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SFU Co-op Student

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Portrait of Ashley
While working in a small team presents its challenges, I’ve learned to love it.

In May of 2014, I landed my dream co-op position as the Communications Assistant for the City of White Rock, and was rehired for an 8 month co-op this summer. In terms of municipalities in the Lower Mainland, White Rock is very small, so it has fewer employees in comparison to cities like Surrey and Vancouver. Despite being a smaller municipality, the communications department still has to deliver services similar to those of cities with larger teams and resources. My joining brought the communications team up to a whopping two people.

Here are a few things that I have learned, and what you can expect if you join a tiny Communications Department:

Be Prepared to Learn New Skills Very Quickly

I joined the City eager to utilize my writing, graphic design, photography and creative skills. While I use and grow these skills daily, I have also adopted a variety of new skills that I never thought I would encounter. For example, I now know how to transcribe and simplify decisions made in Council Meetings, plan ribbon cutting events for new rail crossings, and write research papers on topics such as sister cities and social media usage throughout the Lower Mainland.

Be Flexible – Curve Balls Will Be Thrown Your Way

If I were to be asked, “what does an average day look like for you in this position?”, I’m honestly not sure how I would answer. Sure, I have the daily tasks like writing and monitoring our social media accounts, creating web and intranet content and writing newsletters, but there are always new projects given to us and issues that need response. In the span of three months this summer, the City of White Rock has hosted three public information meetings, held special Council Meetings, and launched an Official Community Plan review. These have all been intensive, City-wide projects which have caused us to work very quickly to ensure that we meet the new objectives, while still completing our ongoing duties.

Your Input and Ideas are Valued

As a student and new addition to an organization, it can be intimidating sharing your thoughts, and you may feel that your voice will be overlooked if you’re in a large team. In a smaller team, new ideas and techniques are extremely valuable, and you can directly see the impact your decisions make.

It’s Okay to Say No

When you’re one of two people in communications at an organization with nearly 200 employees, people from other departments will request help or delegate new projects to you. Sometimes these requests can take five minutes and sometimes they can be week-long affairs. When I started in this position, I found myself taking on additional work whenever anyone asked me for help. Soon, I had too much to do and not enough time. I’ve learned that it is completely fine to explain that you have competing priorities and will be happy to help when you’ve completed what is already on your plate.

While working in a small team presents its challenges, I’ve learned to love it. The wide array of projects and tasks that I’ve been able to work on has been invaluable to me. Being half of the team tackling these various tasks, I’ve had the opportunity to work closely on major projects, and that has given me a better understanding of a career in this field.

SFU Co-op Student
Connect with Ashley on LinkedIn

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