The following blog is written by Drew Rouble, an MSc Student in Biology.
Being a science grad student, people usually assume that I am a no-nonsense kind of guy, with the A-type personality that is expected of a meticulous researcher. Because of this perception, people are usually quite surprised when I tell them that, in addition to my scientific pursuits, I am also the kind of guy who likes to put on costumes, wear makeup, and make a fool of myself in front of large groups of strangers. No, I’m not a member of Carleton’s Young Liberals/Conservatives (ZING! Nailed it). I’m a theatre kid… and I think you should be one too. Or, at the very least, you should find your own secret identity. If not for the fact that it’s tons of fun to pretend to be Spiderman, then because it will probably help your professional career. Allow me to explain…
This past year, I had the wonderful opportunity to assume the role of Co-Artistic Director of Sock ‘n’ Buskin Theatre Company, Carleton University’s student-run theatre company. For anyone unfamiliar with Sock ‘n’ Buskin (or “SnB” for short), the company has served as an integral part of the Ottawa theatre community for decades (since 1943!), providing a platform for young aspiring artists to explore their talents and express themselves in a creative and constructive way. Translation: SnB is a rag-tag group of young people who, despite their lack of formal training, just love to be silly and have fun on stage – and who actually rock at doing so. And it’s that type of experience that you should know about.
As an actor and Co-Artistic Director of SnB, I have developed many valuable skills that are transferable to whatever path I ultimately pursue in life. Perhaps unsurprisingly, when you have experience dressing-up on stage in front of strangers, giving a research presentation to your colleagues isn’t so difficult. Likewise, when you are responsible for managing thousands of dollars that, if used improperly, could mean the end of your company, you suddenly have a better appreciation for your thesis supervisor’s tight wallet.
Most importantly, when you are immersed in an environment where people from all walks of life invest themselves emotionally in a common artistic goal, you develop an invaluable sense of perspective and understanding that changes the way you view the world, and which you never would have developed by sitting at a lab bench with a test tube in your hand.
And when it comes to your post-graduate plans, it’s this type of personal development – the kind that you can only get when you step outside of the academic world – that can distinguish you from being “another applicant with a Master’s degree”, to someone who is well-rounded and an asset to a company, professional school, or university. Instead of being another kid with a MSc, you can be the outgoing fellow who ran a theatre company, directed Shakespearean plays, and who sang in a production of “The Rocky Horror Show” (I played Eddie), all while pursuing a graduate degree and publishing multiple scientific papers. Maybe not all medical schools or prospective employers would be impressed by that – but I can guarantee you that at least a few of them would remember that cover letter over one that describes a typical graduate applicant.
So, my message is this: don’t be afraid to pursue your interests and get involved with activities outside of your academic life. Something that you might think is a wacky and weird hobby could mean the difference between you getting a job interview, and your application being thrown away. In the current job market, where having a graduate degree doesn’t necessarily guarantee you’ll be able to stop eating ramen-noodles anytime soon, you need to make yourself stand out amongst the crowd of “enthusiastic and hard-working perfectionists” that comprise your competition. You never know when a medical school admissions committee will be fond of your experience playing in a KISS tribute band, or when an employer will think your amateur-robot-fighting-league is pretty darn cool. But perhaps most importantly, you never know what kind of life-changing experiences and relationships you can have when you go out on a limb and get involved with something new. More often than not, they are the type that you will cherish for a lifetime. So get involved with something you enjoy, be silly, and show the world that you’re not just Peter Parker – you’re so much more.