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Communication, Art + Technology, Arts + Social Sciences
SFU Co-op Student

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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

Me on the right next to a wall with the text "Communications and Marketing 2200"
Blog
So, You Finished Co-op: A Letter to Myself

As the C&M team has been (lovingly) reminding me, the sand in my hourglass is running out. And be it the sentimental self-reflector in me, I want nothing more than to sit down with my pre-Co-op-self and tell her about all of the spectacular things that are about to come her way.

Me on the right talking with one of my peers about the Burnaby Mountain gondola! I was enthusiastic about the project and engaging with the public.
Blog
What IS public relations? My Co-op experience with SFU Communications and Marketing

“What is public relations?" This question feels as vague as someone asking me what majoring in Communications studies leads to. I admit that I want to pursue a career path in this industry, but I have repeatedly asked myself this question throughout my academics. In my search to find out, my experience working as a Communications Assistant in SFU’s Communications and Marketing office has given me a clearer picture of public relations.

Three people behind a desk writing notes next to a Life Sciences BC billboard
Blog
What I Learned About Personal Values During My First Co-op Work Term

Your Co-op seeking term is full of opportunities. But without an idea of what you’re looking for, it can be overwhelming. As a newcomer to the communications field, I spent my first seeking term sifting through job after job like a deer in headlights, not knowing what to look for and where to look for it. Continue reading to learn how working with a company that shares my values enhanced my co-op experience.

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

Seraphina standing and smiling in front of a Canadian Coast Guard vessel
My Co-op Journey: How I Landed a Co-op Working on 3 New Vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard

“When life knocks you down, try to land on your back. Because if you can look up, you can get up. Let your reason get you back up” - Les Brown

Carolyn smiling with co-workers; digging a fireguard for a controlled burn
Try Before You Buy

Many are aware of the multitude of benefits Co-operative Education has to offer. However, some fail to consider the less obvious but equally important advantages.  Co-op is a significant means of determining where you belong and where you fit in the world of work.

Suzanne smiling at her desk
Suzanne Young: A Co-op Student's Success Story

For Suzanne Young, SFUs Co-op program was an immense part of her undergraduate experience. As a graduate in Linguistics and French, she reflects back on her experiences as a Co-op student.