McGill Food & Dining Sustainability Coordinator
Compass Group Canada in Montreal, Quebec
Amelia Peres is very thankful that she found geography, as its broad scope allowed her to remain malleable while her interests changed and developed throughout the years. Peres’ passion for food sustainability grew naturally from her fond memories of gatherings around food and its cultural significance. Even throughout her time at university (Bachelor’s of Arts with Honours in Geography at McGill University), Peres felt happiest and most at ease when she was actively involved in sustainability and food projects on campus. Peres currently serves as the McGill Food & Dining Sustainability Coordinator and enjoys engaging in community-based projects.
1. Can you describe your career path since graduation?
I was already actively working in food sustainability during university. I worked with a group called Organic Campus to offer students local organic food options at affordable prices. Then, I participated in a field studies semester in Panama, researching agriculture and climate change adaptation. I returned to Montreal and started working for the farmers’ market as a co-coordinator, engaging with food security and food sustainability on a local level, bridging my experiences together. Around the same time, I also began my Honours research on global food security and its interactions with climate change. Later that year, my current job position was posted and immediately caught my attention. The
position allowed me to apply my skills in a professional setting, where I learned about the inner workings of institutional procurement.
2. How do you incorporate geography into your work?
Food is inherently geographical. In geography, we talk about location as well as place. Location is where something is on a map, whereas place pertains to its cultural significance and what it means to the people in that community. For example, a significant amount of food grown in British Columbia is processed locally in Quebec and is labeled as local. Consequently, the food looks local on paper in terms of its location but is not local in terms of its place. Even when it comes to defining what local means, distance is only one component, so we need to be engaging critically with these concepts.
3. Looking back, what would you have done differently?
I would not have worried so much about my career prospects. It can be scary to wrestle with thoughts of future career security since there are very few job postings for geographers specifically. That scared me because I did not know if I was the kind of person who can create a job for myself. But there is guidance available, and you will find a passion. During university, you have many chances to try out different interests with each new semester. You can continue to build skills and make connections, and your program advisor can help you discover opportunities. Many geography graduates that I know have found, and are actively doing, something that they care about.
4. Do you have any advice for students wishing to attain a fulfilling career in geography?
This seems like such a small part of getting a job, but go to your career planning services and learn how to write a good resume. I receive so many resumes from individuals who are likely extremely qualified but are unable to present that on their resume – whether because there is too much information or not enough. Someone with a well-written resume but who lacks experiences will do much better than someone with a disorganized resume who has more experiences.
Also, do not be afraid to ask for paid job opportunities if you are not able to volunteer your time. Take small opportunities, and use them as stepping stones to larger opportunities. Eventually, you will get to a point where you will have gained the skills and experience necessary to work in your dream field.