When I look at my first-year self, I realize that I have changed quite a lot. I am a lot more open and confident with my capabilities and what I want to achieve. As well, I have learned to take risks even if it scares me to death. Even if I feel that I’m not good enough or feel that my current situation won’t allow me to achieve what I want. I realized after second year that I can’t let my fears hold me back from getting what I want, I have to try and step out of my comfort zone. But that’s easier said than done.
Taking risks require pushing aside all levels of discomfort and putting yourself out there. This was something I had to do when approaching professors. It’s not easy stepping out of your comfort zone and approaching a professor and initiate a conversation. Well for me at least. Even sitting in the front row of class in Con Hall with my professor glancing in my direction every now and then causes my heart to race and palms to sweat. I started approaching my professors after second year when I attended Backpack to Briefcase Alumni dinner for Life Science students as well as other alumni events. Talking to U of T alumni was very intimidating, but I wanted to learn more about the professional world and hear the stories of U of T graduates on how they became who they are today. Some of the alumni who attended were professors and they gave useful advice on how to succeed and aspects to focus on while considering careers after undergrad. Honestly, the major factor of me breaking out of my shell was that I went to the dinner with a friend and that helped ease the nerves by tenfold. After a few questions and light laughs I’ve grown to enjoy talking to the professors and realized that they are just regular people who have faced similar challenges that we have been through as students. It was even more fun bonding over the struggles of U of T as students. Since then I’ve had this new insight of talking to professionals.
One of the most common advice that I have received from both professors and graduate students is to just put yourself out their even if you don’t receive a response back. More importantly to keep trying even after you feel discouraged. This can apply for anything that you are interesting such as a job position, or study abroad, or applying for research. Shoot your shot. Last year I applied to a few research positions, but didn’t hear anything back. Although I was quite discouraged, I continued to apply to this day, because what else do I have to lose. I’ve already shoot my shot at talking to professors now I have to get do the same for the professional world and from experience with the professors it’s not as scary as it seems. Do what you can and learn from the process.