Skip to main content

Vanessa Clarke

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

empty
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!”

About the Author

Vanessa Clarke

SFU Co-op Student
Communication, Art + Technology, Arts + Social Sciences
Connect with Vanessa via LinkedIn and Instagram!
Photo of the author giving a presentation
Creating Value: The Adventures of an IT Co-op Student

As someone who didn’t have a lot of direct experience in a technological setting, providing value to the organization had to come from something much bigger than my direct skill set.

A photo of the author
The 201st Application

It’s been two months and 20 days since my first day of my Co-op term at Westcoast Family Centres, but I still find myself waking up every other day in utter disbelief that things worked out!

You Might Like These... Co-op Reflections, Professional Development, Career Exploration, Seeking, Work Term Extension

author, courtney, smiling
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...

picture of glichelle pondering a though
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.

 

You Might Like These... Co-op Reflections

person typing on a laptop
7 Tips for Remote Facilitation Amidst a Global Pandemic

Congratulations! You’ve landed your first Co-op work term. But wait! There’s a catch (or two): you’re in the middle of a global pandemic, and you’re expected to lead a team in this new and not-so-improved virtual setting. Read Bita’s tips to feel more confident while conquering your very first Co-op in a position of leadership, all the while working remotely. 

the author sitting with her friends/colleagues at a table outdoors
The Digital World of Information Management | Part Two

In the last part of this two part series, criminology student Julia Apeles shares her experience working as an Information Managment Specialist with the federal government. 

Web development workspace
Five Tips on Being a Successful Web and Mobile Developer

Being a successful developer doesn’t come easy. In this blog post, I offer five tips that I have learned through my co-op experience as a Web and Mobile Developer to help you get there with fewer bumps in the road.