This blog was originally posted on the SFU Economics news page on July 6th, 2021.
A master's student recently graduated from Simon Fraser University (SFU)'s Department of Economics, Rifayat Raisa had always been interested in venturing into the field of health economics.
With the support of the Arts Co-op office, she landed the perfect job to help her break into the industry — as a research and reporting assistant with the Vancouver office of medical information technology company Policy Reporter.
As a company specializing in the health insurance market in the United States (US), Raisa's work provided her with an extensive understanding of the complexities of the US health system. Drawing on her economics background, Raisa honed her technical and analytical skills by developing client reports that combined data-driven insights and health policy analyses.
While Raisa was able to improve her quantitative skills, she found that the soft skills gained from the experience were incredibly valuable in her personal and professional growth. With the support of her manager and team, Raisa developed confidence in her time management, project management, and presentation skills.
Her eight month co-op work term with Policy Reporter has been a monumentally positive experience for Raisa. One of the most memorable highlights include a client project she handled close to Christmas time. She took the initiative to teach herself some new techniques, creating a uniquely formulated data dashboard that improved on a lot of the team's previous reports.
"The clients were very impressed by the report when I presented the findings to them, and I was subsequently nominated for Researcher Spotlight of the Month," says Raisa. "It felt like a Christmas miracle! I have been encouraged to use that data dashboard for future projects as well."
When asked on advice for other graduate students interested in pursuing the Co-op program, Raisa says, "Applying for co-ops can at first be quite discouraging, but don’t give up! The patience and hard work are definitely worth it to get some work experience before you graduate, especially if you are an international student like me."
Applying for co-op positions take as much work as any other course since writing cover letters is quite an assignment! The best advice that Brandy, my co-op supervisor, gave me was to not use the same generic cover letter for all of my job applications. Start from scratch every time (if possible, I know it is challenging with assignments and quizzes due!). You will notice your application will improve a little each time. Make sure that your personality and your values are reflected in the cover letter.
Do not be afraid to be yourself in job interviews – it will ease your nervousness as well. An interview is just your employers’ way of getting to know you – and your life and your experiences make each one of you a unique and interesting individual in your own way!
Finally, take all the support you can get from the co-op office; they are here to support you. I lost count of the number of times I have gone to Brandy with new revisions of my resume, asking her for a mock interview, chatting with her to know more about a position that I am applying to, or even going over the available work reports on Canvas. I have attended every workshop – and learned something new with each one!