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

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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!”

SFU Co-op Student
Connect with Vanessa via LinkedIn and Instagram!

Posts by Author

Fatima standing in front of mountains
Blog
WHERE Are They Now: An Interview with a Former Master's Co-op Student

Many times, our co-op students graduate from our program, and use these experiences in future positions. Today, we will be interviewing a former student of ours, Fatima Sajid to see where she is now after graduation. Read about how her onboarding processes went, the skills she learnt and how her employers helped her develop said skills.

Annelyse standing in front of a window
Blog
Interview with an Arts Co-op Student: How a Policy Intern Position Improves your Writing

Meet Annelyse Ross, a Political Science and Social Data Analytics Co-op student. In this quick Q&A, Annelyse shares about her co-op experience. Read about how she discusses how she determines if a position is a good fit for her, what she did in her Policy Intern position and even how she got to travel as part of her position.

Calendar with pinned dates
Blog
Expect the Unexpected with Event Planning

I’ve learned to expect the unexpected in the field of communications, but this semester, that was taken to the next level, as event planning became the focus. While most days were fairly regular office hours, I did once spend the weekend as a guide and mic runner for a research summit. Another time, I got to attend a free class in voguing!

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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.

 

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Life After Co-op: From Footballs to Law

As an SFU Co-op alumni Susan Seto is one of the many success stories of the the program. Since graduating in 2008 her co-op experience has shaped her career and changed her life.

person typing on a laptop
7 Tips for Remote Facilitation Amidst a Global Pandemic

Congratulations! You’ve landed your first Co-op work term. But wait! There’s a catch (or two): you’re in the middle of a global pandemic, and you’re expected to lead a team in this new and not-so-improved virtual setting. Read Bita’s tips to feel more confident while conquering your very first Co-op in a position of leadership, all the while working remotely. 

Worried woman
Tanya's Kinesiology Co-op: A Challenging Experience

My name is Tanya and I am majoring in Kinesiology – Active Health and Rehabilitation. I decided to join the Co-op program to gain hands-on experience and find out what type of work I would like to do once I have graduated. I began co-op in January of 2010 and finished the last of my co-op terms at the end of 2011, all in the area of physical rehabilitation. I wanted to address some of the challenges I have experienced during my time in co-op, and I hope to help other students who may be facing similar problems in their own work terms.