Skip to main content
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication
SFU Co-op Student

I was stressed out about how I would be able to learn all of this new information in such a short period of time, because many people were depending on these numbers to be accurate.

We tend to have very concrete ideas as to what careers come out of our disciplines of study. Biology naturally turns into medicine, while engineering usually leads to becoming an engineer. As a Communication student, my dream co-op jobs were in the fields of journalism, public relations, or social media. Instead, I landed a job as an Administrative Assistant with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), an organization that I never would have even considered working for if it wasn’t for co-op. Beyond this, I wasn’t even working in their Communications department, I was working in their Occupational Health and Safety Unit.

In the lead up to my work term, I had doubts about my abilities and whether or not this would help me in my studies. As I draw near the end of my co-op, I realize now that even though this isn’t a traditional Communication Co-op position, it is still an important experience nonetheless, and it helped me to expand my knowledge as well as my horizons. Here are four things I picked up along the way:

Take Notes Religiously

My first week on the job was new information overload. Within a week, I was hit with a lot of terminology, acronyms and policies that were a far cry from analyzing semantics and propaganda filters in school. I scribbled down as much as I could remember in my little notebook, and over time, I found that it was good to make notes as I went along. It helped me to focus my listening and take down relevant information so that I had it for later, much like when I was sitting in lecture. My notebook became my best friend as it reminded me of procedures for various tasks, as well as gave me an opportunity to write down what worked and what didn’t, and how I could improve the next time this task came around.

Learn As You Go

One of my assignments allowed me to work side by side with the BC RCMP Mental Health Strategist to compile statistics and create various Excel spreadsheets to collect data, something I was not familiar with at all. Over time, I learned more about Excel and data analysis through this project than I ever would have alone. I will admit that that the first few weeks with the project, I was stressed out about how I would be able to learn all of this new information in such a short period of time, because many people were depending on these numbers to be accurate. As time went on, my confidence increased and soon, number crunching became a part of me – something I never thought I would say, considering the fact that I am so used to essay writing and editing. Keep your mind open, practice your new skills, and keep all your newly gained knowledge in that notebook of yours.

Rachel Wong standing in front of bushes

Stop Playing It Safe

Here’s a confession: change is not my friend. I like to play it safe. But playing it safe would have left me doing useful but mundane tasks like dead filing, picking up mail, and bookkeeping. No doubt, those are all useful skills to have, but co-op is an opportune time to try something new. When my supervisor came to me with an assignment opportunity, I worried about the change. My fear was short-lived, however, as I began to work alongside the Occupational Health Nurses in my unit with the processing of injury and accident reports. Not only was I able to help alleviate their workload, I also learned a lot of medical terminology, advanced my knowledge of Excel, and diversified my experience during my co-op. Take advantage of every opportunity you get to learn something new, because you might surprise yourself with what you take away.

Connect, Talk, and Plug

Take co-op as an opportunity to talk to as many people as you possibly can: your supervisor, your co-workers, and even other people that you may see around. You never know who you’ll meet with each conversation, and they have potential to create invaluable connections. For me, my work with the Mental Health Strategist landed me an opportunity to meet with a senior Communications Analyst with the BC RCMP, who also graduated from SFU’s Communications program – something that became an instant bond between the two of us. No matter who you are talking with, it is a great opportunity to practice your “elevator pitch” to show people who you are and where you see yourself after graduation. Hold onto these connections and stay in touch, because they might be your key to landing a permanent position.

I am thankful for this unique opportunity having pushed me outside of my comfort zone and for showing me work outside the world of communications. Beyond expanding on the skills that I brought with me to this co-op, I now bring with me even more skills that I wouldn’t have attained if I didn’t take this job. Thanks to co-op, I learned that change isn’t all that bad; in fact, it can teach you so much.

Best of luck in your co-ops, and don’t forget to take a chance!

Beyond the Blog

  • To learn more about opportunities like Rachel's, visit the Co-op homepage. 

SFU Co-op Student
Connect with Rachel on LinkedIn and Twitter or visit Rachel's blog.

You Might Like These... Your Next Co-op, International, Personal Development, Culture

Three women posing in front of a building called 'Hospice Pre-School'
Life in Botswana: Jumping in With Both Feet

For four months Jessica Kehler traveled across the world to Botswana, working with Holy Cross Hospice, a non-profit organization that uses a holistic approach to treating terminal HIV/AIDS patients. Upon her return, the OLC sat down to learn about a country known for its diamond mining, tourism, and sadly, HIV/AIDS. Read to find out more about her journey!

View of the city and temple from a height in Japan
Co-op Japan: The Experience of a Lifetime

The Co-op Japan program is more than a way to add an international job to your resume; it can also be a trip of self-discovery.  Two co-op students share their memorable experiences in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Serena in the snow
Serena's Winter Co-op Adventure: Working at Iron Ore Company in Newfoundland

Wondering what it's like to work in HR and in Newfoundland? Read on to learn more about Serena's winter adventure and experience adapting to a new culture, environment and life away from home!

You Might Like These... Your Next Co-op

Three people posing in front of the SAP logo
Insights Into Working with a Global Tech Firm

The tech sector is one of the world's fastest-growing industries, making it the perfect place to launch a career. But where does that leave students with non-technical backgrounds? Following a coveted internship with SAP, Beedie student, Kevin Ng, shares his experience of working with a global tech firm. 

Pat Chaisang standing in front of SAP's sign
Five Easy Hacks to Excel at your Co-op!

When it comes to an experience of a lifetime like an internship, the one question we ask ourselves over and over again is “how do I make the most out of this experience?” In this blog, I would like to share with you five game-changing strategies that you can start implementing at work!

Group photo at WorkSafeBC
Discovering my Career Path in Investment Management

My university experience has been a roller coaster to say the least. From moving to a brand-new city without knowing anyone to embarking on multiple co-ops in finance related roles, I discovered who I wanted to become and the path I needed to take to get there.