Simon Fraser University

Co-op advisor offers wisdom

Feb 09, 2002 , Vol . 23, No. 3

By Julie Ovenell-Carter
Jay Solman, SFU's newly appointed arts co-op student advisor, observes with a smile that university students are "full of ideas, and quite often, full of themselves."

But for students hoping for a career break, he says, that bravado is no laughing matter. "It can get them into trouble when they hit the workplace, because not everyone is all that interested in debating post-modernism around the photocopier. It's one aspect of my job to help them figure things like that out sooner, rather than later."

Solman is the first point of contact for the more than 170 arts students who will seek work placements through SFU's co-op program this year.

Until he arrived in January, arts co-op coordinators Paulette Johnston and Caroline Rose juggled external marketing - recruiting and retaining employers - and internal marketing - recruiting and training students.

Now, the two functions have been separated and Solman has been brought on board to better serve the students.

Solman has worked with students since graduating with a masters degree in sociology from the University of Toronto in 1998. In his new role, he works one-on-one with students, helping them identify career strengths and weaknesses.

"I really enjoy helping students to see the value of their liberal arts education," he says.

"For example, a philosophy student has marvelous analytical, research, and writing skills which could transfer to a variety of jobs. In the workplace, nobody cares that you've read Hegel, but they do value your ability to summarize complicated concepts and to bring multiple perspectives to problem-solving."

In addition to helping students craft resumes and cover letters and sharpen interviewing skills, Solman asists students in finding their own job placements, tailored to their unique skills and interests.

He also leads workshops on subjects such as professionalism in the workplace, and navigating ethical dilemmas on the job.

"The whole idea of co-op education," says Solman, "is that you don't have to make all your mistakes in public. You don't actually have to learn everything the hard way. I'm here to give students the support they need so they can present themselves as aspiring professionals on their first day."

Fing more information on the arts co-op education program online.