From AWE to Public Service: An interview with Kristin Hilbich BA (Political Science)
Written by: Madisen Gee - AWE Communications and Program Support Intern
Like many students, Kristin Hilbich began her post secondary experience not knowing exactly what she wanted to study. After finishing her first year in general Arts, the class that stood out to her was a Political Science course. To her it felt the “most interesting and the most relevant” so she stuck with it.
People often consider government and, of course, politics as the most natural career paths to follow a Political Science degree, says Kristen, but it's also a degree that you can apply in a lot of different ways. Arts degrees are known and loved for their flexibility and the transferable skills that come with it, but what makes it such a versatile degree can also make choosing a career path difficult.
In the later years of her BA, Kristin started thinking more about how she specifically wanted to apply her Political Science degree in her career. As odd as it sounds, Kristen was never really interested in the “political” side of her political science degree. She had always found the idea of working in government and being a public servant to be more enticing. Her desire to explore these interests is what lead her to Arts Work Experience. “[It was] a way to gain different experience, and see how I could apply [my degree to a career.]”
Kristin got her first co-op work term with Western Economic Diversification Canada, as a Junior Policy Analyst. This was her first experience working in a professional setting, and after her work term was finished, she was offered the opportunity to continue her work in a part-time capacity, while she finished her degree.
Her second work term was with UK Trade & Investment, where she helped “research, identify and target companies in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba across a range of sectors to ascertain their interest in expanding to the UK market”. The opportunity to work with the British Consulate General gave Kristin another new set of skills and experiences; this time with more of an international focus. Kristin minored in International Studies, an interdisciplinary minor to help students “diversify and deepen their understanding of global issues,” so she was able to integrate the skills she learned during her work term back into her coursework.
One of the adjustments to working in government, Kristin says, is changing the way you write, “you learn good writing skills during your degree, but there are key differences in the way you apply them when you actually enter the workforce, at least in government,” she goes on to explain that “in university you're often writing to hit a word count, and can afford to be more wordy, which is one of the luxuries of academic writing. Where as in government, things need to be brief and to the point. You’re writing for people who may not have time to read wishy-washy wordy papers. It's a very different kind of style, but the basic skills you’ve learned are still there. It's about learning to adapt it to your audience.”
Another thing Kristin realized, was that it wasn’t just the technical skills from her BA that were important; that rather the “soft skills” that had become invaluable in the job market. Part of the beauty of the Arts degree, is that you “learn to think and to process information, and a lot of it. We have a ton of information available to us, but the ability to take that and do something with it is what we’re going to need going forward,” Kristin says. This, on top of the critical thinking skills, and their innate ability to work on teams and communicate effectively is what sets Arts students apart from the rest after graduation.
The natural progression of her career lead Kristin back to Western Economic Diversification Canada where she works currently, this time as an Economic Policy Analyst, where she does research and analysis on clean technology. Kristin credits AWE as one of the main reasons she is currently employed; it's because she had that first introduction to it, which gave her a foot in the door.
“Government can be tricky to get into. Positions are often posted internally and there can be a lot of turnover within the government, so people are always moving around, which can make it hard for new people to get in.” The benefit of Arts Work Experience can be to build connections with employers and opens doors of opportunity that would otherwise be closed to recent grads.
Arts degrees often don’t have a cut and dry career path to follow. Not knowing what you want to do with your degree is not an anomaly, but gaining invaluable work experience, and connecting with professionals in different areas can help you start to figure it out. Whether you know exactly where you want to be after you graduate, or have no idea where you want to end up, Arts Work Experience is a great place to start.
The next Arts Work Experience Information Session will be held on Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019 from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m.
To register for the information session, click here
For more information about AWE, go to uab.ca/awe