Professional Development

Getting the most out of your Master's: Kyle Empringham, Resource and Environmental Management graduate, on his alt-ac career path

July 15, 2014
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This article is part of a series exploring professional paths for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows that make use of or leverage academic training but are not limited to traditional faculty positions (#alt-ac).

When I applied to graduate school in my twenties, I did it because I thought it would be a good thing to have. I also spent a long time working in a position unrelated to my field post-graduation, wondering what I was going to with that good thing.

Listening to Kyle Empringham tell his story about how he landed his dream job before he had even graduated, I now realize I was looking at my studies the entirely wrong way.

Kyle recently completed a Master’s degree in the School of Resource and Environmental Management. His research looked at the effectiveness of environmental campaigns to influence public behaviors and as part of gathering data for his project he interviewed over 25 NGOs working in the environmental sector.

“I got to meet people working in the field I was interested in and ask them about what they love to do. I used to joke I was doing it just to get a job.”

Joke or not, it worked. Through connecting with people in the field, Kyle demonstrated his passion and knowledge in the area to a wide range of potential employers. When a position came up with one those contacts, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, he got it.

Just as important as the relationships Kyle built with members of the community at large were the relationships he built within his program.

 “MY REM colleagues and I are good friends. We are always looking out for opportunities for each other.”

Thanks to a tip from one of his fellow graduate students, Kyle then landed a position directly in his field as a sustainability campaigns advisor with the David Suzuki Foundation.  

“It's important to take a good look at what you want out of grad school and then find the people that can help you make that happen."

While I approached my degree as a thing I would carry around with me afterwards, Kyle approached his as a relationship building process. And thanks to that, his degree is carrying him.

- Jackie Amsden, APEX Certificate coordinator, Office of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Fellows

If you are are interested in hearing people like Kyle share their alt-ac career paths, email jamsden@sfu.ca to be put on the registration list for our fall career cafe event.

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