For my first co-op, I was fortunate enough to receive an eight-month work term placement at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police “E” Division Headquarters in Surrey, BC! I worked in the Operational Information Management (OIM) Unit as an IM Specialist Assistant providing support to IM Specialists within the unit. OIM provides Information Management life cycle services to Operation Units within British Columbia’s RCMP Headquarters, as well as IM advice and guidance services for the management of operational records to detachments throughout the province. Doing this co-op work term with the RCMP was the best decision I have ever made! Of course, completing a co-op term is entirely what you make of it. You only get back as much as you put in. So, in order to make the most of your short co-op term, here are five tips that I found to be the most useful throughout my experience:
No matter where you’re working during your co-op term, do yourself a favor and take time to build connections with as many people as you can. Connections you build with those during your co-op term may be the reason you're able to land your dream job in the future!
At the Operational Information Management front counter, I had the opportunity to meet many clients from different fascinating units within the ‘E’ Division Headquarters building. Some of these units included IHIT, CFSEU, FSOC, UHU, and CIS. Through interaction with these clients I was able to learn more about opportunities within the building, develop relationships, and make valuable connections that will prove to be beneficial in the future!
2. Be Professional
If you’re like me, you went from part-time in a retail or restaurant position right into a full-time job that has the possibility of being the career you decide on. This transition isn't easy, and although you may have had work experience in the past, a new environment brings higher expectations of professionalism. You have to keep in mind that you’re not just creating a reputation for yourself but representing SFU as well!
As I learned during my term, professionalism comes from being reliable, honest, and respecting others. Most of all, do your best to be positive. No one likes a constant pessimist, aim to be an optimist with an upbeat attitude who will motivate and inspire others around them!
3. Take Initiative & Challenge Yourself
Like I said, you will only get as much out of your co-op term as you put into it. Depending on your position, you may have the opportunity to further your learning and take on something more challenging. If you feel that you can handle more without sacrificing the quality of your work, I suggest you go for it!
During my co-op term with the RCMP, I was one of the first of their co-ops to ever take on the complicated tasks of completing disposition procedures and processing record suspensions. This work experience has been invaluable and I will carry it with me throughout my career. I would not have been given the opportunity to take these tasks on if it wasn’t for me taking initiative and challenging myself!
4. Don’t be Afraid to ask Questions
Starting a co-op term in a new position is stressful no matter who you are. From experience, I have learned that the only way to get the most out of your co-op is to take every opportunity to ask questions and think critically. Despite what you may think, employers appreciate when you ask questions because it shows a genuine interest in the position and enables you to do your job to the best of your ability!
During my co-op term I was told many times by supervisors how impressed they were by the fact that I asked difficult questions and did my best to come up with conclusions on my own, beforehand. Do your best to think through the problem or task and come up with a solution, but don’t hesitate to confirm with co-workers! Asking questions ensures you’re constantly learning, which is exactly what co-op is intended for.
5. Ask for Feedback
Co-op is all about applying academic knowledge to jobs in the real world. As nobody is perfect, your work term is a great time to ask for feedback from employers and get direction on what you’re doing well and what still needs work. Although it may not feel great to receive criticism sometimes, remember, this will only benefit you in the future! You will become aware of your weaknesses and have the chance to improve throughout the term.
During my co-op experience I noticed that, depending on the job, you may only receive positive feedback on your job performance and rarely any constructive criticism. It’s up to you to invest in your future by asking for feedback from your supervisors. It may be hard to hear the truth, but in the long term, you’ll be happy you listened!
In order to make the most out of your co-op experience, I suggest you follow these five tips. Since you only get back as much as you put in, do yourself a favor and think of how working hard now will benefit you in the future! Working for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police would be an amazing experience and opportunity for any student considering a future career in law enforcement. I have gained such valuable knowledge and work experience through my co-op term that it can be applied to any future career that I pursue. After completing my eight months at OIM, I was invited back to work as a casual! I promise you, putting in the extra effort will pay off in the long run!
Beyond the Blog
To learn more about opportunities such as Hayley's, visit the FASS Co-op Page.