Co-operative Education

Co-operative Education

It was the start of January 2020, and Jaisveen Kaur had just begun her post-degree in marketing management at Langara. She'd travelled from India to Vancouver to make it happen and was discovering everything her new academic world could offer inside and outside the classroom. 

"It was a new city, new college, new friends, new classes, everything was new," Jaisveen remembers. Swept up in the thrill of life as a student in a new city far from home, she was brimming with optimism for what lay ahead. 

Then Langara, like nearly every other college and university coast to coast in Canada, had to make the difficult decision to go online in March of 2020. Reflecting, Jaisveen says her "timing was perfect" because had she delayed even one semester, she'd never had made it to Vancouver and been able to start the program. Yet so many of the things that she'd envisioned doing on campus, such as joining clubs, jumping into social activities outside her program, going to events—were now up in the air.

"What is going to happen to us? How will we do what we want to do outside of the classroom? How are we going to go to clubs? What's going to happen on campus?" Jaisveen had a lot of unknowns swirling around in her mind, just like every other student she knew.

"It was a shock," admits Jaisveen, but she was determined to make the most out of her Langara experience.

A Natural With Numbers

Jaisveen joined her classmates in virtual classrooms to continue her studies online. There were many days when concentrating on homework was a challenge, and as a social person, she missed the in-person networking but having a "bunch of great roommates" made the isolation feel less acute. She decided not to let the new virtual nature of her academic reality stop her from being an active member of the Langara community. She threw herself into clubs and joined a passionate group of students committed to organizing a TEDx event at Langara, eventually taking on the lead role in the strategy and leading the executive team.

In the lead-up to her last semester, Jaisveen took Langara’s work experience courses and seriously started to think about the co-op placement that was a mandatory part of her program. While she wasn’t certain who her employer would be yet, she instinctively knew that marketing wouldn't be the direction she would go in. "It might sound funny, but going into this program, I thought, 'I'm going to be working in marketing right after college’, but as it turns out, I didn’t feel like working in marketing,” reflects Jaisveen. “It might be a possibility in the future but not at the moment." It had been a slow realization but a necessary one for her career. Jaisveen's natural affinity for numbers helped her excel in the accounting and statistics courses. Where others were struggling, she found ease and a sense of accomplishment.

"I had always been good with numbers," says Jaisveen. "Accounting was my forte."

The field of finance began to feel like a much better fit. "It hit me that if I'm going to look for a co-op in finance, then banking seemed like a good place to start." Bolstered by her new focus, Jaisveen started her job search and applied for and got an internship at the Royal Bank at Broadway and Cambie. On her first day, at ostensibly one of the largest RBC branches in the province, Jaisveen was a bundle of nerves.

"I don't know why I was nervous because the moment I stepped in and met my manager, he greeted me right away, and it was all good," Jaisveen says with a smile in her voice. "He showed me around and introduced me to my new colleagues."

While the branch was in a busy urban location and the pace was relentless, Jaisveen embraced the accelerated learning.

"I learned so fast there because I dealt with so many different kinds of clients and it was just like, go, go, go, every moment,” she explains. "I was like a curious cat.”

Her curiosity paid off because she was on her own in less than two months, greeting and helping clients one-on-one.

She offers high praise for RBC’s training during her co-op and more specifically, the colleagues who guided her every step of the way. "I absolutely loved the people I worked with during my co-op. They were so supportive." The blended training she received during her co-op—a combination of online modules and in-branch training—was six weeks long. Jaisveen cites the training as an “essential” part of being a client advisor and helped her “feel more enabled and prepared for real-life scenarios.”

While not every client interaction can be sparkling, her manager was always right by her side to help when there were challenging conversations. "If you are dealing with a difficult client situation for the very first time, you've not had any experience, that can be a bit intimidating," says Jaisveen.  

That support wasn’t just for the short-term; Jaisveen felt the whole team were committed to her growth as an employee. "We're going to help you grow," she remembers her manager saying to her early on in her co-op. By the end of her co-op, her innate curiosity on the job had paid a unique dividend: a career path in finance with mentors who cared. 

Future Investments 

After Jaisveen completed her co-op, she was offered a full-time, permanent position with RBC. She sees being with a global company as an advantage in her career because she can choose to develop her skills in so many areas. "They have capital markets, direct investing, dominion securities, wealth management," says Jaisveen. "There are a lot of directions to go in." When considering where she'd like to end up ideally, she's only sure that she'd like to work helping people manage the complexity of their finances in order to help improve their lives.

"Investing and managing your money in real life and trying to make the best of it is what I'm really passionate about," says Jaisveen. "When I'm helping clients with credit, buying homes and mortgages, that is what is interesting to me." She wants to support her customer's "big life decisions" and have a positive impact if she can. But for now, she's still exploring and "getting a taste of everything, and then I can decide where I want to focus."

When asked what she'd tell others considering a program with a co-op term, Jaisveen doesn't hesitate: "Go for it. This co-op is your first step and it's going to take you ahead in life." She urges students who have an opportunity to do a co-op to "dive in and be inquisitive, be open-minded." As a person who had to fast track building her Canadian life, academic network, and professional contacts during a global pandemic, she has practical advice for fellow Langara students: "Try to network and build those relationships," she urges. "That will support you in your career and your life."

She suggests that it's also about the quality of how you show up and the energy you bring to your learning that will make the most significant difference to your co-op experience.

"Showing your vulnerability by asking questions and being curious is the best suggestion I can give to any student. Be like a curious little cat and learn and learn and learn!"