If you had told me last year that I would be working alongside a group of six surgeons, multiple residents and nurses to help carry out clinical research, I would have had a hard time believing you. Getting an interview, let alone a job offer, from the Fraser Orthopedic Research Society was like a dream come true. I was stepping up into a field that I have had interest in for years and getting a taste of what it would be like to work in a hospital and clinic. I was beyond excited to begin my journey as a Research Assistant and work in a new setting, but part of me was also afraid of the pressure to prove my capabilities and deservingness of the position while working with such impressively accomplished medical staff.
During my first few weeks on the job, it was quite evident to me that I was not comfortable being at my workplace. I was working with people so much farther ahead in their careers, in such prestigious fields, while not even having a degree myself. It was just too daunting. How could I not feel out of place? Because the doctors at the clinic live busy, complex lives all while the clinics run at such a fast pace, it took a few weeks before most of them even knew who I was and what I was there to do. It was initially hard to approach the surgeons and other staff without feeling like I was intruding or bothering them, but I had a job to do and had to do my best to get their attention.
Thankfully, my supervisors started out doing weekly check-ins with me to see how I was feeling and to let me know what I had to work on. It was at these check-ins that I was able to express my difficulty being uncomfortable interacting with the surgeons and residents. One thing my supervisors told me, which I have found incredibly helpful, is that what I do has purpose. They emphasized the fact that I was hired to carry out important research that could help countless people in the future, and that I should think about that when struggling to find confidence to do my job. And their advice doesn’t just apply to this job. If you find yourself feeling like you are incompetent or intruding on senior staff members’ time and space, just remember that what you are doing is important and that you were hired for a reason because you were the best for the role.
Although confidence around others in the clinic was a tough barrier to overcome, it wasn’t the the only issue I ran into. It was hard to feel deserving of my position. Any sort of health-related field, and especially research, requires great attention to detail. This was something I had some issues getting used to at first and the tough adjustment resulted in a lot of mistakes on my end. The first part of any job you take on will involve a learning period where you get familiar with your duties and learn how to be efficient at doing them. It is inevitable that you will slip up and make some mistakes here and there. My supervisors were not afraid to let me know when I had made a mistake or when there was an issue of how I was doing things. At times, it was hard to not feel incompetent after making certain mistakes and let them get to me. I quickly learned not to take criticism and feedback personally, but as an opportunity to learn and better myself. Co-op terms are opportunities to learn important skills relevant to your prospective career as well as to undergo personal development, and I was determined to do just that. Learning how to accept my mistakes and learn from them rather than let them worsen my insecurities was imperative to feeling more confident as a new employee and growing as a person.
Lastly, although I knew that my job was important, it was still hard to not be intimidated by the incredibly successful and intelligent people that I worked with. Something I realized was that the intimidation I felt towards the doctors was because of their status, not because they scared me at a personal level. Rather than fear them for their successes, I felt that I should instead admire them for the hard work they put in to get to where they are. The dedication all the medical staff put into their jobs everyday, no matter the situation, is something I learned to really admire. It inspired me to keep pursuing my dreams in the medical field. Working with the Fraser Orthopedic Research Society has been an incredible learning opportunity. It may have started with some difficulties adjusting, but my time here has taught me so much about the field I want to pursue and about myself as a person. I have learned that being proud of what you do, knowing how to handle mistakes and criticism, and transforming intimidation to inspiration are imperative to being a confident Co-op student. Although it may sound cliche and simple to do, it wasn’t until I was placed in an uncomfortable situation that I truly learned how to embody these actions. I hope other people can apply this advice and make the best of their Co-op terms by knowing that they are worthy of their positions and capable of making significant contributions at their workplace.