Wondering where your arts degree can take you, and how SFU Co-op can help you get there? In March 2021, we hosted a Q&A session with three seasoned SFU Arts Co-op Alumni with a variety of Co-op experiences, where they shared their Co-op journeys and where they are now. They also gave some tips to any current or prospective Co-op students about how to make the most of their Co-op experience, and time at SFU as a whole.
Our first alumnus was Asia, a former Criminology student. Asia did three co-op terms during her time at SFU, and is now working at BC Society of Transition Houses. BCSTH acts as the bridge between the government and transition houses within the province, advocating for things such as funding, policy, as well as providing training (Asia’s specialty). During her time as SFU, she did a Co-op work term as a Community Support Worker for a non-profit agency, and another as a Residential Youth Respite Worker. Her Co-op work terms were incredibly challenging in terms of the work she was doing, but Asia admits she learned so much more than she would just taking Criminology classes at school, and is grateful for the chance to have done such rewarding work.
Dion was our second alumnus, having studied International Studies at SFU, with a concentration in International Security and Conflict. He did 3 Co-op work terms, with jobs in Senegal and Vancouver. He now works at Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) in Ottawa. During his work term in Dhakar, he found it difficult to adjust to cultural differences, especially with regards to work and workplace norms. After his first work term, he initially wasn’t sure if he was going to finish Co-op, but was eventually put in touch with various government agencies and got selected by CIRNAC to work for them. He completed his Co-op with them, eventually being bridged into government and moving to Ottawa to focus on Indigenous issues in 2019.
Our final alumnus was Yee Ting, who studied Criminology with a Forensic Studies Certificate and a minor in Biology. She did a whopping 5 co-op work terms in a variety of fields, testing the waters of various career options. The work term that really made a difference to her was her fourth one, which took her all the way to Yellowknife, where she was involved with inspecting decommissioned mining sites. This work term in Yellowknife forged an interest in the environment, which led to her final co-op working for Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). In her work now, her team assesses proposed projects to evaluate what kind of environmental impact they will potentially have, as well as participating in working group discussions (e.g., with proponents, other departments, indigenous groups).
After the alumnus spoke about themselves and their experiences, students had the opportunity to ask them a few questions. Here’s what they had to say:
What advice do you have for students when it comes to being successful at co-op, and overcoming hesitance or indecision during the process?
Asia: Read job descriptions and apply to the jobs that interest you, but also be open to different experiences. What you end up doing and enjoying may be entirely different from what you originally thought. Also, talk to and get to know your co-op advisors, since they know about all of the jobs offered and they can make suggestions or help you get in touch with different people and organizations.
Dion: As someone who now hires Co-op students, the most important thing when applying is to be memorable. Without making it too busy, try to put a bit of colour and a bit of you in your resume and cover letter, and include/talk about things that make you interesting. Also, don’t sell yourself short. Hiring managers can’t make assumptions about what you’ve done, so you need to tell us about all of your achievements and accomplishments.
Yee Ting: I agree, always talk to your advisors, because they can be super helpful, and be very specific about all of the tasks you’ve done and provide examples.
Were there any courses, clubs, or other resources at SFU that you found helpful in your co-op/career search?
Yee Ting: I think it can be a really good thing to do a minor or certificate in addition to your major, as a way to widen your breadth of experience.
Asia: If you find a course really interesting to you, follow that topic as much as you can. Try your best to connect with and build a relationship with your professors, because they genuinely want to help you.
Do you have any advice for working or seeking students in general?
Yee Ting: Keep applying and don’t feel discouraged, because you most likely will apply to tons of jobs and only end up getting a couple of interviews. I also find that with remote work, networking and reaching out to people has become much easier. Attending events has become so much easier since they’re online, and sending out emails is much more common.
Dion: I think it’s important to be a “t-shaped person”, which means that you have that depth of knowledge about what you’re studying, but you have a breadth of knowledge on various topics as well. That way you can show that you’re really knowledgeable about your field, but you can still talk about lots of other topics with different people.
Asia: Co-op can be challenging, and it’s a lot of extra work. However, it really is worth it, and makes finding a job after graduating easier. As for working virtually, just make sure to take care of yourself and take lots of breaks, whenever you need them.
Beyond the Blog
To learn more about opportunities like Asia, Dion, and Yee Ting's, visit the Arts and Social Sciences Co-op page