Deacon Spotlight: Hilary Burns

Hilary Burns (2014 BA in Communications)

Hilary Burns headshot

Hilary Burns (’14)

Reporter at the Charlotte Business Journal in Charlotte, NC

Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

I am a reporter covering banking and entrepreneurship for the Charlotte Business Journal. I write about some of the largest banks in the country and the entrepreneurs building tomorrow’s companies. I’m particularly interested in how technology is changing the banking industry. My days consist of interviews with high-profile executives, newsmakers and community leaders. My goal is to write stories that make an impact.

What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

Serving as the editor-in-chief of Wake Forest’s student newspaper the Old Gold & Black prepared me for working in a professional newsroom. The late nights spent piecing together a newspaper read by students, faculty and alumni taught me how to work under deadlines, manage crises and collaborate with my peers to produce a quality newspaper. We covered topics ranging from LGBTQ inclusion to stagnating faculty salaries and increased the paper’s online and print readership. Working for the OGB made me realize I would never be bored if I pursued a career in journalism.

What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

My first job in the real world was working as a reporter for Bizwomen.com. The hardest part of the job was finding two to four story ideas per day. I learned how to manage my time, spot potential story ideas and to ask for help when I needed it. I landed interviews with Jessica Alba, the CEO of Deloitte, the former CEO of American Apparel and other high-profile women by being persistent. I learned that saying less is more in an interview and if you catch someone at the right time, they may tell you their life story.

What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

Don’t be afraid to take on new assignments or responsibilities, even if they don’t sound fun. You never know what you could learn. I didn’t know much about the banking industry before taking the job with the Charlotte Business Journal covering Bank of America and Wells Fargo. I’ve learned about the industry by asking good questions, reading and listening to people who know more than I do. I have not had a dull day since taking the job.

Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

Yes, Justin Catanoso from the journalism department has been my mentor throughout college and post-grad life. Whenever I have to make a major career or life decision, he is one of the first people I call. Mr. Catanoso served as the OGB’s adviser and let us make decisions on our own, unless we needed back up. He is a great teacher, storyteller and friend. Since college I’ve been fortunate to work for wonderful editors who support my work and make me a better writer.

What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to start their first professional job?

Ask a lot of questions before taking your first job. Make sure you are working for someone you trust and doing something you can learn from. And if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

I hope to have a long career in journalism writing stories that matter. I will raise my hand for new opportunities when they come up, learn new subject areas and improve my writing skills to make sure that happens.

Story published in September 2017. For current updates about Hilary, visit her LinkedIn page.