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Communication, Art + Technology, Arts + Social Sciences
SFU Co-op Student

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Scrabble Tiles spelling out the phrase "origins are usually messy"
One of the first things my older brother asked me when I told him the news was “Are you going to work for one of those millennial tech companies where all your co-workers casually party together and everyone rides around the office in hover boards?” I replied, “I don’t think so, but I hope so!”

Working for a start-up has its challenges, especially when it is your first point of entry into the workforce. Coming from a family of people who have all worked at major companies in their careers, I had no idea what to expect. It was exciting and daunting at the same time, and my family and friends couldn’t wait to hear about my experiences. One of the first things my older brother asked me when I told him the news was “Are you going to work for one of those millennial tech companies where all your co-workers casually party together and everyone rides around the office in hover boards?” I replied, “I don’t think so, but I hope so!”

Stephen Colbert hoverboarding down a hallway while being tossed a burrito

Not only was I starting off in an unfamiliar business, but I was also entering an industry that I had no former experience in nor knew much about. But WOW, have I ever experienced a lot in such a short amount of time. This is what I learned about working for a start-up over the last 10 months as a Communication & Multimedia Associate:

Be Open & Embrace Change

Man frolicking in meadow

This is key to surviving and ultimately staying sane in a start-up, and I learned this the hard way. I like predictability and routine, however I had to force myself to not become attached to certain responsibilities because this type of work environment requires you to be able to pivot from projects at a moment’s notice. In fact, I was hired as a Communications intern and  started being referred to as the Marketing intern after 4 months. At one point, I was named the Graphic Design intern. Therefore, even job titles change with the seasons. You must learn to live in uncertainty, which is already how a lot of people are living now in 2021.

Admit Your Weaknesses to Solve Problems

Trevor Noah tapping his temple then pointing at camera, with the caption "problem solved"

It might just be you and maybe one other co-worker in your department (if you’re lucky). In my case, I was the entire Marketing Communications department and the only one in the company with any knowledge in this field. I quickly learned that admitting my weaknesses to myself was the first step towards solving any problem. I write down specifically what I don’t know how to do, and then I explore all available resources before asking a colleague for help. For example, I was asked to figure out how to track the success of a new virtual product. I thought about Google Analytics, but I had never used it before. Using the Internet as a resource, I discovered a free Google Analytics beginner course. I ended up completing it in a few hours, and had the company’s GA up and running to start tracking our new website all in one day.

Remember Where You Started

Drake and friends dancing under confetti with the caption "started from the bottom, now we here"

This is very important when beginning any Co-op position, but is slightly easier in a start-up. Take note of what stage the company is in when you enter. Because there are so many areas that need to be built and established, it is easy to record the growth of a start-up company. I can clearly see the impact I had during my Co-op terms. Start-ups, like Co-op students, truly reflect the phrase, “started from the bottom, now we’re here!”

SFU Co-op Student
Connect with Vanessa via LinkedIn and Instagram!

Posts by Author

man standing in front of sign that says "KPMG"
Blog
5 Quick Q&As with a Master of Economics Co-op Student

Meet Ata Malfuzi, an SFU Master of Economics Co-op student. In this quick Q&A, learn a little about his current role at KPMG. Keep on reading as Ata gives some insight into what the hiring process was like, what he's looking forward to the most, and some tips for students who are beginning their co-op journey. 

3 people sitting around a table with their laptops and laughing
Blog
How I Landed My Dream Co-op at a Large Tech Company

After completing 6 Co-op work terms, one thing I really enjoyed about my Co-op experience is that I had the opportunity to gain work experience from different types of organizations. I started with a 5-person non-profit organization, then to a 20-person start-up, and then landed my dream Co-op at a large 100,000+ person multinational tech corporation. One thing I’m thankful I realized early on in my Co-op journey is this: don’t be turned off from doing a Co-op with a small organization.

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Blog
A Philosophical Reflection Of My Co-op Journey

I always knew I was more of a hands-on learner than a reading and writing learner. As much as I enjoy reading, writing, and listening, the thought of rolling up my sleeves and getting my hands dirty was just way more enticing and exciting. As my work term comes to an end, I can wholeheartedly say that I have grown professionally and personally from a timid university student to a budding young professional. 

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A Second Term in Government: More of the Same?

Having completed my first work term for Health Canada as a Communications Officer Intern, I was eager to try something new, and the government was not where I believed that was going to happen. That is until I was offered a position at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada...

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Surviving Workplace Politics

Ever been peeved with workplace politics? Have you ever been a victim of office politics? One student shares her experiences from the workplace with tips on how to survive.

 

person with their head in a book
Responsibility and Success

One of the most memorable parts of my time in co-op was the collection of accidents, errors, mistakes, and mix-ups that happened in the course of working in the laboratory.

 

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Terracotta Warriors
Working and Playing in China

One of the perks of working internationally is travelling internationally! Read more about Communication Co-op student Carlie Thauvette as she and some other Co-op students take a break from their work term at CIBT to travel to some of the cities outside of Weifang, China.

Lauren
Lauren's Summer at Crowne Plaza Guangzhou Science City

Lauren turned to international Co-op as a way to continue gaining work experience while exploring the world. Read about her experience working for a high end international hotel chain in China.

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Co-op in Clinical Research: Tips for Succeeding in the Workplace

Fahimeh Karimi talks about her research co-op with the BC Children's Hospital.