“Theory and practice, theory and practice,” repeats Lina Ma, a Master of Library and Information Studies student from UBC’s SLAIS program. Through her unique Co-op term at the University of British Columbia, Lina has been able to connect theory with practice, two elements that are crucial to achieving workplace success. She says, “Hopefully my studies will give me the degree employers require, and the co-op term can act as a bridge to smooth out the rather challenging school-to-workplace transition.”

Lina’s unique Co-op experience stems from the fact that she worked a shared, full time position split between UBC Public Affairs and the UBC Library Development Office for a 4-month term. As the Media Database Assistant for Public Affairs, Lina was responsible for managing and cataloguing media files through the digital asset management software Extensis Portfolio Server, while providing training and support for UBC units also using the software. Putting on her Library Development Office hat, as the Database Assistant Lina prepared and indexed digital images from the Library Vault database and made them available online using CONTENTdm, digital collection management software widely used in libraries and archives.

Lina has the theoretical part of her Co-op term down. Because her two positions were closely related (both falling in the basket of managing digital media and administering media management technologies), Lina has had twice the opportunities to further develop her “hard skills.” However, it was cultivating the “soft” side of the co-op equation that Lina felt she had benefitted from the most. “Office politics and work culture are not things you can pick up from textbooks,” Lina observes. “At work, and even in life, it’s mostly about the people.”

While providing valuable opportunities to perfect the delicate art of workplace communication, Co-op has also helped Lina discover herself. Her co-op term was truly an “eye-opening experience” that allowed her to become, “…more certain of what direction I want to take, what kind of work environment I thrive in, and the importance of working for an organization whose values align with my own.” Lina knows that this newly acquired self-knowledge can be a rarity in a time when “many people end up unhappy at their jobs because they do not know what they really want, enjoy, or are good at professionally.” “For me,” she adds, “it’s important to know and understand myself, so I know what goals to set and how to acquire skills for a career that is suitable for me.”

Lina has this to say to prospective SLAIS Co-op students: “Do not let inexperience hold you back. If something sounds interesting, be bold and just go for it! Co-op is a great chance for discovering yourself and the world around you. Most importantly, have fun! It’s really that simple.”

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