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Nilapha Khotjak

SFU Student Undergraduate
Education › Counseling + Human Development

Experience Faculty
Working in this role has been an empowering and invigorating experience that led me to learn more about myself and my own career goals on top of improving my existing skill set.
Experience Details
Introduction + Preparation

The Career Boost Canvas course modules were very detailed and informative, they had the key resources I needed to create a strong resume and cover letter from scratch. One of the most important things I learned was how to re-frame my academic and volunteering experiences into skills that can, and do, transfer into the workspace. I found the S.T.A.R / C.A.R approach and accomplishment statements to be really helpful in phrasing my experiences in a concise yet impactful manner.

Previous Experience

I had minimal work experience prior to applying for the Career Boost program during my second-last term at SFU, having only briefly worked as a barista in Canada a few years back, and I did not complete co-op either.

Preparation Tips for Future Students

My main takeaways from the initial preparation stages for job applications and interviews:

  • Be open and curious when looking back on your own non work-related experiences, especially if you have a tendency to downplay your skills and achievements, you are much more knowledgeable and capable than you may believe.
  • The modules have an abundance of resources and they are a great starting point for those who aren't sure of what to do.
  • Reach out and speak to the program coordinator(s)! They are here to support you and they know what they're doing.
  • Make appointments with Career Peers to review your resume and/or to practice for interviews.
  • Approach opportunities with genuine curiosity and willingness to learn.
  • You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.
During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

The most disorienting period was, frankly, during orientation and the first few weeks into the role. It was a big adjustment partially owing to my lack of prior Canadian office work experience, so it was important for me to recognize that and give myself time to warm up to the team and become familiar with my tasks and responsibilities.

Day to Day

Maintaining the balance between work and my full-time studies pushed me to further strengthen my organization and prioritization skills. Working with limited hours usually means I have to be prepared to hit the ground running when there are a lot of tasks lined up for the day, diligently maintaining a to-do list is crucial for me to keep things moving.

As I got to know my colleagues better over time, I count myself as extremely fortunate to have such wonderful colleagues to depend on and converse with day to day.

Learning and Adaptation

I quickly learned that adaptability and flexibility are important skills to develop while working with, and providing support and services to students. Prioritization is key when dealing with new, time sensitive tasks that crop up when there are still ongoing tasks that must be completed. Having a supportive team/supervisor and being able to communicate my situation effectively (e.g., these are what need to be done, this is how I plan to go about it and how I would like to be supported, ask for feedback on resources and approaches I can take, etc.) really helped smooth out the process.

Accomplishments and Challenges

One of my main accomplishments was helping put together the WUSC SFU World Refugee Day. I gained valuable experience in volunteer coordination and event organization, including overcoming the logistics for venue booking, catering selection, event promotion, and inviting guest speakers and a panel host.

Cultural and Environmental Observations

The work culture and environment in my role seems to be more casual, though still professional, which makes sense considering that we mainly work with students and volunteers. The line of communication with my supervisor is more open than expected, and I greatly appreciate the opportunity to voice my ideas/perspective and get more regular feedback on work assignments.

Reflection & Tips
Most Valuable Aspects of This Experience

One of the most valuable things I gained from this experience is insight into how I function in the workspace, which gave me a clearer idea on what kind of environment I thrive in, what good support looks like for me, where my strengths lie and which areas I can work on improving in the future. Knowing these aspects about myself allows me to take a more informed approach in future career planning and job searches.

Connection to Academic Studies or Career Goals

This role is in perfect alignment with my goal to work with newcomer migrant populations in Canada. This experience helped enrich my interpersonal communication and intercultural awareness, skills that are especially important to me as I plan to become a counselor or social worker.

Advice for Future Students

Building genuine connections with your colleagues and people you meet along the way will not only boost you in your career path, but also enrich your personal life and perspective.