My first communication Co-op placement has been an amazing experience working at Westcoast Family Centres (WFC) Society, a non-profit social service organization providing strength-based family and community support services across the Lower Mainland. In my role as a Communication Assistant at WFC, I contributed to the agency’s development and communication strategies. My key responsibility included the opportunity to be a part of a community-driven initiative entitled Avenues of Change – Coquitlam River funded by United Way of the Lower Mainland. The United Way Avenues of Change (UWAOC) Project is a place-based early childhood initiative aimed at bringing the community of Coquitlam River together to help children up to six-years-old reach their full potential.
Working for a non-profit such as WFC includes a variety of responsibilities and great possibilities for a student looking for a well-rounded experience. Here are a few things that I learned from my Co-op placement:
1. Have Your Hand in a Little Bit of Everything
There are many avenues to enhance your professional development, so take them! You have the opportunity to gain numerous skills, tips and experiences within a non-profit organization and their partners. I used multiple professional software and applications to create internal and external communication and promotional materials. I attended seminars and information sessions in my local community and was a part of numerous events and committees.
Through my experience working at Westcoast Family Centres, I gained hands-on experience and had multiple projects to help me learn and refine essential skills. Some of them include consistent branding, content writing, key elements in design, donor strategy planning, research for grant writing as well as time-management and organizational skills. Through my experience working on a project with UWAOC, I was able to sit on numerous community committees alongside partnering organizations and government agencies such as the Early Childhood Development Committee. This provided an opportunity to learn about other like-minded agencies and organizations committed to early childhood development.
2. Your Co-Workers are Awesome
Your coworkers are always willing to go that extra mile! They enjoy what they do and radiate so much positive energy into the workplace that you will love going into work every day.
During my work terms, I worked independently as well as in a team. Specifically for the project with
UWAOC, I was involved in a five-person team with varying responsibilities, personalities, areas of expertise and work styles. Together, we were able to learn and support each other to move the project forward efficiently. At WFC my coworkers were always very helpful, friendly and created a positive work environment for me throughout the different offices I worked in. They greatly appreciated my role as well as the ideas and protocols I put into place. I started my placement with co-workers, but I’m leaving with friends.
3. You Have a Great Opportunity to Diversify Your Communication Skills
You are able to practice on how to adjust, adapt and diversify your voice, language, and content depending on the audience you are trying to engage. From these skills, I was able to liaise with parents, members of the community, other non-profit organizations, and governmental agencies effectively.
Each member of the UWAOC team specialized in some aspect to move the project forward; I was responsible for the communication strategy. This included the creation of consistent messaging, deliverables and networking within the community. Some of my tasks included scheduling social media posts, creating eye-catching event posters and flyers, and refreshing older marketing materials. Whereas my supervisors at WFC provided assorted learning opportunities where I had creative control over projects in order to develop my design and content writing skills.
4. Your Placement Is Very Meaningful and Fulfilling
You have the opportunity to see the positive and uplifting impact of your organizations’ work through the many genuine connections you make. Working in an organization that believes in the work they do has greatly assisted me in exploring my strengths. This experience has shown me that I would like to work within an organization of purpose to create meaningful change.
Additionally, working in a small organization environment in the non-profit sector has allowed me to broaden my exposure and knowledge of the services offered all over the Lower Mainland. Through UWAOC, I was able to coordinate with partners to help plan events and see the impact it made on the community. I heard first-hand from local residents about how inspired, connected, and happy they were with this initiative. At WFC, I have had the opportunity to learn how agencies and the Ministry of Children & Family Development help children and families reunite through resources such as programs, therapy and groups. By having the responsibility of communicating these resources to my colleagues, I’ve been exposed to a vast network of other like-minded organizations that aid in making and maintaining a healthy family that I would not have been aware of before.