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Catherine Feng

SFU Student Undergraduate
Communication, Art + Technology

I came into the co-op program with no distinct career goal as I wanted to explore what was possible out there and I certainly did through this co-op opportunity.
Experience Details
Introduction + Preparation

Thinking back to when I first applied for the job, it seemed like it happened quickly but I remember the long lingering feeling of anticipation. I put a lot of thought into the application period. From understanding the job description to being in the waiting room for the virtual interview, a great amount of effort was used to prepare. I had to reflect on my past experiences through resume and cover letter workshops, as well as understand what type of jobs I wanted to explore. From reflecting, I realized I was open-minded for any business-related opportunities. So when I came across the job posting for the Ministry of Agriculture and Foods that is in charge of the market development of a food producer and processor program, FeedBC, it caught my interest.

With this motivation, I used the co-op resources as well as the BC Government's website that has information on the characteristics, or competencies, that the employer hopes to see in an eligible candidate. I also completed brief research on the Ministry and looked up recent provincial news related to the Ministry. Other than that, I made sure to briefly research the interviewers and understand their positions in the Ministry so I could prepare relevant questions for them.

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

The first two weeks of the co-op allowed me to learn about the public service holistically and what it entails to be a public servant. I was introduced to the history of the lands we reside on and the ministry structure. I was overwhelmed by the information during the first two weeks, but I appreciated my colleagues and supervisor for their patience in helping me with my onboarding. I was able to familiarize myself with the office space and work culture.  

Day to Day

As a Market Development Officer working in the Feed BC initiative, and closely with the Buy BC team, my main tasks were to manage the Feed BC Directory and the emails that come into the Directory inbox. I monitor the backend of the Directory to look out for any new edits or submissions from businesses. Depending on my schedule, in addition to administrative work, I also conduct data quality management of the Buy BC Logo Licensees’ data.

Learning and Adaptation

Entering the job with a professional and solemn perception of government work, I soon discovered that my initial impression was not entirely accurate. The work culture maintained a professional demeanour, combined with a degree of seriousness, yet remained friendly and relaxed, creating a comfortable environment. As this was my first co-op position, working in an office setting was entirely new to me. I quickly learned the importance of communication and proactively seeking clarification for projects and tasks on my to-do list. Adapting to multitasking at a higher level became essential, as I often juggled several projects and small tasks simultaneously. Therefore, I recognized the importance of being clear about our capacity and seeking clarification on project priorities.

Accomplishments and Challenges

I went into the job treating projects like assignments until I realized that independence and self-confidence were highly needed for projects in this position. Compared to school assignments, where everything is guided by a rubric, I received many projects with no clear step-by-step guide. It was hard to adapt to this new approach to work at first, but with my supervisor's help, I gained confidence and used more self-thought in crafting each project, for instance, an outreach plan from scratch. 

I also had challenges in finding the right time to ask questions. I initially had the mindset to not bother my supervisor or my senior co-workers, so I held back my questions until my scheduled check-in meetings. I realized that in some situations, that did not help with efficiency. So, I asked my supervisor and co-workers for their preferences and eventually switched that mindset. 

Reflection & Tips

With a marketing background, I see that this co-op position allowed me to implement the theoretical knowledge that I gained from class into projects that make an impact on others. Directly, I was able to use my business knowledge in marketing and business development to create outreach strategies and analysis. This experience widened my understanding of what a public servant’s work life would be like. This opportunity gave me a vision to eventually pursue a job in public service. I also gained experience in delivering work that’s under policy. Through the projects in this position with the B.C. government, I understood the importance of having independent thought while working. This is needed since some projects do not have clear guidelines. Regardless, independent thought will allow a different perspective on issues and may create an improved methodology for projects. 

Most Valuable Aspects of This Experience

The most valuable aspect of this experience would be the people I got to work with. From my supervisor to my senior co-workers, directors and executives, everyone is approachable and open to conversations. Connecting with them and learning about some of their roles in the ministry gave me a better vision of what type of roles I could potentially work in after I graduate. Chatting with people gave me lots of insight into what I will need to do and what to look out for when applying for public service again. 

Connection to Academic Studies or Career Goals

I came into the co-op program with no distinct career goal as I wanted to explore what was possible out there and I certainly did through this co-op opportunity. I learned about the various positions in the ministry and others outside of the ministry I am working at. Through this, I understood what it would be like to have a full-time job in the future. 

In terms of my academic studies, I did get to implement my knowledge from my courses to projects I handled in this co-op opportunity. This helps me to identify that what I am studying is useful and does lead me to a field that interests me. So, while you are in your co-op position, get to know your co-workers and their positions as that will give you perspective on job positions available in the outside world.  

Advice for Future Students

Don’t be afraid to ask questions! I speak this from experience since I was bound by the thought that I might be “bothering” others if I interrupted their work. However, without clarification, work may be done the wrong way. So, my best advice in cases like this would be to first think critically about what the options are to solve an issue. If it is still unclear, then don’t be afraid to approach someone for guidance.