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Vanessa Clarke

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

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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!”

About the Author

Vanessa Clarke

SFU Co-op Student
Communication, Art + Technology, Arts + Social Sciences
Connect with Vanessa via LinkedIn and Instagram!

Posts by Author

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Blog
Working in Social Media Marketing When You’re An Introvert

I imagined that working in social media would be a walk in the park. After all, I’ve spent about half my life rotating through different apps every day like a very boring episode of Black Mirror. What I forgot to take into consideration was that despite its name, I’m not actually the most “social” person at all. Keep reading to learn all about my experience working in social media marketing as an introvert. 

Image of False Creek
Blog
Cycling Out of a Cycle

As I was finishing my third and final lap biking around the Stanley Park Seawall, my legs felt like Jell-O. I never biked this much before (a whopping 53 km that day, by the way), which made me wonder why I agreed to go on a “short” bike ride with my new co-workers at Vancouver Coastal Health. Looking back, however, I am glad that I agreed to join the bike ride. Continue reading to learn how this activity got me to know my co-workers outside of work – something that I didn’t know I needed.

Collage of 6 social media posts
Blog
Full-Time Co-op, Part-Time Artist: It Can Be Done!

I’m a student at SFU and on top of that, though, I’m a freelance creative. I do a bit of everything. As my first Co-op work term approached, I got nervous. I was terrified, frankly, that I would have to stop creating if I wanted to pursue full-time work. Keep reading to learn about how I learned to balance working full-time and being a freelance creative. 

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.

 

Scrabble Tiles spelling out the phrase "origins are usually messy"
library_books
Blog
Starting Your First Co-op at a Start-up Company
Co-op Reflections, During the Work Term, Personal Development, Professional Development, Workplace Success, Career Exploration

Being part of a start-up company can be scary enough, but doing it as a Co-op student who is brand new to the industry can be absolutely terrifying. This is what I learned about working for a start-up over the last 10 months as a Communication & Multimedia Associate!

Scrabble Tiles spelling out the phrase "origins are usually messy"
library_books
Blog
Starting Your First Co-op at a Start-up Company
Co-op Reflections, During the Work Term, Personal Development, Professional Development, Workplace Success, Career Exploration

Being part of a start-up company can be scary enough, but doing it as a Co-op student who is brand new to the industry can be absolutely terrifying. This is what I learned about working for a start-up over the last 10 months as a Communication & Multimedia Associate!

You Might Like These... Work Term Project

An Interview with Derian Chow: Developing a Varsity Esports Program at SFU

Stephanie Greaves, Co-op Coordinator for the SFU School of Interactive Arts & Technology, interviews Derian Chow about his Co-op position as an Esports Project Coordinator.

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Communication: A Key Skill for an Engineer

Learn how communication is one of the most important skills to develop at work. 

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Learning on the Job

Leo Ng is a fifth-year BBA candidate in the SFU Beedie co-op program who worked for Canada Revenue Agency for 8 months. In this article of his three-part series, he shares his experience learning on the job.