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SFU Co-op Student

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Portrait of Christina
Your colleagues understand that you are new at this, and at some point or another, they were in your position too!

We’ve all been put into situations where we have felt lost, unsure, or unfamiliar with our surroundings. These types of situations can lead us towards one of two conclusions: down a new and exciting path with an enriching experience or to a major roadblock in productivity.  What you choose to make of your experience during your time determines whether or not you continue down a path of new skills, contacts and projects, or hit the roadblock. Here are a few tips to help you make the best of a new or unfamiliar corporate environment:

1. Familiarize Yourself with the Company.

Confused cat

When I landed my first co-op job, I was incredibly excited because of the attractive “Recruiting Coordinator” title, which aligned perfectly with my preference for a Human Resources related Co-op. Upon doing my research of the company, I discovered that it is an IT recruiting firm. As a non-techy individual whose technical knowledge extends as far as turning on the computer with the little button ‘thingy’, I had my doubts, but the job description assured me that pre-existing technical knowledge was not a must-have. In short, do your research! Make yourself aware of what is going on – it’s important to know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. After all, you wouldn’t go on a vacation without researching your destination would you?

2. Use Google to Your Advantage. It Is a Wonder How We Got By Before It Was Invented!

One of my primary recruiting duties was conducting reference checks. This was tricky at first, as often referees spoke about programming languages and other programs that a candidate was skilled with, while also conveying the expectation that I should know exactly what he/she is talking about. JavaScript? PHP? CSS? MVC? I certainly didn’t know. Furthermore, looking at resumes with these specific key-words was difficult because I was unsure of how these technical terms were applied to a particular job. Let’s just say that for the first few months (and still to this day) that Google was my best friend on the job.  Once I became more aware and familiar with the tech talk, I found myself becoming more comfortable with using technical language.  I began taking on duties outside of my job description which allowed me to further my recruiting experience and thus further enriching my co-op experience

3. Keep a Positive Attitude

positive attitude

Don’t dislike what you don’t understand. At times it may seem frustrating to pursue something that you are unfamiliar with, but the only way to become familiar with something is to get lost in it first.  Personally, I thought it would be difficult to succeed in working for an IT company, as it is not where my passion lies, but doing a little research and stepping out of my comfort zone allowed me to take away more knowledge and experience than I ever imagined I would from this Co-op. Many employers look to Co-op students for their ability to quickly learn new technology, so it might just be up to you to become comfortable with new software or a new skill, and share it with the office. 1.      

4. Don’t be Afraid to Ask Questions!

No Idea

Your colleagues understand that you are new at this, and at some point or another, they were in your position too! Next to Google, they are your best source for information and guidance. Every unfamiliar experience is a new experience. You can learn from it, take away a valuable lesson, and apply it to your future. My main point here is: “don’t knock it till you try it!”

SFU Co-op Student

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