Steven Wu, a third-year mathematics student, writes about giving back to the Co-op program that he gained skills from by volunteering as a Peer Helper in Co-Op & Career Services.

My motivation for getting involved in the Peer Helper Program was quite simple; after exhausting as many resources from the Co-op Program as I could and applying to approximately 50 jobs, I had not only finally secured my first work term, but I had an amazing and enlightening experience with last year’s Co-op Employer of the Year. Although the services provided by being in the program came with a cost, the tangible experience I could put on my resume and the professional contacts I’ve established and maintained through LinkedIn cannot be measured by dollars and cents. Through the guidance of my Co-op Advisor, Alain Robineau, I learned of the Peer Helper position and decided that the best way to pay back to the program would be to help and sympathize with first-time applicants in the Co-op Program that may soon experience struggles similar to mine.

As a Co-op Peer Helper, I could define what the position requires or list what I’ve done, but ultimately the role comes down to bridging the gap of the communication of information that the office provides to students. All the mandatory information that you need to know, modules you need to watch, requirements you have to fulfill, etc. can be tedious; but they have to get that information across to you. What remains from this transfer of information are actually a lot of common questions that I myself were asking, namely, what is it that actually I have to do to succeed? How can I, in my 2nd year with only work experience in service, retail, or labor, be impressive in a resume that’s supposed to tailor to a precise avenue in the field I’m studying? Most of the information that I gathered and retained was from the panel of successful students and from one-on-one Q&A’s with Alain, and that’s when I realized that my most significant impact would be through personal interaction; helping out students I can relate to who are confused and struggling.

And in the end, aside from a few mandatory obligations, that’s really what the position comes down to; helping others effectively because you’ve been there. And the staff in the office is incredibly flexible, encouraging, and supportive of any initiative you show to make this happen. I’ve been able to share insight and advice through one-on-one resume reviews, heading resume workshops, speaking at events like in the video, Job Fairs in the Atrium, and being there for events like Fall Net Night 2012 to help students who are too shy or unprepared to approach employers. (At my first networking event, I had trouble putting my first foot through the door after looking in to see hundreds of suits and blazers.)

If by the end of this winter you’ve been lucky enough to secure a job, and better yet, if you’ve had as great of a first work term as I did, then I strongly encourage you to carry the torch from me and Spojmai next year and volunteer. Though the Co-op Program here at Carleton University is respected and established, by no means is it a finished product; there is always a challenge to maximize how information gets across to distressed students so that they are properly prepared for the very arduous task of securing a job. It’s a challenge I’m working on to help solve but it’s a continuous process, and in the end, if you’re in the co-op program, you of all people should know about applying your skills and creativity to solve problems in the ‘real world’. Helping out fellow students who will be vital cogs in our workforce is an admirable cause, and what made my first work term such a success for me was that it was an environment in which my ideas were heard, where my work was implemented and where the results were evident. Take it from me; you’ll find that here.

Watch 9:28 – 17:32 to see me at Co-op 101 giving insight about the benefits that Co-op can offer and what led to my success.

Submitted by Steven Wu, a third-year mathematics student.

To learn more about the Peer Helper Program, please visit carleton.ca/seo/peer-helper-program


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