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Ria Yao

SFU Co-op Student
Environment › Environmental Science

a yellow smiling face figure in a dark room
Remember, life will not be good all the time, but being optimistic helps you see the opportunities hidden in the struggle.

“I’m sorry to hear that!”

“My poor girl, everything will be fine!”

“Hang in there!”

Those are the phrases I heard most during my first co-op position, from which I was unexpectedly terminated. Yes, I was laid-off, so I know how terrible it feels. However, being laid off was what helped me in finding my second co-op position.

No one knows what can really happen when you start at a new work place. Most people remember their first day at work as highly stressful because of the heightened pressure to make a good impression. So, what are some things people could do to be better prepared for their job duties? Also, what happens if something unexpected occurs? If unexpected things can easily cause you anger, frustration, or even negatively impact your thoughts and behaviour; then the best solution is to plan ahead.  You are right, it may not be possible to fully prepare for the unexpected but here are some general tips and insights which could help.

Expand Your Skills

One way to be ready for anything is to sharpen your survival equipment, which is skills and knowledge. Skills are essential no matter what corporation you are in as they form the solid foundation that no one can destroy. One thing you should realize is that skills come with time and practice. Madonna was not born a superstar, and Steve Jobs was not an overnight success.  As a student, you may be busy with your courses already, but spending an extra 30 minutes everyday to improve your skills is definitely worthwhile. Just pick up something that you have always wanted to learn or become more proficient in.  Examples of this can be increasing your typing speed or learning a data management program. Just schedule a period of half an hour everyday and then stick to it! I know you will be amazed at your progress over time.

Stay Optimistic

"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty" - this famous quote by Winston Churchill perfectly emphasizes the importance of being optimistic when the unexpected occurs. It may take some time to catch your breath and re-orient your feelings, but you soon see the glass as half-full after. Surrounding yourself with positive people also helps in moving forward which can effectively shorten your recovery time. Furthermore, sharing you troubles with friends and family will give them the opportunity to cheer you up. For example, if your supervisor assigns difficult tasks to you, telling friends about your heavy workload can make you feel amazing about how much you are really capable of.  Remember, life will not be good all the time, but being optimistic helps you see the opportunities hidden in the struggle.

Learn Through Reflection 

Experiencing failures is not the worst thing, not knowing why it happened is the cause of the real disasters in life. You should always learn something from your failures. The same principle applies to successes; knowing why something was a success would be extremely important in having more successes in the long run. Personally, I like to keep a weekly or daily reflection record, a habit I've had since I was 12, which reminds me of how to not make the same mistakes in the future. The reflection not only describes how I felt but also explores the experience and provides analyses, which have been beneficial to my life. Mistakes and sad experiences are invaluable learning tools, instead of something to be upset about or feel embarrassed towards. Reflection is a useful way to not waste an unpleasant life lesson.

Be Proactive

You may wonder how we can be proactive towards unexpected situations since we, the newbies, are always generally reactive when faced with accidents in the workplace. Being proactive in such cases would mean knowing how to take effective and timely action. Seeking professional support from your co-op coordinator or workplace supervisor is one of the greatest advantages we have as co-op students. When you are ready to pick up the pieces from losing your last job and spring back to work, dedicate a timeline to job searching and stick with it.  Design a game plan that includes everything you need for a successful job-hunt. You can even draft a cheerful explanation to your previous lay-off in case your potential employers ask. Most importantly, don’t draft your plan and forget it; take it with you and follow it!  Trust me, you will always be surprised by how far you have come when you look back.

Due to my uniquely qualified experience as someone who was laid off, I feel that I have a better understanding of when people say: life is always full of unexpected turns.  A loss is not a bad thing.

Beyond the Blog

  • Cooperative education is a great way to test the waters on multiple careers before graduation. To learn about more visit the Co-op homepage.

About the Author

Ria Yao

SFU Co-op Student
Environment › Environmental Science
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