Isabel Nelson - Co-op Q & A

BSc Physical Geography (Geosys + GISci), Urban Cert 

Co-op Term: Summer 2021

Where did you work?

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development for the British Columbia Provincial Government Department – FrontCounter BC in Fish and Wildlife in Surrey

What was your role (what type of work did you do)? What were some of your responsibilities?

 I was a Fish and Wildlife Permit Clerk. In this role I would receive, draft, send for review, and issue Fish and Wildlife permits. This included a significant amount of correspondence between myself and the reviewing biologists as well as with clients. I also was responsible to have a working knowledge of the various permits and their regulations.

How did the skills/knowledge developed in the classroom apply to your job? What did you learn?

This position was administrative, so I didn’t use any of my classroom experience in this job. I primarily drew on previous work and volunteer experience in customer service and administration. However, I did learn a great deal about the fish and wildlife in the South Coast region of BC, as well as how the provincial government operations.

Can you share a challenge you faced in your Co-op and how you overcame it?

This was my first experience working a full-time office job! The main challenge this presented was creating and sustaining a healthy work-life balance. This was not a challenge I expected, but after 14 months of online asynchronous university, jumping into this rigid schedule forced me to re-assess my daily routines and practices. As a result, I am actually much happier and healthier than I was prior to having this schedule imposed on me.

What was your most memorable Co-op experience?

My most memorable experience was an ongoing connection with a senior Biologist I worked with. This biologist has worked with the Ministry for more than 30 years, and over my work term spent a great deal of time encouraging me and teaching me about the intricacies of BC’s Wildlife Act. He offered a great deal of professional advice, was very supportive, and always went out of his way to showcase my successes to the rest of our department. Working in an environment with more senior staff who go out of their way to make you welcomed and apart of the team made all the difference in my co-op!

What have you learned through your Co-op experience?

My co-op allowed me to work on skills such as maintaining a work-life balance, time management, and prioritization. In the past having only worked part time jobs or being a student, I didn’t experience the same level of pressure to complete work in a designated time frame. For schoolwork I have always been able to work on assignments late at night or over the weekend. Working in a more structured environment allowed me to get much better at prioritizing tasks, meeting deadlines, and being more productive. Additionally, I learned that I may want to pursue a career in the public service! I’m unsure of my exact career path, but the Ministry provided an encouraging environment that promoted learning.

What advice do you have for future Co-op students?

Take advantage of everything your organization has to offer! I worked for the provincial government, so I was able to take over a dozen online courses for free during my work term that related to my academic studies. I suggest you arrange to sit down with your manager early on in your term to learn about what opportunities you have at work. These could be team building, personal development, or even just fun events your employer may put on. Additionally, talk to your coworkers and superiors as much as possible. I conducted a series of interviews with different employees in my Ministry. They provided me with invaluable advice about education and career development.