Q: What education do you have?
A: I completed a BA in Economics with honours and an applied energy concentration in 2014. I also did a minor in history specifically looking into strategic planning of the military. In addition to doing the Co-op program, it took me 6 years to complete my undergrad. I am a strong believer in major in something that will get you a job and minor in something you have interests in.
In September 2019, I completed a Masters in Public Policy to build some experience, develop my communication skills, and enhance my understanding of policies and regulation. I had the opportunity to travel to Israel and meet with the Ministers of energy and healthcare which was interesting in contrast to Alberta.
Q: What do you do now?
A: I am a Senior Economist for the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER). I had the opportunity to work on exciting files on climate policy, energy development, hearings for multibillion-dollar mining projects, and I’m very proud of our groups forecast called the ST98 which is a 10-year outlook for all the energy produced in the province. Many stakeholders, government, landowners and such view this. It’s humbling to think that I was once reading forecasts like this during my undergrad and now I am taking part in creating it.
Q: What advice would you give students?
A: Be a hard worker to develop a good reputation and try to be likeable, personal, and approachable. When you attend meeting don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to others. In some ways, you must force yourself to be outgoing. You also can’t go into a conversation with a rigid plan in mind, be flexible and be able to talk about more things then the weather.
Some job postings are posted well in advance so always be looking ahead of time. You must recognize that opportunities don’t just fall into your lap, you have to actively pursue it like your homework. It takes time to build a resume, apply for jobs, and to attend networking or recruiting events.
Q: What have you gained out of the Co-op program?
A: I gained valuable experience from the program. I was exposed to the different schedule the workplace holds compared to school and I learned how to adjust. Most importantly, it got my foot in the door which is hard to do when you graduate. When you make these connections with an organization, they may be able to extend your work after the Co-op term and if not, you still have those connections that you can utilize.
Afshan Mahmood, Economics
Q: How did you secure Co-op work term placements?
A: The Society of Undergraduates in Economics campus club held a networking event where I met a manager from the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) now Alberta Energy Regulator (AER). I took the initiative to get the managers contact and tried to meet with them after the event. After consistently reaching out, 7-months later I had the chance to go grab a coffee with the manager and I asked if there were any Co-op opportunities. A few months later, the ERCB released a job posting for a summer student, so I applied and reached out the manager I met which helped me score an interview.
Q: What advice would you give to students in the job search phase?
A: I once applied for a job that was titled the same as a position, I had for 10 years but never got an offer. What I learned from Mandy Foley is that a job posting is not real, it is a stylized candidate, it’s always better to network and reach out to the company to understand what the job entails. With my current position at ENMAX, the HR helped me find a job posting that aligned with what I wanted. There were some things I didn’t know, like utilities, and I was very honest throughout the application and interview processes.
You should conduct some research of the company and question whether this is a company I would like to work for? Does the company hold the same values that I do? Am I willing to re-locate? You need to be clear and consistent with what you want and how to articulate it in an honest way. Be confident in what you can do and have supporting facts. When I was applying for jobs, I was ready to accept no’s and I was ready to go for coffees.
Most importantly, always call back your interviewer and ask what you can do better.
Q: What organizations did you volunteer for?
A: GoldMind Project, ECO Canada, Supply Chain Association of Alberta, Canadian Society for Unconventional Resources, Petroleum Services Association of Canada, and Petroleum Technology Alliance are a few. Some of these organizations hold events you could volunteer at, but you need to reach out to people.
Q: Do you have any additional advice to add?
A: Learn to become articulate through organizations like Toastmasters which I am still currently involved with. When you reach out to people, you need to tell them what you want from them and why you need the help. If someone does not get back to you, you should keep reaching out.