Minding the Gaps While Working Abroad

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Minding the Gaps While Working Abroad

By: Jeanette LeBlanc | Communication Co-op Alumnus
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As a co-op alumnus, I continue to utilize skills I learnt throughout co-op while searching for work and in the workplace. Most recently, my skills were tested in London, England!

It all started with a friendly conversation, a yearning to travel, a scrap napkin and a draft budget. In small steps, anything is possible, and I knew I could make the move happen. With a degree under my belt and completion of the co-op program I felt equipped to experience a job search in London and see what working there would be like.

As a hub of internationalism, London is vast with opportunity and adventure. I wanted to experience it all and had a year to find it! But first, I needed to find a job.

My research skills were useful for this because job search resources were all new and different there. The opportunities were overwhelming, so I searched for some networking opportunities to find direction and narrow my search. I attended a Network Canada event, where many successful Canadian alumni meet in London throughout the year. From this, I met a few new friends and was referred to a temp agency to get some income while looking for something more permanent.

Whether it’s a temporary assignment or the beginning of a new permanent job, the first day can be an overwhelming one – even more so in a foreign city. I allowed myself ample time for arrival, but added an extra hour in London because the transport system can be highly unpredictable! First impressions of my first London office experience varied from bad coffee to large open floor plans where employees worked in close proximity to each, and the fortunate experience of meeting unforgettably entertaining characters.

I was most grateful for my basic office skills gained through my co-op experience. My confidence in this allowed me to focus on other business differences at hand such as a different paper sizing system and their differences in spelling to Canadian English.

I quickly learned to “mind the gap”, both in the underground railway and in the office, and felt extremely independent as a result of the experience. I later found a company that hired me on permanently for the remainder of my visa, which was gratifying.

It was a life altering experience – about more than just working abroad but also learning about yourself out of your comfort zone. Co-op helped prepare me for some of those challenges.

Posted on November 18, 2010