Brittany Litster Psychology Alumni
Briefly, tell us about your job. What do you find most rewarding? What are your greatest challenges within this profession?
As a research assistant at Health Sciences Centre, I work with a dedicated team that focuses on multiple sclerosis (MS). Most of the week, I’m in the neurology clinic collecting data, ensuring quality entries and interacting with patients. The rest of the time, I’m entering and scoring various questionnaires for a larger research project that involves participants with MS, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and psychiatric disorders. The most rewarding part of my job is the knowledge that the information I gather will help many patients in the future. That being said, the greatest challenge is that I don’t get to see the immediate results.
What experiences and activities helped you to map out your career pathway?
During my degree I only took courses I was truly interested in and volunteered in areas that I knew would be both rewarding and enjoyable. My interest in psychology led me to volunteer in the psychiatric wards at Health Sciences Centre. I also took Mental Health First Aid, which was offered through the Canadian Mental Health Association. This opened up doors to several possible positions related to crisis intervention or research in mental health. I’m still mapping out my career pathway as my next pursuit is to apply to medical school. This goal has guided me to find opportunities that provide exposure to the medical community which led me to do research with MS patients.
As a student, did you see yourself in your current career? What stayed the same and/or changed?
As a student I only had a vague idea of what I wanted to do once I graduated. I figured I would have a career in research, but the options were so vast that it was overwhelming to decide what to focus on. About halfway through my degree I changed my career direction toward medicine instead of psychology. I joined the Career Mentorship Program through Career Services which allowed me to shadow and interview professionals from both areas. This opportunity provided me with a better idea of what these careers actually entailed. I was then able to better focus my goals when it came to finding positions or volunteer opportunities that interested me. I continue to be interested in research, although now my focus is much clearer.
What advice do you have for students who are interested in pursuing a degree in psychology?
I would recommend starting to map out your career early in your degree. I regularly kept in contact with my academic advisor and took advantage of the Career Services office. They connected me with their Career Mentor Program to explore multiple careers and get first and second hand experience in those professions. The field of psychology is vast and unless you know exactly what you want to do with your career it’s a good idea to dip into the different areas of psychology. You can accomplish this through courses, volunteering, job shadowing or your honours thesis project. After exploring a bit you may be surprised what really catches your interest.
What job search advice do you have for students and recent graduates?
Never give up. Job searching can be disheartening when after handing out dozens of resumés you never receive any interviews. To increase your chances make sure your resumé is tailored to each specific position you’re applying to. In addition, match buzzwords from the job description to your resumé as most companies now use a computer algorithm to filter through resumés before human eyes even see them.
Tell us a fun fact about your career path.
The great thing about entering into research is that it opens doors to multiple areas within your chosen field. There are many possible topics to study with various jobs and responsibilities along the way. As well, the research you conduct can inspire other individuals to find their own passion to explore different topics based on your discoveries. During my work as a research assistant, I had the opportunity to collaborate with my coworkers to write a systematic review of previous research to help find where there are gaps of information that require further investigations. I hope that our findings will inspire other young researchers to fill these gaps and help them along their career path.