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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
Social Media Addiction & Screen Fatigue: A Survival Guide for Jobs in Social Media

When it comes to social media and digital marketing positions, it’s easy to be blinded by the positives. After all, many Communication majors are fascinated by digital marketing and algorithms— and if you’re a digital native, creating social media content might already be second nature to you. Whether you manage social media for your organization or create external content, there are a few bonuses to consider.

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Blog
5 Tips I've Learned as Digital Communications Specialist on Video Editing

Video editing can be hard. And while this video won’t turn you into an editing master, it can hopefully provide you with some information to make the job easier. Being a third-year Communication student with a passion for creating, Brianna Tsang shares 5 tips and tricks that she has learned throughout her 8-month Co-op placement with FCAT (Faculty of Communication Arts and Technology) as a Digital Communications Specialist.

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Blog
How to Boss Your First Work Term and Get an Extension

Landing your first work term can be a lengthy and challenging task, but the work doesn’t stop when your get that offer letter. Navigating your first day, and even first term can be tricky. Continue reading to see four tips that helped me make the most of my first work term and helped me turn my 4-month placement into an 8-month one so hopefully, you can too.

You Might Like These... Co-op Reflections, Professional Development, Career Exploration, Seeking, Work Term Extension

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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...

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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.

 

You Might Like These... Co-op Reflections

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Margaret’s Co-op Experience: Two Job Positions with One Stone

Find out how Margaret takes on a challenging co-op experience in unfamiliar territory as a student kinesiologist with CBI Health. 

Giving Back with Telus
Giving Back with Telus

Choosing a company to devote your career to at any stage can be a tough choice. The values of a company matter, so look into what your new workplace values before devoting your time to it.

Examples of Esports
An Interview with Derian Chow: Developing a Varsity Esports Program at SFU

Stephanie Greaves, Co-op Coordinator for the SFU School of Interactive Arts & Technology, interviews Derian Chow about his Co-op position as an Esports Project Coordinator.