Jennifer Storm Native Studies Alumni
Briefly, tell us about your job. What do you find most rewarding? What are your greatest challenges within this profession?
My first job after graduating was as an Aboriginal student recruitment officer at the University of Manitoba. Currently, I’m working in the Northern Medical Unit recruiting Family Physicians. Recruitment is about promoting opportunities, being supportive and helping people make some big decisions in their education or career. If you summarize all my job duties, I’m basically your first friendly face and handshake when you’re coming up to a big transition in your life. I get to be the one to either hold your hand, or watch you run on your own, whatever you need!
The biggest challenge is that ‘recruitment’ sounds like a dirty word when, historically, people viewed it as a job that tries to sell you on something. It’s not like that. It’s not about filling quotas, it’s about helping people make a decision, regardless if it is the right fit for them or not. It was just as satisfying sending someone to another institutional recruiter if that school has the right program/atmosphere for them. It’s the same with the physicians I work with now. For example, some doctors signed up just ‘test the waters’ and now we’re celebrating their 30 years of service in Churchill. However, not everyone is a good fit for the North and that’s okay too.
What experiences and activities helped you to map out your career pathway?
I never said, “I want to be a recruiter when I grow up.” It was following my interests and passions that lead me here and I feel very blessed both professionally and personally. I chose to study native studies because I wanted to know more about myself as an Indigenous woman. I grew up in the city but came from a reserve and I graduated high school without much knowledge about the history of where I came from. When I experienced racism, I knew it was wrong, but I didn’t have the tools to address it. I didn’t know how to confront racism constructively. I realized I wasn’t going to be given the answers without seeking them out for myself—so I did. I enjoyed my classes enough that I switched my major from psychology to native studies. I also volunteered every year at the Graduation Pow Wow and the Elders Gathering on campus.
After I graduated, I did not immediately get the jobs I wanted, such as a coordinator or scaabe (Elder helper), but I learned that I was always given the jobs I needed. Ceremony is not always about what it can give you or what you think you deserve at the time, it’s about what you can give to others that makes you a successful person and that will give you the greatest teachings. Step outside of yourself and do the things that need to get done, even if in a moment of entitlement you feel you’re above it, because that’s how you become the doer, the helper, the scaabe.
As a student, did you see yourself in your current career? What stayed the same and/or changed?
As a student I originally wanted to be a counsellor, someone who gives advice and fixed other people’s problems. I soon found out that is not how counselling works, at all. Now, I give people advice all the time now, they actually seek me out for it! I also get to meet lots of people from all over the place and hear their stories, help them sort through challenges and celebrate their successes. It really is a good deal for me. Life has a funny way of redirecting you from where you think you want to go and, in my case, it was needed, appreciated and fulfilled.
What advice do you have for students who are interested in pursuing a degree in native studies?
Give it a shot. It worked for me and hopefully it will for you too. The good thing about university is that there are electives and room to go out and discover your niche. How would you know if you’re interested in engineering if you’ve never taken a class? Some high schools are now offering native studies classes, but it only scratches the surface. If it interests you, explore it. Native studies is becoming more and more important, no matter which career you choose. If native studies is your passion, then you have to go with it; that fire is in you for a reason.
What job search advice do you have for students and recent graduates?
Humility. You just worked hard to get your degree, worked hard at jobs to pay the bills, volunteered and networked to get your resumé top notch. You do deserve a job. Sometimes your dream job isn’t waiting for you with open arms and you need to know that it’s ok. It’s disappointing and stressful, but normal. Don’t be above starting off at a job you feel over qualified for. Maybe you have a master’s degree but you can only find jobs as someone’s assistant. Be thankful and take the job. Do the best you can with it and people will see you. A big part of networking is being remembered in a good way. If they see you work hard and being helpful they will remember you when they see your name for a position you’ve applied for in their organization. They will remember you when they see a job advertisement that would be perfect for you. It’s not just about who you know anymore, it’s also about what they know about you too. Don’t be the entitled recent graduate who is too smart to be wiping up spilled coffee or too important to volunteer to take the meeting minutes. The community is a lot smaller than it seems, trust me. In no time, people will start knowing who you are. Let them know how good you are at working hard.
Tell us a fun fact about your career path.
I never thought of recruitment as a job while I was in school. There are so many options out there that no one is necessarily talking about how that might be the perfect fit for you. I saw a job posting on the University of Manitoba website for an aboriginal student recruitment officer and it got me excited to see a job related to my degree was available. The job required me to travel all over Manitoba and visit communities to do presentations, organize events, etc. Through that job I was able to advise thousands of students and experience Manitoba in a way I’d never have had the opportunity to otherwise. I remember one specific afternoon when I convinced colleagues to stay at work late to meet me and a student I had just picked up from his hotel because he traveled all the way to Winnipeg from Lac Brochet just to have a tour and get set up for school. He never told me he was coming, he called me at 4:00 p.m. and said “I’m at this hotel, I came to see the University, can you please come get me?” He had never been to Winnipeg before and he didn’t realize that I might be busy or that the University is actually far away from the airport. He didn’t know how to use a bus or a taxi and he was too shy to ask anyone at the front desk for help. He only knew me, the girl who came to Lac Brochet to talk about university. I remembered what my and his Elders taught us, about the importance of caring for one another; all those lessons about humility, patience, reciprocity, understanding and compassion. I was able to do that work every day. Recruitment might not be for you and it doesn’t really matter what job title you end up having. My point is, you can make any work as meaningful as you want if you take our teachings with you. Miigwetch.