Engage in opportunities to support your career success, while learning about the knowledge, skills and attributes that employers are seeking! 

This guide is intended to support graduate students in their career planning. Though useful for all graduate students, there is significant guidance for Master’s and PhD students in thesis or research-focused programs. Students in all programs, including terminal or professional programs are also encouraged to utilize other resources provided by Career Services, your academic department and relevant professional associations.  Career Services’ occupational library is a hub for many of these resources. 

To use this tool, click on the titles below to expand each section. Graduate Studies at UM includes an outline of skills students can expect to gain during their studies.  Sample Jobs provides a listing of occupational titles that graduates might choose to pursue. What do employers want? highlights the top ten skills and qualifications for jobs requiring graduate-level education.  Within the sections Getting Started, Intermediate Steps, Final Steps, tips and resources are organized within four subsections:

  1. Personal and Professional Development,
  2. Career Planning Tips,
  3. Work & Volunteer Experience,
  4. Community & Research Connections.  

For academic guidance:  

  • Refer to the Academic Calendar for program requirements and academic regulations.  
  • Utilize #UMGradGoals to help you meet key goals, actions and milestones as you progress through your studies.  This tool is an academic success hub and includes academic reminders, and awards and funding information.
  • Photo of Danielle Milln
  • Student spotlight

    “One of the beautiful things about higher education is being able to explore topics and activities that you are unfamiliar with, so get out of your comfort zone! You might discover a new passion, connect with people you never would have met otherwise, and challenge yourself to continue to learn and grow. Seek opportunities that scare you or make you nervous, because they might turn out to be the best of your education journey!”

    Danielle Milln,  Master of Human Rights student

    > View more student profiles

Graduate Studies at UM

The Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) provides oversight for 49 doctoral and 95 master’s graduate programs at the University of Manitoba. The university fosters research partnerships with private industry, and is home or partner to 40 research centres, institutes and shared facilities that believe in collaborative research and scholarship. As a research-intensive university, our outstanding graduate students strive to achieve national and international recognition.

FGS takes pride in ensuring the excellence of our graduate programs and promotes an educational environment that breeds success. Graduate program requirements are detailed in every unit’s Supplemental Regulations and serve as a guide to students as they progress in their program. There are workshops available to students through GradSteps that are organized into different themes to help students manage their graduate experience and prepare for the next steps in their careers: either within or outside of academia.

Skills you will gain during your GRADUATE STUDIES 

All graduate students will gain a set of essential skills during their graduate program at the University of Manitoba. The Faculty of Graduate Studies has outlined some of these through the Bona Fide Academic Requirements (BFAR). Every graduate program has also outlined program specific BFARs that represent those essential skills gained in a particular program. 

Broadly speaking, some critical skills that graduate students will gain include: 

  • Communication skills – Every graduate program requires students to learn key written and oral communication skills through their interactions in seminars, in practicums and through the successful defense of their oral examinations. 
  • Organizational skills – The successful navigation of a graduate program provides students with the ability to successfully manage their time, and to prioritize tasks required through their program, while at the same time maintaining a work-life balance.  
  • Critical thinking – Graduate work encourages students to critically read the literature and their own work as well as to integrate both from within and across literatures as they proceed through their coursework and prepare for key milestones such as candidacy exams, oral examinations, proposal defenses and other program requirements.  
  • Problem solving is a key component of graduate education. Students develop the ability to tackle small immediate problems as well as large long-term ones. Graduate education helps students learn to defend their solutions using the evidence at hand. 
  • Teamwork – Rarely is a graduate program undertaken in isolation. Instead, students have opportunities to interact on a vibrant campus and exchanges ideas with fellow students, faculty and staff. Graduate education can also allow students to interact with the broader academic community, both nationally and internationally. 
  • Integrity – Graduate programs also expose students to key concepts in their programs about the importance of ethics and integrity, both in their program related work and in their interactions with others. 
  • Independence – While learning to work with others is an essential skill that comes from graduate work, students also learn how to work independently and to assess their progress throughout the program. 

 

Here are some additional readings that outline skills gained through the pursuit of a graduate education: 

Getting Started

PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

  1. Start off on the right foot. Make positive connections and a good first impression. Get to know fellow students, faculty and staff in your department.  As you progress in your studies, relationships can become increasingly important. Student associations are a good place to start and involvement can help you make connections and learn about different opportunities on campus.  
  2. Attend all relevant orientation sessions and GradSteps professional development workshops.    
  3. Engage in time management. Plan to balance your schedule with activities that will complement both your academic and career goals. Consider using Imagine PhD's timeline tool designed for grad students.  
  4. Be mindful of your physical, social and emotional health. Consider joining student clubs, utilize the active living centre and engage in campus activities throughout the year.   
  5. Lay the groundwork for a positive relationship with your advisors and determine expectations with your supervisor and department.  Reference the advisor-student guidelines (ASG) on JUMP and attend a working with your advisor session through GradSteps. 
  6. For interpersonal support and skill development, access campus services like the student counselling centre, indigenous elders and spiritual services.  Be mindful that graduate studies requires a great dedication of time and may lead to a narrowing of life roles. Maintain those personal roles and relationships that are important to your happiness and work-life balance.   
  7. For support with academic writing – courses, proposals, or at any stage of your thesis, contact the academic learning centre.  
  8. Learn about the entities on campus that exist to support you and understand your rights and responsibilities as a graduate student. The University of Manitoba Graduate Student Association, student advocacy office and the office of human rights and conflict management all exist to provide you with services and support when needed. 
  9. Familiarize yourself with the range of workshops and training opportunities available through the Faculty of Graduate Studies and organizations like Mitacs (workshops within the following realms: Leadership & Management, Community and Relationship Building, Personal and Professional Management, Entrepreneurship).  
  10. If relevant to your career goals, take part in the graduate teaching program from the UM’s Centre for Advancement of Teaching and Learning.  

CAREER PLANNING TIPS 

  1. Reflect on your motivations for grad school. Seek support to define your career goals and determine a plan to support your success and employability.  In addition to your advisor and professional contacts, meet with a career consultant. Career consultants can also help you to generate occupational ideas based on your interests, values, personality and skills.  
  2. Explore a range of career options and keep an open mind. Utilize supports at career services. Attend 'Academic or Industry? What's Your Plan?' workshop offered through GradSteps.   
  3. Use self-directed assessment tools like Science Careers MyIDP and Imagine PhD to help you establish your career goals. These online tools include skills, interests and values assessments that support recognition of career preferences and introduction to occupational options. 
  4. Make the most of your program electives or optional courses, including those offered at other institutions. Be intentional and consider your research, career and competency-development goals. Search within other departments and faculties for courses that may be relevant; this process may also introduce you to other groups of graduate students with similar interests and career goals. 
  5. Research occupations and view sample job postings to ensure you are well-informed about employment requirements. Contrast your current skills and attributes with the job qualifications and employer expectations. Consider what opportunities you can engage in prior to graduation to help you bridge the gap and be successful. Connect with a Career Consultant for support and use the career services’ occupational library to access job boards and industry associations.   
  6. Gain occupation-related experiences early in your studies.  If you are in a clinical/co-op/fieldwork program start to consider where you’d like to complete your placement(s).  
  7. Explore careerCONNECT and view the calendar of events: become aware of upcoming employer info sessions, career events and workshops.  If you are an international student, consider taking part in the Planning for Success: International Graduate Student Workshops series offered each term by Career Services.  
  8. Learn about your future industry.  Start reading articles published in relevant industry magazines, newsletters and journals, and within University Affairs and Chronicle of Higher Education.  
  9. Arrange informational interviews – speak to individuals in occupations or industries of interest. Learn more about types of positions and possible career trajectories, and seek advice re. the types of experiences and skills to gain during your studies. Use the career mentor program or UM café to connect. 

VOLUNTEER & WORK EXPERIENCE 

  1. Become an active member of UMGSA and your department student council. Network and explore opportunities!  
  2. Gain practical experience by volunteering.  If possible, volunteer within your industry of interest and with potential future employers. 
  3. Academia-bound students should consider gaining experience within three realms: academic, research and service.  
  4. Consider on campus work as a teaching assistant, research assistant, grader/marker, or other relevant roles to support valuable occupational exposure and skill development.  
  5. Look into student job programs in relevant industry associations (e.g. BioTalent Canada) or government departments. The federal government’s Federal Student Work Experience program (FSWEP) and the Manitoba government’s STEP Services Program offer summer and part-time employment.

COMMUNITY & RESEARCH CONNECTIONS  

  1. Determine audiences and stakeholders for your projects and research!  What industry, government and community organizations might benefit from your research?  Are there community leaders who could be involved in your committee work or research consultation?  What problems are you working to solve / where can your work have an impact?  
  2. Get involved with relevant community agencies. Volunteer to sit on boards and committees. This may also provide insight and experience if you are interested in policy work. Consider the Board Connect program presented by The Winnipeg Foundation.
  3. Review research journals to explore how your research interests build on past studies and connect to increase community capacity.

Intermediate Stages / The Halfway Mark

PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT 

  1. Join or continue to participate in student clubs to increase your social community on campus. Engage personal interests, in addition to academic interests.  
  2. Self-care is important. During busy times, continue to manage your health. Develop a reasonable schedule to avoid overworking and ensure your goals are being met along with your self-care needs.  Avoid isolation and maintain connection with family, friends, and your professional community.  Experiencing stress? You're not alone! Seek support. Consider attending Stress Management and other workshops offered by the student counselling centre. Don’t forget about campus supports such as campus elders, the student counselling centre, and spiritual care for students. 
  3. Develop professional connections and seek out mentors to guide and support you. Utilize on-campus programs affiliated with your department and general programs like UM café. Industry mentor programs are offered by professional associations and sector councils. You can also use social media tools like Research Gate and LinkedIn
  4. Build your teaching skills. Attend teaching, technology support and lunch hour workshops provided by the Centre for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning.  
  5. Re-evaluate your funding and financial plans to ensure you are on track. Explore scholarships and grants that are available. 
  6. Reflect on how your personal life goals align with professional and career goals.  
  7. As you move through your graduate studies, communicate regularly with your advisor. Consult #GradGoals to help manage your progress. If you'd like support in developing a communication strategy, preparing for meetings or managing difficult conversations, consider meeting with a student advocate or counsellor

CAREER PLANNING TIPS 

  1. Engage with relevant professional associations, societies and industry sector councils — become a student member, attend events and volunteer. To determine what associations to engage with, utilize career services’ online occupational library and industry associations list or meet with a career consultant. It may also be helpful to reference the undergraduate compass associated with your area of study. 
  2. Unsure about your career goals? Considering Academia vs. Industry? Attend the Grad Steps workshop Academia vs. Industry workshop by career services, or meet individually with a Career Consultant.  
  3. Create a professional online presence through social media tools like LinkedIn & Research Gate. Attend a LinkedIn workshop with career services; view events and register on CareerCONNECT
  4. Network at on-campus employer info sessions, conferences, and off-campus industry events, including those hosted by industry or professionals associations.  
  5. Considering further education? Think about your occupational interests and confirm employment requirements and employer preferences. Connect with those working in industry for advice!  
  6. Establish a well thought-out back-up plan if you are pursuing a competitive educational or employment pathway. Diversifying your job search goals and strategies can be important to your success. The hidden job market is where a large percentage of students and graduates find work; engage in these job search strategies early. 
  7. Keep your CV/resumé up-to-date. Review career services’ resources for resumé and CV tips, and connect with a career consultant if you need support. 
  8. Considering entrepreneurship? Get to know the Stu Clark centre for entrepreneurship on campus. Attend workshops offered on-campus by external agencies; you can register for these through careerCONNECT, GradSteps, and Mitacs. Also learn about accelerator programs and business incubators in the community. Connect with North Forge to see supports that are available to entrepreneurs.  

VOLUNTEER & WORK EXPERIENCE

  1. Continue to assess your competencies by utilizing job postings and determine additional experiences you’d like to gain prior to graduating. You should continuously look into what job opportunities are available in your field and make sure you are gaining the necessary skills to boost your employability. Utilize the careerCONNECT job board for UM students, other general job boards, and those that are occupation and industry-specific.
  2. Sit on academic and university committees. Also consider advisory boards for community organizations and non-profits. Build your leadership skills!  
  3. Utilize your developing analytical and writing skills in volunteer  work with non-profit organizations – e.g. writing funding proposals, research assistance or program evaluation.  
  4. Consider working as a tutor. The academic learning centre on campus hires and trains writing, content and study skills tutors.  
  5. Expand your research skills. Look for additional research assistantships. Consider a research partnership with others at your institution.  
  6. Continue building strong relationships within your network. Reflect on which individuals can best provide future job references. Speak with senior students in your faculty for job search advice. 
  7. Attend an on-campus or community-based career fair to increase your connection to industry, learn about employers and jobs.
  8. Research internship and post-doctoral training programs. Learn about the Mitacs programs Accelerate and Elevate.
  9. Government opportunities: Be aware of opportunities with municipal, provincial and federal governments. Note in advance of your final year that the Government of Canada Post-Secondary Recruitment (PSR) programs have fall application deadlines.  
  10. Academic opportunities: Explore job boards with University Affairs, CAUT, Colleges & Institutes CanadaInside Higher Ed, Research GateAcademica and Times Higher Education

COMMUNITY & RESEARCH CONNECTIONS

  1. Reconnect and reassess community partners for your projects and research; continually seek new audiences.  If you have private, public or non-profit research partners, you may be eligible for government partnership funds - e.g. NSERC Alliance Grants.
  2. Consider industry and community-based conferences in addition to academic conferences. Attend these events, volunteer on planning committees or apply to present. 
  3. Consider applications for your research.  If you think you've invented something, connect with the UM partnerships and innovation office prior to publication or public disclosure. You can also access the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies' Guide to Intellectual Property
  4. Learn about related projects. Consult with peers and professors across your institution who can provide insight into what is currently happening on and off campus, and who may help you connect with important opportunities in your field. 
  5. Utilize a blog or social media tools like Research Gate to share your knowledge and developing expertise. Also look to social media platforms to join relevant groups and participate in discussions. To stay informed, follow professional journals, relevant institutes, industry news, funding organizations, and individual bloggers, specialists, scientists and employers of interest.  

Final Steps

PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

  1. Consider research publication options. Connect with your supervisor about opportunities for publication, including co-authorship or submitting a book review. 
  2. Fight burnout: When completing your graduate studies and dissertation it can be difficult to maintain momentum. Seek support from those around you. Don’t forget about supports with the student counselling centrecampus elders, and spiritual care.  
  3. Initiate important discussions with your family and significant others about next steps following the completion of your program.   
  4. Conferences – present, don’t just attend! Look for funding sources, starting with your department.  
  5. For support with your thesis presentation, take part in CATL's ThesisSPEAK.  
  6. Stay organized. Refer to #UMGradGoals for a final checklist and steps for graduation.  

CAREER PLANNING TIPS

  1. Start your job search 9-12 months in advance, including search for internships, post-doc fellowships and federal government employment. Note that the Government of Canada Post-Secondary Recruitment (PSR) application intake typically ranges from mid-September to mid-October. 
  2. Market your skills to potential employers with strong CV, resume and hybrid documents. Utilize your network for job application insight and advice, and review career service’s employment resources.  
  3. Arrange informational interviews with employers to learn about positions and hiring practices. Establish positive rapport and start to build a relationship.  
  4. If you are continuing with graduate school, be sure to meet application and funding deadlines. Applications may be due up to a year in advance of the program start date. 
  5. Ensure your references are available to be contacted, including those outside of academia. Make requests and follow-up with individuals who can speak strongly to your character and competencies. 
  6. Based on your career goals, consider what competencies you would like to advance or gain in this latter half of your graduate studies. In addition to coursework and work and volunteer experience, skills can be developed through massive open online courses (MOOCs), such as Coursera and EdX. Area specific MOOCs also exist, like that for data science; examples: Cognitive Class and Data Camp.

VOLUNTEER & WORK EXPERIENCE

  1. Connect or follow-up with current and other potential employers about future opportunities. Connect with those in your network to let them know your career direction and inquire about opportunities. 
  2. Be engaged in your discipline and be thorough in your job search. Learn about prospective employers and industry specific job boards by using UM’s occupational library profiles. Also utilize more general online job boards, including: Research Gate,  CAUT, Chronical of Higher Learning, Canada Job Bank, Indeed.  
  3. Indigenous students may wish to also use staffing solutions organizations such as CAHRD which provides supports to university students and graduates. 
  4. Consider pilot projects/studies and grants offered by institutions and organizations.  

COMMUNITY & RESEARCH CONNECTIONS

  1. Share the results of your research with industry and community partners and other stakeholders. Look into departmental research symposiums where you can present your research and get feedback from your peers. 
  2. Consult with stakeholders and partners, in addition to advisors, when determining “future research" recommendations. Building lasting connections with those currently working in your field and who are impacted by your research will be key to a strong reputation in your community. 
  3. Highlight your research or project in community publications and with media outlets, in addition to academic journals.    
  4. Connect with other institutions to learn about teaching and additional academic research opportunities.

Sample Jobs

All DISCLIPLINES  

  • Assistant Professor  
  • Assurance Consultant (continuous improvement and data-informed decision making)
  • Business Development Officer  
  • Clinical Analytics Consultant
  • Communications Officer
  • Community Liaison / Advisor   
  • Data Analyst
  • Data Scientist (education background/discipline preferred varies with industry and employer)
  • Education Director  
  • Foreign Service Officer  
  • Grant Researcher / Writer
  • Instructor, Lecturer or Professor
  • Intelligence Officer   
  • Lead Scientist
  • Lobbyist
  • Outreach Specialist  
  • Policy Analyst/Researcher/Advisor  
  • Program Officer / Manager  
  • Research Advisor
  • Research Associate
  • Research Centre Manager
  • Research Coordinator / Facilitator
  • Research Director  
  • Researcher  
  • Research Officer 

LIFE & PHYSICAL SCIENCES 

  • Application Scientist
  • Regulatory Affairs Officer / Manager  
  • Technology Transfer Officer/Manager  
  • Technical Sales Rep  
  • R & D Scientist  
  • Principal Scientist/Investigator  
  • Clinical Research Coordinator  
  • Product Development Manager  
  • Product Marketing Manager  
  • Technical Advisor / Consultant  
  • Benchmark Analyst  
  • Patent Agent  
  • Technical Writer/Editor  
  • Science Writer  
  • Cannabis QC Tech (*MSc, PhD is an asset)  
  • Medical / Clinical Science Liaison  
  • Research & Technical Services Specialist 

MATHEMATICAL SCIENCES (including, Physics, Statistics, Engineering, Computer Science) 

  • Data Scientist/Analyst  
  • Research Development Officer  
  • Technical Lead  
  • Research & Technology Lead  
  • Machine Learning & Data Analytics Specialist 
  • Quantitative Analyst  

ECONOMICS 

EDUCATION 

  • Curriculum Developer  
  • Education Research Methodologist  
  • Faculty Development Advisor  

SOCIAL SCIENCES AND HUMANITIES 

OPTIONS REQUIRING ALTERNATIVE OR ADDITIONAL STUDIES 

What Do Employers Want?

Graduate Studies alumni may find work in wide range of industries and areas, including universities and colleges, research institutes, government departments and agencies, non-profit organizations, policy think tanks, museums and science centres, and private sector companies. The following competencies* are highly sought after by employers: 

  1. Communication skills: Writing and editing of reports, positions papers, briefing documents; oral communication including negotiation and liaison; ability to communicate complex information to those external to discipline  
  2. Expert knowledge: Scientific, subject or topic specific knowledge  
  3. Research skills and research coordination: Research design, management or coordination of research projects, working with protocols
  4. Teamwork: Ability to work collaboratively in multifunctional teams  
  5. Presentation and teaching skills: Ability to present in regulatory settings 
  6. Leadership and supervision: Ability to self-start and/or lead, guide, influence, motivate and engage others 
  7. Analytical and problem solving skills: Ability to analyze, synthesize and interpret data and ideas; ability to think deeply to develop innovative solutions
  8. Project management and organizational skills: Ability to multitask, dissect projects in manageable tasks, handle competing demands and manage multiple projects simultaneously 
  9. Partnership development and stakeholder engagement 
  10. Sound judgement and decision making: Ability to make independent and evidence-based decisions and maintain tact, diplomacy and confidentiality 

Note that “prior industry experience” and “years of experience in similar position” was also required for many positions. In addition to attaining skills through your graduate education, students are encouraged to engage with their industry of interest and take advantage of experiential education opportunities. 

* Competency listing by descending order of importance is based on analysis of 60+ job postings where postings indicated “Master’s or PhD required/preferred”. The postings represented a range of industries and position-types, with diversity in the subject background preferred (including sciences, social sciences, humanities, and applied programs) 

Alumni stories

Adam N. Nepon | MBA - Indigenous Business and Economy

Adam Nepon Headshot

Graduate degree: Masters Business Administration - Indigenous Business and Economy (2018)
Additional postgraduate training and certifications: 

  • Asper Executive Education’s Advanced Program in Management, Leadership, and Strategy
  • Chartered Professional in Human Resources, Candidate (CPHR Manitoba)

Briefly, tell us about your job. What do you find most rewarding? What are your greatest challenges within this profession?

In January 2019 I joined an organization that provides homecare services and has specialized in Patient-Focused elder care for over 25 years. Under a succession plan, I have partnered with the Founder and CEO bringing my experience in Human Resources, Business Development, and Organizational Leadership. This is an example of Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition (ETA) which I feel is the next big trend for small-medium sized organizations and entrepreneurs.

The most rewarding part of my job is knowing that our services are directly responsible for improving the lives senior citizens and providing their family with piece-of-mind knowing their loved ones are receiving the highest level of homecare services.

The greatest challenge I’m currently faced with is the process of understanding who I am as a co-leader with my business partner, after shifting from a self-employed Independent Contractor to someone who is ultimately responsible for an entire organization’s success.

Why did you choose to go to grad school? How did your graduate education prepare you to work in your current field?

I never imagined going to grad school… ever. 
If it wasn't for the persistent encouragement from a mentor for two years, and attending four Asper-MBA information sessions, I would never have taken the leap to write the entrance exam (GMAT).

The greatest thing my graduate education provided me is confidence in myself that I do have the ability to provide insightful, rational, and progressive ideas that bring value to the rapidly changing organizational environments (for-profit, non-profit, charitable).

What skills did you gain or enhance during your graduate studies education?

The skills I developed most while doing an MBA was definitely my analytical and strategic thinking, but more importantly was the experiences outside the classroom that developed my inter-personal skills, emotional intelligence, and public speaking.

What other experiences and activities helped you to map out your career pathway?

Taking part in the Executive Mentorship Program through the Asper school of Business (along with other formal/informal mentorship relationships) was absolutely essential to my career mapping. I always advise people to have multiple mentors at any given time to help work through life’s biggest obstacles. Whatever area of life the major disruptor(s) is occurring (career, perusal, health), find a mentor to help you work through it.

As well, I got involved in several volunteer opportunities that developed my skills and built my network while providing valuable work to communities.

As a student, did you see yourself in your current occupation? 

Not a chance. Working in business development I always saw myself as an intrapreneur with a goal of starting my own venture, but not in the healthcare sector.

By always looking for opportunities, creating opportunities, and following opportunities I’ve been able to carve out a unique career that fulfills something that I learnt as a child called Tikkun Olum- World Repair (A jewish concept defined by acts of kindness performed to perfect or repair the world. It is often used when discussing issues of social policy, insuring a safeguard to those who may be at a disadvantage.)

My degree focus on Indigenous Business and Economy also help me understand who I am as an Indigenous person and fuelled the passion I now have to create an organization aimed at filling the healthcare gaps experienced by Indigenous Communities across the country.

What advice do you have for students who are interested in pursuing graduate studies?

Make the investment in yourself and do it; write the entrance exam and then decide. If you have self-doubt about your ability, knock it aside.
If I’m able to complete a graduate degree, pretty much anyone can. 
You need focus, sacrifice, strong supports, and a sense of Delayed Gratification.

What career or job search advice do you have for students and recent graduates?

Don't apply for the job of your dreams, apply for the company of your dreams.
Just because the job posting doesn’t look like a match, or there is no job posting, doesn’t mean they won’t hire you. 
Your resume must stand out from the rest and show why you fit their organizational culture. As a Human Resource specialist I always go directly to the community involvement/volunteering portion of a resume. Good organizations realize there is always a place for a strong candidate because there is always a return on their inputs if managed properly.

If there isn’t a company out there that interests you, create one!

Tell us a fun fact about your career path.

Looking at education as the start of a career path (training and development), in 2000 I started post-secondary education at the University of Winnipeg and after my first 18 months I had a 0.87 GPA. They politely told me to not bother registering for the next semester.
When I entered the MBA program almost 15 years later, and started seeing some success, I set a goal of adding 3 full points to that original GPA.
I graduated with a 3.82. Shoot for the moon and if you get part way there you've still succeeded.

Compete with yourself and as long as you’re better than you were the day before you’re winning.

Emma Popowich | MA in French

Headshot of Emma Popowich

Graduate degree: Masters in French Studies (2010)
Additional postgraduate training and certifications: Master of Library Science

Briefly, tell us about your job. What do you find most rewarding? What are your greatest challenges within this profession?

I am the Romance Languages Librarian at the University of Manitoba. I enjoy working with students and faculty on their assignments and research, as well as ordering French, Spanish and Italian books and journals for the library. My profession has changed a lot, especially with the new digital culture of our society, and so the libraries has to evolve as well which can be challenging but also provides opportunities and variety.

Why did you chose to go to grad school? How did your graduate education prepare you to work in your current field? 

I love learning about French culture and literature and wanted to also write about areas that haven’t been well studied. As a librarian, I get to continue to write articles and books in my area of expertise, and so I have published several articles on Catalan language and culture since becoming a librarian. Grad school gave me the skills I needed to present at scholarly conferences and publish in the academic world.

What skills did you gain or enhance during your graduate studies education?

My graduate studies helped me learn to speak up and debate a topic, develop an argument and look within a person’s words to find deeper meaning. I find these skills help me better understand the signs and meanings within all kinds of communications, sources of information and literature.

What other experiences and activities helped you to map out your career pathway?

Traveling and living abroad gave me a passion for languages and cultures, and working in libraries helped me understand my desire to help others and be of service to a community that needed me. I find working with students and faculty rewarding, and my subject knowledge only enhances my ability to assist.

As a student, did you see yourself in your current occupation?

Yes, I was already working at the library when I did my M.A.

What advice do you have for students who are interested in pursuing graduate studies?

It is a good idea to look up the faculty members on the university website and see who is working in an area close to the one you would like to study. Then make an appointment to see them and discuss working together. That’s the best way to start.

What career or job search advice do you have for students and recent graduates?

I would say my best career advice would be to try a lot of different things out in the early stages, don’t be afraid to move around and take on new/different jobs to enable you to whittle down what you like and don’t like. I would also say it’s good to know when to quit, or change directions. It’s okay to move on from something you had planned, if it isn’t working out for you. Everyone goes through these stages, and sometimes when you leave something you thought you wanted behind, you make space for what is right for you to enter your life.

Tell us a fun fact about your career path.

I am still thinking of going back to school and doing a PHD or other program. We never stop learning and evolving which is a wonderful aspect of life.

W. Kurt Hildebrand | PhD in Physics

Headshot of Kurt Hildebrand

Graduate degree: PhD Physics (2015)
Additional postgraduate training and certifications: Professional Physicists (from Canadian Association of Physicists) 

Briefly, tell us about your job. What do you find most rewarding? What are your greatest challenges within this profession?

I work for what was a start-up company, now recently acquired by a multinational corporation. My official job is to direct and manage research and innovation, but in a small company, one gets to play many roles, and I’m frequently involved in solving a wide variety of technical and scientific problems. Either on my own, or through bringing together resources from a wide variety of fields, I find this “problem solving” to be one of the most rewarding aspects of my job. I also enjoy working in an industrial setting, where the solutions I can provide are directed toward real-world problems and can be immediately useful and applied. I find the greatest challenge in my role is to manage the people and politics – everyone has their own goals, and their own unique way of working and communicating, and learning to harness the potential of a team within an organization is a difficult task.

Why did you chose to go to grad school? How did your graduate education prepare you to work in your current field?

Honestly, I chose to go to grad school simply due to continued interest in the subject matter! I simply wanted to keep working on what I was interested in. I would say that my graduate education prepared me to work in my current field in a much more general, or “soft skills” kind of way compared to the knowledge gained in my specific field of research. Learning how to think critically, carefully, and mathematically, as well as the ability to communicate clearly and effectively have been paramount to success in my current job.

What skills did you gain or enhance during your graduate studies education?

In my graduate studies, I frequently was consulted on, or became involved in, small aspects of the projects of others in my research and peer group, outside of the scope of my own research. I feel this was useful as it provided exposure to ideas, knowledge, and methodologies from a diverse group of people and fields, which has enabled me to be a more effective problem solver and leader of cross-functional teams. I also learned how to conduct careful scientific research, to extract insights from what may first appear to be just noise. One example: I attended a summer school at the Enrico Fermi School of Physics in Varenna, Italy one summer, early in my PhD. One task we were given was to solve “Fermi problems” – problems with incomplete information that needed to be solved (or approximately solved) using assumption, approximations, and, well, guessing! The ability to make reasonable assumptions to make reasonable correct conclusions (i.e. being a Good Guesser) is a widely applicable skill that has served me well in my career.

What other experiences and activities helped you to map out your career pathway?

I used to be much more involved in music than I am now, but it was my interest in music theory (the mathematical aspect) and in acoustics that initially helped drive my interest in studying physics. I also enjoyed tinkering with musical equipment and electronics almost as much as the music itself, and this love of tinkering I think lends itself well to both experimental physics and applied research and innovation. Before my current job, I was also involved in another start-up company where I would say we faced our share of challenges and failures. But without these difficulties, I would not have been prepared to succeed in my current role, so I see them as very valuable experiences.

As a student, did you see yourself in your current occupation?

About halfway through my PhD, I sort of realized I didn’t want to remain in academia. I was much more interested in “problem solving” where the applications are clear and more immediate, rather than just to further knowledge in a particular field. However, I did want to continue to be involved in research and innovation, so I think my current role is something pretty close to what I came to imagine over the course of my graduate career. 

What advice do you have for students who are interested in pursuing graduate studies?

First, be sure that it is the right path for you – I don’t think it is for everyone. I wouldn’t view graduate studies as the ideal path to career advancement (unless your chosen career is academia), but I think pursuing research that you are interested in and passionate about is a great reason for graduate studies. Second, talk to lots of other grad students, from a wide range of fields. Offer to help them, ask for their help. Learning to see how your deep and very specific knowledge of a topic fits within other fields will make you a better thinker, make you more useful in a wider variety of potential roles, and you will build connections that will almost certainly pay off.

What career or job search advice do you have for students and recent graduates?

Well, finding your job or career path can be tough. Be prepared to get it wrong a few times, and you’re not going to be good at it right away! Learn how the skills you learned in grad school translate to other roles or fields (I think I even put “Good Guesser” as a skill on my resume at some point). Make connections and use them whenever possible! Learn how to make cold calls and talk about yourself in a way that they can understand and see your value. Ask for advice. Go to career counselling. But above all, figure out what you actually like doing, and find a way to get paid to do it.

Tell us a fun fact about your career path.

Well, I guess in addition to almost being a musician, I almost ended up being a long-distance trucker! I got my Class 1 and Air Brake learners permits, and even went on one long-haul trip where I was starting to learn to drive. I then got a letter telling me that I had received an NSERC scholarship to pursue graduate studies and thought, “well, physics seems pretty interesting too…”, and somehow ended up here!

Michelle Keller | PhD in French

Headshot of Michelle Keller

Graduate degree: Doctor of Philosophy (French), 2020

Briefly, tell us about your job. What do you find most rewarding? What are your greatest challenges within this profession?

I currently work at Employment and Social Development Canada, where I manage long-term funding agreements between Canada and First Nations in Manitoba. My job involves working both internally with colleagues and externally with partners. A typical day usually includes a variety of tasks, such as organizing and facilitating meetings, providing guidance, clarification, updates or feedback, negotiating, processing financial transactions, reviewing budgets, operational plans, financial statements or data reports, maintaining databases, monitoring progress and helping to resolve issues.

It is rewarding for me to work in partnership with First Nations, to build relationships and to see our efforts lead to participants earning diplomas, certificates and other credentials in order to secure meaningful employment.

Working in government administration means working in a regulated environment, so it can sometimes be challenging to realize the creative opportunities. Transitioning from the narrow field that I worked on in my PhD to completely different areas, like financial management, as well as a different way of thinking, writing and working have also been an adjustment for me. But, receiving excellent mentorship, being open-minded and trying different approaches have helped me to embrace my new role.

Why did you choose to go to grad school? How did your graduate education prepare you to work in your current field?

Initially, I wanted to be a professor. After completing my Master’s, I felt proud of my accomplishment and wanted to continue developing my skills and my area of research, which was still emerging. But I realized early on in my PhD that it would be very difficult to secure a tenure-track position in my field, simply because the positions were very limited. With the financial support I received, I decided to finish my degree and strive toward developing transferable skills, complementing them with work or volunteer experiences, and seeking out other jobs that interested me, such as those in government administration.

My graduate education helped me to develop a large capacity for learning. The ability to integrate considerable amounts of new information has been key for my successful transition to non-academic work. My research background has been useful in understanding the data management related to my current position. Working on long-term projects during my graduate studies provided me with experience in managing complex projects. Fine-tuning my French skills has also been highly beneficial for working in government administration. I have a bilingual position and have contributed to special projects, such as representing my department at a special event marking the 50th anniversary of the Official Languages Act. An advanced level of French skills will also be important for progressing to management positions in government. There are more links between my graduate studies and current job than it seems at first glance, and I continue to discover more of them as I take on more responsibility.

What skills did you gain or enhance during your graduate studies education?

There are many, such as critical thinking, writing and editing, project management, strategic thinking, communication, learning, planning and organizational, analytical, research and problem-solving, as well as French language skills.

What other experiences and activities helped you to map out your career pathway?

Gaining non-academic work experience during my doctoral studies helped me to obtain a full-time job in the last months of my degree. During my graduate studies (and before then too), I was employed part-time through the Federal Student Work Experience Program (FSWEP). This gave me the opportunity to start working in the area of funding programs and to familiarize myself with terminology, processes, and organizations. But this experience alone would not have promoted me to the position I have now. My work as a board member of a non-profit organization in Winnipeg was also impactful. Over the years, I gained a greater understanding of non-profit organizations and experience working with representatives from different sectors. Additionally, following Beyond the Professoriate and attending its annual career conference provided me with community support. These were major factors for my career transition.

As a student, did you see yourself in your current occupation?

I didn’t see myself in my current job, but I did see myself working outside academia.

What advice do you have for students who are interested in pursuing graduate studies?

Be open to using the skills you develop in graduate school outside of academia. You may not use the research from your graduate studies, but you will transfer the skills and experience you gained by doing the research to your non-academic job. Also, find ways to complement your formal education with other meaningful professional opportunities (work and volunteer) to grow your experience and network. Having connections outside academia will give you more options.

What career or job search advice do you have for students and recent graduates?

Look for jobs outside of academia, check the job postings and try to gain the required experience (not just required skills) during your studies, not only after. If you are considering government administration, apply for employment through the Federal Student Work Experience Program. Knowing French is a desirable skill in government. Also, check out useful resources like Beyond the Professoriate to help you navigate your career pathway and be supported by a community. You have much to offer, so be proactive in setting yourself up for success.

Tell us a fun fact about your career path.

Speaking French was an important factor in getting my first student government job (and gave me the confidence to learn and apply Cree in my current job).

Neil Owens | PhD in Chemistry

Headshot of Neil Owens

Graduate degree: Doctor of Philosophy, Chemistry (2009)
Additional postgraduate training and certifications: Postdoctoral Fellow (2010-13) at the European Institute of Chemistry and Biology (France)

Briefly, tell us about your job. What do you find most rewarding? What are your greatest challenges within this profession?  

I oversee the operations of Medicure Inc., a Canadian pharmaceutical company and execute our strategic vision; this involves working closely with multiple teams, including sales and marketing, finance, medical affairs, manufacturing and development. What I find most rewarding is seeing the team succeed and celebrating the payoff of hard work; some examples are getting a sales contract signed, having a new product approved for sale, or building great relationships with our customers. Some of the challenges include managing multiple teams and budgets, planning and reacting to external factors, and working in a highly competitive industry.

Why did you chose to go to grad school? How did your graduate education prepare you to work in your current field?

After doing some summer research projects, I enjoyed the discovery aspect of research and working at the cutting edge of science. I also liked the interface of chemistry and biology, as well as the business side of research and the idea of commercializing new discoveries. My graduate education helped me in many ways, including having a thorough understanding of chemistry and biology, the analytical analysis of chemical compounds, how to research a new topic and summarize the information for others, how to plan and execute a project, how to communicate ideas and results to a variety of audiences, and developing a sense of what research and discoveries are of ‘value’; these skills I’ve used over and over.

What skills did you gain or enhance during your graduate studies education?

Building a broad knowledge base of different chemistry and biology topics – it’s amazing how often I draw on these; public speaking and communicating results to an audience; being a teaching assistant was very valuable to learn how to teach and manage others; all of the fundamental analytical analysis skills come up surprisingly often as the research, approval and sale of pharmaceuticals have a heavy analytical chemistry focus.

What other experiences and activities helped you to map out your career pathway?

After completing a postdoc, I worked in Medical Affairs, which I highly recommend, as it is a great combination of science, communication and working with clinicians. It gave me a much better sense of how approved pharmaceuticals are used and the decision pathway that clinicians use, and seeing the benefits of the result of research for patients.

As a student, did you see yourself in your current occupation?

Honestly no, I never imagined becoming president of a pharmaceutical company. But I knew I liked the business of science, and wanted to work in the pharmaceutical industry doing research. What I think helped me the most in my career path was being open to new opportunities, being able to communicate well and building trust in working relationships within and outside the company.

What advice do you have for students who are interested in pursuing graduate studies?

Having a doctorate does help in business. Choose a discipline that really does resonate with your interests, and find a supervisor who will support you through your studies. Understand that it is a long journey, but use the time to build your skills in various areas and topics, as you will draw on them in a career. No matter what career, being able to communicate well is key for success.

What career or job search advice do you have for students and recent graduates?

Be open to careers that you may not have initially considered because you can find success and a rewarding job experience in many types and sizes of companies. Also even with a graduate degree, expect to progress over time, but the degree gives you a lot of flexibility and removes limits on what seniority you can achieve.

Tell us a fun fact about your career path.

During my graduate degree, postdoc and when working in Medical Affairs and as President, what I loved was the opportunity to travel all over the US and the world.

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FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES 

500 UMSU University Centre, 65 Chancellors Circle 
204-474-9377, graduate_studies@umanitoba.ca
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