Like many graduate students, Sinead Flanagan Murphy found herself asking these sorts of questions while working on her Master's in Resource and Environmental Management. Sinead, having spent the majority of her life pursuing academic excellence, found the switch to thinking about personal and professional development somewhat challenging at first. Compared to the clear structure of her academic journey, the variety of professional routes she could pursue seemed overwhelming: did she want a career in environmental consulting or city planning?
By participating in the APEX Certificate program, Sinead was able to actively explore her strengths and weaknesses in a low-stakes environment. As a result, Sinead discovered that a career in natural hazards planning and emergency management not only piqued her interest, but also suited her multidisciplinary skill-set.
With a newfound sense of purpose, Sinead set out to connect with as many professionals as possible. By conducting several in-depth informational interviews, she learned from the experiences of the people she admired and applied their knowledge to her own journey.
As Sinead's professional support system continued to grow, so did her confidence. By building networks within professional communities, Sinead landed a self-directed co-op with the District of North Vancouver, where she coordinated the development of the first comprehensive Climate Adaptation Strategy.
During her co-op, Sinead used her environmental science background, technical research skills, and passion for written and oral storytelling to help people understand the complexities of climate change and how it would impact their life, work, and community. Additionally, using her interpersonal and facilitation skills, Sinead motivated and led an interdepartmental team to complete comprehensive vulnerability and risk assessments to help identify corporate priorities for action planning.
Her commitment to communicating the challenges of climate change to a wide range of audiences did not go unnoticed. At the end of Sinead's eight-month co-op, the District of North Vancouver hired her back to facilitate the final steps of the Climate Adaptation Strategy planning process.
While Sinead is currently focused on municipal climate adaptation, she is also interested in exploring how her multidisciplinary skill-set can be used to help people in other industries and cities achieve their goals. She explains, "While I see myself continuing to work in the environmental field, I also want to gain some international work experience and continue to diversify my skills and perspective by working in a variety of sectors and positions."
When asked what advice she would give to her fellow graduate students, Sinead had a lot to say. "Taking the time to be introspective and build self-awareness is critical to figure out your interests and pursue what you are passionate about. Understanding your strengths and transferable skills allows you to identify how you can add value to organizations which ultimately helps you to better market yourself and your brand to potential employers, increasing your chances of being hired for your dream job", she answers.
One thing is certain, Sinead is excited about the variety of possibilities after grad school and is motivated to continue to collaborate with people from different backgrounds to find innovative solutions to the complex challenges we will face in the future.
Sinead graduated in the APEX Certificate program in 2016 and is now working for the District of North Vancouver as a Climate Adaptation Advisor.
-Written by the Graduate Studies & Postdoctoral Fellows
Published November 2016