There are just some things in life that you never thought would happen to you. And then it does.
I lost my Co-op internship.
Not to sound conceited, by no means am I exempt from getting the ol’ heave-ho. My co-op ended unexpectedly (those who don’t know what the Co-op program is, it’s very similar to an internship – but you get support from the Co-op office), and here’s how it went down.
Throughout my 4 years of university, never have I ever heard of anyone losing their co-op position. EVER. It’s as rare as a blue moon.
But then, it happened to me.
Sometimes, you have to experience something to know that it’s not where you want to be. What felt like a great experience in the first week, didn’t seem to be in the second week or the next few weeks following. Although I started out really wanting this position, I found out that there were other factors that can have an impact on determining my fit for a company. To give some background information about me, I’m a 4th-year Communications student with a concentration in Design. For my previous co-op, I worked as a Design and Marketing Associate. Working in that position, I was acknowledged for all my work, I was able to freely contribute and have a say in some of the decisions that our team made, and most important of all, I had exceptional support from everyone in the team. Truth be told, I took some of those things for granted – I should’ve appreciated them more than I did. Because I was not prepared for what came next.
I started my new co-op position at a start-up company which I will not name – for our sake let’s call it Company A. I wanted a change of pace and environment from my previous experience working at a post-secondary institution.
At company A, I felt a lack of connection with my employer. As a person who values cooperation and teamwork, I felt a little out of place in such a rigid environment. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t too comfortable where I was. It’s weird how even though the job description seemed right, it was a perfect industry to work in, and there were good perks that came with it, I was still unhappy. I was constantly stressed out, trying to do things differently to meet my employer’s expectations. However, I came to understand that my anger and frustration stemmed from the fact that my vision was not aligned with the company’s environment and culture. My supervisor felt that I wasn’t the best fit for the role either and unfortunately, I was let go. And that's okay.
I was let go as soon as I came into work. I spent the morning crying, but that very night I started applying for jobs. Although I’m not a 4.0 GPA genius, I try my best at everything I do, and I don’t shy away from a challenge. I’m highly motivated and very determined once I set out goals for myself, and that’s something I’m very proud of. These were characteristics I demonstrated throughout this co-op experience and being let go was just another challenge I could get through. I contacted my co-op advisors and filled in the forms required to be registered for seeking (a seeking term is a semester where students are job searching). Before continuing my story, I want to give my Co-op Coordinator, Sara, a big shoutout! I appreciate you so much for helping me navigate through my journey at Company A. You have been such a positive constant source of support that I never knew I needed. For those who don’t think to pay the Co-op tuition fee is worth it – trust me, it definitely is. Here are my achievements within the month of losing my job:
Throughout this time, I was taking one course, and I was able to pull my grades up and participated more during lectures.
I networked with friends and acquaintances. Together, we job searched and built our graphic design skills by coming up with projects to enhance our portfolios.
I updated my website to showcase my personality and portfolio; it’s now both web and mobile-friendly!
I was unemployed for 2 weeks before landing a contract position with the SFU OLC working as a Graphic Designer and Content Management Lead.
I was offered my dream job working at my dream company for an 8-month co-op contract starting in May. Needless to say, I happily accepted their offer.
My experience has led me to realize what I look for in a company culture and management style. Here are some tips and questions to ask during your next job interview to better visualize the type of work culture that you’ll be exposed to, or to find out if you’re a fit for the position.
Are there training and support programs provided to new hires? If so, what will that mentorship and support look like?
Although I did ask if mentorship was provided during my interview at Company A, I didn’t ask what that mentorship looks like. As a result, I went into the job thinking it’s a collaborative culture where questions are encouraged. Instead, it was the opposite. I didn’t receive as much mentorship as I would have hoped and I was asked to self-learn with online resources available to help my understanding. It’s good to have your own vision of what the company culture is like, but also make sure that your vision is aligned with theirs.
What is your company culture like? Will I mostly be doing independent work or working in teams?
I’m a very pro-collaboration individual. Therefore, even though interviewers might say that the culture is collaborative, you might also want to ask what this culture of collaboration looks like in your position. I’ve learnt that asking questions about work culture specific to your team is equally as important as the overall company.
What does your management style look like?
With this question, you’re able to take control of the interview. Sometimes, interviewers are so used to asking questions that you might catch them off-guard with this question. They’re likely to produce a more honest answer, and you can evaluate whether or not you’ll like to work under their management style.
What type of work I will be responsible for? Could you provide examples of the work I’ll be doing?
This is to help you to clearly gauge the workload and what you’ll be accountable for. Additionally, it will also give you an idea if it’s something you’d be interested in learning. Even though I asked this question during my interview, my interviewers didn’t have a clear direction of the projects that I was to take on. This is to ensure that the work you’ll be doing matches your job description. Although my interviewers did tell me that I will be taking on UX/UI work, they definitely downplayed the number of UX/UI assignments that I would be responsible for. This type of job imbalance doesn’t usually happen, but when it does, you’ll know what to expect and ask!
What are your expectations with regard to performance and work ethic?
I knew coming into a start-up environment, I had to work hard and would be responsible for a lot more projects than my previous experiences. However, there was definitely miscommunication between my manager and I regarding the expectations of my performance. While I thought I was doing well, my manager seemed to not be satisfied with the quantity of work I provided. This question allows you to better understand your interviewers’ expectations of your performance early on so that you can be better prepared.
What types of resources will be provided to help with my learning progress?
Depending on what type of work you might be searching for, you might need a lot of resources if you’re learning new software, or just support from your manager and peers. It’s good to have an idea of what resources you’ll be provided with to assess whether or not their expectations are realistic.
What does cross-department communication look like within the organization?
When I was doing projects at Company A, some of them had very tight deadlines. I was rushed to provide drafts and complete the project, but as it turns out, the project wasn’t even needed. There were definitely flaws in the communications across the different departments at Company A. Speaking from experience, I feel that communication contributes a lot to an employee’s productivity and efficiency in the workplace. Through this experience, I came to understand how valuable open communication is within a team and across departments as well.
My biggest takeaway from this experience is to never lose yourself and keep working hard. Bad things are only temporary, and when one door closes, another one will open.
If I had wallowed in my sorrows and did not actively seek for jobs, network with my previous employers, I wouldn’t have come across this opportunity to be employed for SFU OLC and have a supportive manager.
If I had not continued working on my skills to update my website/portfolio, I wouldn’t have gotten as many interviews for the positions that I applied to.
If I had not lost my job, I would not have been able to apply to companies that I’m a better fit for.
If I had not lost my job, I would not have been offered my dream job.
So, keep trying. It may seem like you’re not good enough, or that your career is over. Let me leave you with two final thoughts based on my experience:
First, love yourself. Be proud of what you do. Work hard and you’ll achieve your dreams because they’ll no longer be dreams. They’ll become your reality.
And second, your career is FAR from over. It’s just starting.