After accepting my first Co-op job offer, I was delighted and looking forward to my work term because I could finally put my knowledge into practice and work with professionals in the same field and learn from them.
But things may not always go as "planned." While working as the Communication Coordinator during my Co-op, I was a "one-man band" — I was the only communication person in my department; there were no experienced communicators to work closely with and learn from. I thought this situation would limit my room to learn, but surprisingly I gained valuable experiences and exercised skills that I didn't expect.
At the beginning of my Co-op work term, I asked questions to different people in the office when I faced problems. However, because everyone has different roles within the department, they could not provide the answers.
So, I started the journey of searching for and implementing solutions to find out which worked best by myself. When the same problem appears again, I know what to do. By constantly exercising my problem-solving skills, I can now come up with creative solutions to different issues.
Learning without an experienced person can be time-consuming, but in the process, I explored something new that inspired my curiosity and motivated me to further discovery.
I was told that I was going to do a website refresh project, which included changing the layout and updating the website's content. A small portion of the project required editing and writing HTML code, which I had absolutely no idea how to do. Because there were no other communicators to provide training, I spent time watching tutorial videos to learn the basics of HTML, practice, and use that knowledge on the project.
I was amazed that I could do something related to HTML because it is something I never thought I could do since it looks challenging to learn.
People in my department have different roles. Since I work with them and I am the only communicator in my department, there will be times when I need to explain a concept or idea to them. Doing so exercises my communication skills.
There is a difference between explaining something to someone in the same field and someone who is not.
When I explain my process on the website project to my colleague, who does administrative work and doesn't have knowledge of communication work, I will use a way they would understand. For example, instead of saying, "on this page, I use a toggle to present the content to the viewer," I would say," on this page, I use a component that would hide the content, and when the viewer clicks on it, it will reveal the content." By doing so, my colleague, who doesn't know what a toggle is, will still be able to understand what I have done on the website.
It is definitely a unique Co-op work term experience without experts in the same field to work closely with. If you face the same situation in your Co-op work term, don't think you won't be able to max out your Co-op experience. See this situation from a different perspective, and you will find out that you are learning more than you think.