Last Summer, I decided to apply for a Work Learn position as a Research Assistant with the Vancouver Spine Research Program at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH). My experience was, to say the least, a time of discovery.
Finding your fit
Finding your own unique skills and strengths is often a big part of one’s university experience; however, knowing where to start can be a bit of a challenge. As students, we are not only here to further ourselves but to create a positive impact on our community and peers and open ourselves to opportunities unknown whether related or unrelated to our future endeavors.
I have always known that working with and helping people brings me the most joy. Human physiology and health sciences was a field that I envisioned my future self in, and my time at UBC provided a perfect time to expand and broaden my perspectives.
I wanted to be more involved in patient-care (whether through personal interactions or medical research), so when I applied and landed a Work Learn position as a Research Assistant at VGH, I knew I was one step closer to meeting my goals.
You’re in charge of your own experiences
As many of you are probably feeling right now, I was thrilled to have secured a Work Learn position. Knowing that I would be able to work in my field of study in Kinesiology, be involved in patient care, and step into something entirely new was so exciting. With all positions, I started with the basics – mine involved administrative duties such as filing and copying documents.
As I continued with the research team, I was able to assist with projects I would never have imagined: deciphering patients’ charts and working with the surgeon’s secretary, speaking with patients regarding their diagnosis, or visiting a morgue to collect a spinal cord. I also spoke with my supervisor about my future career goals, and she connected me with a surgeon – I never thought I’d be able to speak with and take advice from one of Vancouver’s top spine surgeons!
The entire experience has been so fun and enriching. I learned what my capabilities are and have used those examples as motivation for other challenges both in and out of the workplace.
You have more support than you know
Supervisors care about your personal development too - they’re there to support your overall well-being and help you achieve your goals. Schedule routine check-ins with your supervisor, especially in the beginning, to ensure that both of your expectations are being met. Take the initiative to speak out and ask for potential opportunities for yourself that you may be interested in – it will show how committed and curious you are.
I know that with my experience, it was extremely valuable to create a close and positive relationship with my supervisor and research group. I felt comfortable asking them for advice and opportunities for myself whether or not they were related to my future goals.
For this summer, my goal is to create a relationship with the surgeons by scheduling meetings with them in advance and to take more of an interactive role with patients. I know these short-term goals will help my long-term goals of pursuing a career in patient care.
I hope that when you arrive at your new workplace, that you will set one or a few intentions of what you want to get out of this role as well - it can serve as a great way to map out your direction and continue to show you your competency.
I’m continuing my work with the Work Learn program this summer and in the years following because I keep finding that there really is no limit to how much I can learn. I feel that you all will have a very similar experience. Working with this research team pushes me to be my best self whether that is to increase my empathy, better understand patients, or help shape my professional character.
I am no genius – but with curiosity, commitment, and adherence to high-quality work, I was able to shape my own experience to fulfill my goals, and you can do the same! This is just my experience – yours is entirely in your own control. There is so much opportunity - step out of your boundaries and show what you can contribute!!