Taylor Gillis graduated in the Spring of 2020 with a unique set of experiences.
Not only was she an SFU Athlete, playing for the SFU softball team for 4 years, but she also finished three Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology (BPK) Co-op work terms. She did her first and second work terms at Kintec and finished her last work term at ProMedicals. After graduating, she now works full-time for Kintec.
I sat down with her (virtually) to learn more about her experiences navigating Co-op as an athlete. Here is what she has to say about her journey and why she recommends fellow athletes to join the Co-op program.
Athletics allowed me to pursue a sport I loved while completing my degree. I was lucky to have experienced teammates to help ease the transition from high school to university for us nervous incoming freshmen. Being part of a team gave me a sense of belonging in this new and overwhelming environment. Once I finished my senior year of softball, I started my first Co-op work term immediately. Co-op enabled me to gain valuable work experience that would strengthen my resume once I completed my degree. I was able to come out of athletics and university with the right tools and the confidence to succeed in interviews, writing cover letters and building my resume around different job descriptions.
Nearing the end of my junior year of softball, I felt lost, realized that I had no idea what I was going to do once I finished softball the next year and was desperate for some guidance. I sought out SFU Career Services. After speaking with one of my athletic academic advisors, they then recommended that I look into joining the Co-op program.
As an athlete, my life revolved around my sport. It left me with little time to think about my future or what my next steps might be. I had no idea what I was interested in and I had little experience to work with. My identity was my sport and without it, I had no idea who I was or what I was supposed to do when this chapter in my life ended. I highly recommend Co-op because it gave me a chance to try new things for a shorter amount of time, and provided me with multiple new experiences while finishing my degree.
As an athlete, to improve we need to step out of our comfort zone. We hone our skills with hours of practice, dedication, and hard work. Winning games and championships cannot be obtained with a complacent mindset. I believe I was able to succeed in my Co-ops because of these things. My work ethic and my competitive mindset to always challenge myself to improve and learn new things while outside my comfort zone made me stand out and get the most out of my Co-op positions.
The greatest challenge I faced as a Co-op student was communication and confidence. As an athlete, I was able to hide behind my talent and work ethic; softball came naturally to me. I didn’t need to use my personality to get me places, my performance and consistency spoke for me. I could communicate effortlessly on the field with my teammates that I’ve spent years training and growing up with, but once I started my first work term, I had quite the awakening. I needed to communicate with this same confidence to new customers and open up to co-workers each day in a setting that I was completely uncomfortable in. I am grateful for the ability to experience this drastic change from thriving as an athlete to surviving in the workforce before graduating as I now have the confidence to succeed in any new opportunity I want to follow.
I most enjoyed the opportunity to expand my knowledge and skillset while in my Co-ops. With Kintec I feel as though I was able to get as much out of it as possible in those 8 months, looking for new challenges each day, asking questions, and seeking out more experienced colleagues to learn from. By becoming proficient in multiple responsibilities at work, I was able to be more comfortable and professional by advancing to a more senior role. By getting the most out of these work terms, it aided my growth as a person who no longer can hide behind the athlete's identity. It sounds cheesy but it has helped me discover who I want to be and to bring out my personality. I was able to enhance my communication skills and make many lifelong friends in the process!
By having the opportunity to grow and try new things within the company, I was able to find more aspects of the work environment that I liked and disliked, which helps me narrow down what I want or don’t want in a career. I was also able to network within these companies which can set me up with shadowing, volunteering, or even new work positions that get me closer to finding a passion for a career.
From talking to Taylor, it is clear that joining the Co-op program has its benefits and enriches the undergraduate experience. Taylor highlighted how being an Athlete complimented her work experience. For example, it’s a necessity to be able to step out of your comfort zone as an athlete, which is also a strength that employers look for in Co-op students. As an athlete, your strengths you develop can be transferable, but as Taylor pointed out, it’s helpful to expand your horizons with Co-op to become a well-rounded SFU student. By doing so, your multi-faceted background will aid in the post-graduate job seeking experience.
Beyond the Blog
Learn more about Co-op for SFU Varsity students.