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Carolyn Warner

SFU Co-op Student
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication

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Carolyn smiling with co-workers; digging a fireguard for a controlled burn
The most important gift co-op provided me was the ability to try before I buy several jobs in different sectors, which allowed me to discover where I best fit and the work which I enjoy.

Prior to returning to university, I worked in a variety of communication oriented positions such as broadcasting, newspapers, advertising and graphic design. While there were elements to each position that I enjoyed, not one was an exact fit and I was unclear as to what I would be when I "finally grew up".  Where did I fit and what did I want to do?  One thing I was sure of, my return to university was long over due.

Studying the labour market at the time, it was a clear decision for me, business studies was the route to take.  I entered community college after several years in the labour market with the intention of studying business and becoming an accountant.  At the time, I did not consider the types of work tasks that I enjoy or my personal interests.   Little did I realize that, eight months later, I would completely revise my academic and career goals and proceed in the opposite direction. 

picture of fire burning in the trees

Finally, two weeks after the end of the semester my dream job was posted.  It wasn't at all the field that I expected; instead of accounting or finance, a position as a public and media relations representative for the  BC Forest Service became available.  It encompassed all the best elements of each of my previous media experiences into one position. During my first year of school, I studied hard and I enrolled in the Co-op program at community college without really knowing what to expect.  Like any new co-op student, at first, the process was overwhelming.  There were many excellent postings; I did not know where to begin.   Unfortunately, after combing through the variety of postings, nothing really seemed to be a good fit for me. 

From the first day until the last, I was ecstatic to go to work for the BC Forest Service, providing interviews for the regional press, building inter-agency relationships, identifying issues and assisting with emergency communication planning in every day situations and in times of extreme crisis.  The pace was fast and the learning curve steep.   I could hardly believe my good fortune on many occasions. Over four work terms spanning four forest fire seasons, I was paid to do what I came to realize I loved so very much: communicate fire hazards, closures, encourage public prevention of forest fires and forge positive interagency and media relationships.

Author wearing casual fire uniform and hard hat, smiling

Currently, I am in my final year of Communication at SFU and have undertaken yet another unique co-op work term for SFU's Online Learning Community.  With many of the public speaking and media relations skills under my belt, I was eager for an opportunity to expand my ability to communicate online.  By strengthening my technical skills to include web applications, I strive to become a well rounded, experienced communications professional working in Public Affairs. When I further researched how to continue to develop my skills in public and media relations, I discovered that many professionals in my newly found field had a degree in Communication.  After obtaining my initial sixty credits at community college, I earned a place to study Communication at Simon Fraser University where I again enrolled in co-op.  Moving six hundred kilometers from British Columbia's interior, to the Lower Mainland, I embarked upon an entirely new journey which clearly fits how I am wired and I haven't looked back since.

Had I not enrolled in co-op and had the opportunity to determine what career is a good fit for me; life for me would have been very different.  The most important gift co-op provided me was the ability to try before I buy several jobs in different sectors, which allowed me to discover where I best fit and the work which I enjoy.

Beyond the Blog

  • Visit Adam's co-op series, Summer of Wildfires to gain more insight on working with the BC Forest Service. 

About the Author

Carolyn Warner

SFU Co-op Student
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication

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