Meet Iqaluit-Based CPC Member Alexandre Farmer
By Cathy Milton.
Alexandre Farmer lives and works in one of the most spectacularly beautiful and unique capital cities in Canada: Iqaluit, in the territory of Nunavut. He is a Career Development Advisor (ᐃᖅᑲᓇᐃᔮᖅᑖᖅᐸᓪᓕᐊᓇᓱᐊᖅᑐᓕᕆᔨ in Inuktitut) at Nunavut Arctic College.
1) It’s 2052 km from your hometown of Montreal to Iqaluit. What took you there?
I had recently completed a bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Concordia and was not sure what my next step would be. A friend’s father, who had been working in Iqaluit for 10 years, recommended we come up here to try and jump-start our careers because there were many employment opportunities and room for career growth. I decided to give it a chance while I paid off my student loans. Almost 7 years later, I’m still here!
2) Most of us have never been to Iqaluit. Can you describe it?
It’s hard to encapsulate the character of this city in words. I believe that you actually have to live here to fully appreciate Iqaluit’s “personality.” It has a small-town feel as the population is only 8000, but it is still a capital city and so there are always events happening and celebrities or politicians passing through. The town itself is not the most aesthetically pleasing to the eye as most of the buildings are square and painted bright colors such as purple, yellow, and red. The views surrounding the town, however, are surreal. Even after living here for 7 years, I still find myself taken aback as I’m driving to work in the morning, gazing at the snow-covered mountains that surround us and looking at the frozen bay that shimmers in the sunrise. The natural beauty here is unmatched.
3) Coming from Montreal, what was the biggest adjustment you had to make?
Giving up restaurants was a big adjustment. I really enjoy eating out at a wide variety of restaurants, even sometimes giving into cravings for McDonald’s or Wendy’s, but all of those options are off the table here. Also, groceries are extremely expensive and things that I considered “normal” down south would be luxuries in Iqaluit. Items like Gatorade and orange juice are very pricey here, so I learned to live without them.
Oh, and I have to mention the seasons and the temperatures! At the summer solstice in June, we see almost 21 hours of daylight. At the winter solstice, we get less than 4.5 hours of daylight. The average daily temperature during winter months ranges between -23C to -28C, and the “warmest” months of the year, July and August, rarely manage to reach +10C. These conditions really take a lot of getting used to!
4) If there is such a thing as a typical workday at the college, what does that look like?
A typical workday would entail me spending the majority of my time in my office, helping students with résumés, or for those planning on becoming students, helping with the college application process. In reality, though, a “typical” day is very rare. I can find myself organizing orientation week, graduation ceremonies, feasts, and other fun events for the students during the school year. I also attend a lot of career fairs and trade shows where I set up the Nunavut Arctic College booth to promote the school and its programs. Iqaluit has one high school, so I occasionally make presentations to the students there, or at the local adult learning centre. I run employment-related workshops for our Arctic College students and connect them with potential future employers. Every day is different, but I really enjoy the variety.
5) What part of your job gives you the most satisfaction?
I love seeing students complete their goals from start to finish. From the moment they walk through the door and inquire about Arctic College programs, I enjoy helping them apply to the program of their choice, assisting them in securing funding, and providing access to tutors or any other aids they may need. The payoff for me is seeing them cap off their hard work by walking across the stage on graduation day with big smiles on their faces. That is such a great feeling!
6) What are the biggest challenges?
As college staff, we must be prepared and willing to support our students as they deal with a wide array of challenges. Post-secondary schooling is still a novelty in the north and for a lot of people it can be very scary. Leaving their communities (family, friends, and often the only place they have known) to attend college can be extremely tough. Also, many of our students have children and must balance their schooling with the demands of raising young families.
7) How did you start your involvement with CPC?
I spoke with Sharon Graham, CPC’s Executive Director, and volunteered to help CPC expand into Nunavut by getting the message out to other careerpros in the region. I’m now a member of CPC’s Ambassador Team. Earlier this year, I completed the online certificate course, CDP-01 – Career Development Ethics and Standards.
8) Where would you like to see yourself 5 years from now?
I would like to continue working in the field of academia. I really enjoy the school setting and supporting youth in achieving their goals.
9) Any words of wisdom for careerpros who may be considering a position in Canada’s far north?
If you have the opportunity to try it out, even for a short period of time, it is well worth the experience. Just be sure to bring warm clothes!