Co-op to Career

Careful early choices = success
by Christine Hearn
Photograpy by Greg Ehlers

Steve Mossop has done very well, very quickly.

He seems to be a young man in a hurry: President of Market Research, Canada West, Ipsos Reid; at 38 named one of the Top 40 Under 40 by Business in Vancouver; sfu co-op employer and advisor. Yet his advice to students is to slow down and get the most out of university rather than rushing to graduate.

"Take your time," Mossop, now 40, advises. “A lot of people try to cram in too much too quickly. Life experience is important. Take a semester off. You have the rest of your life for your career, so slow down. And be careful about the choices you make.”

Mossop is a co-op success story and he encourages students to look at his career path. “I did one term with a research team and look where it took me,” he says. “I realized that if I didn’t get out and do things I wouldn’t know what’s out there.”

As an sfu business student with co-op stints at a scuba diving outfit, the North Island Regional District, and the North Island Mariculture Association under his belt, Mossop invented his own placement.

He approached the marketing firm tns Canada Facts, sold them on the sfu co-op program, created a position for himself in the company, and then persuaded them to hire him. The work suited his skill set of math, communications, and writing; he immediately saw the appeal in market research.

“ I’ve surrounded myself with very capable people. I try to recognize talent and encourage people to take risks. We provide a very non-bureaucratic environment so things can be done quickly, and that fashions a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship.” – STEVE MOSSOP

After his co-op work term with Canada Facts, he approached the company and was hired to work part-time for a summer and then, later, full-time. During his career with them and the polling firm Ipsos Reid he has managed various accounts, including technology and tourism. He also learned how to manage staff.

Now he oversees research operations, client services, and the work of 60 staffers in Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, and Seattle. The western operation is a $25-million business where Mossop looks after sectors that include tourism, energy, lotteries and gaming, and retail. Since 2000, when he was named vice-president, he has more than doubled his unit’s revenue. He became president in 2005.

Mossop says the main secret to his success is creating a good work environment and then hiring and rewarding the best people. “I’ve surrounded myself with very capable people. I try to recognize talent and encourage people to take risks. We provide a very non-bureaucratic environment so things can be done quickly and that fashions a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship,” he says.

In his search for talent Mossop is quick to look to co-op as a way to recruit youth to the company. He was instrumental in introducing co-op to Ipsos Reid (the company has hired at least 10 sfu students over the last five to six years), and has heralded co-op to other businesses Canada-wide.

A second element to his success is the business and market planning that goes into everything he does. “It’s the day-to-day, month-to-month decisions that took me to where I am,” he explains, adding that he is “very disciplined” in how he proceeds.

Which brings him back to his advice to students. In addition to taking their time, he says students should be careful of the choices they make – in volunteer work, co-op, and part-time jobs.

“I encourage students to look beyond the immediate because the choices you make on these levels have a profound impact on the future. In a lifetime of working university is very short, but very significant.”

Mossop gives his advice freely to both students and the university. He is a valued member of the sfu Business Co-op Employer Advisory Council. “Furthering the cause of sfu is very dear to me,” Mossop concludes. “It’s great fun to be involved because I now see things from three perspectives: as an alumnus, as an employer, and as an advisor.”

And sfu appreciates Mossop. According to Shauna Tonsaker, business co-op program manager: “Steve exemplifies the career success that students can gain from understanding their strengths early on, being strategic about their choices, and being willing to work hard to find their niche.”

Wil Fraser

There’s a new big man on campus – complete with a popular Facebook profile. His name is WIL Fraser, and he’s the guide to SFU’s innovative Work Integrated Learning unit, the one-stop shop for career-related learning and development. The unit, which opened in September 2006, encompasses co-op education, career services, volunteer services, and service learning.

The co-op program and career services have long been strong, autonomous units that provide good value to both employers and students says wil director Muriel Klemetski. “wil represents the integration of these world-class programs. With the addition of the new volunteer and service learning areas, wil can now achieve an unprecedented level of service coordination,” says Klemetski. “We now provide employers with access to undergraduate and graduate students, as well as alumni, in all areas of recruitment.”


  • The first SFU co-op students entered the workplace in 1975.
  • More than 2,300 students were placed in work terms in 2007.
  • More than 1,200 employers participated this past year. There are many who hire multiple students and post several positions.
  • Co-op is available to students from every academic program.
  • Co-op integrates academic studies with related, paid work experience.
  • Many employers use co-op as part of a long-term recruitment strategy.
  • Students are available for four- or eight-month work terms beginning in January, May, and September.
  • Co-op students complete a pre-employment curriculum that guides them through workplace etiquette and job readiness skills.
  • Many co-op students seek international experience in other countries, including Botswana and Mozambique.
  • The university has approved $100,000 in funding to encourage and assist students financially so they may participate in an international co-op work term as well as international field schools and exchanges.
  • International students attending SFU are eligible to participate in co-op opportunities in Canada as long as they obtain appropriate work permits.

Career Services

  • Offers services to students, employers, and SFU alumni.
  • Assists students and alumni with career-planning needs through one-on- one advising sessions, workshops, and career fairs.
  • Provides a wide range of full-service options to help employers with on- campus recruitment, including informa- tion sessions, job postings, and career fair booths.
  • Works with employers to develop a customized recruitment strategy to ensure the best fit for the organization.

Service Learning

  • Service learning allows students to connect their academic learning with community issues.
  • New programs are being developed to strengthen student- university-community connections.
  • The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences recently conducted a survey to assess existing service-learning opportunities and to determine what type of support is needed by faculty to introduce new service-learning elements into their courses.
  • Students in service-learning capacities will assist Indian villagers to more fully participate in economic development as a result of a recent memorandum of understanding signed by SFU and the Indo-Canadian Friendship Society. A field visit is planned for this spring.
  • The area is working with the Learning and Instructional Development Centre to develop teaching and evaluation support mechanisms to assist faculty with service-learning considerations as part of their course design.

Volunteer Services

  • Gives students opportunities to gain experience and skills while helping the community.
  • Assists community organizations with their volunteer needs.

    Volunteer opportunities both on and off campus will be supported through this new area. <>