Adrianne’s Government Co-op Experience: Three Takeaways

12 March 2021

When my supervisor asked me to write a blog post/letter to future co-op    students, I happily agreed.  

As a graduate student, I have had the unique opportunity to complete  three work terms with the Client Engagement Unit at the Ministry of  Advanced Education and Skills Training — which gives me a wealth of    insight into the government co-op experience.

Here are  three takeaways that I’ve learned; I hope they will help prepare  you for your co-op in the public service:

 1)    The Daily Keyword: Pivot

I cannot stress this enough: don’t worry about the things that are out of your control. In my first term, our entire division was undergoing a massive move and some unexpected staffing changes; meanwhile, during my second and third co-op, I had to adjust to working virtually during a pandemic. What I’ve learned is that the job environment (especially in government) is always shifting, which is mostly out of my control. So, try not to sweat the small things; it just comes with the territory. 

2)    Track Your Projects

A huge part of my role involved juggling different projects all at once — which were all at various stages of the approval process. And whether you’re an Excel type or more of a paper n’ pen person, tracking your projects will help you stay ahead. In the final months of my third term, we experienced a snap election and entered a period known as interregnum (which generally means no public announcements or new initiatives could commence until after a new government was formed). As a member of the Client Engagement Unit, that essentially meant we had to put our “pens down” and hold off on publishing new web content or engaging in public outreach. While there were still plenty of things to do behind the scenes, I had to continue to keep track of what was on hold and what could move forward. (And be able to pick up a paused project several months later once interregnum was lifted.)

3)    Put Yourself Out There!

Raise your hand to volunteer for extra projects or to attend an event (if you have the capacity)! It’s a great way to expand your skills and get the most out of your time during your co-op. In all three of my terms, I routinely helped the marketing and outreach side by attending career fairs (this year virtually, of course). It was a great way to connect directly with the people using the services and resources I helped create — which was the best kind of feedback. And by trying new things, it helped me learn about the different directions I could potentially take my career. (And hopefully will help you too!)

While these takeaways only brush the surface of all the valuable lessons, insights, and professional growth I gained during my co-op terms with the Client Engagement Unit, I hope they will help you start your experience on a positive note. So be ready to pivot on a moment’s notice, keep up-to-date notes on all your projects, and don’t hesitate to put yourself out there. You’ve got this! Check out the Co-operative Education Overview to learn how you can become a co-op student. If you need additional inspiration, check out other Skyler and Kellie’s co-op experience posts!