A Journey of Self-Discovery
By: Meghan Lofft, #UofTGrad 2018 | June 28, 2019
Meghan Lofft, a TRP alumna Class 2018 presently working as a Research Assistant for the Foundation of Medical Practice Education: A Canadian non-profit organization dedicated to the development, production, and evaluation of educational programs for community-based family medicine and general practitioners. She enjoys empowering people to move their bodies as a Group Fitness Instructor, and posting close-up pictures of flowers on Instagram as a passionate photographer.
One year post-graduation, she reflects on her experiences in the TRP program and candidly shares her journey and advice to current students.
“So, what job does this program lead to?”
This is one of the most commonly asked questions by prospective students of the TRP. Rightly so, these individuals want to ensure that their time, efforts, and tuition money move them swiftly into their career path, a job, and financial stability; a solution, if you will.
Surprisingly, as a student in the 2016 cohort, I was not thinking along these lines at all. Before TRP, I had spent years trying (and failing) to get into a competitive M.Sc. program that would train me to fit a job description. I heard about the TRP from a friend of a friend and was intrigued when I read Joseph’s message on the website. I applied – without time for a second thought – on the deadline for the September 2016 start. After interviewing with the program coordinators, I had a feeling that was refreshingly contrary to the “we’re sorry, but you’re just not good enough” experiences I’d had with graduate programs so far. I was accepted and had no idea what to expect.
Instead of my solution as the end goal, I entered the TRP with a goal to learn, graduate, and figure out the rest from there.
Now, upon reflection, I realize that the “let’s see what happens” mindset I adopted was a large component of my success as a student in the TRP and after graduation. Fast forward to June 2018; I had my M.H.Sc. degree in hand, a successful capstone project and wealth of TRP knowledge under my belt, and the confidence that I would find a great job in my field by the end of the summer. Cute right?
It’s June 2019 and here are three important things I learned in my first trip around the sun as a TRP alumnus.
Lesson 1: Be patient. Be picky. Chill a bit.
Things in the “real world” move a lot more slowly than in the student schedule of an academic year. Keep an eye out for jobs in your field that actually interest you. It will probably take months to find a position that truly draws you in and fits your qualifications without having to stretch your cover letter. Also, you’ve just finished grad school – it’s alright (and necessary, really) to sit back for a while and channel your brain space towards other interests.
Lesson 2: Make a personal connection stand out.
Applying to positions posted online draws hundreds of applications. The best thing I did in my job search was to make a follow-up call to the hiring manager after submitting my application for the job that I now have. Call (not email, call!) with a simple inquiry, a made-up question even, and make sure you leave your name and flex that TRP title. A Master’s degree focused on translational research is very intriguing to many facets of healthcare (for good reason, as we know!).
Lesson 3: Sometimes you’re just a token interview, and it’s obvious. Take the experience to heart, but not the rejection.
Some organizations like playing hard to get – employees on contract often have to re-interview for their job as a formality and in doing so, the hiring department also has to interview other “potential candidates”. So, if you’re asked to interview at 5:30 pm on a Friday in July and the panel seems somewhat distant or uninterested in your responses – spoiler alert – they might just be fitting in that necessary external applicant. Still, every interview is an excellent experience and, even if it cut your vacation short, you’ll look back on it as a valuable part of the process.
Beyond learning the educational content of my Master’s degree, the TRP taught me how to immerse myself as a professional in our healthcare system. Developing and managing my own capstone project with a fellow colleague allowed me to become confident in my ability to apply the knowledge gained in our learning sessions. Instead of fueling my academic competency into a hundred-page thesis, I was experiencing the healthcare system that was outside of the University bubble. I was challenged to address a realized need; the big-picture, overwhelming, real-world stuff. With no challenge, there is no change. If things are good enough, it takes some disruption and different ways of thinking to realize how it could be better.
As a TRP graduate, I am proud to be a small pebble dropped into a big pond; a mover and shaker in my workplace. With the continual evolution of our policies, practices, and population, the TRP is making sure that healthcare keeps up.