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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Stick to your plan

By Sharon Aschaiek
Special to The Sun

A plan, a lot of hard work and a little luck land immigrant Simona Mihailescu a job on the police force

Focus and determination are qualities that Simona Mihailescu has in abundance.
Simona Mihailescu accepted a job offer from the Toronto police three years to the day after arriving in Canada.

They served her well when she moved with her husband to Canada from post-Communist Romania to build a letter life. They were critical to her learning to speak, read and write English -- a completely new language. And they were key to her successfully completing the rigorous and physically demanding tests required to become a police officer.

Nowadays it comes in very handy in her role as a newly minted member of the Toronto police force.

"I know that if I have a goal, there is no such thing as failure," says Mihailescu, 31. "My journey was very long, but in the end I made it."

That journey has not been an easy one. Three years ago she arrived in Toronto with her husband, Bogdan, armed with dreams of launching new careers in a country that seemed full of opportunity. It was a stark contrast to the economically depressed climate of Romania, which offered little by way of achieving a satisfying and prosperous professional life.

In Mihailescu's case, it had proven impossible for her to put her training in electrical engineering to use in her home country. But before deciding to emigrate, she became intrigued by a profession receiving increasing exposure in TV dramas: forensics.

"I always wanted to join the police in some capacity, but the more I learned about forensics and saw stuff on TV about it, the more I felt this was something I was interested in," she says. "I decided that I definitely wanted to be in forensics in the future."

Mihailescu knew that her career decision would take a lot of planning and work, and would first require getting experience as a police officer. She and her husband felt that Canada, with its high quality of life, would be an ideal place to start fresh.

The first order of duty for Mihailescu was to learn to master English, a completely foreign language to her. But that didn't stop her: for six months she took back-to-back ESL classes and studied the language day and night.

"I was studying English -- grammar, spelling and so on -- 12 hours a day and was reading it a lot. Then, in order to challenge myself to speak properly, I got a job as a telemarketer for a computer manufacturing company," she recalls. "It helped me a lot. I got the confidence I needed to work in an English-speaking environment."

Her next hurdle was to complete an intensive police training program so that she could join the force. She chose the 10-month Police Foundations program at Commercial Business College, which provided instruction in the criminal code of Canada and the Highway Traffic Act, and on the practicalities of community policing, evidence handling and more.

While Mihailescu found the academic portion of the class manageable, she consistently had difficulties with the demanding fitness tests. Despite two failed attempts, however, her unwavering resolve and an immense personal investment in cardio and weight training led her to successfully complete them.

By the time she had graduated in April 2003 she had finished at the top of her class.

"The training was very challenging for me. Law enforcement is a completely new language," she says. "But it really prepared me for the next step and gave me an idea of what the job would be like."

She began applying to the Halton, York Regional and Toronto police forces, and with each force had to successfully complete a battery of psychological, physical, aptitude and behavioural tests. After three attempts she finally passed all of the required exams, and she eventually accepted a job offer from the Toronto police -- three years to the day after arriving in Canada.

As a constable in the 15-officer B Platoon in 11 Division, which covers central Western Toronto, Mihailescu is involved in enforcing the Highway Traffic Act and doing foot patrol in various neighbourhoods.

She would eventually like to build on her experience and move into the force's Forensic Identification Services. But for now, she loves the challenges of her job, the chance to learn something new every day, and especially, the strong sense of camaraderie she enjoys with her colleagues.

She says that anyone who moves to Canada can realize their own professional dreams, as long as they have a plan of attack.

"You have to know what you want," Mihailescu says. "You need to have a plan and need to work hard to achieve it. With a little bit of luck, you can get there."

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