From no experience to a loaded resume

My co-op journey

Hi! I just graduated in June from Environment and Business with a co-op distinction.

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I started off co-op in a digital marketing role at Linamar in the transportation industry. My role was to increase their brand presence on social media.

They had 12 different social media channels for separate initiatives, and I had to make sure they met the engagement requirements and improved over time.

I was helping them with a STEM initiative they were launching too. I built up their website from scratch and posted content on it.

I was involved in sourcing different role models for the calendar year which involved reaching out to different STEM professionals, women in STEM, to ensure that they were on board with the campaign, and if they were interested in participating.

It was a lot of new things that I was working on. I got a direct opportunity to work with the CEO for this and I got to attend a lot of STEM conferences during my time. It was really great because I was able to increase their brand presence and help them implement their STEM initiatives. I think that was the biggest highlight of my first co-op. 

I moved on to a very different role for my second co-op. I was working as a business analyst at Maple Leaf Foods. In that role, I trained different users in Winnipeg on the app the company was launching.

I developed a user engagement strategy where I was collecting feedback from staff members. I also trained the users on a company app that was being developed that helped me improve my leadership and communication skills. I also went out of my comfort zone and launched a leadership initiative that is still being practiced today.

If there were any changes that I had to do, I would reach back to them when required. I was mostly dealing with internal stakeholders and making sure that the app rollout was done smoothly. I was also working with the project management team to ensure that timelines were met and help them if there were any defects on the app.

For my third co-op, I was working at Microsoft for nine months and I had to change my sequence. I was working as a public relations manager, involved in internal and external communications for Microsoft Canada. My main responsibility was to increase their internet presence tend to make sure that all the Canadian employees read the content and engage with it.

I did a lot of content preparation, newsletter article writing and I was helping with product launches, and webinars. This was during peak COVID time, so I was working remotely and making sure that all remote work was done properly. I led an intern team with members from various countries and was involved in many different side projects, including hosting a three-day sustainability webinar. We had over 300 participants in the webinar, so it was really successful.

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I was involved in a side project where we had to develop a chatbot for an office in Montreal for their first virtual Christmas. They wanted to develop a virtual Santa so I was helping them with the design aspect of it, how the Chatbot would look like, etc.

I had the opportunity to work on a very exciting social media project for executives. For each executive, I had to publish different content on their social media channels. I had to understand how they communicate on social media and understand their tone and language. It was a bit challenging but I figured it out. Apart from that, I was involved in different leadership roles and took on other initiatives. Overall, this internship gave me a lot of opportunities to go out of my comfort zone and meet new people.

It was a great learning opportunity during those nine months and was really fun. There were a lot of interns from Waterloo so it helped me meet different people that I didn't know before.

People know that Microsoft typically hires for tech roles, but not a lot of people are aware that there are lots of other non tech roles that they could get into too.

For me, being from the Environment faculty, getting into Public Relations, I never expected that I would be working there. It was really interesting to see that there are different opportunities out there, one just needs to find the right time to apply. Also, I had to change my co-op sequence for it and a lot of people are afraid of doing that. But, I took on that challenge and I took that step during COVID which gave me job security when a lot of my peers had their offers terminated. 

My last co-op was as a Business Analyst at Crawford and Company, an insurance company. I again was working with the project management teams and coordinating with the developers on how to roll out certain automation requirements. It was a bit more technical and very different from what I had done before. 


Advantages of co-op

Now I have hands-on experience in different industries that I can proudly explain in all of my interviews, and recruiters are very excited to hear more about it. Also, getting the opportunity to do different roles from very non-technical to extremely technical roles is a challenge that I decided to take on myself.

I feel like students should realize that you don't need to be 100% qualified to get a role.

7 colleagues standing by each other

Initially, when I started off, I was extremely shy. Without any work experience, it was a whole new environment that I had to deal with. But eventually, after the first co-op, I learned so much about the process, getting access to different resources like cover letter and resume critiques, etc. I think that really helped me polish my skills more. I now feel like I performed really well in interviews as I'm really not afraid or nervous anymore. 
 

It was very hard for me to get my first co-op without any prior experience. Constant rejections and multiple applications, kind of broke down my confidence a little bit. But one recruiter was kind enough to give me a lot of tips and helped me realize what I was doing wrong and gave me some really good feedback that I leveraged from then on. 

This experience has introduced me to a lot of hiring managers that I'm still in touch with. Some advice I like to give to other students reading this would be that rejections are not the end of the world. I think they help shape you into a better person. 

After working at Microsoft, I gained a whole new perspective on how people are and how other students are very competitive. Co-op kind of gave me an edge as to how I should shape myself and helped me become very ambitious as well. Now I don't just sit back and work at my desk. I look for different opportunities where I can showcase my skill. Even if I don't know the slightest bit, I need to take initiative and take more leadership experiences in order to grow. Being able to gain and apply different skills that I learned from the past has really helped me become the person I am today.

My co-op experiences have been very diverse where I've been able to experience different industries and how they function. Without co-op, I wouldn't have been able to experience all of that in such a short period of time.


WaterlooWorks

I had more success using WaterlooWorks than LinkedIn during co-op. I found all my co-ops on WaterlooWorks even though I was applying through LinkedIn at the same time. In terms of getting interviews, I think the whole process is very transparent. You know if you've been selected or not and you can see the whole process through the portal.

It's helpful in terms of seeing how many people have applied for this role as well. If there are 400 applications for roles, I don't think I would want to waste my time applying, my chances are realistically limited. It helped me pick out different roles that not a lot of people had applied to, especially for Microsoft.


Tip for getting feedback:

If I didn’t get matched to a job that I was really interested in, I would email the recruiter asking for more feedback. Surprisingly, they were more than happy to let me know what went wrong or they would just leave comments in the space WaterlooWorks provides. 

The comments were reassuring as they would say things I did well or it was a very tough decision or a reason why they went another way. If they didn’t leave a comment and no email was provided you can always message the interviewer on LinkedIn. 


What’s next…

I’ll be starting full-time at Deloitte as a Brand, Marketing & Communications Specialist, which is a dream role for me because I’m a creative person and I always wanted to be in marketing. Throughout my co-op, I was able to experience different kinds of marketing and now I know what I enjoy. It has helped me narrow down my career path. I learned I really enjoy talking to people and eventually I want to grow as a manager with my own co-op students to manage and mentor. I think that's what I really want to focus on more than the title, creating an impact on different people. 

I think a lot of students are very shy in the beginning and do not know how to reach out and access different resources. I was that person once before. I feel like if I get the chance to help another student or another individual, I would love to do that as everyone has different things to teach. It will be a two-way learning opportunity. I'm really excited for my career path. 

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