by Stewart Prest, submitted 2010
Most Canadians expect to change careers many times over the course of their working life. Most don’t do it with quite as much style as Michael Bratvold, however. Since graduating from Augustana in 1994, he has been a backpacker in Europe, a tree planter in northern BC, a development worker helping youth in the Caribbean, a fly-fishing guide in northern Saskatchewan, the owner and operator of an internet cafe in the Commonwealth of Dominica, an English teacher in South Korea, and manager of a meat-processing plant in Swift Current, Saskatchewan.
Oh, and he also had a recurring acting role on a massively popular Korean soap opera.
Admittedly, Michael’s a bit sheepish about that last one. “I don’t tell people about it. Certainly, it wasn’t something I ever expected or looked for. The aunt of one of my students in Korea was a talent agent, and she convinced me to try out. I had a few roles in advertisements and as an extra here and there. Eventually, I found myself with a recurring character on this massively popular soap.”
More recently, Michael worked briefly as a sales representative for a pharmaceutical corporation in Edmonton, a job he found more lucrative than interesting. Right now, he’s a commercial real estate broker. Like many of his other jobs, it was an unexpected opportunity. “I didn’t have any training as a licensed commercial broker, but given my background, the owner decided to hire me without the normal certifications. I took care of the all the licensing courses during my first year on the job.
“I’m proud to think of myself as a textbook liberal arts graduate – a jack of all trades, and master of none. The liberal arts aren’t so much about developing book knowledge in a specific set of courses – though you do that as well – but about learning how to adapt to different situations as they come up. The varied experiences I had at Augustana, getting involved in everything from student politics to choir, helped prepare me for the varied experiences I’ve had since then.”
With a young family to think about now, Michael’s a little more stationary than he used to be. “We’re expecting our second child next month, so it’s nice to have a stable job and to be in one place for a while.” Still, he hasn’t lost the travel bug completely. “I took Mindy, my wife, back to Dominica for our engagement, and we try to visit whenever we can. It’s a little piece of paradise, and I have a lot of good friends there still. We also travel quite significantly as a result of my wife’s job as an international student exchange liaison with Alberta Learning.”
When asked about where he might go in the future, Michael seems happily non-committal. “I’m really enjoying the life I have here, but to be honest, I don’t know what will happen in the future. Actually, I always assumed I’d end up back in university, working on a PhD in political science. I have a master’s degree in the area, but other than the development work with which I have been involved, virtually none of the jobs I’ve had actually required that MA degree. I suppose it’s still possible that I might go back to school one day. Who knows? I am up for anything interesting and challenging that may come my way.”
It’s a safe bet that, whatever he ends up doing in the future, it will be a pleasant surprise to everyone, including Michael.