Patrick Burchat – Health Canada Summer 2016

Position title: Junior Policy Analyst

Workplace: Health Canada; Healthy Environments and Consumer Safety Branch; Office of Drug Policy; International Team

NPSIA cluster: International Organizations and Global Public Policy (IOGP)

Position obtained through the Carleton co-op process?: Kind of… (will explain below)

Undergrad school(s): Clark University

Undergrad major(s): Political Science and Economics

How would you describe the dress code at your work?

Business Casual.

Are there many other NPSIAns at your workplace?

Yes, in the same building, but she works at Statistics Canada. We ride our bikes home together sometimes.

How many jobs did you apply to this summer?

I applied to this job outside of coop, and started in March. Before I started, I applied to about 20 coop jobs and heard back from only a handful for interviews. Luckily, Health Canada was fine with me sticking around until September so I didn’t take any of the formal “coop jobs”.

I have secured a coop job for the Fall at Global Affairs. For the Fall, I only applied to three places and received three interviews. My job at Health Canada played a massive role in this for sure.

What is your favourite part about your job?

My favourite part of the job has been the people. All of my colleagues go above and beyond to ensure that I get to work on interesting files and they take a genuine interest in my well-being. The work itself is great, as I’m working a lot with UN bodies, government and NGO stakeholders, and research. While the work can sometimes get a bit tedious, my colleagues are consistently amazing.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part has been learning how to nag people. I’ve worked on several projects that require external input from government partners in other departments, and so I need to find a way to politely entice them to send me their responses in a manner that satisfies my deadlines.

What is an average day like for you?

My main responsibility is helping out with the Office of Drug policy’s international file which is run by two other policy analysts. This means writing a lot of briefing notes for upcoming bilateral meetings between Canada and other countries/UN bodies, preparing the delegation binders for the Canadian Delegation to the UNGA Special Session on the World Drug Problem 2016 (UNGASS 2016), co-leading Canada’s annual statistical reporting to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and helping out with day to day tasks that the team may encounter.

I was also drafted onto help with the domestic drug file, more specifically Canada’s drug strategy. This involves a lot of research and writing on federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal approaches to problematic substance use. I had no formal experience or knowledge in this area prior to this position, but I’m climbing the learning curve. It’s been a great experience because it’s taught me the importance of being curious, energetic, and diligent.

Is your workplace fully bilingual, or does it favour English over French (or vice versa)?

It’s all bilingual, but English is most widely spoken in meetings and everyday conversation.

Are you also taking classes (NPSIA, language training, etc.) and/or studying abroad this summer?

No, but I’m going to be doing coursework during my fall placement.

What sort of work experience did you have before this position?

I had worked for a Federal political party (they’re favourite colour is orange) during the 2015 election for several months. It honed a lot of different skills and was an enjoyable experience. Going into the public service, I was nervous that this experience would be looked down upon. However, so far it’s been a great talking point during interviews and it hasn’t proven to be the least bit negative.

What are your hours like?

09:00-17:00 typically.

What is some advice you’d give to a student hoping to get hired/intern at your workplace?

It’s important to understand the mandate of the Branch (Health Environments and Consumer Safety). It’s also not enough to merely understand the process of the subject matter and the work, you must also be able to discuss its implications. Prof. Carvin’s Policy class will help a lot with this skill so pay attention!

Anything else to add?

Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions at the ends of interviews regarding how the interviewers got into the Public Service, if they really enjoy their current department, and how they like working with their current team. It shows that you’re already thinking about where you fit in and it demonstrates that you’re confident to know what you want out of a position.

That being said, don’t come off as a thinking yourself above any of the potential work – if they want you to make copies of something…make the copies with a smile on your face.