Transition Q&A:
Michael Read

What did you hope for in terms of employment as you completed your PhD?

Like most, I hoped for either a tenure track position at a university or research position at a think tank.

What was your first post-PhD job?

Senior Policy Advisor to the Honourable Noel A. Kinsella, the Speaker of the Senate.

What do you do now?

I’m an advisor at Sun Life Financial. I help clients protect what is most valuable to them through life and health insurance and grow their assets and stabilize their income through investments.

How did you get this job?

When the Speaker was nearing retirement, I decided I wanted a career change. I had worked in politics for almost 15 years and could see there was a sea change coming. The academic job market was still moribund. I originally joined my father’s firm, Generations Wealth Management, in Fredericton, NB, and learned the industry from one the masters. After two years, I wanted to return to Ottawa and was recruited into Sun Life.

What kind of tasks do you do on a daily and weekly basis?

I research market trends for my investment clients and make sure their portfolios are still meeting their objectives. I meet with individual families and business owners to assess their needs and build a financial plan so they can achieve their life goals.

What most surprises you about your job?

Having observed my father my entire life, I didn’t think this job could surprise me. It does, though. There’s always something that comes up. The industry is constantly changing to meet consumer demands and evolving regulations. These two trends are not always in tandem.

What are your favourite parts of your job?

Meeting clients and providing them with peace of mind. You would think processing and delivering death claims would be the absolute worst. You’re meeting someone at one of the worst moments of their life, they’ve lost a loved one or have been diagnosed with a critical illness. When you present a beneficiary with a cheque and see the change in their body language as much of their financial worries evaporate, you can’t help but feel you did well by them.

What would you change about it if you could?

Like any industry, there’s a lot of paperwork that could be done electronically. Compliance measures are good for both the consumer and the company, but regulations could be modernized to allow for more efficient implementation.

What’s next for you, career-wise?

I would like to move into management. I enjoy the role of the advisor, but my background in both politics and academia are well suited for the recruitment, training and mentoring roles our managers perform.

What advice or thoughts do you have for PhDs in career transition now?

Career transition does not mean closing the door on the career you once wanted. The skills one gains from the doctorate are transferrable. I use them every day and it helps set me apart from others. You can also remain open to possibilities to use your degree in a more direct way down the road. I may not have the career I trained for, but I have a career I want. In the end, the PhD is a tremendous gift you give yourself.

268c0c4 - Michael Read
Michael Read earned his PhD in politics at Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. He’s now an adviser at Sun Life Financial. Find him online at

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