“Nothing gets better without communication” – these were the first words I heard in the very first class of my post-secondary education. My professor leaned against his desk with a cup of coffee in his hand and gazed upon us – bright-eyed, eager first-year visual arts students with an appetite to succeed.
“THERE MUST BE SO MANY JOBS OUT THERE THAT I DON’T EVEN KNOW EXIST”
There are not many specific moments I remember from that university, but this one was significant and powerful. In one way or another, it has guided my professional experience thus far. Not unlike many eighteen-year-olds, I had tunnel vision. After two years of dissatisfaction with my program, I decided to leave the university and move back to my hometown of Kamloops, BC in pursuit of…something.
Back in Kamloops, I met with an old friend for a tea date. She told me about her courses and her experiences in the Human Resources co-operative education program. Her description of the coursework, potential career options and the university’s offering created a rare moment of clarity. As crazy as it seems, I could see myself aligned with all the aspects of the field she was describing. Perhaps I was eager to attach to something new, but in that moment, I felt like I had found an area where I could truly, genuinely succeed. That afternoon I registered as a student at Thompson Rivers University (TRU) in Kamloops and began my courses four weeks later as a Bachelor of Business Administration student with a major in Human Resources.
Proving the attestation that nothing gets better without communication, my academic advisor was the person who introduced me to the co-op program after I voiced my concern that I wouldn’t be able to stand out from the crowd after graduation. I had always thought, “there must be so many jobs out there that I don’t even know exist,” and that was exactly what I discovered through the co-op program.
The prerequisite for co-op placement was COOP 1000, and it was one of the most beneficial courses I have taken at TRU. I was taught resumé development, interview skills, self-branding and portfolio development from a highly qualified career coordinator. More importantly, the class taught me the importance of knowing where you stand in your career development and how to best prepare for entering the work force. I was also exposed to the concept of informational interviews, which I found to be one of the best networking tools. With my instructor’s support, I have conducted more than five informational interviews over the past few years with industry professionals who continue to be beneficial connections.
Understanding the importance of professional development gave me the confidence I needed and shaped my approach to interacting with professionals, teachers and classmates. I remained certain that nothing gets better without communication (in this case, with respect to career advancement and development) and made an effort to discuss professional issues with those in my academic atmosphere. I was fortunate to have approachable teachers who were happy to help in a variety of ways – from discussing the challenges of career development to writing reference letters. University offers a unique set of people to talk to and network with, and that is something to take advantage of. I am currently on a four-month work term in the Career Education Department at TRU, and will be completing my third and fourth work terms at a local accounting firm, coinciding with my minor in Accounting. While I have had moments of uncertainty about the field I am pursuing, I know I am on a more suitable career path than ever before. Had I not communicated with my friend, advisor and teacher, I would not have the experience, drive and knowledge that are propelling me toward a rewarding professional career. And with that, regardless of where I end up, my education and experience will never be lost.
Author Sarah Johnston is a business student at Thompson Rivers University and is passionate about co-operative education and study abroad. Connect with her on LinkedIn.