I have always wanted to enter the world of social entrepreneurship. What’s more exciting than taking an innovative idea, propelling it into the market, and watching it change the way we live for the better? For an aspiring change-maker myself looking for a footing into the world of social entrepreneurship, what’s better than the Strategy Intern Co-op opportunity at Riipen?
Riipen is an online platform that connects learners (ex. post-secondary students, recent immigrants, midcareer workers) to industry partners for project-based learning, talent development, and talent acquisition. By bridging the gap between learning in the classroom and learning on the job, Riipen aims to help learners develop skills they’ll need to build their future careers.
My job was to help expand Riipen into new markets, demographically and geographically. As a co-op first timer with limited work experience in business development, that sounds quite daunting. Sure enough, I had a lot to learn but here are my top 3 favourite lessons taken from the experience:
Learning to Think Differently
I was very fortunate to be working with colleagues/mentors who insistently placed me in situations where I had to forget that I’m a student and act as a working professional. Early on, they emphasized that school conditions students to take orders, complete tasks, wait for the next, and never question why. I was reminded often that successful and happy professionals are the ones who see work as problem-solving, are brave and creative enough to find solutions, and can understand how their role fits in the greater organization. By working at a scale-up where processes and technology are established but with much room for improvement, I was lucky to have the perfect environment to start practicing this new perspective on work.
Learning to Be Daring
After making that switch from a student mentality to a professional one, the next lesson I learned was to open up and be willing to say yes to challenging opportunities. I’ll give you an example of when I was asked to help reach out to student clubs at selected universities for partnership opportunities. Initially, it was one small task but before I knew it, I was in charge of launching and managing a student club campaign that spanned over 90 schools in Canada and the US. At that time, this was outside my usual set of responsibilities. Since student club outreach is an area Riipen has limited experience with, there were a lot of things I had to learn and processes I had to create by myself. Had I not taken that challenge and ran with it, I wouldn’t have developed valuable skills such as email writing, sales pitching, and professional relationship building.
Learning to Collaborate
In business, nothing great can be (or should be) accomplished alone. Learning how to work with others is among my favourite takeaways from this co-op experience. Not only does it bring you closer to your collective goals faster, but it also allows you to connect with your colleagues on a personal level. I’ll give you an example of when I and a few of my colleagues were assigned to finish and submit a grant application involving 40+ partners and a budget worth over $800,000. Since this working group did not have the full context of the proposal, we really had to rely on each other to get this application done. During those couple weeks leading up to the deadline, I learned to clearly communicate the status of our application so that everyone can understand its many moving parts. I also learned to listen to and empathize with my fellow colleagues, and step in to help where necessary. It made me realize how important these basic teamwork skills can be to the success of a project.
The beautiful thing about these three valuable lessons is that they are applicable in any work setting. It doesn’t matter if you work in a large corporation, a tiny start-up, or a non-profit, learning to think critically, saying yes to challenges, and collaborating with others are experiences and skills that will get you far. I am grateful for obtaining these three nuggets of wisdom from Riipen and I look forward to taking this experience and apply it to my next venture.