, Indra Nooyi, etc. etc. etc. These women and so many others make me excited about what the future holds. #TheFutureIsFemale
My next step is… To pour another cup of coffee and get back to business.