My Co-op Experience as an Introvert

My Co-op Experience as an Introvert

By: Jeffrey Au
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If you are anything like me, you have perhaps noticed that those who are willing to speak up more often, as well as put themselves out there, seem to have more fulfilling career experiences. This is not an uncommon observation given that a good number of people find value in those who are not afraid to speak their minds and who can showcase their strengths in professional workplace settings. However, this does not mean that those who are more soft-spoken, or introverted in general, will have any less opportunities to experience meaningful professional and personal development throughout their lives. In fact, many introverts possess strengths of their own that add much value to their teams and organizations, provided that these strengths are allowed to shine through. This involves using strategies that leverage your own existing strengths in order to maximize your potential and demonstrate your value to others.

Take Advantage of Your Strengths and Opportunities

I have been told that I am a good listener, which is a trait that I have noticed in others who also identify themselves as being an introvert. As this trait is an important and valuable asset to have in professional workplace settings, you should capitalize on it and ensure that your supervisors and other team members are well aware of it. You can do this by asking questions or requesting clarification on what has been said to you, just to show the speaker that you have been actively listening. What this also does is it lets other people know that you have your own thoughts and opinions on the subject matter being discussed. In addition, it shows that you are willing and able to make meaningful contributions to your team. This will open up more doors to opportunities, which you should then take full advantage of whenever possible.

Speaking of opportunities, you should always strive to seize the moment. Although this saying is quite common, it is nonetheless a motto worth living by, especially given the context of the workplace. Whenever others ask for help with something, you should always try your best to answer in the affirmative, unless you have very good reasons as to why you cannot offer your help (e.g., you are unable to meet the given assignment’s deadline due to your current existing workloads). This does not necessarily have to be work-related, as it is also a very good idea to say “Yes” to things like company outings and lunches with colleagues whenever you are invited to them. Not only will participating in these activities allow you to build a good rapport with your colleagues, it will also give you the chance to brush up on your social and networking skills.

 Dressing up as the CBSA’s mascot, Buddy

 Dressing up as the CBSA’s mascot, Buddy

My Personal Experiences

During my time with the CBSA as a Co-op student, I gained a lot of valuable experiences and managed to build good working relationships with my colleagues by committing to all of the things mentioned above. I listened to others intently, asked questions with a purpose, assisted others with their tasks whenever I could, and got involved with a variety of activities—even those that were not work-related. Doing all of these things has not only helped me to hone my professional skillset and increase my overall proficiency as an office worker, but it has also allowed me to develop closer working relationships with my colleagues.

Do not get me wrong, I understand from firsthand experience that all of the above is easier said than done. As someone who is more on the reserved side, there are definitely some real challenges that I faced during my Co-op term. For instance, I found it somewhat intimidating to express my thoughts and opinions, especially in larger group settings. I also found it slightly difficult to ask for assistance since I felt I was inconveniencing other people. However, part of what helped me to overcome these challenges was by befriending a variety of people around me. Obviously, this took some time and effort to do, but it began as simply as me smiling and saying “Hello” to each person I came across. Over time, I felt more comfortable and at ease when it came to being myself and participating in informal social activities, such as casual conversations. I also made an effort to get well-acquainted with other Co-op students who were working within the same CBSA building as me. It made me feel as if I was not alone in my predicament, as the other students were also going through similar experiences as I was. They gave me strength and courage to step out of my comfort zone, especially when I saw the extent to which some of them went in order to achieve their goals.

In conclusion, being an introvert should not prevent you from achieving everything you want out of your Co-op experience, or your life in general. Rather, a big part has to do with how you decide to approach your work, the strategy you use in order to achieve your goals, and the people whom you make an effort to get to know, especially if those people can help you to overcome your challenges. It is also essential to exhibit a positive attitude and keep an open mind about what is possible, as this helps to ensure that you actually give yourself a fair chance at success. If you keep all of these things in mind, I promise that you will get the most out of your Co-op and other life experiences. 

Beyond the Author

  • Jeffrey Au worked as an Co-op student with CBSA. Find out more about the organization here.
  • If you're interested in learning more about Jeffrey's experience, contact him on LinkedIn.
  • Interested in Co-op? Check out the SFU Co-op Website for more information.
  • If you're interested in learning about other students' experiences with Co-op, the SFU OLC website has many more interesting stories to read!
Posted on October 16, 2018