Anna Levin Global Political Economy Alumni
Briefly, tell us about your job. What do you find most rewarding? What are your greatest challenges within this profession?
I am a community food facilitator at Food Matters Manitoba. As a charitable organization, we work towards ensuring good food for all Manitobans. There are many parts of our city and province where there are barriers keeping people from eating well. My job encompasses a wide range of things that aim to address those barriers, from running direct programming in communities (like kids cooking classes or gardening workshops) to behind the scenes support for community members who are running their own projects (such as helping with evaluation or sourcing funds and materials). I work in the city of Winnipeg and travel to Cross Lake and Fox Lake in northern Manitoba to support projects in those communities.
The most rewarding part of my job is the connections and relationships I’ve built. It’s amazing to work with kids and see them develop the skills and confidence to be able to prepare a meal. I have also met some really incredible people on my trips up north and have learned so much from them. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing a project come together and witnessing the impact that it has. On the other hand, one of the big challenges of the job is how hard it can sometimes be to get a project started. Another challenge in my profession is lack of job security. Every project is dependent on funding and it can be stressful living from contract to contract.
What experiences and activities helped you to map out your career pathway?
I was always passionate about social justice and world issues and always wanted a career related to that. After high school, I took a year off and travelled to Mexico and Central America. Seeing the disparity in different parts of the world had a lasting impact on me. It solidified my desire to pursue a career where I could help make positive changes in people’s lives.
In university, I explored a couple of professional programs, but neither of them felt like the right fit. I was drawn to the global political economy program because it is so broad and combines different subjects. Writing my major research paper on community economic development was when I knew for sure that I wanted to work in the field of community development.
Another impactful experience in university was getting involved with the student garden. It was my first experience with gardening and I made some strong connections with students from other fields such as city planning and agriculture. I gained an understanding of food issues from a lot of different perspectives and also the tremendous power of food as a community building tool.
As a student, did you see yourself in your current career? What stayed the same and/or changed?
As I already mentioned, I have always wanted to make a positive difference in people’s lives and that idea stayed with me throughout my education and career, but how I go about doing it has changed. I started university thinking I wanted to be a nurse, then switched to engineering after one term and then decided that wasn’t for me either. The next year I went into the GPE program because I liked the idea of keeping my options open by learning about a wide variety of subjects. I also liked the ‘global’ aspect of the degree because I thought that I might like to work in international development or international affairs.
By the end of my degree, I had less interest in working overseas, having learned so much about the issues and interesting initiatives going on here at home. My interest shifted to food as a community building tool, and that’s how I ended up where I am now. So while I am still in the field of community development, and still working to help make positive changes in the lives of individuals and communities, the way that I’m interested in doing that has definitely changed over time.
What advice do you have for students who are interested in pursuing a degree in global political economy?
In retrospect, I definitely wish I had complemented the degree with more practical experiences. I think having had summer jobs in a related field or even volunteering would have helped a lot when I was looking for work after graduation. It would’ve helped in terms of having experience on my resumé, but also in terms of having connections in the small non-profit community. It also might have helped with the shock of landing in a ‘real life’ community development role if I had been exposed to some of the challenges that come with the work before hand, rather than just the theory. So, my advice would be to try to think about what it is you’re interested in doing and find some ways to get involved in that work early on.
What job search advice do you have for students and recent graduates?
Keep an open mind and look for opportunities in unexpected places. I applied for every job I could find that was even slightly related to what I wanted to be doing. My first job was working at the Boys and Girls Club of Winnipeg and I was disappointed that I hadn’t been able to find a more degree-related job. But I saw how the Boys and Girls Club job could be a bridge to that kind of job, drawing on the experience I did have, but also giving me a chance to develop a lot of new skills, so I took it even though it wasn’t my first choice. And I ended up loving it and staying with the agency for 3 years, growing into a more challenging position that was even closer to what I wanted to be doing. It was an incredible learning experience that totally changed my perspective on a lot of things. So – you never know what surprising jobs may turn into great opportunities.
Tell us a fun fact about your career path.
The scariest (career) choice I ever made was quitting my full time, permanent job with benefits at the Boys and Girls Club for a 3 month contract with a tiny little food related organization called Fruit Share. Nobody could understand why I did it! But that was how I made the leap from the world of youth work to the world of food security work, and it paid off in the end. A year later, when I applied for my current job at Food Matters Manitoba, it was my experience at Fruit Share that put me in the running for that position. So I don’t think I’d be where I am today if it wasn’t for that risk.