What have you found most beneficial about the specific degree program you completed at McMaster?
In the Department of Anthropology, I was able to blend my interest and passion for the human experience (past, present, and future) with practical skills for a professional career. As my path and career aspirations changed over time, I pursued the interdisciplinary minor in Archaeology combined classics, archaeology, and earth sciences, which ended up being pivotal in tailoring my experience at McMaster to launch my career in community-level climate change planning. This was beneficial to me as it was a way to blend my interests with more technical/scientific skills, which I knew was going to be important as an arts student looking to pursue a career in a field often dominated by engineering and science-based disciplines. It’s been my experience that both social and technical disciplines are important for well-rounded teams in my industry, so I am grateful that I found myself in a program that fostered my desire to learn and grow from day one.
In your opinion, what is the value of a Social Sciences degree?
Completing a Bachelor of Arts degree at McMaster was a significant jumping-off point for me in my career. As a first-generation university student, I came into the program with little knowledge of what my experience would be like, or what I would get out of it. The faculty and staff in Social Sciences were an incredible resource to me as I learned what I liked (and what I didn’t like) and as I started to form a picture of what I wanted my career path to look like.
I took a wide range of courses that helped me build foundational skills in qualitative research, analysis, report writing, effective communication, strategizing, and critical thinking. These are all transferable skills that I use daily in my career.
What advice would you give to a current Social Sciences student who is exploring career options?
Start to think early about what types of careers interest you, and what types of skills or credentials you might need to build in order to get there. Something that really helped me was to peruse job postings for positions I’d like to hold in the future and take stock of what types of skills they are asking for. Many professional organizations have student chapters, and there are many supplementary credentials, training courses, and certificates you can take while still a student to increase your employability as a new graduate.
Taking stock of what is asked for in the postings will help you dial into how best to focus your time and effort for maximum results. Taking this initiative was critical for me in transitioning the knowledge I had gained at McMaster (and later, graduate school), into a set of tactical skills that employers were looking for. Also consider whether an advanced degree is common in your field of interest. For example, I went on to do a post-baccalaureate in Urban and Regional Planning as a fast-tracked route to becoming a Registered Professional Planner, and then did a Masters of Environment and Management, designed for working professionals looking to become leaders in the environmental space. This ended up being the perfect bridge to blend all my formal academic knowledge into my very specific specialty, which is supporting communities in developing and implementing context-specific and actionable strategies for responding to the climate crisis at a local level.
How did completing the SOCSCI 2EL0 career course shape your career planning or your post-graduation journey?
This course was important for me to learn how to translate my knowledge, skills, and experience as a student/new grad into the language being spoken by prospective employers. Again, as a first-generation university student, these weren’t skills that were readily passed on to me by my family. I felt somewhat nervous that I would fall behind relative to my peers in that respect, and this course was an excellent solution. In the course, I was exposed to the full experience of job searching and career development, including tailoring a cover letter and resume to a specific posting, presenting yourself well in an interview, attending industry events, and building an effective network. I wouldn’t be where I am today without these underrated skills.