Dr. Nicole Campbell


Failure can bring opportunity.

I frequently tell my students that failure is not a bad thing and that they can learn from it. That being said, it doesn’t make it easy to experience failure in your life, especially when it is fresh, and you can’t appreciate opportunities that might come from it. My biggest failure had to do with struggling to figure out what I was going to do with my life. I defended my Ph.D. in 2012 and had no idea what I was going to do regarding a career. I was fortunate to get sessional teaching experience throughout my graduate studies and shortly after I graduated, but it was by no means a full-time role.

In 2013 I heard that a teaching position was opening up at Guelph, where I had trained and done a lot of teaching. I knew that I was a junior applicant, but I also knew I had specific experience with the courses they wanted to be taught. I did not get that job, and it hurt at the time. Fast forward to 2015 when I was applying for another full-time role at a university. This time, I felt ready and that I had a lot more teaching experience under my belt. I had taught many different subjects and at different levels in the medical science field. The interview went well, and I was excited about the possibility that I might finally have full-time employment at one institution. I was not selected for the role, and I still remember where I was and how I felt after hearing the news.

I remember thinking that I was not good enough, even though it was likely that someone was just better. I have failed in the past (more times than I can remember), but I could accept those failures because I always knew where I fell short. But this time I gave it everything I had, and yet it wasn’t that simple—some factors are out of our control. During this time, I questioned if I was in the right field, and I started to consider other professions. I knew that I didn’t want to keep spinning my wheels chasing after something that might never happen because there are not a lot of positions available. It was at that moment that I decided I had to be different. I had considered signing up for a Master of Education but kept putting it off—this was the push I needed. I searched online for programs and decided I would give myself another year teaching before I explored other options. At the time, I had contracts at multiple universities, so it was not as though I didn’t have work.

At the same time that I got the news that I didn’t get the first job, I was told about another position that was open at the same institution. I didn’t take it seriously at the time, and I almost missed the application deadline. I got an email about an interview, but my expectations were not high. The day after my meeting I got accepted to the online education program I applied to and signed the paperwork. The following day I got a call from the university and was offered the job that I have now, and I was shocked. Not everyone’s story ends the way mine did, but I do believe that failure can bring opportunity, especially if you try something different. It took me a while to figure out that continuing to do the same thing (i.e., teaching lots courses) wasn’t going to make me stand out. Fast forward to 2018 when I completed that online program, which has immensely helped me in my job. I genuinely believe that I wouldn’t have the same go-getter attitude about my role if I had got that job back in 2013.