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Head shot of Amanda Dunbar

Amanda Dunbar

SFU Co-op Student
Beedie School of Business

White Room with a white desk that holds a small plant with pencils, a yellow mug, a Mac computer, and a keyboard.
I was successful in landing a fantastic co-op position because I didn’t lose sight of what I was hoping to achieve within SFU’s co-op program.

Scrolling through lists of job titles and application forms, it can be easy to assume that all similar-sounding jobs will provide you with a similar experience. However, there is more to a job than its description. When hunting for a job, it is important not only to thoroughly read the description but to look beyond the words to see what the job could mean for you.

Applying to multiple positions is the first step in your journey and can even lead you in a new direction. From my experience with applying to co-op positions and finding a job that I have thoroughly enjoyed, here are some suggestions on how to target your job search:

It is important to understand that when you are applying to and working in a co-op, you are investing in yourself and your growth within the job industry. Before applying, it is important for you to establish your goals. What do you want to get out of your time in the program? How are those experiences going to translate into post-graduation opportunities? Take the necessary time to understand what exactly you are hoping to achieve. This not only helps you narrow down what type of roles you want to be applying to but can also help you understand what kind of companies you want to consider.

Amanda working at her work station

Understanding what skills a company requires from the applicant is a mandatory step to ensure you are heading in the right direction. Although it can be challenging, you need to be honest with yourself about what skills you do and do not have. That doesn’t mean that you should turn away from a position that seems like your dream role because you lack one of the required skills, as there are often aspects of your past experiences that can transfer to the role. However, certain areas of knowledge are obviously more critical than others. For example, if you are applying to an accounts receivable position but have no experience in accounting, maybe it would be best to move along.

Every position has its own learning curve and co-op employers understand, even more so than those outside the program, that hiring a student means there is going to be a lot of learning on the job. Looking at the skills listed in the job description can also give you a better idea of the focus of the position. For instance, positions advertised as “Marketing” often have a lot of overlap but will lean more towards event planning, social media, customer management, or even graphic designing. Depending on the activities and skills listed in the application, you will be able to narrow down what skills you will apply to your day-to-day tasks.

When I was applying for my co-op position, I took extra time to consider and decode what each of the tasks listed in the description would entail, as well as what my “average day” would look like as was explained to me during my first phone interview. After considering the details more clearly, it helped me understand what kind of skills the position would allow me to develop. One of my main targets was to find a position that would utilize both my creative and organizational skills.

When reviewing job descriptions, I prioritized key words and traits the employers were using to describe their ideal candidates, such as “accuracy”, “attention to detail”, “administrative skills”, “design”, “promotional materials”, and the mention of Adobe programs such as InDesign, Illustrator or Photoshop. This way I was able to target the type of position I was well suited for and also the job that would help me grow professionally.

a laptop with coffee mug in the background

An aspect that I am most thankful for in my work term is that the idea of creating and following goals was something that is fostered in my work environment. I am fortunate to be working within a team that truly cares about my personal growth and development, not only within my role at the company but with regard to my overall skill set. I was, and continue to be, encouraged to write down my goals for the month or term to help guide the work that I complete. Guided by my two supervisors and regularly engaging in new activities, I have been given the opportunity to develop as an individual resulting in a greater ability to help with the demands of the team. Although I may not work on my goals daily, it is important to understand what results I am looking to have by the end of the term.

As I continue to achieve my goals in and out of the workplace, the choice to write a blog for the OLC actually came from the decisions that I made after a meeting with my manager. One of the goals that I set for myself was to improve my ability to create long-form blog-style writing. I believe that this skill is something that will not only help me in my future marketing positions but will also allow me to better help my team as well as others at my organization to create content for brochures, blogs, newsletters, and presentations.

Welcome to the Team Amanda graphic

I was successful in landing a fantastic co-op position because I didn’t lose sight of what I was hoping to achieve within SFU’s co-op program. This is my first semester and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time and am glad that I decided to register. I can only hope that everyone’s experience is as positive as mine and I encourage you to use these tips and talk to your co-op advisor to make the most out of the opportunities provided by the program.

About the Author

Head shot of Amanda Dunbar

Amanda Dunbar

SFU Co-op Student
Beedie School of Business
Amanda Dunbar is a third-year business student at SFU’s Beedie School of Business concentrating in Marketing and Human Resources. Former Director of Marketing for SFU’s Pursuit of Happiness club, she is currently working as a Human Resources Coordinator at Mitacs. Amanda is pursuing a future in marketing positions that play to her organizational and creative skill sets, and is passionate about creating connections through the use of digital media. Stay connected with Amanda Dunbar on LinkedIn.

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