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Guest Speaker Series: Sarah Cobb on Managerial Position Transitions

June 28, 2021
UBC MEL MHLP - Guest Speaker 2021 - Sarah Cobb

On June 16th, Sarah Cobb, Executive Director with Vancouver Hospice Society and 2019 MHLP in Seniors Care alumna, met with the current MHLP cohort to discuss and share her experience moving from a union position to a managerial position.

Sarah Cobb has been a Nurse since 2002, completing her BSN at the University of Victoria. During Cobb’s career she has worked for the St. Paul’s Palliative care program, as a nurse and as a Clinical nurse leader, educator, and consultant. After graduating from the MHLP in Seniors Care in 2019 Cobb began her current job as Executive Director of the Vancouver Hospice Society.

Cobb’s professional goals have been built around trying to expand both clinicians and the public’s understanding of death and dying and improve understanding and access to timely appropriate end of life care.

Cobb’s presentation and discussion focused on her experience switching from a union to a management position and what an individual should consider when embarking on a similar career journey of their own.

During the discussions, Cobb highlighted that being in a union environment for an extended period of time, with all of the ‘protections’ (e.g. job security), meant that leaving those protections was scary. Cobb recalled that she could have ‘played it safe’ and remained in the union position but the MHLP program enabled her to see the bigger picture for herself.

For Cobb, it was more important to do what she wanted, career progression and leadership experience, rather than hold on to the benefits offered in her nursing position in the union.

Speaking with the cohort, Cobb recommended some key considerations for the MHLP students, as they prepared to start searching for leadership roles.
  • Speak to different people in leadership roles to understand what management leadership in health care looks like.
  • Attempt to contact a past manager to get a more in-depth understanding of the role expectations to enable you to determine if the role is for you.
  • Relevant networking is key. People are helpful, they are generally happy to share their challenges and successes, so do not be afraid to connect with them.
  • Look for opportunities to get management or leadership experience in your current job or company by speaking to supervisors to learn about processes, accountability, and responsibility to prepare you for the transition.
  • Speak with Human Resources to understand the requirements and process involved with switching positions, especially if switching from one health authority to another.
Towards Cobb’s time within the MHLP program, she highlighted a few important takeaways from the business curriculum portion, of the curriculum, which have helped her within her current role and activities.
  • Keep all the information on leadership education received from the MHLP curriculum and reflect on that information as you work through a new position.
    • Continue to remain up to date by reading articles on leadership and learn from your peers and the wider community.
  • Courses like accounting and project management (APPP 501) seemed a bit challenging at the time, but they have paid off.
    • They have enabled Cobb to understand the necessary skills for a leadership position, skills including the understanding of broad concepts like project management, finance, and accounting.

    Through this, Cobb also mentioned how making strong relationships with those in the MEL and MHLP programs, when studying, enabled her to appreciate different perspectives on challenges and gave her new insight into other business methods.

    In addition, the diversity from the cohort’s professional backgrounds made for broader cross-industry connections and collaboration.

    In Cobb’s final comments towards applying to management and leadership roles, she advised MHLP students to really look for jobs that interest them, even if that takes a bit of time to find.

    Based upon Cobb’s own experience, she found that applying to jobs even if you do not have the exact experience listed can still be worthwhile, as you never know what might happen. She also indicated that students should not be afraid to turn down offers that may not be the best fit, or ask for things they may want (e.g. a higher salary, professional development opportunities, etc.).

    Learning from alumna with first-hand experience transitioning from a union position to a management role in health care enabled the current MHLP cohort to appreciate the opportunities and challenges from ‘one of their own’, an MHLP recent graduate perspective.

    With the current MHLP cohort thinking about the same upcoming process, the information provided useful guidance and tips towards helping them asses their trajectory, goals, and job wants.

    Are you ready to transition into a leadership role? Discover the Master of Health Leadership and Policy.