Co-op Spotlight: UTSC BBA Student Tries On The Real World Through Co-op Work Terms

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Students are often led to believe that the choices they make in university will confine them to a particular career path.

In reality, this is not the case.

I’ve met bankers turned into priests and psychology students turned entrepreneurs, which is proof that you’re never really stuck in a career. Life is about planning your next move and setting up a way out if you’re unhappy with your current choice.

“I was trying to find my career path and that started with me trying out different jobs. In addition, I realized I have many different interests. Although my co-op experiences were very diverse, each added to my skill set in an important way.” —Christine Morello, fourth-year BBA management co-op student, University of Toronto Scarborough

Christine Morello is a fourth-year Bachelor of Business Administration Management Co-op student at the University of Toronto Scarborough. She has worked at Deloitte as a Staff Accountant, at Toronto Hydro as a Senior Technical Student  in community involvement events and sponsorship, and at the University of Toronto as a Research Assistant.

Morello is the perfect example of a student who was able to make the switch out of accounting by trying different jobs through a co-op program.

Q. How did you end up working at Deloitte?
A. I came about working at Deloitte from attending numerous networking events. At each event, I learned more about the firm and I had gotten to know the recruiters quite well. As a result, I felt comfortable working in the environment. I was very excited to have been interviewed and subsequently hired.

Q. What were some of your main responsibilities while on work term?
A. My main responsibility at Deloitte was working with the Client Service Coordinator. I was responsible for completing project plans and ensuring that actual hours and budgeted hours were congruent. I also completed ad-hoc requests for senior professionals. While at Toronto Hydro, I assisted in the planning and managing of numerous corporate, internal events.

Q. What was the work environment like? How many people did you work with vs. how many people work there? Were you the youngest?
A. The work environment at Deloitte and Toronto Hydro were very pleasant. Both offices were business casual. During each co-op term I had the opportunity to work with a variety of people outside my role. The ratio of how many people worked there compared to how many people I worked with was low in both cases. I was not the youngest at each office – there were a few people around my age, many were other co-op students.

Working at the University of Toronto as a Research Assistant offered a very different experience. Although there were other Research Assistants, I predominantly worked alone and had minimal interaction with others. It was also enjoyable as I had a lot of freedom in my work and schedule.

Q. How did you adjust to working life? Did your work offer any training or orientation for new employees?
A. The adjustment to working life was quite difficult – mainly because of the change of pace and schedule. However, once the first few weeks pass, you definitely adjust. All co-op placements offered some sort of training or orientation, though to varying degrees. This was helpful during the first few days and weeks.

Q. What was the coolest thing you did while on work term?
A. One of the coolest things I did at Toronto Hydro was help plan the company’s CN Tower stair climb. I planned and organized everything in advance and was also there on the day. It was enjoyable to see everyone finish!

Q. Did you develop or strengthen any skills while on work term?
A. I would say that I strengthened the majority of my skills on each work term but particularly my communication skills. Working in new environments and with new people allowed my communication skills to mature as well as taught me how to adapt my communication style to different situations.

Q. Each of your work terms seem to be drastically different. Why did you make the switch from accounting to events to research?
A. I originally started doing accounting after I attended a few information sessions and networking events. I thought it would be a great career. However, I wasn’t the strongest accounting student. I struggled more in my accounting classes than say the less technical management classes which I excelled more in (like organizational behaviour or narratives in management, for example).

Although I loved my time at Deloitte, I realized that something else might be better suited to me. I have always enjoyed working with and being around people. Therefore, events was a nice segue. I am strong at planning and organizing, which was a great fit for events and community involvement. Also, it offered a nice contrast from accounting and the opportunity to try something new.

Then for my last co-op term, searching for jobs proved to be more difficult. I attempted to find my own placement in the beginning in order to find a position that was more tailored to my interests, however, in the end, nothing came together. So I began searching in co-op’s second round. I then found the RA position and thought it would be interesting, it would also give me a glimpse into the education and university world (which I have often been interested in as well).

The RA position was a great opportunity for me and I was able to do very interesting work. Overall, I guess I was trying to find my career path and that started with me trying out different jobs. In addition, I realized I have many different interests. Although my co-op experiences were very diverse, each added to my skill set in an important way.

Q. Do you think that your experiences have helped prepare you for seeking work in the real world?
A. Without a doubt! Applying for each job and receiving interviews gave me great experience in the job application process. Additionally, my experience has helped me narrow down what type of full time job I am looking for, which will help once I begin applying.

Q. Where do you see yourself after graduation? What are your plans for the future?
A. I will graduate in November 2010, however, I have just finished school. I am eager to embark on my career and am starting to begin my search for a full-time job. In the future, I see myself going to graduate school to further my business education.

Photo credit: Report by Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on Flickr
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