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Vanessa Clarke

SFU Co-op Student
Communication, Art + Technology, Arts + Social Sciences

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Scrabble Tiles spelling out the phrase "origins are usually messy"
One of the first things my older brother asked me when I told him the news was “Are you going to work for one of those millennial tech companies where all your co-workers casually party together and everyone rides around the office in hover boards?” I replied, “I don’t think so, but I hope so!”

Working for a start-up has its challenges, especially when it is your first point of entry into the workforce. Coming from a family of people who have all worked at major companies in their careers, I had no idea what to expect. It was exciting and daunting at the same time, and my family and friends couldn’t wait to hear about my experiences. One of the first things my older brother asked me when I told him the news was “Are you going to work for one of those millennial tech companies where all your co-workers casually party together and everyone rides around the office in hover boards?” I replied, “I don’t think so, but I hope so!”

Stephen Colbert hoverboarding down a hallway while being tossed a burrito

Not only was I starting off in an unfamiliar business, but I was also entering an industry that I had no former experience in nor knew much about. But WOW, have I ever experienced a lot in such a short amount of time. This is what I learned about working for a start-up over the last 10 months as a Communication & Multimedia Associate:

Be Open & Embrace Change

Man frolicking in meadow

This is key to surviving and ultimately staying sane in a start-up, and I learned this the hard way. I like predictability and routine, however I had to force myself to not become attached to certain responsibilities because this type of work environment requires you to be able to pivot from projects at a moment’s notice. In fact, I was hired as a Communications intern and  started being referred to as the Marketing intern after 4 months. At one point, I was named the Graphic Design intern. Therefore, even job titles change with the seasons. You must learn to live in uncertainty, which is already how a lot of people are living now in 2021.

Admit Your Weaknesses to Solve Problems

Trevor Noah tapping his temple then pointing at camera, with the caption "problem solved"

It might just be you and maybe one other co-worker in your department (if you’re lucky). In my case, I was the entire Marketing Communications department and the only one in the company with any knowledge in this field. I quickly learned that admitting my weaknesses to myself was the first step towards solving any problem. I write down specifically what I don’t know how to do, and then I explore all available resources before asking a colleague for help. For example, I was asked to figure out how to track the success of a new virtual product. I thought about Google Analytics, but I had never used it before. Using the Internet as a resource, I discovered a free Google Analytics beginner course. I ended up completing it in a few hours, and had the company’s GA up and running to start tracking our new website all in one day.

Remember Where You Started

Drake and friends dancing under confetti with the caption "started from the bottom, now we here"

This is very important when beginning any Co-op position, but is slightly easier in a start-up. Take note of what stage the company is in when you enter. Because there are so many areas that need to be built and established, it is easy to record the growth of a start-up company. I can clearly see the impact I had during my Co-op terms. Start-ups, like Co-op students, truly reflect the phrase, “started from the bottom, now we’re here!”

About the Author

Vanessa Clarke

SFU Co-op Student
Communication, Art + Technology, Arts + Social Sciences
Connect with Vanessa via LinkedIn and Instagram!

Posts by Author

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Blog
Did your Co-op Term Confirm your Career Path? It’s Okay If It Didn’t.

If you are anything like me, one reason that you might have applied for Co-op was because of the many success stories that you've read and heard about. While these stories can be so inspiring and motivating, I have realized that it’s also important to remember that it’s okay to come out of a Co-op term still unsure of what you may want to do. Continue reading to learn about what I learned after my first Co-op work term.

woman holding a piece of paper with a laptop in front of her
Blog
Business Development & Sales World for Dummies (and Communication Students)

As a Communication major, I’m comfortable with hearing “the medium is the message”, getting lost in 15-page essays, and wondering why a picture of a pipe is in fact, not a pipe (shoutout CMNS 110). Throw me in a tech start-up in a (remote) business development position and well, I’m a touch out of my comfort zone. Keep reading to learn about my experience working in a business role as a Communication major. 

Open laptop, pen, and clipboard on a table. Paper on clipboard reads "my resume".
Blog
Imposter Syndrome and Finding My Confidence With Co-op

Michael joined SFU’s Co-op program during his first year and quickly realized one thing as he began the job search process: projecting confidence and composure are key to showing your best points and skills. Continue reading to learn more about how Michael dealt with imposter syndrome and found his confidence with Co-op. 

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author, courtney, smiling
A Second Term in Government: More of the Same?

Having completed my first work term for Health Canada as a Communications Officer Intern, I was eager to try something new, and the government was not where I believed that was going to happen. That is until I was offered a position at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada...

picture of glichelle pondering a though
Surviving Workplace Politics

Ever been peeved with workplace politics? Have you ever been a victim of office politics? One student shares her experiences from the workplace with tips on how to survive.

 

person with their head in a book
Responsibility and Success

One of the most memorable parts of my time in co-op was the collection of accidents, errors, mistakes, and mix-ups that happened in the course of working in the laboratory.

 

Scrabble Tiles spelling out the phrase "origins are usually messy"
library_books
Blog
Starting Your First Co-op at a Start-up Company
Co-op Reflections, During the Work Term, Personal Development, Professional Development, Workplace Success, Career Exploration

Being part of a start-up company can be scary enough, but doing it as a Co-op student who is brand new to the industry can be absolutely terrifying. This is what I learned about working for a start-up over the last 10 months as a Communication & Multimedia Associate!

Scrabble Tiles spelling out the phrase "origins are usually messy"
library_books
Blog
Starting Your First Co-op at a Start-up Company
Co-op Reflections, During the Work Term, Personal Development, Professional Development, Workplace Success, Career Exploration

Being part of a start-up company can be scary enough, but doing it as a Co-op student who is brand new to the industry can be absolutely terrifying. This is what I learned about working for a start-up over the last 10 months as a Communication & Multimedia Associate!

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Mouataz
A Short Guide to Finding Your Passion

Veteran co-op student, Mouataz Kaddoura, shares valuable lessons learned from co-op terms with Avigilon, MENRVA, Biomedical Research Lab, and Shield-X Technology.

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Decision Support at Vancouver Coastal Health

Ever thought about working in Management Information Systems? Third year business student Vivyn Zhou shares her journey working for System Improvement in the Decision Support department at Vancouver Coastal Health. 

Advisor helping student
From Advising in Person to Advising at Home – My First Co-op Work Term

JenJen was not quite expecting to be advising fellow SFU students as a Student Academic Advisor from the comfort of her home as her very first co-op experience. Read on to learn more on how she found her stride in getting used to a new work environment as a new co-op student in unusual circumstances.