Follow me to Parks

“O Canada our home and native land!” I sang, out of key, but proudly, every morning in grade school and before every sporting event. Although I tried my best at a Beyoncé-esque voice, my vocals were more likely to cut glass than please an audience. But regardless of my singing voice, or lack thereof, Canada is a country I have always been proud to be from. Whether it’s the people, the poutine, or the nature, there is a lot to be proud of here. For positivity’s sake of this article, I won’t mention the -30 degree celsius winters we have… that will be our little secret.

Insta-famous

My colleague and I sit down at a café in Gatineau to chat with Megan Harvey, a Program Support Officer at Parks Canada and the Parkie behind Parkslife.

Parks Canada has impressive social media game, with close to 300,000 followers on Instagram alone, they are up there with some of your favourite influencers. And get this, they have reached this popularity without promoting skinny teas or teeth whitening products. Impressive? I’d say so. Warranted? Definitely! Just by a quick glance at their feed, you’re exposed to stunning photos of our national parks and historic sites so it’s no surprise they have a large following.

When it comes to Parkslife, Megan is the go-to person. Parkslife is an online collective dedicated to sharing our country’s natural and cultural gems with youth. With over 80,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter, it’s a go-to platform for travel inspiration, conservation stories and exciting opportunities for youth.

A new wave of public servants

“My job is all about connecting young Canadians and engaging them through our social media platforms”

So where did Megan’s journey start? Through a Facebook post from Parks Canada (the power of social media, people!), Megan is drawn to the opportunities being offered by a government department. The thought of combining her degree in Media and Business, with her passion for the great outdoors entices her to apply. From there, she is hired to work with the Youth Engagement team, where she hosts local events, such as the “learn to camp” event, where someone who has never gone camping would learn exactly what is needed to have a successful camping trip. “My job is all about connecting young Canadians and engaging them through our social media platforms,” she explains. Megan has had the opportunity to travel the country visiting Parks Canada places in her quest to spread awareness about Canada’s amazing natural and cultural heritage. So yes, if you’re thinking what I’m thinking, she might have one of the coolest jobs in the Government of Canada (GC).

Explaining her travels and exposure to Canadian destinations, Megan admits “you sometimes forget you’re a public servant.” I think there’s a common image of “public servants”, but between me and Megan, and so many other opportunities across the GC, that conventional image is changing more and more each day. Public servants could be visiting various national parks and sharing the importance of protecting and conserving our land, or they could be out and about meeting fellow colleagues, and writing magazine style articles on the cool things they’re working on!

YOLO (You Only Live Once) - that’s the motto, or is it?

I ask Megan for her thoughts on how digital affects youth engagement. She explains that at Parks, they have two mottos:

  1. Meet Canadians and youth where they are: online. As much as we don’t like to admit it, we are all guilty of spending time on our screens. We are living in the digital age, where we can connect with people we’ve never met, and get information across the world in a matter of seconds.
  2. Don’t reinvent the wheel: doing this will take endless amounts of time. Instead, we can take a page out of the books of existing technologies and leverage that to engage our users.

For the people by the people

“If you trust young people to connect with other young people, it’s going to work out”

“If you trust young people to connect with other young people, it’s going to work out” Megan says and I can’t help but agree. Who knows what today’s youth want more than the youth themselves? When the content for the people is done by the people, it’s bound to peak their interest. That’s how I feel when I write stories for Living Digital, I’m writing with you in mind and thinking of ways to keep you engaged.

When you see a photo your friend has posted about their recent visit to a national park, you’re likely going to like or comment on it. With Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc., we’ve seen how a platform featuring user-generated content thrives on its own. Although trends are ever-changing, the GC continues to be more flexible and adaptable in keeping up, particularly when it comes to connecting with Canadians.

“Sometimes I have to wear the Parks uniform when I go out, and I feel really proud to wear it. People share their stories immediately when they recognize you in that uniform”

“Sometimes I have to wear the Parks uniform when I go out, and I feel really proud to wear it. People share their stories immediately when they recognize you in that uniform” Megan says. This only reinforces the fact that there is a department out there that will allow you to explore your interests, whether it’s the environment, health, or communications, and so on. So I think to myself, although I might not be able to wear that uniform and I might not have the best singing voice, I resonate with Megan in being proud to be Canadian and a proud public servant.

If you liked what you read and think you might be a good fit for the Parks Canada team, you might be in luck. The hiring process for the Youth Ambassador program officially launched on . Interested applicants can apply through Parkslife and have until to do so. Happy applying! May the odds be ever in your favour.

 
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