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Laura Kirbyson Anthropology Alumni

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

I am a research consultant providing historical and genealogical research, including managing related databases. My time is generally spent developing research plans based on research goals, identifying likely locations for gathering relevant information, reviewing that information and collecting anything applicable to the research goals. I develop research reports that are anywhere from a couple of pages to a couple of hundred pages. Included in the process is managing the information about files identified, reviewed and items collected in a database with which the clients are comfortable.

It is very rewarding living in our country’s history and finding out about the people who contributed to its growth and development. I find it fascinating to discover over and over again that regular people had a significant impact on the lives of each other and ultimately on us. The greatest challenge I find in my work is access to records. While some organizations and repositories are forthcoming and make it easy to obtain copies of records, this is not consistent across the country. The changes to accessing records at Library and Archives Canada a couple of years ago is a prime example of how difficult it can be to access, from a distance, the records that I want to review.

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

When I was in my teens and my grandmother got me hooked on our family’s genealogy. I enjoyed studying people and the details of their lives and I have always loved history in general. I took a couple of anthropology courses at university and, well, the rest is history (pun intended).

As a student, did you see yourself in your current career? What stayed the same and/or changed? 

Originally, I did not see myself starting a business, although entrepreneurship is the norm on both sides of my family. I honestly couldn’t see how to translate my hobbies and a degree in anthropology into a career. Enough people suggested that if I did what I love to do, something would show up. I did spend some time jotting down ideas about what kinds of things I enjoy doing, as well as places I thought I’d like to work. There were enough options that I decided to stick with anthropology.

What advice do you have for students who are interested in pursuing a degree in anthropology?

I would advise anyone interested in an anthropology degree to really consider the type of work you want to do – what you want to spend your days doing. I don’t think it’s enough to enjoy the topic; you have to want to do the work that contributes to your industry, as well.

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

Don’t wait until you graduate to start your career. Volunteer with organizations and get some ‘on the ground’ experience. It looks great on your resume, too! I’d also suggest exploring ways that your education can combine with your other passions. It is surprising to find out that seemingly unrelated paths can cross in serendipitous ways. When that happens, it’s like a dream come true! Of course you usually need to work to make those things happen. In my experience, the luckiest people are the ones who work their butts off to make things happen. They make their own luck.

Tell us a fun fact about your career path.

I learn more and more about people every single day. It turns out not much changes over the centuries.

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