This article was originally published in the Arts Co-op Newsletter in Summer 2014.
During the Spring 2014 semester I had the pleasure of doing a co-op placement with the External Relations Department of Parks Canada. It was my second co-op term, but my first placement with the federal government, and the start to what I am hoping to be a long career serving Canadians as part of the public sector. I could not have asked for a better department to start my journey with.
Being a fourth year International Studies student, the most common question I was asked was “Parks Canada... how is that related to your degree?” At first I was unsure myself, but as I became more comfortable in my position I was able to start seeing parallels with my studies, and developing skills from my extracurricular activities and previous work placements.
Parks Canada is one of the oldest and leading conservationist organizations in the world. By working with such a well established branch of the government, I was able to gain invaluable insight into the inner workings of federal bodies. Furthermore, working in the External Relations department allowed me to learn all about government standards in branding, public outreach, and media relations. Another large part of my placement was developing a social media best practices guide for the Coastal BC Field Unit.
One of the biggest things I appreciated about my team at Parks Canada was their willingness to let me work independently and develop a piece of policy that I thought would be useful to the Coastal BC field unit. With the perfect amount of insight and guidance from my supervisors and the rest of my team, I found that I greatly enjoy working with policy, and may in fact be considering a future career with this in mind.
A co-op term is what you make it. Make sure that when you are applying for positions you are looking at job descriptions and not just titles or names of companies. At the end of the day, you want to ensure that your resume is filled with transferrable skills and tangible experience. If I had turned down the position with Parks Canada because I did not see the direct relation to my degree, I would have missed out on a vastly formative experience.