As a fifth year Health Science Co-op Student, Kelly Chiang shares her advice for students interested in integrating valuable work experience with their classroom learning. She started her work experience in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic two years ago, and has worked in a variety of environments including her home and in person, in a big company and in a small startup.
Chiang advises to look at the bigger picture, as she sees it as a vital part of the learning experience. Many students may worry about finding an ideal position, and she suggests focusing on finding aspects of the job that work for you.
“I decided to treat my Co-op journey like a treasure hunt and to scavenge for things I can piece together to create my own ideal, There are going to be findings that you like and dislike but just remember that they are both valuable. This approach has allowed me to expand my physical and mental visibility to other 'treasures' that I would have missed otherwise.”
While working for Cortico Health Technologies, - a small start-up, Chiang was surprised to be working in a space where Co-op students and supervisors worked closely.
“I was able to directly communicate with the company CEO, and I found that my opinions and contributions were being heard and seen by everyone.”
On the other hand, while working at a long-term care facility, Hawthorne Senior Care Community, Chiang was introduced to a large work environment with a wide range of career options.
"As part of my Co-op assignment, I conducted informational interviews with a dietician, RN, social worker, recreational therapist, music therapist, and many more. To learn what a day in their job looks like and listen to the journey on how they got to where they are now was inspirational, and opened my eyes to so many possibilities."
Chiang’s top advice for students transitioning from a study environment to a work environment is to be flexible and to set objectives. By being organized and flexible, she believes a broader variety of tasks can be accomplished. Similarly, by setting goals, and regularly reflecting on them, students will be able to understand where they stand with their goals and succeed in Co-op.
“During the study term, the student brain typically goes through the motion of reading, attending lectures and preparing for exams. When I transitioned to a work environment I had to switch gears- I found myself juggling a variety of things, with less repetition.”
“To overcome this, I set priorities for my daily tasks and ensured I was organized, especially when working from home. Similarly, I set weekly goals, and regularly connected with my supervisor who assisted me in reaching them, which ultimately advanced my learning.”
Chiang recently completed her Co-operative Education Degree designation and is grateful to have reinforced her learning through a variety of work experience. She is finishing her last term at SFU and hopes to merge her health science and practical experience in the near future.
This item was initially published on the HSC Website: Transitioning from study to work life: Kelly Chiang shares her FHS Co-op experience.