Samantha Wilson’s career journey has been an unusual one, but her decision to earn a Master of Public Policy (MPP) degree at the Munk School has ultimately led her to a job she loves and a career that excites her.
“I came into the MPP program out of left field,” Wilson says.
She had previously earned a master’s degree in Classical History and Archaeology and was working in Cerveteri, Italy on a dig exploring the ancient Etruscan town of Caere. However, she couldn’t picture herself constantly moving around the world to work on various digs.
“Archaeology has always been my passion, but it’s a tough career and I didn’t love it enough to forego stability,” Wilson says.
She knew that her research skills and attention to detail would be useful in other careers, but she wasn’t sure where to turn until she talked to a friend who was working toward a Master of Public Administration degree.
“I loved the idea of a stable career, but I also liked the opportunity to be of service,” Wilson says. “I latched onto policy, not knowing if I would like it. It was a big risk.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced her to return from her travels early, Wilson took the opportunity to research various graduate programs and talk to graduates from each of them.
“The only consistent good feedback I got was about the University of Toronto,” she says.
Wilson was a bit wary because she knew she didn’t have a background in policy. But, given that the MPP program welcomes applicants without policy experience, from a diversity of academic backgrounds, Wilson made the leap and enrolled.
“Since I didn’t have a policy background, I wanted to be as prepared as possible for a public service career,” she says. “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I’m glad I did it. I wouldn’t have this terrific job if it weren’t for the Munk School.”
Wilson is currently working on national security policy as a policy analyst for the federal Department of Public Safety. She discovered the position first on the Munk School’s Career Link website, which she describes as “the School’s own private LinkedIn for policy-relevant jobs.”
“I read this job description and I felt as if this was the job I was meant to have,” Wilson says. “I did my mandatory summer internship there after my first year at the Munk School and they kept me on during the following school year part-time. Now, I’m working there full time. I just love my job and I managed to find the best team ever.”
“Just the idea of being of service was a lovely idea to me. I feel as if I’m doing something good; basic safety and security are essential in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and I feel like I’m helping to provide that for Canadians. Even if you have a bad work day, if you feel proud of what you’re contributing, it can’t be so bad.”
Wilson is not alone in translating her summer internship into a permanent job offer. Last year, 20 per cent of the MPP’s graduating class found full-time employment via their internship. In obtaining the initial internship that led to her dream job, Wilson says she relied heavily on the Munk School’s student services team for support. She took advantage of their coaching on writing resumes and cover letters and practiced mock interviews with them. She also corralled friends into quizzing her for her interview, posing questions that might be asked.
“I wanted this job so badly,” Wilson says. “I wouldn’t have it without the student services team’s help in preparing me for finding jobs in government.”
She truly enjoys policy work and loves the idea that she can move horizontally throughout the civil service in an analyst’s role if she wants experience with new subject matter. However, she’s not planning too far ahead.
“It’s all new and I try not to think past this position for now,” Wilson says. “I want to stay here for a while.”