Karen Dickenson-Smith, MPH’16

Current Role: Transforming Systems for Better Health

What would you tell your graduating self?

I would tell myself what I tell new graduates and early career professionals every chance I get… that you are bright, motivated, and capable and you will have many opportunities come your way.  As the saying goes, “success is where opportunity meets preparation.” The key is to focus on being as prepared as possible so you can increase the number of opportunities you’re exposed to, recognize them, and know what to do when they happen.

What is the biggest mistake you’ve made at your job / a job interview?

I brought cookies.  I was the final candidate in a full day of interviews, and, figuring the interview panel might be tired and hungry (and therefore less likely to view me positively as a candidate), I brought some cookies to provide them with a sugar boost.  It was admittedly a risk and while some panel members liked it, others thought it showed I wasn’t taking the interview seriously.  A lesson in knowing your audience.

What was the most important connection you made?

I have had many important connections over the years, many of which are sustained today. One, in particular, stands out because it led to me joining my current organization, Fraser Health.  It was actually a partner in a law firm who based on my career interests, introduced me to the VP, HR of another regional health authority. That conversation was very inspiring and it opened my eyes to the many opportunities to make a difference in the public sector. It happened over a decade ago but I remember like it was yesterday – I’m very grateful for that connection and could not have predicted that it would spark such incredible opportunities to contribute.

What was the best advice that you received?

The best advice I received was from an early career mentor. It was that the higher you rise in an organization, the more comfortable you need to be with ambiguity. It is very true and to this day I am thankful to her for taking the time to share that advice. I saw her at a conference recently and thanked her again.

How do you make the best of all situations?

It’s not always easy but I step back and focus on my bigger picture vision.  I remind myself of what’s most important. And I ask myself, in the grand scheme of things, if whatever is occurring is really going to matter. If not, I try to let it go.  If it really does matter, then I focus on working with others to achieve the best possible outcome.

 

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