First work term co-op at Habitat for Humanity

A photo of Emma smilingFor the impact her work had at Habitat for Humanity, Emma Schuster (she/her) is the recipient of the 2021 Environment Co-op Student of the Year Award! Schuster, a second-year Environment student, talks about her experience working in social media and what she has learned from it.

For her very first co-op work term, Emma worked as a social media coordinator for Habitat for Humanity - Ontario Gateway North. While there, she worked on improving the organization’s overall social media presence, where she spent most of her time making changes to the various social media accounts they have.

“I did all of their social media for all of their different restores and their main office," says Schuster. "I did a lot of copywriting. I did a lot of image creation. I also made a background document for future social media coordinators and other people who work in social media. So, I did a lot of background work and kind of promotional stuff.”

Q: What were some of the main projects or tasks you worked on with Habitat for Humanity?

A: “We did a pretty big overhaul on the look of the social media. We changed all the banners on Facebook and LinkedIn so that they would look the same. We made sure that all the bios were kind of similar and had the right tone. We changed profile pictures. Then we also looked at the posts that were being put out and I created a plan that explained what a post should look like. What’s the best way to capture an image for a post? What way should we be using the company colours? Stuff like that.”

“The corporation does have a set of vague guidelines but specific social media guidelines for Ontario Gateway North was what we created. It improved the quality of the posts over time. Also, every time we did a social media campaign, I would create a marketing plan for that and then do some analysis afterward so that I could present the pros and cons of each marketing campaign.”

Q: Originally, you weren’t sure if you wanted to be a co-op student, what changed your mind? Are you happy that you made this change?

A: “When I first came to the University of Waterloo, I came for the university. I didn't really know a lot about the co-op program. I wasn't particularly interested in it. But I found out that the majority of students were in a co-op program and I decided that it would be easiest if I could just try the co-op program and then leave it if I didn't like it.”

“Going through the co-op program, I really, really enjoyed it. I eventually decided to stay because it was so rewarding and so enjoyable to meet so many different people and to get the opportunity to look at all the jobs out there.”

- Emma Schuster, second-year Environment student 

“Even if you don't get the opportunity to work your dream job, you still get the opportunity to learn about the jobs that are out there. I would spend hours looking at all the different job options for jobs that I want and jobs that I don't want, to be able to see [jobs] I didn't even know existed.”

Q: How did the time you spent with Habitat for Humanity help you learn about yourself and what you may want your future to look like?  

A: “My co-op term with Habitat definitely helped me figure out what was important to me in terms of a career. I feel really privileged to be able to have worked in social media because I enjoy it so much, but I don't think it's my long-term career goal. But I was really happy to be able to do so many other things other than social media, like data analysis and research through my role.”

“I worked with an amazing team who were really, really supportive and that definitely helped me realize how important your co-workers and managers are, so it really set me up to have high standards for [...] the future. It also helped me learn what kind of work environment I want to be in. I really enjoyed being around my co-workers and having that fun work environment and I'm not really willing to give that up very soon.”

Q: How does it feel to win the 2021 Environment Co-op Student of the Year Award knowing how much competition there is?

A: “It feels very surreal to be recognized as Co-op Student of the Year. I remember watching on Instagram, people's takeovers when they had won Co-op Student of the Year and thinking “I don't even know this person”, “I have no mutual followers with this person”, “It's so out of reach.” But it's so interesting to hear about what they have to say and what they did, and it's so cool for them. I didn't feel like that's something that I will ever get to experience, and now I do get to experience it, which is really cool!”

Here are some words Emma would like to share about her co-op experience at Habitat for Humanity:

As Emma mentioned, she never planned on doing co-op when she first came to Waterloo. But, once she gave it a shot, she decided to stay in the program! Even if you’re not 100% sure, it doesn’t hurt to just try out work-integrated learning. It’s like author Davee Jones says, “You’ll never know until you try.” #inspiredWIL

Are you interested in applying for the Co-op Student of the Year Award in your faculty? Submit a nomination form to be considered for the award. You never know what can happen!

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