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SFU Co-op Student

Sharon Huang's portrait
Ultimately, do your research and do what feels right for YOU!

After I received several different job offers from both large and small companies, I deliberated carefully and made the decision to go with the twenty people start-up company with less pay and fewer benefits.

“Why on earth would you do that?” you may ask.

Of course, the decision really comes down to what YOU want to get out of the co-op term. These two questions below may help you figure out if a small company or a start-up is the right choice for you.

Q1: Do you want to take on more responsibilities?

If you are not sure what you exactly like to do and want to dip your toes in different tasks to figure it out, a smaller company is your best bet. Your role at a bigger company will likely be more specialized and structured. On the other hand, you might need to step in and take on many different roles at a start-up.

Due to the nature of a smaller team, your unique point of view and skill set is highly valued. At the same time, your tasks will vary based on the organization’s current challenges. For instance, I designed the company’s first real product sheet, created social media guidelines and branding guidelines, designed web pages with HTML and CSS despite having no coding experience, tried out new social media strategies, etc. With all these various responsibilities, I was able to gain a broader marketing skill set - which in turn really helped me figure out what I wish to pursue in my future career path.

Q2: Do you like solving problems and experimenting?

Large corporations are stable, structured, and resourceful. When problems occur, you will have access to training manuals and/or support from colleagues that are specialized in that specific field. In a smaller company, you might actually be the one identifying those problems for the first time and solving them. Think of it this way: you could be the one creating those training manuals.

Working at BasicGov gave me a unique opportunity to build the foundation of integrated marketing and communication guidelines and templates for not only the marketing department but for the whole company. For instance, I created re-branded document templates, such as the letterhead and PowerPoint template, that are used across the company and are shared with external partners and customers. I also created the company’s first official branding guideline, which outlined appropriate logo usage, colour palette, and font styles. As it was my first co-op position, it was very rewarding to feel that my work had an impact on everyone at the office and helped enhance the company’s external image. As a marketing student, I have never done any professional graphic design or website project. I am thankful for an opportunity to learn and grow as I identify problems along the way.

a project on a website that she's working on

Q3: Do you prefer flexibility and freedom over stability?

The best part about working at a start-up is the more flexible environment compared to large corporations. Whether it be flex hours, working from home privileges, kitchen snacks, office parties, dog-friendly spaces in the office, or Friday afternoon board games. Of course, there are many benefits of working at large corporations as well - employee benefits, stability, compensation, growth, etc. But the hours might be more rigid and you usually have less autonomy.

My co-op position offered me lots of autonomy and flexibility that allowed me to learn how to manage myself. I was given the privilege to work from home once a week - that meant setting my own deadlines, managing remote meetings effectively, browsing the internet for answers, and asking for help when I need it. The most valuable lesson I learned from this experience was the ability to work independently under minimal supervision, as long as I have clear objectives and understand what is expected of me.

In closing, I want to note that I am not lumping every large or small corporation into one. I understand that every company has different cultures and expectations. Ultimately, do your research and do what feels right for YOU! As for me, I made the right decision for myself by paving my marketing career with an awesome small company that encouraged me to become more confident in my skills and abilities. I very much looking forward to translating this valuable experience into my future career in marketing.

Beyond the Blog

SFU Co-op Student
Connect with Sharon on LinkedIn. 
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Aug 1, 2018

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