AUGUST 28, 2021
Cramming is something that every student knows how to do – and when it comes to summer jobs, we’re here to help them get in as much experience as possible over four months.
Every year, we welcome approximately 20 post-secondary students to join our teams across First West. They’re introduced to working in a professional environment and develop career-building skills while they earn savings that can further their opportunities.
Curious to know what a student job at First West is really like? Check out what these members of our 2021 cohort had to say about their experience:
HAYLEE MADE THE MOST OF MAKING CONNECTIONS
“I’m in my second year of study in accounting at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. When looking for a summer job, I wanted to find something related to my area of study so that I could get the most out of my education. At First West, I got to see how many different roles there are in Finance! My work with the Central Loans Administration team made efficiency improvements in security documentation. I was impressed by the healthy workplace focus at First West! And how easy it was to build connections— these will be extremely beneficial to my future career. My long-term goals are to do work that makes me happy while contributing to society in a positive way.
My tip for future student employees is, don’t be afraid to talk to people! This is good advice for any situation you’re in, school or work. Be confident to build connections, make friends and make your voice heard!”
SAM OPENED A DOOR AND FOUND OPPORTUNITY
On Sam’s first day here at First West, he was brimming with excitement to put his newly acquired know-how to work. After four years at Capilano University, he had earned his Bachelor of Business Administration degree in marketing and international business and logistics— but he wasn’t really looking for a “summer job.” He was seeking a foothold to build his #career.
Sam got his wish while working on our Simple Generosity program to give $1 million dollars to charitable organizations over the course of a year. “I underestimated how much it truly means to First West to support the communities they operate in, and I’m proud to play a small part in that. I am really enjoying the #work I’m doing on Simple Generosity.”
You’d think Sam was a professionally-trained juggler by the number of different tasks he took on (and excelled at!). His exploratory mindset is part of the reason that Sam is sticking around to support more First West projects this year and discover our endless #possibilities for young career-builders.
While Sam has many decades to continue down his career path, he already has some sage #advice to share: “Don’t be afraid to just get your foot in the door with a position, even if you’re looking for more. It’s a great way to gain valuable experience and meet the people that can help you along — and even test if you’ll be a good fit! Interviewing for jobs isn’t just a one-way relationship. Starting with a contract is a great way to decide if it’s the right thing.”
SHAE-LINN PUT HER PASSION INTO PRACTICE
Shae-Linn loves information – you might even say that she thrives on data and its magical ability to explain our world. As a third-year student at the University of Toronto’s iSchool, she’s well into her journey towards her Bachelor of Information credentials – and a future in using data, design and storytelling to help people understand the impact of technologies and information on our socio-cultural and environmental landscape – and how to create a more just, sustainable world.
As a remote-working student at First West this summer, Shae-Linn got to channel her skills into a unique data-driven project: training Finley (our AI-powered digital assistant) to help members get quick, accurate answers to their banking questions. It was while analyzing chatter data and identifying opportunities to improve Finley’s capabilities that she gained some valuable insights.
“One of First West’s Big Ideals is “Succeed Together,” says Shae-Lynn, “and that resonated with me because my job involved anticipating people’s inquiries. I liked contributing work that I knew would help future members. Throughout my career, I hope to work in collaborative and responsive environments.”
Being a remote employee meant that Shae-Linn didn’t have the chance to meet her colleagues in person – but that didn’t take anything away from her experience. She appreciated the “robust and responsive” training and onboarding at First West – and enjoyed the opportunities she was given to make the process welcoming, engaging, and fun.
Inspired by Shae-Linn’s ambition? (We are!) To find your own passion, trying living by her advice: “Say yes to opportunities and believe in yourself – you never know what will come of it!”
LIAM SHINED A SPOTLIGHT ON PEOPLE
It was Liam’s last summer before beginning his post-secondary experience at InFocus Film School. A future of film production (and Hollywood notoriety?) awaits, — but first, he had the opportunity to gain some foundational people skills while working at First West.
Joining our Member Advice Centre for the summer meant that Liam was a linchpin for connecting our members to a wide variety of assistance for their money matters. It wasn’t his first customer service role, but Liam was pleasantly surprised when he discovered that being welcomed into First West meant he was joining a team of colleagues that would help him thrive in his new environment. You might not think that the financial and film industries have transferable skills – but Liam would prove you wrong.
“Having excellent communication skills is key to success in the production of any film,” he says. “Active listening is also tool I can use to work with colleagues in post-secondary and industry environments.”
And learning through small steps is how Liam intends to take the film industry by storm. He’s set his sights on becoming Production Assistant after school and working up toward a career in writing or cinematography. To learn from Liam’s experience, he suggests you “stay connected”. Being a student means that he is surrounded by like-minded individuals and he believes that collaborative thinking and support is a valuable resource to find answers and achieve goals.
JANET PURSUED A GREATER PURPOSE
Every day is another step toward Janet’s future specializing in finance. As a third-year student at the University of Victoria Peter B. Gustavson School of Business, she was looking for a summer job that is applicable to her area of interest — but that wasn’t all. She also wants to know that her employer makes a difference in the community.
As a business banking Co-op Student, over four months Janet worked alongside experienced advisors for four months to help local businesses thrive. With her contribution, the team provided loans, created interest and mortgage receipts, opened memberships, and managed digital documentation. All her work served a greater purpose and, as Janet discovered, that’s just the way things are done here at First West.
“The culture cares so much about the community and members—I genuinely felt valued and heard, trained well, and am so much more knowledgeable about the various aspects about the credit union and businesses,” she says “I also didn’t realize how much the social aspect of working and being with other people would impact the place of work and I’m so happy I got the opportunity to work here.”
This hands-on experience has helped Janet become more comfortable with the language, jargon, and technology used in the financial services industry – and built on her university knowledge. Seeing how businesses operate, the flow between different departments, and lending protocols brought to life the concepts she learned – and strengthened her softer skills like communication, self-management and interpersonal capabilities.
Once Janet graduates, she’s keen to continue working in the financial industry — and she credits her co-op experience for helping her understand what she values and is passionate about in a job.
Clearly, Janet had many takeaways over her four months at First West, but her biggest insight? “Manage expectations. Don’t expect to be perfect (or even good) at all your tasks right away. Expect some stressful moments, try not to make costly mistakes, and remember that the people around you are there for a reason. Throughout my four months, I continued to double-check with my supervisor to make sure I was understanding everything I needed to. Being motivated, curious and ready to learn, was a runway to taking on more responsibility — and keeping the days interesting.”