Chantelle Lachance, APEX Certificate Graduate
How do you set yourself apart in the competitive field of academia?
Chantelle Lachance knew that she wanted to pursue her dream of landing an academic career. But she was not exactly sure how to set herself apart from her competition. She had her sights set on landing a postdoctoral fellowship after her doctoral work—the first step towards her goals to stay in academia—and wanted to learn strategies for finding those opportunities.
Chantelle joined the APEX Certificate Program in the fall of 2013, about a year into her doctoral work in Biomedical Physiology & Kinesiology (BPK). The program helps graduate students understand how to be actively engaged in locating and pursuing professional opportunities, including the importance of building your own network.
Doctoral students in the Certificate program are required to complete 100 professional development hours while in the program. Chantelle was surprised when she first started the program-- 100 hours sounded like a major time commitment! But Chantelle quickly realized how the hours play into building your professional skills and networks. She easily surpassed the 100 hour mark by her participation in skill-building workshops, conference presentations and voluntary leadership roles.
Not all of these opportunities were typical (or expected) to fulfill her doctoral requirements, such as her position of Vice President of the Canadian Association on Gerontology Student Connection, but Chantelle is convinced that a wide variety of experience is what gives her CV an edge. "I think experiences that are unique, but useful, are a big bonus. Future employers want to see that you are an active member of the community with a broad range of skill sets," Chantelle explains.
When asked what impact participating in these opportunities had for her, Chantelle responds, "I think confidence was a big one for me - confidence that I belong [in academia] and validation that the time I was putting into developing my professional skills was going to be useful." Useful turned out to be an understatement. By participating in the program, Chantelle was able to identify and work on the types of transferable skills that have helped take her passion for clinical research to the next level. She stopped being passive in her job search—no longer waiting for job opportunities to be posted online. She now takes the initiative and reaches out to her network to ask about future openings. "By directly reaching out to people for informational interviews and mentorship, I have been quite successful in creating professional opportunities for myself," Chantelle states. It also helped her build a web of networks across the country. Her role as student Vice President for the Canadian Association on Gerontology Student Connection helped her connect with trainees from all over Canada which gives her inside knowledge of all of their institutions!
Chantelle plans to complete her doctoral program in fall of 2016. At the same time, she is busy knocking on the doors of her network in Toronto, where she plans to relocate to pursue this next stage of her career. She has all the confidence in the world that her future is bright and she’ll land her dream job as a Scientist at a health - related research institute!
Chantelle took part in the APEX Certificate program. The APEX Certificate Program is a structured professional development program run through the Office of Graduate Studies & Postdoctoral Fellows. The program equips grad students and postdoctoral fellows with strategies and support to help them navigate the transitions from academia to possible career paths.