UBC Philosophy MA, ’16
Employment Services Advisor/Facilitator for Refugee Programs
When I learned that Canada was welcoming 50,000 Syrian refugees in 2016, I felt a sense of urgency around being part of the receiving party, particularly because I myself am an Arabic immigrant to Canada. Finding myself in a position to help, I considered a role within a settlement agency (at least as the stepping stone of a longer career path) because I felt it would afford me the chance to learn about real world ethics, while also applying my philosophical training to help others in need. Furthermore, I felt that this kind of experience would prepare me for future leadership and teaching opportunities. I don’t think I could have had a better preparation for my role in this type of organization, then that which I was afforded in philosophy. I felt equipped to engage complex and difficult issues with strangers in need of my mindful consideration and attention. Furthermore, due to my previous experience discussing difficult topics such as the ethics of medicine and war, I was able to overcome the barrier of hesitation and promptly apply my critical thinking skills to offer practical and effective solutions to a variety of obstacles and challenges. It’s truly a very rewarding feeling, which motivates me to continually work hard (even on bad days).
I can’t emphasize enough the impact of philosophy on my life. In my youth, philosophy came to me as a form of counselling and therapy. Philosophy engaged in me in the sort of way that allowed me to make sense of the world, to understand myself, and therefore to have a clear grasp of what it is that I have to offer the world. It helped me let go of frustrations and anger, and to find forgiveness, calmness and clarity in my relationships. Philosophy taught me to internalize the process of asking questions, learning how to get at the right question at the right time, so that you can consistently make the most of your exchanges with the various individuals that come into your life.
Philosophy allowed me to discover different ways of looking at and living life, it introduced different views on what ought to be valued and what not, how to think about one’s interest. What’s interesting is that philosophy often introduces you to opposing views that could be equally compelling to you! And when you find yourself in a position such as this, caught and conflicted between two different stances, you have no choice but to delve into both in an attempt to understand what in each strikes you as true. This is a profoundly powerful moment, when you find an idea so compelling that it explains something to you about why a certain occurrence took place the way it did. Overtime, this became a tool of inquiry that I would apply to many different situations, decisions, considerations. You become an individual who is comfortable operating in the realm of assumptions and doubt, because you learn to recognize thought patterns, errors of judgment, motivations for action, breakthrough moments and realizations. Having familiarity with this way of inquiry has made me far more able to make educated and informed decisions for myself, and have a positive impact on the lives of others because of it. There is a unique kind of confidence that philosophy affords, a confidence in one’s own intelligence. Philosophy has allowed me to become the best version of myself. There will never be a day that I regret my decision to take a risk on this discipline.
It’s important to understand that philosophy does not itself need to be your “career”, but rather, that it can serve as an unwavering foundation for a career. The onus is on the individual to be creative in making meaning out of their ‘philosophical training’. But this isn’t a bad thing, rather, the craft of philosophy itself paves all kinds of creative avenues! This is a reliable tendency for philosophy to make for a richer and more unique life experience. And I’ve yet to hear of a craft, business or trade that can’t in some way be enhanced through philosophy. It all comes down to finding your own way of using it. Connect philosophy to a cause that you’re passionate about, a hobby or skill, and interest or curiosity.
When it comes to taking your first step into employment, choose not to focus on what the position gives you in the short run, but rather, what it’s value will be to you once you’ve arrived at your calling. Successful careers are built out of leveraged experiences and careful planning. So, I encourage you to have an understanding of how each job position you take will fit into the narrative that is your career.