Skip to main content
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication
SFU Co-op Student

A photo of Lindsey Wu
Although you may feel you are small potatoes next to some people you meet through work, remember that everyone was once in your spot too.

About a couple weeks into my co-op term, I sat in on a small meeting for a special project. One individual walked into the room a little after everyone else had settled in, and my workplace’s Director greeted them warmly. The person had tidy silver hair and large eyes that shone with warmth and an undeniable hint of bold conviction. That conviction, as I soon found out through our introductions, came from many years of dedication to social work and citizen rights activism, which eventually entitled them to the Order of British Columbia.

“And what do you do?” The individual asked with a polite smile, and my brain suddenly decided to pull a fast one and completely erase all memory of my time at the job. What did I do? What was on that job description? What was my title?! Not the Order of anything, that’s for sure. I immediately felt professionally insignificant.

That’s how most of my interactions at meetings and networking gatherings played out– I would introduce myself to others and explain my role at the organization, but internally fight the urge to shy away because of their impressive backgrounds, profiles, and titles. I would compare their professional caliber (incredibly high) to mine (in Flo Rida’s words, low, low, low, low) and subsequently give up on trying to engage in further conversation or ask questions about their work, even though these were things I really wanted to do. The thought that I was a Co-op student while they were an established individual in their field made reaching out and building connections an extremely intimidating thing to do.

However, I soon realized that if I didn’t push myself out of my comfort zone and let go of my self-disserving thoughts, I would be giving up a very rare opportunity to connect with and learn from some exceptionally cool people. As soon as I took that step towards reaching out to people more, I discovered that they are not nearly as intimidating to talk to as I imagined. In fact, more often than not, they were happy to share about their work and why they are passionate about it. In the odd case that I met a less-than-warm response, I learned to shake it off and not take it personally.

In your Co-op placement, you too may meet many established individuals with impressive backgrounds. You’ll cross paths with the CEO of this, or the Executive Director of that, or the Board Member of something, and you may feel intimidated and unimportant. However, it is during these situations where you really should seize the opportunity to build connections with the people who are standing in the place you may aspire to one day be. They have so much acquired knowledge and experience and can teach you things you cannot learn in school.

Although you may feel you are small potatoes next to some people you meet through work, remember that everyone was once in your spot too. They understand that you are still learning and developing new skills, and typically are happy to help you do so as well. I encourage you to consider every moment you meet an inspiring or established individual as an opportunity to learn from them and their story. Introduce yourself, extend a hand, and you’ll thank yourself one day for connecting with the person on the other end of the handshake.

SFU Co-op Student
Connect with Lindsay on LinkedIn.
visibility  236
Aug 2, 2017

You Might Like These... During the Work Term, Professional Development, Workplace Success, Workplace Transition, Communication

Co-op coordinator wth student during site visit
Make the Most of Your Co-op Site Visits

Your Co-op Coordinator, supervisor, and you in the same room -- time for a site visit! Co-op site visits are a time for reflection on your work term including what could be improved and what has been great so far.

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.


grey paper bag spilling peanuts with the words "pay packet" written on it
Salary and Benefits: What you Need to Know

Calling all job seekers. If salary and benefits are important to you, learn the art of negotiation while discovering what compensation packages include and what to ask when the time comes to negotiate for them.

You Might Like These... Personal Development

Picture of calculator beside a graph
Getting Ready for Math-Related Classes in the New Semester

Many university classes require a lot of math and problem-solving. Eric Cai, an SFU alumni currently working in statistics, shares his top tips on how to excel in these challenging courses. 

Painted sign of the sun and blue skies that says "Burnaby"
What Is It Really Like Working For a Non-Profit?

I have always wanted to work at a non-profit organization. While my main objective during my first Co-op term was to gain experience in the Communication field, that goal to work at a non-profit had always remained in the back of my mind. Keep reading to learn more about my experience working for a non-profit. 

Dog standing next to basket with ducks in it
Misconceived Perceptions About India

We all have our own sets of biases and preconceived notions, but unless we experience things first hand, they are merely based on conjecture and not facts. Martyna is here to break down some common misconceived perceptions about India by providing a comparison between horror stories she's heard from friends before leaving and the true reality of living in India.