Heather Steel (MA, history) contributed to the Transition Q & A series in March 2013. Read her interview here. She was then a researcher at the Institute of Canadian Citizenship. Heather is now a research administrator at York University.
After my original Q & A piece, I stayed at the Institute for Canadian Citizenship for another four years. It was a rewarding experience, during which I deepened my knowledge base in citizenship and immigration and conducted meaningful research that had – I think – a positive impact on our stakeholders.
But the time came for a change. I felt that I had hit the ceiling at the ICC and was no longer growing professionally. I also realized I wanted to shift away from doing quantitative research. I thought that an ideal position for me would be one that helped facilitate research and cultivate a positive research environment. One in which I could stay in a research environment, but not actually do primary research myself. When a research project administrator position based at York University opened up, I thought it looked like a pretty good fit. I applied and got it! (Also, yes, networking is important to the job search, but if a job posting looks like a great fit for you, apply. You never know.).
I began my new role earlier this summer. I’m the administrator on a SSHRC partnership grant involving a number of Ontario universities and community organizations and seeks real policy change, the two things I love about it. My tasks are diverse, including financial reporting, budgeting, human resources, communications/knowledge mobilization, and just generally being on top of everything. I love it!
What new piece of advice or insight do I have to pass on four years down the line? Changing jobs is scary for a person who is a creature of habit, and craves stability and certainty. I would have thrived in the 1950s job market! But in this day and age, you need to be consistently thinking about the skills you are developing, the skills you want to develop and where you want your career to go. Gone are the days of staying in one company for an entire career; moving every three to five years is becoming the norm. So accept it, take risks, always learn, and see where it leads.