Small Town Co-op Experience

Small Town Co-op Experience

By: Yuliya Vitsenkova | Communication Co-op Student
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Having spent the last 4 months doing a co-op in a small community in Ontario (proudly bearing the title of a communications officer for a local organic skin-care company, which consisted of 4 people), I learnt some pretty unique things. Working for a small private business is nothing like working in a large corporate office or within the government. First of all, remember those tasks and responsibilities, so neatly outlined for you by your employer before the beginning of your co-op? Yeah, multiple that list by 3. At a small private company there is never a shortage of things to do. Is that ... good? Um, yes! Where else, besides a small business, will you find so many useful activities-turned-proud-resume-lines to fulfill? Although there were several projects that I never thought I would get involved with (harvesting plants and herbs in a forest), I have to admit that it was an amazing, once in a lifetime experience. Connecting with the locals in their natural environment, hearing their stories, and seeing the incredible level of knowledge they hold, was a rich and slightly humbling experience for me.  As a city girl, never having picked herbs and plants (barely ever seeing them), I realized that there is a whole universe of knowledge, worthy of my time and respect, behind Mother Nature.  

Another aspect that was very different from my previous experiences was the level of connection between the individuals working for the company. There is no hiding behind your book/newspaper in the lunch room and there is definitely no hiding behind your work computer (pretending to be working hard). The relationships are very personal, almost intimate and you have to be comfortable with that. In a big corporate/government position, if you want to live the day of an introvert, you most likely will be able to, whereas in a small private business, there is no hiding. Now, is that... good? And again, yes. Although at times I did long for the 'personal space' that are possible at big-organization positions, I found that I connected with my small-business co-workers on a much deeper level. Having spent most of my time with my supervisor (the owner of the company), I not only learnt her story, but also began to understand her point of view and why she wishes to keep her company in her home town.  Not just from her telling me why, but from working alongside her and seeing how much she loves what she does and the people she does it for. Although I may not share her incredible passion for the small-town life and community, I now appreciate it and see the different side of life - one that is full of deep relationships, knowledgeable down-to-earth people, and unique experiences that only a small-place company and community can have. I made my best attempt at mirroring my supervisor's passions and beliefs in my social media work for the company, which I maintained for the duration of my co-op. This was a different, extremely positive experience, and I am thankful for it.

Posted on November 30, 2012