I would have never guessed that my first co-op would be spent working at home for 5 out of 8 months in my work term, but I definitely do not regret any of it. Before I began working at SFU as a Student Academic Advisor, I had no prior experience working full-time in an office environment. I was very excited to see what it was like to advise students and work a 9-5 job. Now that I am done my first co-op term, I have learned so much about student engagement, advising, and the responsibilities of being a full-time employee. Because of COVID-19, I also had to transition from working in person to working at home, which has been a whole new experience through this whole work term. Overall, my first Co-op term exceeded my expectations, and I learned to expect the unexpected.
When I first started working at SFU, I was a bit nervous when I had to speak with my co-workers as I was quite shy. I was also worried about having to advise students, since I felt like I had so much to learn and I did not feel confident in the beginning. I had put too much pressure on myself in the first month, pushing myself to be perfect. However, I learned that it is okay to not know everything and ask questions when needed. I'm glad that everyone I worked with is extremely supportive. My supervisor and co-workers all helped me throughout the job by checking in on me and assisted me when I asked for help.
After the first month, I started to feel more comfortable in my role as a Student Academic Advisor, and soon began IM (instant messaging) advising in my second month. While I was doing IM, I was practicing with other advisors and shadowing their appointments to prepare me for in person one-on-one advising. I was also getting more comfortable in my work environment and no longer felt shy or awkward when talking to my co-workers. Before working, I thought I had to be extremely professional and formal all the time. However, I learned to loosen up and began to love talking to my supervisor, as well as my co-workers. In my workplace, everyone was very welcoming and we could be more casual with each other, but this would depend on your work environment, so always make sure you observe your workspace before being casual.
Once I began to do in-person advising, the COVID-19 pandemic started to affect my job. About 1 week into doing my one-on-one appointments alone, our team was notified that we would be working from home due to COVID-19. With the pandemic going on, I knew that we would probably work remotely, but I was not prepared for this to happen during my first Co-op work term! It was definitely a whole new experience. As a result, I had to set up many work from home essentials, like dual monitors, webcams, and laptop stands at home, in order to learn how to work in a whole new environment. I was no longer able to see my co-workers in real life, or meet with students face to face either. As a matter of fact, I’m still getting used to online communications, from phone calls to Zoom meetings; Everything is very different. For instance, my co-workers are no longer conveniently 10 steps away from me, so getting a response immediately has been more difficult. Moreover, emails and instant messaging leads to more miscommunication, as you can only see what is written on screen with no verbal or visual cues.
I did not expect that I would be working from home in my Co-op term, but it has enhanced my learning experience and let me try new ways of working. As an introverted person, working from home has provided flexibility in my work day and there is also an added bonus of no more commute time. Of course, the work day is still busy, as we have to advise students over the phone, through virtual advising rooms, email, and LiveHelp chat. I have loved my time at SFU, and I’m looking forward to working with them for my second work term!