Skip to main content
Communication, Art + Technology, Arts + Social Sciences
SFU Co-op Student

empty
Scrabble Tiles spelling out the phrase "origins are usually messy"
One of the first things my older brother asked me when I told him the news was “Are you going to work for one of those millennial tech companies where all your co-workers casually party together and everyone rides around the office in hover boards?” I replied, “I don’t think so, but I hope so!”

Working for a start-up has its challenges, especially when it is your first point of entry into the workforce. Coming from a family of people who have all worked at major companies in their careers, I had no idea what to expect. It was exciting and daunting at the same time, and my family and friends couldn’t wait to hear about my experiences. One of the first things my older brother asked me when I told him the news was “Are you going to work for one of those millennial tech companies where all your co-workers casually party together and everyone rides around the office in hover boards?” I replied, “I don’t think so, but I hope so!”

Stephen Colbert hoverboarding down a hallway while being tossed a burrito

Not only was I starting off in an unfamiliar business, but I was also entering an industry that I had no former experience in nor knew much about. But WOW, have I ever experienced a lot in such a short amount of time. This is what I learned about working for a start-up over the last 10 months as a Communication & Multimedia Associate:

Be Open & Embrace Change

Man frolicking in meadow

This is key to surviving and ultimately staying sane in a start-up, and I learned this the hard way. I like predictability and routine, however I had to force myself to not become attached to certain responsibilities because this type of work environment requires you to be able to pivot from projects at a moment’s notice. In fact, I was hired as a Communications intern and  started being referred to as the Marketing intern after 4 months. At one point, I was named the Graphic Design intern. Therefore, even job titles change with the seasons. You must learn to live in uncertainty, which is already how a lot of people are living now in 2021.

Admit Your Weaknesses to Solve Problems

Trevor Noah tapping his temple then pointing at camera, with the caption "problem solved"

It might just be you and maybe one other co-worker in your department (if you’re lucky). In my case, I was the entire Marketing Communications department and the only one in the company with any knowledge in this field. I quickly learned that admitting my weaknesses to myself was the first step towards solving any problem. I write down specifically what I don’t know how to do, and then I explore all available resources before asking a colleague for help. For example, I was asked to figure out how to track the success of a new virtual product. I thought about Google Analytics, but I had never used it before. Using the Internet as a resource, I discovered a free Google Analytics beginner course. I ended up completing it in a few hours, and had the company’s GA up and running to start tracking our new website all in one day.

Remember Where You Started

Drake and friends dancing under confetti with the caption "started from the bottom, now we here"

This is very important when beginning any Co-op position, but is slightly easier in a start-up. Take note of what stage the company is in when you enter. Because there are so many areas that need to be built and established, it is easy to record the growth of a start-up company. I can clearly see the impact I had during my Co-op terms. Start-ups, like Co-op students, truly reflect the phrase, “started from the bottom, now we’re here!”

SFU Co-op Student
Connect with Vanessa via LinkedIn and Instagram!

Posts by Author

Ditij sitting at his desk
Blog
Opportunities are what you Make of it - An Interview with an Economics Student

Meet Ditij Beladiya, a student completing an Honours undergraduate degree with a Major in Economics, Concentration in Economic Data Analytics and Minor in Political Science. In this quick Q&A, Ditij shares about his co-op experience. Read about his interview, his day to day tasks and what he has learned.

Fatima standing in front of mountains
Blog
WHERE Are They Now: An Interview with a Former Master's Co-op Student

Many times, our co-op students graduate from our program, and use these experiences in future positions. Today, we will be interviewing a former student of ours, Fatima Sajid to see where she is now after graduation. Read about how her onboarding processes went, the skills she learnt and how her employers helped her develop said skills.

Annelyse standing in front of a window
Blog
Interview with an Arts Co-op Student: How a Policy Intern Position Improves your Writing

Meet Annelyse Ross, a Political Science and Social Data Analytics Co-op student. In this quick Q&A, Annelyse shares about her co-op experience. Read about how she discusses how she determines if a position is a good fit for her, what she did in her Policy Intern position and even how she got to travel as part of her position.

You Might Like These... Co-op Reflections, Professional Development, Career Exploration, Seeking, Work Term Extension

author, courtney, smiling
A Second Term in Government: More of the Same?

Having completed my first work term for Health Canada as a Communications Officer Intern, I was eager to try something new, and the government was not where I believed that was going to happen. That is until I was offered a position at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada...

picture of glichelle pondering a though
Surviving Workplace Politics

Ever been peeved with workplace politics? Have you ever been a victim of office politics? One student shares her experiences from the workplace with tips on how to survive.

 

person with their head in a book
Responsibility and Success

One of the most memorable parts of my time in co-op was the collection of accidents, errors, mistakes, and mix-ups that happened in the course of working in the laboratory.

 

You Might Like These... Co-op Reflections

Image of Author. He is smiling at the camera. He is wearing a white T-shirt and holding a cup of drink.
Working in Product Development: Consumer vs Industrial

Ever wondered what makes the difference between a consumer-level product and an industrial one? Read on and find out some of the key differences that make industrial level products stand out in reliability.

Image of a Chinese building
Adventures in China with CIBT

Each semester, the International Co-op office posts a multitude of Co-op jobs for students looking to have a unique, some would say life-changing, experience by going to work outside of Canada. Many of the positions open to students from all faculties are for English instructors. Find out more about Ben's experience teaching English in China...

Convocation Reflection Lead Image
Is Co-op Worth Delaying Your Graduation?

Practical experience isn't always gained in the classroom. Sure there are labs and projects, but nothing tops a real workplace environment. If you’re second guessing participating in co-op because of delaying your graduation, this post is for you!