People Profiles

Maxwell Sykes, APEX Certificate Graduate

November 05, 2015

One of the most important aspects of the APEX Certificate Program and finding the path to his career was also the one Maxwell was dreading the most. “I don’t like networking,” laughed the Resource Management Master’s student. Like many who are learning the ins and outs of networking, he was worried the process would be “burdensome” for those he was interacting with.

Rather than simply refusing to network and losing out on its benefits, Maxwell employed the “informational interview” technique he learned in the APEX Certificate Program. The essence of the informational interview is to set up in-person and over the phone meetings with professionals and learn how they navigated their career path.  “The first time I did an interview I didn’t know how it was going to go,” says Maxwell. “The first one went great and every single one since has gone well also. Everyone I have talked to has given me more names and something I used to find intimidating I can now integrate into my career”. The informational interview also allowed Maxwell to narrow down his job interests by learning about the types of work that he is not interested in.

After honing his networking skills, Maxwell found himself with a wealth of opportunities to explore. So broad were his options that Sykes found himself being offered positions he had not even applied for. This allowed him to work on another important skill--saying “no”. Although this can be difficult, Maxwell credits his success in refusing to over-burden himself to the structure that the APEX Certificate Program offers, as well as its focus on building your strengths and assets. Knowing his value and how to present it to employers has allowed him to hold out for a position that is truly in line with his career goals.

Maxwell was awarded the EDF Climate Corps 2015 Collaboration Award which allowed him to work in Austin, Texas, as an Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corps Fellow. During his fellowship, Maxwell helped the Austin Independent School District build the in-house capacity to address energy management issues. This fellowship was years in the making as Maxwell has wanted to try out corporate sustainability since the beginning of his degree. Maxwell credits his experience with APEX for making his dream job a reality. “Without APEX I don’t think I would be in the same position as I am now,” he says.

Maxwell took part in the APEX Certificate program. This is a structured professional development program run through the Office of Graduate Studies & Postdoctoral Fellows. The program equips grad students and postdoctoral fellows with strategies and support to help them navigate the transitions from academia to possible career paths. 

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