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FASS News, Students, International Studies
How FASS helped me grow my professional skills and personal confidence
International Studies student Sophie McCann shares the most important things she learned throughout her two-semester co-op with FASS’s Marketing and Communications unit.
Why did I apply for this position?
When I started my co-op job search, I didn’t have a certain career or path in mind. Despite being an International Studies major, I found that job postings within international relations required skills and experiences that I didn’t have yet. My work experience to this point consisted of part-time jobs and volunteering throughout high school, so I wanted to find a position that taught me soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and leadership. I wanted to have experiences that would be easily applicable not only in future co-op positions, but also in my future career.
To broaden my job search beyond International-Studies-related positions, I began looking for jobs not only within my home faculty, SFU’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), but within Communications and Business as well. Little known fact (that I thank my co-op advisor for telling me): SFU students can apply to co-op positions from all of the university’s eight faculties. So, I felt comfortable searching through a wider range of possible jobs.
I was interested in positions within communications for a variety of reasons. I had heard many positive things from friends who had previously worked within communications for their co-op semesters. Although they were Communications majors, I knew that we had many skills in common, including social media management and graphic design.
My position, as well as many other communications jobs, required experience in graphic design and social media management, and specifically looked for those with experience with Adobe platforms such as InDesign and Photoshop. Although I didn’t have direct experience with Adobe platforms, I had worked as the external relations representative, main graphic designer, and social media manager for SFU’s Global Asia Studies Student Union for two years prior to my job search. This position taught me graphic design, social media, communication, and student engagement skills. It was these skills, and my interest in developing them, that gave me the confidence to explore communications positions and find my future position with FASS. A pleasant surprise: my search for a communications position led me back to my home faculty, as it turns out FASS has its own internal marketing and communications unit!
What were my daily tasks and responsibilities?
Some of my daily tasks as Marketing and Communications Assistant with FASS included daily monitoring FASS’s social media accounts, including their Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. I created original content, including graphics and copy, for these platforms. I also designed pages for and updated the existing FASS website, and researched and wrote articles for FASS News. Not only did I get to experience working with a close-knit team of professional communicators within the FASS Marketing and Communications team, but I collaborated with communicators, faculty, and staff throughout the many departments within FASS, including World Languages and Literatures, Indigenous Studies, and English.
Some of the projects that I’m most proud of are the articles I wrote and posted on FASS News and my re-vamp of the FASS Instagram account. These projects helped me develop creative and professional aspects of myself and allowed me to explore the variety of opportunities available within the realm of communications.
My article on 2021 Convocation speaker and Psychology graduate Jennifer Chou allowed me to highlight some of the amazing extracurricular work and community-engagement done by FASS students. The impact of Jennifer’s work in groups such as the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS), SFU’s Disability and Neurodiversity Alliance (DNA), and the SFU Knitting Club can be felt even after her graduation. I was able to show a different side of what a FASS degree can do by focusing on the ways that the work she did outside of her major influenced her university experience and future job opportunities.
I was also fortunate enough to be able to combine my personal interests with my job by writing an article introducing the new chair of the Global Asia program, Nadine Attewell. As a Global Asia minor and executive member of the Global Asia Studies Student Union, I was especially interested in learning more about both her personal work as well as her plans for the future of the program.
Finally, my most recent project is a re-vamp of the current FASS Instagram page’s feed. I wanted to create more content for the platform that would be useful for current and future FASS students and remain relevant as time went on. This meant redesigning the feed to have three designated columns, one for highlighting or promoting current events happening within the departments at FASS, one for posting evergreen content with information on FASS’s programs, staff, faculty, and students, and one for “throwback” posts highlighting past events and achievements within FASS.
What did my Co-op semesters teach me?
One major struggle that I faced working in this position was confidence. Since this was my first real job experience, during the first few months I was nervous about making mistakes or disappointing my supervisor. I had never worked in a full time, professional position like this before, and wasn’t too confident in my technical skills, especially when it came to graphic design.
However, I quickly found that reaching out for help and advice was the best way to learn and improve.
My supervisor helped me a lot in those first few months with direct, one on one training that stemmed from me asking for help. Throughout my co-op semesters, I became more confident in both my skills and myself.
The FASS Marketing and Communications team is always looking to advertise to new students applying to SFU. However, many students wonder what jobs a Bachelor of Arts (BA) can lead to. They also worry that they may find themselves without strong employment opportunities if they decide to major within FASS. At the start of my major, I found myself thinking the same things. Many of my friends from high school had gone into Engineering, Science, or Math, giving them clearer career paths compared to what I had in International Studies.
My experience within the co-op program changed all that. From my first job applications to the last few weeks of my time with FASS, I’ve learned first-hand how a BA can lead to amazing job opportunities and both professional and personal growth. Although my co-op didn’t seem related to my major, it was my passion for my minor program that helped me develop the skills necessary to work within communications. If I hadn’t decided to get involved with the Global Asia Student Union, I would have never discovered my interests in graphic design and social media management.
I also now feel confident that no matter what job I decide to pursue in the future, whether it’s related to communications, global Asia, or international relations, the communication, leadership, creativity, and teamwork skills that I’ve gained in this position will forever be a huge asset. These flexible, transferable skills, and wide variety of options for a future career is what I love about both studying and working within FASS.