Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Eyes open, ear to the ground

Co-op student Michelle Bailey went way beyond the expectations of her supervisor, Michael Begg.
By Tamara Letkeman, doug Editor

When Michelle Bailey did her co-op placement at Red Label Communications, the company liked her so much that they implored her to stay beyond the standard three-month period. Michelle finally left the company one year after she was taken on – and the folks at the top miss her big time.

“I’ve worked with 12 co-op students and Michelle was by far the best we’ve had,” says Michael Begg, Douglas College alumnus and Business Development Manager for Red Label, an agency that offers marketing solutions to businesses. “She picked up the job and figured out the whole flow and operation of the sales department easily and effortlessly. I found she was always two steps ahead of me – she was able to read my mind and know what I was thinking.”

Michelle is taking the Marketing Management Diploma Program at Douglas. Last year, as part of her studies, she decided to do a co-op placement to get some real-world experience. She says her time at Red Label exceeded her expectations by miles.

“It was awesome. Getting that cold calling experience and having the chance to meet with all sorts of different companies – the opportunities were endless. I actually got job offers from some of the companies I visited.”

Not one to sit back and wait for opportunities to find her, Michelle took the initiative to seek out her own co-op placement – and encourages her fellow Marketing students to do the same.

“You’d be surprised at how many businesses are willing to A, listen to you, because you are a student, and B, how willing they are to actually consider you for a co-op situation. It’s all about getting out there and making it happen.”

Michael Begg says the co-op program is invaluable in that it lets students connect their learning with real work experience and see how they blend together. He adds that there’s a huge difference between new hires who’ve been through a co-op program and new hires who haven’t.

“School is great for teaching theory, but practical day-to-day stuff is often overlooked. A co-op provides students an additional learning environment, in which they can learn the practical skills that are essential to their future success.”

As for Michelle, who finishes up her studies next month and will graduate in June, the plan is to pursue a career in sales, though she’s not sure where. But she isn’t worried.

“I’m currently working part-time coordinating sales and marketing for a small construction company, so that could open up into a bigger opportunity. I’m keeping my options open, trying to see what's out there. I’ve had a lot of opportunities come my way, so I’m evaluating those, too.

“It’s all about keeping your eyes open and your ear to the ground.”