I am about to celebrate my one-year anniversary at BCNET. It is hard to believe that my 12-month work term will soon come to a close as I return to the days of being a student. As I enter the last two weeks of my co-op placement, my last assignment is to “pass the torch”. Two new Communications Coordinators will join the BCNET family and I will train them to ensure that their transition to BCNET is as smooth as possible. In the past I have worked as a private tutor and I know that I enjoy teaching, which is why I am looking forward to this final assignment. It also serves as the perfect ending to my working experience at BCNET, while also giving me the opportunity to reflect back on everything I have done – all the projects I have completed, goals I have accomplished (or perhaps not accomplished, for some), and relationships I have built.
Looking back at my projects, there were lessons learned, whether big or small. If I were to select the three most important takeaways to pass on to my successors I would tell them to be open to change, stay organized and prioritize tasks, and encourage them to build relationships.
Be Receptive to Change
As someone who has always been very meticulous, I like to be well-prepared and aware of the specifics of my tasks to ensure everything is done perfectly. However, as I discovered, unforeseen problems or changes are inevitable. This was especially true during the largest BCNET event of the year, the BCNET 2015 Conference. What I initially planned and thought was running smoothly would suddenly no longer be the case. I found myself asking, “Why did it not work?”, “What about all our work put into preparing this before?”, or “What went wrong?” But rather than fixating on what was done in the past, I learned to switch my focus on the bigger objective: resolve the issue at hand.
Just like a plan can change during an event, plans can also change due to staff. BCNET has had some unexpected staffing changes in the past few months as employees have both left and joined the organization. Changes like this can have a big impact. For example, when one of the staff from our Communications team left BCNET, the rest of us were tasked with additional responsibilities to cover the temporary vacancy as we searched for a replacement. It was challenging and frustrating to have to familiarize myself with new assignments, especially when given a short period of time. However, I am extremely lucky to have worked alongside a team of very supportive colleagues, who would offer assistance and encouragement to get us through the busiest times.
Keep Yourself Organized and Prioritize Your Tasks
Oftentimes I was tasked with multiple projects with different deadlines. I could be managing concurrent projects, such as coordinating a training session, scheduling a committee meeting, maintaining the company website to ensure that the information is up-to-date, or preparing for an event like the BCNET 2015 Conference. With so many subtasks and deadlines to keep track of, it was crucial to stay organized and aware of my projects at all times. To stay focused, I would begin my work-week by reviewing my to-do list. I would remove completed items, add new ones, and prioritize which ones to work on first. Although it may be tempting to jump on the computer and start responding to all the emails or start on a new task, I found spending 5 to 10 minutes reviewing my tasks every Monday helped organize my time throughout the week.
Build and Maintain Relationships With Those You Work With
While getting your work done is a priority, I believe that it is equally important to take the time to get to know your coworkers. After all, these are individuals that you see almost every day, and whom will gradually become like a second family to you. Building good relationships with your coworkers will make it easier to get through long and busy days, whether the organization you work at is large or small or the nature of your position is team-based or independent.
Building relationships may be more difficult when you work at a large organization, such was the case at my previous co-op position. With everyone spread across different floors of the building at different branches, chances are you would not have the opportunity to engage with every single staff member. Despite that, I still made the effort to befriend those who were working at the same branch as me. At BCNET, a comparably smaller firm, it was easier to interact with everyone given that we are all in such close proximity (partly due to our small office space). From joking around with the engineers to chatting with the CEO, the friendly and cozy working environment was quickly established. Although my work term at BCNET may be coming to an end soon, I am certain that the friendships I have developed with my coworkers will continue.
I may not yet be an expert in being open to change, staying organized, or building relationships with my coworkers, but I believe that I have greatly improved after completing five co-op work terms at two different organizations. As I move forward to other career opportunities in the future, I will continue to better myself at these three workplace skills, and discover new ones along the way as well. I hope that these tips will be helpful to not only my trainees at BCNET, but to any student stepping into a new workplace. When the time comes for them to train newcomers, perhaps they will pass along their own three pieces of advice!