Humans: the most valuable resource at work 

Natalie Alhadidi (she/her) is a fourth-year Psychology student with an impressive set of interpersonal skills. As a student interested in a career in human resources, Natalie discusses the value of collaboration in the workplace, the importance of finding intrinsic motivation and the value of international co-op experiences. 

Natalie's co-op journey

Work term one: Natalie first began her co-op journey as an undergraduate services and recruitment associate for the Science Undergraduate Office. She was responsible for communicating with fellow students, mainly first-year and incoming students, on various administrative inquiries. She also participated in interviewing approximately 100 students to fill the ambassador role for the Faculty of Science. 

Work term two: After wrapping up a study term in the Netherlands, Natalie decided to continue her experience abroad by completing a two-month flexible work term in Jordan. At Ernst and Young (EY), Natalie worked as a consulting intern for People Advisory Services. While the details of her work at EY are confidential, Natalie had the opportunity to create deliverables for a high-profile client in Saudi Arabia.   

Work term three: Back in Kitchener-Waterloo, Natalie is currently working as a talent acquisition intern at CareKW. She is responsible for all sorts of HR-related tasks, from onboarding support workers and registered nurses to policy writing and reviewing. 

Q&A with Natalie

Natalie smiling on a picnic blanket at the park.What is it about human resources and talent acquisition that interests you? 

“I always had a hunch that human resources (HR) was going to be the direction I would take since it is so heavily intertwined with psychology. It sounds cheesy, but I really like interacting with people. It just makes my day. I really enjoy having conversations, leading and managing people.”  

“The other thing about HR is that it requires a lot of empathy and emotional intelligence because sometimes you're dealing with people who have been injured, or people who have to take time off work because a family member has passed away. It makes me very happy to see how well our employees are treated by the HR and operations staff.” 

“I've always been interested in the specifics of HR. Like, how does payroll work? How does budgeting work in the office? How do you determine whether restructuring needs to happen? These questions have started to pop in my mind since I started working at CareKW, and they're continuously being answered as I go along. Not long after I began to wonder what health policies may be in place for an organization like CareKW, I was given the opportunity to help adjust the current health and safety policy that was used at the organization.” 

“I don't dread coming to work with this job. I come to work, I get on the computer, I start reading my emails and I feel excited about all the things that I have to do. Not to say that this didn't happen in my previous co-ops, but I haven't felt it as strongly as I have since I came here. It's making me feel like HR is the direction to go in, but I’m still not entirely sure, yet.” 

Buildings in Jordan/What advice would you give to someone considering a co-op term abroad? 

“There's a lot that goes into deciding whether to do a co-op term abroad. My answer is if you want to do it, you will find a way.” 

“I think it's really difficult to describe how valuable the experience can be when you go abroad. It's like no other because the types of people that you're dealing with on a daily basis differ so much. When you start to interact with new types of people, whether that be in the workplace or in school, the number of perspectives you're exposed to increases exponentially.”  

“Working abroad teaches you so much. I would say most students should aim to do at least one international co-op term. It's just so amazing to experience the city and the country that you're working in.” 

“There are a lot of really good international jobs in science where people can work at spaceship centers or as chemists in biology labs — There's just so much opportunity out there! Even for someone like me, a psychology student, I got to spend my international co-op somewhere I would consider to be very prestigious. I'm very proud about that, and I feel like it will propel me forward in my career here in Canada, so it's worth it.” 

What did you learn from your co-op term abroad that you think will be valuable in the future? 

“I think the biggest thing I learned is that people do things in different ways, but that doesn't mean that one is better than the other. It just means that it's different.” 

What skills have you developed throughout your co-op terms?Natalie smiling with her co-workers at EY.

“I think the biggest skill I've developed at CareKW is communication. Even though all my jobs have involved communication, this co-op is a lot of talking, phone calls and emailing. I feel like I developed those skills in my first co-op, but I'm implementing them now.” 

“I also learned last summer to ask for help, because I was very lost for a good chunk of my internship. I remember I kept messaging one of the team members and I apologized for bothering her. She said to me, ‘look, there are no apologies to be made. We’re a team. When I help you, you help me, and we learn together.’ These were truly some of the best people I've ever worked with.”  

What are some stand-out moments from your co-op terms? 

“At my first co-op, we organized a successful You @ Waterloo Day. There are hundreds and hundreds of students coming in, and we had to schedule all the ambassadors and their tours. Sometimes, people don't show up on the day, so logistically it was difficult to coordinate. I would say You @ Waterloo Day was definitely an achievement.” 

“While I never got to see the end product of the deliverables I worked on at my second co-op, finishing the first half felt like a big achievement. We had to continuously research, write, edit and receive feedback so it felt really rewarding when we were finally told the pages were good.”  

“In my most recent, I've been successfully meeting the recruitment target. I would say that that's a pretty big achievement. My boss was very surprised that I was able to bring in four people for orientation two weeks in a row. She was very proud of my performance.”  

Headshot of Natalie smiling in front of a blank wall.What motivates you to get your job done? 

“That's a good question, because I don't really need that much external motivation. I like what I do and I want to do it.” 

“I’m constantly asking for more things to do and questioning whether I can add more things onto my roster. I was initially told that I was only going to start off with interviewing personal support workers and then eventually I would interview nurses, but after a week I asked my boss if I could add on nurses.” 

“A lot of my motivation has come from me because I'm truly striving to learn as much as I can in these four months. I'm enjoying it and I want to try and squeeze every little bit that I can out of this experience.”  

“As for the positions that I didn't enjoy as much as this one, I would say it's really important for me to focus on the final product. Even though the process may not be extremely pleasurable, I focus on the end result instead. I also try to keep in mind what I am learning and who I am helping.” 

Natalie smiling in a grassy field with a windmill in the background.Do you have any advice for applying to co-op jobs? 

“I think a lot of people tend to be a bit defensive when it comes to criticism of their résumé and interview skills. I would encourage every single person to have their résumé critiqued a few times and do mock interviews. I have experience conducting interviews, and we sometimes didn't select people based on their interview skills. If they are unable to effectively communicate their skills, it comes across as a red flag because we don't know their experience like they do.” 

“All students should really think about the fact that when you're being interviewed, you may know yourself, your skills and your abilities, but the person in front of you has no clue who you are. You need to present yourself appropriately— That's exactly why you should be open to taking criticism when it comes to these things. I know that one Professional Development (PD) course did offer mock interviews which were really helpful, so I would recommend those.” 

“In terms of WaterlooWorks, I would say apply to as many jobs as you are interested in, but don't apply to jobs that you won't realistically take because you only have a certain number of “not interested” rankings. Although it was recently increased to five, that’s not much when you consider the situation.” 

“So, apply to as many jobs as you can in your first co-op, but just make sure that they're relevant and that it’s something you can realistically see yourself doing.” 

Do you have any advice specific to psychology students? 

“As a psychology student, I often get asked about the types of co-ops that psychology students get. My answer to that question is anything.” 

“I think everyone should take a moment after their first or second year and think about what kind of co-ops will be helpful to their careers: 

  • Do you think it would be useful to have all your co-ops in the same type of position? Or do you think it would be useful to have each one of your co-ops in a completely different field? 
  • Most psychology students are interested in research. Would you be open to seeking out a research co-op? 
  • A lot of psychology co-ops are in business. Is business something that truly interests you? Or are you just applying to it because that's what's available.” 

“Don’t be disappointed if you don’t end up getting matched with the perfect job in your first co-op because almost every psychology student I know has gotten increasingly relevant jobs as they went on through their degree.” 

What’s next?  

“For my next co-op, I would like to do one more human resources internship. To be frank, I have been looking at job descriptions for current available jobs in HR and the vast majority ask for a minimum of one year of experience. I’m hoping to graduate with eight months of human resources experience collectively so that when I apply for jobs, it will make me more competitive in the job market.” 

Sun and mountains in the distance. “However, I also have this dream of doing a co-op in social media. I'm going to take whatever comes my way, although my preference would be for HR.”  

“But for now, I'm almost done undergrad and I'm hoping to finish my courses soon.” 

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