I began my co-op term at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) on a cloudy Tuesday. Having arrived at the office with fifteen minutes to spare, I waited in the lobby with the other new co-op students. Periodically, people with clipboards would appear and call out the names of students that they would then lead into the building. I waited in anticipation to hear my name but it never came.
Questions raced through my mind as I stood in the rapidly emptying lobby. Should I try waiting at the other side of the building? What if my supervisor arrived when I went to check the other entrance? What if I mistakenly reported to the Surrey building when I was meant to work at the Vancouver office? What if there was a miscommunication and I received my job offer in error?
Before I could be completely consumed by panic, I spotted my supervisor walking down the hallway ten minutes past our planned meeting time. The relief I felt was overwhelming. It turned out that I had mixed up the East and West entrances in the enormous building and had waited for my Team Leader at the wrong door!
Despite the bumpy introduction to my new position as a Staffing Assistant, the rest of my time at the Agency was smooth sailing. I began my job with very little knowledge of hiring practices, but over the course of an eight-month term, the Staffing Administrative Support Team provided me with an invaluable amount of on-the-job experience.
My team and I often joked that we were “Job Fairies” as we made the hiring magic happen by overseeing and supporting candidates from the moment they submited an application to the moment they accepted a job offer. My team was very supportive and never shied away from letting me try out different aspects of the job. I learned how to screen applications, administer CRA-standardized assessments, conduct phone interviews, verify reference checks and communicate job opportunities to candidates. I also learned how to use two different staffing systems to electronically manage candidates through different stages of the hiring process. The variety of tasks I learned kept me mentally engaged while the volume of work I accomplished ensured I had the opportunity to hone my written and verbal communication skills.
As a side project, I also coordinated with the Assistant Director of Staffing to measure the effectiveness of a regional hiring pilot project. In this role, I gathered and analyzed weekly statistics including candidates’ application statuses, exam result trends, and the number of new applicants hired each week. Later, I transformed these numbers into a creative infographic that could communicate this information at-a-glance to Senior Management. This greatly improved my analytical capabilities and increased my comfort with manipulating large quantities of data.
By far, the most memorable moment of my co-op term was participating in an internal Career Expo as a Staffing Team representative. I attended seminars at two CRA offices to educate employees on new hiring processes and discuss upcoming changes in the Agency’s organizational structure. The events were great opportunities to network with others and practice my public-speaking skills. I also loved being able to speak with some of the employees that I had hired to hear how much they were enjoying their jobs! For my voluntary contribution as a team representative, I received a Service Award which is a milestone that I am very proud of.
The factor that had the greatest impact on my work-term experience was the opportunity to work with a team that functioned like a close-knit community. While our six-member team was considered small, relative to other teams in the office, we had a very positive and friendly dynamic. Everyone was open and encouraged my questions and suggestions. Decisions were made after considering everyone’s input and I enjoyed bonding over office jokes and team lunches. Reflecting back, getting to know my teammates on a personal level was one of the main reasons why I enjoyed my job so much. Not only did this facilitate a work environment that I looked forward to joining every morning, but it also made us more efficient as we could better understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses and delegate work accordingly.
While I had countless good days at the CRA, there were times when I found myself in demanding situations. Managing competing hiring deadlines, having emotionally challenging conversations with candidates, and dealing with rapidly changing workflow priorities sometimes made me feel like I couldn’t keep up. But a former mentor once told me that challenges are a necessary part of the learning experience! Instead of getting discouraged, I viewed these moments as a chance to develop my skills and overcome my weaknesses. I became very organized and learned to be flexible with my tasks. I worked on communicating with my teammates to update them on my progress and learned how to be assertive but professional. I focused on maintaining a can-do attitude and over time I adapted to the pace of my work and became more confident in my duties.
Now, as I prepare to walk out the doors that I mistakenly stood at eight-months ago, I am filled with a sense of gratitude and accomplishment. I feel very lucky to have worked with people who never wavered in their support and guidance of me. The experience I gained will be invaluable to my future career and my co-op term with the Staffing Team confirmed that this is an area of business that I would like to pursue. I will miss my time at the Canada Revenue Agency but I look forward to the future opportunities that await!