Queen's University Queen's University

Building Career Opportunities: Carving Something Out of Nothing

Here at Gradifying we’ve been writing about preparing for a career from a number of different angles. We’ve covered Career Week that took place in mid-October, Amanda wrote on timing your job search; and Vanessa on how to choose your dream job. In a nutshell, we’ve been writing about how to find opportunities to set you up for your career. That’s the tried and true method, and you’re not likely to get very far if you don’t know how to find opportunities. This week, however, I will be writing on how to make opportunities to prepare you for your career. Neat.

When I first came into Clinical Psychology, there was a man, a legend. He stayed in the program until the end of PhD 2 and decided that this wasn’t his path. The often times when people leave grad school without having completed their degree it doesn’t do a lot for them. This character, however, put his credentials to work. He walked into an executive’s office, pitched to him why the company needed him and his psychology experience, and then walked out of the meeting with a job. The fun part is, the job he walked out with hadn’t existed before he walked into the office – he convinced the executive to make the job, on the spot.

This (true) tale is an exceptional story about a person with exceptional social skills. The moral of this story, however, is about having a goal and making it happen, which is something that anyone can do. I’m currently doing my clinical residency. I want to get particular experience treating individuals with trauma in the military, but this residency didn’t have a trauma rotation to offer. This city, however, does have a military base, and I am now in a trauma rotation that I made. I’ve learned a lot through this process, and below are a few things that I think made this possible.

Makin' work work for you.

Makin’ work work for you.

What it Takes to Make Career-building Opportunities:

Step 1: The right frame of mind.

Recognize that all opportunities that currently exist didn’t exist until someone started it. We don’t usually think about it because someone else has blazed the trail for us, and this has happened for most things we do in life. But there’s no reason that you can’t do it. I don’t want to get too Tony Robbins’sy, so I’ll leave that one there, but it’s important because we don’t take opportunities that we don’t see.


Step 2: Know your goals.

Got to know where we're going.

Got to know where we’re going.

Once you believe that it’s possible to do something, you need to have a clear vision of what it is that you want to do. I didn’t just know that I wanted to get experience working in the military, but I had in mind exactly the activities I wanted to do, the specific problems I wanted to treat, what treatment modalities I was qualified to use, and when I could do it. As a general rule, if the goal seems too big and unrealistic, you haven’t broken it down into small enough steps. Get specific, because if you can’t convince yourself it’s possible you’re not going to convince someone else.


Step 3: Figure out who needs to be involved to make it happen.

We all do it. Even monkeys do it.

We all do it. Even monkeys do it.

Unless you’re an entrepreneur looking to go into business with yourself for yourself, you’re going to need to recruit people in places to make it happen. In my case, I needed someone to supervise me, so I needed find a couple options of people qualified to give me supervision. I also needed to know who made the decisions I needed made. And also, don’t forget to lean on contacts you’ve made. Always – every day – value the people you meet in your life, truly appreciate them, because you’re a good human being. But also recognize that we all help each build our careers. If there’s someone that can help you build yours, reach out. Once you figure out whom you need to contact, make sure you communicate clearly and confidently.


Step 4: Find the balance between persistence and patience.

If it were easy to blaze this trail, someone would’ve probably already done it. Maybe not, but if it’s a really good idea, then probably. Set your timeline and know when would be too late for it to start. Write that date down. Until that date comes, stay the course.


Step 5: Good luck.

Luck is a mysterious thing. My wife believes my luck originates from a u-shaped metallic device that is securely positioned between my two cheeks. She might be very, very right about that.


If there’s one thing that I know about luck is that luck comes to those who are prepared (Anon, Beginning of time). If you follow steps 1 through 5, I think you might just be able to forge a horseshoe for your very own self.

Make sense? Did I miss anything? I’m at the stage where I’m making some things up as I go, because that seems to be a big part of what having a successful career is all about. I’d genuinely love to hear your thoughts on this and things that you think are important in carving something out of nothing.

Posted in General, Internship, Jobs and Careers, New Students, Professional Development, Skill Development, Student Perspective Tagged with: , , ,
One comment on “Building Career Opportunities: Carving Something Out of Nothing
  1. Colette says:

    Awesome and simple steps Dustin. thanks for sharing

Leave a Reply to Colette Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Subscribe to Gradifying

Gradifying Poll

Grad Community at Queen's
How connected do you feel to a community of other graduate students at Queen's?