Try Before You Buy

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Try Before You Buy

By: Carolyn Warner | Online Learning Community Host
  4933 reads
Digging a fireguard for a controlled burn with the Valhalla Unit Crew

Many are aware of the multitude of benefits Co-operative Education has to offer. However, some fail to consider the less obvious but equally important advantages.  Co-op is a significant means of determining where you belong and where you fit in the world of work.   For me, co-op was the most significant deciding factor for the career and academic path that I chose. 

Prior to returning to university, I worked in a variety of communication oriented positions such as broadcasting, newspapers, advertising and graphic design. While there were elements to each position that I enjoyed, not one was an exact fit and I was unclear as to what I would be when I "finally grew up".  Where did I fit and what did I want to do?  One thing I was sure of, my return to university was long over due.

Studying the labour market at the time, it was a clear decision for me, business studies was the route to take.  I entered community college after several years in the labour market with the intention of studying business and becoming an accountant.  At the time, I did not consider the types of work tasks that I enjoy or my personal interests.   Little did I realize that, eight months later, I would completely revise my academic and career goals and proceed in the opposite direction.  

Wildland Forest Fire - Photo by Corwin Odland

During my first year of school, I studied hard and I enrolled in the Co-op program at community college without really knowing what to expect.  Like any new co-op student, at first, the process was overwhelming.  There were many excellent postings; I did not know where to begin.   Unfortunately, after combing through the variety of postings, nothing really seemed to be a good fit for me. 

Finally, two weeks after the end of the semester my dream job was posted.  It wasn't at all the field that I expected; instead of accounting or finance, a position as a public and media relations representative for the  BC Forest Service became available.  It encompassed all the best elements of each of my previous media experiences into one position. 

From the first day until the last, I was ecstatic to go to work for the BC Forest Service, providing interviews for the regional press, building inter-agency relationships, identifying issues and assisting with emergency communication planning in every day situations and in times of extreme crisis.  The pace was fast and the learning curve steep.   I could hardly believe my good fortune on many occasions. Over four work terms spanning four forest fire seasons, I was paid to do what I came to realize I loved so very much: communicate fire hazards, closures, encourage public prevention of forest fires and forge positive interagency and media relationships.

BC Forest Fire Fighter Uniform

When I further researched how to continue to develop my skills in public and media relations, I discovered that many professionals in my newly found field had a degree in Communication.  After obtaining my initial sixty credits at community college, I earned a place to study Communication at Simon Fraser University where I again enrolled in co-op.  Moving six hundred kilometers from British Columbia's interior, to the Lower Mainland, I embarked upon an entirely new journey which clearly fits how I am wired and I haven't looked back since.

Currently, I am in my final year of Communication at SFU and have undertaken yet another unique co-op work term for SFU's Online Learning Community.  With many of the public speaking and media relations skills under my belt, I was eager for an opportunity to expand my ability to communicate online.  By strengthening my technical skills to include web applications, I strive to become a well rounded, experienced communications professional working in Public Affairs. 

Had I not enrolled in co-op and had the opportunity to determine what career is a good fit for me; life for me would have been very different.  The most important gift co-op provided me was the ability to try before I buy several jobs in different sectors, which allowed me to discover where I best fit and the work which I enjoy.

Posted on March 08, 2011