“D” is for Donuts — Physics at Tim Hortons?

D is for Donuts — Physics at Tim Hortons

One of the questions people have asked me most often in the past year (almost to the day, actually) is how I ended up working at Tim Hortons Corporate after studying Physics at university. And I’ll be honest: I’ve wondered that myself. It seems like such a drastic shift, but when you take a step back and look at the journey as a whole, rather than as a trajectory towards a life of academia, it makes a little more sense.

To give you a little bit of background, as I headed into my fourth year at Queen’s in Physics, I was already pretty certain that a career in astrophysics wasn’t for me. For more details on that, pop on over to my “Why I Studied Physics” post. So of course, as all of my friends prepared their grad school applications, I started panicking a little bit. I did some soul-searching, I went to career guidance sessions, I even retook the Career Cruising questionnaire from high school. No dice. Oh, sure, I found some leads, but nothing I was really passionate about.

My biggest problem with the job application process, especially for new grads, is the expectation that you convey your passion for the company and the work as you apply for the position. And a lot of the time, that means stretching the truth a little bit. Am I really passionate about this internship, or that entry-level posting? Probably not. But my cover letter has to make it look like I am, right? I’m a decent professional-style writer, but I hate being insincere. So rather than spamming the world of industry with my résumé, I applied at a couple of places and kept looking for something that would actually make me excited.

I stumbled across the posting for the Tim Hortons Leadership Development Program on TalentEgg. In fact, I think I was actually scrolling though every single posting for new grads on the site at that time, since I simply couldn’t choose the job categories to which I should narrow my search. There were four things about the description that stood out to me:

  1. It was a business new grad program that wasn’t limited to only Commerce students. I had only found a couple of programs that were openly recruiting Science majors.
  2. The assignment was open-ended by design, allowing you to try out multiple departments without having to commit to a single role when applying. In fact, students who were only trained and willing to work in a single field weren’t encouraged to apply. All I knew at this point was that I was thinking about trying out the business world, but how was I supposed to choose between Marketing, Finance, and all of those other fields, when I didn’t even know what half of them were?
  3. There was a huge focus on meritocracy. Now, a lot of people hear that word and immediately think “cutthroat competition”. But my interpretation was, “Awesome! It’s just like school! But you get paid!” So that’s how that happened.
  4. It was Tim Hortons. If you’ve read my top ten Tims products post, you’ll know that I’m slightly obsessed. Tim Hortons was a staple of my childhood, my favourite hangout in high school, and my source of pure joy in university. And while I have absolutely zero desire to work in food service, I could see myself working for a brand that I loved and making it better, in one way or another.

Plus the opportunity for free Tims. There’s that.

So I applied on line, thinking, Who knows?

When it came time for the interview process, I was pretty dissuaded by my competition. Most of the other candidates were business majors with business work experience and business…suave, you know what I mean? Not to mention that while every other candidate was dressed in full black or navy suits, I was wearing a flowery blouse and tan dress pants, and I felt I stuck out like a sore thumb (even though I probably didn’t).

But lo and behold, here I am today, still working for Tim Hortons as a graduate of the Leadership Development Program. And I’m in the Restaurant Technology department, which is a pretty good fit, if I do say so myself. Am I enjoying my work now? For sure! What’s next for my career? As I said before: Who knows?

So that’s how I got to where I am today: by pure indecision. And a love for Tim Hortons.

What unexpected turns have you taken in your career?