Career Mentor – Colleen Wilson
25 successful years, 25 career mentors
Colleen Wilson [BSc(Agr)/03, MSc/07] is one of 700+ Career Mentor volunteers who devote time to meeting University of Manitoba students. Each year, career mentors share their knowledge and advice to guide the career plans and contribute to the success of students. In celebration of 25 successful years, 25 career mentors have agreed to share their career stories and advice…
Briefly, tell us about your job. What do you find most rewarding? What are your greatest challenges within this profession?
I work for Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development as a landscape resource specialist. I am responsible for providing leadership in emerging provincial resource management issues in the area of air, soil, water and biodiversity, and providing technical and scientific support and recommendations for environmental policy options. With this as a focus, I work with others to develop and implement initiatives and programs, and investigate innovative tools that support environmental sustainability of Manitoba’s agricultural landscapes.
While you were completing your degree, what experiences and activities helped bring you to your career decision or helped you succeed in your occupation?
During the final year of my undergraduate degree I was considered pursuing my M.Sc., but had not been involved in research before and wanted to gain some experience to confirm that I was on the right track. I had a class with a professor whose focus area aligned with my interests and I coordinated with her to secure funding for a summer position working in this area. This research opportunity, as well as my M.Sc. research and overall degree, put me in a position to network with those in the industry and learn vital transferable skills that I can take to any position.
Describe your career planning journey. Please include any highlights, bumps or roadblocks.
I originally planned to become a veterinarian and enrolled in the pre-veterinary program through the Faculty of Agriculture. I found the faculty to be welcoming, the classes small and the atmosphere friendly in a family-like way, all of which appealed to me. As my studies proceeded I began to have second thoughts about my career path. I decided to continue with my degree through the department of animal science, while using my electives to take courses in other departments to broaden my understanding of agriculture and the environment. Upon completion of my degree I had the opportunity to work with a wonderful team of researchers to complete my M.Sc., combining both agriculture and its influence on the environment. I continued to work for my advisor as a research assistant, which allowed for additional experience and networking. A year after graduating I was hired for my current position with the provincial government.
What inspired you to be a career mentor?
Career Services originally contacted me, indicating there was a student interested in discussing career potential in the field of agriculture. It was enjoyable to sit down to discuss the diversity of potential career options and answer her questions about the industry. I have since welcomed the opportunity to interact with other students who are curious about a career in agrology.
What advice do you have for students who are interested in following in your footsteps?
I would suggest that students find summer employment within the industry, and to change employers each summer to diversify the experience gained. The work will be challenging, but the experience and networking will complement their education in a way that classes alone cannot. Students should also apply for summer jobs early (most jobs are posted in November) and work hard – those summer field seasons are short!
What career advice do you have for university students?
I would suggest that university students really diversify their courses in the first couple of years to test the waters and see what they have a passion for. And keep an open mind! So many people have this set idea of what they plan do career-wise as they enter university, and yet often their paths change completely. It is okay to pause, re-evaluate and carry on in a new direction.
Stay tuned for more career mentor profiles! From September 25 to November 2 the Career Mentor Program will be profiling 25 dedicated and wonderful mentors from across several sectors. To view more career mentor profiles and learn about the anniversary event on November 2, 2015, please visit the CMP 25th Anniversary website.