The Journey From Co-op to Career

The Journey From Co-op to Career

By: Heather Sanders
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In the fall of 2009, I applied for a Communication Co- op placement through Simon Fraser University and was accepted as a co-op student with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). My resume was submitted by the co-op advisors in the “lightning round” of interviews that fall. I was pleased to have the opportunity at CIC because the organisation's mandate suited my own personal interests and life experiences. Having participated in an extended study and work abroad term in Mexico, I was excited to have found a placement related to my interest in international affairs and relevant to my studies in communication.

Working in the Communications Unit at Regional Headquarters (RHQ) from January to April 2010, I had the opportunity to experience many important initiatives, including Canada’s response to the Haiti earthquake and the 2010 Winter Olympics. I was eager to be involved in the unit's daily activities and enjoyed each opportunity to apply my education and skills in a professional setting. Our Communications Director, Patrick Mackenzie, and our Communications Advisor, Lisa-Marie Gagné, became my mentors as we edited articles for publication. They were valuable resources when it came to learning the art of writing government communication products. I shadowed our Media Spokesperson, Johanne Nadeau, who showed me how she handled media inquiries. It was very interesting for a Communication student like myself to see how the organisation managed internal and external relations. Throughout the co-op placement, SFU monitors and guides their student's experience in their internships and provides learning support to the interns. An important feature of their Co-op Program is that the student be given a special term project to execute. My term project involved creating and executing a work plan to increase the usage of our regional intranet site, Webwest. With Patrick, I developed an action plan and Lisa-Marie coached me through the production of a curriculum to train new Content Contributors. Once the learning materials were finalised, I facilitated two classroom training sessions to orientate the new users to our site. All in all, the training sessions were well-received and usage of the site began to improve immediately. The project had given me great experience in preparing and implementing an action plan and I was proud to have led this successful initiative! I stayed with CIC during the summer of 2010, working part-time as an FSWEP student while continuing my Communication degree at SFU. 

I was given the responsibility of publishing our internal newsletter, The BC/Yukon News. This was great experience to have, as I collaborated with staff from other units and sourced relevant material for our newsletter.

Last fall, I participated in my first citizenship ceremony, pausing to proudly take the oath with new Canadians and later snapping photos of our special guests and staff organisers. Working on the newsletter is a great experience for a student who once dreamed of being a roving reporter! I completed my studies at Simon Fraser University this past fall and have stayed with CIC as a Communications Officer. The experience I have gained with CIC has been very worthwhile, and has not only provided me with the opportunity to work in government and apply my education in a professional setting, but has allowed me to contribute to the important work we do at CIC. 

"CIC promotes the student's development

in their field of study...."

As a former co-op and FSWEP student, I appreciate that there are several factors that contribute to the success of CIC's student programs. First, is the opportunity that CIC provides for a student to develop and utilise their skills in a supportive environment. As well, there are numerous opportunities for ongoing learning, and CIC promotes the student's development in their field of study, recognising the potential for each intern. For the student, CIC internships offer a chance to demonstrate his or her abilities and take responsibility for professional and personal growth. In the future, I hope to continue my work with the department and am committed to developing my expertise and knowledge base with each new project. I had the opportunity to participate in the Government of Canada’s Post Secondary Recruitment process this last fall and hope one day to work abroad in a foreign assignment. I am enjoying keeping up to date with current affairs, and rising to new challenges in a job that’s been interesting, educational, and extremely rewarding! 

Posted on August 03, 2011