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Justine Bayer

SFU Student Undergraduate
Arts + Social Sciences

Position Title
Experience Faculty
Working in the department where I also study has allowed me to see what goes into my student experience. It has given me a newfound appreciation for my education.
Experience Details
Introduction + Preparation
Previous Experience

Working in SFU's PSYC department is both my first Co-op term ever, and my first office job. I've only had one job beforehand, and the responsibilities were very different than this placement. I worked as a 'Christmas Elf' at the mall for two seasons. As you can imagine, it's very different than an office job. My only other experiences come from high school when I volunteered at a few different places, including a doggy daycare, a bank, and the Burnaby Village Museum. So, coming into this position, I just had a bunch of random experiences and wasn't too confident on how it would play out in helping me secure a Co-op. However, I was lucky enough to land this position with the help of the Co-op program's resources and support! 

Preparation Tips for Future Students

This Co-op placement ends for me in April 2024, and while I'm only about halfway in, I feel that I already have some preparation tips! What I'd emphasize is to not be afraid to ask for help. I struggled with this due to a mix of intimidation and shyness, but Co-op is really the best opportunity to ask questions, make mistakes, and learn! You have that extra layer of support from the Co-op team as well as your employer and colleagues, so this is the ideal time to ask those questions and gain as much experience and skills as you can, as it will help you in the long run! Additionally, take on as much as you see fit. In my placement, my supervisors encourage me to try everything. I came into the role with no design experience, no website configuration experience, no event/ project planning experience but with the support and guidance of my supervisors, I am now able to do all these things! So, ask questions and never say no to a new opportunity, because you never know what you will be capable of!

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

While my first week went by fast, I feel that I haven't stopped learning since I began back in September. My orientation consisted of a manual/guide and step-by-step tutorials from my supervisor on how to do basic tasks like the weekly newsletters, updating our Behavioral Intervention job posting websites, and answering emails. I was also introduced to the expectations for my big capstone project, the core project for my role. From there, I was able to explore what I wanted to. I could take on side projects (which is how I learned how to use programs like Adobe Illustrator, Indesign, and Author), while working on my capstone, alongside my regular responsibilities. While I felt a bit overwhelmed at first, my supervisors were super supportive and helped me ease into my tasks.

Day to Day

On most days, I will have to organize what tasks I need to complete, what meetings I need to attend, who I need to talk to, and more. Besides some scheduled check-ins, newsletter posts, and meetings, I hold the responsibility of determining what I need to get done. I spend a lot of time replying to emails, picking up small design or website projects, and contributing to my own capstone project. I also enjoy getting to chat with my colleagues, take breaks when I need them, and overall just getting that hands-on experience of office tasks. 

Accomplishments and Challenges

While having flexibility and freedom in day-to-day tasks is a plus for many people, I actually prefer having more structure to my work, so the flexibility of this role posed a challenge for me. My solution has been to make myself a schedule of what I want to get done each day (i.e., a to-do list), as well as having those weekly check-ins with my supervisors to make sure I am on the right track. Through these strategies, I have been able to keep up with my responsibilities and learn how to self-manage myself more efficiently. 

Cultural and Environmental Observations

One thing I wanted to take away from this placement was whether I could see myself working in an office environment as a future career. Based on my experience so far, I've been enjoying the office dynamic: going to meetings, doing solo work on my computer, collaborating with my supervisors on projects and seeing those projects through to completion, and more! The culture in this department is very friendly and supportive which I think is the main reason why I've developed such a positive impression of the office setting. 

Reflection & Tips

These past 4-months have consisted of a lot of learning - not just new skills in the workplace, but also learning more about myself. I'm building my resume, learning what things I enjoy and am good at, and gaining new experiences that differ from those I get from being a student. Working at the same place I go to school has been especially interesting, since one day I'll be going up to campus as a student, and the next day I'll be heading up as a staff member. 

Getting into the Co-op program and landing this role has been one of my biggest accomplishments of 2023! I am so proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone to finally make the most out of my student experience. In this role, where a big responsibility is facilitating student engagement, I feel like I can use my own experience to cater to those who, like me, find it hard to step outside their comfort zone and get involved. 

Connection to Academic Studies or Career Goals

One goal I had going into this placement was to determine if I could see myself working in an office setting. Based on this experience alone, I can see myself leading a fulfilling career in an office environment, however I am keen to try new environments to confirm if this is the right style of work for me. 

My career goals are not set in stone, but have typically been in the realm of human services; specific roles I've had in mind are in healthcare, teaching, counselling, and HR. While a Student Engagement role may fall a bit away from what my aspirations seem, there are valuable transferrable skills I see myself taking from this into any future career.

I believe that the skills and experiences I am gaining from this placement are helping me become a more unique and valuable candidate for future roles I apply to. 

Advice for Future Students

This role wasn't perfectly in-line with what I think I want to pursue in my future, but fit my my goal for my Co-op experience to discover things I like and learn more of my skills and strengths to narrow down possible careers. Skills are often transferable, so if an opportunity looks enticing, it doesn't hurt to try it out, you might learn something new about yourself in the process. So, future Co-op students, don't be too picky when looking for placements. Every opportunity is valuable, so if something interests you, go for it!