Student Voices: Getting the most out of your work experience | Work of Arts
Student Voices: Getting the most out of your work experience | Work of Arts

Student Voices: Getting the most out of your work experience

by | September 23, 2014
Photography by Bryce Schmode
Arts Work Experience student Bryce Schmode has learned that variety is the spice of life in the workplace. He outlines his tips for optimizing a co-op position

Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and point of views of current arts students around campus. Get to know our creative and passionate students through their “voices” and get a snapshot of life as an arts undergrad. The views and opinions expressed within these student voices posts are solely those of the author.

Three weeks ago as I glanced out of the bus window at the crowd of students waiting to attend their first day of University, it dawned on me that this term would be much different from Septembers past. Although as a co-op student I am still technically classified as a full-time student, the reality is that the learning environment in the office is much different than that of campus and often requires you to take initiative of your learning. As such, if I wanted to achieve my goals of gaining new knowledge and experience through my co-op, I realized I would need to alter my style of learning.

The Arts Work Experience (AWE) program is one of the most practical ways of gaining meaningful work experience as a student. As an undergraduate still needing to complete my fourth year of studies, I decided to take this opportunity with AWE to acquire relevant skills that will complement both my future years of schooling, as well as my future career as an urban planner.BS7_9798

While it may seem at times like you are just working a job, co-op positions are much, much more. For those looking to get the most out of a work experience, the following points will serve as a starting point to achieving your goals:

Have a clear and attainable plan

Know what you want to get out of your work experience. It’s likely that you have identified skills that you want to acquire or develop over the duration of your internship. Writing down your short- and long-term goals and sharing them with your supervisor will help keep you on track, while also informing your supervisor about your goals. Updating and evaluating these goals regularly will help you track your progress.

As a new intern, I found it different moving from school, which had hard deadlines for assignments, to work, which allowed you to set your own due dates. Creating a plan and sharing it with your supervisor will show them that you can complete work promptly and follow a schedule.


Get involved

Don’t be afraid to take initiative and contribute. You were hired because they saw potential in your skills — don’t be afraid to use them. This may involve stepping out of your comfort zone or putting in some time researching how your organization came to be where it is today. Understanding this may also provide you with more responsibilities and more challenging projects, both of which contribute to gaining a thorough understanding of your profession.

Don’t be afraid to branch out

Chances are if the organization you’re working for really wants you to work for them in the future, they’ll be more than accommodating to your requests to gain a broader perspective. Exposing yourself to as many areas as possible is one of the surest ways to gain experience and get a feel for what your profession has to offer. If the opportunity isn’t offered to you, don’t be afraid to ask!


It may be the most common piece of advice given to University students in their search for a career. However, the importance of networking cannot be stressed enough. Get to know your colleagues by inviting them to lunch or coffee, chances are they’ve been down the path you’re on and can offer valuable input. Networking isn’t just limited to formal invites and also involves putting yourself out there and volunteering to help out at staff events and parties. Doing so will expose you to new people you may not have normally interacted with; these very people may one day be the person hiring you.

The Arts Work Experience (AWE) program is one of the most practical ways of gaining meaningful work experience as a student.

While it may be easy to forget that as a co-op student you are there as more than just a worker, setting goals and finding ways in which you can become involved in both projects and networking opportunities can assist in keeping you on track to achieving your goals. Often times, however, this involves taking initiative and moving outside of your comfort zone; yet achieving even one or two of these points will assist in creating a co-op experience that yields valuable knowledge and experience.

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About Bryce Schmode

Bryce Schmode

Bryce Schmode is entering his 4th year at the University of Alberta, majoring in Planning. He is presently enrolled in the Arts Work Experience program and is working at the City of Edmonton in the Growth Analysis unit, which provides information and analysis to support decision-making within the City. In his spare time, Bryce plays hockey, enjoys photography and is an avid outdoorsman who hikes, camps and snowboards.