BA 2008: Major Political Science, Minor English Literature
“The UBC Co-op Program was challenging, yet without a doubt the most rewarding experience of my undergraduate degree.” Mike McGreer’s ringing endorsement of the UBC Arts Co-op Program comes from the wide range of positions and organizations he worked with while in the program. Having completed five co-op terms overall, with four different employers, Mike was able to leverage his experience into positions that would lead him to his current job of Economic Development Analyst with the City of Surrey, City Manager’s Office.
“The benefit from my work terms was to illuminate the range of options I had as an Arts student. The more people I met the more I began to understand career as a journey and an evolution, rather than a direct path. It was reassuring to hear, often through informational interviews, that colleagues never expected to end up in their current position. Rather, they manoeuvred and progressed through positions and opportunities.” Mike’s observation about careers also applies to himself, as he used his transferable skills gained in previous co-op placements to transition to new opportunities. His co-op experience is a perfect example of what the Co-op Office likes to call “the stepping-stone process”.
His first co-op experience was a last minute opportunity as Visitor Information Counsellor with the Whistler Chamber of Commerce. Having applied in the middle of June, Mike was interviewed, offered the job, and moved up to Whistler within three weeks. Living in Whistler during the summer remains one of his most memorable experiences because he was surrounded by the natural beauty of the mountains, met amazing people, and had the chance to try many new recreational activities. For his second co-op term, Mike worked as a School and Special Events Assistant with the Terry Fox Foundation. He had the chance to meet Doug Alward, who had run with Terry Fox on his Marathon of Hope. The gratitude that was expressed to those who help to carry on Terry’s dream was something Mike will never forget. He soon followed this experience with his third co-op term as the Communications Assistant with the Multiple Sclerosis Society, where he worked on projects relating to media and community relations. It was his final co-op term as the Research Analyst with the BC Ministry of Environment that helped lead Mike to his current job. But what he truly remembers from this position is presenting to his colleagues ways they could reduce their emissions and explaining further information about climate change. Most of his audience had graduate degrees in relevant scientific disciplines and he was presenting highly technical information. He describes it as an intimidating yet exciting experience.
The experience he gained during his final term helped him secure a five month contract position with the Vancouver Economic Development Commission (VEDC). The public policy research experience, as well as the communications experience from his previous positions provided him with a complementary set of skills for his first non co-op job. At the end of his contract, his supervisor alerted him to a position with the City of Surrey. The responsibilities were diverse; however, one of the significant projects mirrored the work he had done at VEDC. The relevant experience, in combination with an excellent reference opened up the door to his current position.
To co-op students soon graduating, Mike offers some advice: “Identify the type of position you would like, and the type of organization you would like to work for before applying for positions. Your job search will be more effective if you actively seek out employers and conduct information interviews, rather than responding to postings. The active search is different from your experience with co-op; I found I had to switch and make a concerted effort to proactively network. Dedicate sufficient time to your job search. I should note it took nearly 6 months of job searching to secure the VEDC position. Networking is key. Every person that you know can help you achieve your goal if you know what you are looking for and ask.”