Career Mentor – Thea Toews
25 successful years, 25 career mentors
Thea Toews [MOT/2012] is one of 700+ Career Mentor volunteers who devote time to meeting and supporting University of Manitoba students. Each year, career mentors share their knowledge and advice to guide the career plans and contribute to the success of students. In celebration of 25 successful years, 25 career mentors have agreed to share their career stories and advice…
Briefly, tell us about your job. What do you find most rewarding? What are your greatest challenges within this profession?
I am an occupational therapist working in a case management role with Home Care. The most rewarding aspect of my work is building relationships with clients and their families, facilitating and witnessing positive change in their lives over time. In many occupational therapy roles, including my own, a lot of the work is time sensitive, so it can be challenging to proactively serve those clients whose needs are more related to quality of life than to basic health and safety.
While you were completing your degree, what experiences and activities helped bring you to your career decision or helped you succeed in your occupation?
I discovered several unanticipated areas of interest and passion through volunteer experiences and by taking a variety of university courses that caught my eye. Then I had the opportunity to complete exploratory undergraduate practicum placements with occupational therapists both in a personal care home and at St. Amant Centre. The diverse, challenging and thoroughly enjoyable experiences I had on these these practicum placements convinced me that occupational therapy was definitely the career path for me.
Describe your career planning journey. Please include any highlights, bumps or roadblocks.
I used a career exploration website in high school to identify some career options suited to my interests and strengths, and there I discovered occupational therapy. During my undergraduate degree, I completed the pre-requisites and confirmed through my practicum experiences that occupational therapy was a great fit for me. After a break from studies to travel, teach English and work, I took a few courses in early childhood education; however, I quickly realized that occupational therapy was still what I wanted to do.
What inspired you to be a Career Mentor?
Within the Manitoba occupational therapy community, there is a strong culture of mentorship, resource sharing and otherwise supporting one another. I have benefitted from this many times and have also had informal opportunities to ‘pay it forward.’ When a colleague told me about the Career Mentor Program, highlighting that occupational therapists are the most frequently requested mentors, it just seemed logical to formally participate.
What advice do you have for students who are interested in following in your footsteps?
Work hard in the pre-requisite courses, as your average in these is a significant part of how your application to the occupational therapy program is ranked. Beyond that, pursue whatever your interests are and become a well-rounded person who knows yourself well. Occupational therapists need to be as diverse as the client they serve, and “therapeutic use of self” will be a lot easier to do with clients if you have a wide range of life experience outside of academia.
What career advice do you have for university students?
University teaches essential skills that you can apply everywhere, including how to think critically, research thoroughly and ask good questions. Use this time to learn more about yourself, gain exposure to new ideas and fields, and every time you meet someone with an interesting job, ask to hear that person’s story; this will reassure you that every career path is different and show you ways to creatively turn what you love into a living.
Stay tuned for more career mentor profiles! From September 25 to November 2 the Career Mentor Program will be profiling 25 dedicated and wonderful mentors from across several sectors. To view more career mentor profiles and learn about the anniversary event on November 2, 2015, please visit the CMP 25th Anniversary website.