I’ll admit, when I first applied for the co-op program in my fourth year of studies, I was scared that I wouldn’t qualify due to my credit hours and considered continuing my undergraduate degree without co-op, but I am so glad I put my fear aside and applied.
It has been about eight years since I started my first job, and over time, I have worked for family businesses, not-for-profits, and corporations. During my experience with all these organizations, I have always found myself growing and learning more while working for a not-for-profit. My experience in an extended co-op term as an Operations and Business Administration Intern at Connections Community Services Society further proved my theory. Although the first term of my co-op as a Strategic Planning and Business Administration Intern also provided me with many opportunities to grow my skills and knowledge, this blog will focus on my experience in the second term of my co-op.
One of the key things that allowed me to develop my skills and gain valuable knowledge was the organization’s decision to conduct a new strategic plan, which was followed by an operational plan and budget. The decision to create a new strategic plan meant reforming the organization’s vision, mission, and values, which led to the organization forming committees to meet the strategic objectives. Through the formation of the Health and Safety, Labour Relations, Social Engagement, and Marketing Committees, I was given the opportunity to assist with leading and organizing the committees. The committees gave me a chance to further explore my concentration in human resources which I never thought I would get to do in this position.
For the Health and Safety Committee, I assisted with meeting WorkSafe BC’s building inspection guidelines and the importance of evaluating policies and its implementations. The committee was also responsible for reviewing incident reports, monthly building inspections, first aid, and creating earthquake safety kits (which I put together). I was also able to receive joint committee training and certification for health and safety in this role.
In the Labour Relations Committee, I was able to gain knowledge on unionized workplaces, negotiations, elections, and the collective agreement. Being a part of this committee gave me the chance to familiarize myself with all the different policies and procedures the organiation was required to fulfill as a part of the collective agreement such as grievances, dismissals, suspensions and discipline, wage grids, benefits, holidays, vacations, sick leave, bargaining and more. There is a ton of information I have yet to learn in the collective agreement, but I can’t wait to explore more of this committee. Additionally, as a member of the organization, I was able to get anti-bullying and harassment training and certification.
As a member of the Marketing Committee, all members were responsible for revamping the organization’s social media, brand recognition, website, and press packages. In this committee, I was able to develop my skills through designing templates for social media, creating press packages for the organization’s community partners, and reconstructing the website to ensure compatibility with all devices. Although I had prior knowledge in marketing, I got to learn more about branding recognition, design, and service targeting and gained valuable knowledge to apply to future roles.
Lastly, the Social Engagement Committee provided me the chance to work to increase staff engagement and retention, which was one of my interests in human resources. The responsibilities of this committee included planning events, improving morale and teamwork, and to create a positive and welcoming workplace culture for all staff. This was one of my favourite responsibilities as I got to plan a bunch of staff gatherings such as the Halloween party, holiday lunch celebration, gift exchanges, holiday treat week, and any departure celebrations for co-op students and staff. This committee has further confirmed my passion for human resources as a concentration for my undergraduate studies.
Alongside managing the committees, I was managing my main responsibility of creating and implementing the organization’s operational plan and budgets. This project has been in the works for the past couple of months, and although there were some setbacks and challenges, we are on target to finish the operational plan by the beginning of next year.
Overall, my experience at Connections Community Services Society has been nothing but pleasant, and I will forever be thankful for all the knowledge and skills they have provided me in my undergraduate studies and professional career. I genuinely do not think I would have grown and developed myself this much had it not been in a not-for-profit organization. Of course, not all non-profits organizations will have the same opportunities for growth, but I highly recommend all students and professionals looking to diversify their skills to consider working in a not-for-profit at least once in their lifetime.
SFU’s Co-op Program and staff have been some of the most supportive people I have worked with and I could not have imagined my undergraduate studies without co-op. The organizations and people I have met through co-op have developed my career goals and assisted in further exploring other concentrations I never considered pursuing such as strategy. I can’t wait for my next co-op and I’m excited to see you all begin your co-op journeys as well!